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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Rave Reviews for Gypsy Perfume & Free Sample Offer!

My newly released perfume Gypsy has danced it's way into reviewer hearts!  I'm ecstatic by all the positive reviews.  Gypsy eau de parfum was created for the Natural Perfumer's Guild Outlaw perfume project.  Gypsy contains notes of lavender, tonka and pink lotus.

For a limited time all orders over $35.00 will receive a free deluxe size sample of Gypsy worth $10.00!

Please type "Gypsy sample" into the paypal comments box when checking out to receive offer.

Read what the critics are saying about Gypsy:

The last of my outlaws is a wonderful perfume called Gypsy, created by Charna owner of the Providence Perfume Company. To say that I love Gypsy would be such a vast understatement that I couldn’t live with myself! Gypsy is simply one of the most remarkably sensual natural perfumes that I’ve ever smelled. Gypsy is a classic fougere or as Charna calls it a sweet amber fougere or a fougere light. It is wonderful…a sexy tango of a perfume that is completely surprising, green and delicious. Because Charna is a bit of a gypsy and I’m a bit of a witch you’d know that this one would knock me straight off of my broom. Galangal and Lavender, Petitgrain and Cardamon begin the magical spell and are followed by more lavender, Pink Lotus and jiocy , fleshy green Violet leaf. The base of Tonka, Oakmoss, Vetiver , Patchouli , Costus and Vanilla is perfect and lasts for hours. Gypsy is a smoky, shadowy seductive bombshell of a perfume and is more than a little dangerous. This witchy woman knows her power and is not afraid to wield it. She is gorgeous and luckily for you, Charna will be giving away a 5ml . bottle of it to one of you. But be careful and make sure before you beg me for this sample (and you should be begging!) that you’re up for it. --Perfume Smellin Things

I remember now.

Perfume is an art. It creates pictures. It tells stories and stirs memories and emotions. Or, at least, it should.

Big corporations, focus groups, politics, marketing and mass marketing and most of all IFRA regulations have almost  taken it away from us and made us forget what it feels like to wear real perfume. But now, wearing Gypsy by perfumer Charna Ethier, I remember. And I don't want to let go.

Technically speaking, Gypsy is a dark amber with a touch of green fougere. If I were an abstract painter trying to capture Gypsy I'd paint my canvas black-based brown, maroon and brick red, let the colors bleed into each other and then incorporate some forest green veins. But Gypsy is only abstract if I let it be. It's a warm, breathing thing, human and personal and makes me think of the way other countries seemed to me as a child.

I go back to times before I had a clear map of the world in my head and was only discovering the wonder of foreign languages- people speaking in magical tones. My parents had guests from different corners of the world- long lost relatives and old friends coming from as far as South Africa and East Europe. They stayed up  late, drank mysterious and strong smelling liqueurs that had beautiful labels on their dark  bottles, wore strong perfumes and brought gifts that smelled of mystery.

Gypsy has all that and more. I consider it wearable by both men and women, though my husband's chemistry brings out something a little too sharp, while on me it's as soft and luxurious as I could have ever hoped. According to Charna Ethier "Most of the botanicals used in comprising Gypsy Eau de Parfum are posted on IFRA's list of banned/restricted ingredients".  The main notes are-

Top: galangal, lavender, lemon, petitgrain, and cardamom.
Heart: pink lotus absolute, Bulgarian lavender and green violet leaf.
Base: tonka, oakmoss, vetiver, patchouli, costus, and vanilla

But it's all about the blend- spicy, sensual, dark and sweet. It feels romantic and mysterious. It's incredibly long-lasting (easily more than 12 hours). A full bottle is now on my ever-growing wish list, a sentiment that seems to be shared by Ida from Ca Fleur Bon--the non blonde

I’m enchanted by Charna’s particular inspiration: Madeline and the Gypsies by
Ludwig Bemelmans.

[Apparently, Charna has often read this book to her children- something we both share]

A “sweet amber fougère” is a lovely way to express your composition, Charna.
And so much more.

Charna wanted the pink lotus to ‘sing’, using herbs and coumarin-rich materials to accompany it.
And that she did; Gypsy ‘s top notes do just that:

Galangal, lavender, lemon petitgrain, and cardamom.

The heart has such lovely pink lotus absolute, escorted gallantly by Bulgarian lavender and green violet leaf.
Her sumptuous base spares no cost:

Tonka, oakmoss, vetiver, patchouli, costus, and vanilla.

