Saturday, December 16, 2006

Artisanal - Worldwide and Wonderful

This image of perfumed gloves hand-in-hand, as if two friends reaching out and clasping hands in friendship is very evocative of the old Artisan Perfumer and Glovemakers Guild in France. The two guilds used to be intertwined, since Grasse was the center for both the perfume and glovemaking industry, and perfumed gloves were the rage for many years.

Now guilds are spread out all over the world, all with the same credo: help others learn the art of whatever the product is you are making, and work to keep the standards up by finding new methods and helping the apprentices.

The Artisan Natural Perfumers Guild, although only six months old, has 75 members now, from all over the world. This week, if you click on the Basenotes website you'll see photos of a guild member,  Alexandra Balahoutis, who was interviewed by Basenotes, and the guild logo, posted by Basenotes in recognition of the guild naming December Natural Perfume Month. It's a historic moment of our small, growing guild, and a wonderful way to go into the holiday season, as it shows that our members are out there, getting recognition for their fragrant creations and energy in the industry.

We'll all find ways around the roadblocks, eventually, as artists are persistent, we love handmade, small-scale creations, and heck, we want stuff from all over - don't deny us, darlin', we're breaking all the old regulations down.

No longer is France the stronghold of perfume or wine.

It's a no-holds-barred world we live in. The international group that makes up the Yahoo group for Natural Perfumery is able to interact on a daily basis, exchanging information on how to source, blend, or bottle. We chat about the great and mundane ideas that cross our minds as the fragrant muse moves us.

Here is a fun look at some of the group members and where they are:

You can zoom around the world by holding down the left button on your mouse and moving in whichever direction you choose. Don't miss out on clicking on the balloons to see the info and "shout out" of the different members.

If you have any trouble viewing it, go to The Frappr Natural Perfumery page You'll need DSL or broadband to view.

There are only 81 of us who have bothered to sign up on Frappr, but the group is over 1000 members. Artisan natural perfumers who toil from Bombay to Bucharest, Johannesburg to Jamestown. The perfumes being produced are incredibly varied according to style and execution. The old French standards may be acknowledged, but the modern world demands evolution and change, and they're meeting the challenge, creatively and without complaint. Can't get to Grasse to study? Get some books, interact with other natural perfumers, get your act together. It's actually pretty simple - no drama, no great expense, no snobbish attitude -- just do it!

Artisanal winemakers have been doing this for years, and winning blind taste tests against French wines. Don't get me wrong, I love French perfume and wines, but the new multicultural, multicontinental stuff rocks with a fevered heartbeat of a pioneer forging new creations from terroir. Napa Valley was my regular tour destination 25 years ago, now The Willamette Valley in Oregon, the Hudson Valley in New York and many, many more regions are staking their claim as local, artisanal winemakers.

Let's not forget the artisanal cheeses. Heck all this is making me hungry for some artisanal wine, some artisanal cheeses, and while I'm at it, I'll spray on some artisanal perfume. Ah....what a wonderful world!

Friday, December 08, 2006

December is Natural Perfume Month - Follow Up

What a great response! Many perfume blogs posted about this (see original blog entry, below) and I'll be interviewed on Marlen's Perfume Critic blog next week on the subject. The major magazines' beauty editors that received promotional baskets with the announcement were so supportive when I spoke with them - and they've been supportive of natural perfumery in the past, so we're all looking forward to the increased public awareness of the art.

The Guild is taking baby steps, reaching out, spreading the word as best we can. Thanks for Ayala for her amazing work on her blog advertising all the Guild member's sites in association with December is Natural Perfume Month. Thanks to Now Smell This, Bois de Jasmin, Scented Salamander, Indie Perfumes, Coutorture, Blogarithm, and portals far and wide who picked up on it -- and please forgive me if I've forgotten to list your blog, but let me know, and I'll add it.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Bad Suppliers Will Scrooge Ya

Don't Get Toadally Scroodged
This will probably be my longest post ever here, but the subject is coming up so often on my group, weekly, in fact, I was urged to go public with it.

We recently had a chat going on my *private* natural perfumery (NP) group about NPers receiving fake aromatics from suppliers they trusted. It's not the first time this has been brought up, and it seems the same guilty suppliers are still selling bunk. Bad news for the naturals industry, since they misrepresent their oils, and we NPers are dedicated to using only natural aromatics.

Con artists, ripoffs, fakery and just plain lying have plagued the perfume industry for centuries. Nothing new under the sun there. When aromatherapy (AT) became popular a few decades ago, many enthusiasts jumped in and started importing oils and selling them to hobbyists and in turn, professionals, as the discipline grew.

I want to bring this discussion out in a more public venue such as this blog, since many newbies enter the field every day, and may not be in the private yahoo group to hear about the dirty side of the industry.

This greed and unresponsiveness of these suppliers is a terrible blight, since many of the hobbyist and beginning business people in NP shell out big money for their supplies. Of course, the bunk aromatics discussed are big money items, although even the rather inexpensive lavender oil can be tweaked by con artists to extend the oil while lowering the cost.

I'm just going to share some short recounts of what has happened to either me or my colleagues over the years. It will give you an idea what to look out for, but by no means offer you protection.

Suppliers Who Just Don’t Know the Product, Or an Honest Mistake?

AT came before NP for most of us. AT suppliers joined AT chat groups and many of us became friendly with them, and believed their spiel. For the most part, many were very honest and upfront, and if they found they were carrying an oil that was tampered with, they removed it from their site.

We also trust the supplier to know their aromatics. One, who touted she had everything GC’d (a GC is a gas chromatograph machine and the baseline test is called a GC)and vetted everything from the source on down, sent me almond oil two times when I ordered Jasmine sambac. Sambac is a darkly-colored, very highly-scented absolute. I called and asked what’s up, and was blown off with the excuse she didn’t like sambac. Well, where’s the GC I asked? No answer? Finally, on the third shipment, I got the sambac.

No explanation, no apology, dead silence from someone obviously caught selling an item she wasn’t familiar with, hadn’t had GC’d, and hadn’t even bothered to read the Arctander book she often said was her Bible to check the description. After that, she avoided my emails and phone calls, a withdrawal from someone that had called me four or more times a day occasionally, especially when she was going through a truly horrible patch of bad health and deaths in her family and that of a close friend. I suppose shame makes folks withdraw, but I’d rather she had withdrawn the bunk oils she was selling (see below for more info.)

The part that saddens me is how many novices ordered the pricey sambac and got the almond oil and never knew the difference? There are many novices out there spending lots of money to sample small amounts of pricey absolutes and Eos, and I’m afraid to think how often stuff like this happens.

Another supplier, not highly respected among AT or NPers because she serves the soapers industry (a nasty, unfounded prejudice) sent me frankincense when I ordered a helichrysum sample. I called, she immediately apologized, and sent the correct item. It was a clerk's error. This person does not post on chats, keeps to herself, never touts she has GCs done on her products, just is a very, very successful businesswoman who does not fabricate.

Another supplier, very big on the West Coast that is known for the uneven quality of the products, sent me saffron abs instead of another oil I had ordered. Called them, immediate shipment of the correct item, no questions asked.

Sometimes it’s a simple administrative error – the person filling the bottle reaches for something on the shelf, is unfamiliar with the oil, and picks up the wrong bottle, ships the wrong stuff. I can see this happening with the bigger outfits, and they were the ones to immediately correct the mistake.

We often have newbies post on my group “I bought some *** for the first time, but it doesn’t smell like the description I’ve read, what does everyone think?” We help them ferret it out, and if it seems like something I’ve shown above, we tell them to contact the supplier. I think it’s the only way a newbie can be sure they’re getting the real thing, and it can really save them money and going down the wrong aromatic road with the incorrect oil.

Another AT supplier who now sells to the NP industry has a disclaimer on her site about an oil that the “sambac” seller was discovered to be supplying the NPers with that was blatently synthetic. They often go in on buys, and had a well-known kilo of fiddled Bulgarian rose otto a few years ago rather ruin their reps, so if you get some sweetly floral, pourable, light colored linden blossom oil, return it. And ask them to stop selling it please.

