A little blog update

Visiting Victoria's Own blog I found a nice gadget provided by blogger. Aquarium with fish. Pretty lovely creatures giving you illusion they are alive. Fish comes to your mouse pointer expecting something from you. And by clicking you can feed them. Nice little thing that made me smile.

So, I decided to get my own aquarium - you can find it here on the right. Please, enjoy and do feed my fish when I am away for too long... And I hope it makes you smile too.


Sharing my chypre experiment

Last time I was experimenting with a Chypre formula. The one from “An introduction to the perfumery” by Curtis. The original formula:
Bergamot FCF – 15
Sandalwood – 8
Vetiver (Bourbon) – 6
Oakmoss absolute decolorized – 5
Rose base – 6
Jasmine base – 5
Gamma-methyl-ionone – 3
Patchouli – 5
Musk-ketone – 3
Clary sage – 2
Neroli oil reconstructed – 2

Well, first of all I made a basic reconstruction of this formula using synthetic Sandal base and took just a couple of essential synthetics molecules for each of the mentioned bases (like PEA+citronellol+geraniol+rosone for the rose base). I also used a little bit of natural jasmine and rose absolutes as well as rose and neroli oils to brighten up the formula. Here there are conclusions I made before I’ll start on the second version:
- It’s very important to work separately on floral heart and balance it well before mixing with the chypre base.
- It’s also important to use naturals in the floral heart to make it strong enough to be able to compete against the strong chypre base (made off almost naturals only).
- Labdanum resinoide is in my opinion essential in a chypre – it gives a very soft ambery note and softens the oakmoss.
- I would be more careful with Clary Sage next time and may be even omit it.

Another interesting experiment was to create a natural chypre fragrance based on this formula. Well – it’s easy to think that you can just substitute the bases with the corresponding amounts of rose, jasmine and neroli oils and absolutes. But there is a problem – those precious and powerful essences and require very delicate balance – using just 6 parts of rose absolute and 5 part of jasmine absolute instead of rose and jasmine bases would result in a an "overrosed" accord. So, it’s very important to work carefully on the floral heart and balance it before mixing with the chypre base.

Methyl ionone is not an easy one to substitute with naturals – it is used not only as an iris-violet note, but also as a bridge between the woody and floral accords. Next to iris absolute or concrete there is also a Guaiac oil. It doesn’t smell like ionone at all, but it possess the function of the bridge between woody and floral notes. I used Guaiac oil with some Iris CO2 absolute.

Musk ketone can be substituted by natural musk or ambrette seed absolute. I only had ambrette seed tincture, so I used this one.

It was also interesting to create a “low budget natural formula” – to see if it’s possible to make a basic chypre using just the smallest amounts of expensive rose, jasmine and neroli oils and absolutes. For this formula I took just a drop of palmarosa and geranium oils (as a “rose” part), ylang-ylang oil (as a "jasmine" part) and petitgrain (as "neroli" part). I added some lavender oil to accompany the clary sage and geranium as well as some lime oil to accompany bergamot. Labdanum resinoide is really important chypre compound, so I added it too. Of course I used jasmine absolute, rose oil and absolute, neroli and iris CO2 just enough to add a finishing touch. Guaiac oil (as well as a touch of iris CO2) was used instead of methyl-ionone.

Well, my “low budget” formula was surprisingly pleasant. Definitely masculine, somewhat ascetic, deep and not cheap at all. It has character.

And there is something else I discovered about perfume. The better it’s balanced and the more natural ingredients are used the more intense is the emotional influence of the perfume. Like the last chypre I described – the feel of silence and restfulness filled me in at the moment I inhaled it.

P.S. Please, be aware of fact that amounts of oak moss used in this formula is higher than IFRA restrictions.


Musk animals and plants

The Latin (originally Greek) word moschus and its derivatives in the name of an animal mostly refer to the strong smell, and often are translated as musky.

The word Moschus on the first place of a Latin name refers to a musk deer and indicates the genus of the species.

On the second place of a Latin name of other species the derivatives of the word moschus (like moschatus, moschata, moschatellina) refer to other (than musk deer) species possessing a strong smell and often related to musk..

Next to the Musk deer there are also other species called moschata or musky. They are:
Among animals: Aromia moschata – musk beetle; Cairina moschata – muscovy duck; Hypsiprymnodon moschatus musky rat-cangaroo; Eledone moschata – musk octopus; Sternotherus moschatus – musk turtle; Desmana moschata – Russian desman; Ovibоs moschatus - muskox.
There is also Chrysolampus moschitus, but I can’t find any information on what animal it might be. Probably it’s a musk bird. Nosotragus moschatus – this beast I couldn’t find also.
Among musky plants there are: Abelmoschus moschatus – ambrette seed; Fragaria moschata – musk strawberry; Adóxa moschatellína - Moschatel; Achillea moschata – Musk milfoil; Malva moschata – musk-mallow, Mimulus moschatus – musk-flower.
There is also a musky fungus - Fusarium moschatum.

Not all “musk” animals or plants called “moschata” are used to obtain musk. For example, no musk is obtained from the muskox. From other side there are also animals, which Latin name doesn’t refer to a musk animal, like Paleosuchus palpebrosus or Cuvier's Dwarf Caiman. This musky caiman is used to obtain musk. Or the muskrat Ondatra zibethicus.

Tonkin (or Tonqine) musk from the Tonkin musk deer is still the superior in quality and is preferred to other musk sorts.


The reference for musk - natural musk

Image: Musk deer from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musk)

Russian version - click here

As Octavian writes on his blog there are four types of musk – a natural musk obtained from the musk deer, natural musks from other animals and plants, synthetic musk molecules and musk fragrances. Each group can represent a certain musk reference with wide variations of standards within the group.

Natural musk – was one of the most used ingredients in perfumery. Arctander says that it’s not only a good fixative, but it cal lift and give life to almost any well balanced perfume. The importance of natural musk in perfumery can be seen in Poucher’s “Perfumes, cosmetics and soaps” manual where he shares formulae for single floral accords like rose, lilac, violet, jasmine, etc. For each soliflore accord he suggests a perfume that can be made from the floral accord by adding of some natural essential oils and absolutes, often ambergris tincture and almost always a musk tincture. It’s as if the formula of rounded floral perfume was = floral accord (or a combination) + corresponding naturals + ambergris (or it can be another animal component or orris) + musk. The last one is almost obligatory for any perfume as it comes back almost in each perfume formula in this book.

Musk is obtained from the male musk deer (Moschus moschiferus) and sometimes from other Moschus species or other animals like muskrat. It’s a secretion of an internal pouch in the abdomen. Although it’s possible to collect the pouch without killing the deer, it has been a common practice to kill the animal. About 70 000 male musk deers were killed annually to produce about 500 – 1500 kg of Musk. According to another source you need to kill 30 – 50 animals to produce 1 kg of Musk. And the demand for this product was growing despite the price that was twice its weight in gold. So in 1979 the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and national laws protected the musk deer. High price, laws and regulations significantly restricted the use of natural musk in perfumery – you can’t find it anymore in perfumes. And many modern perfumers even don’t know what does natural musk smells like.

After extraction from the deer the musk pod was dried (to let its content to form the so called musk grains) and sold. Musk grains were used to prepare either musk tincture or musk absolute (via musk resinoid). The best quality was the Tonkin musk (obtained from Moschus tonquinensis), a musk deer species from China, Tonkin (an area corresponding with modern northernmost part of Vietnam) and Tibet. The smell of musk grains is referred as sweet, very persistent, animal-like and amin-like.