Gypsy was a real revelation to me.
I seriously think I’m going to need a bottle.
[The name doesn’t hurt any, either]

--Ida Meister, Cafleurebon

Providence Perfume Co. Gypsy is all dark and spicy CARDAMON !! I mean cardamon from top to bottom . I was totally gobsmacked by this . I love it in it's own way
and the more I sniff it , the more I think I need a full bottle . This is sooo gorgeous , a beautiful reworking of the traditional chypre , a little dark , alot sexy , and just dangerous enough....! Long lasting , compelling and unusual .

From a tiny niche perfumery in the smallest state in the U.S. comes a new creation called Gypsy by Charna Ethier of Rhode Island's Providence Perfume Company. Gypsy is a modern take on a very traditional perfume category, the fougère or fern style mostly used in “masculine” perfumes. Most of them have an aromatic quality of sweet hay like dried fern, not fresh green, and Gypsy has that character as well, but with a difference. Along with the coumarin smell of the classic fougère and the pungent lavender with which it is often paired is the essence of pink lotus blossom, something you would never expect in a perfume of this style – until now. Does it work? Oh yes, it most certainly does. The hay-like note is a perfect match for the floral sweetness and helps bring the lotus into focus as the centerpiece of the scent instead of drowning it in the watery aquatic (and mostly synthetic) perfumes where it is so frequently found. Rose adds its rich roundness to the whole thing. There is an almost sugary quality to this perfume but not in the heavy-handed way of too many modern perfumes. Spicy galangal, similar to ginger root, adds another dimension of interest, all built on a delicious base of oakmoss, Tonka bean, vetiver and costus. Lacking the buttoned-up austerity and woodiness that characterize so many fragrances in this usually masculine genre, this is a fougère that women will love to wear and men will feel comfortable with. As a big fan of lotus flower, I am glad to see it used in this new way. (What else would I expect from someone who has a perfume in her line called Cocoa Tuberose that also has absinthe in it? Outlaws indeed!)--Donna Hathaway Portland Daily Examiner

Monday, November 29, 2010

Making Solid Perfumes - Less is more

Providence Perfume Co., 100% natural perfumes

If you can make alcohol based perfumes, making solid perfumes should be no problem right?  Wrong.  I've recently been working creating perfume balms.  This is a big step for a perfumer who is accustomed to working with alcohol.  Switching from alcohol as a medium to wax and oil isn't the easy transition I anticipated.

Using alcohol as a carrier for creating scents has endless benefits.  One can create alcohol based tinctures of fruits, vanilla beans, flowers, etc.  Alcohol allows aromas to diffuse and bloom when applied to the skin.  Sticky, resinous botanicals dissolve easily in alcohol.  Let's face it, what doesn't dissolve in 150 proof alcohol?  Blending essential oils and absolutes in alcohol seems relatively straightforward and comfortable.  Essences sing clearly in alcohol.

Oil and wax is a whole different beast.  First there is the oil.  Oils can go rancid and one must choose either fractionated coconut oil or jojoba (wax) in order to give their oil or solid based perfume an infinite shelf life.  Then there is the issues with dissolving botanicals.  Many, many resins will not dissolve in oil.  Additionally these resins can cause clouding and muddying of the oil.  Try blending benzoin in oil and you'll see what I mean. You get a cloudy mess that resembles melted butter!

Then there is the issue of top-notes.  Oil/wax tamps down and dulls many light essences.  One must double or even triple the amount of top notes used in alcohol based perfumes.  The oil seems to swallow citruses absorbing the fresh light notes, leaving the merest hint of bergamot or bitter orange.  In general, oil perfumes seem to dull many essences requiring a heavier hand with many aromatics.

Then there is the wax.  Because I try and keep my products as natural as possible I use unbleached yellow beeswax.  However, this beeswax has a prevalent honeyed beeswax odor.  I love the natural fragrance unprocessed beeswax possesses BUT, and it's a big BUT, this intrinsic beeswax aroma is very noticeable, even in the final product.  The beeswax aroma does not necessarily work with certain blends, such as very green crisp scents and requires much experimenting to discover what complements the beeswax aroma.  Another drawback of using pure beeswax is I often find the final solid perfume scent dries down to the same beeswax aroma despite experiments using massive amounts of varying essential oils.  In the end, the perfumes resemble each other slightly as the aroma of beeswax is potent.  Again, I love the beeswax scent but some may not.  I now understand more clearly why many companies choose filtered, bleached beeswax with no aroma.

Finally, there is the combining of the chosen oil and wax to create the solid perfume base.  I started out using the "recipe" in Mandy Aftel's book Scents and Sensabilities.  It consists of 5 ml. jojoba, blended with 1/2 teaspoon beeswax.  I found this mixture a bit too hard for my liking and kept tweaking the recipe by adding more oil and less beeswax but still wasn't happy.  I longed for the softer consistency of the solid perfumes found within vintage compacts.  After much trial and error I discovered that the introduction of shea butter created a softer solid perfume base.  Another perk of adding the shea butter was that it reduced the amount of beeswax needed and thus reduced the beeswax aroma slightly.