How the linden blossom absolute fraud came to light: I got a call from a NPer who was trying to obtain some true linden blossom abs for a last minute replacement for a submittal that was due the next week. She had contacted the woman who was the second-tier supplier and headed the blending group that issued the deadline, and was overnighted some LBA. Except this NPer was familiar with real LBA and was full of consternation as to what to do. The woman selling the LBA got it from the “sambac” seller. She thought it was the real deal. Obviously, despite heading a blending group (not being a perfumer herself) she didn’t bother to GC stuff, since she thought the sambac seller had. Whew. Following me? Turns out all the perfumers had purchased fake LBA. She still buys from “sambac” seller, doesn’t GC and well….

…..It’s really a minefield out there.

How Can France Export More Lavender Oil than it Produces?

Well, heck I don’t know. Martin Watt, a well-respected debunker and skeptic recounts the story of how he was visiting a French distiller, and when he wandered off from the tour, and went behind a building, he found 55-gallon drums of lavender oil, imported from Italy, I believe.


I was recounting Martin's story from memory, and I got a lot of the details wrong. It's been years since he related it to me, so please forgive me. Here is what Martin wrote me today:

You got the report on me wrong. The lavender issue was I was told by a
supplier of real lavender in the UK, that when his friend visited this
factory in France, what was in the backyard were barrels of ho leaf oil
for the linalool content, as well as the chemical that converts linalool
into linalyl acetate. That means perfectly genuine lavender was going
in the front door and tourists saw that distilled. What they got in
their little bottles though was a different ballgame. Yet these
tourists would swear blind that they "saw the lavender distilled so they
knew the oil was genuine".
His page succinctly describes many of the pitfalls on a grander scale. Geared towards the AT industry, but very relevant to this article.

Many distillers, brokers and suppliers stretch and tinker with our aromatics. That is a fact of life. ATers will care if the lavender is stretched with linalool, or tweaked to smell better, since they demand stuff straight from the still. NPers are more open to a fiddled oil, since they aren’t looking for therapeutic efficacy, but scent. Still, dumping rose geranium oil into rose otto dramatically cuts the price and extends the oil, and both NP and AT folks shouldn’t accept that, that is blatent thievery:

Hey, This Stuff Doesn’t Smell Very Good/Strong/Similar

Always sample first! You can’t always ask for a GC, but if you are an experienced nose, get samples. Your supplier should supply a batch and lot number for the oil you’re getting. If not, ask for that, for sure.

My buddy in Turkey sold me a Lavendin in 1999. I loved the stuff. When I got back to him two years later, that variety was sold out, and he said a lot of people didn’t like it, so that’s why he was carrying a new lavendin. Heck, stock can turn over much quicker than that, maybe in a few months.

If I had just ordered without asking first about the batch and lot number, I’d have gotten a really different smelling product. He would not have been in the wrong, I would have been in the wrong for not trying to ascertain the sameness of the product.

That said, quality of a product can vary from year to year due to weather, soil or other conditions.
The West Coast supplier who mixed up the saffron is known for uneven quality of the oils. I always sample first and boy, did they have a watery (weak) frankincense, but yowza! their fresh ginger from Indonesia is fabulous. Still, when I reorder, I’ll cite batch and lot number, and get new samples if that original one is sold out.


I’m not even going to address gardenia (Monoi folks use perfume oils, *maybe* are making gardenia absolute nowadays, but I wouldn’t bet the farm on it), violet flower, hyacinth, lilac, freesia and many of the other supposed natural oils that are out there. A NPers started blending with some very pricey stuff purchased from a well-known AT shop in her city, and when questions were raised about these rarely-if-ever extracted scents, sent me samples of them. All bunk. She was out a LOT of money.

Many ask me to recommend suppliers. I do sometimes on my private group. On that group, I also demand that anyone who posts must have first hand knowledge of the deal that went down. It must have happened to them, not hearsay.

Why won't I publish a list of respectable suppliers? Because two suppliers had me fooled for years with their constant claims of GC'd oils, stringent demands from their sources, etc. One once sent a GC to a friend of mine. I had requested GCs from her, but always got excuses. I had the friend, whom she didn't know, request one. It was a generic GC, xeroxed on her letterhead, no date, no lab identified, etc. It would fool a newbie, but not me - I'd want the lab ID'd, the date, the lot and batch number, etc., not a xeroxed dummy GC. I still have it, like I have the GC from an Indian supplier that showed only peaks, no ID on the chem. So strange. The salesperson didn't know what the GC meant, and some of their oils were totally fake.

Get educated, get skeptical, get into a chatty community where discussions can remain private, like my yahoo group (otherwise have proof if the stuff is bunk if you go public – and I have proof about the linden, sambac and other allegations I’ve made here, but I haven’t named names) and remember that the herb and perfume industries are two of the most dishonest industries around. That’s sad to say, but it’s centuries old, and it’s not going to change any time soon. Even Martin doesn’t name names on his site – what’s the use? We all know who he’s talking about, for the most part, and if we don’t, at least we know what to look for.

The internet allows a newbie in Connecticut to hook up with a NPer group and suss out fake hyacinth, it helps a soaper perfumer in Wales learn that her linden and magnolia are very suspect. The AT and NP industries would not exist as they do without the internet, and we’re all very thankful for that. We’re all helping each other source good products, and the community is growing by leaps and bounds, and we’re creating beautiful perfumes made from as well-sourced-as-possible natural aromatics.

Then there's the story about the co-op buy of neroli from that No Cal company --- for another time, although I wonder how the suppliers that bought it passed it on to their customers, if they did so – thousands of dollars were at stake, or they'd suffer a loss. Be Careful, everyone!

Friday, December 01, 2006

December is Natural Perfume Month

December Is Named Natural Perfume Month By Artisan Natural Perfumers Guild

December is Natural Perfume Month When Fragrant Trees and Wreaths Bring the Outdoors In, and Natural Perfume is the Gift of Choice for Many

For Immediate Release

MIAMI SHORES, Fla./EWORLDWIRE/Nov 29, 2006 --- The Artisan Natural Perfumers Guild has named December Natural Perfume Month in recognition of the growing interest in natural fragrances. The first naturally-perfumed gifts associated with the month of December were those given in Bethlehem of frankincense and myrrh. Those fragrant tree resins are found in many natural perfumes today. Click below to see an enlarged picture of rare Hojari Frankincense incense, one of the most beautiful fragrances in the world:

During this month, ancient traditions called for a fragrant conifer tree, wreaths and boughs decorating the home. Today, the wonderful aroma of cooking with sweet spices like cinnamon and clove adds to the ambiance, creating a true holiday atmosphere.

Giving the gift of perfume and fragrant toiletries at the holidays can be made more special by choosing gifts made only with natural aromatics that come from flowers, leaves, woods and other botanicals. Blended artfully by professional perfumers and body care specialists in the Artisan Natural Perfumers Guild, these handmade luxurious scented treats continue the ancient heritage of natural fragrances.

The perfumers in the Guild offer traditional perfumes in an alcohol, oil or solid base, such as beeswax. Some of them also create soaps, lotions and other body care products that contain only natural fragrances, no synthetic scents.

Associate members of the Guild make soaps, shampoos, hair conditioners, gift baskets, candles and many home and body care products with essential oils providing the scent. Below is Hathor's Hair Care Gift Set from A Little Olfactory

To make this a special natural holiday season and to celebrate the beauty of natural perfumes during December, Natural Perfume Month, visit links to the Guild members Web sites at Natural Perfumery, the portal for Artisan Natural Perfumers Guild members sites.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Anya's Garden Store Now Open

Thanksgiving weekend has given me a reason to be extra-thankful. No hurricanes this season (yay!), I placed over 70 families in an emergency situation re: collapsing roofs (due to Hurricane Wilma-weakened roofs) into new housing in the past month when they were made homeless by October/November rains, and finally got my website store up and running.

