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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Mint in Perfumes. Like it or Loathe it?

It is a long cold winter here in New England.  The air is still, gray and cold.  When looking out the window all I see is white.  Frozen snow and ice.  Did I mention cold?  Ice?  The outdoor light is harsh and unforgiving bouncing off the reflective ice.  When I catch my reflection in the rearview mirror I note a myriad of wrinkles around my eyes that seem to have popped up overnight.  This displeases me and causes me to scowl, causing even more pronounced crows feet.  I try to relax and concentrate on the precarious driving conditions. 

The snow is close to four feet high where left untouched and covered with a thick layer of smooth clear ice.  On the rare occasion that the pale sun shines, the smooth frozen snow appears glasslike.  The large winter storm that delivered snow, then sleet, then hail followed by rain has finally moved out to sea.  As an ode to Mother Nature, I found it fitting to watch one of my favorite movies The Ice Storm yesterday.  This omnipresent coldness is numbing in every way.  The shocking feeling of opening the front door and taking a deep breath of chilling winter air makes me think of icy blasts of peppermint.  Insert York Peppermint Patty commercial here:  "When I bite into a York Peppermint Patty, I get the sensation of . . . "

I've been blending various perfumes mods with mints: peppermint, spearmint, and mint absolute.  Mint is tricky.  A light hand is needed.  Mint tends to overpower all others and I believe it's an acquired taste in perfumes.  I find mint absolute the most friendly, followed by spearmint.  Peppermint is difficult and not my favorite.  Mint also seems to have a sort of "sneak attack" on perfumes.  I smell the perfume as I'm blending and I find I cannot detect the mint.  I try a tiny drop more, still no mint.  Apply to skin, inhale and still not a trace of the "cold" note I'm seeking. One drop more . . . oh no!  It's suddenly mouthwash. 

I recently created a solid perfume with notes of spearmint, violet leaf, rose, and orris to name a few.  I'm not sure I like it, despite numerous revisions.  I feel cranky and petulant and am sure I'm suffering from cabin fever or seasonal affective disorder.  The mint is stronger than I'd like, drowning the bergamot and lime which are swallowed by the solid perfume.  The rose seems non-existent despite the exorbitant amount of otto and absolute used.  The costly and beautiful orris is faint and appears much later on the skin as a powder cool sigh.  Perhaps I've created an unsuccessful and expensive mistake.  Irritation abounds.  I ask my partner what he thinks of the scent, rubbing the balm on his hand with a challenging look in my eye.  "Mmmm, it's ahh . . . minty?  He asks this nervously, eyes darting hoping his comment is what I'm looking for.  Have I mentioned I'm a tad bit cranky? 

My predicamint (sorry people--bad humor abounds when it's 1 degree outside--that's right, I said 1 degree.) The solid perfume is pretty and green.  Interesting and original, but do people really want to smell minty?

Send warmth and sunshine.


Lisa BTB said...

I tried blending with rose and spearmint and it turned out just OK. The spearmint was highly diluted but still made the perfume sweeter than I liked. I ended up shelving the whole thing lol.

Jean said...

I enjoyed your blog and definitely feel your pain regarding the current weather around here; just when you think it can't get worse, it does! I can see how mint could be difficult to work with - seems it would have to be very subtle (but not too subtle :-)). Love your perfumes - a sniff of gypsy takes me elsewhere...

Charna said...

Hi Lisa,
Ditto for me with shelving the mint perfumes. My mint blends weren't sweet, more green and minty but not what I was going for. Thanks for sympathizing :)

Charna said...

Jean-thank you so much for your kind words on Gypsy. I've been so blah lately. Your compliment made me smile.

Bellatrix said...

HI! I ask myself minty questions a lot... in my case it is more like: "Will people like this perfume that smells more like aromatherapy than anything else?" :D

Elise Pearlstine, Naturalist Perfumer said...

Hi Charna - I used a teeny tiny bit of peppermint in my Magnolia doppleganger to get a bit of freshness at the topnote. Never tried a mint blend per se.

Ambrosia said...

Great minds play alike...?
I'm working on a mint blend or two at the moment as well...maybe we should swap samples to see if we can help each other?

Charna said...

Hi Ambrosia,

I'd like that! I wasn't trying to specifically make a "mint" perfume per se, but more use mint as an accessory note to enhance green perfumes with violet leaf and galbanum and the like. It's a tricky ingredient to work with, don't you think?

KniDonovan said...

I have recently been using the tiniest amount of the wintergreen of sweet birch or mint for shrubbery -lilac, spring perfumes and tropicals. My nose seems to be a bit blind to mint though and I have had some disasters where I have had to add on- and add on to cover up. Laura from Urban Eden is amazing with minty notes. I would never be as brave to mix it with vetiver but that soap of hers and many others she makes with minty tops are wonderful.

I have had some hits and misses with solids.
When I was first making them I liked using shea as well. A friend was kind enough to sell them at a farmers market for me. 6 months later I had her return the solids for me to check them for freshness. To my horror my "coco violette" looked like a moldy, green and white petri dish! The greenness of the violet leaf really added a mossy looking punch. They smelled fine but the shea was grainy and separated. I think this has something to do with getting the temperature right. But now I am freaked about using shea again having them starting out looking pretty then down the road looking like moldy.
I now sometimes use a combo of honey beeswax and pure soy wax flakes. The soy wax is very light, melts quickly, has a pure white color is odorless and smooth. I have gotten positive feedback about the texture. I would like to use shea butter again though is I like how it absorbs in the skin. That Coco V batch was a big waste of orris!
Do you have a suggestion? If you do not have the time to answer I understand.
p.s. Do you ever use Siam benzoin in your solids? How the heck do people get that red hard resin into wax. I can only tincture it in alcohol to obtain that beautiful smell. I tried a little in alcohol the adding oil but oy the smell was not good.

john petter said...

Great post. Thanks for the advice for the rest of us blogger!.. Agent Provocateur