One of the biggest adjustments I faced when creating perfume balms was the lack of subtle nuance available when blending.  When creating perfumes, I am accustomed to being able to add minute quantities of accessory notes to achieve marvelous effects in the final blend.  In my experience this is not true when creating solid perfumes.  The more essential oils added the "muddier" the final aroma becomes.  Accessory notes are difficult to use in solids as they are potent and must be used in small quantities, rendering them unnoticeable in the final solid natural perfume.  By the time I add enough black currant bud to actually smell it in the perfume balm I find it overpowers.  I found subtracting the number of ingredients in a solid perfume blend often improved the aroma.  I'm accustomed to using 20 botanicals and upwards in my alcohol based perfumes and found my best solid perfumes contained between 3-8 ingredients!  Note to self, Keep it simple!

Lest you think I'm being negative regarding solid perfumery I'd like to tout the positives.  I truly love making solid perfumes.  I love the preparation, the vintage feel and look of perfume balms.  I love the feeling of rooting around my purse, locating my solid perfume (which will never leak and ruin my bag--I'm talking about you Gucci Rush circa 2001) and rubbing the satiny cream on my wrists.  I especially like being able to apply the scent surreptitiously when confronted with bad smells.  We perfumers are known to have sensitive noses, and when confronted with an inescapable malodorous aroma such as riding the train or standing in line next to someone who err ---who does not smell good---it's nice to be able to apply a little perfume balm and secretly inhale.

Due to the oil and wax base, perfume balms last quite awhile.  While the aroma is subtle, it is long lasting.  It also pleases me that I can focus on creating mid or top note heavy solid perfumes.  I've nearly perfected a stargazer lily and lilac solid perfume.  These soliflores work perfectly as solid perfumes, whereas I could never quite get them to work as traditional liquid scents.  There's something about the melding of the beeswax with the floral heart notes that just smells amazing.

Any other solid perfume makers out there who want to share tips or recommendations?  
Charna ethier gives classes on how to make natural perfume.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

'GYPSY' my Outlaw perfume

Natural Perfumers Guild Outlaw Perfume Project

I am participating in a perfume project with my fellow natural perfumers focusing on restricted natural perfumery ingredients.  The list of essential oils restricted by IFRA is long and senseless.  Reading how many beloved classic scents have been reformulated beyond recognition due to these regulations was my inspiration for creating 'Gypsy' Eau de Parfum.

The way the project works is a small group of indie natural perfumers create a scent highlighting many of these restricted botanicals.  We feel the restrictions on orange blossom or lavender for example is needless and overly restrictive.  These natural botanicals are beautifully fragrant and the public should get to decide for themselves if they wish to buy an artisan scent containing these elements.  After creating our "Outlaw" perfumes we send them to bloggers, critics and each other to sample.  The excitement I feel checking the mailbox and finding a luxuriously crafted scent from another perfumer is beyond palpable!  I feel lucky to get to experience these creations, each perfumer with his or her point of view clearly represented in a tiny vial . . . little works of art to share.

I'd like to share with you the experience of collaborating in this project.  Included in this post are the materials I sent out to participants.  Each package contained a sample of my new scent Gypsy, the above illustrated postcard and a letter explaining my thoughts on creating Gypsy.  The letter I sent is printed below.

O.K. so maybe describing my perfume ‘Gypsy’ as a fougère is stretching it a bit!  Maybe sweet amber fougère, or fougère light might be a little more accurate.  I can say that ‘Gypsy’ is redolent with typical components of fougère perfumes such as lavender, oakmoss, tonka and linalool.  The Main notes of Gypsy EDP are listed below.

Top Notes: Galangal, Lavender, Lemon Petitgrain, Cardamom
Heart: Pink Lotus, Bulgarian Lavender Absolute, Violet Leaf
Base Notes: Tonka, Oakmoss, Vetiver, Patchouli, Costus, Vanilla

In creating this blend I wished to focus on Pink Lotus, utilizing this gorgeous absolute in a different type of perfume.  Often lotus is used in watery, ethereal types of blends and thought it would be interesting to create a scent replete with coumarin and herbs that allowed the pink lotus to sing.

