Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Workshop: The Mystery and Magic of Perfumery

After an inspiring phone call the other morning, I'm finally going to be running the first of the promised workshops on perfumery on the 4th of July here in my Byron Bay studio!

People have been asking me for ages when I'm going to be running classes...but it's taken me a while to work out what I can actually offer.
Teaching perfumery is a BIG project.  Realistically, trying to condense my 30 years of experience into a few one day workshops just isnt possible.
But what I can do is offer lessons in where to start, and give people the opportunity to talk, ask questions, and above all to play with some of the essential ingredients and bases used in perfumery in a real perfume studio.

So that's what I'm going to do.

We're going to look at the basic way a botanical perfume is created:

 -the difference between aromatherapy and botanical perfumery
 - the different types of scented ingredients (essential oils, absolutes, CO2 extracts, alcoholic tinctures)
 -the different bases used and how to choose whether to work in oil or alcohol
 -how a perfume is actually made
 -the basics of scent design
 -what top middle and base notes are
 -how to classify different oils

  and most importantly:
 -how to evaluate individual oils to see how they will work in a perfume

As part of this,we'll be looking at a number of commonly used ingredients and I'll be talking about the botanical and aromatherapy effects of each oil, their historical and spiritual uses, as well as their qualities from a perfumers point of view.
And we will then  experiment with combining them in different ways to achieve different effects.
 The idea is to give you a real understanding of how to approach the process of creating a perfume useing botanical ingredients.

Each participant will go home with a hopefully much better understanding of the process of perfumery, notes and hints on the ingredients we've used and some little bottles of the perfume blends we've worked with to further work with at home.

The cost for the workshop is $500 which includes all of the materials used in the class and the finished blends to take home.

If this sounds like something you'd be interested in, send me an email at

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A perfume for Chikii

Annette, the lovely owner of the Australian online eco cosmetic store "Chikii" popped into my studio the other day for another "custom fitting" session for her new perfume!
We've been working on a signature scent for her business for a while now...and it looks as though we may finally have it!
It's such a beautiful scent...and concept...
What Annette wanted was something elegant and calming, a beautiful womanly scent that would give the wearer a sense of peace....a feeling of space, which women so desperately need in their daily busy loves in our culture!
It's based around the energy of the eastern Goddess Kwan Yin, deity of compassion and mercy. 

We've chosen some beautiful ingredients to build it with:

Neroli, the delicate queen of bitter orange flower, fresh and elegant and calming
Orange Floweritself, giving the scent a warm honey floral depth
Labdanum:  a soft woody vanilla like basenote made from the Rockrose that grows in Crete. One of my favourite ingredients as it has a sweet woody gentleness to it that is understadely supportive in a perfume....a true skin scent
And Indian Genda attar, a traditional indian oil distilled from marigold flowers. This is the rarest ingredient in the perfume, as it is incredibly difficult to come by real traditionaly made natural indian attars nowadays. You can buy cheap fake copies in any indian knick knack shop, but the real thing is rare and costly...and I've been lucky enough to be able to source some of the real thing. It adds a lovely green,

exotic and magical element to the scent...... It's going to be one of the most elegant perfumes I've ever created. Such a beautiful soft, understated floral....I'm totally in love with it! It reminds me of jade...cool, soothing, strong and yet gentle at the same time....

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Boxes boxes and more boxes

 My studio has been covered in cardboard boxes this week.
Ive been trying to find better packing solutions for the perfumes for a while...and getting more and more frustrated. The old velvet bags Ive been useing are nice...but a) they are made from synthetic material which i wasn't happy about and b) they simply don't look that profesional when they are sitting on a shelf. And since we are doing more and more wholesaleing, it was time for an upgrade.
The problem, as usual, was that I could have anything I wanted, as long as I was willing to buy thousands and thousands at a time. Which being a small indie perfume house, simply isn't in the realm of feasible or sensible.
Ive spent the last year or so writing back and forth to manufacturers, getting ripped off after paying out money for samples that never arrived, being quoted insane manufacturing and shipping costs and generally getting totally fed up with the whole thing.
And then I finally had a brain wave.
Simple. Clean, Kraft paper boxes and beautiful colorful pictures as stickers instead of printed on the boxes themselves!
And simple square shapes instead of cool round cylinders (which is what I really wanted....this is part of the ripped off for non existent samples saga).
I found a supplier willing to sell me small quantities to play with, and two weeks ago a large box full of tiny boxes of different sizes arrived in my studio, and I've been in creative heaven ever since!
The next difficulty of course has been working out what kind of labels to put on them....How to keep them simple and beautiful while still providing enough information?
I've compromised by using the color grahics signature photo for each perfume on the front...and putting the logo and a bit of actual information on the back of the box.
I probably need to include more information. As people really don't know what the difference is between my perfumes, botanical perfumes....and all the other perfumes available in the stores...
So I need to spell it out clearly. But how do i do that?

