Knize Ten - the classic leather

Russian version - click here

Image - Richard Armitage, comes from http://www.gamespot.com

Knize Ten – is a classic leather perfume that seems to remain untouched by the perishing influence of time. Its quiet and discreet box in black and white haven’t been attracted my attention for a ling time. I was getting to know Montale, Lutens, L’Artisan passing the Knize Ten by all the time. But the quality doesn’t have to be advertised. It always finds you if you start looking for it. Once I heard about Knize Ten from Andy who named it as an example of a well-made leather.

But even than I didn’t dare to buy it. First it was a not friendly Big Leather Monster playing on the edge of my olfactory receptor cells. On my skin it gave a thick cuminic leathery note, didn’t want to reveal its beauty threatening me and people around me with a knock-out. But once I just bought it under the influence of an unclear gust. May be I finally found a tamer in myself who made Knize Ten finally surrender. I couldn’t even imagine before how many notes and nuances could be found each time it opens on the skin.

In the beginning it’s a fresh citrus with a note of engine oil. As if a car repairman would give you a cup of Earl Gray in his garage. On the skin it opens with a fresh note of herbs bounded with a leather ribbon and a fresh cool note of early morning in the autumn. Luca Turin speaks about a splendid strawberry note. First I couldn’t recognize it and found a jasminic fruitiness, but after reading the Guide it revealed itself – a fresh, fragrant strawberry without cream or sugar.

Leather in Knize Ten is playing cat and mouse game. Sometimes it dominates and later it goes to the backgrounds giving the place for a beautiful floral heart with a strawberry nuance.

I also found a nice Jasmine there – fruity floral with a nice indolic beastliness and tropical fruity sweetness. Generously seasoned and softened with a drop of cream. But there is no Jasmine shown in the pyramid. Well, may be my nose loves the jasmine so much, that it just creates it in Knize Ten from the floral rose and carnation mixed with fruitiness of strawberry, borrowing the indolic note from leather, a drop of cream from sandalwood and a pinch of sugar from vanilla? I also found nice rose petals there, but no carnation. May be it conceals itself under the mask of jasmine. Or it integrates completely with the spicy leather note.

Iris of Knize Ten has a woody-ionone character. It becomes very aggressive if you put too much of the perfume on your skin.

And the leather again. It looks like there is more than one. I smell a bitterness of rough tar leather of a saddle. But also a soft dressed leather of a travelling bag. Nicely supported with amber note – warm with only a touch of sweetness.

Cumin – I smell a lot of it. A pinch of cumin may be used to give a musky smell of skin. But there is so much in Knize Ten. It comes and goes. And may be there is no cumin at all – it’s not shown in the pyramid by the way. :o)

Sometimes I think that you can analyse the notes of Knize Ten again and again and it always comes with something news. But being analysed it falls into the peaces that begins to play hide and seek and later comes together again and begin to show the images…


What does leather do to you?

Well, after a rose I am on a leather wave. Not for nothing.

First of all I was reminded by Andy about a very nice classic leather - Knize Ten. This perfume was often too much to me with its powerful leather with a good pinch of something like "cumin". But now it's tamed on my skin and opened all its beauty.

The second is that I've got some nice aromachemicals - Castoreum base and Safraleine molecule from Givaudan. Wow! I do really like the soft leathery or even suede-like smell of Safraleine. It's much softer and finer than rude shoe leather of isobutilquinoline. Castoreum gives it a nice animal character. I even blended those notes with one of variety of my rose accord and made a sketch of Rose in Leather perfume...

Well, later I hope to review Knize Ten and describe the aromachemicals I've got. And now a question to you all from a funny commercial:

What does leather do to you?


Rose III: the finishing touch

Russian version - click here

Image - a small red rose from Wikimedia

The introducing or rose alcohols to the first rose formula, hopefully made it softer, more floral and more rosy. But may be also more citronella like – depends on the quality of the rose alcohol used. There are some other important aromachemicals that might give this rose a finishing touch.

