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

I'll be in and out of the studio today, but don't hesitate to leave your questions, I'll get to all of them.  I love checking the stats for this feature, and seeing all the hits from all over the world. Some check back over and over in the course of a day, so it's obvious this feature really interests you!  If there are 700 hits, maybe I only get five questions, but everyone is sharing in the answers.  Don't be afraid to post, because those of you who do post to me via email know I point you right back here ;-)


  1. Hi ANya,
    I was talking to a local botanist and friend who owns a 200 year old family nursery..they keep some bees and the topic of propolis came up. After she tried my perfume samples she was delighted and asked me if propolis can be of any use in perfumery as it has such a lovely smell. I did some research and apparently propolis and it's properties can vary from one hive to the next and even in one particular hive! So I was wondering if you had any experience with using it in your perfumes?

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  3. Hi Stefanie:

    I experimented with propolis several years ago when I first learned about bee goo. I got propolis from several beekeepers. It's hard as a rock when dry, so I smashed the bits with a hammer and tinctured. Not much scent came through. I didn't follow up with recharging the alcohol with more propolis.

    Perhaps you'd like to continue the experiments?
    In the meatime, ask for the end caps and goo off the bottom of the hive when they clean them, and you can start tincturing bee goo, which does have a beautiful scent and can be used in perfumery, once aged and strained.

  4. Hi Stefanie

    Both messages came through, and I just answered the first one.

    When your friend mentioned the properties vary from hive to hive (or location to location, which is my experience), yes, that's true.

    Now, she may have been speaking of scent varying, which I am, as I have no idea of the medicinal properties of propolis varying, or bee goo, since I wasn't looking for, or experimenting with medicinal properties.

    Bee goo scent varies according to the pollen of the flower or tree or grass the bees were visiting. Some are floral, others woodsy, or in some other scent group.

    That's the variance to be expected with all artisan products, from perfumes, to raw materials, even cheese or bread. All sorts of external factors determine the final product.

  5. Hi Anya:

    Is there a particular essential oil you feel is underutilized in perfumes? I'm looking to create a unique scent that stands out from the others.


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  8. Hi Lily:

    I would recommend pandanus EO or absolute for your blend. It's rarely used, and you must be careful, as it's a rather odd accessory note. It could overpower a blend or clash easily with many other aromatics. I've used it with great success so far in two of my perfumes, Fairchild (2007) and Kewdra (2010). In Fairchild I made it sing a clear, sharp opening note, and in Kewdra, it snuggles in with the rare boronia and gardenia and redefines them. Good luck!

  9. On the Yahoo NP list, you wrote:

    Have you conducted systematic organoleptic studies on all of your aromatics? Are you familiar with everything from their appearance, scent undiluted, then diluted, intensity level and drydown times? Do you have written records of these to refer to? Have you committed all of them to scent memory?

    This was awesome information to see posted! Coming from a background in herbalist, organoleptics are familiar to me in that realm. I am wondering if you could elaborate any further on the orgranoleptics as they relate to natural perfumery materials. Do you have a standard set of observations or template you use to record for all materials you work with? Do you ever use taste? I believe I have seen taste references in Jeanne Rose's book. Would it have relevence in NP?

    Thanks so much for sharing your time and information!


  10. Hi Michael:

    Yes, I have conducted all the elements of an organoleptic study you enumerate, plus color and consistency, and linked the elements to scent memory. I teach a very systematic way of doing this in my course. I have recording forms that are archived in a binder, plus I now use an excel database that is even better, since it is instantly searchable.

    My studies are more related to flavor organoleptics than herbalism, and yes, I do taste everything that is GRAS, and some that is not.

    I also have a recording form for aromatic group organoleptic evaluations/comparisons that is quite useful for looking at say, all the rose types.

    I first started studying perfumery, as a novice, all alone as it were, in 1976, from Kaufman's book. Carles method appealed to the scientist side of me, and decades later I figured out how to put it all into an educational framework.

    Thank you for your kind words.

    PS. Are you Michael S, a customer?

  11. Yep, that is me :-)

    The boronia is great, I have finally had some time to sit down and play with it.

    Thanks so much!


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