Sunday, March 25, 2012

Ask the Perfumer - Sunday, March 25, 2012

There won't be an Ask the Perfumer forum today due to a family medical emergency.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Perfumer's Obsession - Harvesting rare plants for extraction

I believe I was the first perfumer in American to grow and harvest the Aglaia tree, aka the Chinese Perfume Tree, and I've been extracting the scent from the tiny flowers for about four years now.

I've shown the flowers in other photos previously on this blog, but I don't believe I ever showed them with another object that would put them in scale.  Notice how tiny the panicle of flowers are, and how tiny each flower is.  The latest harvest is the first one where I've ever been able to clip a group of panicles, rather than just grab the individual panicles at the base and strip off the flowers.  This is because the tree has started to produce clumps of panicles, and I just snip off the clump, along with some leaves, as you can see.  

The 3/4-full quart jar of aglaia flower tincture has been added to about three dozen times, the typical number for a traditional French enfleurage, even though, of course, this is not enfleurage.  It's just that many were needed to give a beautiful scent to the alcohol. 

So, from that dishpan full of Aglaia clippings, and after about a half hour of carefully stripping the flowers, this is the tiny harvest.  The fragile green stems shown on the left will require some more harvesting time.  Sigh.  Being an obsessed natural perfumer has its rewards, but also requires a lot of devotion, patience and what's the other word I'm looking for?  Persistence!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Vintage Vault - Gold Washed Antique Perfume Bottle

I'm totally right-brained when it comes to collecting perfume bottles. If something catches my eye, I have to have it.  No logic involved.  I have some bottles with dings that lower their market value, but that doesn't matter to me, the beauty of the bottle is what pulls me in.

This antique perfume bottle is worn, so some of the 18-karat gold wash is missing, but to me that only shows that the bottle was used, and loved, by someone many, many years ago.  It stands about 3/5" tall with the stopper, so it holds (held) a good amount of perfume.  There is no scent left in the bottle.  Here are several views of the bottle.  The third one shows the pontil mark.

Click on the images to see closeup details of the scroll work.  I believe the gold band leaves represent acanthus leaves, which may indicate the Art Nouveau era.  If anyone has an ideas about the gold band images, or the finer detail work above and below the gold band, please leave a comment.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Louching Explained for the Student Perfumer - Anya's Garden Basic Perfumery Course - Module 6

Louching illustrated from Pernod is a green liquor that turns milky white when water is added.  A lovely step-by-step illustration of louching.

In Module 6 of my basic perfumery course's textbook, I introduce the student to the sometimes scary time when your dilution or blend louches. The textbook is almost encyclopedic in breadth and depth, because my beginner students are encouraged to hold themselves in the highest regard, and to that end, be able to converse with professional perfumers, even though they have not achieved that status yet.  Knowing the language and definitons of perfumery is paramount to a great education.

Something that you need to know about before you begin any serious work on your blends is louching.  This is a phenomenon that you are likely to experience when you are finessing your perfume and you add water to it in order to increase diffusivity.  The word louching describes the effect when a perfume (or alcohol, as in the case of adding water to Absinthe liquor) becomes “milky” or “hazy” in appearance.  This happens because when the water ratio reaches a certain level, the alcohol can no longer hold the oils in solution, and the ingredients form a micro-emulsion of oil and water.  The cloudy appearance is cause by the light refraction from the microparticles of oils in the blend.  

When a blend louches, sometimes merely allowing the perfume to sit in a cool atmosphere, undisturbed for a period of time, will allow the oils to go back into solution with the alcohol; but often it will not.  If the oils do not return into solution with the alcohol, then you can discard the blend (add it to your Millefleurs botte) and rework the formula with less water in it.  You can experiment with the water, adding it drop by drop, counting each one, until the blend begins to louche again, and then reduce the number of drops of water in your final formula. It’s best to be weighing your work as you go so that you will know the weight of the water that you are adding to your formula.


Ernest Guenther discusses the louching factor, explaining if you add too much alcohol to ylang ylang, it will get milky.  This often occurs when students make their 10% dilution, and all it takes is a little time, maybe overnight, and the dilution clears.

As a student moves further along with blending, and louching occurs, often a sit in the freezer overnigh will clear the blend.  Playing around with ratios and having patience are important for the perfumery student.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Ask the Perfumer - Sunday, March 18, 2012

I got a late start today, but I'll be here all day, until 10PM EST to answer your questions about perfumery.  Got one that you think will stump me?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Just another day in perfume paradise - a crane that likes jasmine

When I opened my front door this morning, greeted by a rush of fragrance from my Chinese perfume tree, Aglaia odorata, I was pleasantly surprised when I looked to my left, and about 40 feet away, saw a large white crane sniffing the Confederate jasmine Trachleospermum jasminoides.  I rushed inside to get my camera, and when I quietly walked down the path to get a closer shot, the crane slowly moved away.  So, all I have is a photo of the solitary crane, and a shot of the jasmine, but put his beak into the flowers (in your mind) and you'll see what I saw :-)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Fragrant Fridays - Blooms in Anya's Garden of Perfume, Miami

The Chinese Perfume Tree is full of fragrant flowers, each the size of a matchhead, with a scent intensity that is HUGE.  This little tree can scent the entire garden.