Life interferes when you're trying to make perfumes!;-) It's been a struggle through two hurricane seasons, since I ended my private label contracts with South Beach hotels that were longtime business associates, launched Anya's Garden, launched the Artisan Natural Perfumers Guild, refused a number of custom perfume contracts due to priority obligations, well, Whew! I think the hard work is over, it's going to be all about the great fragrances from now on.

Natural perfumers tend to be sticklers for control. We have to. Our perfumes must meet the highest standards, our packaging must reflect our aesthetic and philosophy, and our ability to meet customer's expectations has to be number one. If I'm lucky, I'll even get a breather and be able to start blending again next month.

It's all about the juice, dear readers, the beautiful perfume that is at the soul of us all, the fragrances that rule our noses, our lives. So many customers were delighted by the samples that have been available for a few months, they were writing me constantly about getting the store together. The bottles are wonderfully suited for my philosophy. The minis for the perfume extrait are so tiny, such a sensual delight in the hand, I just love them.

I'm glad you'll be able to click this photo on and see it enlarged here. I still have to figure out how to do that on Anya's Garden. I took this photo yesterday. I rambled around my garden, sad that the only jasmine azoridum was in bloom 10 feet up, where the vigorous vine had clambered up the hibiscus "tree". With rain, the lower sprays of the vine may bloom today or tomorrow, but in the meantime I had to settle for this clereodendron, and boy, and I glad I chose it! So architectural and wild, so tropical, the massive scale of the flower plays off my tiny bottles beautifully. With the photo, you can see the little "treasure chest" box the minis will be packaged in. Doing the happy dance over this. Oh, if you can believe it, that clereo is a close relative of the clereo flower that is pictured on the homepage of Anya's Garden. So different looking from each other!

My spray bottles are not crimped. Many perfumers prefer crimped, and I may someday go that route, but I want the customer to be able to open the bottle, perhaps pour some into a little vial to share with a friend, or decant some for a vial for their purse or pocket. The 15ml EdT size is, however, on its own, a good travel size. A spritz of EdT is wonderful, the vaporization really opens the scent up. Yum!

Back to the sticklers bit: most of the photos on the site were taken by me, I designed the new logo, wrote the copy, did the html coding, etc. I think the only photo I didn't take is for spa illustration, but I'll get one of my own up soon. It's all part of being a natural perfumer, I tell you - exhausting stuff, lol. We're artisans. Everything is handcrafted. Wouldn't be surprised if some NPer out there starts blowing glass for the bottles, lol. If we can't make the stuff, we look for other artisans who do. The woman who provides the silk pouches made from recycled Nepalese clothing scraps has her son and his family produce them. I like the fact that I'm in communication with her, and the money I spend helps keep her son and his family employed, albeit on a tiny scale, from my end.

My boxes are made from recycled paper, and the pouches with the perfume bottles are placed inside the box, much more expensive than the typical cardboard/waffle board packaging, but much more luxurious and personal an experience when my customer opens the box and is surprised by a beautiful brocade pouch for the perfume.

Recycled can be beautiful! The boxes have a slight sheen to them, which gives a luxe feel. They're either a forest green on muted gold, the colors I've chosen for Anya's Garden.

It's an affair of the heart: the gold scrolls in the logo were emailed to me in June 2005 when some wonderful, supportive folks were helping me launch The green colors in my logo and packaging reflect my "green" lifestyle, and the gold reflects the color of my hair and eyes. I like the scrolly art because my hair is curly. Oh, I'm such a goofball -- a very happy one, with all the colors and memories and intentions that mean so much to me.

This is a very exciting time for me. In 1992, when I started selling Anya's Tropical Essences (natural oil perfumes) on South Beach, things were much simpler, moved much faster, but were much more solitary. Now, with the internet, I'm connected in a way with other natural perfumers in a manner I never dreamed of 15 years ago. Then, I was, to my knowledge, the only person selling natural perfumes here in the States. I sold to individuals, hotels, stores, etc., just jobbing the bottles around myself. It was *lots* of fun, and led to great, exciting things, but the internet, the Guild, the community that is being built now is exciting to the max.

And I'm just so happy that Anya's Garden is but a fragrant plot of land in the midst of it, a fragrant atelier where gardening, perfumery, art and soul come together.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A Timely Hiatus To Work Locally Helping Neighbors

Today is the one year anniversary of Hurrican Wilma hitting us here in South Florida. My house was without power for fifteen days. I was lucky that there was no damage to my house. Others, however, a year later, still have blue tarps on their roofs, no repairmen or supplies in sight, and are living in substandard conditions. We're all also suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome; children cry during rainstorms, and adults get tight-lipped and worried with each gust of wind.

It's estimated that 15,000 homes in Dade and Broward are without solid, safe roofs, subject to flooding in the next storm. Every rain storm brings news reports of more people made homeless as the blue tarps fly off, exposing their homes and apartments to the rain.

My business and personal life is very busy, so I had to find something(s) to eliminate right now. I'm going to take some time off from this blog to help with the efforts to rebuild South Florida, and also to aid in the struggle for affordable housing. We now have a "tent city" that has been established in our poorest neighborhood in an attempt to bring political attention to the plight of the people with *no* place to live.

The blog is fun, and I'll get back to it, but I want to spend my spare time in local efforts right now.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Recognizing Redefining Perfume: Letter to Natural Health Magazine on Natural Botanical Perfumery

On July 27, 2006 I was chatting on a thread on the natural perfumery group I host on Yahoo (link on the right) about an article on natural perfumers in the then-current Natural Health magazine. There were several "regular" perfumers included in the article, and the mention of phthalates made it seem like we use them. With Mandy Aftel's help, I drafted a letter to the magazine. They just published the letter, edited of course, in the November issue! It's so wonderful to see the name of the Guild and natural perfumery presented in a positive light in the media ;-)

Here's the original letter I sent.

Dear Editor:

I am the President of the Artisan Natural Perfumers Guild, founded by
Mandy Aftel, and I'm the host of a 900+ member Yahoo group for natural perfumers.

Natural perfumers define themselves as artists who use only aromatics from
nature, such as absolutes, concretes and essential oils from plants. They
may also use natural source beeswax, and perhaps ambergris and other animal products.

We're so pleased you're covering natural perfumery and are continuing to
make the public aware of it. I have read articles in Natural Health
previously on this subject. I am a subscriber and enjoy every issue.

On behalf of the natural perfumers, I would like to address some
misconceptions put forth in your article :

1. Several of the perfumers you featured in the article do use synthetic
fragrance oils, and are not natural perfumers.

2. Natural perfumers do not use, nor have they ever used, phthalates.

The natural aromatics, such as glorious rose otto, refreshing grapefruit
oil, and musky ambrette seed are part of our palette that is redefining
perfumery in the 21st century. That is the real focus of natural perfumery,
and in that area, some use only organic materials, or may produce vegan,
traditional, or sustainable products, according to their philosophy.
Education is a priority now, since we are such a new art form, and I thank
you for the chance to communicate these points.

Back to October 2006 - the only updates are that the natural perfumery group is now over 1000 members, and the Guild has grown tremendously since it opened in June. There are now more than 75 members, including professional perfumers, suppliers and stores, associates and enthusiasts.
It's really gratifying to see such a positive response to the art we love so much, an art that pleases our senses and gives us creative outlet to our inspiration and talent.
The Guild members come from the USA, Canada, Australia, Sweden, Ireland, Britan, France and Barbados. It's very exciting to see the interest in natural perfumery growing worldwide and so many businesses sprouting up.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

A bee's gotta do what a bee's gotta do, a whale's gotta do what a whale's gotta do....

Photo of a woman perfuming her garments with incense of Ambergris "Fumée d ambre gris" by Sargent.
Vegans beware -- this post is not for you. Squeamish folks beware -- same warning. Animal products in perfume. There, we all settled in now for a nice discussion of using animal "stuff" in perfume? Well, not all perfume. I'm going to discuss the animal products I use in my perfume. As long as the animal isn't harmed, I'm for it. No need to address goat hair again, Frontrunner (see post below) has been ID'd and we can all see he's quite healthy and unharmed. I find that the incredible complexity, the pheromonal pull, and the staying power of perfume is fabulous when a tiny bit of animal "stuff" is in the mix. I won't use anything that harms an animal. Period.

