Monday, June 21, 2010

The Mystery of Musk-Craving

The Mystery of Musk

Well, here it finally is. My personal Musk offering to the Perfume World.
To celebrate the 8th anniversary of the Natural Perfumers Guild, they are running a competition amongst us renegade Natural Perfumers to see what we can come up with in the way of Natural Musk Perfumes.
(see my post on the Mystery of Musk Competition) .
The whole undertaking has excited and terrified me all the way through in equal measure...the whole concept of creating a perfume under a very short time limit, to be submitted to a panel of people who spend their lives reviewing perfumes from the most famous perfume houses in the world...

Why am I doing this to myself?
How could I possibly think I could do this?

I have been through so many different versions, cried, torn my hair out, obsessed over little bottles with smelly sticky substances and finally ended up with one large bottle of deep chestnut coloured glass clear liquid sitting on my workbench.
It sits there glinting in the late afternoon sun like some kind of mysterious alchemical liqour....which I suppose it is really....

It's a Gourmand Perfume...a perfume that combines all the things I love and crave.....Cuddles, Sex....and Food.

It's got all the animalistic base notes you'd hope to find in a decent musk perfume, with middle notes of warm roasted hazelnuts, sweet caramel and dark sultry cocoa liquor.
OK, so I'm a food head. I can remember someone asking me years ago wether I prefer Sex or Food...and I honestly couldn't say!
My idea of a perfect afternoon involves lot's of sexy nakedness...pheromones and wild passion....with intervals of chocolate cake, roasted nuts and more......
Hey, why not make it perfect and combine them both?!

So that's EXACTLY what I've done with my perfume!

There is however even olfactory method to my madness:
Cocoa absolute to my nose is one of the sexiest base notes in has a deep bittersweet magic to it that hits you right in the groin....roasted nuts too give off one of those smells that give you that warm, safe at home in the kitchen kind of feeling...and caramel, while sweet, has a smokey honey depth to it that is very very sexy....

So what are the other ingredients you're probably wondering at this stage?

Well, right at the very base, you have the King of natural musk ingredients: Hyraceum. this wonderful stuff has an incredible lions den kinda musky funk that is SO King of the Wild! And on top of that, it's one of the very few enviromentally friendly cruelty free animal musks you can get! On it's own it just hits you in the face like...well, just like a well slept and mated in lions den I guess....but in "Craving", there's just enough to give you that sense of "Gee, I'm an animal at heart" at the very base of the scent to make it "Real".
With it, you find 2 kinds of Vetiver, Queen of the herbal root aphrodisiacs. Sexy, Smokey, sultry and deep.....
Costly Oud, worth more in weight than Gold, traded by the Arabian Empires for hundreds of years and still famous throughout the world for it's mysterious and sophisticated magic.
Ambrette Seed, gentle and subtle, and undeniably the clostest thing to the chemical counterparts you nowadays find in musk perfumes...It's one of my favourite ingredients, buttery soft with a deep sandalwood touch that develops only once applied to the skin....
Australian Sandalwood, grown in sustainable plantations in my favourite country, deep woody and buttery smooth with just enough bite to give it a bit of a kick...
There's more of course, but these are the dominant musk notes in the Potion.

It's turned out to be an interesting perfume. No top notes as such, no floral notes, or fruits, no fancy ozones or clever chypres or other fancy things.....instead a deep, sultry brew of warmth and yumminess....
You start off with the mouthwatering scent of the roasted nuts, warmed with honey and caramel, and then it goes deeper and the Vetiver and bitter Chocolate rise to embrace you.....and as the scent warms to your skin, the animal musk that is so close to your own begins to spread over you.....

It's one of the sexiest scents I've ever made. Yet at the same time it's almost subtle, clinging close to your skin, a private scent, shared only with those who snuggle close enough to become entranced by it.....
I put on a jacket yesterday, that I had been wearing 3 days ago while I was working on the perfume...and was immediately enveloped in the scent again....

It's been a long journey to here. 21 (yes, twenty one! I counted!) different musk versions, until I finally almost had it...but there was an acrid bynote to it I just couldn't get rid of no matter what I added to soften it down. And it was only a week ago that I finally worked out what the problem was! Which meant making up a whole new batch minus the offending substance! (It was actually one of the more expensive Oud extracts believe it or not!)

Will others like it too?
that remains to be the moment 30 little bottles are winging their way accross the ocean into the waiting arms of 18 perfume critics and 12 other proffesional perfumers.

And if I think about this too much I'll start biting my nails all over again....