It’s very difficult nowadays to smell the real natural musk and use it as a reference. It’s still can be found in many (of not almost any) vintage perfumes. I have a sample of Musk Rose perfume made by a fellow perfumer who used natural musk in it. Of course, it’s difficult to distract a single (and unknown) component from a well balanced perfume, but I guess I have an idea what natural musk smells like and what it does in perfume. I guess it’s a part making me think about Musk Rose as a vintage perfume (although it’s not). I guess it musk gives a kind of depth, intensity and brightness to the natural rose accord making it warm, sweet and dark. It’s really painful for me to understand that I either should give up an idea of using such a beautiful raw material in perfumery or to accept the high price, problems with regulations and laws as well as moral dilemma and conscience-stricken of killed animals. Well, I guess I’ll try to follow the idea of Maurice Roucel in his Musk Ravageur who tried to reconstruct the wildness of natural musk from synthetic components.


Musc Ravageur

Image from - Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

Musk is a very famous and broadly used ingredient in perfumery. Natural musk combines warm, sweet, animalic and ammoniacal aspects and does not only enriches the perfume composition, but also gives it more affinity with human skin and fixates the fragrance. It’s not used in perfumery anymore substituted by synthetic analogues. Unfortunately they don’t poses all the nuances of natural musk. Stripped off warm animalic and ammoniacal notes synthetic musk is too clean and its sweetness seems to be the only aspect left.

But Maurice Roucel succeeded to unleash the beast and to recreate the fragrance that shows the true character of the real natural musk without using any of it. Chandler Burr reveals the secret in his review. A transparent sweetness of synthetic musk base was fed with warm and animalic notes of synthetic castoreum and dirtied with some filthy animalic and ammoniacal aspects of synthetic civet. Et voila – a natural musk effect and no animal is hurt. But when you create a beast you should think about taming it. But what can balance the dark nasty devastating monster? Of course it should be something white, soft, sweet and kind like Mother Goose… or Vanilla (translated into perfumerian language). Musk and vanilla strengthened with spices like cinnamon and topped with the citrus notes of bergamot and tangerine – that’s the core of Musc Ravageur.

Luca Turin in his guide doesn’t show much enthusiasm about the wild musk creation of Maurice Roucel. He gives it 3 stars and calls it a “hippie musk”. Luca compares the fragrance with Ambre Sultan by Serge Lutens. And the dry down of Musc Ravageur reminds Luca the dry down of Envy for man (Gucci). It’s funny to notice that original version of Envy (the one pour femme) is also created by Maurice Roucel in 1997. Well, to me Musc Ravageur indeed shares similar aspects with Ambre Sultan, but is more animalic.

Another interesting comparison is between Musc Ravageur and Shalimar by Guerlain. Well – both fragrances use noticeable doses of vanilla in combination with animal notes, amber and spices. They share similarities, but they are different. But if you like one of them you may like to try another as well. Unlike Shalimar Musc Ravageur doesn’t have any flowers in it – no floral heart at all (as said in the description of this scent). But is it entirely true? Maurice Roucel seems to use Magnolia as a signature scent for the most creations. I don’t recognize magnolia in Musc Ravageur, but I smell an interesting transparent note there. It seems to be an extension of the citrus note – fresh, slightly fruity and floral. It might be hedione and it is the only floral aspect I can find here – like frozen white flower petals.

There are also similarities between Musc Ravageur and Oud 27 (Le Labo). And if you like to try a clean version of transparent sweet musks washed and stripped of all filth and decorated with flowers you might like another creation of Maurice Roucel – Rochas for Man in a very suggestive bottle.

On my skin this fragrance begins with a funny cacophony of all notes playing at once dominated by animalic and ammoniac civet – it’s like the sounds of orchestra warming up just before the theatre performance. But as soon as alcohol evaporates the fragrance finds the balance on my skin. Warm, deep and sweet base of musk and vanilla is present from the beginning through the whole fragrance transforming into the amber. Citruses here are rather cold and frosty (but not crispy) than warm and sunny. The contrast between cold and fresh, but sweet and fruity citrus and warm sweet and deep base of amber, vanilla and musk is the main theme of this perfume. Sometimes I smell a note of almond that reminds me of Louve (Serge Lutens) and later I smell that soft transparent floral note coming from citrus. Spices are present, but they are rather supporters than the main actors. Silage of Musc Ravageur is moderate. I used two sprays on my body and one on my wrists and I couldn’t smell this fragrance all the time (unlike Ambre Sultan, for example). After 4-6 hours it was almost gone and I could only smell it only after putting my nose very close to the skin and warming it with my breath.

To me it’s a wonderful fragrance for the cold time of the year. The flowers are gone (and you can’t find them in the fragrance either), the air is cold and frosty like the citrus part of Musc Ravageur. But you are wearing warm jack, a scarf and gloves made of the warm ambery base. I guess I’ll put this scent together with my other Amber scents as the most animalic amber and use it when I need to use less sweet and a bit nasty amber that doesn’t give too much silage, but still warms my body and soul.


Don't let the lot to choose your fragrance...

... as it has weird sense of humor sometimes.

I'd like to share my story about how I let the lot to choose my fragrance to wear for today. Actually I didn't wont to make any decision. You probably know those lazy days when even making a decision is already too much work. So, you probably stay in pyjamas the whole day and become just a witness of events running through a timeline.

I wanted to wear a fragrance, but didn't know which one. So, I did say loudly - "I don't want to make any decision today, so let it be. Let the lot choose it for me". Oh, be careful in what you say...

This morning I dropped a box full of miniatures. Fortunately it fell on the carpet and everything seemed to be unbroken. But I didn't see that a corner of one miniature was broken and there was a small whole in it. The miniature remained full as the air pressure worked against the gravity. So, I put the box back to where it belonged. Later I started to wondering - when and on what way the lot will decide the perfume for me. So, I decided to help by browsing through the miniatures. And... I took the broken one and opened to sniff (totally unconsciously). At the moment I took off the lid the pressure couldn't work anymore and the whole content came on me. The lot had spoken (and done) - all 3 ml of this perfume are on me now.

So, the perfume I am wearing today is Vent Vert by Balmain (an old formulation). I smell like one giant green narcotic and even poisonous narcissus. And I don't mind - it's a funny joke of the lot and I can laugh on it. I am just curious of its effect on people I'll meet today walking with my dog and shopping. There is another funny thing here. The Narcissus note was not easy for me to recognize in fragrances. But I do recognize it now very well.

And can you also remember the story when the lot has decided a fragrance for you and has shown its sense of humor?


Fille en Aiguilles by Serge Lutens: the first impressions

Russian version - click here

Image credits: (c) AromaX

Last Saturday I decided to leave an idyll of a French country and to visit a local city Vichy to remember how does it feel to be among people again. Vichy is famous by its thermal baths and sources from the times of the Ancient Rome. But I was there just to walk on the streets o Vichy, to admire the glory of its architecture, to try some sweets and of course to visit some perfumery stores. Because in French perfumeries you can find fragrances that are not available yet in Netherlands. Well, I found there Idylle by Guerlain as well as Guerlain Homme Intense. I also found the whole line of Ego Facto. But Fille en Aiguilles by Serge Lutens was the most amazing one.

What could I say? It’s love from the first sigh. It’s definitely a creation in style of Serge Lutens – the master of sweet oriental exotic fragrances. I experienced the same impressions as I did when I tried Cédre – my first fragrance by Serge Lutens. My first impression is – it smells incense, smoke and burnt sugar. As if you could make a candy by smelting of sugar together with incense resin – a fragile, warm, transparent piece of candy that is not sticky at all. A little bit of honey might be added to soften the burnt sugar smell and give it warmth.

