Sunday, October 28, 2012

Ask the Perfumer - Oct. 28, 2012 - cancelled

Ask the Perfumer for today is cancelled on account of gardening :-) There's lots to be done to prepare for the lunar-based planting days ahead. In Miami, our crops grow best between October and April, so I have lots and lots of veggies and pretty flowers to plant.  See you next week!

Google translated this little Norwegian ditty as:  Tink leaves havens and tomatoes cucumbers and salads are solar comrades.  I have an email into a Norwegian friend to get an alternate.  The image is just so cute!  Yes, I do sing a little to my plants.  I have a riff on Figaro that is to the tuberose ;-)

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A little Anya's Garden Perfumes trivia: when I started Anya's Garden Perfumes in 2006, I originally used seed packets for my samples.  Here is the label I made for the sample/seed packets.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Why does tiger urine smell like basmati rice? Why does the drydown of ground coriander seed smell like bergamot?

Someone asked me a question on one of my Facebook page, and since I often get asked similar questions, I thought I'd post my answer here and refer folks back to this blog post in the future.

Hey you're probably the right person to ask! I ground some coriander by hand last night for a recipe. it went through several scenty stages, beginning with an almost minty/herbal scent and ending up smelling very much like bergamot. Are the two related?


Coriander is in the Umbelliferae family, and bergamot (mint) is in the Labiatae. Unless you mean bergamot citrus, which smells like the bergamot mint - confused? I'm going to make you a little more confused, but I bet you learn something that'll stick with you, even though it doesn't answer your question directly:

1. All aromatics are made up of levels of scents, much like the top/middle/base notes we're familiar with with perfumes.

2. I'll admit I don't know the name of the particular aromachemical that those two have in common, 'cause my brain can only fit so much in, and I'm too lazy to go look it up.

3. Here's the kicker: things don't have to be related to have a similar scent. What's the link between the smell of tiger urine and cooked basmati rice?

Mama, smells like the villagers are cooking basmati rice, or, did Papa 'go' near here recently?
 White Copal or Fried Flounder filet?

I was recently gifted with some fresh, beautiful white copal resin.  Cupped in my hands, I inhaled deeply of the beautiful chunk.  Ah, I got the lemony peppery scent of elemi, and then.......a scent memory from my childhood.  Every Friday my Catholic neighborhood was filled with the scent of fresh filets of flounder, lightly breaded and deep fried.  Ok, I thought, this is one of those tiger urine/basmati connections.  A perfumer came to visit me a week or so later, and I offered her the chunk, asking what her scent impressions were.  She got the lemony and peppery, and then I said the fried flounder was obvious to me.  Her eyes widened, and she say yes, I wouldn't have noticed it until you said that.  She grew up in the midwest, and perhaps wasn't formed by the cultural forces I was, in a Eastern coastal city full of Catholics (at least my neighborhood.)  It's a very clean, fresh fish scent, and the fried breadcrumbs are there too.  Strange but true.

There are many, many aromatics that have singular components within their complex chemistry that can smell identical to a fragrance of something different, even if it makes the jump from animal to vegetable world - and for some the smell of blood smells like iron, or metallic. It could be a life's work just to compare all of them, me, I'm just a perfumer who makes accords and mods ;-)

And yes, perfumes are mentioned in the article, which is fascinating, and should be read by all perfumers.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Ask the Perfumer Sunday Oct 21, 2012

Ask the Perfumer - and an Ambergris hypothesis

Guild member Lisa Coburn posted a link on Facebook that took me to a video on how cephalopods--squid, cuttlefish and octopus, are masters of disguise.  As I watched it, I made a perfume connection, straight to the elusive, mysterious, rare and valued ambergris, a gorgeous material used in perfumery.

Photo of the famed 'Yeti' chunk of ambergris.

Ambergris is produced by the stomach/intestinal secretions of the sperm whale to protect its insides from the sharp beaks of the squid and cuttlefish, two main items in its diet.  The whale evacuates the chunk of ambergris when it becomes large enough to be an irritant on its own, albeit a softer, rounder irritant compared to the beak and cartilage of the squid or cuttlefish.  As a perfumer, I often have to gently remind excitable newbies ;-)  that the scent of the ambergris is secondary to its major contribution to a perfume, which is its ability to 'marry' and allow the other aromatics in the perfume to coalesce into a beautiful 'one'.  Well, 'one' isn't a common term used, unless you're thinking of a seamless perfume, one with no 'stepped' drydown.

