Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Perfume Lab Notes

Wine barrels at Tenuta Valdipiatta
Montepulciano, Italy

My shipment of hand-selected naturals will arrive soon.

Oakwood absolute from France, a dry woody fragrance with nuances of plum and red wine. This material is produced from used wine barrels, using a hydrocarbon extraction method. I have several ideas about what I “think” it will pair nicely with and am looking forward to doing some testing. Should fit well into a couple of concepts I’ve been thinking about.

Ylang Ylang from Madagascar, VOP (Very Old Process). This was a rare find. It’s a complete
ylang rather than the modern standard process of reconstructing fractions. I recently learned that this is the nicest ylang yet encountered by one of my trusted “nose friends”. I am looking forward to comparing it with my current Ylang extra that is quite lovely itself.

Hydrocarbonresine from Spain. Another rare find, this material is a fraction of the Cistus absolute. It is almost clear, with incense and slightly smoky nuances over a warm cistus heart. (Cistus absolute is made from the top portion of the entire plant rather than from labdanum gum.) I will try this in a white flower/honey/labdanum blend that I haven’t released yet.

Rose Otto from Iran, organic, Iran-ecocert. Iranian rose is rarely available outside of Iran, Dubai and Saudi Arabia. One of our buyers has been waiting for eight years to this especially spectacular material.

A singularly gorgeous Agarwood from Laos, comparable to any oud we have
ever encountered.

Today I continued late-stage testing with the white flower, honey and labdanum perfume mentioned above that contains some special enfleuraged materials.

Image credits: http://impressive.net

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Out of Africa

Secret Beauty Traditions of the World, Part 2

Shea Butter
Western countries are now recognizing the considerable health and beauty benefits of shea butter, the all-natural vitamin A cream. Shea butter is made from the nuts of shea trees that grow in the savannah regions of West and Central Africa, and is sometimes referred to as “women’s gold” in Africa, because so many women are employed in the production of shea butter.

Vitamin A in Shea Butter is said to improve a number of skin conditions, including blemishes wrinkles, eczema, and dermatitis. Shea butter also contains a substance that helps protect the skin from harmful UV rays.

It has a beautiful, white consistency like cake frosting that melts at skin temperature.

Shea butter is a particularly effective moisturizer because contains so many fatty acids, which are needed to retain skin moisture and elasticity. Its soft, butter-like texture melts readily into the skin.

Shea butter, in combination with rice bran oil (see previous post), is smooth, protective, and nutritious for the skin. Carmel Perfume's new Skin Care Body Butter includes generous servings of both these ingredients.

Click here to order Skin Care Body Butter. Available in scented and non-scented editions. $19.95. Available exclusively from Carmel Perfumes.

Image Acknolwdgements to Treeaid.org and Nailsmag.org

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Secret Beauty Traditions of the World Part I: Japan

It is a Japanese beauty tradition for women to rub rice bran oil on their face to keep their skin smooth. These women are called “Nuka-Bijin” (“Bran Beauty” in English). Rice bran oil is full of anti-oxidants - the oryzanol it contains, for example, whitens the skin slightly, and can impede the progress of melanin pigmentation by intercepting the ultraviolet rays at the skin’s surface. Because of this, rice bran oil has long been used in sunscreen products and hair conditioners in Japan.

More recently, rice bran oil is now being used in US cosmetics and body products. This new market is growing remarkably as increasing numbers of consumers become aware of the benefits.

What is rice bran?
Rice bran is obtained in the milling process, and is the part of the rice that is richest in fat. The oil, which is expeller pressed from the bran, has the presence of natural antioxidants which makes it an excellent ingredient for products designed to treat mature skin.

What does it do?
Rice Bran oil is a nourishing skin protectant and is purported to reverse the effect of aging by slowing the formation of facial wrinkles. It also helps to reduce and soothe inflammation.

Benefits of Rice Bran Oil
• Provides moderate penetration with little greasiness
• Promotes of collagen formation
• Inhibits lipid peroxidation
• Treats dry, mature skin
• Provides smooth spreadability
• Provides skin protection from the sun

How is it used?
I use rice bran oil to cleanse my face at night, and include it in my body butters, soaps, and massage oils. As one of the richer carrier oils, it takes a moment to sink into the skin, and leaves a soft, velvety feel.

Photo credits to http://www.naturaljapanesebeauty.com

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Turkish Perfumer

Dear Readers,
Part of my "self-assigned" job as a perfumer is to discover and explore the interesting innovations of others in the profession. Vedat Ozan, a friend and colleague in Istanbul, has recently emerged as a standout media personality as well as a stellar perfumer with a unique signature. Here are the results of my interview with Vedat.

Do you identify yourself primarily as a perfumer, a media personality, an educator?
Vedat: I am primarily a perfumer, although I enjoy sharing what I know. Perfumery, as of any other form of art, is a way of communication between the perfumer, individuals and society.

In newspaper and TV interviews I’m considered as a perfume researcher - and I am very much afraid that it will stick on me as a label, leaving my modest creative side in darkness. I haven’t talked about my perfume formulations in my weekly show because I think that will be too egoistic, but I know this is risky as it can change my label from a perfumer to a perfume researcher.

How would you describe your evolution as a perfumer?
Vedat: Scents are part of my first memories, especially warm milk and cookies. As a teenager, I challenged myself to find out which perfumes the girls around me were using and making guesses about them.

On my trips, I always spend a lot of time in duty free aisles, spraying this or that to myself, my shirt and even my passport. (I will never forget the passport officer lady in the Malpensa Airport in Milan who opened the pages, closed her eyes, inhaled deeply and stamped my passport with a smile).

Prior to every trip, I plan ahead by checking the Internet for the perfumery houses, especially the "marginal" shops that offer fragrances that are different than those found in department stores. In Milan, for example, visiting the lovely Corso Como 10 of Carla Sozzani has been a habit of pilgrimage to me. I can find many extraordinary or niche brands under one roof there. It also has a lovely art gallery and a very interesting bookstore where I can spend hours without noticing how the time passes.

I visit Frederic Malle and Parfums Montale at every opportunity when I am in Paris. I plan to visit L'Etat Libre d’Orange; I find their concept very clever and amusing. In London I just had the chance to smell Frederic Malle’s latest edition of Geranium pour Monsieur, and also smelled a fabulous natural perfume, Shaman’s Party,formulated by the legendary Olivia Giacobetti, at Les Senteurs.

Next time I go to Paris, I plan to visit the Francis Kurkdjan boutique, this little shop seems to be rocking the perfumer circles in Paris at the moment.

You started your radio show in May, 2009. What are the most popular topics?
Vedat: The listeners really enjoy hearing about "bad" or unusual smells such as civet, ambergris and sweat. Today, after my broadcast about "sweat", I can definitely say that my feedback hit a peak and I was asked to continue this subject on my next broadcast. I would have never believed so many people had such "angst" about the smell of sweat!

I’m about to make a single broadcast about Soviet perfumes because no one has any idea about them here. Only three major perfumes were produced by state owned USSR factories, Red Poppy, Red Moscow, and Chypre. But as time passed, lots of people preferred to use the smuggled Western perfumes and would drink the Soviet perfumes when there was an alcohol ban.

Have you done any other public speaking about perfume?
Vedat: I just accepted an offer to give a conference lecture the Istanbul Retail Fair later this month at the Lufti Kirdar Convention Center.

My subject will be ambient scenting, using fragrance as a booster for in-shop sales, and using fragrance as a part of brand identity.

Let’s talk about your own perfumes. When you strive to construct an appealing fragrance, who do you have in mind as the end user of your fragrances? i.e., what is the profile you have in mind of the person or people who will open the bottle and experience a burst of pleasure?
Vedat: Even when making something masculine, my starting point is always a feminine figure from which I get the inspiration.

She is someone who is not satisfied by what is offered to her in the aisles of shops which can be found everywhere and wants to explore new dimensions (in terms of scents), a woman who likes surprises and has no prejudices. I cannot name a female figure in my life, my past or in my futuristic dreams, who exactly fits in this definition, so perhaps it is a collection or a patchwork of feminine qualities and cues I have accumulated in my life.

Maybe it is because I still try to reach the eternal female figure in my life. My mom passed away this February at the age of 93 and this feeling of mine has lots to do with that I think.