First I didn’t notice the fir needles – the most important component of this fragrance that even found in its name. But finally they came as well – a balsamic, sweet and fresh coniferous aroma that perfectly goes with the coldness of incense note. I’ve also discovered a new note that I also found in other niche fragrances. So far I call it industrial note as it reminds me a bit of burnt rubber. I smelled it in the rose oxide aromachemical, but also in Palisandrol by Firmenich. I found it in Afgano by Nasamoto. Probably it’s a kind of furanon or pyrazine molecule. In Fille en Aiguilles it gives depth to incense, supports the fir needles smell and emphasizes the burnt smoke note.

Amber is also mentioned in the pyramide on Osmoz. But I think it’s imitated by the sweet resins. And probably arises from the combination of resins and that industrial note. My nose enjoys the burnt sugar sweetness so much that it doesn’t want to look for the amber. The pyramid on Osmoz also shows the fruits. I haven’t found any – probably they are hidden in the sweet fruitiness of fir needles. Or may be molded from the burnt sugar syrup. There are also spices. I can’t define them as they just give some brightness and emphasizes the oriental character of this fragrance.

This fragrance recalls the images of rocks, softwood, a hermit monk, smoke of the open fire, meditation, tranquillity and quietness, being one with nature, mystery. It’s interesting to notice that my images are mauve and blue coloured although the fragrance itself is rather ambery yellowish with a little brown in it.

Well, to me it’s a perfect autumn scent. It makes you warm despite the fresh breeze of incense and fir needles. It’s a bit introvert. And I guess it’s a nice companion for a long walk somewhere in the forest or park.


Vacation! Finally!

Well, the coming two weeks I’ll spend near a small French town La Chapelaude in Auvergne (well, actually it’s Bourbonnais above the Auvergne). Tranquillity, space and nature are the key words to describe this place.

Mas des Tilleuls – a former farm house under the Linden trees and re-decorated as a manor house will be my pied-a-terre. It’s funny how the owners gave a twist to this house. There is a drawing room with an open fire place, a big dark kitchen combined with an eating room with a small stove, Master bedroom with a canopy bed. If you have vivid imagination you can easily think you are in a castle.

But there is one thing I always miss in any vacation house – the perfumery lab. So, I always take my aromachemicals with me and create a perfumery lab on place. Sometimes I think if I am slightly mad to take all the staff with me. But imagine – it’s France, the Mecca of perfumes and a very quiet and picturesque place that gives a lot of inspiration. And you have a lot of time to experiment. Aren’t they not the best circumstances to play with fragrances? Here is an example of a temporary perfumery lab I created in Mas des Tilleuls.

And of course as any perfume addicted I take a part of my collection. In Mas des Tilleuls there is a spare room with a big table, so I could create a fragrant table.

Wine and cheese – both Dutch’s and French’s favourites taste perfect in the evening under the Linden trees by a candle light. As well as a cup of good Earl Grey in the morning while listening to the birds songs and the sough of the wind.


Xerjoff 17/17 - short first impressions

Xerjoff is an Italian brand making very exclusive fragrances. High quality raw materials, rare precious essences and the modern techniques are used to create the perfumes. Sculptured in quartz bottles, embellished with gold and hand made wooden boxes make the dignified packing for those fragrances. More about the brand itself you can read on their website, on Dimitri’s Sorcery of Scent blog or on basenotes.

What’s the reality behind the marketing myths and legends? I was lucky to get three samples from Xerjoff 17/17 series from moon_fish. Here are my short first impressions.

Unisex woody-amber fragrance. Well, to me it’s more an exotic peach jam with white flowers of jasmine (and I can recognize a kind of white floral gardenia-tuberose-jasmine complex there) and a nice black pepper twist. Served on patchouli leaves. I’d describe it in terms of tasty, yummy or delicious rather than in olfactory terms. It’s properly made and seem to contain plenty of modern exotic aromachemicals, especially musks (oh yeah, musks are cool nowadays), but I’d prefer it in “jam” or “confiture” concentration rather than eau de parfum. It would be perfect as a thin layer on buttered bread by high tea. But this is the way fragrance opens on my skin. Reading other reviews I understand that it can also open with its herbal side (that is not pronounced on my skin) and being less sweet and eatable. After the peach jam stadium the fragrance becomes more dry and more serious. I recognize the woody base sweetened with musks and resins as components of amber accord. To my nose the resins are extensions to the sweetness of tropical flowers and they don’t fall together making the amber accord – I don’t smell amber there unless I search for it. It’s a nice fragrance and I’d probably wear it, but not for the price it’s sold. The theme it’s build around is also not new. I’ve heard it so many times. Was it Guess Suede? Or One Million Dollar? Or… well – you can find something pretty similar and less expensive almost in any perfumery.

A floral oriental fragrance for her. Well, this is another one I’d prefer in “jam” concentration. Was it made by perfumer? Or by flavorist? Anyway… it’s delicious and dangerous at the same time as I might love to eat the one who wears it. It’s a perfect cherry jam or even bonbon with a cherry and rum filling. The note of cherry to me arises from a combination of bitter almond note and fruits. And there are a lot of other fruits there – pineapple, mango, strawberry, cherry – just name it and take a sniff and you’ll find it there. Those are tricks of the modern aromachemicals I guess. Probably the fruits are supposed to be just the fruity notes of tropical flowers, but they definitely live their own lives here. The fragrance is nice and lovely and has all chances to succeed (especially among their target group), but the theme again is not new – I guess Lolita Lempicka or any Angel clone would give me similar impression for less money.

Now we are talking. It’s a different kind of pleasure than smelling fruity delight. Homme is all about leather. Rough and very dominant. Shoe leather with a strong accent of shoe polish in combination with a frosty menthol note on the top. It’s everywhere and it’s almost linear. Although, leather becomes softer and warmer when a note of cumin comes to join. Leather is accompanied with herbal accord that sounds almost like a fougére. Herbs almost substitute the floral heart here – guys don’t smell like flowers. It’s very masculine and a tough one – for real guys with balls. To be honest I do like leather scents and birch tar just too much to give this fragrance a good judgment. I have to admit that there is too much birch tar and too little support to fill it in and develop to a balanced accord. But I just love “that much” of raw birch tar. Try if you dare. And if you are not prepared to pay that much, don’t worry, Knize Ten is still the best and affordable.


A random surprise: Chanel 22

Russian version - click here

Image: Well, I was having some Photoshop fun

Yesterday I’ve picked up a pack with fragrant samples from the post office sent by a generous Russian perfumista. The samples were numbered, but not signed. So I could concentrate on smell only not being distracted by the name, pyramid or review – a different perception of a fragrance and an interesting game. Well, I’d say it’s not easy – it’s like an attempt to describe an elephant by a blind person. But it helps to imprint the image of the fragrance in your olfactory memory.

Sample number one contained an amazing iris – rich classic flower with a touch of carrot-sweetness and very characteristic woody undertone build on a strong ionone framework. It was surrounded with an indolic jasmine with a touch of ylang, sticky rose petals with a thick layer of vanilla powder. All those flowers were presented on a classic woody-ambery plinth. I was so amazed by its iris and disappointed by its sticky rose-vanilla powder that I even didn’t notice the presence of aldehydes at all (and they were the main part of this perfume). Sample number one contained Chanel 22 perfume, but I couldn’t recognize it… Well, to be honest I should mention that I didn’t know this perfume well – just routinely smelled it a couple of times on a blotter.