Rose oxide – is a very important aromachemical. Naturally less that 0.5% of this chemical can be found in a rose oil, but because our nose is 80 times more sensitive to it compared to citronellol, the influence of Rose oxide is comparable to that of citronellol. Commercial product consists of different isomers and may vary in purity grades. If you smell it even in 10% dilution you probably never link this gassy smell to a rose. Books says that the rose or geranium like odour can be noticed by extreme dilution or when used in a rose accord in low concentrations. The change rose oxides makes to a rose accord is subtle but noticeable. Use 0.5% or less in the rose accord and try to smell the difference.

Rose crystals or Rosone – is an nice fixative for a rose. It has a very difficult chemical name – trichloro methyl phenyl carbinyl acetate that you can find in some rose formulae. Also known as Rosatol, Rose acetale, TCMBA (guess where this comes from), Rosacetate, Rosalina etc. This one has a weak rosy odour with green nuances. It smells like “another variant of PEA” and you tend to underestimate this material as at first it may seem to have little or no influence to the rose compositions. The best is to compare the smell of pure PEA with a smell of PEA with 5% of Rose crystals added. Comparing two smelling strips I found that Rosone enriches the smell of PEA making the rosy smell more prominent and powerful. So, 2-4% of the rose crystals in the formula can give power to the rose and make it more long lasting. As I already have mentioned before – Vetiver oil, Guaiacwood oil and Cedarwood oil may also be used as fixatives in rose accords.

Beta-Damascenone – another very important rose chemical. Naturally it occurs in a rose oil at about 0.14% concentration. But the human nose is 55 times more sensitive to beta-damascenone compared to the rose oxide. Or 4400 times compared to citronellol. Thus, beta-damascenone makes almost 70% of the rose smell. This is an expensive aromachemicals that restricts it use in perfumery. You don’t find it in often in the rose formulae. A similar aromachemical Damascone (especially beta) may also be used, but it’s still expensive. It has a pleasant fruity floral odour recalling the smell of plum or a bit blackcurrant. I never compared damascones and damascenones, so, I don’t know if beta-damascone reaches the same effect in a rose as beta-damascenone, but 0.05 – 0.3% of it brings a nice fruity nuance to a rose accord.

Aldehydes and alcohols – waxy fatty notes of aldehydes finishes the top note of the rose smell giving some nuances of fatty rose petals of the fresh flower. Different aldehydes or alcohols might be used for that purpose (C8 – C12) in concentration of 0.01 – 0.2%.

Rosalva – is an unsaturated alcohol with ten carbon atoms (but don’t confuse it with Alcohol C10). This is an aromachemical with a rosy odour and fatty waxy nuances. Good to combine with aldehydes. To my nose possesses a harsh metallic note, but I haven’t found it back in a rose accord. Nice finishing touch to a rose.

Green notes – are also very common in rose accords. The simplest two are the leaf alcohol (cis-3-hexenol) and PADMA (Phenyl Acetaldehyde Dimethyl Acetal). The first one has a green fresh smell of a grass and the second one recalls a more sharp radish-like smell of arugula (rucola, rocket). One of them or both can be used to give some fresh nuances of green notes. Leaf alcohol is stronger than PADMA and should be used in lower concentrations – 0.1-0.3% for leaf alcohol and 0.2-1% for PADMA.

Naturals – are the best enhancers of almost any perfume. Rose oil and absolute are widely used in the rose accords. But a cheaper Geranium or Palmarosa oil is also a common natural constituent in a rose formula. Should be used up to 1-2%. Sometimes less sometimes more.

Well now our rose formula consists from about 15 ingredients. And this is a nice number for a good rose base. Enough space to play. Enjoy!


Introducing the rose alcohols

Russian version - click here

Image: a picture of a nice rose alcohol from http://www.craftdistillers.com

Rose alcohols are Citronellol, Geraniol and Nerol. They are major constituents of the rose oil and important aromachemicals in making of a rose accord (commonly used together with phenyl ethyl alcohol). A rose oil contains about 30-40% of citronellol, 20% of geraniol and 5% of nerol.