What perfumes have you made?

Vedat: Lighter Shade of Pale is light floral-citrus nuanced with water lily, iris, muguet, and various citruses on a base of sandalwood, cedar wood, ambergris, coumarin and some ozonic notes.

Bitter Moon, which I consider to be a love-or-hate fragrance, is a somewhat harsh aldehydic-fruity fragrance with bitter notes that led to its name itself. Have you read Brıuckner's Bitter Moon? The novel itself is a "harsh" one indeed.

Nude is an aquatic semi-floral which I have based around a marine accord.

The more masculine Baalbek contains cedar wood (the name is based on the significant symbol on the Lebanese flag) and patchouli at the base and generous dihydromyrcenol topped with cloves, bergamot, orange bigarade and lemon.

My latest, Tuberose Cashmere, is a sweet, sweet perfume with lots of hints from tuberose and a strong cashmeran dominated base.

There are twelve finished fragrances in my collection.

Are your perfumes influenced by cultural customs?
Vedat: Yes, geography and culture do influence my compositions and also the way I think about perfumes.

For example, Eau de cologne (kolonya in Turkish) is used very generously here. A house guest is offered a few drops before the tea is served. You are also offered some kolonya when leaving a public toilet, or even on intercity bus trips, the host or hostess definitely serves you a few drops of kolonya just after you depart. It is somewhat a cultural icon. In times of stress, or sorrow, people immediately offer you some cologne to make you feel fresher.

Also, rose and jasmine are considered to be feminine scents in the West. It would be unusual to find a man smelling of roses and musk in Denmark or Iceland or Norway, but if you come to Istanbul and wait near a big mosque for the prayer to finish, you find Islamic men coming out with their beards smelling of rose and musk. This is even more common as you go to the Eastern, more Arabic countries.

Other than our national drink, Raki, for which I have named one of my perfumes, I think that our cuisine, however, is more of a social influence rather than an influence on my perfumes.

What is your biggest challenge as a perfumer?
Vedat: My biggest challenge is that there is no one with whom I can share topics about perfumery in my own language. There are people with whom I can talk about perfumes, but not about the more technical aspects of dilution ratios, qualities of the naturals, biological and physiological facets, or perception of odor molecules.

As a perfumer, what are your business goals for the next twelve months?

Vedat: As it is nearly impossible to achieve any "success" locally here before getting your name known, I will try my best to have my name known in next to any subject related to scents and fragrances here. I feel that this will be my greatest capital for the future.

Until then, I will go on experimenting and hoping that a perfume with my name attached on it will attract some clients.

This means I have to try harder with my radio show and with any attention it attracts from any kind of media.

If you wish to contact Vedat, he can be reached at vedato@yahoo.com

Image Acknowledgements: BeautynewsNYC.com, The Brand Union - Sauce, Londontown.com

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Perfuming the Edge of the World, Conclusion (Update)

This article concludes a series of perfume exercises intended to develop an earthy, organic, green, outdoor forest woodland fragrance from natural materials, constructed around an accord of pine, redwood, and cypress, supported and deepened with fragrances of loamy soil, leather, mushroom and tree moss, as well as accessorized by notes of smoke, hot seashells, and rain on earth.

This composition is intended to be an organoleptic representation of Rumsen Carmel Ohlone ethnobotanicals, interwoven with environmental fragrances that would have been present and noticeable during their annual encampment at their Point Lobos summer village.

Top Notes:
Laurel Leaf, Violet Leaf, Black Currant Bud, Fern, Carrot and Celery Seed, Kelp, Boronia, and Cassie

Heart Notes:
Foin Coupe, Sage, Tarragon, Cedar Leaf, Orris Root, Genet, Honey, Birch Bud, Rose, Narcissus, Carnation, and White Ginger Lily

Base Notes:
Fir Balsam, Aged Cedar Wood, Earth, Smoke, White Willow, Cypress, Mosses of Oak and Pine, Pine Needles, Deer Antler, and Sea Shells.

Edge of the World opens with the delicate essence of a coastal oak and pine forest, evoking the movement of ocean breezes, pounding surf on the rocks, while capturing the warm presence of human skin.

The heart notes emerge to reveal the naturalness of fields, moist ferns, herbs, and forest loam, slightly nuanced with woody-flowery, hay and tea-like herbaceous fragrances of native wheat and grasses, interwoven with delicate fresh foliage, nuances of blackberry, elderberry and thimbleberry, spicy red currant, juicy cucumber, and fresh, honey-like hyacinth.

The drydown of this woody aromatic chypre, similar to the approach of evening in the forest, imparts the relaxing, grounding fragrances of delicate woods, ferns, and mosses.

UPDATE: To read this entire article, please return to Part One.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Brief Note to Readers

Am now focused Eastward towards a brilliant new independent perfume star in Istanbul who also hosts a very popular radio show on perfume topics.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Perfuming the Edge of the World, Part 11 (Update)

Composing the Notes de Tête

As perfume rises from the bottle, or from a scent strip, or from the skin, the beholder’s first impression will be the top note, which is the “greeting note” of the perfume. This is a short-lived note that quickly dissipates as it also leads the perceiver through the transition into the heart notes. An inviting top note is not the least of the factors upon which the commercial success or failure of a perfume depends.

The goal of today’s perfume exercise is to develop a fragrant and inviting note of perfumed greeting that represents the ethnobotanicals used by the Rumsen Carmel Ohlone, interwoven with environmental fragrances that would have been present and noticeable during their annual stay at their Point Lobos summer village.

I’ve been anticipating a unique challenge regarding this most critical part of the composition, because traditional perfumery typically relies on the contribution of citrus to top notes. The Carmel area lacks any native citrus botanicals, so I must find a way to work without them.

To provide a unique fragrance introduction to the world of the Ohlone natives, I finally decided to try an alternate composition based on fresh air of meadows and seashore, a brief breeze carrying gently woody-flowery, hay and tea-like herbaceous fragrances of native wheat and grasses, interwoven with delicate fresh foliage, nuances of blackberry, elderberry and thimbleberry, spicy red currant, juicy cucumber, and fresh, honey-like hyacinth.

My first attempt, according to experience, reason, and careful blending, should have smelled very pleasant on the skin. It smelled fine in the bottle and on the scent strip. But when I applied to my skin it was a disappointing stink bomb. So I stepped away from the blending room for a few days to re-think the matter.

However, one of the interesting phenomena of perfume making is that fragrance molecules sometimes do unexpected things when given a little time and space. So by the time I returned to the perfume table, the accord had developed into the quite lovely fragrance I had hoped for.

My time out also had another benefit. I was able to think about how the top note could be approached a little differently, since at the time it didn’t seem to be going so well. So now I have a backup plan to try out as well.

Here is the summary of my first pass:

Boronia Flower absolute from Tasmania, genus Rutaceae, possesses the warm, sharp, spicy, dry, and herbaceous effects very similar to native wheat and grasses while also lending subtle fruity elements reminiscent of blackberry, elderberry, wild huckleberry, and thimbleberry. It’s sometimes used in high class chypre and fougere perfumes, and it blends beautifully with the cedar leaf used in the heart.

For the fragrance of fresh foliage, I used a dilution of an experimental concrete of Apple Blossom from Australia, along with the wonderfully diffusive absolute of Violet leaf, Viola odorata, a green leaf fragrance containing a natural, delicate cucumber note that typifies the wild cucumber.

The unique warm and wood-floral note of Cassie absolute, Acacia farnesiana, gleams from a complementary setting in Celery Seed, Apium graveolens, an essential oil from India, provided a warm, earthy-spicy, and rich effect similar to the native wild celery, and Carrot Seed, Daucus carota, a CO2 extract from Moldova, famous for its dry-woody, wet-earthy ambiance.

Elemi oil, Canarium luzonicum, possesses a light, fresh, lemon-like, peppery odor which later dries out into a balsamic, slightly green-woody, sweet-spicy, pleasant note. It was very useful as a freshener in this blend, and paired well with Guiacwood, Bulnesia sarmienti, with its delicately sweet, rosy woody, slightly smoky fragrance. The fragrance of this accord typifies the summer fragrance of the Point Lobos area.

