Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year and Welcome to New and Renewing Natural Perfumers Guild members!

I was going to write a year-end roundup, but time constraints and the general holiday duties got in the way - maybe tomorrow or early next week.

I am so happy to share with you that the Natural Perfumers Guild is pleased to announce that noted aromatherapist and author Victoria Edwards has joined us as an Associate.  After returning to the USA from seven years in France, Victoria will be relaunching her website in the upcoming months.  An aromatherapist since the 1970s, Victoria wrote a chapter in her book The Aromatherapy Companion on natural perfumery (available on amazon) waaaay back in the last century :-)  Her essential oils and absolutes are stellar, and I have used several of them in my perfumes, so I welcome her reopening her store.  She also makes all-natural body creams and balms, and other aromatherapy products.  Welcome back, Victoria.

PS: Next week, the Guild website will have a new look, mid-month, the Guild members will have a very joyful blogging and reaching out to the community blog event, and look forward to a few surprise announcements.  

In addition to Victoria, the Guild warmly welcomes new members and renewing members in all categories.

  • Opalescent Natural Perfume - Christine 

  • Maui Perfume - Jackie Cummings


  • Sororia Organics - Joyce Noerr


  • Ellenoire Bath and Body - Noelle Smith
  • StephanieK Naturals - Stephanie Vinson
  • Robert Tisserand Aromatherapy - Robert Tisserand
  • Green Scentsations - Mindy Green
  • Nothing Perfume – Michael O’Malley
  • Ingrid K - Ingrid Kutschbach
  • Fragrance Sciences – Barry Gibson


  • Flora Medica - Valerie Cooksley

  •  Aromatics International - Karen Williiams
  • Aqua Oleum - Alec Lawless


  •  Heather Tobin
  • Pat White
  • Dr. Peter Stefanides

  • Susan Anderson

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Fruits of Warm Climates by Julia Morton - An Economic Botanist's Legacy

Green bananas just two days ago - ripened into the lovely fruits, below

I'd love to share a wonderful resource with you.  This is for all who live in warm climates and who love to grow their own.  I just harvested some rare small bananas from my garden today (unknown variety) and received an email query from a Guild member, asking for an ID on a sour orange someone had given her.  She intends to macerate the skin in some fixed oil.  I sent her the link with a joke - more info than you ever need to know!

Yummy hand of organic small bananas harvested 
today, Dec. 27, 2011 in Miami 
- some missing because the cook had dibs.
In 1977/78, as I was in my senior year at the University of California, Riverside, one of the world's great think tanks, I asked my major professor, Dr. Gene Anderson, if I could obtain a change of major from anthropology (ethnobotany), which I was working on under him, to economic botany, since I felt closely aligned with Julia Morton, who had been named the Society of Economic Botany's first Economic Botanist.  Gene helped me navigate the system via an appeal to the University of California Board of Regents, and I was awarded the first-ever degree in economic botany from UCR in 1978.

Imagine my delight, years later, when I got to meet Dr. Morton at several Miami events, and obtained a signed copy of her most well-known work, Fruits of Warm Climates.  I've since lost the book, but love that it is available online, free of charge.  You can access it here.  I hope it is of help to some of you, and that you find the perfect lemon, lime, fig, cherimoya or other fruit here :-)

These bananas will be ripening in a day or two.  Banana bread, banana pudding, bananas in the freezer, too!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Ask the Perfumer - Sunday, December 25, 2011 - until 10 PM EST

There won't be any Ask the Perfumer this week or next, Dec. 25, 2011 or Jan. 1, 2012.  Do subscribe to this blog, or check my links from various sites, because I will be blogging about natural isolates, frankincense and some other topics of interest to the perfumery community.

Best Wishes for you and yours in celebrating the holidays this time of year, and the most wonderful wishes for a prosperous and healthy 2012.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Don't Panic About the Frankincense Panic! Let's Make Plans for Plantations, though! A tree grows in Miami!

!!!Debunking alert!!! - Joking with all the exclamation points, including those in the title of this blog, but c'mon, what an overwrought, slightly incorrect article we're talking about.  In case you haven't heard, the perfumery media is buzzing with alarm over the doom and gloom article cited below.

Who doesn't love Scientific American?  Well, they posted an "EXTINCTION ALERT" (my caps, as a salute to the tabloid-type hype they incurred a few days before Christmas) on frankincense that has the perfume world alarmed.  Repeating some rather scary stats from the Journal of Applied Ecology, everyone is now on edge that frankincense, the Biblical, historical iconic resin tree that has survived for thousands of years in some of the worst growing conditions on the plant, may only last another 50 years.

I say baloney. The headline "Bad News for Christmas: Frankincense Future Uncertain" only adds to the sensationalist nature of this article, in a supposedly well-vetted (peer reviewed, I would think) publication/blog.   I do hope a real journalist takes on that Applied Ecology report, but I don't have high hopes, as sensation sells and seduces.

First of all, they looked at one species of frankincense, Boswellia papyrifera, growing in one region - Ethiopia.  There are many species of Boswellia, and papyrifera is not a major player in the frankincense resin field, and that's what everyone is interested in, the sweet fragrance of the resin.  They say the papyrifera is tapped for resin, but it's not a major crop, and I've been collecting various Boswellia resins for a number of years.

Granted, they also quote: International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources includes 10 Boswellia species on the Red List of Threatened Species, eight of which are listed as vulnerable to extinction.  I went to the website and couldn't figure out how to use the Red List, and I'm sure that B. sacra/carterii is on there, and that is the frankincense most treasured by us perfumers.

My dear friend, Trygve Harris, who lives in Oman a good part of the year, is, in my opinion, and by the opinion of many others, one of the world's experts on frankincense.  A few days ago, upon hearing of my purchase of a tiny B. sacra sapling, Trygve began to send me LOTS of great pictures of frankincense trees in Oman. When they arrived, I urged her to add a SEARCH function to her amazing blog, and she did, and I encourage you to go to AbsoluteTrygve and have a good look at her posts on frankincense.  She senses the air and the rain and the soil they grow in like a spiritual earth mother of frankincense, and she balances out the problems and opportunities of this tree like no one I know.  Oh, plus, she makes frankincense ice cream and now has a shop opening in Salalah to sell the yummy dessert. Wallah! (I've picked up Trygve's often use of this Arabic word, which basically means "I swear to God".)

