Saturday, October 1, 2011 adventure in mystical apples

A few years ago, I went back to England and visited the area where the mystical Isle of Avalon is supposed to be...the coastal area around Tintagel and Glastonbury....the birth place of King Arthur, and the legendary Merlin, Vivianne, the lady of the lake and Morgainne, priestess of Avalon...
It was late summer and there entire area is full of apple orchards...ancient gnarled trees full of wisdom and a sense of antiquity...sourounded by the lush scent of ripe apples, hanging heavily from overladen boughs.....

I climbed Glastonbury Tor one evening...and as the soft haze settled over the valley beneath me, you could almost hear the chants of the preistesses drifting over from the Magical Isle of Avalon....mystical incense, herbs and the wafting deep and fresh scent of ripe apples from the ancient trees......
When I got back to Australia, I sat down to try and capture this picture in a perfume. Fruit notes are particularly hard to capture with natural ingredients, as fruit (apart from citrus) simply doesn't lend its scent to extraction the way flowers do...Some years before I had scored a tiny bottle of apple essential oil, distilled from whole granny smith apples in South Afrika by a rogue had the sharp apple topnote to it, but totally lacked the sweet depth of an actual apple, the way many essential oils do...and of course this tiny bottle wasn't going to be enough to actually make any quantity of perfume....
So I set out to find a way to create a scented picture of the real thing.
I found a number of different apple CO2 extracts used in the food industry, that gave a sense of the fresh sharp topnotes in apples even if it lacked the juicy lushness I was looking for, but at least it gave me a starting point. together with a few drops of my precious apple EO, I had an apple topnote for my perfume. To this I added Rose ...the most english of flowers, and a perfect partner to the sharp apple tang. I chose to use a particularly delicate Rose du Mai, as it adds an fairy like quality to the blend, a flower blossom touch....
Neroli adds further floral beauty, while I found a touch of mandarin added in the fruity sweetness needed to give a sense of ripeness to the apple top note....the perfume began to take form....The heart and base are a blend of hay, fresh mown hay lying out in the fields, drying for the winter feed... fir balsam from the trees of the forest around the orchards...and labdanum incense resin from the isle of Crete, used by the preistesses in Delphi, which seemed rather appropriate...labdanum is also such a soft, ambery sweet scent in itself, that blended perfectly with the floral fruity mid and creating that sense of orchard and forest I had in my vision...priestesses burning incense in the temple of the apple isle on a late summers eve.......

Scent family: fruity floral

Notes     top:   apple CO2 and distillate, neroli
               midnotes:   rose du mai, green mandarin, apple blossom accord
               base:    labdanum, hay, fir balsam, amber accord

Order your own bottle
of "Avalon" here:
(Orders outside Australia perfume oil only pls as we cannot ship alcohol based edp overseas!)

click arrow to choose bottle size

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Scented Visitor

Yesterday I had a wonderful freind drop in on her way back up north from sydney....
Hanna has spent many years in the far East, and now imports a beautiful range of materials, clothing...and for me of course more importantly, Frankincense and Myrrh!
Her website "The Queen of Sheba" is full of amazing photos and stories about the places she has visited and where the resins and oils come from....tales about the people and the breathtakingly beautiful country...the secret locations where the ancient frankincense trees have been growing for hundreds of years...Her website also has pictures of the colourful pottery incense burners the women make by hand, and the gorgeous handwoven fabrics...This is Fair Trade in it's truest form! Hanna herself is a truly adorable radical greenie after my own heart...and we spend hours debating how to run businesses that are both ethical, and ecoplogically true, as well as making us a living!
She turned up with a car full of beautiful scented goodies as usual, and we spent a delightful few hours drinking coffee, burning incense and sniffing oils and potions.....
We always end up swapping booty, so I've got some of the amazing frankincense she gets from Oman's so different from the Somalian stuff I've been useing for has a fresh almost lemony scent to it that is truly's so different as an essential oil that I didn't even recognize it as frankincense at first sniff...and burnt as incense it's just amazing.....
This time she brought me a huge lump of pure styrax resin (which is what you can see in the picture next to that beautiful handcrafted traditional incense burner). We must have looked like drug dealers, sitting there on my verandah scratching small amounts of wierd powders off it with a penknife, grin! It has a strange burnt rubbery after smell when you burn it, so I'm not sure I like it as incense...but I tinctured some of the crushed resin in alcohol and Oh boy, what lovely stuff! It's sweet and vanilla and ambery and pretty dam luscious! totally different to the styrax essential oil I have....which is sharp and rubbery foremost and only has the soft luscious ambery scent right at the back....So I'm delighted to have this new ingredient to play with! Hanna left with more samples of my perfumes (She's in Love with "Sense of Honour" at the moment!) and a little bottle of the Styrax tincture...Sometimes I really do feel a bit like a drug lord...swapping little bottles of strange tinctures I've cooked up in my lab for lumps of interesting smelling resins in brown paper wonder Australia post opens so much of my mail at the border, grin!
Anyway, check out Hanna's website! I'm pestering her to add more of her stories about her adventures in Oman so hopefully you'll find more there soon! But you can see the amazing photos and browse her wonderful wares!   The Queen of Sheba

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

New bottles for Spring!