I used a small amount of Black Currant Bud, Ribes nigrum-niribine, an absolute from France, as a substitute for the powerful spicy-woody, and slightly phenolic undertone of the native Red Flowering Currant, Ribes sanguineum.

A tincture of Kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera, from the kelp forests of Point Lobos provides an ozonic-marine, foggy seashore fragrance.

For a natural sweet, hyacinth-honey like aspect, I used a small amount of highly diluted Kewda Flower, Pandanus Odoratissimus, from India, combined with flowery, hay- and tea-like, woody Alaia Flower, Aglaia odorata, an absolute extraction from China, abs extraction.

In the next posting I will be exploring an alternate opening accord.

UPDATE: This project is now completed and I will be posting the summary soon.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Perfuming the Edge of the World, Part 10 (Updated Version)

Composing the Notes de Fond

The goal of today’s perfume exercise is to develop a secret fragrant heart of wild grasses, green herbs, ferns and florals from natural materials, supported and deepened with the fragrances of honeybees and warm human skin.

Again, this composition is intended to be an organoleptic representation of Rumsen Carmel Ohlone ethnobotanicals, interwoven with environmental fragrances that would have been present and noticeable during their annual encampment at their Point Lobos summer village.

To convey the fragrant coumarin effect of wild grasses I used Hay, Foin Coupe, absolute from France, and tinctures of Sweet Grass Hierochloe odorata, and Tonka Bean,
Dipteryx odorata, an absolute from Venezuela.

The ethereal and slightly minty fragrance of green herbs was achieved with tinctured wild harvested White Sage, Salvia apiana, Tarragon, Artemisia douglasiana, known as Estragon by perfumers, and Wild Nettles, Urtica dioica. This herbal accord was paired with
with warm, rich Mugwort Artemisia vulgaris essential oil. Small amounts of Birch Bud CO2, Betula allegheninsis, and European Cedar Leaf, Thuja occidentalis, highlight the golden aspects of this combination.

The embellishment of fern was accomplished with Maile Fern, Aliyxia Oliviformis, an absolute from Hawaii. Wild iris and orchids were represented by the aroma of Orris Root tincture, wild roses by Geranium essential oil and Rosa damascena tincture from absolute. The heather fragrance of Genet absolute was used for French Broom. Gardenia Enfleurage rounds out the effects of honeysuckle, sweet pea, clover and everlasting. Bee fragrances composed of French Honey Absolute and tincture of beehive products from Wales. The lily accord was composed of White Ginger Lily and Jonquil Absolutes.

The scent of human skin and sweat was created with tinctured Costus root, Saussurea lappa, and cumin, Cumulum cyminum, both from India.

Update: To add slightly more emphasis to the fragrance of Everlasting, I added some Carnation absolute, Dianthus caryolphyllus, from Egypt and the tiniest amount of Cassia – Cinnamonum cassia. This small touch lightened up the entire heart.

The next post will be a perfume exercise with Notes de Tête.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Perfuming the Edge of the World, Part 9

Composing the Notes de Base

The goal of today’s perfume exercise is to develop an earthy, organic, green, outdoor forest woodland base from natural materials, constructed around an accord of pine, redwood, and cypress that has been supported and deepened with fragrances of loamy soil, leather, mushroom and tree moss, as well as accessorized by notes of smoke, hot seashells, and rain on earth.

This composition is intended to be an organoleptic representation of Rumsen Carmel Ohlone ethnobotanicals, interwoven with environmental fragrances that would have been present and noticeable during their annual encampment at their Point Lobos summer village.

To convey the fragrance of Monterey Cypress I chose to use Cypress, Cupressus sempervirens, essential oil from France. It has exceptional fragrance movement and development, and smells very similar to the Monterey cypress.

The fragrance of Monterey Pine was achieved by a pairing of Canadian wild harvested Fir Balsam, Albies balsamea, with its rich aroma of the conifer pine forest - ethereal, sweet, and slightly minty - with the delicately rich resinous aroma of the Silver Fir Albies alba essential oil, wild harvested from Austria. I lightly glamoured the result with a hint of fragrant fir cones in the form of Templin essential oil from Bosnia.

A judicious application of my 2007 Tincture of white willow Salix alba wood chips imparted the fragrance of willow branches and bark.

A gloriously aged 75 year old cedarwood atlas essential oil serves to round, smooth, and lend an aura of burnished antiquity to the dryer Cedarwood Virginia Juneripus virginiana and the sweeter Cedarwood Atlas, Cedrus atlantica. The resulting accord closely approximates the fragrant coast redwoods of Point Lobos.

Embellishments of smoke, hot rocks and seashells were accomplished with the breathtakingly smoky Birch Tar, Betula alba, combined with the smoky resinous Choya Ral attar, and oceanic Choya Nakh, the destructive co-distillation of seashells and sandalwood oil.

I have also interwoven a five percent dilution of Oakmoss, Evernia prunastri with a tincture of Cedar Moss, Evernia furfuacea.

The scents of loam, earth, and first rain are represented by attar of Mitti (destructively distilled earth), and a co-distilled Vetiver and Mitti essential oil. This accord is enhanced by fragrances of mushroom, Cêpes, Boletus edulus, a French absolute in two percent dilution, and by a proprietary 2006 tincture of deer antler that imparts a soft note of deerskin.

Blending Note: In the previous post, several additional Notes de Base were listed. During the above blending exercise I either decided to not use them, or to try to use them in different parts of the total blend:

The Artemisia douglasiana – mugwort – is to be used in the heart.
Navarretia squarrosa – skunkweed –which was to have been represented by a tincture of skunk oil was eliminated because I discovered that it was infused in oil rather than alcohol as I had previously thought.
I have decided to use the sage in the Notes de Tête, along with nuances of sweat and seaweed.

The next post will be a perfume exercise with Notes de Cour.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Crossing the Rubicon

Alchemy, Spagyria, Magic,Reiki, Numerology, Kabbalah, Correspondences, Color Frequency, Crystals, Flower Essences, Herbology, Ethnobotany, Astrology, Mythology, Archtypes, Tarot - what do these ancient esoteric disciplines have in common with each other and how do they fit into making perfume?

Being a Christian minister has never stopped me from pursuing and incorporating these practices into my life and my perfumes. Until now I have been reluctant about speaking publicly about these matters, as there are some that would call them utter nonsense, hooey, non-scientific, a silly waste of time, irrelevant, or even evil and satanic. I, however, choose to believe that whether or not these things are acknowledged, they intrinsically affect us all.

So I am taking this opportunity to announce my formal departure from the closet.

Embracing and yet expanding beyond the mainstream of conventional perfuming and conventional religion, we thus cross the Rubicon into the realm of Mystical Perfumery.

Shelley Waddington, Los Gatos, CA

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Perfuming The Edge of the World, Part 8

The Case of the Missing Mitti

In preparation for blending, I set out all the fragrance items on my blending table. Sfortunatamente, no mitti to be found. This lapse in my inventory skills will delay the project. Despite the project’s primary objective of ethnobotanical accuracy, I plead artistic license in considering mitti an essential ingredient for helping to capture the fragrance of earth and the first droplets of water on dry soil.

The fragrance of earth is additionally important because the RCO wore no clothing and spread mud on their bodies to stay warm when the weather was cold.

While waiting for the acquisition of mitti, I am using the additional time for tincturing deer antler, fresh sage, kelp, and willow chips.

Deciding On The Carrier

Being there is no recorded historical precedent to rely on, an educated guess would lead to the conclusion that animal fat and/or beeswax would have been the salve carriers used by the RCO’s.

I have eliminated animal fat for this project as seal, sea otter, or deer fat is beyond the scope of my immediate inventory, and I am unwilling to face park rangers whose disapproval would predictably escalate to hostility were I to pursue this direction. Plus, there is the concern of eventual rancidity which is unsuitable for a variety of reasons.

Beeswax, with its high melting point, is not a suitable carrier for fragrance in and of itself, although it would serve well to harden an oil based fragrance. Since some of the subject botanicals I plan to use are indeed infused in vegetable oil, I have given consideration to using a vegetable oil carrier and hardening it with beeswax.

However, the majority of ethnobotanical materials I have developed do not lend their fragrance to oil. I have thus tinctured them in high proof organic grape alcohol, which will not mix into an oil based product. Thus, rather than to sacrifice the use of these materials, I have decided to use organic grape alcohol as the primary carrier, reserving the use of bee products for fragrance only.