After viewing the video, linked below, try to follow my line of thinking.  Just an hypothesis, and one that makes sense on an intuitive level.  The same 'blending in', 'camoflague', or 'marrying with the surroundings' attributes that we give to ambergris is already obvious when the squid or cuttlefish is alive.  Perhaps there is something inherent in the DNA of these creatures that gets transferred to the ambergris, sharing the same properties? 

Just a thought.

Any questions about ambergris?  Do you think I may have hit on something?  Oh, last week's winner of the eight-year-old ambergris tincture was Leann of Trinidad, Colorado, and it's on its way to her.  I suppose I'll have to have another ambergris giveaway today, given the theme of the blog.  Leave a question or comment and you'll be in the drawing for this mysterious, gorgeous substance!

 Here's the video - be prepared to be astonished

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Do you want to be a professional perfumer? Study with world renowned perfumer Anya McCoy at the Natural Perfumery Institute

The Natural Perfumery Institute logo - click to visit the website

Do you want to be a perfumer?  Do you want to be a perfumer who takes a basic course that covers dozens of topics in professional perfumery, in addition to learning professional techniques as taught by the French schools?  We all know the French schools are impossible to get in, because they only accept a few dozen students a year, plus they teach about artificial/synthetic perfume materials. The classic techniques of those schools are brought into the light by my course, except I teach only natural materials. The course launched in 2007, and is imitated, but never duplicated ;-)

The Natural Perfumery Institute's course was the first natural perfumery course to offer:

- Instructions on how to properly dilute materials for evaluation and making accords.  This method save money and allows the student to smell the aromatic "opened up". If you're blending with undiluted materials - stop! You're wasting money and time.

- The NPI was the first to offer online student discussion forums.  My students are able to network with each other, interact with the faculty, ask questions and receive updates from the NPI when they are issued.  You'll never feel isolated with my course, you're part of the NPI student body and you're always connected.

-  The textbook for the NPI course is professionally edited by a technical editor who is also a natural perfumer.  No other course offers this level of expertise.  We have many students enrolled who do not have English as their first language, and they find the textbook clear and precise.  Other workbooks and manuals don't have the dozens of educational topics covered in the 350-page color-illustrated NPI textbook.

-  I upgraded the functionality of record-keeping forms by creating some in Excel.xls format, making them easily searchable and able to hold an infinite amount of data.

-  All of the faculty members are professional perfumers.

-  The NPI is the only teaching facility that offers two options:  Home-Based textbook-only for $500, and Online-Interactive, with access to the teaching website with recorded lectures, videos, bonus modules and access to me whenever necessary to answer questions for $2600.  Home-based students may upgrade to Online-Interactive at any time.

Please visit the website and write me with any questions you may have.  I am very proud that I can share my decades of perfumery studies and business experience (I had the first natural perfume line in the USA, started in 1991) with you and help you on the path to becoming a natural perfumer.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Ask the Perfumer Sunday Oct 14, 2012

Tincture a perfume material that's a purèe?!  Yes, that's the advice I saw someone give on Facebook.  Dear Readers, there are lots of people on the Internet putting themselves forth as an expert, and they're making it up as they go.  I teach my students, and I've been sharing with the general public for years, the proper way to make tinctures.  No, I won't advise you to tincture applesauce to get an apple-scented alcohol ;-)

I'll be here until 10 PM ET today to answer all your perfumery questions, as I have been for several years.  This is a purèe-free zone. snark off/

An "artsy" photo I made of a deerstongue tincture I made in 2005, with the window screen forming the pattern in the background.  Isn't that color beautiful?  Deerstongue is a vanilla/coumarinic-scented herb and I love it.

Friday, October 12, 2012

From The Vintage Vault: Dragonfly and botanicals in pewter enwrap crystal perfume bottle

I purchased this bottle from England.  The quality of the crystal is impeccable, and the pewter is fancifully beautiful, with dragonfly and botanical figures.  I believe the bottle would hold two ounces (60mls) of perfume.

The bottle is clear crystal, but my camera's lighting makes it look grey here.

Anyone have an idea how old it is?

I admit I'm embarrassed but at the moment, I can't remember the industry term for a bottle such as this, purchased to be filled with perfume, unlike a perfume you purchase from me or a perfume house that of which is a commercial bottle.

Here's a nice reference to differenty types of bottles.  I'll take some time and try to refresh my memory.  Can anyone assist with the name of this type of bottle?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Problem Solved! An Easy, Effective Room Fragrance Product for Natural Perfumers

Do you make candles with essential oils and absolutes?  Do you wish they had more 'throw'?  (For those who don't know the term 'throw' - it's the amount of distance the candle scent is detected after the wick is lit.)

This blog is a bit about me and what I believe is a great discovery in room fragrance products made by natural perfumers - but it's really more about You. And how to make a wonderful, highly-scented room fragrance product that may delegate your scented candles to a secondary place in your product line.