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Creating a perfume for a Faerie part 2

The process of custom designing a Scent is a complex challenge....and one of my favourite things to do in the whole world! I think my approach is a bit different to that of many other perfumers, because I combine a number of different arts and disciplines...
First and foremost of course, you want to create a perfume that the perfume who has commissioned it will love. So you look for scent notes that the person likes. But beyond that, to create the "perfect" scent, I want to know more about the person I am creating for, so I can match the ingredients I use to their personalities.
Being a visual artist as well, I tend to associate different scents with different colours, so I often look at the persons favourite colours and the clothes they wear for inspiration too. My whole workshop is actually colour coded, and it never ceases to fascinate me how accurately you can translate one sense to the other....Music, food preferences, whether a person prefers the forest, quiet meadows or the bustle of busy cities, all of these things for me form a pattern that is the unique fingerprint of a person...and it is this unique pattern that I look for when I'm creating a perfume for them....And once I have a feeling for this pattern, you can then work with your client to find which aspects of the pattern they want to accentuate, which parts of themselves they would like to strengthen, maybe hidden sides they would like to bring out into the open....
Or maybe they want a complimentary note, something wild to inspire them...or something soothing and calming to help them to relax....
So the secret is to marry what the person wants to be surrounded by, to who they are.....
When Helen Wells asked me to create a perfume for her, my first inspiration was the woman herself.
Helen is a delightful Fey creature, small in stature with delicate elfin features.....the clothing she wears are as artistic as her beautiful paintings: Long Victorian style skirts and bodices in earthy browns, burnt orange and red....soft comfortable natural materials. Her paintings are also an incredible insight into her being: detailed, exquisite and always highlighting something special, brave and strong in each of her subjects....
While I was speaking to Helen about her Perfume, the very first thing that came to mind was Mimosa.
It's a perfume ingredients that has fascinated me for some time. The flower itself has such a "Will'O the Whisp" quality about it...delicate, intricate and amazingly beautiful...mimosa blossoms always remind me of Dandelion fluff...but it's elegant Dandelion fluff, designed by a Fairy artisan, with intricate colouring and cleverly designed architectural features.....The scent of Mimosa is just as special: It is soft and floral, gently elegant with a distinct honey like depth to it...much like Helen herself.
Helen sent me a detailed answer to the perfume questionnaire I send out to all custom design was a joy to read, and part of why I love custom design so's a bit like being invited into the persons private sitting room, where you get to know and appreciate the person....a bit like a private portraiture sitting.
And from this perfume brief, I then began to construct her Scent:

"I want the essence of my inner self to be expressed in a scent.
The essence that I want to bring forward is this:
My womanhood and passion for life. I want to feel safe, confident and uplifted, inspired and hopeful in facing my life. To celebrate the fact I am a woman, one who is sexy, wise, strong and gentle - flowing with life’s current. A hint of fun and cheekiness would suit me also."

The gorgeous Mimosa needed a more solid base to hold it, and Helen had requested "Something that would make her feel "like a woman, and also safe, confident". I found a lovely deep incense resin accord that echoed the honey like depth in the mimosa, and accentuated some of the elegant floral notes even further... the ingredients also had the added therapeutic effect from an aromatherapy point of view, of being both calming and grounding as well as aphrodisiac, which was exactly the effect Helen was looking for.
To give the perfume another level, I then added some exquisite Orange Flower absolute.
Now this to me is one of the Queens of floral notes. It fascinates me because it has a quirkiness to it that gives it a surprising and unique character, along with an incredibly feminine beauty and again, a sweet honey like depth...which married perfectly to the honey in both the mimosa and the incense resin base accord.
So what we now had was a gentle, exquisitely feminine perfume with sweet, honey and incense depths which was also unusual and interesting, without being loud or brash in any way.
I think it is one of the most beautiful scents I have ever created....and it is entirely due to the guidance of Helen herself.
It was such a joy to be invited to paint a scented picture of such a lovely person!
I couldn't resist creating a custom label for the perfume. For me, the packaging of the perfume is just as important as the content: The visual beauty is part of the experience of the perfume!
So I "borrowed" the latest of Helen's beautiful paintings off her website and printed a special label for her "Faerie" perfume!

If this has sparked your interest and you'd like to know more about custom designed perfumes, you can email me at

Friday, June 4, 2010

Designing a Perfume for a Faerie part 1

A while back I was delighted to be asked to custom design a perfume for the amazing Australian artist  Helen Wells. She has been one of my favourite artists for some time, so I was especially honoured and excited about the project!
And even more delighted that I succeeded in creating something she really loves!

By Hellen Wells:
Ever since I was a small girl I’ve wanted to have my own special perfume.
I couldn’t stand any of the commercial perfumes I came across as I grew up.
For many years I gave up and didn’t wear perfume at all.
Then I discovered essential oils. I was drawn to several. Frustratingly I found many of them to powerful to wear as a perfume. I’m very sensitive to scents and many incenses, perfumes and oils produced the undesired result of headaches ranging from mild to sever, hot flushes and also flu like symptoms.
The oils I found I didn’t react to like this didn’t feel like ‘me’. Some suited the mood I was in a certain times, but couldn’t cross with me to other moods when I went.