I still like the idea of a solid perfume, and even though it would be by neccessity composed of fewer fragrance materials, may pursue this concept as another project.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Perfuming the Edge of the World, Part 7

(This is part seven of an ongoing article about the Rumsen Carmel Ohlone Native Californians.)

In this part we will begin to determine what family of fragrance to build. Here I will begin with the base.

Per the previous post, the following Notes de Base were determined:

*Artemisia douglasiana – mugwort
*Cupressus macrocarpa - Monterey cypress
Navarretia squarrosa - skunkweed
*Pinus radiata - Monterey pine
*Salix lasiolepis - arroyo willow
*Salix scouleriana - Scouler willow
*Salvia mellifera - black sage
Salvia microphylla - smalled-leaved sage
Sequoia sempervirens - coast redwood
Additional environmental fragrances:
Hot rocks and seashells
Tree moss
Loam, earth
Rain on earth
Willow branches, bark and foliage

These notes point to the beginnings of a green, woody leather chypre.

Summary: Green, natural and outdoors scents of pine, sage, redwood, artemesia and cypress are supported and deepened with fragrances earth and woody leather, mushroom and tree moss.

I will be returning to my blending studio on Friday to experiment with mixing these materials, and will record and evaluate the outcome as an update to this post.

Shelley Waddington
Carmel-By-the-Sea, California

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Perfuming the Edge of the World, Part 6

(This is part six of an ongoing article about the Rumsen Carmel Ohlone Native Californians.)

Selecting Ethnobotanical Fragrance Elements

In this step I have selected the most ideal and replicable botanicals for the perfuming process and categorized them into the most likely perfume notes they will fit into. At the end of each category I have placed the additional environmental elements that could be included.

Notes de tête:
*Achillea millefolium - common yarrow
*Apium graveolens - celery/smallage
Fragaria vesca - wood strawberry
Artemisia dracunculus - dragon sagewort/tarragon
*Carex harfordii - Monterey sedge
*Carex praegracilis - clustered field sedge
*Carex tumulicola - foothill sedge
Danthonia californica - California oat-grass
*Eriogonum nudum var. auriculatum - coast buckwheat
*Eriogonum parvifolium - dune buckwheat
*Eriophyllum confertiflorum - golden yarrow
*Lepidium nitidum - common pepper-grass
*Lepidium strictum - wayside pepper-grass
Marah fabaceus - man-root/wild cucumber
*Raphanus sativus - wild radish
*Ribes sanguineum var. glutinosum - red flowering currant
*Rubus parviflorus - thimbleberry
*Rubus ursinus - California blackberry
*Sambucus mexicana - blue elderberry
*Stachys bullata - wood mint
*Vaccinium ovatum - evergreen huckleberry
Additional environmental fragrances:
Cooked grain
Fragrance of fresh cut green vegetables and grasses
Ripe fruits
Fragrance of medicinal herbs

Notes de Fond:
Calochortus albus var. albus - globe lily
*Calochortus uniflorus - large-flowered star lily
*Ceanothus griseus - Carmel ceanothus
Danthonia californica - California oat-grass
*Dryopteris arguta - Calif. wood fern
Ericameria ericoides - mock heather
Fritillaria affinis - checker lily
Genista monspessulana - French broom
Geranium dissectum - cut-leaved geranium
Geranium retrorsum - New Zealand geranium
Gilia achilleifolia ssp. multicaulis - many-stemmed gilia
Gilia clivorum - gilia
*Gnaphalium californicum - California everlasting
*Gnaphalium ramosissimum - pink everlasting
Iris douglasiana - Douglas iris
*Lathyrus vestitus var. puberulus - common Pacific pea
*Lathyrus vestitus var. vestitus - San Gabriel or canyon pea
*Lonicera hispidula var. vacillans - hairy honeysuckle
Lotus purshianus var. purshianus - Spanish clover
*Lupinus albifrons var. douglasii - Douglas' silver lupine
*Lupinus arboreus - yellow bush/tree lupine
*Lupinus nanus - sky lupine/Douglas' annual lupine
*Lupinus variicolor - Lindley's varied lupine
*Pellaea mucronata var. mucronata - bird's-foot fern
Pentagramma triangularis ssp. Triangularis - goldback fern
Phacelia distans - wild heliotrope
Piperia elegans - elegant rein orchid
Polystichum munitum - sword fern
*Pteridium aquilinum var. pubescens - western bracken fern
*Rosa californica - California wild rose
*Scrophularia californica - bee plant
Selaginella bigelovii - Bigelow's moss-fern
*Trifolium barbigerum - colony clover
*Trifolium wormskioldii - cow clover/coast clover
*Urtica dioica ssp. Holosericea - hoary nettle
Woodwardia fimbriata - chain fern
Zigadenus fremontii - Fremont's star lily
Additional environmental fragrances:
Fragrance of bedding
Fragrance of blooming flowers

Notes de Base:
*Artemisia douglasiana – mugwort
*Cupressus macrocarpa - Monterey cypress
Navarretia squarrosa - skunkweed
*Pinus radiata - Monterey pine
*Salix lasiolepis - arroyo willow
*Salix scouleriana - Scouler willow
*Salvia mellifera - black sage
Salvia microphylla - smalled-leaved sage
Sequoia sempervirens - coast redwood
Additional environmental fragrances:
Hot rocks and seashells
Tree moss
Loam, earth
Rain on earth
Willow branches, bark and foliage

Coming next: Deciding on what fragrance family to build

Perfuming the Edge of the World, Part 5

The first step I take in the creation of an interpretive perfume lies in conceptualization. Simply stated, what is the objective of the project? What is the intended result? What actions are required to reach that result? By what measure will I know that the objective and intended result has been satisfied?

My first objective for this project is to produce an existential all natural interpretive perfume composed of olfactory elements common to the Rumsen Carmel Ohlone. The intended result is to produce a perfume that evokes the authentic olfactory phenomena that would have been experienced by them at the time.

My second objective is to utilize additional non-native botanicals, carriers, and laboratory produced fragrance molecules to a separated portion of the fragrance blend, for the purpose of enhancing olfactory elements that cannot be produced solely by the use of botanicals. Such applications will be solely for the intended result of the enhancement of accurate interpretation of the living plants.

Required actions:
• analyze the olfactory elements that accompanied their lives
• identify the vascular plants that are known to have had practical use
• identify other native botanicals with olfactory characteristics suitable for incorporating
• reduce general olfactive and vascular plant lists to selected fragrancing elements
• organize those elements according to fragrance category and diffusion characteristics
• blend
• test
• identify the optimal carrier/dilutant
• blend to optimize fragrance and ratios of elements and blend to selected carrier
• test

Environmental olfactory elements to consider:
• Fire containing hot rock and seashell and basket
• Smoke of burning wood
• Fragrance of cooking grain, green vegetable, meat and foul
• Fragrance of fresh cut green vegetables and grasses
• Ocean
• Non-vascular plants: mushroom, tree moss, seaweed
• Loam, earth
• Rain on earth
• Willow branches, bark and foliage
• Tule grass
• Leather
• Sweat
• Fragrance of bedding
• Fragrance of blooming flowers and ripe fruits
• Fragrance of medicinal herbs