Finally found the right bottles to package my perfume oils in!
I've been looking for a while...
I love the round perfume atomizers I use for the alcohol based eau de parfums...and the smaller ones for the full size bottles of perfume oils...but I just wasn't happy with the little oil bottles...and a lot of people seem to like the idea of small bottles...
Plus we can't ship alcohol based perfumes overseas, so we're selling more and more of the oil bsed perfumes...and people do like roll on bottles....but the simple black lidded ones just don't look elegant and beautiful enough to do the content of a high end natural perfume justice...and the little cute ones I was useing, apart from not being roll ons, where very pretty, but didn't really match the range...and I do like consistency!
And then I found these.....and of course have now filled them with flowers and spices fitting to each scent!
Happy happy happy!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

For all lovers of Orange Flower

field of bitter orange trees
A few months ago I came accross an essential oil company I hadn't heard of before...
A Fahkry & Co, an Egyptian company that distills and sells an amazing collection of essential oils and absolutes, including a special organic collection the widest range of orange flower, neroli and petigrain versions I've ever come accross! The website is pretty impressive in it's description of it's various organic endeavours, from new organic farms to seed saving and gentle extraction methods...and it's so refreshing to see companies outside of Europe adopting green approaches! I'm always a bit suspicious of companies I've never heard of before, esp. those that make organic claims, but these guys are very forthcoming with information and sent me an amazing collection of samples along with sheaves of accompanying paperwork with detailed analysis sheets for all the oils! And I'm rather impressed with the quality too, no cheap synthetic knock offs here!
I'm going to review the oils I've got here in groups, because there's simply too many to cover in one post!
What really blew me away was the range of citrus products! Ive never seen so many forms of petigrain and biregarde in one place before!
I know that this is a particular love of many perfumers, so I thought I'd write about them in more detail with my own scent impressions!

Orange flower absolute  Deep, fruity with almost nutty undertones

Petigrain bigarade absolute This one I particularly love! It has such lovely fresh twiggy notes along with the petigrain freshness and a wonderful tea note!
neroil egyptian a tangy neroli

mandarin petigrain  wow, a petigrain with a touch of mandarin sweetness! It's also got that fresh twig sappy feel to it....a real natural sorta woodsy mandarin touched scent!
key lime petigrain  and then a real tangy, citrus petigrain...almost lemon verbena notes!
biregarde flower extract this is a zingy floral, lighter than the orange flower absolute
petigrain bigarade  earl grey notes...very elegant

bigarade green  notes of green mandarin
bigarade rouge this is softer than the petigrain's just lovely...softly mandarin sweet fresh green....
distilled fruit birgarade  this is soft sweet citrus, undefinable which one, and much gentler than the straight cold pressed oils....I want to use this one in a floral perfume, with maybe a delicate white rose....
Key Lime distilled I want to bathe in this one! Lime lollies on steroids! I've loved lime essential oil for a long time, but this key lime has an added tang, almost like a touch of grapefruit and lemon verbena...I'm in citrus heavan!

My nose is dizzy just from reviewing them all one by one! So much vareity within a simple theme...absolutely lovely!
They also have an impressive range of herbal oils, as well as some really nice rose and jasmines....which I'll be reviewing later on!
All up, I'm delighted to have found these people!
They also have one of the holy grails of hard to find oils: CAROB essential oil! They were out of stock when I contacted them so I'm still waiting impatiently!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Alchemy for Wytchy Ways

Spent a wonderful day today with the lovely Suzanne Naseby of Wytchy Ways
Suzanne came up to my workshop to consult with me about creating two massage oils for her online store, and it was a true delight! I had met this wonderful woman previously, when I took part in one of her "Soul Collage" workshops and had been impressed by her warmth and knowledge as a counsellor, and was delighted when she approached me about designing the scents of her new products! We spent an hour gossiping on my sunny verandah before we got down to work, catching up on stories of all the people we know, and our lives as middle aged women teetering on the edge of menopause...
And then, after mislaying our coffee cups and being held up by dogs and cats demanding attention of my new guest, we settled down to the actual work.
Custom design is my favourite thing to do. It's always fascinating to see which scents a person is drawn me it's almost as intimate as having a peek in their personal diary, and the session with Suzanne was decidedly fun!
She had two very different scents in mind: One for use on Sabbath celebrations, one for Esbats. For those non-pagans amongst you, Sabaths are the Solar celebrations in the Pagan calender, such as Eostre/ Easter, Samhain/Halloween and Winter Solstice/Chirstmas. The Esbats are celebrated on the full moon. So we are basically working on a solar and a lunar scent. Suzanne had brought a few of the oils she had already bought with her, including a delightful smelling benzoin, which proved too thick to work with this morning, even with the help of a warm water bath...but we came up with a few rather nice blends...on the solar side, Suzanne had something foodie and luscious in mind, seeing as good pagan celebrations always have great food and a feast as a central part of them....what we ended up with is a rather scrumptious warm spicy sweet melange which will work to stimulate and awaken all the senses.....ginger, cinnamon, fruit and more all combined to give it life and zing in a totally delicious way.....the lunar Esbat blend is much softer...elegant clarity built around the Rose of the Goddess, and the deep, sacred beauty of frankincense. She has also chosen a really interesting smokey base to underline the incense notes, which gives the blend a true "temple" feel...Each bottle will also have one drop of pur herbal oil of mugwort or wormwood, which Suzanne has magically charged during ritual herself, to give the oils an even greater effect.

The bottles she has chosen are interesting too. Simple, elegant aluminium flasks which she is planning on decorating with swing tags and material. So we ended the session with 5 little bottles of potion, samples to go home with Suzanne to be sniffed and pondered at leasure...over the next week or so, each of the scents will  undergo a further alchemical transformation as the individual oils blend and interact with each other, so we'll see how they settle down. It's quite an involved process getting it "just right", and I'm sure it will take a few more changes and trials to find the "perfect blend"...
But they are going to be pretty special!

