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.