Vascular plants that are known to have been used by the subjects or that grow in proximity of the subjects, and that may be suitable for their fragrance value:
*Achillea millefolium - common yarrow
*Apium graveolens - celery/smallage
*Artemisia douglasiana - mugwort
Artemisia dracunculus - dragon sagewort/tarragon
*Calochortus albus var. albus - globe lily
*Calochortus uniflorus - large-flowered star lily
*Carex harfordii - Monterey sedge
*Carex praegracilis - clustered field sedge
*Carex tumulicola - foothill sedge
*Ceanothus griseus - Carmel ceanothus
*Chenopodium californicum - California goosefoot/soap plant
Chenopodium murale - wall goosefoot/nettle-leaved goosefoot
Chenopodium rubrum - red goosefoot
*Chlorogalum pomeridianum - soap plant/amole
*Cupressus macrocarpa - Monterey cypress
Danthonia californica - California oat-grass
*Dryopteris arguta - Calif. wood fern
Ericameria ericoides - mock heather
*Eriogonum nudum var. auriculatum - coast buckwheat
*Eriogonum parvifolium - dune buckwheat
*Eriophyllum confertiflorum - golden yarrow
*Foeniculum vulgare - sweet fennel
*Fragaria vesca - wood strawberry
Fritillaria affinis - checker lily
Genista monspessulana - French broom
Geranium dissectum - cut-leaved geranium
Geranium retrorsum - New Zealand geranium
Gilia achilleifolia ssp. multicaulis - many-stemmed gilia
Gilia clivorum - gilia
*Gnaphalium californicum - California everlasting
*Gnaphalium ramosissimum - pink everlasting
*Hordeum brachyantherum ssp. brachyantherum - meadow
*Hordeum brachyantherum ssp. californicum - California barley
Iris douglasiana - Douglas iris
*Lathyrus vestitus var. puberulus - common Pacific pea
*Lathyrus vestitus var. vestitus - San Gabriel or canyon pea
*Lepidium nitidum - common pepper-grass
*Lepidium strictum - wayside pepper-grass
Leymus condensatus - giant ryegrass
*Lobularia maritima - sweet alyssum
*Lonicera hispidula var. vacillans - hairy honeysuckle
Lonicera involucrata var. ledebourii - black twinberry
Lotus benthamii - Bentham's lotus
Lotus formosissimus - coast lotus/witch's teeth
Lotus heermannii var. orbicularis - woolly lotus
Lotus junceus - rush lotus
Lotus micranthus - small-flowered lotus
Lotus purshianus var. purshianus - Spanish clover
*Lotus scoparius - deerweed
*Lupinus albifrons var. douglasii - Douglas' silver lupine
*Lupinus arboreus - yellow bush/tree lupine
*Lupinus nanus - sky lupine/Douglas' annual lupine
*Lupinus variicolor - Lindley's varied lupine
Marah fabaceus - man-root/wild cucumber
Myrica californica - wax myrtle
Navarretia squarrosa - skunkweed
*Pellaea mucronata var. mucronata - bird's-foot fern
Pentagramma triangularis ssp. Triangularis - goldback fern
Phacelia distans - wild heliotrope
*Pinus radiata - Monterey pine
Piperia elegans - elegant rein orchid
*Plantago elongata - annual coast plantain
Polystichum munitum - sword fern
*Pteridium aquilinum var. pubescens - western bracken fern
*Quercus agrifolia var. agrigolia - coast live oak
Ranunculus californicus - California buttercup
*Raphanus sativus - wild radish
*Ribes sanguineum var. glutinosum - red flowering currant
*Rosa californica - California wild rose
*Rubus parviflorus - thimbleberry
*Rubus ursinus - California blackberry
*Salix lasiolepis - arroyo willow
*Salix scouleriana - Scouler willow
*Salvia mellifera - black sage
Salvia microphylla - smalled-leaved sage
*Sambucus mexicana - blue elderberry
*Scrophularia californica - bee plant
Selaginella bigelovii - Bigelow's moss-fern
Sequoia sempervirens - coast redwood
*Stachys bullata - wood mint
*Trifolium barbigerum - colony clover
*Trifolium wormskioldii - cow clover/coast clover
*Urtica dioica ssp. Holosericea - hoary nettle
*Vaccinium ovatum - evergreen huckleberry
*Verbena lasiostachys - western vervain
Woodwardia fimbriata - chain fern
Zigadenus fremontii - Fremont's star lily

*Botanicals with verified Monterey County Ohlone use by ethnobotanists Joyce DePow and Andy Hunter.

Carriers that are elements that would have been available to RCO’s:
Seed oils
Animal fats

Determining success (evaluation and testing):
Does it meet IFRA standards
Does it achieve the use of ethnobotanical materials
Does it meet traditional perfume standards of balance, diffusion, color and appearance, fragrance development and movement, longevity, texture
Is it organoleptically agreeable
Has it been evaluated both subjectively and by other perfumers
Does it have market appeal, if so in what market

Next: Reducing vascular plant list to selected fragrancing elements

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Perfuming the Edge of the World, Part 4

(This is the fourth part of an article about the Rumsen speaking Carmel Ohlone Native Americans.)

Discovering the Lost Treasure

In an almost unbelievable stroke of luck (helped along by the foresight of a few remarkable visionaries), the terrain and native plants of the Rumsen Carmel Ohlone territory remain relatively undisturbed. Except for some peripheral development, the main body of land remains almost unchanged beyond the natural acts of nature. Portions of the territory are protected nature preserves.

Within these bountiful areas lies the Holy Grail, the last living evidence of an intricately balanced culture, the place where, by applying the art and science of ethnobotany, a living understanding of the extinct RCO culture emerges.

Here are the native plants still growing in the Ichxenta locale:

Up the Carmel River into the Carmel Valley is Garland Ranch, also part of the RCO territory, and also a protected area. Here are the native plants still growing in the Garland locale:

There is no mention in primary sources of RCO use of incense or fragrant unguents. It can be concluded from secondary sources and from extrapolating our understanding of other California native tribes that they may have, in preparation for the hunt when, after fasting, sweating, and cleansing, utilized the smoke of burning sage to mask their remaining human odor.

Although no record exists of other forms of fragrancing, the RCO did use fragrant herbs and medicines containing roots, barks, leaves, fats, and resins.

Using the scholarly work of a dedicated ethnobotanist as a tabula rosa, the native plants can be cross-referenced with those that were used by the RCO, a process wherein the specific plants and their RCO uses are revealed.

As an interpretive perfumer, I will guide the reader through the making of a spiritual botanical perfume based solely on the plants that were used by the Rumsen Carmel Ohlone people. It will be a prayerful living accompaniment to honor the wisdom of those who were here before us.

May it teach us in the future to conserve rather than use up our natural resources;
to respect all people and their differences rather than to try to form all opinions into a single tribal mentality;
to protect the animals, birds and fish with whom we live—bringing them closer to us once again;
to be true to our innermost being through our own path of spirituality;
to make wise choices in our personal health and habits of living, and to live in harmony one with another, honoring and respecting the older people, caring for the younger people and those who are most frail or vulnerable in our society.

These are the lessons to be learned in honoring the Ohlone Way.

Perfuming the Edge of the World, Part 3

(This is the third part of an article about the Rumsen speaking Carmel Ohlone Native Americans.)

At Whaler’s Cove in Point Lobos, stands an old whaler’s cabin that houses a small but priceless Rumsen Carmel Ohlone archaeological assemblage that includes projectile points (including Desert side-notched points), a variety of cores and modified flakes, bone awls, a bone tube, a bone gaming piece, portable mortars, pestles, shell jewelry, and a bone whistle.

Perfuming the Edge of the World, Part 2

(This is the second part of an article about the Rumsen speaking Carmel Ohlone Native Americans.)

The Rumsen Carmel Ohlone territory is identified as Number 2 on the above map.

Location, Location, Location
As hunter-gatherers, RCO’s were constantly on the move throughout their territory, following the seasonal crops, animal and seafood cycles as they occurred. They were a complex society who were dependent on fishing and hunting. The land and sea provided well for them, and what they had in abundance they traded for items they could not obtain locally. Thus, they maintained a mutually beneficial association with other nearby groups and travelling native traders with whom they nevertheless maintained a wary ongoing vigilance.

The RCO managed their land well, taking surprisingly modern agricultural steps, such as controlled burning, to maintain an ideal provision of food, clothing, shelter, fuel, and tools. The wet meadows that preserved the water supplies were coppiced by the women to encourage the growth of choice basketry materials.

Margolin, in The Ohlone Way, offers a rich description of the annual life rhythm:
“For the Ohlones one harvest followed another in a great yearly cycle. There were trips to the seashore for shellfish, to the rivers for salmon, to the marshes for seeds, roots, and greens. There were also trips for milkweed fiber, hemp, basket materials, tobacco. and medicine.

Thus Ohlone life was a series of treks from one harvest to another. As one food or material ripened or came into season--and the season was often quite brief--the people worked hard to collect it and in some cases to dry, smoke, or otherwise preserve it. Then, after a small respite, there would be another harvest, another event, another episode in the year.