'Twas all up a very nice day...Alchemical Scent Magic at it's best!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Pan's Midsummer Night Dream

I recently took part in a wonderful perfume competition, "A Midsummer Nights Dream" run by the lovely Amanda Feeley from  Essentual Alchemy. The idea was to create a perfume inspired by William Shakespear's play. The perfumes were then sent to a number of different perfume reviewers.
What I find really beautiful about this project, is the artwork the reviewers used to accompany their reviews! So I've reposted not only the reviews themselves, but also the paintings that accompanied them!
You can read more about my offering to this project "Pan" here:
"The Story of Pan"
and you can order samples of it in my webstore

Carol from WAFT wrote:  LOVE THIS !
Sir Joseph Noël Paton - Evening
An intoxicating patchouli scent that could fit just as easily into the summer of Patchouli love , but this was created in honor of Puck = a tamer , gentler version of Pan in our Shakespearean play....PAN the scent is wildly gorgeous - a green earthy Rosemary and Patchouli scent , deepened with oakmoss and embellished with cinnamon , nutmeg and thyme....lordy lordy this is wonderful . Long have I searched for the perfect rosemary scent ( that doesn't remind me of lamb stew )...Dominated by rosemary , PAN is my favorite scent of the summer ! Earthy , resonant , spicy and just outright sexy in the best way .

The Windesphere Witch writes:
"I can't resist a perfume that claims...."If you don't want to get laid, don't wear it". Pan

is a  perfume that I think could definitely live up to that challenge. It's very masculine, the horned God himself and the muskiness mixed into the delicious blend of rosemary, thyme, marjoram and Indian Patchouli is delightful and exquisitely sexy in a sort of "roll around naked and sweaty in the tall grass sort of way" and it smells incredible on my husband, better than it does on me and I think that this one takes a man to unleash it's potency. Pan is quite herbaceous but there's also something in it that reminds me of my horse Henry when we've been galloping around in the dense woods for a bit and he's fairly sweaty and so am I. It's that fine line between animal passion and human playfulness that I think that she's captured here and she's done it very well. At first sniff Pan seems simple and then suddenly you're enslaved by his lovely flutes. Follow him anywhere but at your own risk.....unplanned risky delightful sex in a bottle this one is:)
Donna from  Perfume Smellin'-Things wrote:

"My next adventure was a frolic with Pan, the very naughty brainchild of Ambrosia Jones, proprietor of Perfume By Nature near Sydney, Australia. Pan is a wild fellow indeed, but as with many purportedly “masculine” fragrances, many women love to wear them too and this one really won me over. Pan reminded me of the more rustic perfumes from La Via del Profumo in Italy, which is saying a lot, because those are truly excellent compositions. It’s not as heavily animalic as my beloved Tcharas or as green and exhilarating as Hindu Kush, but it has its own distinctive character. Pan (The character of Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a thinly veiled version of the mythical Greek satyr) has a dry, sun-soaked halo of herbal and piney warmth wrapped around its chypre base of dark oakmoss and resins. Rosemary and thyme combined with a spicy (yet not sweet) heart make this redolent of warmer climes, and it’s not hard to picture this mischievous being frolicking in the rugged hillsides above the Aegean Sea, chasing buxom women and laughing the days away. I don’t get too much of a “night” impression from this, but surely most of the trouble Pan/Puck gets himself into occurs in the midnight hour! He is up to no good and so is his namesake perfume, a lusty and rich concoction guaranteed to turn heads. In fact, I received an unsolicited compliment from a co-worker, who urged me to come closer so she could smell my perfume. Staying power is excellent, lasting all day with no problem at all and any confident man should really enjoy wearing it. However, he will have to pry it out of my hands first!

Felicia M Hazard of Fragrance Belles-Lettres

I must confess, I am a fan of chypre. It gives me a deep feeling of completeness and wholeness that is actually indescribable.  Thank goodness for a fragrance that speaks for my indescribable feelings. PAN from Perfume by Nature leads you into a journey of a woody citrus forest that is guarded by Pan, God of Nature. You immediately notice patchouli that sings of a deep moment in the wild.   Then you are guided into a forest full of oak trees covered in moss.  The tall dark trees towering over the forest with a heavy passion for dark and intense moments that arise in PAN.  
  Quickly PAN dries on the skin into a sweet passion fruit state of mind. I really enjoyed this journey with Pan, God of Nature. It showed me that nature is better when left alone without the use of chemicals and pesticides to ruin what is really intended for its goodness.   
Now, I understand why Pan is so wild about nature. It is a wonderful place to be and thanks to Pan, Ambrosia Jones was able to compose a beautiful perfume with a beautiful message through her knowledge of the God who is passionate and respectful of all Things Living. 

Monica Miller from "Perfume Pharmer"
" Earthy, wild and spicy, I would say Pan would make a great men’s fragrance…but hey, PAN can go both ways, and often does. Definitely evergreen forest like, there is a camphor herbal lift and a playful, botanical and animalic, spiced apple cider- musky undertone. I say “try it!….if you dare….”

And this beautiful poem: 

"Ah the Oft maligned and scorned God Pan! What has he done to deserve your wrath, O Christians, that you turn him into the Evil One? How strange to take a Pagan God, a nature spirit, and pit your hate against him, why?

Is it his sexuality you fear? His sweet pan pipe music that turns your heart to gold?

Do you fear to feel yourself as part of nature, as natural as the grass and the trees, as natural as life itself?
Fear not the divine spirit we call PAN. He is NOT the devil as you say. he is not dressed in red, nor does he live in a fiery abode. Unless the passion we call desire that drives the human race generation by generation is evil?
We ride towards our future on the back of PAN

We express joy, laughter, giggles and all things fun and good with PAN

We eat drink and make merry on our holidays with PAN

We revel, we intoxicate like drunken monkeys on fermented fruit, in a natural way..with PAN

We forget our troubles for a moment lifted by the music of PAN"

Carol from Waft is also selling sample collections from "The Midsummer Nights Dream" project through her online store The Niche Place , contact her directly to ask about this!