Meeting Ambrosia:

When Caiseal discovered ‘Pan’ by ‘Perfume by Nature’ at a Mind Body Spirit festival. I was delighted. This perfume is amazing on him. I find it very attractive and I don’t react negatively to it either. It wasn’t suited to me.. much more masculine scent.
Excitedly I tested the other range. And loved most of them. Although nothing still sat quite right for ‘me’
I liked ‘Death by Chocolate’ best and often wore it.. but t still only suited me in certain moods.

It was then I learnt Ambrosia offers the fantastic service of individually designed perfumes.
I knew she’d find the answer.
It was just such an enjoyable experience for me. Filling out the little questionnaire to begin with I felt I learnt a bit about myself during this process, and also felt she was going to leave no stone unturned in finding that special scent for me.
It was so exciting when the first package of samples arrived – four different ideas and directions it could go.
Only one of them created the headache reaction, but I loved the scent of all four.
One I thought.. I could wear this.. we could explore this direction more.. but then I sniffed ‘no. 3’
And I knew that was the one! My whole body relaxed and I got very excited about the possibilities of wearing this.

Ambrosia tried another 3 or four scents to make sure, but no. 3 was it.
And so ‘Faery’ was born!
I love it.
Faery is me!
I don’t know how she did this.. Alchemy and magic, it is!
I always wished for my own special perfume, but doubted I’d ever find some-one who would understand, and see me clearly enough to create it.
I would highly, highly recommend commissioning a perfume for yourself from her.
What a great gift to give some-one! Not just a bottle of perfume, but a gift voucher to have their ‘Personal’ Perfume designed just for them!
We will be commissioning one for my husband Caiseal next.
Helen Wells, June 2010

I'll be posting the second half of the story about how I went about designing "Faerie"  in the coming week!

In the meantime, you can go to Helen's Website and look at the beautiful painting that helped inspire it!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Mystery of Musk-A Competition

Well, my little blogpost  "The Search for the Ultimate Musk" actually sparked a competition! It seems another well known perfumer actually read it, and then suggested to Anya of the Natural Perfumers Guild that it would be a nice idea to actually run a competition to find the best natural musk perfume to celebrate the 4th birthday of the guild!

The project launches today, with samples from the participants going out to 10 different perfume review blogs, a number of reviewers from basenotes and others....all to be reviewed in the first week of july!
There'll also be giveaways of full bottles of the various musk perfumes, samples and more.....
And of the perfumes will be chosen as the winner....

And I've been invited to take part!
Oh the excitement....
Oh the joy!
Oh the total blind panic!!!!!!!!

As those of you who read my blog know, I've been working on musk perfumes for quite some time....but that doesn't mean I've actually found exactly what I'm looking for!
And now i have the challenge to actually choose from all those many "perfumes in progress" under the musk section of my shelves, and submit one of them to the wider world!
Now for some like me, this is beyond scary....I like to fiddle with my perfumes till I'm completely happy with them. Some of the perfumes I sell in my perfumery took years to develop. 
And even worse, I have to offer up my creation to a wide selection of perfume critics, perfume bloggers and my fellow natural perfumers from the guild!

(Taking Deep Calming breath.....OMMMMMMMMM..........)

OK, so which perfume did I eventually choose? I was so torn.....should I go with animalistic? Follow the popular choices you find in shops and offer my own Vanilla Musk? Or maybe a sultry Oriental one with a touch of incense? So many choices.......(looks again at all the little musk version on that shelf).
I sat down at my workbench and started to list what Musk actually mean to me:

Musk is about:
-makes me feel safe
-makes me feel like I'm wrapped in a soft warm blanket
-makes me crave things
Cravings eh? theres a good name.....and a concept.....
What do I crave?
Going back to my "musk in progress" bottles, there it was...I'd been mixing all the things I loved, smells I craved, things that made me want to reach out and snuggle into them.....
So I sat down at my workbench, and started to assemble all the ingredients that I "craved".
Now I'm a multi dimensional hedonist. I love all things physical, sex, cuddles, soft sumptuous clothes, food.....

So to make my ultimate musk perfume, I needed ingredients that covered all of these...something so yummy, so luscious that it made you want more....
I've made a few perfumes that have that sort of touch in them...."Love Potion" has a deep musky base with an oriental touch....."Goddess" has a completely different sensuousness to it..."Pan" is the ultimate Wild invocation to passion and then there's "Death by Chocolate", my own private offering to the Gods of food addiction in perfume form.....

What I needed to do was find a way to combine the sensuous spirit in each of them, the sexy musky character of each of them into one perfume that combined the ultimate "muskness" of them all!

And "Craving" began to be born.

I'll be posting more about this over the next weeks.....

And in the meantime, let us all know:

What do you Crave?