So in the past week or so, since the NYT article that sparked a "buy a frankincense tree"  (and a run on the book that details growing frankincense) among many I know, and the tabloid-type scare article in SciAmer, I'd like to share some more info and photos.  If you'd just landed on this blog post, please search frankincense on this blog, and see the photo of the rather puny sapling I got a few days ago, bareroot and a bit dessicated.  I had to hide it in a drawer so my cat Lulu wouldn't run off with it, she was obsessed with it.  I just planted it today, and there are two new little leaves bursting forth!  This bareroot, scraggly tree is a survivor!

A tree grows in Miami.  Light was fading fast - but I needed to document my little tree's first day potted. Notice heritage oak and pineapples in background, along with jasmine fence.

Blurry closeup of one of the two sprouting green leaves.  I'll get better pictures soon, as I was in a hurry to get this blog post out and didn't notice it was blurry when I snapped it, and now it's dark outside.

Ok, I couldn't wait - I went outside and got this flash shot - I put the tree under the table's umbrella to protect it.

I researched the climate of Oman, you can read about it here.   Water and cold need to be very carefully watched in growing this tree. I'll post images later of the coastal frankincense trees that Trygve sent me, "monsoon" franks, "old lady" franks, and ones that seem to love humidity.

Everyone remember when the vanilla plantations of Madagascar were damaged by hurricanes, a war broke out, and other calamaties affected the stock, and prices soared?  Well, entrepreneurs in India and Indonesia and other countries with similar climates stepped in, planted farms of vanilla, and now we're assured of a steady crop of vanilla from various locales. I predict the same thing will happen with frankincense!

I'm going to get seeds and follow the rather discouraging instructions on their low germination rate.  I'm sure others will follow.

Here are Trygve's photos of a plantation of sacra trees, and her comment:

"These are the UNESCO trees in Wadi Dowka. This is not considered desert in Oman because there are trees. it's the Nejd, which is the area between the desert and the coast.  Although meant to be a gift from God, and therefore not planted, they are.......and a fence erected around to keep out the camels and goats. These giant old friendly trees get no monsoon rains or mists at all, wallah. They might get a little flash flood action. Can't say for sure."

Click to enlarge the photos.  


Please share this blog because not only will it help stop the doom and gloom attitude, but it might actually encourage someone, somewhere in the world, to start growing these gorgeous trees!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Repotting and Growing Instructions for your Frankincense Tree

Guild Supplier Trygve Harris of Enfleurage with Frankincense Tree in Oman - read more about Frankincense on her blog

EXCITING update!  Trygve has sent me about 20 photos of different-looking Boswellia sacra frankincense growing in different regions in Oman.  I'll be adding them as I post more about my little tree. 
Here's the very informative email I got from Bob at Arid Lands:

Most of our customers are used to dealing with bare root plants and general care of succulent or "special" plants, such as Boswellia, so thank you for reminding us to include care instructions. They are on our website,, and I will repeat some of them here.

Boswellia sacra/carteri is considered to be the same species by taxonomists. This hemisucculent plant stores water in its trunk, thus producing the aromatic sap, but that also allows it to be shipped out of a pot. That species is a summer growing one and will go dormant in the winter (now); as well, it tends to shock when bare rooted anyway, so you can expect the leaves to dry and fall off. That is in no way shape or form a bad thing, it is normal but it scares a lot of people not used to this type of plant.

We generally use a soil mix that is roughly 50% pumice, 20% organic material (usually compost), some peat moss, around 10-15% sand, and several additives, such as vermiculite and some pH balancing compounds. You can simply buy what is known as "cactus mix" at most nurseries or home supply stores and use that. You can substitute small gravel or other things, such as perlite, for the pumice. The important thing is to have a fast-draining mix that retains water but does not stay saturated. Good drainage is essential for these plants and other ones that we grow.

We may use fertilizer during the growing season perhaps 3 of every 4 waterings. We always use fertilizer high in potassium as a natural fungicide and aid to growth of strong stems and roots; that is the third number. So while maybe 20-20-20 is the normal fertilizer, we would use something more like 11-17-29 or thereabouts.  In Tucson, where it is very hot and dry, our maximum watering frequency is every 3-4 days. During the winter, that grows to every week to every month, depending upon conditions. Boswellia tends to be watered more frequently at our nursery but not much more.

There is a new book out on cultivation of Boswellias, but unfortunately it is rather expensive. Feel free to ask questions if you want to know anything in more depth.

Bob Webb

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Frankincense Tree Arrived in Time for Christmas - Day One

   Boswellia sacra - first day.  Click on image to enlarge
A recent New York Times article on frankincense tree growers provided links, and I ordered one from Arid Lands in Arizona.  It was sent priority mail with a heat pack, since it is winter.  I paid $40 for a "one gallon" sapling plus $8 shipping and $2 for the heat pack. One gallon is a trade term, and it generally means a pot that meansures about 7" tall by 7" wide.  I was a bit surprised when the plant arrived bareroot.  It makes sense that it was bareroot, but that information was lacking on the website.  (I have received one-gallon potted plants) Also lacking were any repotting instructions.  I've ordered from many mail order nurseries in the past, and repotting information, also general care information, was always included, and perhaps duplicated on the website.  I've written the Arid Lands people, since there is no phone number contact for them.  I'll report back when I've heard from them.

I have a lot of experience growing arid plants, from lithops to peyote to cacti and succulents too numerous to mention. I'll keep posting tips on the frankincense, combining Arid Lands reply and my own observations.

First, buy coarse sand, or if you're lucky enough, dig some from your garden.  I would not repot this sampling in a one-gallon pot, I'm going to repot in maybe a four or five-inch pot. The sampling needs to send out new roots, and a tight container helps this process.  Do NOT fertilize. For the first month, water every other day, allowing all the water to drain out.  Do not let it sit in a pot in a saucer that holds water.   Keep it in the sunniest, warmest place in your home.  Protect from night chills if you live in a cold climate by moving it at least two feet away from the window when the sun goes down.