One anonymous grouch (they're always anonymouse, lol) wrote me trying to be sarcastic and accusatory that there's no need for animal products in perfume. Well, that goes against centuries of perfumery, and I will purposely ignore any "holier than thou" person as being a self-appointed policeman. Or judge. People have to learn to leave other people alone, period. Unless you feel the need to take someone to task for possibly harming others, the world would be a better place without finger-pointing uptight folks, don't you agree?

Finger-pointers are usually the biggest hypocrites, like Jimmy Swaggart or racist Pat Robertson. Bible thumping in the name of perfume, probably eating meat and wearing leather in their "real" life, grouchy and strident. I mean, if you don't like what's in my perfume, don't buy it. Don't try to regulate me,or harass me, cause that'll get you nowhere (ok, maybe one paragraph on my blog where I can thumb my nose at you.) Sales and general delight over Pan (see post, I Steeled Myself, below) and my other perfumes rule my world, as well any positive response to an artistic product should -- money talks, BS walks.

Now we can move on to Yum! - ambergris, a bile mass that whales throw up. It floats on the sea for years before it is usable in perfumery. The sun and the salt need to work their magic, and like a well aged cheese, (a product that transforms via microbes) the wise humans know how to turn it into something even more transcendent. Ambergris has a gorgeous effect upon perfumes, marrying together the aromatics, providing a complex and long-lasting drydown - essentially making a perfume memorable (click here). In the Middle East and Africa, it has been used for centuries to scent clothes, as in Sargent's painting, and a tiny bit is pressed into the lid of a ceramic teapot to release the scent and flavor to the drink. It is also added to red wine for the same reason.

A few years ago a couple of women on aromatherapy/perfumery boards simultaneously came up with the idea of tincturing what they both called "bee goo". I got some from Jen in North Carolina, who raised bees and made products from them. Seems the scent of the "scrapings", i.e. end caps, soft beeswax, dead bees, yellow gooey stuff, brown gooey stuff and bits and pieces of hive detritus smelled so good that it wound up in oil or alcohol to tincture. Beeswax absolute is quite pricey, so many of us looked into this as a substitute. Found out later that the yellow "goo"ey stuff is bee poop (click here) yep, sure is (click here, too) and heck, y'all know that honey, that sweet yummy stuff you eat is dried bee vomit, right? (click here) I have no problem using beeswax absolute in my perfumes. Bee goo - maybe. Haven't yet. It's rather inferior to the absolute, and I prefer primo products in my juice.

More foodstuff turned aromatic -- seashells, some with the little critters still inside. In India, they're co-distilled with (usually) sandalwood oil and the yield the most smokey aromatic . It's called Choya Nakh and one drop in a liter of perfume is usually enough. Very, very potent. Treif! Not for Kosher use, for sure. That reminds me to mention what makes Kosher oils Kosher. A rabbi certifies that the aromatic brought in for distillation, whether it be mint, vanilla beans, roses, whatever -- is free of insects or little critters like lizards, mice, etc. Not to say any of the aromatic's properties are changed by the inclusion of Mickey Mouse in the distillate, but something to be aware of if you are vegan or opposed to any animal products in perfume. You'll have to purchase perfume that is made only with certified Kosher aromatics if that's your goal.

So there we have it -- the animal scents I use in my perfumes. Maybe someday I'll add others, but since I am an animal lover, I won't use any where the animal is harmed. Live and let live, and blend for yourself, wear what is comfortable to you, and most of all, enjoy the fact that we're able to create and enjoy the world of natural perfumery.

OhBeehiveYourself photo from isolatediguana at Flickr
Seashells photo from liyen at Flickr

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

And a new day will dawn for those who stand long. And the forest will echo with laughter.

(Please see update at the end of this post re: Frontrunner.)
Helg's Perfume Shrine blog is featuring reviews of my perfumes, and her writing is putting me on cloud nine. Already reviewed this week, Fairchild is joined today by a review of Pan that cracked me up, replete with a quote from Led Zeppelin. Helg will review Riverside next. I'm stunned by her writing ability, as you will be if you look back through all her blog's entries. It is gratifying for a perfumer when a stranger on the other side of the globe (Greece) conjures up visions and words that make the fragrance come to life via words. Now if only the New York Times knew of Helg!

The lovely blond-haired goat that had the hair around his horns snipped for Pan is named Frontrunner and he lives contentedly on a farm in British Columbia where he keeps a lot of lady goats happy so they produce an abundance of milk for Tracy's Goat Milk Skin Care products at the Natures Natural Solutions farm (that's what I call it). So now you know the name of the star of the perfume -- Frontrunner.
UPDATE: A photo of Frontrunner at eight months of age, chewing his cud. He's the white goat staring the camera, I guess his buddy is shy ;-) Frontrunner is now about three years old, and his place in perfumery legend is set. Love that this photo has him standing at the edge of a forest!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Natural v. Synthetics

Just a short post today because I'm in a twirl over the fact that two stores, one in Dallas, one in Seattle, and two spas, one in Canada, the other in Miami, want to carry my perfumes. I couldn't let this wonderful dialogue, stimulated by an excellent post by the lovely Helg's blog, wafting out from Greece, go unnoticed. Her Perfume Shrine illuminates the oddities and innacuracies in the recent New York Times article by Chandler Burr that attacked the use of natural aromatics in perfume. I posted a link to Helg's entry on the Perfume of Life forum, and I think lovers of perfume - natural or synth! - will enjoy the exchanges and illuminations going on there. I will not even attempt to find an illustration for this entry, since Helg's is the absolute perfect image.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Today is Blog Day 2006

It's late in the day, but I just found this out when I visited my friend Anne in Sweden's yummy Anne's Food Blog that we're supposed to list five blogs that are new to us on our blogs. This is all springing from the organizers of the event Blog Day 2006
This is hard for me, since I don't visit blogs often, just the ones in my blog roll. Well, I had to pick Cupcake Bakeshop listed on Anne's site, which is a bit of a cheat, but I LOVE cupcakes, so there it is ;-) I discovered a lucky student on a grant was traveling the world visiting sources of fragrant aromatics for the perfume industry, but the Scent Traveler hasn't posted in a while, too bad. Enjoy her archives.
From a completely different dimension, and a locale that will soon be mine is the lovely and demure Twisty Who Blames the Patriarchy a spinster aunt for all seasons (and seasonings - woman likes her Tex Mex.) Austin and all Texans and patriarchs are her fun and fodder.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

"I was steeled for disappointment" turns to nuzzling..nice!

In the past month, since the launch of my line of Anya's Garden Perfumes, many samples have made their way around the world. UPDATE: even though I am not going to purchase the huge lot of bottles that are planned for the line, (because I'm moving half way across the country), due to popular demand - and impatient perfumistas who want some juice *now* - I have a small lot of some bottles on their way to me this week. They're not the *real* bottles, since I need to order them by the 1000s, but they'll make due in this pinch. Email me privately if you're interested in full bottles of any of the perfumes you've sampled.

So the samples are making the rounds, and various reviews are coming in. One from a perfumer, Andy Tauer, one from a perfumer-in-training and Guild member, Lucy of Indie Perfumes, and now one from a perfumista on a forum I frequent. They've all reviewed Pan, attracted by the fact, I suppose that I am the first perfumer to incorporate tinctured goat hair into a perfume. It's got a big buzz factor, and requires an open mind and trained nose to critique. You can look in the archives here to read about the genesis of Pan. Well, Bitter Grace, the perfumista, didn't want to sugar coat her review -- she was "steeled for disappointment". Whew! Those perfumistas are tough, and they know their notes, and the structure, and the evolution of a perfume...they know their juice.