Friday, July 1, 2011

"Happiness" for the "Summer of Patchouli Love"

My own Offering to the "Summer of Patchouli Love" is a perfume named "Happiness".
Why did I choose it for the patchouli challenge?
Originally I was going to start from scratch and create a totally new patchouli perfume...I was thinking I'd go for a floral patchouli, maybe Rose and patch with a touch of jasmine...something deep and sensual that would evoke the 60's indian headshop oils the way most of us remember them....(and also because previous perfume competitions seem to have shown that most women love floral perfumes over everything else!).
I started working on a few variations and they seemed quite promising...but I got talking to a few friends about the project, and one in particular remarked "I really HATE patchouli!". I almost fell on the floor laughing, as she is also a loyal customer of mine who has been buying and wearing my "Happiness" for a number of years now...and it's really heavy on patchouli!! "No way!" she said when I told her this, "I KNOW patchouli and there is definitley NONE of that nasty heavy moldy stuff in "Happiness", I'd KNOW!
So I dug out the recipe and showed her....but it got me thinking....
"Happiness" is actually one of my oldest started it's journey many years ago when I first discovered essential oils. I was suffering through a dark depressing winter in Berlin and looking for oils to use in my oil burner that would cheer me up a bit...I had just been reading about the anti-depressant effects of Patchouli and decided to try it out. I carefully dripped a few drops of the thick dark brown liquid into the buner and was enveloped by a sense of woody warmth....dark, comforting, woody/ definitely made me feel safer and less dejected...I then added a few drops of lemon oil, as the same trusty book had just told me that this was a good antiseptic to use to ward off colds...and as the two scents mingled, I sat back in amazement! Suddenly there was a beautiful, cheerful scent that was somehow something totally new in the air! These two completely different oils complemented each other amazingly well, and not only that, I found myself suddenly feeling hopeful, almost joyful and well, Happy!
10 years and a whole continent later, I found myself living on a hippie community in Nimbin, Australia. We were flat broke, and I was making up my first ever batch of annointing oils to try and sell at the local markets. And one of these was a blend I'd made based on my experience with patchouli and citrus in Berlin which I'd named "Happiness" which was meant to cheer people up!
I'd added sandalwood to the blend which is another soothing oil from therapeutic point of view, and it was pretty bloody yummy! (note for non Australians: "bloody" is a word commonly used by us Ozzies to describe everything good bad and otherwise. We do not regard it as a swear word, but as normal everyday language usage to replace the word "very".)
The hippie customers at the market seemed to think so too, and my career in scent was born!
As the years went by and the business grew, I played with the recipe and made "Happiness" into bath and massage oils and eventually into an alcohol based eau de parfum version. And it went on selling. My perfumes became more sophisticated as time went by, as I added more exotic flower absolutes, and clever gourmand notes and Chypres to my designs, but "Happiness" remained one of the most popular scents, wherever I went. Men and women both bought and wore it, and even those that went for the deeper sexy florals would often by a small bottle of "Happiness" to wear to work or as a "pick me up" perfume too.
And I think this is one of the things that makes it special.
"Happiness" was one of the first ever "Aromatherapy" perfumes out there. If you read some of the posts that conventional perfume critics have written on the subject of Natural Perfumery, they will use this term in a derogatory manner, as if somehow, the fact that a perfume designed to have positive effect on the body automatically makes it somehow dilletantish and crude. Personally I think they couldn't be further from the truth. I'm a hippie green revolutionary at heart, and Natural Perfumery to me is in essence a form of Cosmetic Permaculture. The art of making a perfume beautiful, organic, sustainable and healthy makes into an even more beautiful work of art in my books. And if the perfumer is skilled enough to make a scent therapeutic as well as delightful in smell....
And as I went on thinking about the concept of designing a perfume to embody the spirit of the 60's, I began to wonder if maybe "Happiness" might be just perfect...
After all the 60's were all about changing the world. Bringing back a sense of harmony between Nature and Humans, and also about Love, Peace, caring for one another and well, spreading a little Happiness!
So in the end I decided to submit the very perfume that I had been inspired to make by my own quest for inner Peace.
It's a slightly more sophisticated version of my original annointing oil nowadays... the patchouli is a particularly fine aged one...the sandalwood is a more eco-freindly Australian version from sustainable plantations....the lemon is a soft, fresh green lemon from unripe fruits, with a touch of lime to give it a fresh tang...and theres a tad of spice and a nuance of vetiver to give it body and depth.
But it's still based around Patchouli and Lemon, same as the first drops in my oil burner in Berlin, all those many years ago.
The 60's were all about hope, and humanities adolescant dreams of Peace and Love...
And "Happiness" grew from mine!

I'll be posting what the critics thought of "Happiness" in my next blogpost, and there will also be a number of giveaways you can link to if you'd like to win a bottle of "Happiness" to try for yourself!

Peace Love and Patchouli!

Peace, Love and Patchouli

The Summer of Patchouli Love is finally here...
Some months ago I was invited to take part in a fascinating perfume event.The wonderful Monica Miller from Perfume Pharmer, had come up with a really great idea: To host a double blind perfume challenge based around Patchouli.
The idea was to see what a bunch of Indie Perfumers could come up with, when faced with the following brief: The perfume had to be:

a) completely natural
b) made with at least 25% of patchouli oil

To make it even more interesting, all submissions were re-bottled by Monica herself and given a number, rendering them completely igcognito,  and then sent out to a huge cast of reviewers to be sniffed and judged purely on their scent alone.
This was a first in perfume challenge history. It was a double blind event, neither the judges, not he perfumers themselves had any idea who's perfume was who's, and the reviewers had to go by their own personal tastes, as they were not given a list of notes, or in fact anything at all about the individual perfumes to work from!
Monica also managed to orchestrate an amazingly diverse cast of judges, with two totally different groups: Firstly a more traditional group of perfume reviewers who regularly write reviews for various blogs.
And a second group of celebreties, ranging from International political activist and Witch, Starhawk, over eco clothes designer Deborah Lindquist , Cirque de Soleil members and musicians and actors the likes of Jodie Foster and Mary J. Blige!

