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 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

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 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?