Considering the vanilla orchid is harvested in remote parts of the world, it is something most of us will come in contact with on a daily basis, as a flavour in our breakfast yoghurt, an odour in a bath product, an ingredient in a chocolate lunch pastry or the perfume we choose to wear to dinner. In perfumery, vanilla is highly relied upon. Most perfumes contain natural or synthetic vanilla odours. There are fragrances that are all about vanilla, for example the niche Vanille Absolument by L’Artisan Parfumeur, Guerlain’s super gourmand Spiriteuse Double Vanille or the luxurious Vanille Galante by Hermes. Other fragrances require vanilla as part of their DNA; it forms part of the skeletal system of many oriental/ambreine perfumes such as Guerlain Shalimar and Calvin Klein Obsession. In a composition, vanilla can also be used to round off base notes. Sometimes even the most bitter eau fraiche might contain just a touch of vanilla to neutralise the acidic bite of the citrus notes as well as acting like a fixative, to bond the more volatile notes to skin.
From a perfumer’s perspective, the beauty of vanilla lies in its complex odour. It is an odour that encompasses a broad range … Read More »
Last year when I visited Christian Dior in Paris, I was intrigued by one of the bottles in the brand’s perfume organ. The organ is used as a sales tool for consultants to identify the client’s preferred notes. One of the small bottles was labelled New Zealand Ambergris. I was intrigued for two reasons. My first reaction was one of surprise, that major perfume houses such as Dior, were still producing perfume using this rare material and the second was that the small country in which I grew up was supplying one of world’s most iconic names in fashion with perfume ingredients. I never heard of ambergris growing up in New Zealand, so I was surprised to learn it was found there. A surprise that later turned to reason, knowing that whale watching is one of the country’s tourist attractions. I asked the sales consultant if I could dip a paper touché in the ambergris bottle. The resulting smell was somewhere between wood and musk. Unconvinced I smelt unadulterated ambergris and I left Paris with a mental note; I wanted to find natural ambergris on my next visit to New Zealand.
Last week I was in Auckland on New Zealand’s north … Read More »
If you open the wardrobe where I keep my collection of perfumes you should notice a theme of vetiver fragrances. After almost a year of perfume blogging, writing about all of the scented creations that I have the pleasure and fortune of choosing from every morning, I have not written about every vetiver scent that my wardrobe contains. I do not help my predicament by adding new vetiver scents to my perfume wardrobe as new bottles find their way into my restless hands. I guess this is not a bad predicament to be in! I have often thought of what it is about the native Indian grass that I find so attractive. I believe it has something to do with the complexity of the scent, the paradox of its radiant green character and dense earthiness. It’s ultra suave masculine personality that can change gender when paired with seductive floral notes. Vetiver is the chameleon note that adapts to the perfumer’s hand. The grass has been used for centuries, in perfumery and for medicinal purposes. Oil is distilled from the plant’s roots and contains no less than one hundred different molecules, a testimony to its complexity. Vetiver (Vetiveria Zizanioides) was not … Read More »
I have a history of dabbling in spirituality. My parents enrolled me in a Catholic primary school as they considered the level of education was better than public school. In my early teens the ritual of catholic mass and the stories of the bible fascinated me. During my first year of art school I became interested in eastern philosophy and mysticism. After some experimentation I decided to put art school on hold and traveled for three years with the Hare Krishnas. This was my first authentic encounter with the beautiful Santalum Album. Sandalwood has been used for millennia in India by a variety of Vedic or Hindu sects as well as Buddhists. During certain festivals devotees of Krishna will grind sandalwood into a paste that can be mixed with floral waters, spices such as turmeric or saffron and clay from the holy Ganges or Yamuna River. This cooling paste is applied to the heads and bodies of the temple deity as an act of worship. It is a ritual that began many centuries ago in India when Lord Jagannatha instructed King Indradyumna to smear the deity’s body with sandalwood paste as an act of devotion. This ritual continues to be … Read More »