The series of ripenings and harvestings divided the year into different periods, and gave Ohlone life its characteristic rhythm. Moving from one harvest to the next, the Ohlone led what early observers called 'a wandering life.'

Each triblet had a major village site, but they did not live there throughout the year. 'They moved their village from place to place,' comment Father Francisco Palou. Sometimes the whole group traveled together. Other times it split up into separate families. But always the Ohlones were on the move, wandering about their land in pursuit of still another ripening crop."

The RCO had one or more permanent villages usually consisting of dome-shaped thatched huts clustered around an open area. At Point Lobos, the Ohlone established spring and summer village sites near the mouth of San Jose Creek at the Reserve's northern boundary and along Gibson Creek, which forms the southern edge of the Reserve.

This village along San Jose Creek, known as Ichxenta (pronounced “Ah-shen-ta”), was first occupied about 2,500 to 3,000 years ago, and is thought to be the longest inhabited Ohlone village site in the Monterey area. Within the Reserve, nineteen sites have been identified which were used as seasonal camps while gathering abalone and mussels or grinding seeds and acorns into meal. Other RCO villages of Achasta and Tucunut were located across the nearby Carmel River, close to the site where the Carmel Mission was later established.

Today, signs of the Ohlone's former presence can be found in many forms: black dirt from years of campsite fires, grinding stones, and large mounds of cast-away shells called middens.

The wandering life set the Ohlones apart from many other North America Natives. They did not cultivate or depend on one specific food source. They followed a more ancient way: the way of the hunter-gatherer. "Like the Arabs and other wandering tribes," wrote Captain Frederick Beechey, "these people moved about the country and pitch their tents wherever they find a convenient place."

In contrast to other parts of the world where hunter-gatherers lived in less favorable environments and needed expansive territories over which they could range in pursuit of food and water, in Carmel the abundance of wildlife and edible plants allowed for a small territory. “Stephen Powers' characterization of a Maidu people to the northeast of the Bay Area might just as accurately have described the Ohlones: ‘They shift their lodges perpetually: yet it is very seldom that a Nishinam, after all his infinite little migrations, dies a mile from the place of his birth. They are thoroughly home-loving and home-keeping, like all California Indians.’"

”Thus we can picture an Ohlone family on one of its ‘infinite little migrations.’ They number perhaps a dozen people. The old and infirm have been left behind in the main village where they will be visited regularly by other family members who make certain they are well-fed and comfortable. The women of the group are weighted down with burden baskets and digging sticks. Sets of cooking baskets and a variety of skins and pouches are heaped on top of the burden baskets. Some of the women have babies in cradles lashed to the top of everything else.

The older children carry small baskets full of seeds, acorns, and dried meats and fish. The men have quivers of bows and arrows tucked under their arms: over their shoulders are slung carrying nets filled with skins, knives, fire- making tools, beads, cordage, and perhaps ceremonial regalia. Some of the men and women also carry medicine bundles hidden within their baskets or nets.

They stop frequently along the trail to eat, nap or simply rest. The children romp about, excited by the sight of new or seldom-visited meadows. The men poke among the bushes, wandering off to revisit an old quarry site, a bear den, an eagle's nest, or some other point of interest. The women rest at the side of the trail: they are tired, for a fully-loaded burden basked weighs up to 200 pounds.

Later in the day the people arrive as their destination. The children gather firewood, the women unpack their baskets and cook dinner, and the men set about constructing shelters as a sweat-house. Within a day or two everyone is settled, the encampment is complete, and the people are thoroughly ‘at home.’"(Margolin)

Perfuming the Edge of the World, Part 1

Carmel, California began forming in the late 1800’s on ground previously occupied by the Ohlone (pronounced “Oh-lone-nee”). These were the native hunting and gathering inhabitants who preceded the Spanish occupiers who built the still-existing Carmel Mission.

The entire Ohlone (sometimes referred to as Costanoan) territory covered the coastal area of California from the northern San Francisco bay area to what is now the southernmost boundry of Monterey County. There were many independent subgroups within this larger group, many speaking distinctly different languages than their nearby neighbors.

Costanoan and Ohlone are externally applied names, or exonym’s. The Spanish explorers and settlers referred to the native groups of this region collectively as the Costeños (the "coastal people") circa 1769. Over time, the English-speaking settlers arriving later anglicized the word Costeños into the name of Costanoans. (The suffix "-an" is English). For many years, the people were called the Costanoans in English language and records. According to historian Florence Fava, the neighboring Miwuk tribes were the first to refer to this group as the "Ohlones" - the people of the West.

The Costanoan languages are considered by most linguists to be part of the Penutian family of languages, most closely related to Miwok. There were once several distinct Costanoan languages, including Mutsun, Rumsen, Karkin, and Cholon. These languages were as different from one another as the Romance languages of Europe (French, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese.) Language loss in California has been especially severe. None of the Costanoan languages have been spoken in more than fifty years. However, some of the few remaining Ohlone people are working to revive their ancestral language.

Some archeologists and linguists hypothesize that these people migrated from the San Joaquin-Sacramento River system and arrived into the San Francisco and Monterey Bay Areas in about the 6th century AD, displacing or assimilating earlier Hokan-speaking populations of which the Esselen in the south represent a remnant. Datings of ancient shell mounds in Newark and Emeryville suggest the villages at those locations were established about 4000 BC.

Through shell mound dating, scholars noted three periods of ancient Bay Area history, as described by F.M. Stanger in La Peninsula: "Careful study of artifacts found in central California mounds has resulted in the discovery of three distinguishable epochs or cultural 'horizons' in their history. In terms of our time-counting system, the first or 'Early Horizon' extends from about 4000 BC to 1000 BC in the Bay Area and to about 2000 BC in the Central Valley. The second or Middle Horizon was from these dates to 700 AD, while the third or Late Horizon was from 700 AD to the coming of the Spaniards in the 1770s.


This monograph is focused on a small group of Rumsen speakers who occupied a small section of the coastal area south of the Carmel River up through the lower end of Carmel Valley to the San Clemente Dam. It is their land on which I was raised in Carmel. From this point forward this group will be referred to as the Rumsen Carmel Ohlone, RCO for short, because it distinguishes them from other nearby groups, and because we don’t know what they called themselves.

This group remained undisturbed until the establishment of the Carmel Mission in the late 1700’s. However initially well-intentioned, the mission system was the equivalent of GITMO on steroids. It was a genocidal pogrom.

Remaining evidence of the Rumsen Carmel Ohlone villages and ways of life are extremely scarce. Few artifacts remain, as they made no pottery, preferring the use of more portable finely woven baskets. Nor did they work with metal. They burned their dead. Their custom of never speaking of the dead precluded the development of any verbal history. They did not value the accumulation of goods or wealth. Of their intricate basketry, remaining examples are scarce. By the time this tiny nation of about two hundred people was ultimately decimated by the effects of the mission system, their previous sustainable, portable lifestyle left little in the way of a footprint of their culture.

Following the confiscation of the missions by the Mexican government in 1834, the few remaining descendants of the RCO travelled to Southern California in 1864 to work on ranches. There, those who can still trace their Ohlone ancestry have recently established the tribes listed below and are making admirable efforts to revive some of the old ways.

Other than these few individuals living several hundred miles away, the tribe is officially classified as being extinct. The Rumsen language, as mentioned above, is no longer spoken and only a few words were ever recorded. By the time photographs of any remaining descendants were taken, tribal life had been virtually obliterated.

Costanoan Rumsen Carmel Tribe
3025 E. Brookside Ct.
Ontario, CA 91761

Costanoan Rumsen Carmel Tribe
3929 Riverside Dr.
Chino, CA 91710

Costanoan Band of Carmel Mission Indians
P.O. Box 1657
Monrovia, CA 91016

Sunday, June 28, 2009

From Abattoir to Atomizer Part II

Interpreting the Scent of Leather
Part II

As promised in the previous post, I will now discuss the correlation between leather making and the process of making an interpretive perfume, first by mapping the alchemical process of the making of leather, followed by an explanation of how this relates to perfume formulation.

Leather Alchemy

The gross matter of urine, manure, and decaying flesh are described in the previous post as being the first part of the leather making process. Although of the life force, these things typify the hellish, gory type of mess that people generally prefer to reject.