Most of the botanicals used in comprising Gypsy Eau de Parfum are posted on IFRA’s list of banned/restricted ingredients.  In fact, many perfumes I make would be considered “outlawed.”  The lengthy list IFRA has posted is extreme and seemingly contradictory.  I have read many times that 95% of the fragrance chemicals used in traditional synthetic perfumes are petroleum derived, and these same chemicals are posted on the EPA’s hazardous waste lists.  Yet, I’m not allowed to use a little orange essential oil in a natural perfume?  At times the cynic in me can’t help but wonder if the surge of interest in ecology and the environment, and consequently natural perfumery hasn’t hastened the rate of IFRA’s cries of danger regarding the usage essential oils and absolutes.  Natural and niche perfume sales are on the rise as consumers become more aware of what they spray on their skin and ever weary of the rehashed celebrity scents that all smell the same.

In conclusion I was inspired to create and name my perfume ‘Gypsy’ after frequent nightly readings of the gorgeously illustrated book Madeline and the Gypsies by Ludwig Bemelmans, a favorite of my children.  Finishing the perfume in October I am reminded that I dressed as a gypsy for Halloween many years as a child, complete with well-worn tarot cards handed over from my bohemian mother.  Upon encountering an adult who would remark, “Oh look, she’s a little gypsy!  She even has those fortune card things—isn’t she cute?” I would develop a knack for staring solemnly into their eyes and gravely flipping over the DEATH tarot card, sadly shaking my head while saying—“Things don’t look good for you.”

I hope to post more on the fabulous perfumes I received from my fellow perfumers in the days to come.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

WIN a FREE bottle of the Critically Acclaimed Osmanthus Oolong Perfume from Providence Perfume Co.!

ScentHive recently posted an amazing review of my perfume Osmanthus Oolong!  Click on the link below, and leave a comment on scenthive to be entered in the drawing for a full-size .5 ounce bottle retailed at $68.00!  Extra entries are given for following Providence Perfume Co. on facebook and by subscribing to scenthive on twitter, bloglovin, or Facebook's networked blogs.

Scent Hive's review of Osmanthus Oolong Eau de Parfum

The drawing ends Monday, so hurry over to Scent Hive to post your comment for a chance to win!

I'm really getting good at tooting my own horn now, right?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Perfume & The Smell of Money?

Providence Perfume Co. is a niche boutique artistic perfumery specializing
in luxurious artisan natural botanical perfumes free of   . . .
Founder and Perfumer Extraordinaire Charna describes herself in third person
and claims to create the finest perfume in the WORLD!  She is a megalomaniac who
sigh . . . (DELETE)

I've been thinking a lot lately about how I define my business and myself as a perfumer.  This is due to the fact that I've been focusing on public relations.  A more accurate term would be: doggedly trying to get my name out there.  I feel like I should wear a billboard that says "HAVE YOU HEARD OF PROVIDENCE PERFUME CO?  WOULD YOU LIKE TO?"

Consequently this means I have been writing press releases, creating marketing pamphlets, reading everything I can about search engine optimization (groan), making sure my packaging is up to snuff, joining pr websites, contacting reviewers, bloggers, websites . . . it's exhausting.  Perhaps I should pretend that obtaining sales is effortless- but let's get real -it's not.  I'm a small business in a specialized market with a small amount of funds (read miniscule) to spend on advertising, glossy webdesign, and promotion.  I spend all my funds sampling amazing and expensive absolutes!

steps in the PR process

Due to my recent focus on promotion, I'm frequently asked the same qualifying questions by reporters, editiors and the like.  They are:

1. How long have you been in business?
2. What sort of degrees or certification to you hold?
3. What are your annual sales?
4. Where are your perfumes available for sale?  Do you have your own store?

Most often I don't think my answers are exactly what they're looking for.  I've learned the hard way and can now craft a paragraph that makes me sound fabulously successful, experienced and predominate without actually saying I'm fabulous, successful, experienced or predominate.  I am constantly having to define myself, my perfumes, my point of view in a nice tidy sentence or two.  Most of the time I realize the reporters have no idea what I do.  This becomes apparent when they ask questions like, "Do you allow customers to blend their own perfumes from your website?' or "How long have you been an aromatherapist?"

On the other hand approaching those in the field who understand what I do comes with it's own set of classifications.  Maybe because creating natural perfumes seems like such a niche market I wasn't expecting this.  I now realize I must define myself even further.  Saying I'm a "natural perfumer" to a bunch of people who work reviewing natural perfumes isn't exactly a revelation, or defining, or for that matter different or exciting.  Realizing this, I've had to delve much further into my idea of who I am and what I do than I ever expected.  To be honest, it's a little uncomfortable.  I thrive on self deprecating humor.  I like to crack jokes at my own expense.  This sort of "down to earth" personality doesn't translate well into publicity.  I need to toot my own horn and sell myself and my perfumes.  All this focusing on ME and MY perfumes is uncomfortable but necessary. It's embarrassing to pontificate on the questions of "who am I?" and "what makes me different?" In the past I would have answered these questions sassily by saying I'm different because I am a natural perfumer, with a penchant for wine drinking and watching bad reality t.v. like "Hoarders" and well, um "True Beauty" --don't ask--I blame the wine.  Once you start playing the publicity game, these answers no longer suffice.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Providence Perfume Co's Osmanthus Oolong Perfume Receives A Rave Review

In the words of Sally Fields, "You like me!  You really like me!"

