rosemary revisited

Posted in mandrake apothecary, natural aromatics with tags , , , on June 15, 2008 by scentedwench

I had to decant sample vials of Rosemary today and something about its greenish brown gummy character (the absolute is like a olive green hunk of herbaceous fudge) made me wonder how it would behave with chocolate, to sort of play up the fudgy weirdness, and would a particularly dusty and greenish-smell patchouli be an appropriate supporting note in that.

Which got me to thinking about lavender and chocolate, and patchouli of course.  I used to make a soap (back in the days of using fragrance oils) which was scented with equal parts patchouli, lavender, and vanilla FO.  It sounds gnarly and kinda gross to think about, but the vanilla softened and absorbed the camphor of the lavender, which kicked down some of the ‘just be mellow, man!’ vibes of the patchouli with its purple buds.

I have a vial of ‘rosemary extract’ that I may dilute judiciously and blend a bit with, since it has a similar character to the spendier absolute, and is easier to work with.

But I need more ideas on what to blend rosemary with.  The essential oil of rosemary is singularly blunt and deadening to things aside from eucalyptus species and the various mints, and I don’t relish putting it into perfume, but a couple drops are okay in eau de cologne, so…

*looks at rosemary bottles on workbench*  Hmmm.


degrees of coffee

Posted in natural aromatics with tags , , , , on June 11, 2008 by scentedwench

I have a row of bottles at my work bench, filled with freshly roasted coffee beans of various origin, and biodynamic grape alcohol.  They’ve been there since I moved, following a crazed trip to Peet’s for a half pound of decaf that quickly became a quest to try coffees from all producing continents.

What is surprising is how while they all have very distinctive toasted and burnt tones due to the roasting and the oil sheen which results from that (and which seems to be the first element to get acrid and flat), they all assume a uniform darkness that only seems to change with the elements one combines them with.  But with a twist.  If I add rose to samples of all four, it brings out different elements.  Same rose, different coffees.

If you’ve ever tinctured roasted cocoa nibs, you’ll know how cacao gives up different secrets with different florals.

After the coffee experiment, I’m itching to source roasted cocoa nibs of different origins/species, and try the above experiment.

All of this is to say that in perfumery, the sky is indeed the limit when it comes to shading, drawing out nuances, tones and different hues.

so, because the FDA isn’t stretched enough already

Posted in business, FDA, regulatory agencies with tags , , , , on June 9, 2008 by scentedwench

There’s word on the wind about the Food and Drug Administration Globalization Act of 2008.

A lot of us small businesses are quaking in our boots abut it. With good reason, because many won’t be able to afford the reg fees that’ll be required for us to remain in business.

And, you can tell in spades that it is ALL about making up for lost funding more than it is about doing the right thing and protecting consumers. Look at this passage and tell me that they’re not just looking for another income stream,

“The legislation is aimed at giving the FDA authority to promulgate new regulations that are supposed to protect consumers and also provide the funding the agency needs to enforce existing laws in a global market…”

It’s the line about the funding, in particular. (I am quoting from the Indie Beauty Network forum, there).

It isn’t enough for all of us to go crazy capitalist style and spend money we don’t have in order to stimulate the economy, no, we have to balance a federal agency on our backs now, too.

If you’re interested in reading more, here’s a few links worth perusing:

(I hope the people in the Soap Guild who were actively lobbying for this kind of micromanaging dreck, before they were ousted from the leadership, are happy now. In the end, it’s not worth getting rid of your competition by any means necessary, if it negatively impacts the ability of your contracted soapers to make your products for you. Meow. Hiss. Spit.)

So, is this FDA act worth worrying about? Yes, it is. I really do think that some regulation is going to be necessary for as long as rebels without a clue pick up a stickblender one week and start selling their wares the next week. And for as long as would-be ‘perfumers’ decide to bottle some fragrance oil they bought for scenting something else and call it ‘perfume’. In those instances, it is really going to separate the chaff from the grain. And don’t get me started on the learn-as-you-go manufacturing of aqueous solutions like lotions and gels.

BUT… self-regulation is nothing to sneeze at. I dare anyone to join a soaping bulletin board and post some seemingly innocuous questions like, “I just made my first batch of soap! How do I go about selling it?” or, “I made some lotion and it grew hair! What do I tell my customers?” See, people will be on your case so fast you’ll learn in a hurry that there’s a careful way to go about doing things, and a very careless way. We’re all in this together.