With such a wide and stellar cast, us perfumers have been sitting there chewing our nails, wondering how our babies were going to be recieved.....I was a bit sceptical at first, as I know how a perfumes story is a huge part of it's appeal...and I wasn't sure how people would relate to a perfume without this, esp. as many of the judges were unfamiliar with natural perfumes.....
I am now a great believer! The "double blind" nature of this contest has made it far more fascinating...the judges perceptions and the descriptions they have found for the individual perfumes are absolutely wonderful! It has made the event absolutely fascinating to watch for me as a perfumer too!
And it is giving us all true feedback on the scents themselves, unbiased by stories, packaging or the perfumers reputation!

If any of you would like to be able to follow the story on an olfactory level, Monica still has a limited number of sample boxes of all of the PLAP perfumes for her for details!

(I'm now eagerly awaiting my own!)

Later today I'll introduce you all to the perfume I submitted for the event myself too!

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Creation of Pan

I have submitted one of my oldest perfumes to the "Midsummer Nights Dream" competition...and as I was trying to write short desriptions of the perfume for the judges, I realized how much a perfumes story is also part of it...
And the story of the birth of this perfume is a particularly interesting one.
The perfume I am submitting is called "Pan " I chose to submit it to the competition, as one of the main character's in Shakespeare's play is "Puck", who is actually an anglicised and slightly tamer version of the great Greek God it seemed only fitting.
"Pan" the perfume was actually one of my first creative collaberation projects.
I wanted to create a perfume as a male counterbalance to the overtly female "Goddess" I had made, a sweet, enticingly sensual rose and jasmine concoction..."Pan", for those of you who haven't come accross him before, is the Wild Greek God of Nature. Untamed, Free, he is said to wander through the Greek countryside palying his pan pipes followed by a dancing group of delighful and sensuous nymphs...he loves good wine and sex and the word "panic" comes from his habit of creating mayhem wherever he goes.....At the same time Pan is the protector of all wild animals, and a great Lover and also protector of Women....
I had been reading the book "Jitterbug Perfume" by Tom Robbins and was completely taken by the olfactory image of "Pan" in it...wild, animalic and representing everything that is untamed and male....
But I was having problems with it. So I recruited the help of my sisters then boyfriend, who's nickname, fittingly, was "Puck". We sat down in my workshop and started sorting through the various potions and extracts to see what we both thought could make a scent that could call up a perfumed image of this wild make nature spirit...
We started with patchouli, which Tom Robbins married to the lad in his book. Deep, sensual, dark and with an interesting combination of sweet, woody, rooty and earthy...but it just wasn't wild or male enough by itself.
I had just bought my first tin of oakmoss resinoid some time ago. I had bought it blind, having no idea what it was, when looking for incense ingredients, and had been overwhelmed by the intensity of the scent of this dark brown sticky goo...and on sudden inspiration, brought down this tin of sticky stuff to show to was perfect! So wild and earthy and downright rutting with natural muskiness! A tiny dab went into the patchouli, and then we started adding herbs and spices, from the fresh rosemary and thyme that grow wild in the Greek hillsides when Pan comes from to oriental cinnamon and nutmeg, which gave the wild thing a touch of exotic warmth and pizazz.....

"Pan is born" by Thorsten
The end result was pretty awesome. Somehow between us we managed to create something that was totally unlike anything either of us had ever smelt in a perfume bottle. And a far far cry from the beautiful elegant perfumes I had been making up until then.
The final test and Pan's first true debut was at a halloween party that happened a few months later. A friend of mine actually decided to dress up as Pan. Mike actually looked the part to start with, being dark hair and eyes, a furry chest and even a little goatee beard...but he was also a pretty gentle soul generally and usually fairly quiet and mild mannered.

"Pan is alive"by Thorsten Jones
So anyway, he dressed up in a homespun woolen jerkin, a goatskin  tail, and a crown of horns and leaves and we doused him heavily in the "Pan" potion...and the musky scent spread over him and began to do it's magic. It was an interesting party, as halloween usually is, esp. when you get together a bunch of mad pagans who dabble in interesting things...the food and wine flowed freely, accompanied by an ever wilder creature dressed in skins and furs who cavorted and galloped through the crowd, leaving a feeling of unrest and general mayhem, along with a scent of musk, rut and wild herbs that spread through the entire house......he was spanking people with his little whip, poking his goats tail in their faces and generally behaving exactly like you would expect of, well Pan himself! It was an interesting party...and I'm not telling any more tales even though it was some years ago now...but I can tell you that "Pan" and his wife told an interesting story about strange aparations with horns and a cheeky grin appearing at the end of the bed later that night (Mike reckons he saw two of them because he was so drunk he was seeing double at the time), shortly after which they had a run of exploding condoms......
I've been selling the stuff as a perfume ever since. And it has grown to have a bit of a reputation, esp. amongst the pagan community...What really amazed me as I began to offer it to my more mainstream customers, is how many women love and wear the scent! It seems "Pan" speaks to an inner wild women that needs to be set free in many of us too! It's heavy Oakmoss base makes it a dry herbal Chypre with an exciting edge in modern perfume terms and is in some ways remeniscent of the older perfumes of the 1930's and 40's...
Whether or not you like it is of course entirely personal....I'm usually to chicken to wear it my self, but my husband, my ex husband and many of my loyal customers love it....
It's definitely not for the faint hearted though....

As the bottle says: "Wear it if you Dare!"