I need to add here: I'm self-taught. Years and years of reading, experimenting, comparing and contrasting in the Carles method. About 95% of natural perfumers are self-taught, using all sorts of different methods. Natural Perfumery is just starting to tickle the consciousness of the general public, and delight their noses. It is an amazing breakthrough that so many "unschooled" perfumers are succeeding. We're breaking down the "old boy" network and mindset that has perfumers-in-training brainwashed and walking lockstep through "the system." A friend who manages a high-end boutique here in Miami took a bunch of big testers, put them on the counter, unlabeled, and waited to see the reaction. Fantastic! The jet-setting, 5-star-hotel-staying customers on South Beach are clamoring for my perfumes. They're on a waiting list.

I want to encourage anyone interested in perfumery, whether natural or using synths, to follow their dream. I'll blog in the future about recommended books, strategies and mentors. In the meantime, please enjoy these reviews, live vicariously through the perceptions of the authors, and thank you for visiting my blog, where I can giggle and muse and play and enjoy talking about natural, botanical perfumes.

Here's Bitter Grace's review, followed by Lucy's, then Andy's. You can visit Lucy and Andy on their blogs via my blogroll.

I was steeled for disappointment as I prepared to take my first sniff of Pan. Anya’s description of it as a rustic, sweet, herbal scent--with a goat hair note, no less (I love goats)—sounded too good to be true. My perfumista profile leans heavily to classic florals, but there’s a tomboy inside me who longs for the perfect nature scent, a scent that will give me the feeling I get walking through a pasture or on a country lane. I’ve never found one that really did the trick. Until now.

Pan opens with what can only be described as a blast of cedar. It’s so powerful it has an almost medicinal character. This was unsettling, because as much as I like the smell of cedar, my skin tends to amplify it to the point that it overwhelms all other notes. At least, that has been my experience with cedar-rich florals like Cabaret and Light Blue. But Pan is different. Its cedar begins to mellow almost immediately, and smoothly gives way to the clean, dry notes of hay and lavender, with a wonderful herbal sweetness that makes you think of rolling in a meadow on a sunny summer day. I think this is my favorite stage of the scent, and it lingers a good while before allowing a gentle patchouli note to emerge. At the risk of offending Anya, I have to say that this patchouli note reminds me (in the best possible way) of a drugstore oldie, Jovan’s Fresh Patchouli. Not heavy or head-shop-y, it's like a damp day in late spring—warm, earthy, comforting, somehow light and rich at the same time. The beeswax and white lotus Anya lists among the notes made only a very subtle appearance on my skin, just enough to provide a smooth, sweet background for the cedar-to-patchouli progression.

The animalic notes of musk seed and, yes, goat hair, show themselves in the late dry down, mingling with the herbal and woody notes to balance this little picture of nature—what’s flora without fauna, after all? They don’t provide a funky punch, just a gentle hint of critter. The source may be a stinky billy goat, but the final effect is like cuddling a young kid (a goat kid, that is). It’s sensual in the most innocent way.

Anya calls this scent “masculine,” and it is, but, girly girl that I am, I would not feel at all uncomfortable wearing it, especially once the cedar top has settled down. If fact, I’d say this is one that, applied with a light hand, you could get away with wearing to the office. It sticks pretty close to the skin, and has none of that nose hair-singing quality found in many green scents.

The spousal verdict, by the way, is a BIG thumbs-up. I had him sniff after I’d been wearing Pan for a few hours, to test lasting power. Yes, he could smell it, and yes, it smelled good. In fact, he actually followed me back to my office so he could sniff again and nuzzle my neck. I call that a winner.

I've been wearing my samp for almost 8 hours now, and I can only say that I have liked it better and better with wearing. I was driving along with the sun warming my arm, and the scent bloomed so nicely.

Lucy of Indie Perfumes review:

This handmade fragrance, redolent of goat hair charged with aromatic herbs, cedar, beeswax and musk seed, lavender and hay, with white lotus to really bring it on home, is wild with intense uplift and appealing strength. It's like standing by an animal wreathed with flowers, warmed by a bonfire of freshly sawn fragrant wood and hay. It brings to my mind a phrase from "The Fugitive Kind" as spoken by Joanne Woodward's character (a super-pale blond bad girl who scares everyone with both her fast driving and her sex drive) when she first sees a young Marlon Brando in his signature snakeskin jacket: "There's STILL something WILD in this country".

I think maybe the humid and tropical Florida air and the overgrown lushness thereall influenced the quality of Nature in this fragrance. It's perfect for driving fast at night in the summer, in a convertible with the top down, going juking, as they say, or even just thinking about it...

Andy Tauer's review:

It looks as if the perfumes get better, the simpler the ingredients list is: I have a sample under my nose, and a smile on my face, going all the way up to my ears. The description of this sample simply says: “Agresic, sweet, herbal, woody - Goat hair, cedar, Seville lavender, hay, patchouli, beeswax, musk, white lotus. ” It is an all natural perfume {}.. you will find here: Love.

It is the love for scents and natural ingredients that you can feel. It is the care of composing and the passion for fragrances. I have the paper strip under my nose and think of … wow. What a sexy scent. A brave perfumer to make such a scent. For sure not the average blabla fragrance. A scent that will shock a few, for sure, others will go with it on a journey to new land and will make exciting discoveries. I find a slightly green blend, with lots of Patchouli, blended in a way that brings out the best of patchouli… this animalic, soft powder, that so often hides behind mountains of wood. Top quality patchouli, too! And the fragrance is musky, for sure, but I have no clue how this effect was reached.

Maybe it is Angelica Seeds or Abdelmoschus seeds. Or is it the goat hair. I have no clue, but who cares. There is an earthyness going with it that reminds me of oakmoss. It is an animalic (of course!) musk blended into a soft base, with hints of floral woods, never really sweet. As always with good blends, the individual notes merge into something new. What I like most about this scent on my paper strip: It is unlike many things I have sniffed lately. It is original. You can feel the creative hand aiming at creating something new.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Inspiration + Creation + Tedium = Rewards

In the five weeks of existence, this blog has had over 1600 visitors. Some are natural perfumers (and typically they're the only ones who leave comments ;-) I know there are perfumistas from various blogs and forums, and perhaps the rest are folks who just stumbled across the blog by accident, or perhaps they searched for perfume blogs and found this little all-natural corner. Ten comments have been left, and I appreciate every one.

This post will be about how Rewards come from working through Inspiration, the Creative Process, and how Tedium is necessary for any artist to produce a product. All artists need to have a wellspring of Inspiration to draw from to give them ideas and passion to create. No matter what your field, you must have that inspirational spark to ignite your energy, get the right and left sides of your brain going.

In Creation, my main stumbling block is the necessary followup, Tedium. You've heard about the person full of creative ideas who leaves the project unfinished, all start and no follow through? You can't be like that and be a perfumer. First, the study. It's tedious. Carles Method. Mandy Aftel's workbook, school at the French companies, or in NYC. All tedium. Then, one day, the light bulb goes on -- and the tedium has turned into the ability to reach for the right bottle, the formula dancing in your head, the ability to see how the odor intensity and dry down time and interactions of the raw materials will all *work*.

Tedium is necessary to manifest Creation, there is no shortcut. I learned all about this in my previous profession, landscape architecture, where we had to constantly work on our lettering and graphic arts skills to be able to illustrate our maps and drawings. If your lettering or layout were sloppy, the message got lost. Many balked at this: we were adept at the mechanics and engineering and design, why did we have to know how to "make it pretty" for the clients and/or public to review? So we could communicate, of course. Perfumers, oddly enough, can't just "make it pretty."

We have to know how to "construct" a perfume as well as a landscape architect knows how to grade a hillside
. Too many errors and it all slides downhill into a muddy heap. In many ways, LA is similar to NP: the right and left sides of the brain must be engaged, imagination must be full-bore and fluid, you must know the "bones" of the profession to "construct", and you have to be willing and able to put your product out there for criticism and feedback in the public arena.

Second Phase Tedium, LOL: All the math, blending, mods, filtering, sourcing of bottles, labeling, filling those damn little sample vials, mailing labels, figuring out shopping carts (not done yet!), etc. etc. We're all home based, one person outfits (mostly), and it is all on our shoulders, but again, that passion kicks in, and keeps us up late working on the Tedium end of things.

