Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Vanilla, Vanilla and more Vanilla

One of the first questions people seem to ask is "Do you have anything with Vanilla?"
And while some of my perfumes have Vanilla notes, ("Goddess" and "Craving" in particular)
I've never made a straight Vanilla perfume.
There's a number of reasons for this.
For starters it's not one of my favourite notes. Vanilla in itself is a tad too sweet for my taste. And the commercial artificial Vanilla perfumes out there actually make me a tad nauseous. They tend to be so overwhelmingly sickly sweet and cloying that it made me a bit of a Vanilla Nazi.
But after moving into my new bricks and mortar studio, and being asked, again and again whether I had a Vanilla Scent, I figured I should listen to my public and take another look at that ingredient.
This brought me to the second reason Ive never brought out a Vanilla perfume before: Natural Vanilla is a pain in the a*** to work with.
I have quite a collection of Vanilla extracts in my collection. Vanilla absolute from 4 different countries, CO2 extract forms, even food grade Vanilla essence!
What they all have in common is that they don't willingly dissolve in either alcohol or oil bases.
So I went back to the drawing board and ordered a large quantity of high quality natural Vanilla beans to experiment with too.
I began the Vanilla project in June this year, and one of my shelves is literally stacked with with tinctures in a variety of bases, powdered Vanilla beans, bags of Madagascar Special pods, absolutes in alcohol and CO2 extracts in oil....all sitting there flatly refusing to bloody well dissolve!
But in the end I remembered an old trick I had learned from an ancient apothecary text book many years ago and lo and behold, I got my Vanilla scent into an oil base! (And yes, I could tell you how I did it, but I think I might save that to include in the book I'm writing at the moment!)
This does mean that for the moment, it will only available as a perfume oil, as the process simply doesn't work properly in alcohol....but the oil base seems to lend itself to the softness of the Vanilla scent anyway....

So from there I sat down to come up with a Vanilla perfume that actually appealed to ME!
As I said in the beginning, my biggest beef with Vanilla has always been it's sweetness.
So I built my Vanilla perfume on a deep dry woody base with a lot of Australian Sandalwood in it. The Sandalwood I use has a particularly high Santalol content, similar to the Indian Mysore Sandalwood, but it is a lot drier and sharper than the Indian one, which in this perfume works perfectly.
I then experimented with a number of other resin extracts with complimentary notes to them to enhance the shy softness of the Vanilla itself.
There's quite a number of them: Styrax, Benzoin, Labdanum, Tonka bean, Tolu and Peru Balsam being just a few I tried...
each of them lent a different note to the perfume and it took quite a bit of fiddling to find just the right combination for the effect I was looking for.
But I got it.
And made up a test batch.
And sold the first bottle half an hour later, with no label, no name....
And then posted on facebook and sold the rest of the batch in a week.
Still with no name, no label, not even a proper website page.


So I've just made up a second batch, and added a bath and body oil version...(of which Ive already sold the first 2 bottles here in the shop).
And have added it to the new website.
Still without a name, or proper label.

Vanilla Wood perfume oil

Vanilla Wood Bath & Body oil

Monday, June 30, 2014

Adventures in Gardenia Enfleurage

Gardenia Macadamia oil Enfleurage
One of my experimental projects this year was in the making of Gardenia Enfluerage. As some of you know, a few years back I managed to track down a small amount of real Gardenia absolute, and made a small batch of a perfume I called "My Gardenia". Which sold out. And to my horror, the supply I had for the absolute dried up and there has been no more to be found ever since!
And I was living out in the bush in Nimbin, norther NSW Australia near a rather large crop of organic gardenias...
So I thought I'd have a go at seeing if I could actually extract the scent myself.
And not wanting to muck around with toxic solvents out in the bush, I decided to try "Enfleurage".
This technique was developed in France a century or so ago, and it involves covering glass plates with a solid oil or fat and laying the petals on them over and over again...each time waiting for up to 24 hours till the scent from the flowers has infused into the fat, and then replacing them with new flowers until the fat has become thoroughly saturated with scent.
gardenia coconut enfleurage
Now the problems I faced were many fold. For starters the Gardenia flowers needed to be picked at exactly the right time of day when the scent was strongest. I started off picking them in the morning, but quickly realized the scent was far stronger in the evening. Which meant making sure I was home at the right time to be able to pick them before it got too dark to see both the flowers and any stray snakes that might be slithering around (remember this was right out in the Australian bush). Then it rained and there was no point picking wet flowers as you need them to be as dry as possible while still young and fresh. Then I found out that the bushes were growing right over the nest of a particularly unfriendly form of jumping ant. But eventually, dressed in jeans tucked into sturdy hiking boots and a long sleeved shirt I managed to harvest enough flowers for the first run (with only a small number of ant bites).
Back in the mountain chalet, I hit the next hurdles. Australia is hot in summer. Very hot. And where I was living there was no air conditioning. So any of the fats I tried simply melted off the glass within about 15 minutes.
So I decided to simply immerse the flowers in the melted oil in jars...
Which worked...but I discovered after the first 4 batches failed that I had to immensely careful about timing. If the flowers were left in the oil for too long, first the water content would begin to seep into the oil, and then the whole melange would begin to ferment in the heat. the french instructions of 24 hours were definitely too long!
It was more like a couple of hours with the jars being left in a nice cool spot of the stone floor!
The first batch I did was in coconut. Which worked...but the smell of the coconut was very strong and tended to over power the gentle delicate gardenia, and I was trying to get a strong pure gardenia note all of it's own for my perfume....
So I ended up using a beautiful scentless locally produced macadamia oil which is light and beautiful, plus being environmentally friendly as it's produced in the same hills.
I ran into the same scent strength versus fermentation timing problem over and over....the oil would go from a lovely clear jar full of glowing white flowers dancing in suspension...to a cloudy yellow tinged mess with a distinct fruity smell overpowering the delicate floral gardenia. Which was particularly heart breaking if it was the 4th of 5th run of new petals in a jar.
In the end I ended up with a mere half 500mls of perfect clear delicately scented Gardenia oil! About half of which I have decided to share with my perfumer friends...the other half will be further transformed into "My Gardenia" perfume oil.
So if you'd like to have your own share in this olfactory adventure:

click to buy some Gardenia Enfleurage


Friday, June 20, 2014

perfume questions on ABC radio




 ABC radio rang me the other day to ask if I'd be willing to answer a few questions about perfumery on their afternoon random questions show...."can you bruise perfume by rubbing your wrists together?", "what are perfume notes", "which are the best places to wear perfume?",
And nerve wracking it was too....there I was pacing up and down the courtyard in front of my shop trying to hold the mobile phone steady in my shaking hands...
Hope you enjoy it!


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Very Vanilla

My latest project: A Vanilla perfume.
I've been asked for one so many times over the years...but it's not an easy undertaking.
You see I want it to be a real "pure" vanilla. Maybe with some woody musk ingredients to it, but nothing to mask it or take away from it's basic..well.. "vanilla-ness".
So I'm working with gentle woods, and ambers, and musky smooth bases....
And it's challenging. Vanilla is such a subtle scent...and almost anything seems to overpower it.
Plus the bloody vanilla absolute I like best doesn't seem to dissolve in anything. Argh.

There's so many forms of Vanilla to play with...starting with the fermented vanilla pods themselves which I have incubating in oil and alcohol in bottles all over my shelves...then there's the aforementioned absolute (grr), CO2 extracts, and wonder of wonders, natural vanillin powder! Lovely and subtle to the EXTREME!!!!
Then there's all the "vanilla-ish" other ingredients...benzoin, styrax, tolu balsam, labdanum, peru balsam...but all of them are strong and sweet with sharp overtones I dont really want in the mix.....
So far I'm happiest with a really gentle wood/ musk base which doesn't take centre stage...but it still outshines the vanilla....
We'll see.
Any testers and bloggers out there who'd like a few of the advanced version to test sniff when I'm happy with them?



Sunday, May 18, 2014

Jewelry



I've been sidetracked from perfume into making jewelry....beautiful glass and metal pendants with art nouveau paintings and delicate flowers....
beautiful nature photos behind glass... the interplay of colour, metal and glass, plus the textural addition of silk and paper flowers is such fun to work with...



click here: Jewelry on the Website








And a series of Victorian perfume lockets.
These ones have material inside that can be soaked in perfume or essential oils to make them wearable perfume necklaces.
They are based on old Victorian ones I found in a book and are just delightful.
They are all decorated with delicate silk and paper flowers and come in 2 different sizes.













These beautiful filigree lockets come with replaceable perfume pads so you can "wear" different" scents or essential oils that you don't want to apply directly to your skin.







Wednesday, March 12, 2014

teaching perfumery...and the natural perfume playset

Well, the question has reared it's head again....Ive been asked so many times over the years to teach classes on natural perfumery...and I'm still torn.
On one hand, I love teaching....and sharing my 30 years of perfume research and knowledge is a very tempting idea..
On the other hand, I've worked so hard to gain the knowledge I have...and I'm not sure how I feel about sharing my secrets and bredding my own competition so to speak.
Anyway, last week a lovely young woman walked into my shop and asked me to teach her. And I sort of got talked into it...
Ive been thinking about how I would do this for a long time. My methods and approach are a bit different to most of those I have seen out there. And beyond anything, I think you first of all need to educate your nose and learn how to "smell" really.
Ive had this idea of putting together a sort of "playbox" of premixed scent ingredients, so that would be perfumers can have a go at putting together scents of their own. And providing a booklet with it to guide them through approaching their experiments in a way that will teach them the basics of perfume making as they go along.
And I found these delightful little dropper bottles a while back which are just perfect (I'm such a sucker for pretty bottles!).

It's not easy deciding which oils to include in the set. I have so many favourites, but I don't want to make it too complex, because
a) it makes it too confusing and
b) too expensive
So I've chosen 9 of the most important oils in perfumery. I've picked a collection of oils that will almost all work together harmoniously, so that you can actually make really lovely scents with them. And I've also added a few that will work with some, and not with others. This is on purpose, to give you an idea of how easily you can go from a lovely blend to a yucky muddy clashing nightmare, and most importantly, to teach you WHY this happens.
It's a pretty versatile collection, allowing you to make everything from sweet musky florals to herbal men's colognes. Daniela will be the first person to receive one of these, so it will be interesting to see how she finds it!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Green Mandarin Friday

Working on new bath and body oil bends...and today it's green mandarin that I'm playing with.
This stuff has been begging me to play ever since I got it...
And now I finally have time and space to do so....

It's such yummy stuff...the freshness of mandarin, without the fruity bite! It's so soft, and well, green!
What you can see in the bottles are blue corn flowers... the colour backs up the fresh restfulness of the scent, but corn flowers are also some of the few safe flowers to use in infusions for skin too....
I'm combining it with mint in a few different forms....
just lush and soft and fresh.....Suggestions anyone?