I'll bet your #1 complaint is that there is little 'throw'.  I've heard this lament for decades, since the first aromatherapy candles appeared on the market.  Most aromatherapists instead turn to aromatherapy 'oil burners' to scent a room. My problem with using them is that despite how much water your put in the reservoir to 'float' the oils, they tended to scorch the oils if you didn't watch them carefully.  This happened many times.  I confess I did scorch one tiny, tiny wax melt, the sample size, but that's because I was testing it in a new burner where the tea candle was too close to the reservoir.  Other than that, the regular size wax melts perform beautifully.  Electric oil warmers don't work well with beeswax, they don't get hot enough, so the tea candle warmer is the way to go.

Aromatherapy oil burner - essential oils and water are placed in the glass dish and the tea candle below warms them, making the room fragrant.  This type of burner is also used for wax melts.

A piece of Lemon Vetiver Room Candy beeswax melt from Anya's Garden
I launched my line of room fragrance products, Room Candy, in July. What are they?  They're easy-to-make room fragrance wax "melts" aka "tarts" that I formed into decorative shapes by pouring the wax and fragrant essential oil mix into vintage candy and cookie molds. Very simple, very fragrant!

These are not just another pretty product, they are actually revolutionary in the world of natural perfumery.  Why?  Every natural perfumer I know has struggled with making naturally-scented candles.  The demand for scented candles is great, but the results of the fragrance "throw" using only natural aromatics are dismal.   Your customers will still want candles - there is something about the ambiance of candles that is so beautiful.  However, in the long run, they will turn to your wax melts with the simple tea light candle to provide continual, strong fragrance for their homes and offices.

The packaging I chose for Room Candy - seven pieces, equal to a 3oz candle by weight.  However, the scent dispersion and multiple uses of each piece greatly outperform a candle.

By sharing the details on wax melts, I want to make the transition to, or the addition of, this product easy for those who have already sunk lots of money and time into developing natural candle lines.  For those who have not contemplated making candles, but like the idea of making room fragrances, this blog is also for you.

I use organic beeswax pellets, not soy wax.  I shy away from soy wax because I have not been convinced there is any real non-GMO soy wax.  98% of the soybeans grown in the USA are GMO products, and I won't use them.  Soy wax is softer than beeswax, and will melt in an electric oil burner, but for beeswax melts, I recommend a tea candle burner

Starting out, I used the recommended one ounce of essential oil per pound of beeswax, which is the norm for candles.  It's too much for wax melts.  Wax melts are so efficient at dispersing scent, aka, they have great 'throw', that the melts were too strong!  I sent about thirty wax melts out to beta testers, and got responses that convinced me that one melt could scent several rooms, even those with high ceilings.  Several testers reported that they blew out the tea candle after 20 minutes or so, the scent was so strong.

Candle makers - have you ever had that feedback?  I don't think so.

I hand pour the melted beeswax and essential oil blend into vintage candy and cookie molds, but simple little muffin trays would do well.  You'll get a simple disc wax melt using muffin trays, and I'd recommend making them less than 1/2".

Another benefit of wax melts that you don't get with candles?  If the customer wishes, they can remove the 'spent' wax melt and put it in a pouch or cloth and use it as a drawer or closet sachet, since they always retain some scent.  The ultimate in recycling! Oh, and some use them to polish wood furniture, since beeswax has been used for that purpose for centuries.  Quite a nice multiple-use product, and it's bound to appeal to your customers.

Oil/wax burner that is probably the easiest to remove the spent melt from.

I've found that removing the spent melt from the burner can vary in difficulty.  If you have a highly-polished, shallow surface, like the white burner shown below, it's relatively easy.  After the wax has cooled (after multiple uses, since they're so longlived!), place the burner in the freezer for 20 minutes or so, and then take it out, and gently push the tip of a paring knife or other sharp object against one edge, and it should pop right out.

With the "curly" burner shown above, the deep well may pose a bit of a problem.  Try the freezer and 'pop' method, and if that doesn't work, light the tea candle briefly, until you see the bottom of the melt liquify, and slide it out.

That's it.  I hope to encourage natural perfumers to take up this wonderful way to expand your product line and bring the beautiful natural aromatics to your customers.  It's always nice to wean people away from synthetic scents, and with the market for plug-ins, synthetic melts and other consumer products, it's nice to offer a natural alternative to your customers.  Especially one that works!

I'd love to hear feedback from candle makers.  Are you going to try to make wax melts?  Do you feel they'd enhance your product line?