That's it for now. Do you have any questions?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Ask the Perfumer - Sunday, December 18, 2011 - until 10 PM EST

What are your favorite holiday smells?  Christmas tree? Brisket? Mulled apples and spices?  Well, except for the brisket, the others are easily made from essential oils.  You can make a room spray to perfume your nest this time of year.  Any perfumery questions today? I'll be here until 10 PM.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ask the Perfumer - Sunday, December 11, 2011 - until 10 PM EST

Ask the Perfumer is open for questions this balmy Sunday in December. Feel free to ask perfumery questions until 10 PM tonight EST USA.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

When you LOVE a perfume, but your skin hates it

I wrote an article for CaFleureBon that gives you alternatives.

"Scrubber"; the dreaded word of every die hard perfumista . We want to love you  Guerlain's Vol A Nuit, but you can be a swamp thing on our our skin, Carnal Flower by Dominique Ropion can be a venus flytrap, Chanel No 5 is an adehydlic nightmare and Fairchild by Anya McCoy is an unloved-child.  So what do you, if you love the fragrance  but not on you? You ask a perfumer who created a difficult scent to wear…(Disclaimer: On Editor's skin all of the above people have been known to run away in fear).
Anya McCoy of  Anya's Garden:  When you go to a department store, perfume boutique, or buy a perfume sample online, the first thing you should do, after smelling the perfume out of the bottle or on a scent strip, is conduct a skin test. Most of us just dab or spritz on our wrist and pulse points, then wait an hour or so to see how the perfume intermingles with our personal skin chemistry.  The more careful among us do a "patch test" on our inner elbow, cover the perfume with a band aid, and wait 24 hours to see if there is redness or irritation.
One possible outcome is that disappointment will roll over you, like a dark cloud on a sunny day, when a perfume your nose loves, hates your skin. Maybe it has a musty, urinous, or just plain horrible scent that develops on your wrist.  These are commonly called "scrubbers" – you can't wait to scrub them off your skin.  The dilemma is that your nose craves the scent from the bottle!
Or, in another scenario, you love vintage perfumes, perhaps have a leaning towards Chypres, but are cautious because of the dire warnings of the International Fragrance Association (IFRA)about the bergamot and oakmoss in Chypres (and other alleged allergens in most vintage perfumes) IFRA is a nanny-state doom and gloom organization that has forced the reformulation of most vintage perfumes into pale ghosts of their former selves. You've consigned your vintage bottles to a back closet, and are afraid to wear them. What can you do?

Although many classic perfumes have been ruined when they were formulated to comply with IFRA standards, classic perfumes in the chypre family have been especially hard-hit due to two of their most-glorious aromatics being drastically restricted by IFRA (only members of IFRA are required to submit to their restrictions, but that includes all the big houses – small indie perfumers need not comply). Bergamot, that luscious citrus top note made from the rinds of the Bergamot orange, is limited to 0.4% in skin-contact cosmetics.(Index of IFRA Standards 46th Amendment) Oakmoss, that deep, delicious base note, is now limited to .02 to .5%, depending upon the cosmetic. (Index of IFRA Standards Î 46th Amendment). Bergaptene-free bergamot is not available, since the "offending" chemical constituent was discovered, but it smells flat compared to the true bergamot. An anthrole-free (or lowered anthrole) oakmoss is also available.  But what if you own vintage chypres, or other perfumes that contain these or other "offending" aromatics?

Bergamot can be a real problem on the skin, and a disfiguring scar, known as Berloque dermatitis, can result.  (photo attached, used by permission). Bergamot oil on the skin, when the skin is exposed to sunlight, can cause this.  The scar lasts for years, so you don't want bergamot on your skin, unless you're wearing the perfume under clothes, or at night.  Not to worry, there are sunlight and daytime solutions that are available to overcome this problem.
There's another way your skin can hate your perfume: it can cause the perfume to evaporate off prematurely, leaving you scentless an hour or so after application.  This may be a problem related to skin chemistry and body heat. This article will show you ways to overcome these three problems that you may have wearing perfume.

So, when the perfume smells wonderful on you, and there is no rash, it's a great outcome, but there are two possible negative outcomes, and we've all been there: the perfume our nose loves hates our skin and becomes rank smelling on some level, or, we get a rash where the perfume was applied. Disclaimer: I'm sensitized to oakmoss. I love oakmoss, so what to do?  I love my Temple perfume, but it smells awful on my skin.  What can we do?
—-> Keep the perfume near, but off your skin.
There are some simple, and sometimes aesthetically beautiful ways to do this.
One important point to emphasize is that the perfume, especially natural perfume doesn't "evolve" so much when you use these methods.  Yes, the topnotes evaporate off first, but you may find they last longer then with conventional skin application of the perfume.  The great news – the middle and base notes go on f.o.r.e.v.e.r. – without the heat of your skin volatilizing them, they last very, very long.
Disclaimer: during a summer heatwave, all promises of longevity are off. 100F temps plus high humidity will even wilt the flowers growing in your garden, so don't expect any perfume to survive, despite any efforts to prolong the scent.
Tactics to beat the skin love/hate relationship:

Wear your perfume in your hair
My hair is long, and sometimes I dab a drop or two on the tips of the curls framing my face.  Every time I move, a waft of the pure scent of the perfume fills the air. This works well with short hair, too.  Don't worry about a drop or two of alcohol; it won't be enough to dry your hair out.
Wear your perfume on your clothes
For this method, you have to do a test on an unseen, inconspicuous part of the garment or scarf.  If it doesn't stain, you may like to apply some perfume on the collar or cuff or scarf. Wearing long pants?  Take a tip from Greek philosopher Diogenes, who preferred to anoint his feet. He said “When you anoint your head with perfume, it flies away in the air and birds only get the benefit of it, whilst if I rub it on my lower limbs it envelopes my whole body and gratefully ascends to my nose." From Book of Perfume by Eugene Rimmel. 

In his glorious painting  Fumée d'Ambre Gris, artist John Singer Sargeant portrays a North African woman standing in front of an incense pot that is giving off scented smoke from chunks of ambergris being burned.  The  history of fragrancing clothes is not new, and a spritz inside of a sweater or jacket may give you pleasure for hours as the perfume gently wafts off the fabric as you move.