Tell me, what information would you want to find on the boxes?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Perfume for "Chikii"

The lovely Annete, owner of "Chikii", an awesome Australian webshop that
specializes in  natural cosmetics has asked me to create a perfume for her business!

When I asked her what she wanted the perfume to smell like, she said "I want something beautiful, calm....that gives you the feeling of space and makes you feel safe. Women work so hard and are under so much pressure, I want to give them something to heal them and make them feel that kind of lovely meditative space they need in their lives. Something protective...."

We sat down with a whole bunch of ingredient bottles in my workshop...and the ones she picked to base it around were:

Neroli, Red Raspberry and Labdanum

Perfect for a calm zen and very sophisticated perfume!
Floral in a very cool calm way, with a nice herby earthy touch from the Red Raspberry plant...and Labdanum adds a smooth vanilla sophistication to the base...yummy indeed!
Such an exciting project, I'm really enjoying this! Ive made
up a few different version which can either take it in a more floral or more chypre direction...and the little bottles are now waiting for the next round of test sniffing!
Custom designed perfume for todays woman....what an awesome thing to work on!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The My Gardenia project

Well, it's finally finished. And it worked!!! Yay yay yay!!!!!!
It's been a 2 year project of experimentation and fails....it all started a few years ago after my one and only supplier for natural Gardenia absolute stopped making the stuff...which meant that one of my best selling perfumes was suddenly missing it's main ingredient!
After searching for some time, and being told time after time that no one out there was making it any more because all of the big perfume companies were now using artificial gardenia fragrance notes as they were easier to use and cheaper,  I realized the only way I was going to get any natural Gardenia was to make it myself!
So I dug out some of my antique perfumery books and started to experiment with the traditional technique of "enfleurage". My boyfriend at the time lives out in the hills inland from Byron Bay, and had a number of large gardenia bushes on his property, so I had lots of blossoms to experiment with.
Enfleurage is a technique that used to be used to extract delicate floral fragrances from delicate flowers that could not be distilled. Such as rose and jasmine, and also gardenia. You are basically soaking the flowers in or on a base oil or fat to let the scent soak into it, and changing the spent flowers for new ones over and over again until the base you are using is saturated with the scent. Sounds simple huh? The first technique I tried was useing fluid oil. This was incredibly tricky as it turned out. You have to soak the fresh flowers in oil for a certain amount of time, and keep swapping them for new flowers when the old ones start to wilt. The first problem I ran into is that the perfume manuals I had were from France. And Australia is a LOT hotter. So the first batches I made, leaving the flowers in for the recommended time, let to a brown cloudy fermented MESS instead of the silky soft perfumed oil I was hoping for! We threw that lot out, and started again, keeping the bottles in a cool shady spot inside the house and changing the flowers more and more frequently....Now the Gardenia plants only flower for a short time, so it was a real run against time, with batch after batch fermenting just when it had been recharged for the 10th or so time! And it looked as if the project was going to fail...But we finally managed to work out the timing and we ended up with a small amount of softly sweet floral Gardenia scented oil just as the last flowers blossomed... it is lovely stuff, but not really strong enough to be a perfume in it's own right...but it makes a beautiful body oil!
This year I was determined to try again, this time using a different technique. This time I decided to use a more traditional approach using a solid oil so the flowers would have less chance of turning into a fermented mess. Traditionally, they used to use lard and other animal fats, but I thought I could improve on this and find a nice botanical alternative, so I made up batches of macadamia oil, mango butter and various botanical waxes to what I thought would be a good consistency. I started right at the beginning of the gardenia flowering season this time, and soon had every surface covered with containers coated with solid oil and wax blends, full of white fragrant gardenia flowers. And for the next weeks it was a constant job of collecting the flowers in the morning and evening (trying to avoid the jumping ants
that seem to love to live at the base of the plants and which seem to rejoice in finding interesting places to bite you while you are reaching for those last high up blossoms at the top of the bush!), changing the wilted flowers for fresh ones and keeping an eye on the process. The trouble with fresh flowers is that they contain lots of water. And water provides a wonderful environment for mold. So we realized pretty quickly (and after tossing out a number of batches) that we needed to provide enough air circulation around the containers to stop this from happening, but not so much that the scent from the gardenias would evaporate instead of soaking into the oil and wax layers... I changed layer after layer of old flowers for new, worrying that the scent wouldn't be strong enough before I ran out of flowers as the season came to an end. I can remember sitting in the workshop and holding up a container to a friend who'd wandered in and asking "Does this smell strong enough?". He answered "honey, you can smell it from out on the street! The whole workshop smells of Gardenia!"
In the end, all the hard work paid off. It really and truly actually worked! Deep heady sultry honest to goodness Gardenia in a solid base! So the next step was melting all the individual batches down together, adding more wax to make it solid enough to package and use, and adding the other essential oils from my original "My Gardenia" recipe to turn it into an actual perfume!
The Gardenia enfleurage makes a wonderful base...but I added some green light topnotes and a musky wood base to re-create the feeling of the fresh flowers on the plant... while keeping the Gardenia as dominant as possible to basically recreate the feeling of sitting  amongst the Gardenia bushes at dusk when the scent it strongest.....
And now on my shelf there is a pile of beautiful tiny little jars of exquisite one of a kind truly authentic "My Gardenia" perfume pots!