A rose accord formula may contain various proportions between PEA, citronellol and geraniol. Nerol is less common, but still widely used in rose formulae. Even the natural raw materials contains those materials in different proportions. The rose oils contains about 1% PEA, 35% of citronellol and 20% of geraniol that brings us to 1:35:20 ratio. And the absolute contains about 40-70% PEA, 6% of citronellol and 3% of geraniol that makes the ratio looks like – from 13:2:1 to 23:2:1.

If I see the 13:2:1 ratio I get an idée that the previous formula consisted of 15 druppels PEA can be enriched with 2 drops of citronellol and 1 drop of geraniol. And the amount of those alcohols can be gradually increased till I get the more rosy smell. In general the average amounts of those aromachemicals used in rose accords are – 20-60% PEA, 5-35% citronellol and 5-20% of geraniol. But the problem is that when you use rose alcohol you can get an unpleasant citronella nuance that you don’t really smell in a rose flower. Let’s have a closer look at those chemicals.

Citronellol – its smell is described as a fresh floral clean rose. But wait – I do smell citronella undertone. It’s time for some chemistry. Citronellol is a molecule that has different isomers (the compounds with similar chemical formula, but different structure). Citronellol has alpha and beta isomers and also so called stereo isomers. The first ones are a bit less important, but stereo isomers are much more interesting in perfumery – because of their structure they look like right and left hand – almost the same, but still not superposable – they are a mirror image of each other – they are called d-citronellol and l-citronellol (you may also find them as (+)-citronellol and (-)-citronellol). If you like more information on stereo isomers, please, visit a Wikipedia link - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enantiomer The d-citronellol is found to be a natural compound of citronella and ginger-grass oil. l-citronellol is a major compound of a rose oil. Both occurs in geranium oil. As aromachemical you can buy either citronellol (that contains of both l- and d- isomers and called racemic) or l-citronellol. Although the most properties of stereo-isomers are the same, the perfumery books say that l-citronellol is sweeter than racemic, has clean rosy top note and has no “mint” notes. But there is another factor that is responsible for the smell variations of different citronellols bought by different suppliers. Citronellol can be obtained by different ways – some of them gives a better quality products containing almost no impurities and other ways give citronellol of a lower grade with more impurities contributing to the smell. For example, racemic citronellol can be obtained from citronella oil by hydrogenation of geraniol component. If it’s not purified properly, you may get some other citronella constituents in citronellol. The purest citronellol is obtained chemically by reduction of citronellal. So, if you can get citronellol from different supplier – it’s important to compare the quality of their products and to choose the good one.
Citronellol can be used in rose (red and white), lily, lily of the valley and other floral accords.

Geraniol is another rose smelling aromachemical with fresh mild sweet rosy odour and dry rose-petals undertone. To my nose it reminds a bit of dried rose hips. Sometimes you can also catch some citronella notes. Geraniol occurs naturally in many essential oils like Geranium, Rose, Palmarosa, and Citronella and can be isolated from the last two oils. But it can be also made synthetically from Citral. Thus, the quality of Geraniol may also vary depending on impurities. For examle, Geraniol from Palmarosa oil is preffered to the one from Citronalla oil.

Rhodinol is the most complicated aromachemical as the word Rhodinol is used to describe a whole group of chemicals. In the first place this name was given to an impure compound isolated from rose otto. Latter it becomes a kind of synonym to the rose alcohols derived from essential oils. For example, l-citronellol isolated from Geranium oil can also be sold under the name of Rhodinol. Rhodinol C or Rhodinol ex Citronella mostly refers to a purified Citronellol from Citronella oil. Rhodinol coeur or Rhodinol ex Geranium refers to a mixture of rose alcohols from Geranium oils. Rhodinol can be found in various rose formulae – it’s used as a substitute of rose otto, geranium oils or as citronellol or rose alcohol mixture. It’s very important to collect information on Rhodinol from the supplier and figure out what kind of Rhodinol he is selling. And of course – it’s useful to compare the quality from the different suppliers.