The photos were taken by Thorsten Jones

Mike's wife Bev, who graciously convinced him to let me use the photos, is a great Astrologer who publishes regular "Astral Meanders"

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Patchouli-a perfumers perspective

I'm writing a book about Natural Perfumery...
So as part of the "Summer of Patchouli Love" project run by Monica Miller of  "Perfume Pharmer" I thought I'd add a few of my thoughts as a perfumer on this strange and wonderful oil...In one of the chapters I've started a kind of reference series for budding perfumers to use when selecting ingredients for a perfume. And this is my entry for patchouli:

Forms it comes in: trad. EO, iron free distilled EO and absolute distilled from the fermented leaves of the pogostorum plant
Appearance: A thick, dark brown liquid, clearer in iron free eo
Origin: India and Asia
Therapeutic uses: Traditionally used in Asia to treat depression, as an antiseptic and to repell moths. Patchouli is grounding, soothing and also quite sensual.
Scent profile: Dark woody, sweet amber, earthy, musty with a touch of fruit and spice  (lighter in iron free version). Aged Patchouli is softer than fresh, which can have a sharp, biting by note to it.
Colour profile: (note:This is my own visual imagery of what a scent "looks like" to me! Kinda wierd I know, but that's how my brain works!) Dark soft rusty brown, with black and grey shadows and a few distinct purple and bright rust coloured streaks through it! Depending on the kind of patchouli, there may also be some greenish touches as well...and if it is the clear distilled patchouli you have, it will have a metallic touch and less of the dark brown and black, and also less of the rust.
Effect in blends: Used as a fixative basenote, it "sweetens" and deepens blends. Great for musky florals such as jasmine. Adds depth to citrus. Spice note can clash with some ingredients. Can also make blends overly sweet

Patchouli is one of my favourite ingredients.
Growing up on the tail end of the 60's revolution has left me with a nostalgic love of the sweet and heavy scents that accompanied the long flowing psychedelic flowered dresses of that era...Deep pungent oils from little Indian bottles, Patchouli is truly the scent of those years.
Which is why of course so many people have a Love/Hate relationship with it.
For me, it brings up the image of good times. My teenage years where I still believed that anything was possible...where we all dreamed of changing the world, and the ideas of “Peace” and “Love” were more than just slogans to write on a rainbow coloured t-shirt.
From an Aromatherapy point of view, it is a truly magical ingredient. Patchouli has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries, as it has wonderful healing properties. It is soothing and antiseptic in skin care applications, and it makes a wonderful insect repellent (which is part of the reasons that the scent became so much part of the 60's...all those long flowing dresses came over scented with it from India to keep them from being eaten by bugs on their long journey in packing boxes!).
But for me the most interesting of it's properties is use in depression and anxiety!
The scent of patchouli is fundamentally soothing. In ajuveda it is used to”settle disharmonies of the Mind”, and has a long history of use in psychiatric illnesses ranging from depression to outright mania!(It's also used as an aphrodisiac in perfumery blends...but more of that later on...)
So the first time I used it, was in an aromatherapy blend I made to use myself in the middle of a particularly dark and depressing winter in Berlin, Germany. I combined patchouli with some lemon oil in my trusty oil burner, and was amazed and delighted to feel how much the scent lifted my mood!
When I first started out as a perfumer, I fell in love with patchouli all over again. It makes a wonderful base note in floral and oriental scents, with it's deep, sweet musty tenacity. I must have combined it with every other base note in existance over the years, an have used it in a number of my commercial perfumes too:

My original Aromatherapy experience with patchouli led me to create one of my very first commercial perfumes: "Happiness". It's based on Patchouli married to a delightful lime topnote, with sandalwood and other citruses rounding off the scent. It's a remarkably light, fresh scent and the patchouli isn't really noticeable as an ingredient (even though there's a lot of it in there!) In fact a dear friend of mine was chatting to me about the Summer of Patchouli project the other day, and remarked "I really hate Patchouli!" Which had me in fits of see, she's been wearing my "Happiness" almost every day for years and constantly tells people how much she loves it!
Patchouli is like that. in perfumes, it is truly the skill with which you choose your ingredients and your deft hand with blending which makes the difference between a musty sweet mess, and a truly delightful elegant concoction. Patchouli can ruin a blend really quickly. It has some rather contradictory notes in it that you have to work with carefully, and this is where many perfumers go wrong when trying to use it.
For starters it has a strong musty note to it. Patchouli oil is made from the fermented leaves and flowers of the patchouli plant, and this fermentation process always leaves a very earthy, musty touch to it. The fermented leaves look like shrivelled, brown slightly moist, well, mess really! I was horrified the first time I imported a large quantity of the stuff and at first thought my oder must have gone "off" duiring the shipping process!
This mustiness is something you have to be careful with in blending, along with the sharp, acrid bynote you don't really notice on first sniff. If you pair patchouli oil with any ingredient that has similar notes somewhere hiden in its makeup, you will amplify them tenfold!

But you can also use them!
The second perfume I made with patchouli was "Love Potion". Here I used patchouli solely for it's renowned aphrodisiac qualities. Here it is patchouli's deep, sweet and musky qualitites that seem to play on our deepest senses... I wasn't seeking to make the perfume gentle and sweet here, so I played up the wilder side of the herb by adding liberal amounts of spices like coriander and cardamon to a heavy oriental blend with a deep, sultry jasmine heart, all on a deep sexy base where I combined patchouli with incense resins for an exotic touch.
This allowed all of the sharp and wild notes in patchouli to actually be a feature that fitted in perfectly with the bite of the spice, and the dirty muskyiness of the jasmine!
The result is a dry, wildly spicy Oriental perfume that is almost the polar opposite to it's gentler sister "Happiness"....and has just as many devout followers from a completely different perfume loving group!
What they have on common is that neither of them are obvious patchouli perfumes to a non-perfumer, even though it is a main player in both perfumes recipe!
My next challenge is to create a perfume in which Patchouli is actually centre stage for the "Summer of Patchouli Love" project! So I have a workbench covered in little bottles again...should I go in the direction of an elegant chypre with a touch of apricot and caramel? Or do it soft and clean with vetiver for warmth and a fresh clean topnote? Or go classic hippie and do a straight rose and patchouli? Decisions, decisions......wish I could just submit 3 totally different ones, they all seem lucious and full of possibilities! But somewhere I have to decide and focus on just one direction.....