Want to know what it smells like?

Go to my store

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Namaste Byron Bay

The Vanilla perfume has a name. 

"Namaste"....I greet the God/dess within you.
It's my personal gift to Byron Bay....a new perfume for my new home town. Embodying the spirit and the vibe of the place...
There's a wooden sign on the road leading into town painted with peace symbols and flowers that says :"Slow down, chill out and relax!" and it really sums up the place.
It's the New Age Hippie Mecca of Australia, a bit like San Fransico in the States in the 60's used to be.
It's full of colourful people, amazing beaches with clean sand and blue water, shops selling tie dyed clothes and really expensive designer hippie gear. (Because all of the hippies from the 60's are now grey haired and some of them very well to do.)
Anyway, it's also home to a plethora of workshops, meditation and yoga classes. And chanting OM and useing "Namaste" at the end of
each class is so normal that it's part of the local language.

My perfume Namaste is a scentual impression of Byron in all of it's neo hippie spiritual laid back glory. Vanilla and Sandalwood are the main notes, and here is why I chose them:
Vanilla is sweet and soothing and comforting and relaxing and sexy and well, just downright NICE! on every level you can think of. Everyone loves Vanilla. It's one of those true feel good, happy scents that envokes good childhood memories, innocence, playfulness and just makes you feel like the world is a better place.
The Vanilla in Namaste comes in the form of organically grown gourmand Vanilla beans in the actual
bottle. Amplified by a Vanilla accord made from a combination of incense resins, from tolu balsam over tonka, labdanum and a variety of vanilla absolutes and CO2 extracts to give a real sophistication and a sexier, elegant take on the innocence of Vanilla itself.
And it's held by a beautiful classic Sandalwood base. Sandalwood is one of the most spiritual scents in existance. Used for thousands of years in spiritual ceremonies for healing and blessing.
It is also used in Aruveda to treat depression and anxiety, and has similar applications in modern Aromatherapy. The twist is that it's an Australian

Sandalwood, not Indian. Indian Sandalwood has been harvested almost into extinction, which makes it a really bad environmental choice. And I also wanted to make sure that Namaste had a real Australian grounding to it, since, after all, it's from Byron, and Oz and all. Australia is a very down to earth place. And Byron Bay, for all of it's spiritual side, is still an Australian version. So I've used a really wonderful Australian Sandalwood that actually reflects this perfectly. It's an amazing deep, musky, dry and elegant smelling Sandalwood grown in Western Australia on an eco-conscious environmentally sustainable plantation.
And it's musky deep woody character enhances the elegant notes of the Vanilla and resin accord in the top and mid layers of the perfume.
I made up the first batch a few weeks ago. And sold the whole lot within 5 days. So I guess there must be something right there :) So I've made up a bath and body oil to go with it too....just for Xmas! If you'd like to try some for yourself, click here to go to the webshop!

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