But I also see what the FDA is proposing on a par with what happened when RLI decided to screw most of its handcrafting customers and tell them they’d no longer be insured unless they were making just enough money to warrant a tax audit rather than enough to sustain and enable them to grow their businesses. And to that end, I’d ask what the greater goal is here.

Everyone in business has to start someplace, so why would you cut off your nose to spite your face by effectively shutting down scads of small businesses before they even get a chance to take off and expand to where they can afford the fees?

the power of copal and myrrh

Posted in mandrake apothecary, natural aromatics, perfume with tags , , , , , on June 9, 2008 by scentedwench

I poured and packed three bottles of Ofrenda this morning, for an order.  This is one that I had to make an emergency batch of a couple months ago, because it looked like I’d be running out in June (and lo… it happened).

It’s a bit strange to describe, but I feel like I’m working in sacred space when I blend this one.  Granted, it is all about sacred space…  It’s offertory incense with some twists to bring the natural world (the greater temple) into the hand-made world, the inner temple – whatever space you are sanctifying with scent.

And it is supported by a tripod of resins.  Frankincense (Boswellia sacra in this instance), copal, and myrrh.

I think that my favorite essence in this is the Abies grandis and not just because it smells of Christmas trees.  It adds an evergreen to the incense which elevates the resins and coats them with silvery frost.

Just thinking aloud 🙂

appreciating roses right now

Posted in mandrake apothecary, natural aromatics, natural perfumery with tags , , on June 6, 2008 by scentedwench

I had to make up another batch of Medea some weeks ago, and finally filtered it yesterday afternoon, after work.  There is something very guttural and yet refined about how the damask rose plays off of pink lotus, ginger lily, and carnation.  The touch of ambrette in the base (not a predominant note, so I don’t usually list it) adds a powdery and sort of antique hue to the whole mix.  Sort of like applying a sepia tint.  I smell this and I think of my great grandmother in her younger years (I have a picture of her dressed like a flapper, with the bobbed chin-length hairdo), for some reason.  I can imagine her dabbing this on and applying some to a cloth brooch on her lapel.

timing belts and removing grime

Posted in natural aromatics, sugar scrubs with tags , , on May 31, 2008 by scentedwench

This has absolutely nothing to do with perfume, but aromatics play into it, so I’ll forge along and just post anyway.

We’re trying to get the Buttless Wonder Car to pass smog, which in CA can be quite difficult to do unless you have a brand new vehicle, and it means having to adjust the timing belt in our case; apparently the timing was off by something like 10 points? So, I’m out there aiming a timing light at the belt and the little calibration doohickey, and BF is manually accelerating the idle with his hand, and his hands are filthy! Go figure, right.

We finally got the setting down between 5 and 6, where it belongs. We swapped out a sensor and readjusted one of the hoses on the air filter, too.

I made a sugar scrub for his thrashed hands. Rice bran oil, granulated sugar, a bit of steam-distilled sweet orange, a breath of patchouli, a drop of vanilla CO2 just for the hell of it. And it took the crap clean off. A quick follow-up with some gentle handmade soap, and his hands are cleaner than they’d be had he used soap alone, or one of those harsh orange cleaner w/ pumice products geared towards mechanics.

If you tinker with cars, or you live with someone who does, sugar scrubs are the way to go. Salt will burn like crazy on abrasions and cuts, even if you’re using a more powdery product like pickling salt.

[/public service announcement]

antiquated-book-smell, and other things

Posted in formulation, natural aromatics with tags , , , on May 30, 2008 by scentedwench

It’s been done, maybe to death; I’m not sure because I’ve not looked for others doing this for a couple years, but I’m thinking about recreating the smell of antiquated books. Down to the old leather binding.

I know to start with some antique terpeneless patchouli I managed to source a long time ago, and I have ideas on a vegetal leather, but I’m not sure if I should stop with the book itself, or if I need to create the library itself and possibly a library patron. Hm.

Yeah, make that the 50 bazillionth pot I have on the stove!

But it’s a fun something to let my mind wander to while I’m doing the other 49 bazillion things.