If I compare my Rhodinol ex Citronella from the Perfumers World with Citronellol (also from the Perfumers World), I’d say that I definitely smell some Geraniol in Rhodinol, so it’s not a higher grade of citronellol, but a mixture of rose alcohols. And they both has unpleasant citronella nuances to my nose. So, I think I need to compare the suppliers and to search for a better quality.


Making of a rose accord: the beginning

Russian version - click here

Image - dried roses to illustrate the PEA odor found on http://www.your-healthy-gardens.com/drying-roses.html

Phenyl ethyl alcohol (PEA) is one of the most famous and important aromachemical possessing the rose odour – soft sweet rose with green notes recalling a smell of dried rose petals. It naturally occurs in rose absolute (making 40-70% of it). However the rose oil has almost no phenyl ethyl alcohol – just several percents. Phenyl ethyl alcohol in perfumery is widely used in many floral compositions – rose, lily of the valley, jasmine and many others. A rose formula can contain a huge amount of PEA – in some cases it can be the only rose-constituent like shown in a formula below.

The foundation perfumery course form the Perfumers World suggests a simple rose formula based on phenyl ethyl alcohol:

PEA – 15
Methyl ionone – 3
Clove oil – 0.5 (or Eugenol - 1)
Cedarwood oil – 1

This formula is a part of the foundation perfumery course - you can follow it free of charge at the Perfumers World.

Let’s see the role of other ingredients.

Methyl ionone is an iris or violet smelling chemical. It doesn’t occur naturally in rose, but there is another aromachemical with a similar smell that is a natural rose oil and absolute constituent – beta-ionone. There is only 0.03% of it found in a rose oil, but even such a tiny amount of beta-ionone contributes significantly to the rose odour. Our nose is very sensitive to beta-ionone almost 100 000 times more sensitive than to phenyl ethyl alcohol. Because of that even 0.03% of beta-ionone makes about 20% of the rose odour. More information on that interesting fact can be found at http://www.leffingwell.com/rose.htm
Methyl ionone and alpha-ionone can be used in rose formulae instead of beta-ionone. Methyl ionone has a woody undertone that makes it a perfect bridge between the woody notes and florals (especially red flowers).

Eugenol or clove oil (can contain up to 90% of Eugenol) gives the rose a spicy note. A similar aromachemical – methyl eugenol naturally occurs in a rose oil together with eugenol itself.

One drop of Eugenol can be used instead of 0.5 drop of Clove oil. Both are used to bring a spicy note to the rose accord. Too much eugenol makes the rose smell not only spicy, but also old, dry and a bit dirty – think of dried roses and cloves.

Cedarwood oil is a fixative for the rose accord. Another woody notes can be used like Sandalwood, Vetiver, Pathouli or Guaiac oils.

When I made a rose accord by this formula I was very disappointed by its smell. Nothing like a real rose. Of course I could expect that a rose accord made from four aromachemicals can not smell like a real rose consisting of about 350 ingredients. But it still can be a part of a more complicated rose accord. And some formulae shows that a nice rose base can be made of 10-20 ingredients. So, the next step is using of the rose alcohols to give some freshness to a drying rose.


Rose is in the air

Russian version - click here

Image - a rose found on http://www.kunstflora.com/

Well, sometimes it's just in the air and you can see its influences... Like you read how Andy is busy with his rose or you read the discussions in a perfumer's group about the quality of citronellol and the use of damascones instead of damascenones in a rose accord. Or someone shares his rose formula and you get inspire to try it out and figure out why those components are used. Roxana has made a wonderful post about the roses and the yummy things you can make with it. The rose is definitely in the air.

Inspired by all of those I decided to make a rose too. When you are an experienced perfumer you get an idea in your head and try to recreate that idea in the smell. When you are less experienced you mix things and later try to figure it out what direction your mixture is going :o) Sometimes you get the picture and begin to enhance enhance and modify it. I am not that experienced yet. I wanted to make a rose, but I didn't know what rose I'd get.