It is in the first stage of alchemical transformation that the breakdown of the above primordial, chaotic mess begins. This first stage of purification is associated with the black crow and is also symbolized by fire.

Continuing the operation of dissolution, the gross matter continues to break down during the second stage of alchemy.

Stage three is when the impure, unworthy material is separated out and discarded. The desired components are isolated and recovered.

In state four, the saved elements are then recombined to begin producing a whole new substance, the beginning of a new incarnation. This is where, in leather making, the hides would be introduced to rye flour, oat flour, yeast, salt and water.

Stage five is called fermentation. During this time the saved elements are allowed first to putrefy, and then to ferment in the flour, yeast, salt and water.

The stages up until this point are considered the black stages of alchemy. With stage six, we begin the white phase in which, after fermentation, agitation, and sublimation, the impurities are removed by the introduction of the tanning liquor of pine and willow barks and then finally by the impregnation of precious oils of birch, seal and sandalwood.

Stage seven, the final step, results in the new, resurrected material. Thus ends the First Magesterium, known as the Lunar Stone.

Alchemists believed that ultimate success required three passes through the above seven operations, twenty-one steps in all.

Think of it this way:

First Magesterium: The Lunar Stone. The alchemical transformation of the subject, the perfume idea itself - in this case, leather.
Second Magesterium: The Solar Stone. The alchemical transformation of each individual component that will be combined to make the final perfume formula. (This could include tinctures, extracts, infusions, elixirs, distilled oils, concretes, absolutes, laboratory developed molecules, alcohol, and water.) Those items selected by the perfumer will be organoleptically and vibrationally suited to synergistically represent all of the elements and processes of the subject.
Third Magesterium: The Stellar Stone. This is the final fragrant blend, the union of the Lunar and Solar Stones. It is also known as the golden or astral body as well as the coagulation of spirit in matter. The Stellar Stone is the full awakening of the intention, skill, and consciousness of the perfume artist.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

From Abattoir to Atomizer Part I

Interpreting the Scent of Leather
Part I

Perfumes based on the “scent of leather” are far from being a new concept, and one can easily locate blogs and articles about the efforts of various companies and perfumers since the beginning of the twentieth century who have executed this idea, sometimes quite successfully.

Prior to taking on the project of creating a leather concept perfume of my own design, I tasked myself to learn about the historical process of leather making. My thought was that it would be better to be informed by the source material, rather than to just “copy” ideas of previous perfumers without any understanding of how those ideas were derived.

Part I of this article is a summary of my findings, in a roughly chronological order. Part II will be more about how the findings relate to perfuming and to fragrance interpretation.

An Ancient Epiphany

At some point long ago, our early ancestors discovered that by immersing animal skins in a brew of water containing various barks, berries, and leaves, the skins became rot resistant and significantly softer than dried skins. The active components of those liquids are now understood to be tannins, thus the process is now referred to as leather tanning.

The process of leather tanning spread rapidly and was improved upon by different nations. By the middle ages, tanneries were established in areas with adequate sources of all necessary materials such as water supply, a lot of trees rich in tannins, and a supply of skin and hides.

Tanneries at Fez

In ancient history, tanning was considered a noxious or "odiferous trade" and relegated to the outskirts of town, amongst the poor. Indeed, tanning by ancient methods produces such foul smells that tanneries are still isolated from those towns today where the old methods are used.

Skins typically arrived at the tannery dried stiff and dirty with soil and gore. First, the ancient tanners would soak the skins in water to clean and soften them. Then they would pound and scour the skin to remove any remaining flesh and fat. Next, the tanner needed to remove the hair fibers from the skin. This was done by soaking the skin in urine, painting it with an alkaline lime mixture, or simply letting the skin putrefy for several months then dipping it in a salt solution.

After the hair fibers were loosened, the tanners scraped them off with a knife. Once the hair was removed, the tanners would bate the material by pounding dung into the skin or soaking the skin in a solution of animal brains. Among the kinds of dung commonly used was that of dogs or pigeons. Sometimes the dung was mixed with water in a large vat, and the prepared skins were kneaded in the dung water until they became supple, but not too soft. The ancient tanner might use his bare feet to knead the skins in the dung water, and the kneading could last two or three hours.
It was this combination of urine, animal feces and decaying flesh that made ancient tanneries so odiferous.

Children employed as dung gatherers were a common sight in ancient cities. Also common were "piss-pots" located on street corners, where human urine could be collected for use in tanneries or by washerwomen. In some variations of the process, cedar oil, alum or tannin was applied to the skin as a tanning agent. As the skin was stretched, it would lose moisture and absorb the agent.

Spanish Cordwain (Cordovan) Leather

Fragment of Cordwain

The Caliphate of Córdoba (Arabic: خلافة قرطبة Khilāfat Qurṭuba) ruled the Iberian peninsula (Al-Andalus) and North Africa from the city of Córdoba, from 929 to 1031. This period was characterized by remarkable success in trade and culture; many of the masterpieces of Islamic Iberia were constructed in this period, including the famous Great Mosque of Córdoba. In January of 929, Abd-ar-Rahman III proclaimed himself Caliph (in place of his original title Emir of Córdoba) The rule of the Caliphate is known as the heyday of Muslim presence in the Iberian peninsula.

As part of the Muslim influence in Spain in the ninth century, embossed leather tapestries known as guadameci became favored by the church and among the elite classes. This style spread throughout Europe and beautifully worked Spanish Leather was used for wall covering and flooring in luxurious rooms, as book coverings, and as artistic upholstery and altar fronts in Italy, France and Spain.

Embossed gilded leather hangings in a Dutch interior, ca 1730, painted by Philip van Dijk

Russian Leather, or Russia Red Leather

Russia leather is a type of vegetable tanned leather, but has very distinctive oils used during the currying process. This oil has an aromatic scent, and because of this the leather has certain scent properties that also imparted insect resistance and mold and mildew resistance. This type of leather was used both ornamentally and functionally in book bindings and hat sweat bands. It was embossed with a pattern in the grain surface of the leather, such as a diamond pattern as well as others. The leather is known for its distinctive red color, but was also dyed black. This leather is no longer tanned.

In the making of this leather, the preliminary operations of soaking, unhairing, and fleshing were done in the usual manner, and then the hides were permitted to ferment and swell in a mixture of rye flour, oat flour, yeast, salt and water. The tanning process was then completed by putting them into tanning liquor composed of pine and willow barks, equal parts.

The currier would then temper the hides by impregnated them with a compound consisting of 2/3 parts birch oil and 1/3 parts seal oil. The leather was then "set out," "whitened," and well boarded and dried before dyeing.

A decoction of sandalwood, alone or mixed with cochineal, was used for producing the Russian red color, and this dye liquor was applied several times, allowing each application to dry before applying the following one. A brush was used to spread the dye liquor on the grain side.

The dye liquor was prepared by boiling eighteen ounces of sandalwood in thirteen pints of water for one hour, filtering, and dissolving in the filtering fluid one ounce of prepared tartar and soda, which was then given an hour's boiling and set aside for a few days before use.

After dyeing, the leather was again impregnated with the mixture of birch and seal oils (applied to the grain side on a piece of flannel) and when the dyed leather had dried, a thin smear of gum-dragon mucilage was given to the dyed side to protect the color from fading, while the flesh side was smeared with bark-tan juice and the dyed leather then grained for market.

"Boots of Spanish Leather" by Bob Dylan

Part II of this article to follow...

Acknowledgements to the following:
Henley's Twentieth Century Formulas Recipes Processes by Norman W. Henley and others

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Fire, Smoke, and Illumination

Ancient pagan observance of Belatain takes place in early May. It was considered the first day of summer, marked by bale-fires between which the flocks were driven to summer pastures while being blessed and protected by the smoke.

The corresponding Byzantine and Roman Catholic liturgical event is Easter eve. Early Fathers St. Gregory Nazianzus and St. Gregory of Nyssa give vivid descriptions of the illumination of the Easter vigil. Five grains of incense were set cross-wise in an enormous candle, recalling the sacred wounds retained in Christ's body, and the lighting of the candle with new fire itself symbolized the resurrection. Evidence that stretches back as far as Tertullian and Justin Martyr shows that catechumens were baptized on Easter eve and that this ceremony of baptism was spoken of as photismos, i.e., illumination.