Later I tried this sample again after reading of some information on it. Well…
A light citrus cloud quickly disappears and you start a skim on a thick layer of frosted aldehydes that brings you from a cool snowy mountain top into a warm valley full of flowers. A frosted aldehyde slide turns into a wide iris road – a perfect smooth passage. There are jasmine fields on the both side of the road surrounded with deep indolic forests and narcotic ylang jungles. The skim stops abruptly when you smash into a sticky mountain of rosy Turkish delight covered with vanilla powder. The wet pieces of rosy jelly dry under the sun turning into small pieces of amber falling apart into vanilla powder…

I could compare this sample of modern perfume with a sample of vintage fragrance. Chanel 22 issued on 1922 was “officially” re-orchestrated twice – in 1998 and 1999. Unfortunately I don’t know how old my vintage sample is.

Vintage fragrances have different flow of time. Compared to their modern version they seem to be tardy and hasteless. So, the skim on vintage Chanel 22 was slower. Unfortunately old perfumes are also more fragile and may show the signs of decay. So the citrus cloud in my vintage sample stung me with a bitterness of decay and frosted aldehyde slide was noticeably melted. But it still was the similar skim from the top of the mountain into the valley. But here I could notice dark red carnation flowers with soft silky petals growing between jasmine. I could also see some bitter weed here and there (you often notice it in vintage perfumes touched by decay). The rose here was not only the part of Turkish delight – I could also smell fresh flowers. The mountain of Turkish delight was less sticky, dried and covered with cracks. But there was no smash and I could enjoy the floral heart much longer. Some people say that you may meet tuberose flowers there, but I couldn’t recognize its flowers between the jasmine flowers. I couldn’t find the small pieces of incense found and mentioned by other visitors. May be next time when I make this skim again.

Well, aldehydic perfumes is not my cup of tea. But I did like the fresh intensive start of the modern perfume and hasteless classic base of a vintage version. If they were combined in one perfume I’d be really happy with Chanel 22.

Thanks to Svetlana for this interesting experience.

You can find an interesting version on Chanel 22 origin at Octavian’s blog.

Very interesting reviews you can find at Marina and Victoria.


Muguet - could it be natural?

Image: Muguet by Guerlain (from Diane James homepage)

As I mentioned in my previous entry, the lily-of-the-valley odour in perfumery is made from the synthetic materials. Hydroxycitronellal is known in perfumery since the beginning of the former century. But how did perfumers make the muguet note before the synthetic era when almost all perfumes were made of naturals?

What naturals can imitate the smell of lily-of-the-valley? Well, jasmine smells close. And some perfumers mention that diluted ylang-ylang oil smells like muguet as well. I have tried a 1% solution of ylang-ylang oil in alcohol and indeed it has a resemblance with lily-of-the-valley. Cardamom is another ingredient used in muguet formulae.

Here is an example of lily-of-the-valley formula from an apothecary magazine from 1892:

Extract of jasmine – 200 g
Extract of ylang-ylang – 100 g
Alcohol 95% – 200 g
Powdered cardamom – 5 g

After two days of maturation of cardamom powder in alcohol solution of jasmine and ylang extracts, the blend becomes to achieve the resemblance with lily-of-the-valley odour.

Extracts are probably the alcohol tinctures of fragrant materials. For flowers it would probably be the pomade. But may be the ylang-ylang extract can be substituted by essence (a alcohol solution of ylang-ylang oil). I haven’t tried this formula yet, but would give it a chance as soon as I get the jasmine pomade to make an extract.


Muguet - Hydroxycitronellal

Hydroxycitronellal is the synthetic Muguet. It posses a very fragrant fruity floral odour resembling the smell of lindenblossom or lily-of-the-valley. It’s not strong and is also a base note, so for the first time your nose might smell almost nothing from the blotter dipped in hydroxycitronellal. But the more you work with it the more intensive it gets – a warm, musky sweet, very fragrant and fruity floral smell. I have two samples of this aromachemical. One is from the PerfumersWorld and another one is from the Hekserij.nl. It’s interesting to notice that the sample from the PerfumersWorld has a touch of unpleasant bitter citronella-like top-note. Depending on surrounding materials this note can either disappear or give a disturbing citronella smelling nuance to the Muguet compositions (especially when mixed with low quality citronellol). But the aromachemical from the hekserij.nl is divine – almost like smelling a real flower.

This material has been manufactured and sold by Givaudan under the name of Laurine since 1906 and is the oldest essential building stone of the muguet note. But another sources mention the 1908 as a year when hydroxycitronellal was made by Chuit for the first time. Both can be true. Although it has some disadvantages (weak odour, stability problems, irritating effect on skin), it’s the best aromachemical reproducing the lily-of-the valley odour. The problem is that because of it rather weak smell it needs to be used in relatively high amounts to make a noticeable effect. But from another side it irritates the skin at high concentrations. IFRA has restricted the use of hydroxycitrobellal up to 1% in perfumes that makes problematic to use of high concentration of this aromachemical in fragrances at perfume concentration. But it is still enough to make a descent Muguet soliflore at EdT or even EdP concentration.

For the first time it was successfully used in Quelques Fleur by Houbigant (1912). The most famous is its use in Diorissimo – the Lily-of-the-Valley perfume. Hydroxycitronellal is used in the notes of muguet, lilac, lindenblossom, sweat pea, magnolia, hyacinth, but also as a modifier in many other perfumes.

Muguet - what could be the reference?

Image - from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lily-of-the-valley)

May, the last month of spring, has left and I’ve realized that I couldn’t smell the fresh lilies-of-the-valleys this year. Pity… as the fresh flower is always the best reference odour. So, what could be another reference odour for Muguet?

In many cases essential oils of the plant smell more or less similar to the plant itself. Is there lily-of-the-valley essential oil available? Unfortunately there is not. Those flowers are too fragile and contain very small percentage of essential oil, so it’s impossible to yield it by mean of distillation. But lily-of-the-valley absolute was commercially available. It was produced in small quantities, but on regular bases. Robertret was one of the firm producing the best lily-of-the-valley absolute. In Yearb. Pharm. from 1902 was even mentioned that Haensel distilled some pleasantly smelling essential oil from the leaves of this plant. The yield was only 0.058%, but he did it. Although lily-of-the-valley absolute posses a pleasant smell, it doesn’t reproduce accurately the smell of the fresh flower and is not really interesting for perfumers. So, it can’t compete with cheaper synthetic materials. Thus, there is no reference for muguet odour among naturals.

So, it looks like I better go and search among synthetic materials and floral bases. Hydroxycitronellal, Lyral, Lilial and Cyclamen aldehyde are the most common Muguet compounds. And hydroxycitronellal is often mentioned as an aromachemical that accurately reproduces the smell of the real flower. Could it be the reference muguet or should I look further among more complex accords and bases?

Well, Osmoz.com has made a very pleasant surprise to all perfumery addicted and fragrant junkies. Firmenich, the firm behind Osmoz has created three sets of notes and accords used in perfumery. Firmenich is famous by the quality of its raw materials and you can expect their nice notes and accords to be the good reference points. As those accords are made for educational purposes and are not supposed to be applied on skin, there is no need to follow IFRA recommendations and you can expect high quality accords not restricted by safety concerns.

The fourth bottle of their Original Flowers set contains Lily-of-the-valley accord (based on restricted, but beautiful hydroxycitronellal). I think this one will become my reference Muguet till next May when I hope to be able to smell the fresh flowers. It’s tender and soft, but very fragrant Muguet combining the fruity jasmine notes with freshness and fruitiness of rose, some wetness, green aspects and some very small nuances of spicy and narcotic notes. It recalls a carpet of fresh flowers in a shadow of the trees of a leafy forest. A spot of refreshing coolness on a hot summer day. Fresh green leaves. Softness. Semi-transperency. White and bluish white colour. Round forms. Dew drops. Very natural Lily-of-the-valley scent. So, let it be my reference Muguet.