Monica Miller of Cafleurebon recently posted a wonderful review of my Osmanthus Oolong perfume.  Check it out here:

Friday, October 15, 2010

An Ode to Oakmoss

Hello you sticky brown thing!  You lichen you!  How have you been?  I'm sorry I ignored you all summer.  You just weren't what I was looking for.  My fingers rummaged through bottles and bottles of botanicals searching for just the right ingredients to make light summery perfumes: sparkling citruses, bold florals, green cool herbals and you were not desired.  You were pushed to the back with your estranged sibling angelica.  You were too deep and mossy and dark.  But now, with the temperature falling along with multicolored leaves, you are just right.

Oakmoss absolute is your name and base notes are your game.
lichen growing

It's cold and gray on the East Coast today.  The air hints at frost.  The weather channel spouts typical doomsday-like claims of a Nor'Easter headed this way.  The sky is dark and cloudy with rain imminent.  I'm warmed by a glass of red wine after spending the afternoon working with my long lost pal oakmoss.  Despite washing my hands thoroughly hints of oakmoss emanate from my fingertips as I type.  I've spent the afternoon working on a fougère blend that I've been trying to perfect.

Using oakmoss (Evernia Prunastri) in perfumery is historically well established.  Some of the most famous early perfumes were laden with oakmoss such as Jicky and Youth Dew.  Personally, I've experienced great highs and lows blending oakmoss.  My biggest disclaimer for working with oakmoss would be to proceed with caution!  I've ruined blends by getting a little overzealous with the oakmoss.  Initially the perfume will smell wonderful, but as it ages . . . yikes.  Let's just say in the dark I wouldn't be able to tell which one was perfume and which was worchestershire sauce!  My experience is that oakmoss gathers potency with age.  Better to use a light hand blending with oakmoss and let your perfume age a few months.  You may be surprised what changes take place.

I find oakmoss, in small doses amazingly versatile.  It possesses great fixative properties and adds depth to bases.  When building a base accord it's often the perfect ingredient bridging woody sandalwood with vanilla, or adding intrigue to an amber accord.  It's earthy saltiness adds that something extra.  It takes amber from sweet to vavoom.  It makes tuberose sexy, alright sexier by bridging the gap between everyday white floral and dirty-sultry floral with intrigue.

Another point of interest I've noticed with Oakmoss is a lack of variety in aroma based on different suppliers.  I've purchased oakmoss absolute from four different suppliers, and I must say I can hardly smell a difference between each.  This is quite different from the experience one would have when sampling sandalwood or say tuberose from different companies.  Oakmoss absolute seems to smell like . . . oakmoss absolute.

Oakmoss is also heavily restricted by IFRA for commercial perfume houses.  The limit has now been placed at something like .1% allowable which seems incredibly miniscule.  Unfortunately this has caused many great mainstream perfumes containing oakmoss to be reformulated.  Oftentimes these reformulated versions of perfumes sans oakmoss vary greatly from their original form.  As a small U.S. perfumer I am relatively unrestricted in my oakmoss use, but fear for the future.  The list of natural ingredients IFRA has restricted is VERY long.  I am led to believe from reading this list that using botanicals such as bergamot and oakmoss in a perfume is apt to trigger seizures, rashes and inflammation.  Odd that synthetic chemicals and preservatives used in mainstream perfumes that are proven to cause men to grow breasts are allowed, but a little oakmoss is considered dangerous? Ah, but I've gone off on a tangent now.

To complete my "ode to oakmoss" I'd like to herald this botanics price.  Anyone who works with absolutes for natural formularies knows how pricey they are.  1/2 ounce of the aforementioned tuberose absolute retails for around $180.00.  Oakmoss absolute seems like an absolute steal at $40.00 per 1/2 ounce by comparison.  Oakmoss, I don't want to call you cheap but you certainly offer lots of bang for your buck.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Autumn Inspiration

It's been a long hot humid summer here in New England.  My least favorite type of weather.  I loathe humidity: the bad hair days, the oppressive moisture, feeling sweaty while doing . . . nothing, the muggy smoggy heat.  But here comes Autumn, and with it a new found surge of creativity.  There's something about the cool fall weather that inspires me to blend perfume.  The air is clean, the leaves are just starting to change color, the breeze is tinged with hints of woodsmoke.  Seriously . . . even in the city.