Wear your perfume in jewelry…
Lockets, earrings, pins, bracelets and rings with "pierced" metal designs, or woven metal openings can allow you to spray or dab your perfume onto a cotton or felt piece of material and place the material inside the jewelry, allowing the scent to be released over time.  History is rich with gorgeous aromatic jewelry made to adorn the wearer, and the aroma fills the "Scent Circle" around them. For the purposes of this article, we won't focus on perfume lockets that have caps and hold small amounts of precious liquid or solid perfume.  After all, those are made for the wearer to open, and apply the perfume, and we're looking at jewelry that will give off the scent without any action on the part of the wearer; the scent is always wafting.  This method also allows the wearer to avoid putting the liquid on their skin for the issues of perfumes that "hate" your skin (turn rank or horrible smelling due to your skin chemistry), or may cause a rash.
There are vintage and modern pieces available that can suit any aesthetic you wish to adorn your body with. In the 1800s, "viniagrettes" became popular for ladies to wear.

The point is – you can wear a perfume that might not agree with your skin chemistry, or one that you're afraid may cause an irritation on your skin, or one you definitely know irritates your skin because of previous episodes of rash or discomfort. You can look on eBay, or google "aroma jewelry", "aromatherapy jewelry" or "perfume jewelry", and start testing on your clothing, and spraying or dabbing fine fragrance in your hair.  Welcome to the world of long-lasting, easy-on-the-nose, easy-on-the skin creative perfume alternatives.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Fragrantica Chooses all 12 of Anya's Garden Perfumes for the Perfumed Horoscope Week Dec 5 - 11, 2011

I clicked on the link and was truly surprised and delighted - Fragrantica chose my entire line of 12 perfumes to feature this week.  Each perfume is linked to an astrological sign, according to the selection by Hieronimuss, the astrologer for Fragrantica. Click here to read his savvy suggestions.

I'm offering all of my perfumes and botanicals for 25% off to celebrate this fun event. Click here and use the code fragrantica for 25% off through Dec. 11th.  For 10% off my perfumery course and kits, use the code F73480022F at the Natural Perfumery Institute page by clicking here.

Ask the Perfumer - Sunday, December 4, 2011 - until 10 PM EST

Good morning/afternoon all!  I went out early today and didn't get Ask the Perfumer posted before I did.  I'll be here until 10 PM tonight, so please feel free to submit your questions about perfumery, any aspect of perfumery.

PS Doreen and Sandi - I didn't see your messages for the 13th Sign post until today.  I announced the winner for the drawing the other day, but she hasn't responded yet.  I'll wait one more day and put everyone, you two included, into another random draw for White Smoke - a lush, floral, pretty ambery perfume.  Good luck!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Natural Perfumers Guild project - The 13th Sign - An Astrological Mystery Revealed

Flora, our Guild muse, is surrounded by stars as she holds the fragrance that represents the 13th astrological sign, Ophiucus.  Flora last held the modernistic scents of the 21st Century perfumes of the Guild's Brave New Scents Project, and now finds herself sent back to prehistoric, primordial times.  Flora is cool, she is unflappable to the Mystery of Musk, the Outlaw Perfumers didn't faze her, and we love that she moves through time and scent with us.

It was into the stars, and the night sky, when the constellations are visible that we ventured, and here is my take on the inspiration of Ophiucus.

13th Sign Project – Ophiucus – Natural Perfumers Guild Nov. 28, 2011

White Smoke – The First Perfume of Anya’s Garden’s Prima Aroma Line

When Michelyn Camen, the Editor-in-Chief of the Ca Fleure Bon blog approached the Natural Perfumers Guild with the idea of blogging about the almost-forgotten 13th astrological sign, Ophiuchus, (Pronounced as OFF-ee-YOO-kuss) I immediately saw the artistic and historic potential.

Research about the origins of the 13th sign took me down many, many paths. Imhotep, Aesclapeus, lost astrology references, the Caduceus of doctors, several paths of mythology and prehistoric references – and I was quickly overwhelmed. Speaking with the other perfumers taking part in the project, I was amazed at how diverse their interpretations on the topic were, and I realized that being overwhelmed by the different paths was hindering my progress, so I meditated.

The first meditation made me smile: using the parable of the group of blind men who were led into a room and told to touch the elephant, which they had never seen, of course, and describe what it looked like. Since each touched a different part of the elephant, each had a very different description from the other. Trunk, foot, tusk, hide? With this project, each perfumer touched a different part of the 13th sign’s mythology or history, and each came away with a story of their own on how it “looked”.

One theme I kept coming back to in my meditation was actually sparked by what I was using to help me meditate: frankincense. I stashed several pounds of Hojari from Oman four or five years ago, and I bring it out for special meditations, and I have tinctured some for use in perfumes.

Some of my Hojari frankincense collection. Click on the photo to enlarge it and see the beauty of these 'tears'.
All of the historic references I was meditating on to get a vision of the 13th Sign project led me back to healing. Led me back to not just one person, even though the Snake Wrestler found in so many forms in the 13th sign was one person, but the archetype healer, the ancestors who first discovered that scent could heal and exalt the human.

It has been millenniums since the beginning of our natural perfume art “per-fumen”, through the smoke, the act of either placing aromatic resins on the fire to release their scent into the air, or distilling them in an alembic, and now I am bringing my Prima Aroma back to that beginning.

The resins that oozed from the trunks of African and Middle Eastern trees are the first essences to be processed “per-fumen” – labdanum, frankincense, opoponax, omumbiri, myrrh and benzoin. My meditations led to me them, and so I worked with them to make a 100% liquid resin perfume. It can heal the heart and soul with

its deep, rich scent, and it can be layered under or over other perfumes because it is surprisingly neutral. Due to the resins, White Smoke may be slightly sticky for the first 10 seconds or so after application. After that, it dries completely, forming a “lacquer” for the skin.

I’m finally debuting my Prima Aroma line with this perfume that I have dubbed White Smoke.

Prima Aroma was announced about two years ago, and it will be my healing perfume line, all based on historic figures in herbalism, aromatherapy and perfumery.  Overwhelmed with other projects, and not having quite a clear focus, I put off Prima Aroma, and even took down the webpage announcing it. Well, Prima Aroma is now launched with the deep, soft resins of our first healers made liquid, through the smoke.