Interview with Jean-Paul Guerlain and Thierry Wasser

Browsing through my Russian blog I found a link to this interview posted by moon_fish (you probably know him on Basenotes under the same name). It's an interesting reading. Enjoy!



Allyl Amyl Glycolate

Image from: http://www.consumentenpagina.be

Allyl Amyl Glycolate is an aromachemical patented in 1936 and forgotten for almost 30 years till 1968 when it was used in Italian detergent at high percentage.

Later it was used in fine fragrances too – from trace amounts in Alliage by Esthee Lauder till 1% in Drakkar Noir by Guy Laroche and even 3% in Cool Water by Davidoff. Also used in Trésor, Eternity, Boss Elements Aqua. You can find it in Camay soap too.

When I smell it in 10% solution I do understand why this aromachemical have been forgotten for 30 years till 1968. It’s not love from the first sight fragrance. Smelling it carefully I can find candy fruitiness of pineapple note with sharp metallic undertone, sourness of apple cider and juicy flesh of a pear fruit. There is also a certain freshness in this molecule. And the sour, sharp, metallic note is very familiar – it’s like galbanum shell without its nice woody undertone. It feels very strange when you can smell only one aspect of a familiar smell (like a galbanum shell without its body). There is also another name for this molecule referring to its galbanum aspect – isogalbanate. Chandler Burr has described the smell of allyl amyl glycolate as “a combination of the smell of processed pineapple and the tin of the can it comes in”.

When smelled at 1% I could notice that allyl amyl glycolate becomes softer – the sharpness disappears although there is still a recognizable metallic note. The fruity notes become less candy-like and the green notes are more pronounced. On my skin the slightly synthetic smell of juicy fruity flesh of pear is the most prominent aspect of this aromachemical at 1% concentration. Later it turns completely into a juicy pineapple note. And it smells stronger on my skin than on the blotter at this concentration.

A combination of green galbanum note with a soft fresh sweet fruit gives allyl amyl glycolate a unique property to soften the harshness of green notes. For example, if I take lyral as a base for white flowers (Muguet) and add a drop of leaf alcohol to add green nuances, I see that leaf alcohol can be pretty dominating in this blend. But a drop or two of allyl amyl glycolate will tame the dominating greenness. It’s also interesting to add some Galbanum oil as well. In Vanderbilt perfume allyl amyl glycolate is used together with another pineapple fruity note (allyl cyclo hexyl propionate) to create a green fruity note connecting the heady fruity floral accord of orange blossom and tuberose with fresh citrus top notes.

Allyl amyl glycolate can be used from trace amounts till several percents in the formulae of fine fragrances. Although – the concentrations like 1% or 3% used in Drakkar Noir and Cool Water are considered to be high (what doesn’t have to be a problem when skilfully blended). This aromachemical goes well with green notes – leaf alcohol and its esthers, violet leaf, galbanum; citrus notes (a combination of fresh and fruity) – citrus oils, dihydromyrcenol; white floral components (fruity, spicy, narcotic, green) – ylang-ylang oil, muguet notes; musks and cashmeran, etc. The substantively is 6 hours (according to IFF, but the PerfumersWorld gives it 10 hours odour life). This makes allyl amyl glycolate primarily a top-note.


Rêverie au Jardin

Rêverie au Jardin - a dream about Lavender Tree Tears in a Secret Garden

This is a fragrance by Tauer Perfumes I haven’t reviewed yet. On my skin it easily turns into a powdery note which I can’t smell through. Sometimes it helps when you wait for the right moment to explore a “difficult” fragrance. This morning I saw a very beautiful view from my window. It was the mist slowly falling down on the trees… like a dream that promises to take you into a secret garden… Well, the image itself looked probably more like “Rêverie a la Forêt” – but to me it was inspiring enough to give the Andy’s Gardens another chance to blossom on my skin.

The fragrance opens with a the fresh breeze of green lavender mixed with balsamic notes of fir needles and exotic undertones of incense and iris. As the fragrance warms on the skin more sweet floral nuances come – indeed as if you are lying down in a beautiful garden and fall asleep under the warm sunlight, the calming scent of lavender and sweet soft kiss of ambery flowers. And when you start dreaming you come to another garden – a secret one…

And there is a big lavender tree in this garden… the one like the Foxglove tree, but with honeyed and ambery lavender smelling flowers and soft and silky white trunk covered with sticky resin tears… A tree like this one…

Those resin drops smell like ambery lavender - a unique combination of lavender and olibanum resin on sweet, floral, ambery background. You take one sticky drop on your finger and see it hardening and turning into a shiny dark orange crystal with sunlight flashes on its edges. But getting harder the crystal becomes brittle and you notice the white powder covering its edges… You can blow it off to make the crystal clear again. And while doing that you inhale some of this powder and feel the sweetish taste of it in the back of your throat. It helps to keep the crystal clear again for some more moments, but soon it falls apart and turns into white powder…

It’s getting cold and you wake up. You notice that the sun has gone, the flowers have faded and the chilly breeze is filled with mossy, earthy smell of the moist soil… It’s time to go inside… and when you take a deep breath you still can smell a fading aroma of the Lavender Tree from the Secret Garden of your dream…


Exploring Sandalwood after a period of anosmie

Sandalwood oil is a very precious material in perfumery because of its rich odour and good tenacity. Unfortunately it was not easy for me to explore it as I am (or better say was) partially anosmic to it. When I smelled it for the first time for about three years ago I could only smell a faint easily disappearing woody odour. The Virginian cedarwood oil with its distinguished woody character seemed to be a much better aromatic product to me. I couldn’t understand why do people appreciate Sandalwood… But fortunately, anosmia can be reduced or even disappear when you are training your nose and work with aromatic substances. So, today I could explore much more nuances of Sandalwood oil. But first of all – some theory:

The term sandalwood oil refers mostly to an oil, produced by a steam distillation of Santalum Album wood snips. It’s so-called White Sandalwood or East-Indian Sandalwood. It has a very rich odour combining the woody nuances with sweet creamy and animalic notes. The demand for this oil exceeds the supply that results in constantly growing prizes and frequent falsification. The massive (and often illegal) cutting of Sandalwoods also takes place making the whole situation even worse. The highest quality Sandalwood oil is produced in Mysore region of Southern India. Sandalwood oil contains up to 90% of Santalol – the majour constituent responsible for its smell.

There is also Australian Sandalwood oil produced by a steam distillation of Santalum Spicatum from Southwest Australia. This oil also contains a high amount of Santalol. And by dry down the smell of Australian Sandalwood approaches the smell of East-Indian Sandalwood. But it has a different dry-bitter top note contrary to a sweet top note of East-Indian Sandalwood oil. Australian sandalwood has different Latin names – Eucaria Spicata, Fusanus spicatum, Santalum cygnorum. Very confusing, because sometimes you find information that they are not the synonyms of the same species, but different trees.

Amyris oil is often confused with Australian Sandalwood and is called West-Indian Sandalwood. It’s produced from steam distillation of Amyris Balsamifera – a tree belonging to a different genus (Amyris) belonging to Rue family (Rutaceae) – a completely different family that doesn’t have anything common with Sandalwood. The oil has a balsamic-woody smell.

Red Sandalwood is the name of Pterocarpus santalinus tree that doesn’t produce any essential oil, but can be used as a dye, for example for food colouring. Only fresh Red Sandalwood is supposed to have a woody odour according to perfumery books. I have a woody smelling powder of Red Sandalwood for making incense and very curious what it might be – a pure Red Sandalwood (but it doesn’t supposed to smell woody when dried)? A mix of Red and White Sandalwood? A mix of Red Sandalwood and Virginian Cedar?