After suffering from a lack of creativity over the summer I'm thrilled to be suddenly filled with ideas.  How about I try a Rose Oud blend?  Maybe Rose de Mai, rose otto, spicy nutmeg, deep vibrating oud wood and resins, lightened up with a lemony fresh top note?  Maybe whip up something with that honeysuckle absolute I've been hoarding?  Or maybe I should try and perfect that Gin & Juice scent I've been working on?  A crisp citrus summer blend heavy on the juniper berry, combava petitgrain, lime and jasmine.  I can't be the only perfumer inspired by Snoop Dogg, right?

In a flurry of activity I've now begun macerating fruits and spices in mason jars, setting these tinctures aside for use in future perfume projects.  I've filtered vanilla bean tinctures that have been aging all summer.  I pull out a box of old sample creations I've made.  They're a group I set aside and labelled "BORING."  I unscrew the caps on each bottle smelling intently, applying the perfume to various places on my body to sniff until I've run out of skin.  I inhale and grimace with some and smile with others.  I constantly marvel over how natural perfumes age, many getting better and richer with age, some souring as one note begins to dominate.  I pull out my old notes reading what each sample is comprised of, and compare my initial impressions of the perfume with how it smells now, many months later.  To note, every blend I initially noted as "being top-note heavy" has balanced itself with maturity.  The black pepper, the bitter orange, the petitgrain sur fleurs have mellowed.  I notice the blends with neroli have sharpened.  The neroli appears to have gathered strength in aging, and overpowers a few samples.  Note to self, careful with neroli--it can be tricky.


I discover one gem in the box of samples.  A modification of a blend I have been working on for over a year.  I've labelled it "Spring Blend" and find irony in discovering it at the height of Autumn.  The blend is green and grassy with violet leaf, mimosa, cassie, orris and pink lotus.  I became obsessed with creating this "spring blend" and created many, many unsuccessful mods.  In this version, I can guess I found the sharp green notes overpowering and frustrated added an enormous amount of vanilla to the blend trying to smooth down the sharp green notes.  I had written it off as a failure, but as it's aged it has morphed into something I would no longer label as "BORING."  It's now a sort of green-iris-vanilla scent.  A grassy powdery orris buttery scent that's unlike anything I've smelled before.  With renewed excitement and vigor I vow to perfect this blend.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

October Newsletter

Click below to read our 1st Edition Newsletter!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Faux Natural Perfumes. Masked Marauders Be Gone

You know what really grinds my gears?  Perfume lines that tout themselves as natural when they are not.  Big companies trying to capitalize on the green movement.  I've been investigating the proliferation of these "faux natural" perfumes as I like to call them, and I'm agog by how misleading the advertising copy is for many of these lines.  It makes me angry.  Angry enough to reference the t.v. show Family Guy (note episode when Peter becomes a cantankerous opinion news segment host a la Andy Rooney and starts every segment with, "Ya know what really grinds my gears?")  And yes I do live in Rhode Island.

You might wonder why I care so much.  I guess it's the injustice of the situation.  Unfair for the customer and unfair for the natural perfumer.  The customer believes they are buying a natural product.  I myself am a natural perfumer.  Someone who adores perfume, who has worked in the beauty industry for years.  I live, eat, breath, sleep, talk perfume (!) and even I was confused by some fragrances "natural" ad copy.  One needs a doctorate in reading between the lines to figure out if some of the fragrance lines are natural.  Consumers are led to believe through marketing and advertising that these perfumes may be one or all of the following: organic, natural, chemical free, environmentally friendly, etc.  These same consumers may be seeking a fragrance that won't aggravate their asthma, or wish to cut down on the amounts of chemicals and phthalates they apply to their skin.  Maybe they just prefer the idea of buying a natural perfume.  Regardless of their reason, they are being purposely misled.  That's what makes me angry--the capitalizing on the vagaries of labeling.  The purposeful intent to mislead the consumer.

After doing some extensive research on the crop of new "faux natural" perfume lines I've identified some tips for spotting the synthetics lurking among all the advertising copy and pretty flowered boxes.  The following four tips may help you identify a masked marauder.

  1. The perfume is clear, non-colored as in crystal clear.

Most real botanical perfumes are colored.  The beautiful liquid inside the bottle will most likely have a hue.  Plants and flowers rarely release their essences as neat, crystalline liquids.  Botanical essences are often sticky, resinous and darkly colored.  A perfectly clear colored perfume is most likely not a true natural botanical perfume.  Companies recognize that consumers connote clear colored liquids as clean, pure and natural, and hence a clear colored synthetic perfume is created and labelled "natural."

     2The perfume is inexpensive, as in cheap.