White Smoke will retail for $70 for one ounce. You may place your order now, and it will ship Dec. 15th.

Cafleurebon is hosting a giveaway of White Smoke and the other perfumes in the 13th Sign project.

If you leave a comment here, on my blog, about the 13th sign, or leave a comment about what Prima Aroma means to you, I will also be giving away a 30ml bottle of White Smoke!  Please leave a comment before midnight Nov. 29th - up to the beginning of Nov. 30th.  I will randomly select a winner.  Good luck and I'd love some ideas of what "Historical Fragrances for a Modern World" mean to you.

Blog Links:

Cafleurebon's team stepped waaayy back in time to bring this project to the present.
Adam Gottschalk
Elise Pearlstine
JoAnne Bassett
Christie Meshell (link to website)
Note: this blog post is dated Nov. 27th, and Adam, Elise and JoAnne will have their links up tomorrow, and I will update this at that time.  Christie does not have a blog.

Ask the Perfumer - Sunday, November 27, 2011 - until 10 PM EST

Looks so sweet, yes?  Smells like s**t at night. Jasminum auriculatum.  Harvest during the day for tincture or enfleurage.  Obviously!
I have lots to do in the garden today.  I'm repainting the ironwork post by the front door.  Since the jasmine auriculatum was dug up and planted by the back fence, I'm readying the post for a jasmine grandiflorum plant. The auric was a little too fecal smelling at night! Not a nice greeting for visitors, LOL.  Plus, the more delicate foliage of the grandi will lighten up the spot.  That post is the one I'm posing by  in the photo, and I'll take a new one next spring when the pruned grandi has a chance to grow up. Oh, and I'll also be transplanting lots of veggies into the garden out back.  Collards, cabbage, tomatoes, lettuces, parsley, thyme, mint, zinnias, etc.,etc.  We're having beautiful weather, so it will be enjoyable.

The j. auric foliage was just starting to fill in here.  It became a thick mass of dark leaves.  It smells beautiful during the day, but very funky at night.  Banished to the back fence now.
Enough about gardening.  Do you have any perfumery questions today?  I'll be here until 10 PM EST.

Monday, November 21, 2011

I'm a Hopeless Perfume Romantic - The Cup Half Full Type

The first Acacia farnesiana - Cassie - flower to bloom in Anya's Garden.
I got the first acacia flower today on my young tree.  Acacia farnesiana is the source of beautiful cassie absolute, and I'm already planning a harvest that will yield me a usable raw material for my perfumery - hence the hopeless romantic/cup half full type.  I have to be to see all that in this one tiny flower.  Cassie absolute is a prized perfume ingredient, and it can be fractionally distilled to yield alpha ionone, a natural isolate that smells like violet flowers. It is supposed to bloom winter through spring, so this is the start of my first cassie enfleurage.  I'm preparing a little enfleurage container for the flower, and I'll add the others as they bloom.  I'll have to use leather gloves to harvest them, as the tree is very thorny.  Oh, and I'm going to trim the tree down into a big bush, probably 7' x 7', much like my ylang ylang.  This is necessary to harvest the flowers easily.

The scent from this one tiny flower is very strong.  The scent is actually more like it's cousin mimosa (A. decurrens), but the two absolutes smell different.  If you've ever had to work with mimosa absolute, you know how hard that can become.  Cassie absolute is always fluid and easy to work with. I'm planning the Spring cassie absolute already!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Warning: Natural Perfume Isolates - what is natural and what is not?

(ETA:  Since this was published a few hours ago, a great discussion has started on the two private Yahoo groups maintained for Natural Perfumers Guild members.)

This message was sent to the members of the Natural Perfumers Guild via our private discussion group, and I am posting it here for others to read:

I *know* I opened up a can of worms when I blogged that I was going to teach a course in natural isolates.  I'm the first USA-based natural perfumer to use them, and I thought I could share what I knew with everyone.  Some of you may remember back to April 2010, when I announced that I, along with some colleagues, would be teaching a natural isolates course as part of my Anya's Garden Natural Perfumery Institute. 
Someone I don't know started teaching a course shortly after that, and many perfumers struck out on their own with the excitement of incorporating these "new" elements into their perfumes. I had already used two truly natural isolates in two of my perfumes, but was hesitant about the ones that were being offered as natural by suppliers and other teachers. Guild Manager Elise Pearlstine, PhD, and I decided to write a book instead of teaching the course because so much disturbing information was coming our way as we researched the subject. We conferred with Douglas and Larry, and Murray and Andrew and Bruce.  Why?

We had to spend all this time researching and bouncing findings off of professionals because we became aware of a lot of isolates being sold as "natural" that were not.  Ever wonder why I didn't start selling them?  I knew that the suppliers didn't understand what a natural perfumer would demand as a product, and they were offering non-natural isolates.

Using them in our natural perfumes disqualifies the perfume as being a truly natural perfume.   Let me explain.

When I first spoke with several natural perfumers about isolates in 2006 or so, I used the example of ylang ylang as a true natural isolate that they were familiar with, and probably used.   The grades extra, complete, 1, 2 and 3 were made via fractional distillation (FD).  Fractional distillation is merely a conscious and deliberate way of stopping the distillation at specific points to obtain a specific odor profile that is desirable.  Sometimes absolutes, concretes and CO2s (less likely) are fractionally distilled.  Cassie flower absolute, for instance, can yield the violet-flower scent alpha ionone isolated molecule if the experienced distiller sniffs and pays attention to the right pressure and heat and time in the process and starts and stops the extraction of the alpha ionone molecule at the right time.  That same, natural process is used for many natural aromatics, and those will be the ones that are eventually approved by the Guild. Our Standards Committee will be working on this subject.

What is not a natural isolate, even if it comes from a natural plant or fruit of a plant?  Maybe when it comes from a microbe, and/or when it has to undergo numerous laboratory processes when it is tortuously put through a series of chemical procedures to produce the isolate.  Find phenyl ethyl alcohol at a good price?  Probably made from microorganisms via the biosynthesis process involving fermentation.  True PEA would cost a fortune, since it is needed to be added back to rose otto.  I have some of the biosynthesized PEA, and it smells nice, but it's not made via a simple extraction process like FD, it starts as microbes, for goodness sake.  Most of the fake natural isolates sold by suppliers will be identified as "physical process", "chemical process", or biosynthesis, as previously mentioned. 