I used a 10% alcohol solution of East-Indian Sandalwood (or sold as it :o) on my wrists and found the following nuances:

Directly after apply I could smell a sweet, slightly turpentine-like odour with a woody undertone that reminded me a bit of Cedarwood. It was more turpentine-like than Virginial Cedar and more woody than Atlas Cedar. The first notes were a bit unpleasant, but they easily blended and found balance on my skin within the first minutes revealing a rich, deep and warm woody aroma. There was also a musky animalic note in it that reminded me a bit of Cumin. I was surprised when I couldn’t find the creamy aspect… but it came later in form of fullness and non-sweet oily creaminess. Although it was much less than I expected. All together it smelled like a skin of Eastern princess warmed by the sun, creamy and silky.

The unpleasant turpentine-like first note and the lack of creaminess made me think that I have a sample of Australian Sandalwood oil sold as East-Indian… The same turpentine like note I could smell in Yatra perfume by Aveda. And they used Australian Sandalwood (although Yatra was much more creamy because they added some Vanilla).

So, I am very glad, that I can smell and distinguish more nuances of Sandalwood oil now. Although… I still barely recognize (and sometimes don’t smell at all) some of Sandalwood aromachemicals… Well – probably it comes with more experience.


Flying flowers...

Yesterday I was at Artis (zoo in Amsterdam) and visited a Butterflies Garden. A place full of bright colors flying around you. And fragrant tropical flowers and fruits as well - a true paradise for everyone who appreciates fragrances and colors. But the butterflies themselves - they don't smell. So, I think it would be a good idea to tease the imagination and try to see if butterflies recall any fragrant associations.

This one could smell like a modern marine-"watermelon" accord started by L'eau d'Issey or an older aldehydic perfume - like Rive Gauche, White Linnen.

Actually, it's the same one, but from the "side view". But a completely different smell. Woody oriental with smell of patchouli, sandalwood and resins like benzoin. And of course, an amber accord.

A difficult one. This contrasts between yellow and black recalls the contrast between bergamot and oakmoss in chypres. Well, let it be just chypre in general. But it could be a contrast between jasmine and leather in Knize Ten, for example.

This one is defenitely a vintage fruity chypre like Mitsouko or Madame Rochas.

This one is a floral aromatic of Camomile or Tagets. Can be Aromatics Elixer as well.


Why do I like the spring

This blooming Cherry tree is an ode to the spring.

No wonder why April is the most favorite month to me.

I wish you all a fragrant and blossoming weekend.


Updates by VirtuMax

Here are some latest updates for my non-perfumery blog Essences by VirtuMax

Some thoughts about synchronicity:

Postcrossing - a funny postcard exchange projedt I found and now involved

An interesting surprise from "Britains got talent" and thoughts about the dreams


Chaparral - walking through the fields and woods of California

Recently I compared Roxana’s perfumes with gifts. And they are. Roxana pays a lot of attention and love to packing and uses cute little pots and bags as well as wax sealed envelopes and letters. Do you remember the feeling of expectancy while untying, unwrapping and opening a gift when you was a child? It’s pretty the same here except that breaking wax seal ritual makes it look a little bit magic.

And than there is another joy coming – the fragrances themselves. Chaparral was the most intriguing one from the sample pack I’ve got. This is the fragrance from Californica series celebrating and exploring the beauty of plants growing in this area. I’ve got it in two versions – liquid and solid perfume.

Solid Chaparral overwhelms with its power of warm, almost chocolate sweetness of woods and a touch of cool herbs. But on the skin the situation is reversed. Roxana says that Chaparral is a dance of Air and Fire in the breeze. It’s true, because the play between the hot and cool notes goes through the fragrance. On my skin Chaparral opens with warm herbs. It’s like a sunny day when you stand on a green field and breath the aromatic bitterness coming from the herbs warmed by the Sun. You feel the space and breath the air freely. And than you go to the woods you’ve noticed somewhere at the foot of the mountains. You feel the air getting cooler under the shadow of the trees and what you smell is a play between cool balsamic notes and warm woody accords. At the end a note of smoke joins the woods. It’s like the fire you make to cook the diner and to celebrate this inspiring sunny day.

The image of liquid Chaparral is more clear and sharper. As if you see each blade of grass. There aromatic bitterness is sharper too and it plays with a contrasting sweet citrusy note. The note of smoke comes much earlier and accompanies the woods right from the moment you came to the forest. The rhythm of this dance is faster and the steps are more dramatic. But it’s still the same theme…

Chaparral stays close to the skin and gives it very natural smell as if you were crafting the whole day with herbs and woods. Although remaining pretty subtle the fragrance is tenacious and gives you hours of pleasure of walking among the woods and fields of California.

Credits: image from Roxana's website - http://www.illuminatedperfume.com


Perfumes: The Guide, Spring 2009

Russian version - click here

The guide by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez is for me more a perfumery manual than a collection of reviews. Luca not only judges the fragrances, he also explains some interesting and unique aspects of perfumery art aesthetics as well as facts about raw materials and the structure of fragrances. Not as detailed as I would personally prefer, but still informative.

The third newsletter is out! So, it’s always interesting compare the experiences.

Seven egocentric fragrances by Ego Facto are evaluated by Tania and she is pretty critical about them – none got more than three stars. Histoires de Parfumes seem to make a better impact. Twelve fragrances came up with an average four stars and a topper 1740 – the only one with five stars called leather immortelle.

The most shocking review for me was the evaluation of my favourite Thundra by Profumum – Luca gave it just one star, called it sour patchouli describing it as “dissonant, loud and tenacious as hell.” Oops…

La Petit Robe Noir by Guerlain gets… four stars. Luca finds this fragrance perfectly close to the decorated French tarts. Four stars might surprise some Guerlain admirers who were a little bit disappointed with this perfume. But if you read the review, you understand what Luca really thinks of it.

Reviewing the French Lover by Frederic Malle seemed to have a dramatic outcome for Turin-Sanchez couple. I hope they didn’t have to review their relationship root and branch… But they were obviously not agree with each other on that one. Well, all of happy couples, be aware when French Lover shoves in oar!

It promises a lot of reading and sniffing pleasure. Not without surprises and funny. As always.


Thick eyelashes are serious business!

This weekend I spent with my female friends who came to visit Amsterdam. As we all were interested in perfumes, it was nice to visit perfumery shops, sniff the fragrances and share the experiences. But… almost each perfumery sales cosmetics and make-up too…

It was pretty interesting to explore a new area. Sometimes I was glad I was not a woman and could miss a huge expense item in my budget (well, I spend already enough for perfumes). But when I was standing there observing how my friends were glad by trying on all those make-up staff and creams, I felt like a child who couldn’t join and play. There were so many different “gadgets”, colours and other “appliances”. Like mascara with a vibrating brush… amazing and funny. And what about all those creams and treatments making your face younger, your lips thicker and your eyelashes fuller?

Buy the way, thick and full eyelashes are serious business! Do you think that new super mascara would be just enough? No way! Look at Eyelash treatment. You’ll find at least five products for the eyelashes treatment and none of them is mascara. Well, I can understand that such a treatment might be very important for someone with eyelashes thinning problem. So, personally I am glad that my eyelashes are just fine and I don’t use mascara and I don’t have to have at least two care products for each part of my face. But from another side – it’s always fun to try out all those new promising products and try to follow the changes they make.

Yesterday I left the perfumery shop with anti-fatigue crème under my eyes, tonic gel on my face and spots of a cover stick here and there. Girls had fun. Me too.