Whadyall think?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Patchouli Summer of Love

I'm delighted to be part of another wonderful perfume project, this time run by the delightful Monica Miller of "Perfume Pharmer"!

It is based around one of my favourite ingredients: Patchouli!
I've been dying to bring out a perfume I actually made many many years ago that is based around this beautiful ingredient, that for so many of us is the scented symbol of a time when we all began to dream of new possibilities, a world without hate, of spiritual connections, conciousness and above all, Dreaming of Freedom!

The project is one of the first of it's kind, in that it is a "BLIND TEST"! The perfumes will be submitted in incognito identical bottles to the judges, so they have no idea who made which perfume!
Which makes it all far more exciting I think.....
Being judged on the scent alone, not ones reputation....

The panel of judges is also different being made up of a combination of perfume critics and celebrity judges, which allows the perfumes to be evaluated by a wonderfully diverse range of people, giving us a much wider impression of how the scent really comes accross....

I'm so excited!

I'll be blogging more about Patchouli both here and on Monica's wonderful blog in the coming weeks, so keep reading!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Lilac and Rose CO2

Today I'm writing about some rather exciting new floral CO2's from a bulgarian company called "Ecomaat"
They are a newish producer on the essential oil market, and are specializing in producing a range of extracts useing CO2 as a solvent, which as I have written about before, gives you extracts which tend to be a more "total" and gentle version of the fresh plant.

The two extracts I have here in front of me are a lovely Bulgarian Rose and an even more interesting Lilac CO2.
This is to my knowledge, the very first natural Lilac extract to be available to natural perfumers, so I am particularly excited to be able to play with this!

It's been a bit of a dram actually getting these extracts, due to the vagueries of the Australian border security system and the general incompetency of couriers.
My precious little parcel sat with a courier company for over two months while I emailed back and forth with what I at first assumed was an overzealous customs officer. Who kept on trying to tell me that I might be importing dangerous goods and would need to sign a piece of paper promising to pay an inspection fee of $190 to allow them to open the package and find out what was inside it.
I finally worked out that I had been talking to a paranoid and uninformed courier employee for 2 months, got in touch with customs myself, found out what paperwork was actually needed, got this sent through by Ecomaat and told the courier person to send me my f%&&** parcel!
5 days, two attempted deliveries to the wrong address and me finally driving down to the head office of the courier company to pick up my parcel myself, I at last sit in front of two tiny little bottles of precious smelly stuff!
My first problem is that both CO2's are virtually solid. Which makes them very hard to get out of tiny narrow necked bottles!
I spent the next 2 hours sitting holding them into a cup of warm water, trying to dissolve enough of the stuff to transfer it and then further dissolve it in alcohol so I could begin to evaluate it! (which is why you can't see the label on the lilac bottle, it dissolved.)
To make matters worse, the neck on the Rose CO2 was broken, so I ended up covered in the stuff.
Mind you, this allowed me to start the evaluation, and I have to say it is truly delightful!

Rose CO2 
This is a really lovely rose. I love rose. And I have quite a collection of different Rose extracts nowadays, including a few others from Bulgaria. And this one is by far the nicest from this region. What usually bothers me with Bulgarian rose is the really sharp topntes, and this CO2 extract is much has a lovely freshness to it, and gives you a real "White Rose" impression. It is deeper than your classic "Rose De Mai" and also has some lovely apricot warmth to it as well. The bottle doesn't state which rose this is from, but the website mentions both "rose damascaena and rosa alba"...and I suspect this is from Rosa Alba. It would be a great rose to use in a spring floral or flower garden blend...truly delightful! It has great staying power too...the scent has clung to my fingers through 4 washes and is still wafting from the shirt I wiped my hands on some hours ago after the messy decant operation. All up a great addition to the rose pallette!

Lilac CO2
Ah how I yearned for it's natural form, the scent of fresh lilac is so beautiful and has a completely unique floral softness and lightness to it, with lovely watery overtones that you just can't copy with anything else...
I was so excited when I read about this CO2, and finally having it here to evaluate..
On first sniff it's a bit dissapointing. It's a very gentle scent, esp compared to the spilt rose CO2 that is filling my workshop at the moment.
I had to actually go outside to evaluate this delicate scent as it just got lost under the rose.
Once I buried my nose into the tissue I had dabbed the alcohol diluted CO2, I did recognize real lilac there...The CO2 is a very gentle, green scent. Delicate and soft, but beautifully fresh and floral. It's a lovely thing, but oh so mild! I wish I could have a more intense version of this, for it is surely one of the nicest things I have smelt recently! I have a bottle of Gardenia abolute and another of Hyacinth abs. that I am tempted to combine with this pretty stuff, but I'm afraid it will dissapear into the background too easily. I'll have a play never know how an ingredient will play with others until you've given it a try.
I would love to create an eau de toillete version of this with just a few ingredients to accentuate and support it...I'm hoping that Ecomaat will find a way to create a more intense version of the lilac CO2 as the scent is beautiful and would make a wonderful addition to the natural perfumers pallette!