To this day, the lighting of Judas fires are part of the Easter eve observance on Cyprus. Throughout the countryside and in neighborhood churchyards, piles of collected wood are burned to represent the burning of Judas, the betrayer.

Current Roman Catholic observance includes the lighting of the Pascal candle, ornamented with five grains of incense. Sometimes the candle is lit from from a blessed bonfire in the churchyard. The lighted candle procession then enters the dark church to begin a candlelight service in which each member of the congregation holds a candle shares the Pascal fire, passing it from candle to candle until all candles are lighted and the church is beautifully illuminated.

Incense, with its sweet-smelling perfume and high-ascending smoke, is considered by many religions as a symbol of prayer, which, enkindled in the heart by the fire of love, rises up as an exhaled offering.

(This is the second article about religious instinct. The first was Devolution? published on February 14, 2009.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Four Thousand Year Old Perfumery

Pyrgos/Mavroraki is an archaeology site in the Limassol district of Cyprus, spanning from 2350BC to 1850BC. The mission’s head archaeologist, Professor Maria Rosaria Belgiorno, who works for Italy’s National Research Council, excavated the site with her team, starting in 2005.

The site, an early Bronze Age industrial complex that produced wine, perfumes and textiles dyed with purple or blue indigo, also includes remains of a palace from the early Bronze Age.

Belgiorno and her team have also painstakingly researched and recreated the 4,000 year old fragrances from residues found at the site perfumery. Belgiorno's recent book entitled Aromata Cipria, (Cyprus Perfumes), describes the process used for her perfume experiments that she conducted at the Antiquities Centre in Italy.

For each of the four perfumes recreated by Belgiorno and her team, the process took about five days and the mixture was enclosed in a jug buried under the sand in the sunlight at a temperature of no more than 50 degrees, to avoid damaging the mixture. The four scents produced are ‘Afrodite,’ ‘Elena,’ ‘Artemides’ and ‘Era.’ ‘Afrodite’ contains olive oil, pine, turpentine and bergamot. ‘Elena’ has scents of olive oil, laurel, coriander and turpentine. In ‘Artemides,’ almonds, myrtle, parsley and turpentine are used and, for ‘Era,’ olive oil, rosemary, green anise and lavender.

“For the essences, we copied the entire process, step by step, as was done, 4,000 years ago, putting the essences into a closed jug underground, in the sunlight for five days. But the entire process for the four different essences took about six months, because we had to wait for the seasonal essences to come out of the herbs,” Belgiorno said.

Olive oil was the basic ingredient for making medicaments, cosmetics, perfumes and soft textiles.
Regarding ancient methods used to make perfumes, Belgiorno also notes: “It is possible to extract essential oils and perfumed waters with the same system, as during boiling, the terpenes - tiny particles of fragrant plants, transported by vapour - pass the alembic head into a collecting jar. At the end of the operation, the essential oils float on the water surface and it is easy to separate them from the water.” The procedure, she adds, appears simple for a modern point of view but in the third millennium BC, it was different. The distillation methodology should follow serious rules including the system and duration of boiling, and cooling as the final stage.

“The vase used at Pyrgos as a condenser, was probably one of the large metallic ware jugs, whose neck shape and dimension is correct to contain the alembic spout and the base perfect to say inside a water basin. Six jugs of this type and dimension, all crushed, have been found in the Pyrgos perfumery: three were on the bench running along the eastern wall, two among the pits for maceration and one in north west corner, where there were two alembic heads and two large basins. “The experiments made to reconstruct the apparatus confirm that the shape and dimensions of the jugs are correct not only to be used as condensers but also as boilers (going inside the alembic head) which find a perfect support on the jug shoulders,” said Belgiorno.

Describing the process used by her team of archaeologists and scientists for copying the ancient perfumes, Belgiorno said: “In our experiment, we found that direct contact between the jug and the embers quickly raised the temperature in the liquid. Using a thermocouple to calculate the temperature inside the jug, 15 minutes after the start of the heat treatment, we found that it was 84C. This is rather high. Based on the literature, 55C was the right temperature for extracting essences. Thanks to a mistake in our procedure for making fragrant essences, we were able to see how hard it is to maintain the jug temperature constant from the outset.”

Update Posted 5/9/09
From Perfumer & Flavorist Magazine, March 2007 Issue:
Archaeologists have recently discovered the world's oldest perfumes in Pyrgos, Cyprus. The remaining traces of perfumes, dating back more than 4,000 years, were scented with extracts of lavender, bay, rosemary, pine or coriander and kept in small translucent alabaster bottles. Just as intriguing as the scents they found was where the archaeologists found them—a 43,000 square foot perfumery factory. There they found at least 60 distilling stills, mixing bowls, funnels and perfume bottles. The discoveries are on display at the Capitoline Museum in Rome. In addition, an Italian foundation has recreated four of the perfumes from residues found at the site.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Fragranced Interregnum

The following Universität Bonn press release was on the newswires this morning:

What Scents did the Ancient Egyptians use?

Researchers in Bonn aim to recreate a 3,500-year-old scent

The Ancient Egyptians cherished their fragrant scents, too, as perfume flacons from this period indicate. In its permanent exhibition, Bonn University´s Egyptian Museum has a particularly well preserved example on display. Screening this 3,500-year-old flacon with a computer tomograph, scientists at the university detected the desiccated residues of a fluid, which they now want to submit to further analysis. They might even succeed in reconstructing this scent, which would be a worldwide sensation.

Pharaoh Hatshepsut was a power-conscious woman who assumed the reins of government in Egypt around the year 1479 B.C. In actual fact, she was only supposed to represent her step-son Thutmose III, who was three years old at the time, until he was old enough to take over. But the interregnum lasted 20 years. She systematically kept Thutmose out of power, says Michael Höveler-Müller, the curator of Bonn University´s Egyptian Museum. Hatshepsut´s perfume is also presumably a demonstration of her power. We think it probable that one constituent was incense, the scent of the gods, Michael Höveler-Müller declares. This idea is not so wide of the mark, as it is a known fact that in the course of her regency Haptshepsut undertook an expedition to Punt, the modern Eritrea, and the Egyptians had been importing precious goods such as ebony, ivory, gold, and just this incense, from there since the third millennium B.C. Apparently the expedition brought back whole incense plants, which Hatshepsut then had planted in the vicinity of her funerary temple.

World Premier with an interesting result

The filigree flacon now under examination by the researchers in Bonn bears an inscription with the name of the Pharaoh. Hence it was probably once in her possession. The vessel is exceptionally well preserved. So we considered it might be rewarding to have it screened in the University Clinic´s Radiology Department, Höveler-Müller explains. “As far as I know this has never been done before. This world premier will now in all probability be followed by another one: The desiccated residues of a fluid can be clearly discerned in the x-ray photographs, the museum´s curator explains. Our pharmacologists are now going to analyse this sediment. The results could be available in a good year´s time. If they are successful, the scientists in Bonn are even hoping to reconstruct”the perfume so that, 3,500 years after the death of the woman amongst whose possessions it was found, the scent could then be revitalised.

Hatshepsut died in 1457 B.C. Analysis of the mummy ascribed to her showed that the ruler was apparently between 45 and 60 years of age at the end of her life; that she was also overweight, and suffering from diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis and arthritis. Obviously for reasons of security, she was laid to rest in the tomb of her wet nurse.

In 1903, over 3,300 years later, the famous Egyptologist Howard Carter stumbled upon the two mummies. However, more than 100 years were to pass before the Pharaoh´s corpse could be identified using DNA and dental analysis in the year 2007. Thutmose III, incidentally, appears not to have shed a single tear for his step-mother, as during his reign he had every image destroyed which showed her as ruler, and which could have belonged to her. (Source of this article listed at bottom of page.)

In my next post I will explore other concurrent perfumes existing in the timeframe of 1457 B.C., thirty-five thousand (!) years ago. Meahwhile, here is a place to learn and see more of this amazing woman: www.travelegypt.com/peopleinfo/hatshepsut.htm.

Images related to this press release may be viewed in the Internet under http://www.uni-bonn.de/ >> Aktuelles >> Presseinformationen.
Contact:Michael Höveler-MüllerÄgyptisches Museum der Universität Bonn
Telephone: 0228/73-9710