If you can purchase a three ounce spray bottle of the perfume for $32.00 then guess what?  It's probably not made completely from natural ingredients.

    3. The perfume box touts it's soy-based inks, 80% recycled paper content, recycled bottles, cruelty-free status, and pledge to offset all company travel by purchasing carbon credits.

 This barrage of eco-friendly bragging is akin to waving something sparkly in one hand so the consumer doesn't notice what's in your other hand: synthetic fragrance chemicals.  I see it as a sort of, "Quick!  Look over here!" type distraction for the potential buyer.  Who wouldn't assume the perfume is all-natural?  

Other misleading marketing tactics I noticed popping up on ingredient lists included: boastful claims of 100% natural corn-based alcohol (ugh, yeah--that's called EVERCLEAR folks), and listing essential and natural oils as ingredients.  This puzzles me.  Wouldn't essential and natural oils be one and the same?  Natural oils is code for SYNTHETICS.  How misleading! 

I mentioned earlier that these fragrance companies that unjustly portray themselves as natural hurt the natural perfumer as well.  Granted, I'm a small niche perfumer who will never compete with a company such as Pacifica for example.  However, I am somewhat directly affected by their claims.  I was recently at a fancy hotel where a  a trunk show was being hosted by a local fashion designer who is a very good friend of mine.  My friend just so happened to have appeared on a reality show recently and I was excited when he asked me to participate in the show by selling my perfume along with a few other clothing and jewelry designers.  I realized quickly that the clientele attending weren't my ideal customers as the crowd seemed evenly split between young gay men intently vying to get their picture taken with my designer friend and fashionistas tottering by on impossibly high heels scouring the clothing racks for the best deals.  

My table was eventually approached by a young woman who asked lots of questions regarding my ingredients and prices.  She eventually told me she thought my prices were too high.  I explained to her that the price of the botanicals I use are very costly and rare, and in comparison to traditional synthetic perfumes my profit margin was quite small.  I really should have remained silent.  She then told me disdainfully that she bought only organic perfume, and that her current scent Ruby Red Guava only cost $20.00.  I recognized the scent and carefully explained to her that the perfume she was wearing was not only NOT organic, it wasn't natural at all.  I told her that the guava scent was actually synthetic.  She frowned at me, and said in the manner of correcting a small child, "Nooo.  That's impossible.  It's sold at WHOLE FOODS."


Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Best & Worst Oils/Absolutes I've Ever Purchased. An Insider's Guide to buying Botanicals Without Wasting Money

Let's face it, essential oils and absolutes are expensive.  Whether you are buying a pound of lemongrass E.O. for scenting soap or an ounce of lemon petitgrain for perfumery you want to make sure you are getting what you pay for.  Adulteration of oils runs rampant.  Quality varies wildly.  While I'm not a professional nose per se, nor do I have access to a spectometer gizmo which measures the components of essential oils and can detect adulterants, I'm pretty sure I've been ripped off by a few companies.  I've received oils that smell like . . . nothing.  That's right--NOTHING.  I've received oils that smell glorious, only to find out at a later date they're not real (more on this later.)  Because I'm a cost conscious perfumer (a misnomer if I've ever heard one), I decided to compile this list of the best and worst botanicals I've purchased recently.  I want to help you avoid the pitfalls I've succumbed to and help you discover the hidden gems available while saving you money.  Please note I have no affiliation with any of these suppliers.  I'm just writing my own opinions on what I found good and what I spent way too much money on.

