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.