Customers - are you intrigued and enticed by having a truly room-filling easy-to-use room fragrance product from a natural perfumer?

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Delicious Living Magazine quotes Anya McCoy on Natural vs. Synthetic Fragrance Definitions

Are synthetic fragrances harmful? 

    October 2012

 Sep. 28, 2012 Jessica Rubino | Delicious Living

Are synthetic fragrances bad for my health? What's the difference between a natural and synthetic fragrance? How do I know if a fragrance is truly natural? Your top questions answered, plus shopping tips. 

When made from plant-based ingredients such as herbs, flowers, spices, and essential oils, fragrances don’t just make you smell good—they can make you feel good, too. Unfortunately, most conventional sweet- smelling ingredients today are synthetic.

After the invention of synthetic fragrances in the 1800s, perfumers quickly replaced natural, plant-based ingredients with artificial ones. Now, fragrances can contain any number of 3,100 natural or synthetic ingredients, many of which are derived from petrochemicals. “Synthetics are less expensive to manufacture, and a lot of people are just used to that kind of fragrance,” says Anya McCoy, head of the Natural Perfumers Guild, an international trade organization. “They don’t know what real essential oils smell like.”

The fragrance industry’s most concerning synthetics include diethyl phthalate, galaxolide, limonene, and linalool, says Paul Pestano, a research analyst at the Environmental Working Group (EWG). You’ll also find these ingredients in other beauty products.

The problem with fragrances

Fragrances are among the top five known allergens in North America and Europe. More than 100 fragrance ingredients can cause itchy, scaly, painful skin, and potentially worsen asthma, and synthetics aren’t the only ingredients known to trigger allergic reactions. Even high concentrations of certain natural ingredients including tea tree, lavender, and citrus peel oils may cause such symptoms, another reason the EWG recommends looking for products listing all fragrance components.

Plus, 1 in 50 people suffers immune system damage from synthetic fragrance, reports the EU’s Scientific Committee on Cosmetic Products and Non-food Products. And the high volume of phthalates—industrial chemicals used to make synthetic musks and linked to endocrine system damage—may damage ecosystems, according to Greenpeace research. Phthalates also may make their way back into food and water sources.

The rise of nontoxic scents

Thanks to greater awareness about the potential risks of synthetic ingredients, perfumers are finding success with natural formulations. Essential oils, often used in natural fragrances, have a range of mind-body benefits, from energizing to calming. But in the absence of labeling requirements, companies still struggle to define “natural.”

“A lot of people call themselves natural perfumers but they use a little bit of synthetics,” says McCoy. That’s why the Natural Perfumers Guild helps hundreds of perfumers formulate and clearly label products. Other companies opt for the NPA Natural seal or organic certifications from USDA or NSF.

The beauty of natural perfumes

When you buy natural fragrances—or beauty products containing them—you also support farmers and harvesters of plant-based ingredients. As demand for natural fragrances increases, U.S. farmers are increasingly planting raw materials traditionally grown only overseas. Some perfumers, including McCoy, even bring all production in-house to capture fragrances’ true essences. “Natural perfumes have a richness and beauty to them that is quite different from synthetic perfumes. I believe that they tie us subconsciously to our ancestral past.”

4 tips for buying natural fragrances

1. When possible, choose products that list all constituent fragrance ingredients. 
2. If a company doesn’t reveal every ingredient, look for wording that indicates a product is free from sulfates, phthalates, parabens, petrochemicals, propylene glycol, and “synthetic” or “artificial” fragrance.
3. USDA Organic, NSF/ANSI 305 “contains organic,” and NPA Natural certifications prohibit synthetic scents. 
4. Choose brands that are members of the Natural Perfumers Guild. Find a complete list at

Readers of this blog:  what is your opinion on this subject?  

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Beautiful scented flowers comfort and help us: Autumn is planting and renewal time in Miami

This photo was taken the weekend my mother had major surgery.  Though sniffing the beauty of the peach-scented frangipani (plumeria) I can see the sorrow and worry I'm trying to hide. Flowers are a blessing and a comfort in times of pain, that is why we bring them to people who are ill. My entire garden is a comfort zone, full of scent and beauty.

I have some huge cuttings of this particular frangipani and I'll give them free to anyone in Miami.  Just email me and we'll make arrangements.

Part of the front garden next to the walkway was giving me a lot of problems with weeds.  Despite my new landscape guy insisting on weed killer spray, I persisted in using a scuffle hoe.  It took two months to finally get the persistant nutgrass to give up, but it has!  I have some fragrant plants and pretty annuals that will go in there soon.

Fall is the time of renewal in Miami, when most of North America is harvesting and and putting their garden to sleep, we're awakening ours.