From one catalog:
PHENYLETHYL ALCOHOL EX ROSE OIL - natural (my comment)

You have to educate yourself at this point in time.  Elise and I are struggling to carve time out of our busy schedules to write the book. Look at Payan Bertran's website: they carry many natural isolates or "process e", which is not an isolate, but something undesirable has been removed. (Note: I  have no financial or other interest in Payan Bertran).  Rectification is also a process that removes, say, eugenol from rose to make the rose more marketable and pleasing.  Process E and rectification, fractional distillation and molecular distillation are the only natural processes.  Many other suppliers have natural isolates, but often the sales people are confused when we ask our questions - don't forget we're a tiny subset of the perfume business, and we have our own, stricter rules.  If we were natural fiber weavers, nobody would question when we want true linen, not linen mixed with polyester, or linen produced from microbes, not the flax plant. The suppliers don't know this, and confuse the two when offering isolates. 

I am very concerned that some of the perfumers or associates in the Guild may have been innocently led to use the un-natural isolates.  I cannot vet them for you, as it would be looked upon very harshly by those selling them.  You have to do your own homework and ask a lot of questions.  I cannot answer individual questions because that would, as you can imagine, take every minute of the day.  I urge you to do your own research so that you can make sure we're using only natural isolates in our perfumes.

Ask the Perfumer - Sunday, November 20, 2011 - until 10 PM EST

 Ask the Perfumer is open for questions.  To give you some inspiration, here are some photos from this morning:

Another wet day in Miami - I thought we had started our dry season, but I'm not complaining.  Every dry that flows into our aquifier and replenishes our supply is welcome.  I wasn't ambitious enough to walk out in the front garden yet, since I still need some more coffee and a change of shoes, but I wanted to share the fragrant vision that lies outside my front door.
At the end of my driveway is a HUGE jasmine azoricum vine in full flower that covers a hibiscus bush underneath!  It must measure 10' high by 15' wide, and you can see it's full of flowers.  The candlestick like branches in the foreground are my deciduous frangipani tree.  The little bush between them is Tahitian gardenia..
A nice fragrant quintet of plants.

The tiny, tiny yellow aglaia flowers are filling the front garden with their beautiful scent.  I'll be harvesting today!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Ask the Perfumer - Sunday, November 13, 2011 - until 10 PM EST

Brian, a member of the 2,200 member Natural Perfumery group on Yahoo, is helping organize our monthly meetings in Miami.  If you're reading this, and are in the South Florida area, please leave a message on with your email and phone number to be on our list.

When we have these meetups, you'll be able to ask me any perfumery questions, and I'll be bringing fragrant plants (or just the flowers) from my garden, rare essences and perhaps a book or to to look over.

Gardening season is in full swing, and I will be bringing galangal roots to grow, some ylang ylang flowers to sniff, and more.  If you want South Florida gardening tips, I can offer those, too.

In the meantime, feel free to leave any question here on Ask the Perfumer Sunday.

Ylang Ylang flowers are different stages of maturation in Anya's Garden of Perfume, Miami
PS I forgot to post a notice about my Nov. 4th blog on my ylang ylang tree blooming.  I wish everyone could grow this tree!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Plum Granny Muskmelon - natural room fragrance

I read about this very fragrant apple-size muskmelon several years ago, and I finally got around to getting some seeds so I can grow it.  They're germinating in starter pots and I'll transplant them in a few weeks.  They'll need some support to grow up for optimum yield, so I'm clearing out some Delicious Monster vines by the fence. (more about them in a future post)

The flesh is insipid, so it's not an eating melon, but oh, the descriptions I've read about the rind!  Rich, diffusive melon sweet honey pretty.  That's enough for me!  Just two can fragrance a room for several days.  Victorian ladies, who called this Queen Anne pocket melon, would carry one in a pocket so fragrance the air around them.  I got my seeds from Southern Seed Exchange.

I, of course, intend to tincture the rinds and make a fragrant melon-scented extract. Do you grow any unusual fragrant plants?  I'd love to hear about them, so please leave a comment.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Ask the Perfumer - Sunday, November 6, 2011 - until 10 PM EST

I'll be in the garden today, planting more vegetables, herbs and flowers, but I'll check in periodically to answer your perfume questions.

Planted yesterday: Seeds:  red carrots, scallions, two types of zinnias, sweet peas, purple alyssum, Spanish pimento, Tigerella tomatoes, romaine lettuce, more I can't remember right now.  Lots!

Today my gardener will be bring by the very fragrant flowering plant yesterday, today and tomorrow, and the tropical lilac, with highly fragrant leaves that smell like tobacco and spice.

Friday, November 04, 2011

My Ylang Ylang Perfume Tree is Blooming

My first photo of my first ylang flower in the hot, bright Miami sun.

Ylang ylang trees can quickly and easily grow to 40' in Miami.  That is the major reason I put off growing one for so many years.   Then I read that in Madagascar, where the trees are grown for their fragrant flowers, which are a major economic resource for the perfume industry, are kept pruned to six to 10 feet so the flowers are easy to harvest.  So, about a year and a half ago I planted a tiny four foot tree and have had to prune it so it's now about 7' tall.

The young green blooms are cute!  However, their scent is very weak, so they can't be harvested yet.

Ylang ylang trees bloom in the Autumn, I read, but friends who have visited Fairchild gardens report they can bloom year round.  Friends who have them growing in their neighborhoods, not their own lots (since they're so big and can overwhelm a city lot) couldn't recall what time of year they bloomed.  I further researched and found that in Madagascar, which may be very similar to Miami's climate, they bloom from Nov. to March, their rainy season.  Perhaps if irrigated here during that time, since that is our dry season, they will continue to bloom.

Well, my tree started right on schedule, on October 18.  They're very green when they open, and over the next 20 or so days, they'll slowly turn yellow, and when the yellow flower shows a blush of red in the throat, they're fully mature.