Then you send the samples out, and the lovely orders and feedback happens. The Rewards aren't measured in just money, of course; hopefully you'll recoup and make a profit, after all the years of work. I first sold my natural perfumes in 1991, and it was so much easier then. I filled 1/4 oz bottles, sold them on South Beach, got private label contracts, created bespoke perfumes, and that was pretty much it until last August, when my contracts ended (at my request) so I could launch Anya's Garden. Who knew Katrina would blow in Aug 28th, and while recovering from that, Wilma in October?

The Tedium of recovering from those hurricanes
kept the launch on hold until July 31st, 2006. Now, I'm harvesting the Rewards ;-) The Reward feedback comes from buyers who phone and write me with their "visions" of what I'm trying to convey in the perfumes. One picked out the sunny, warm heart of Fairchild, towards late afternoon, when the grass has been cut in the tropics. One fellow said he felt like he was on a tropical beach at dusk (when the ambergris and oakmoss and sheer saltiness revealed themselves fully). Another felt the Pan opening note had a sweet brown sugar aspect that mirrored the taming of the GoatGod. Another commented on how the hot rocks and steamy labdanum mingled with goat hair. A perfume critic said he "liked them all", picking up different aspects of each one to focus on, the top of one, the heart of another, the base of another - pretty good, since he's not known for his admiration of natural perfumes ;-) Today, I found well-respected "mainstream, yet niche" perfumer Andy Tauer reviewed my PAN, glowingly. Lovely Rewards.

UPDATE: Links to reviews of Pan Tauer Perfumes and Indie Perfumes
Samples are available at Anya's Garden of Natural Perfume

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

We're All Led Around by Our Nose

Our sense of smell. Our nose. Our reason for reading blogs like this, or obsessing about perfumes, some of us so finely-tuned to our scent receptors we sniff wet metal, rotting wood, paint, everything funky and sublime, no barriers. We just sniff. We love to stimulate and pleasure our nose. And think about what we've just sniffed. And think about what there is out there to sniff. There may be a blog titled "Lipstick is my Crack" but in my opinion, the perfume lovers need a "Perfume is my Crack" site. We spend a lot more than the lipstickistas, and heck, we can spray our sheets with our adored perfumes, setting the mood for our nighttime reverie. And the lipstickistas don't remember their first shade of gloss -- but I bet they do remember the scent of it. The nose rules all.

The Smell Culture Reader is a must read. This anthology only covers perfume slightly, but it does delve and swim and luxuriate in the full world of scent, blending the funny with the intellectual, the gross with the sublime, the dry history with modern poetry.

Click here for the Table of Contents

Sense and Sensibility by Helen Keller illuminates the personal scent, our own olfactive fingerprint, as perceived by someone without sight, and how she defines the owner of a scent. Jump to Eros and Thanatos of Scent for examples of literature that intertwine the sex act and death. Stinkey cities, stinky bodies, sublime scents of heaven and the afterlife, and a wonderful bit by John Steele on perfumeros in South America, who use perfume, fragrant plants and cultural beliefs to create altered states of consciousness. Luca Turin's review of perfumes, most of which have not appeared in print before, except for some in the Emperor of Scent book, reflect a kind of altered consciousness also -- how the perfumes, whether lovely or damned, have the ability to transport the person experiencing them to another place, via his imagery.

If you have a vial of jasmine grandiflorum absolute or concrete on hand, sniff it while reading natural perfumer Mandy Aftel's description of her life-changing discovery of this gorgeous scent, and the obsession that resulted.

The book is comprehensive in scope: no scent or thought about scent, from the beginning of time, seems to be skipped, or at least is seems that way. There's a lot to take in here, many nights of reading, curled up by a cozy fire, perhaps, differentiating between oak or applewood or another fragrant molecule filling your nose with its particular fragrance. Sniffing the wool in your sweater, absorbing the lovely scent of tea, The Scent Culture Reader will help you understand, and perhaps better enjoy, the smelly world around you.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

White Light, White Heat

Deceptively fragile and innocent looking, the white flowers are the secret nose bombs of the perfume world. The tuberose pictured here, from my garden, is capable of scenting the air for many meters, and the essence of the tuberose, in a perfume does the same. Diffusive, narcotic, wildly sensual, these Mexican natives hold sway over many a garden and many a lover. If you right click on view photo the larger version will allow you to see the thick waxy surface, oil cells and pollen of this lovely flower. UPDATE: I'm getting use to the blogweirdness. If you just double click the photo, it will enlarge.

The Grasse Jasmine officinale var. Grandiflorum looks like a tiny innocuous, almost boring flower, but it is the most esteemed in the perfume world. The indolic nature - has a bit of decaying funk to it - can turn some off, but its power to turn everyone else on is its secret.

The requirement that it must be hand-picked during an optimal time window each day, quickly transported to the processing plant for extraction, and has a low yield of fragrant essence per kilogram of flowers makes it an expensive, albeit crucial part of every perfumers' palette.

The Orange Jasmine isn't really a jasmine, nor an orange. It smells like jasmine, and the flowers look like orange flowers. Since I don't have a picture of orange flowers in my personal files, I'll discuss it here, blended, as I like to do in RL, with the essence of jasmine. Neroli, the distilled essential oil of sour orange flowers celebrates romantic love and purity, quite the opposite of the tuberose and jasmine already discussed. Fresh and clean smelling, neroli invokes smiles and a bit of giddiness, and is know to relax those agitated by stress or anxiety. There is also an absolute made from the flowers, and an absolute of the orange flower water. I like to combine all three in a blend for a rich, full accord.

Here is a rare photo of the legendary "night blooming jasmine". Again, another flower that smells like jasmine, but completely unrelated. This photo is from my garden, where I am often found at night, harvesting the tiny blossoms. Like the "orange jasmine" above, there are no commercial producers of the essence. I have tinctures of these two that I use in my perfumes, and they contribute a lovely, fresh, round finish to the jasmine accords.

Gardenias are up there with tuberoses with their ability to almost close off the oxygen from the air with their blanket of richly-scented molecules that can permeate the atmosphere. Gardenia absolute is practically non-existant, since synthetics have taken over the industry. Unlike jasmine and tuberose, gardenia scent is easy to synthesize. For that reason, no natural perfumers use this scent, although I am sure there are some out there to create doppelganger accords with other natural raw materials, or perhaps create their own enfleurage, infusion, or tincture.

Until a few years ago, most perfumers in the West, and this includes France and Italy, and all natural pefumers, did not use white lotus. The French and Italians perhaps (and I'm speculating here) because they were not keen on the heavily redolent Indian-sourced aromatics, the same reason Jasmine sambacs weren't seen in their perfumes. It was perhaps the natural perfumers who discovered this beauty via the internet suppliers from India who have popularized it in natural perfumery. There are still few, if any mainstream perfumes that contain this rich scent. To be in an enclosed courtyard with white lotus blooming, no breeze and the scent laying heavy, like a silken satin cloud is truly like being close to heaven.

The Michelia alba blooms are like a piercing whistle, if the tuberose and lotus are like a violin. The sweet, almost candy-like floral white champaka brings instant delight to all who approach it on my garden path. When you view he picture full size, perhaps it will remind you, as it does me, of a comet hurtling forth, a white heat white light energy flying at a fast speed -- right up your nose. It's very dynamic. In perfumery, it has to be diluted way down to take the sharp edge off, and then it reveals itself as a toned-down whistle, a soft pursing of lips, a come-hither whistle that is seductive and alluring.

Scientists have proven that most white flowers attract night-pollinating moths with their scent, and the color makes them stand out in the dark so the moths have it rather easy. The heady scent of these blooms also attract humans, bringing joy to their heart, and often a lusty response from their lower chakras. There is no denying the pull, the attraction they have, drawing others closer to you. I'll never forget an offhand remark from a neighbor, a native of Punjab, a Sikh scientist usually not given to reverie: "Everybody knows that wearing jasmine makes people come closer to you." That being true, tuberose enmeshes them in a hypnotic net, and orange blossom makes you unforgettable, a dear, sweet memory that is cherished and desired.