The peach-scented frangipanis are in full bloom, bursting out of dormancy. The big round shrub in the background is Jasmine azoridum, covered with flowers.

A closeup of the end cluster of frangipanis on the tree pictured above.  We had a lot of rain this morning, and the flowers are loving it.  See the little spider web on the right?  I'll bet the spider is having fun in the rain.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The search is over! I've found the perfect display cabinet for my perfume bottles.

I've been searching for over a year.  I hate to shop.  I scoured stores in Dade and Broward counties looking for the perfect display cabinet for my perfume bottle collection, my vintage vault bottle collection and perfume accessories.  Nada.  Dark wood is all the style here in South Florida, which confounds me.  It was just impossible to find anything in a light wood.

My floors are red oak - stunning.  I love golden oak, and I found this cabinet on sale, online, and it's perfect.  I love the sliding doors, the halogen lights and it locks, too.  It'll take six weeks to get here, but I'm a very patient person, and I'm happy about the cabinet.  When you open my front door, it'll be on the opposite wall, the first thing you'll see upon entering my house.  What do you think of this beautiful cabinet?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Ask the Perfumer - Sunday, March 11, 2012

It's a late start today, not just because of the time change in the USA, but I'm just feeling lazy - which is much better than feeling stressed!  Ask away until 10 PM EST, USA, I'll be here on and off throughout the day to answer your perfumery questions.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Frankincense Friday - "Old Lady" Mughsayl (black) Frankincense

Trygve Harris of Enfleurage sent me a series of photographs of frankincense trees from different locales in Oman.  Very intriguing are the ones she calls "Old Lady" trees.  Below are some photos of them, and a photo of some recently-harvested resin from them.

Here's what she wrote about these Old Lady trees:  These trees are over the hill from the first pictures I sent. It's still humid--still gets the mist in the summer, but less so. It's protected. These are the Old Lady trees. These ones are strong and fierce

From her first frankincense newsletter, sent on Feb. 22, 2012:

 Fresh and oozy Mughsayl (Black) frankincense from the coastal mountains west of Salalah.

This is my personal favorite. If you are distilling your own, this is probably your best choice.  

It's got a rich snappy sparkle, and glittering pinenes with just a dash of orange.  

It's the one I'm talking about when i talk about the Old Lady Trees. This lovely luban is from the monsoon areas, also characterized by high humidity and proximity to the sea.   

This is the best season for Mughsayl (pronounced mug-sail) frankincense. Although available sporadically throughout the year, now it's plentiful and fresh.  

$25 kg  
You can contact her for more information.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Anya's Garden Natural Perfumery Institute - Organoleptic Evaluations of Aromatic Groups

An aromatic group of spices before they are distilled and turned into essential oils.  As speices, they're related in smell, but still very different, and have different uses in perfumes.  You will learn how to systematically record the similarities and differences, which is critical to your perfumery education.

Knowing how to conduct an organoleptic evaluation is critical for a perfumer.  You will use this foundation from the basic course for your entire career. You will learn how to look at, properly sniff and notate, in writing, what the aromatic oil is, both undiluted and diluted.  You will associate descriptive names and places with the oil to help build your scent memory.  In Module 1, the students learn how to evaluate single oils.  In Module 2, they move on to evaluate aromatic groups, thus broadening their recognition of related, yet different, oils.  Below is an image of part of the Module 2 organoleptic evaluation form.  It's provided as a "fill in" Word.doc, and also as an Excel sheet for comprehensive recordkeeping that is searchable by keyword (not shown.)  All forms are emailed to students so that they have their templates at their fingertips, as they have their scent strip at their nose :-)

Exercise 2, Module 2

Organoleptic Defined                                                                                               
Building Your Scent Memory                                                                                   
The Workspace Environment for Organoleptic Evaluation                                      
Organoleptic Notation                                                                                              
The Organoleptic Evaluation Form                                                                      
The Aromatic Lexicon                                                                                          
The Chart of Relative Intensity/Impact                                                                 
Organoleptic Evaluation Instructions                                                                       
Preparing Yourself for the Organoleptic Evaluation                                                 
Processing Aromatics Using the Organoleptic Evaluation Form                             
Benchmark for Intensity/Impact Evaluation – Ho Wood Essential Oil                  
Organoleptic Exercise - Beginning the Organoleptic Evaluation Process               
Wafting: How to Use a Scent Strip to Evaluate an Aromatic or Perfume       

Portion of the "fill in" form for aromatic group organoleptic evaluation in Anya's Garden Natural Perfumery Institute's Basic Course.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Ask the Perfumer - Sunday, Mar. 4, 2012 - until 10 PM EST

There won't be a forum of Ask the Perfumer today,a s my priorities are elsewhere:  my mother has been in the hospital for three weeks, and now the hospital is discharging her, and the nursing hope is refusing her back, in a practice called "patient dumping", according to the hospital case worker.  Wish us luck!