Leather as a style has existed in fragrance for centuries. There are several histories that modern perfumers draw inspiration from such as Cuir de Russie and Peau d’Espagne. Traditionally perfumers worked with master tanners to scent hides used for the creation of perfumed leathergoods such as gloves that were the fashion in 17th century France. Leather holds it’s own scent, which is enhanced by the tannins that have been used to transform the hide into leather. Modern tanneries use a combination of mineral or chromium salts to halt the decaying process. The hides are then drummed and dyed, further developing the hand and grain desired. The hand refers to the sensual touch of the leather and grain is the visual aspect. The master tanner will monitor this drumming phase with care to create the hand and grain required. Aniline and semi aniline processes create leather that is very natural and has a wonderful hand. This natural aspect shows the true nature of leather, each piece is individual and bares its soul. This style of leather will develop its own patina with time and becomes darker. Many buyers of luxury leather goods do not fully appreciate this natural aspect and prefer … Read More »
So what exactly is Iso E Super? It sounds like something you would find at your local gas station instead of something on a perfumer’s wheel. Recently the ingredient was placed into the spot light by Swedish perfumer Geza Schoen. His brand Escentric Molecules features a fragrance composed entirely of Iso E Super. Even if this was your first conscious experience with Iso E Super, if you have worn fragrance in the past 20 years you will be no stranger to this essential perfumer’s material. Created by International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF), Iso E Super is one of the patented molecules to come out of their research and development department. The payback for companies like IFF to literally invent a new scented molecule is immeasurable if you consider how many tons of the chemical are produced every year. What makes this molecule so precious is its ability to replicate wood without the density of naturals such as sandalwood or cedar. Described by IFF as woody, floral, ambergris; Iso E Super has a wonderful iris note and works well as a floraliser in iris/wood men’s fragrances such as Christian Dior’s Dior Homme. It also works as an extender for woods. Mixed … Read More »
My recent perfume experimentations have involved musk. To be honest I am not a big fan of fragrances that feature it as a main note in their composition but I have recently opened my mind to its personality and am trying to learn how I can take advantage of its characteristics. The smell of fresh laundry is often attributed to the use of ozonic aromachemicals. On closer inspection you begin to see the role synthetic musk plays in creating a fresh laundry scent. We associate the smell of musk with fresh laundry because it was used in most of our laundry powders up until the mid 1990s. In 1988 an estimated 7000 tons of synthetic musk was produced. These molecules began showing up in our waterways, marine life and even mother’s breast milk. Controls were put in place to reduce the amount of contact we have with these molecules and there are concerns for the effect they have on humans. Scientist Albert Bauer who was experimenting with TNT explosives first discovered synthetic musk in 1888. After an experiment he noticed a pleasurable smell in the air. Fast forward a century and these synthetic versions that lack the fecal aspect of … Read More »
This weekend I have been experimenting with tobacco absolute. It’s a fantastic ingredient and very complex. Sweet balsamic notes of Cuban cigars, spice, hay and pungent resins similar to labdanum. I wanted to make an accord that could later be used to base a formula for a men’s fragrance with incense notes along the lines of Annick Goutal’s Incens Flamboyant.
Natural vanilla, vanillin, labdanum absolute, tolu balsam, tonka bean, cedramber, ambrettolide.
East Indian sandalwood, ebanol, sandalore, iso e super, Himalayan cedar, Indonesian vetiver, vetiveryl acetate
Synthetic civet, galaxolide
I’m considering the addition of ethyl maltol for a more candied vanilla. For the sandalwood note I opted to represent it in a more synthetic way. I like the way the synthetics are prominent right from the start in comparison to natural sandalwood which would only show it’s presence further along in the dry-down. Next experiment is to add it to different floral accords and find a suitable match but I think an earthy iris and salicylate accord will be the winner. But not before I clean my test tube rack, lol, I just noticed the state of it when I took the photo…