On a hot, sultry summer night the white light, the white heat is created, then, through the magic and alchemy of perfumery, captured and made real again, from Anchorage to Ankara, any day, any night, any season of the year.

This post wafts its fragrant path through the internet on the 80th birthday of Bob Marley's mother, Cedella, a lover of jasmine. Happy Birthday, Mother B, and may you continue to enjoy the scent of the night-blooming jasmine under your bedroom window for many more years. (I met her 10 years ago today, on her 70th birthday, and you can see a pic of that, and some subsequent b'days here: My Music Page )

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A New World

  • Perfumery photo by Peter Kaminski

  • Last night I was on the phone with another natural perfumer, and the talk turned to when we first got turned on to perfumes. I was fortunate enough to be exposed to glorious perfumes in the first big heyday of post-WWII perfume. From what I understand of history, before that, women only received perfume as gifts, but after the war, demand for the beautiful juice was prodded by returning soldiers bring lots of perfume gifts back, and the newly-liberated Rosie the Riveter types deciding they were going to snag a lot of this stuff for themselves with their new paychecks.

    So, by age 2, in 1952, I was the happy recipient of nearly-empty bottles of great perfumes, given to me by my mother, relatives,and my mother's friends. A cousin in Paris modeled for Dior, and I'm sure some of my stash came from her (she was 25 years older than me, not a child model ;-)

    So here's my funniest story: I'm about three years old. I'm sitting on the floor, lovingly evaluating two of my most precious bottles. I have no idea what they were. They were two of the most glorious scents my little nose had ever experienced. Sigh. Love. I decide, in some Germanic, efficient way, that it's better to have less bottles to clutter up, and so I'll also pour the two together and probably have an even-more-glorious perfume.

    Disaster. I can still feel/smell the shock. Horrible swill resulted from the combo. Immediate recognition that I couldn't undo the fiasco. Eyes wide, mouth hanging open, I burst into tears. I think. Maybe not. Maybe I was in too much shock. I felt like crying, I know that. The stun that Ayala (click on Ayala's blog link in the blogroll) felt the other day with her patchouli/cocoa/vetiver = dung scent - magnify that 1000 times in the nose of a child, and have the child regret the disaster, knowing she did it. Boo hoo.

    OK, so what a new world it is. The rise of perfumiastas communicating amongst each other via the internet, the wrestling of the mysteries and Closed World of perfume study away from the Biggies ensures that a new, fun, educated population of perfume lovers will forever change the scent world.

    Although I studied perfumery on my own via books from age 25, it wasn't until 1991 that I launched my first line, simple 'fumes, packaged simply (no access to "great" bottles due to the lack of internet, local suppliers, etc.). The kids in this picture, if they love perfume, should have a line out by, oh, age 15! LOL. Heck, if the kids can grab on to the computer at age three and be programming soon after, why not perfume? If they have the knack - the nose - they're off and running.

    I love it -- that's all I can say -- I love it!

    Thursday, July 06, 2006

    A Guild for Modern Times and Modern Natural Perfumers

    The Artisan Natural Perfumers Guild opened its doors on June 1, 2006. It's a Guild for the modern age, uniting artists by the internet rather than the village in which they live geographically. You can click on the Guild website to read the necessary background and glossy stuff, but in this blog I can get more personal as to what the Guild means to me, how it evolved, and how wonderful it is to see this community develop. I'm the Founder and Owner of the Guild.

    A little history: Mandy Aftel started another Guild in 2002. After problems managing the Guild, and rancor with local members, Mandy closed that Guild in 2003. Mandy came to know of my work hosting a huge - now almost 1000 members - Yahoo group on Natural Perfumery, and after a phone call last June to inquire how I was doing when the group hit a little bump in the road, she suggested I open a new Guild.

    Mandy admitted the main reason she closed the Guild was that she didn't have the knack for managing a group, and that she recognized I did.

    For any Guild, the professionals are the key. They, and their products, set the tone of the organization. I reached out and contacted professional natural perfumers to be the core of my Guild.  The natural perfumers in the Guild are not only lovely people, they produce gorgeous perfumes. The Guild suppliers are, for the most part, known to me for years, friends from many aromatherapy and herbalism chat groups. Their oils and essences, bases, alcohols and other supplies are of the finest quality.

    An extraordinary number of Enthusiasts have joined the Guild, many perfumers-in-training, honing their skills, perfecting their art, getting ready to launch their businesses. This is the true spirit of a Guild -- apprentices. We are setting up a mentoring program for them, made possible by the wonders of internet communication. They, as everyone in the Guild, also benefit from the discounts offered to the members.

    I added a new category to the Guild recently - Associate. Several producers of body care products had applied as Perfumer. When I noticed they did not produce a liquid or solid perfume, I noticed there was only the Enthusiast category, really not appropriate for them. The only criteria is that a member's products contain natural aromatics.... UNLESS...
    and I'd like to clear this up here.....if someone, a perfumer or supplier or associate... produces some products with synthetics in them, they can still be in the Guild....IF...they segregate the naturals onto their own webpage, and only display the Guild seal on that page, not on any with synthetic products. We want to cast as wide a net as possible to those who use natural aromatics only, if even only in some of their products. We all have individual tastes and preferences, and that is not an obstacle to supporting the Guild and its philosophy.

    The Guild already has a newsletter out, and another one in the works, and a private chat group on Yahoo where we can get to know each other and exchange ideas on the growth of the Guild and our art.  Viva la Guild!

    Tuesday, July 04, 2006

    Peppery, Rosy, Citrus-Drenched Memories in a Bottle

    A river in a desert is a precious thing. Parched rock and sand support few people, plants or animals. When a river or water body is found in a desert, an Oasis develops. The perfume Riverside that I have created is an homage to the botanical garden and citrus research station of the University of Riverside, California, where I received my degree in Economic Botany. It was as they say, the "salad days" of my youth, involved passionately with my studies, with my husband, dog, cats, environment, and learning how to think, since UCR was a think tank for upperclass and grad students, and the faculty there..

    Most of the time, I "worked at" having fun and playing with essential oils and attars, as I was still a few years from discovering concretes and absolutes. As often as possible, I took the UCR bus into UCLA to visit the stacks of the library where ancient herbal books were kept, and to visit a shop in Westwood, The Magic Dragon. There, the owners would draw the shades, lock the door, light up a spliff, and we'd go through their awesome supply of oils and attars from India. Four hippies owned the store, and at any given time, one of them was in India, buying stock. This was in 75-77. They had about 60 oils, all gorgeous, from the common to the extraordinary, like musk root, Ferula sumbul, and chameli and juhi attars.

    During this time I found William Kaufman's book Perfume, with its essays by Roudnitska and Carles, and I followed Carles' method of comparison and contrast in studying my oils and how they interacted. I also got Roy Genders book Perfume Through the Ages and Jeanne Rose's Herbs and Things. What fun! But how could I dream of being a perfumer? You had to go to France and that was out of the question. Besides, I cared about the environment, and was determined to follow my studies in sustainable agriculture, biodiversity, companion planting, organic farming, appropriate technology, and herbs and fragrant plants. I figured I'd settle for having "perfume parties" where I'd pull out my stash, clean toothpicks, and carefully dip each one into a different bottle and dab everyone. I also used some essential oils to flavor food and drinks, often with orange blossoms floating in the punch bowl.

    UCR is one of the premier citrus research stations in the world. Over 1200 varieties of citrus are grown there, and I took several citrus labs, where I first saw shaddocks as big as small watermelons, Thai lime leaf with its "brain fruit", and every oddity in the Rutaceae imaginable. We crushed the leaves, examined the flowers and fruits, and deconstructed the plant to know how and why it grew. I also did an internship at the UCR botanic garden and produced a booklet for them "Landscaping with Herbs". The garden had over 160 varieties of herbs, and my ethnobotany professor assisted me in the research into their history, folklore and uses.