First it was just a rose accord experiment. I took a simple rose formula from the Perfumersworld based on phenyl ethyl alcohol. Later I enhanced it with rose alcohols. They gave some unpleasant citronella like nuances. To get rid of them I continued blending and using of another rose chemicals. At the certain point I got the picture - I was making an Old English style rose - a bit dirty recalling the smell of drying petals. So, I added some galbanum - wow - it was wonderful to see how it makes rose old with its sharp green note - like a flower from a herbarium. More eugenol to enhance this effect and a touch of lemon. A woody base of Patchouli and Cedarhout with a non-sweet amber accord and a touch of animal notes.

The perfume I made smells from a bottle like an old fashion eau de cologne - as if you made an infusion of rose petals with a citrus peels. On the skin the rose becomes stronger and sweeter - a mixture of a fresh rose with dry petals - a smell of an old herbalist cellar, old fashioned eau de cologne and a single rose standing somewhere in the corner. The dry out was surprising reminding me of Rose Poivrée - with its dirty underpants undertones (not unpleasant though).

What I am not satisfied with is a citronella note coming from the rose alcohols. Well, it contributes to a herbarium smell, but doesn't really allow the fresh rose to come through. I think I should get better quality of citronellol and geraniol or try to use less of them and may be to try some modern rose aromachemicals.

Mostly when I am obsessed with happy blending I can forget to write the formula down. But this time I did it. And I also described the process of making of a rose accord that I shall place here in the following entries. So, if you are interested you'll be able to make a rose accord too.


Hyacinth: the way it's made

Russian version - click here

Image - a nice hyacinth close-up view from http://commons.wikimedia.org

A Grand Damme asked me if I knew a chemical formula of hyacinth. Her question made me curious and I looked into the wise perfumery books as I found it time to make acquaintance with hyacinth. Its freshly green floral scent is what everyone needs now when spring is on its way. I haven’t complete my jasmine series yet there is no harm to start something new in between.

First of all it was interesting to find out that there is a natural source of hyacinth smell – unlike the lily of the valley, it’s possible to yield a hyacinth absolute by solvent extraction from fresh flowers. Although the pure absolute seem to posses a sharp unpleasant smell that becomes reminiscent of hyacinth only when diluted up to 0.1% and lower. Of course it’s nice to have a bottle of this curiosity for some experiments, but it’s not really easy to get one. Wise books mention Netherlands as one of the important producers of hyacinth absolute (as well as the most important hyacinth bulbs supplier). But I couldn’t find any Dutch supplier by searching for “hyacinth absolute” in goole. I couldn’t find it in assortment of two another reliable foreign suppliers – Liberty and White Lotus. Of course I’ve got some links where I could buy the hyacinth absolute, but adulteration of this product is very common and that is why it’s important to get a reliable supplier. So, if you know one who sells hyacinth absolute for a reasonable price, please, let me know.

According to the wise perfumery books the synthetic hyacinth is one of the easiest formula in perfumery. Technically you get a reminiscent of hyacinth when you mix rose, jasmine, lilac and lily of the valley components with some green notes. That is why I got a hyacinth note in my previous experiment almost automatically. The formula I was working with contained Lyral (lily of the valley), benzyl acetate (jasmine), phenyl ethyl alcohol (rose) and terpineol (lilac) and I mixed it with green notes of leaf alcohol, galbanum and other components.

I’d like to make an important notice here. Although I juxtapose aromachemicals and the floral smells in a previous paragraph to simplify my story, but it doesn’t give a good image of how those aromachemicals really smell. Terpineol doesn’t really smell like lilac flowers, benzyl acetate has a sweet pungent smell reminding of a solvent and phenyl ethyl alcohol smells like a decaying rose petals you’d like to throw away. But still those aromachemicals are the main building blocks for the corresponding floral smells when surrounded properly.

And to make it more complicated and to intricate it all (in the best traditions of perfumery) I should add, that there are eight basic aromachemicals that you can mix together in different proportions to get a skeleton of several different floral formulae. So, by mixing of phenyl ethyl alcohol, hydroxycitronellal, benzyl acetate, hexyl cinnamic aldehyde, citronellol, terpineol and indole you can get either jasmine or rose or lilac or lily of the valley. I think you can even get a rose (especially white rose) if you don’t use too much of benzyl acetate and indole.