I'm conflicted about tincturing or distilling them.  My distillation unit only holds two liters, and with the size of the flowers, and the desire to mainly capture the 'ylang extra' oil that comes over in the first hour and a half of distillation, the yield would be miniscule, since the essential oil yield is only 1 - 2 %, and the extra grade maybe one-fifth of that. However, that's not to say I wouldn't love and use the ylang hydrosol!

Ylang is an indispensable oil for fine perfumery.  This narcotic, tropical floral heart note blends well with other florals, and even in tiny amounts, can elevate the other florals.

Nov 3, 2011 - the ylang flowers lose their curliness and begin to droop as they mature.  I'm detecting a hint of red at the throat, and may harvest this in a day or two.
If you live in the tropics, I urge you to grow it.   The flowers have a delicate sweetness that is not present in even the best distillation, the extra grade, nor is it in ylang concrete or absolute, created with solvents.  My garden is perfume heaven right now, and if you can grow this, and keep it pruned to a reasonable size, you will have a perfume heaven in your garden, also.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Ask the Perfumer - Sunday, October 30, 2011 - until 10 PM EST

We're discussing doppelganger lily of the valley accords in the Yahoo Natural Perfumery group.  I love that group!  When I started it in 2002, I never dreamed it would become the premier site to study natural perfumery on the Web, and a place where true friendship formed among the members.  It's organized as an educational group, with some rules about how you post, limited ads for approved vendors, and just tons and tons of information available.  We just passed over 45,000 messages in the archives, and we have an extensive Files section, downloadable vintage perfume books and much more.  So, if you can't get your question answered here, and you're just itching to find out more about massoia bark on a Wednesday, the Yahoo Natural Perfumery group is the place for you.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Ask the Perfumer - Sunday, October 23, 2011 - until 10 PM EST

Let's talk about terroir - really limited terroir.  Do you grow zinnias?  I've grown them since childhood because I love their big, colorful flowers and how they're "cut and come again" - that means, the more you cut the flowers, the more you get!  It resprouts flowers from the cut stem, which gives you a rewarding, ongoing harvest.

About 35 years ago, while visiting the long-gone, much-lamented Magic Dragon store in Westwood, I discovered zinnia oil.  Most of the oils sold at the Magic dragon were 100% natural.  The zinnia oil came from India.  It was warm, honeyed, richly floral and just magnificent.  I was confused because the zinnias I had always grown had no scent.

I'm convinced now that most zinnia oils are at least partly synthetic, but here's the strange part: I once put the vial of zinnia oil under the nose of a scientist I knew, and challenged him to name the oil.  He immediately said zinnia!  I was shocked.  He said that's what zinnias smelled like where he grew up, in Kansas.

Oh, if only they smelled like that here in Miami, I'd grow a field!  Do zinnias smell wonderful where you live?  I'm searching for some growers - Kansas is first on my list!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

e-Book Review: Essential Living by Aromatherapist Andrea Butje

Essential Living
Aromatherapy Recipes for Health and Home 113 pages
Aromahead Institute
Andrea Butje

Andrea Butje, instructor at the Aromahead Institute and longtime legend in the aromatherapy (AT) community, has released Essential Living Aromatherapy Recipes for Health and Home,  an e-book that is a treasure for those who love to use essential oils and hydrosols.  Andrea's basic research on fragrant, earth-easy ways to incorporate essential oils into your life makes Essential Living a must-have. I keep it on my desktop so I can open it quickly when I need some tips. 

I really appreciate the comprehensiveness of the topics covered in the 15 chapters:

1. Introduction to Aromatherapy / 3
2. Your Essential Oil Tool Kit / 8
3. Basic Aromatherapy Applications / 14
4. The Kitchen / 20
5. The Bathroom / 24
6. Beauty and Skin / 29
7. Medicine Chest / 41
8. The Living Room / 53
9. The Bedroom / 62
10. Caring for Kids / 69
11. The Office / 80
12. Patio and Outdoor Spaces / 87
13. Travel / 93
14. Emotional Well Being / 100
15. Aromatic Indulgences / 105
Appendix: Resources
The Author

Everything is laid out for you in a clear, beautifully illustrated manner.  Once you breeze through Andrea's basic Introduction to Aromatherapy (most of us can use a bit of a refresher on the subject, or maybe you're a complete novice to AT) you can quickly scan to a subject you desire more info about.  Those who travel a lot will appreciate the Travel section.  You'll find the introduction to that chapter pretty much sums up what you need to consider when travelling, and then the items are covered, one page to each topic.

For example, first there are tips on boosting your immune system so you can better fight off strange microbes, then anxiety relief, hand sanitizer, crowded spaces immunity inhaler, hotel linen spray and travel salve for your skin.

Staying at home or working in your office is covered, too, of course.  You'll get instructions on how to set up your essential oil kit, and how to use the EOs and hydrosols in your kitchen, bathroom, for medicine, caring for your kids - and something I never thought of, but Andrea did - patios and outdoor spaces.  We both live in Florida, and outdoor living is year-round here, so I particularly appreciate this chapter. To round out the topics, Andrea makes sure we take care of ourselves with the Emotional Well Being chapter and who can resist Aromatic Indulgences?
Click the image to enlarge

The one thing I might suggest that Andrea include for the second edition?  Cooking and Beverages made with essential oils and hydrosols!  I've been cooking and making drinks with essential oils since 1978 and using hydrosols in food and drink since 1989 (the May 1989 rose hydrosol from Turkey).  Aromatherapy for the taste buds - dill weed, cilantro - yum! Andrea, we've got to talk :-)

The book is beautifully illustrated with relevant images to reinforce the topic being covered. Being an e-book, you'll find that you can load it onto a device and take it with you wherever you are, making it very convenient.

Andrea provides an info-paced appendix to help you source many of the items mentioned in the book, and links to some professional organizations for those who are inclined to look deeper into aromatherapy after reading this book.