En Avion by Caron

Image from http://www.hrharmer.com

Russian version - click here

En Avion (launched in 1932 by Caron) seems to be a sequel to a story of emancipation initiated by Tabac Blond. The valiant women who dared to fly a plane inspire the nose behind the fragrance – Ernest Daltroff. The website of Caron mentions the names of Adrienne Bolland, Hélène Boucher and Maryse Basti, the first women conquered the skies.

This fragrance is also reconstructed, probably somewhere in 1995 and probably by Richard Fraysse, the house perfumer of Caron for the last 30 years. Tania Sanchez is milder in her judgment to this one (compared to Tabac Blond). En Avion gets two stars, but called an anisic floral.

The opening of En avion (modern version, parfum) is a bit close to the one of Tabac Blond, but without herbs and angelica nuances. It reveals a note of dry leather on a background of carnation and violet. A bit foreright and not too subtle it reminds that sky is not for fancy pants. Although the leather note flies away pretty quickly, a clash between the carnation-violet wall and orange blossom trying to break through still gives a good illusion of being on a plane – it gives that unique smell I can’t describe well.

Carnation and violet combination seems not to be the best background for orange blossom to bloom. There is too much contrast that looks more like a fight. But isn’t it a reflection of what happens in our society when woman tries to interfere with the “man’s business”? And isn’t it a nice representation of transformation that takes place when a female aviator takes off her rough uniform and puts on an elegant gown?

Although orange blossom cannot easily compete with carnation and violet accord, it is pretty powerful finally to soften the fragrance and finally to win. Sometimes it comes together with a bit candy like lemon note and other times it has more soapy nuances. But on my skin En Avion can’t find the point of balance. No problem – I never cherished a dream to become an aviator.


Guess Suede for men

“Talk perfume” is a new website that has an intention to become a new platform for perfume related talks. At least, I guess so judging by its name. The website is quite new and needs to be filled up with content. You can visit it at perfume blog
Well, good luck and and let's see what it becomes. My own contribution is a small talk on a modern version of soft leather accord called Suede.

Searching for leather fragrances I found this one at a local perfumery. Guess Suede for men is created in 2007 by a Givaudan perfumer Ellen A. Molner. Fresh and fruity top notes of tangerine, pineapple and bergamot are combined with herbal and spicy heart of lavender, sage and nutmeg build on woody base of vetiver, sandalwood and mahogany. Osmoz classifies it as an oriental fougère.

What can I say? It's not easy to find suede behind a powerful fruity cocktail. Honey melon and overripe exotic fruits are combined with fresh citrus. It makes an interesting top note that dominates the whole fragrance. A bit too loud and too persistent. Herbs and spices in combination with woody notes are in contrast with the fruits, but they seem to be too weak to compete. It’s like an illusionary idea of suede.

Anyway, the luscious fragrances based on exotic fruits and sweet musks are very popular nowadays. Guess Suede for men will find its fans. To me this fragrance is rather a tribute to modern aromachemicals than a modern interpretation of a soft leather accord.


Tabac Blond by Caron

Tabac Blond by Caron is often referred as The Leather Scent, a monster fragrance, “weird and edgy”, “dark and totally unpresentable” (Ch. Burr). What else can you expect from a creation that was meant to honour those daring woman who smoked – a shocking habit in the begin of the past century. Created in 1919 by Ernest Daltroff it was the only feminine perfume with the tobacco notes.

The modern version of Tabac Blond created by Richard Fraysse seems to give a different interpretation of femininity, according to Tania Sanchez. In Perfumes, the Guide written with Luca Turin she gives it one star, calls it woody floral and regrets the reformulation. Well, such a frustration is easy to understand when a very good fragrance looses its character. I never smelled the original version of Tabac Blond. And may be I am lucky – I have nothing to compare and to regret about.

The modern version of Tabac Blond is a perfume with character, although is easier to approach than Knize Ten. It starts with dark deep spicy leather surrounded with herbal notes of angelica. I recognize neither smoke nor tobacco there – just smell of leather of old books, travelling bag and woods mixed with drying herbs in a room of lonely hermit. A transient apparition that fades giving place to a spicy carnation note, a smell of glorious flower. Supported with violet-iris note (that probably comes from ionone) it sounds loud and persistent for a while and slowly gets softer turning into a smell of oriental rose. This one is a difficult accord that mostly doesn’t open well on my skin and turns into a rosy smell of cheap incense sticks. Unfortunately… It looks like Tabac Blond is not my perfume – the leather note is too short, carnation is too loud and persistent and the rose is too cheap. Although on feminine skin of my perfumery fairy Tabac Blond opens much better. Well, no problem, I still have Knize Ten. What I have written above is about perfume extrait. The EdT version has a fresher and sharper start with more prominent herbal notes and less deep leather accord. Carnation stadium is shorter and you can easily smell the rose through.

Image from Perfumes Caron

Fragrant palette update

There are several new raw materials in my fragrant palette suitable for a leather accord:

Safraleine – is an aromatic molecule from Givaudan and is described as alternative to the spicy notes resembling the natural saffron with warm, powerful leathery and tobacco facets and rosy floral aspects. To my nose it smells exactly like leather – a very recognizable smell of a shoe store or leather department of a clothing store. For a good leather accord, safraleine is a perfect molecule to build around. The molecule is very versatile and can be used in spicy accords as well. Although the leather smell of the molecule is obvious, it can’t be used just on its own without support of Castoreum, Birch Tar, Patchouli, Quinolines and other leather building blocks. I was so in love to this note that I started making a “Rose in Leather” perfume around Safraleine. But I overestimated this aromachemical and didn’t support it well with other leathery notes. So, the comment from my perfumery fairy was: “Hmm, smells like a overripe cucumber.” But in the current, the third version of “L&R” is much more leathery. Fragrances containing Safraleine are, for example, Tom of Finland by Etat Libre d'Orange and Pi Neo by Givenchy.

Castoreum blend by Givaudan (aka Castoreum Givco 116). It is s a mixture of aromachemicals made to substitute a natural Castoreum. It has a sweetish odor of decay with animalic and leathery undertones. It’s a perfect background for a leather accord reminding about the true origin of leather. Attractive and repulsive at the same time in its pure form it turns sweetish warm, musky, slightly spicy when diluted and becomes a good fixative for leather, tobacco, chypre and fougère accords. Perfectly supports Safraleine and extends tobacco absolute.

Tobacco leaf absolute. In its pure form it’s a thick dark brown semi-solid mass – a difficult one to use. Fortunately it dissolves good in alcohol that makes it easier to use, although it keeps its dark brown color and powerful odour, so you can’t use too much of it in perfumes. The smell is very close to cigar-tobacco – like you put your nose into a bag with hand-rolling tobacco. It’s reach and honey sweet with leather aspects as well as intensively herbal with warm spicy nuances. It gives fullness to leather accords, enriches and gives naturalness to tobacco accords and brings interesting nuances to fougères.

Guaiac wood. Well – I have written about it recently. What should I add – indeed it becomes liquid when heated in hot water, but it hardens quickly by cooling down – this is in contrary to what Wikipedia says. I made a 20% solution in alcohol that forms a clear liquid without lumps. I am still fascinated by its combination of smokey note with dry plums. I even find that it shares some herbal fruitness with tobacco leaf absolute too. I think I’d use it in my “Rose and Leather” version four as a good bridge between leather and rose.


The Gift of the Magi

Picture from Wikipedia

“The magi, as you know, were wise men – wonderfully wise men – who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones…” – it’s a beginning of a novel “A Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry (penname for William Sidney Porter, American writer). It’s one of my favorite novel I read many times in my childhood. It’s about gifts and love and sophisticated humor of the fate and finding the real values in life.