    One event stands out clearly in my memory. One of the campus boulevards was lined up the median with the sour orange trees that produce "neroli" blossoms. Early one morning, my husband and I, armed with buckets, worked our way up the median, stripping off the blossoms. Back home, I put the blossoms in big jars and covered them with vodka. That "splash" lasted for years, decanted off into smaller and smaller jars. We also hit the Riverside city rose garden early one morning (if I recall correctly, these raids were always early on Sunday mornings), and yes, stripped the roses. What's the statute of limitations? LOL.

    At home, they were spread on the bed in the second bedroom to dry, truly a "bed of roses", which Lenny da PussyCat jumped on for a nap.

    Fast forward to my homage perfume of Riverside. There was a huge California Pink Peppercorn tree in our yard. I used to strip the peppercorns, smash them into a steak to marinate, and grill the steak. Yummy. My inspiration for the Riverside Perfume includes that pink peppercorn, roses and citrus. Bees, soil and vanilla also figure prominently, since I was always dodging bees there when I went after citrus blossoms, my husband studied soil science, and I saw my first vanilla orchid vine there.

    It's a fun, romantic perfume, and the illustration captures the desert atmosphere of Riverside, the mountains that form a backdrop, the Oasis of water and study, and the fragrant path I followed, two paths that converge out of the frame, decades in the future. Now Riverside fills the air, caresses your body, floral and citrus and sweetly vanilla, a lovely oasis of scent.

    Sunday, July 02, 2006

    Anya's Garden/Anya's Garden

    There is another Anya's Garden. It exists as a reading assignment in California schools, and reportedly comes from an old Indian folktale. I found it last year when I was googling the term Anya's Garden in anticipation of registering my website. It's a sweet little tale, made modern by the CA teachers and their pragmatic worksheet, which gives me a good laugh.
    Edited to add: If you click on the boldened phrase Anya's Garden in the first sentence you will be transferred to that site. I don't know how to make links more noticable with this template.

    Narcotic, Salty, Mossy, Fruity, Smokey, Marine

    The wild Fairchild just had to be.......overpowering, intoxicating, narcotic, sweet, sassy, sensual, foodie, wet, mossy, oceanic (in the *natural* sense) startling, and have long legs, like the botanical garden it represents, ancient by Miami standards, yet always renewing. Originally mostly swamp, it sits on the edge of Biscayne Bay, 80 acres of wonderland, from brakish flats to a slight escarpment with long axis views, open meadows, towering trees, the largest palm collection in the world (I think), sunken gardens, fruits, and yes, the flowers. Fairchild is not known for showy flowers, but due to demands of some of the board, designing floral displays into the garden is coming.

    It's the scent of the hidden flowers that gets you. The magnificent ylang ylangs, the huge pandanus (there is a Pandanus Lake there, ringed by the Screwpines), the jasmines, champakas, white and gold, the citrus... on and on. A visitor not used to the sometimes smothering effect that tropical flowers can have at night in the tropics can experience it with the perfume. A secret: not all of the hidden flowers are in the garden itself. The garden is set in the middle of a residential neighborhood, and the fragrant molecules all dance in the night air, often washed along by the salt smell of the ocean, primordial source of the land, barely thrust up from the ocean, oak mosses dripping gracefully, wild escaped herbs mistily competing with the sillage that exists few places on earth.

    I broke some perfumery rules with this one. Yes, it is balanced and well-structured, but few perfumers use such odor-intense materials. Few perfumers live in the tropics, so there! This perfume can easily make the leap from what some believe natural perfumes should smell like to commercial perfumes, partly because I broke those rules and cranked up the base and drenched the middle with sweet herbal saltiness. The topnote can vaporize in five minutes, because that is the nature of the beastly-looking flower I chose, the wild and crazy pandanus. Pandanus has two sides: a fleeting topnote and a long-lasting middle that goes on and on in a cockeyed rosy manner. It's a lot of fun!

    This perfume is a lot of fun, and not for the faint of heart.

    Artwork by me on a lazy Sunday morning.

    Saturday, July 01, 2006

    Toot that Flute, Pimp that Breeze

    My Pan is surprisingly gentle and universally rustic. No citified scent, this Pan. Green and herbal and fruity, he's the non-Metrosexual man/god. A nod to the base of male scent, the "in-heat", rutting or wild animal clamboring over rocks, frolicking in a field, dancing through a forest, playing the pipes, leading the ladies on his merry way. A humanized view of Pan from Jitterbug Perfume, made volatile and vaporous, softly clinging to the skin, almost too tame, in a way, but not if you recognize as Tom Robbins did, that Pan has lost a lot of his power, strength and yes, funk - in the modern world.

    He played musical notes that seduced and caused others to be drawn to him, and is recognized as the basis of the Pied Piper of Hamlin story. I played with aromatic notes in his honor, notes of botanicals associated with him, his woods, herbs, grapes, and flowers, and I am very happy with the green juice. This perfume for men draws you in, with the subtle pheromones of the tinctured hair of a rutting billy goat the magnet. I do believe I am the first perfumer to use this substance in a perfume. Like most animal substances used in perfumery, it is rather revolting in it's pure form. Like those essences, once diluted, it transforms a perfume into something sublime, softening all the edges, helping the notes slide up and down the scale, and adding the right touch of animal power.

    Pan will frolic around the world soon. Samples will be available the end of this month, the bottled juice soon after.

    Friday, June 30, 2006

    Intro and Ideas

    After many hurricanes in the past year, launching the Artisan Natural Perfumery Guild, taking on several business enterprises, various health and home issues -- Anya's Garden will soon debut at

    The garden where perfume - naturally - flows from is the culmination of decades of botany, horticulture, perfume study and generally being a gadabout. Time out for landscape architecture, land planning, photography, journalism and whatnot, it is all very pleasing to be back to what I loved as a child - perfume.

    My first perfume line was launched on South Beach (Miami Beach) Florida in 1992. They were sold under the Anya's Tropical Essences name, and the simple flintglass bottles held a quarter ounce of perfumes with names like East Africa, India Wood, Riviera, Ancient Amber and Roots. Many stores in the area, and some hotels carried them. That led to private label work with hotels, and bespoke perfumes commissioned by lovers of natural aromatics.

    In 1991, I started a chat group on for natural perfumery, and in 2002, I moved the group to yahoo where the Natural Perfumery group has grown to almost 1000 members.

    I decided to launch in June 2005 to showcase talented perfumers from the yahoo group. Later that year, Mandy Aftel, author of Essence and Alchemy generously gave me the Guild, which she had closed due to business demands. Mandy felt I had a knack for managing a group, and in June 2006 I revived the Guild, which is off to a great start, with wonderful members from all corners of the world, all united in their love of natural perfumery.


    All of that caused me to have to postpone the launch of Anya's Garden.

    The physical launch. The mental, emotional and heartfelt launch occurred last year. Once I had the name, the very concept of taking my decades of fragrant gardens, my love of perfumes, and my progressively sophisticated perfumes and blending them all together, I began to blend. In my head.

    That, of course, is where all perfumes must start. You must have a concept, an intention, a theme. I want to create, and I have created three so far, perfumes that capture the unique character of botanical and fantasy gardens that I am obsessed with. All imagination is is the cumulation of memories, knowledge and intent, and from my imagination the snarling beauty of the narcotic flowers of the tropics, so heady they threaten to smother you, or at least, stimulate you so you find it hard to sleep sweep over the salty shoreline of Biscayne Bay, pulling along the sweetness of citrus blossoms and the herbal decay of oakmoss in an incredibly strong, challenging, rewarding perfume.

    More next on my romantic, young-at-heart garden Riverside, a sensory and emotional opposite to the wildness of Fairchild. And let me tell you about Pan, wild and crazy Pan, clipped of almost reputnant scent gland hairs, tamed by hay and wood and lotus. Oh, Pan, you Jitterbugging God, you ageless lover, speaking to us from Arcadia and our dreams. Tell us more, Pan.