The very first main components of hyacinth were bromstyrol and phenylacetic acid. Nowadays the phenylacetic aldehyde is the most important one. Its other name is Hyacinthin for it’s a little sharp green and fresh smell reminding of hyacinth flower. It is used in combination with cinnamic alcohol, benzyl alcohol and terpineol. Styrax, heliotropin and galbanum are used as fixatives. As I already mentioned the synthetic components of jasmine, rose, lilac and lily of the valley also may be used in hyacinth formula as well as natural oils or absolutes of jasmine and rose. One of the favorite naturals used to enrich the hyacinth formula is a precious and expensive narcissus absolute.

In a perfumery book I found two simple formulae of a hyacinth bases suggested to be used in a hyacinth perfume. The bases are simple, but the perfume suggests using amber and musk tinctures together with jonquil (narcissus) absolute. I have ordered the last one together with cetalox – one of the nicest modern amber substitute. Let’s see what I finally get.

By the way – if you have a good picture of hyacinth to illustrate this entry, please, let me know – I’d like to use it instead of a random goolge image.


Nostalgy on vernal flowers

Russian version - click here

Image - hyacinths from http://hayefieldhouse.com/

February is a tricky month. You think the winter is almost over when you see the first snowdrops coming from the ground or buy the first hyacinth bulbs from the local florist. But February is still a cold winter month with its night frost and cold wind striking into the marrow. Warm and fresh florals is what we all need during those cold grey days.

I have to think of Mitsouko – a light, but deep fruity chypre created just after the war – a peak point when need for something light and beautiful was drawn to a head during the post-war devastation. Inspired by experiments of flacon007 I also decided to create this perfume following the formula presented on Linda Andrews’ website. I have got almost all the ingredients. It was interesting to start with mixing of two main contrasting components of almost any chypre – oak moss and bergamot. Only two components, but they make a recognizable core of a chypre fragrance. A couple of drops of peach aldehyde and the skeleton of Mitsouko is ready. Of course there is still a long way to make it a recognizable Mitsouko. I still can’t smell the “cookies” (it’s my personal olfactory association to recognize a chypre character). It was very interesting to discover a lot of herbs in this formula – tarragon, lavender, celery, coriander and chamomile. All together they brought a bit strange note to the fragrance that I recognize neither in a modern EdT nor in an old perfume. But there is a magic of maturation. Five days farther and this strange note is combined with a citrus freshness that is not that strong in any vintage perfume touched by time. I do recognize the “cookies”. Now the only thing I need is a suitable atomizer, dilution till EdP concentration and more maturation for another couple of weeks. And I am ready to meet the spring. There is still a strange note of plastic amber that I recognize in the base. Let’s see how it behaves on skin after the dilution and maturation.

There is one more thing I need to honour the spring – a smell of fresh verdure and hyacinths that are so popular in Balmain’s creations. On the website of a local supplier of ingredients for making of perfume, soaps, shampoo’s and other happy staff at home I found a simple formula of Des Fleurs Blanc:

8 ml alcohol
20 drops Lyral
18 drops fenylethylalcohol
12 drops benzylacetate
6 drops alfa terpineol
5 drops alfa ionone
5 drops benzyl salicylate
4 drops ylang ylang III oil

Des Fleurs Blanc are rich with benzyl acetate and gives a very concentrated sultry fragrance. To fixate the white florals I added some Peru balsem (it’s a perfect fixative for white florals next to Benzoin Siam), some vanilla and synthetic musk. The fragrance was reminding me a hot summer instead of soft fresh vernal breeze. Fortunately there are many green notes to bring freshness to a floral fragrance – I added some leaf alcohol together with it’s salicylic ether, a couple drops of galbanum and helional. Some calone and cyclamen aldehyde gave it some acquatic transparency. Modified Des Fleurs Blanc is a fresh fragrance with green notes of hyacinth that turns into sweet white florals with tender green nuances by the dry down. Well – all it’s need now is a suitable atomizer, dilution till 10-12% and some maturation.