What happened to me last week is completely different story than described in that novel, but “The Gift of the Magi” could be the proper name for it. I have won a give-away at Roxana’s blog and could choose extra mini-perfumes next to the sample trio I’ve bought.

Roxana calls herself “an artist working in the visual & aromatic realms.” Her fragrances are made from natural ingredients like essential oils, absolutes, tinctures and she calls them botanicals. You’ve probably read about her creations on several blogs. Roxana’s fragrances are more than just perfumes – they are like magic potions composed with a certain intention and wisdom. Roxana is not just a perfumer – on her blog she combines writing about perfumery and its components with alchemy hidden within them and simple wisdom of life. Sometimes I think she is one of those Magi :o)

So, what is “The Gift of the Magi”? When I won an extra sample I asked Roxana to choose one for me and she suggested a Q perfume – a fragrance from Californica inspiration devoted to the glorious Coastal Live Oak growing at Roxana’s home place. The one who understands the energy of sacred Oak tree knows that it’s about strength and endurance. Those are the qualities I need in this period to bring to life the plenty of ideas I have in my head. So, I am really looking forward to get them in a potion of a Q perfume. And of course I am very curious to her other creations from the sample pack.

Reviews of some of Roxana's fragrances:



First time Guaiac oil

Today I've got a package with some essential oils. One of them is guaiac oil. The only essential oil that is solid at room temperature. It is obtained by distillation of wood snips of Guaiac wood from India.

Well, it looks a bit like snot. But it smells wonderful - like smoked dried plums. The fruity notes are reminding those from rose essential oil or jasmine absolute and also osmanthus. In perfumery it's used as a good fixative in rose formulae. A warm summer evening, smell of open fire, dried fruits delight served in a garden, exotic decorations, regularity, quietness and warm friendly conversations till the midnight.

I am really wondering how you can use this oil... Wikipedia says that it smelts at 50 degrees and remains liquid for a long time after it cools down again. We'll see...


Jasmine liqueur

Russian version - click here

When I had my last obsession with jasmine it was not enough just to smell it in fragrances. So, I bought a jasmine tea and was also wondering if such thing as jasmine liqueur existed. Thanks to google I I could find a recipe of jasmine liqueur made from scented tea. The recipe is very simple:

1 pint, dark rum
1/2 cup, jasmine tea
1 cup, sugar syrup

Mix rum and jasmine tea and infuse for 24 hours. Than filter and add sugar syrup from 1 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water. That’s all. I decided to use honey instead of sugar and enhance the liqueur with one drop of jasmine absolute.

Well, the problem is that tea gives this liqueur too strong flavour and you can’t drink it alone. But it was a perfect essence to “jasminize” other drinks. I tried one or two tablespoons of this liqueur in a glass of different juices, soft drinks and cocktails (like rum-cola). It always gave a surprising exotic nuance. A perfect enhancer of tropical fruit juices to surprise your guests at Hawaii party.

Another solution to soften the strong tea flavour is to use less tea or to shorten the time of infusion. I am also wondering if it’s possible to make this liqueur without tea at all – just rum, honey and a couple drops of jasmine absolute… and may be orange blossom water and some lemons or oranges. I am very curious if I end up with a liqueur or an eau de cologne.


A private dilemma

Well, after a year of blogging I have understood several things about myself. First, I found that I like to write about perfume and perfumery. But it looks like I also like to write about other topics too. My inner critic in a duet with a teacher in me both seek for a bigger area of self-expression. And my materialistic Taurus would like to investigate if writing reviews can be elevated to a more professional level and be used as a small source of income.

Other topics I love to discuss are: myth busters, health (especially alternative medicine), being a critical customer, some aspects of magic, Tarot and astrology, wisdom of life etc. Shall I put it all in one blog? No, I still want AromaX-on-line to remain a perfumery blog with fragrance related information and sometimes a couple of personal thoughts. So, I decided to create another blog – Essences by VirtuMax where I can put my non-fragrant thoughts on everything and let the time and experience to crystallize my points of interests.

You’ve might also noticed that I turned the Google Ads on again. First I wanted my blog to be completely ads free. But now I want to give it a try – in both ways – to see if the ads are really relevant and can be useful as well as to see if it indeed works as a small extra source of income.

Another change is that I want to try myself in commercial review writing. So, next to my usual fragrance-related entries you might find posts written to promote a website or to review a product. I am aware, that reading of an advertisement is not always interesting. So, I do try also my commercial posts to be funny, useful or in any other way interesting for the readers of my blogs. A good mood of AormaX’s readers is important!

I am still thinking if I should combine my blogs or keep them strictly independent. Anyway, time will show.

Web Hosting: where to start

Webpages… it becomes an important attribute of our digital identity. Once you decide to share information on yourself, your hobby or your occupation with the world you need to create a webpage. Making and maintaining the webpages become easier and cheaper nowadays. But what do you have to know about it and where to start? Fortunately there are some websites where you can find both – comparison of web hosting providers and information helping you to understand what you should consider when choosing a provider.

Here I would like to review a cheap web hosting website. What I do like a lot about this website is that information there is well organized – you see everything you need just on their first webpage. It starts with a Top 10 Best Hosts 2009 – cheap, but professional providers under $10 a month. Than you can see Best Web Hosting Awards Winners of 2008. Enough candidates to choose from. And to help you to make a right choice there is a section of useful articles and guides. They are not for very beginners – you should already know what are the domain name and web hosting and be aware of how big is a Gb. But they highlight some certain points you should think about before you put your website on-line. Like how much disk storage space you need, what bandwidth you’d need, programming tools, operation system and support – see their guide for further information: WebHostingGuide

Although I already have a website and the only reason to visit WebHostingGeeks was to write a review about them, I would keep their URL in my Favourites map and definitely visit more often – they provide a lot of useful information and facts on web hosting I wasn’t really aware of. Like what threats are there and how to make my domain secure.


Cooking in water is not the way to make a natural pefume

Internet is a nice thing – you can find a lot of surprising, unique and rare information there. But you don’t always know if what you found is true. On some blogs and websites (and may be even in some books) you can find a receipt for making of natural perfume from fresh flowers.

You are advised to collect fresh fragrant flowers, cook them in water, filter and bottle. Let me explain why you can’t make perfume this way.

Technically, natural perfume is a solution of pleasant smelling essential oils of flowers (and other plants) in a suitable carrier. This solution should be preserved from decomposition. Essential oils are extremely volatile and evaporate easily when herbs or flowers are heated or boiled. So, making natural perfume by cooking of fresh flowers is impossible – because of three main reasons:

1. Essential oils are volatile – they easily evaporate from fresh flowers by cooking. Remember – distillation is the process of yielding of essential oils from plants based on volatility of essential oils, but to get fragrant material you should be able to catch and condensate the water vapour and not the decoct of flowers. So, when you are cooking of fresh flowers in an open pan, you have all the essential oils evaporated and decoct without any fragrant materials left.

2. Water is not a suitable carrier for making perfume, as almost all the essential oils, their components and other fragrant materials of flowers are not water soluble. It’s not possible to saturate water with fragrant materials enough to make a perfume. Of course, there are rose water, orange water etc, but they are the products of distillation and not just cooking.

3. A decoct of fresh flowers without any preservatives in it can easily get decomposed by mean of mould or bacteria in a couple of days.

So, a strange smelling brownish liquid with the greyish green mould lumps would probably be the result.


Colour therapy

The best remedy after the winter depression is a combination of aromatherapy with colour therapy. And the best remedy from our Mother Nature is... Hyacinth. Beautiful colours and wonderful smell giving new power, inspiration and cheerfulness.

And the yellow hyacinth is a best tabernacle to keep the concentrated spirit of the Sun.

Wake up from a winter sleep and enjoy your life !