The e-book is reasonably priced at $19.95 and once downloaded, you'll find that you're immediately immersed in the easy recipes and great tips. I know you'll have as much fun as I did quickly making up some blends, and transforming your household and office cleaning routines while lowering your stress level and heck, smelling great at the same time.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Ask the Perfumer - Sunday, October 16, 2011 - until 10 PM EST

Just harvested a bunch of pink lemons from my tree, and will be harvesting the leaves for a petitgrain distillation.  It's so much fun growing fragrant materials and transforming them into usable products for my natural perfumerie.  I hope you can do this, on some level.  Perhaps you can't grow plants because you live in an apartment, but you can buy freeze-dried raspberries or other fruits and tincture them!  Let's talk about natural perfume and feel free to ask any question on any subject.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

New and Renewing Natural Perfumers Guild Members

We have a lovely list of renewing and new Natural Perfumers Guild members. Please welcome our new members:


Clemence Barbier – Dame Clemence - Associate
Claire Lautier – Friend
Heather Tobin – Friend
Rose Tellier - Friend
Viveca Göcke – Friend
Pat White - Friend

And warm thanks to our renewing members:

Roger Howell – Alpha Aromatics - Supplier
Claire Martin-Garrigue Iriodes - Associate
Christine Ziegler – A Little Olfactory - Supplier
Nancy Brooks – New England Natural Soaps - Associate
Christi Meshell – House of Matriarch - Perfumer
Leyla Bringas – LunaAroma- Perfumer
Liz Cook – One Seed – Perfumer
Alexandra Balahoutis – Strange Invisible Perfumes – Perfumer
Dr. Benita Aufinger – Friend
MJ Simon - Friend
Elise Pearlstine - Belly Flowers Perfumes - Perfumer

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Ask the Perfumer - Sunday, October 9, 2011 - until 10 PM EST

Autumn is my favorite time of year.  It's almost as if it's a new year, with new beginnings and a fresh start on projects.  Do you feel the same?  I just launched one perfume, and I have one in the works for a late-November project, and yesterday I began to muse about another.  Have you found your perfume-making spirit stirring?  If you have any questions, I'll be here to answer them for you until 10 PM EST.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Ask the Perfumer - Sunday, October 2, 2011 - until 10 PM EST

It's going to be a "cool" day in Miami now that the cold front has moved through - high only up to 85F!  That means I'll be in the garden a lot, starting seeds for the veggie garden.  Most of my aromatics are in bloom, so it's going to be a fragrant day, too.  Feel free to ask any of your perfume-creation related questions until 10 PM.

If you'd like a chance to win a 15ml spray bottle of my latest release, Royal Lotus, please visit Cafleurebon before Oct. 4th and leave a comment to be in the draw.  There are nine other Guild perfumers in the Brave New Scent project that are reviewed on Cafleurebon and other websites, and you'll have a lot of chances to win one of these beautiful perfumes. Good luck!

Saturday, October 01, 2011

The Natural Perfumers Guild Fleur Awards - a surprise launch during Brave New Scents project

The Natural Perfumers Guild Fleur Awards 2011 

We are keeping the final design for the Fleurs under wraps until next year, and the following recipients will receive their physical awards at that time, and receive printed certificates at this time.

Several Guild members and myself kept this surprise announcement of the Fleur Awards under our hats for several months, and it was hard to do!  We will have a much-expanded awards ceremony next year, but the logical tie-in with our Brave New Scents project demanded that we select two of the most innovative, ground-breaking members and present them with the first Fleurs.  The two members have devoted much of their careers to distilling aromatics, a big step forward for perfumers in modern times, when most perfumers rely on suppliers for their raw materials.  The October 1, 2011 Guild Brave New Scents project highlights natural aromatics of the 21st Century, and both recipients of the award are pioneers that have stepped up and created their own distillates for their businesses, and, by doing so, have encouraged many of us to do the same.

Lifetime Achievement Award

Jeanne Rose - of the Aromatic Plant Project

From the Aromatic Plant Project website: The Aromatic Plant Project is an educational organization and assists people in finding the correct essential oil and hydrosol distillers and distillation equipment for their needs. We are a non-profit educational organization here to support American Agriculture and its natural products. 

Jeanne Rose is a valued Associate member of the Natural Perfumers Guild, and she is respected for her long career as an aromatherapist, author, educator and public works on behalf of natural aromatics and healing.  She certainly was a Brave New Soul in the 1960s when she began her studies of herbalism and natural healing, and published one of America's seminal herbal books.  Herbs and Things was her first book about using herbs to heal, and aromatic plants for pleasure.  A few years later her first books on aromatherapy were published.  Her work with distilling aromatic and healing plants, and holding classes to educate the public on this art have combined to create a place for her in American history, because she was the first in modern times to accomplish such projects.  She led the way for many of us to take up distilling, reviving a lost fragrant skill and adding to our artisan natural perfumeries.  Jeanne teaches many courses, from herbalism to natural perfumery to aromatherapy, and travels the country giving seminars and workshops on these subjects.

Congratulations, Jeanne, there is no person more deserving of a
Lifetime Achievement Award from us!


21st Century Innovator

Alexandra Balahoutis of Strange Invisible Perfumes

It's coincidental that Alexandra Balahoutis started her 100% botanical perfumerie in 2000, the year that the Brave New Scents project selected as a starting point for all that is new and wonderful in our natural perfumery world. 

Members of the Guild took notice last year when Alexandra had a Company Retreat Day to distill botanicals for her perfumerie. Neroli was distilled that day, along with pink peppercorns and oranges and other fragrant beauties.  This link will work if you are on Facebook.  Alexandra also commissions distillers around the world to produce essential oils for her. She may be the first self-sufficient natural perfumer because of her desire to be in control of her raw materials, something we artisans can aspire to in the 21st Century.  

Alexandra Balahoutis of Strange Invisible Perfumes

Alexandra Balahoutis, Innovator and Perfumer, is awarded a Fleur for her groundbreaking work as someone who is determined to take control of the most basic raw materials - the essential oils - and by doing so, guarantees that the best and most beautiful aromatics will be the inspiration and fulfillment of her perfumes.

From left to right: neroli, pink peppercorns and orange flowers/oranges/orange tree leaves. From Strange Invisible Perfumes Company Distillation Retreat in Ojai, CA, Apr. 23, 2010


We are currently conducting a poll among Guild members to select the flower to represent the Fleur Awards and so far the rose is winning by 60%. Jasmine, tuberose and gardenias are also getting votes, and the winning flower will be announced October 15.