All up I'm rather excited with these tw new CO2s...and I'm looking foward to seeing what else Ecomaat comes up with in the future!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Cedarwood & other Conifery things

I have recently recieved a number of new and rather interesting samples of various kinds of cedarwood plus some other conifers and scent related oils, so I thought I'd do an article on the oil and review all of them together! They all have the same dry, earthy wood base scent to them that is characteristic of cedar...and then each of these oils has added layers that make them different and interesting.
Cedarwood itself  is one of the oldest oils to be used in perfumery and healing. It's distinct woody scent has been the base of many a perfume, and is to be found in the scent library of virtually every perfumer, natural or otherwise.
Cedar or "cedrus" is a member of the genus of coniferous trees in the plant family Pinacea.
Scent wise, it is the deepest basenote of the conifers. It has a very  characteristic dry woody scent that is common to all cedar oils, which is quite different to the high eukalypt and fresh notes in in it's relatives pine, fir and spruce.

It has strong antiseptic properties, and has been used in "smudging" ceremonies for centuries for this reason. Indigenous American people still use it in rooms where people have been sick to cleanse the air.

In perfumery, Cedar is a base note. It is used to hold and support other, more colourful mid notes, and tends to take a background role in the overall scent. Which doesn't make it any less important! It has a drier, more masculine and elegant feel to it than many other base notes such as patchouli or sandalwood, which makes it an excellent choice for mens colognes. It is a true woody scent, with pencil shaving graphite like notes that give it a cool, earthy touch. I used it "Pan" to capture exactly that sense of forest, of earthiness and nature...Depending on the kind of cedar, you will also get some balsamic, fruity notes to it that are most prominent in red cedar.If you are looking for a real "woody" scent, cedar is your man.

First of all, I've got a collection of oils from  
the Essential Oil Company

Incense Cedar
This stuff is pretty awesome! If you like cedar, , you will LOVE this! It's like cedar crossed with frankincense! Seriously! It has a deliciously warm incense note to it coupled with a fresh green note that makes it really lovely!

Western Juniper
This essential oil has the same woody, pencil graphite quality to it that atlas cedar does to me, coupled with a light touch of the fruity herbal eukalypt quality you get from the actual juniper berry essential oil. It has a mid to top note quality to it.

Douglas Fir
This is an interesting one. I have a variety of fir essential oils, and love and use them a lot. Douglas fir is rather different. It is a warmer scent, with woodier qualities, that to my nose, make it closer to red cedar in scent than actual fir essential oil. I'm wondering if this is made from the wood rather than the needles? It's a strange scent, that catches just a tad at the back of my throat and also goes straight to my head. It says it's distilled by the Guerilla Distiller, Robert Seidel himself....which brings up fascinating images of a wild scent fanatic, carting his precious destilling aparatus through the Canadian Wilderniss in search of raw materials, camping out under the stars watching the drops drip into the copper flask....probably not quite as romatic, but it certainly adds to the scent for me, grin!

Palo Santo
Now this little oil is something that I'm sure many of the people out there with shamanic leanings will be delighted to hear of! Palo Santo is known as an incense wood. The name itself means "Sacred Wood" and it is used by shamans in South America for blessings and healing ceremonies of all's smoke is deep and mesmerizing and truly magical, so I was very excited to hear that someone was making an essential oil version!
The oil is a bit of a different animal to the incense wood. It is as you would expect, far lighter and more volatile, and also a lot more intense!
My first whiff made my head spin...and I had to go out of the room for a while to let my senses clear!
Going back to it and sniffing more gingerly from the lid, held at a respectful distance, oh buy, that's potent stuff! It has so many layers to it that it's hard to describe as a is definitely an incense scent, but not easily has juniper berry qualities to it, but with deeper franincense touches to it....I have no idea what I would do with it in a perfume...I think I'll have to dilute it WAAAAY down and then play with it for a bit...I get the feeling it would proably dance well with rose in the mid notes...and it definitely has some heavy aromatherapy potential.....

The next ones are from a company called  Northwest Aromatics that have just recently entered the essential oil arean. They are making use of the waste wood and shavings produced from harvesting the trees of the Pacific North West and their advertising is very cool to look at and read. (They've also pinched the seriously cool bottle layout page that was originally thought up by "I hate Perfume", but hey, who hasn't wanted to? I certainly did!)
The samples came in a very decorative box, accompnied by a colourful heavyweight ringbound brochure outlining their company and their futre projects. Someone has put a lot of money into their advertising and it's quite impressive! (And boy, do I wish I had the cash to employ their PR team for my perfumery!)
Inside are three 10ml bottles of oil.

 Nootka tree oil
Nootka trees it seems, are used for many of the sacred indigenous carvings.  The brochure speaks of a "sandalwood effect, with smokey, patchouli vetiver and earthy tones"
Me, I get pencil shavings in the "medium pressure" distilled version. Quiet, elegant wood with graphite overtones. In fact elegant wood is a good way of summing it up!
The low pressure version is very different. Here it becomes almost herbal. I get a destinct sense of thyme in the wood here! The scent os far deeper and more alive somehow...herbal wood?

  Giant Arborvitae oil
I've always loved redwood me they are one of the most fatherly of trees, warm and just want to snuggle up to them and stay there forever, safe and at home...
The company again has a lovely sounding desription for it:
"Almond. Add spicy, cumin, pepper and nutmeg notes. Now add a limey scent. And now, woody and wormwood notes."
My own take on it is a bit different. I suppose it's a bit like wine tasting. If you start out with the premis that all of the oils smell like cedar in that they have the same basic dry, earthy woodiness to them, then yes, you can indeed detect vannilla like and cummin like tones to this oil. It's certainly one of the prettiest cedar oils I've come accross so far, and in that, reflects the gentle strength of the trees themselves.

It's really fascinating seeing more and more new essential oils come into the market, as the interest in natural scents and aromatherapy grows! 
It's been a delight sniffing so many new variations on an oil I've been playing with for over 20 years...and I hope you've enjoyed reading about them too!
I'd be very interested to hear of others takes on these oils too if you've sampled them yourself!