The Good Guys

Let's begin with the positives.  Moving from left to right in the photo.  The following seven botanicals rank high on my list for quality, aroma and price.
  • Eden Botanicals Organic Vetiver-Sri Lanka: A fantastic high quality vetiver, resinous, smooth, green and grassy with a hint of smoke.  Great tenacity and blends well with most botanicals.  The organic costs a little more bit it's worth it.  This is my favorite vetiver Eden Botanicals offers.
  • Eden Botanicals Jasmine Sambac Absolute-India: My favorite Jasmine Sambac. This is saying a lot as I'm a "jasminaholic" and have tried every Jasmine I can get my hands on.  This one's plump, fruity, musky, green and indolic.  LOVE!
  • Essential Oil University Rosewood-Brazil: (EOU claims this is the lowest priced Rosewood available on the internet AND it's good!) Before getting this rosewood, I believed rosewood smelled like pledge furniture polish.  The rosewood's I had used previously smelled astringent, lemony with a hint of oily wood in the background.  I marveled when people described rosewood as "floral" and "rosy."  Now I understand.  EOU's Rosewood is a clean, sweet rose-lemon.  You can really smell the rose!  I love this rosewood and am happy I finally got to smell a good quality oil, especially as my guilt at rosewood's over harvesting may prevent me from ordering more.  FYI--EOU claims the rosewood is from a "renewable source" but call me a wee bit skeptical . . . 
  • Liberty Natural Products Carnation Absolute-Egypt: One of the smoothest carnations I've tried.  It's much less spicy and clove-like than most carnations and very floral and sweet, reminiscent of champaca.  I've noticed as it ages the spicy notes seem to be  decreasing, and floral tones increasing.  This could be a plus or a minus depending on how you like your carnation.  I like it very much and it's priced much lower than other carnations on the market.
  • Liberty Natural Products Lavender Absolute-Bulgaria: Sweet blueberry vanilla lavender with creamy notes of green tea.  Beautiful emerald green, delicious aroma, and blends with a wider variety of botanicals than most lavenders do. Very economical, one ounce costs less than $14.00!
  • Liberty Natural Products Bitter Orange Absolute-Egypt: I'm a little nervous to write about this one.  It's always been my little secret.  Every perfume I make with this absolute garners rave reviews.  It seems to have mass customer appeal.  I LOVE it madly, and worry once I write this I'll discover my readers (all 13 of you-smile) have gone and bought all the remaining stock available from Liberty, which you should do immediately because it's that good!  I refer to this paranoia as "coffee flower syndrome."  Ahh, my beloved coffee flower absolute.  I discovered you on a whim when placing an order from Liberty.  Proceeded to make the most amazing, special, beautiful perfume with you and then, alas you were gone.  Never to return back into stock.  R.I.P. my darling coffee flower absolute.  Wherever you may be . . . Getting back to the Bitter Orange Absolute.  It doesn't smell much like traditional Orange Blossom Absolute.  It's less sharp and citrusy.  No indolic notes or sharp neroli aromas.  It's a very smooth, almost lactic orange blossom with tea notes and a vanillic undertone.  It's sensational.  It blooms in alcohol, expanding and radiating it's smooth white blossoms.  It's my favorite hidden gem.  p.s. If you decide to buy some make sure you order Bitter Orange Absolute-Egypt as Liberty has strangely named it.  The other Orange Blossom's offered are not similar.
  • Eden Botanicals Vanilla Bourbon Total CO2:  My favorite vanilla.  It boasts 26% vanillin and it's very strong.  I like that I can use less and still get lots of vanilla aroma.  It blends seamlessly in alcohol and is easy to use after warming in a hot water bath.  I find vanilla absolute hard to work with, vanilla bean tincture is wonderful but significantly colors perfumes, vanilla Co2 is perfect, and Eden's is the best I've found.  
p.s. Additionally I really like Liberty's Tuberose absolute (buttery, waxy, rich white floral) and Jasmine Grandiflorum-Egypt (sweet, creamy and powerful) as good as many higher priced jasmine grands.  Also their Osmanthus Absolute smells just as good as many higher priced options.

The Bad Guys

Now let's talk about the duds.  I would avoid these botanicals at all costs literally.
  • Liberty Natural Products Palmarosa-India:  This is definitely a case of you get what you pay for, and I umm paid very little.  This palmarosa is terrible!  It starts off sharp and acrid and only gets worse.  There's a persistent strong back note of burnt rubber and chemicals.  I get faint whiffs of peppery lemon.  Spend a little more and get something better than this, I'm sure almost any Palmarosa you can find will smell better.
  • Liberty Natural Products Kaffir Lime Leaf-Thailand: I love Kaffir Lime (Combava Petitgrain) and have ordered samples from at least four different companies.  This is the worst.  There's no sparkling bright limey green notes.  It's faded and sweet.  Why is it sweet?  It has no spunk or clarity and is a muddled sweet mess.  Stay away. Try White Lotus or Anatolian Treasures instead.
  • New Directions Frankincense-Eithiopia:  This was the first frankincense I bought when I started making perfume.  I didn't understand what all the fuss was about with Frankincense.  Mandy Aftel was raving about it.  People were blogging about "magical frankincense" and I just didn't get it.  Turns out I had the worst frankincense ever bottled.  This smells like eucalyptus mixed with turpentine.  As it ages it grows more camphorous and terrible.  I've since smelled better versions and realize I was ignoring frankincense as my initial impression was a bad one.  If anyone has recommendations for a great frank. send it my way!
  • EOU Yuzu-Japan: I am a huge yuzu fan.  I adore it's fresh zippy scent.  I've sampled a few and have always been happy, until now.  This yuzu is not good.  I actually do not believe it's real yuzu.  It smells like white grapefruit mixed with something.  Maybe another citrus oil.  I'm pretty sure it's bunk.  A big letdown as I now have one whole ounce of bad yuzu.  I thought about contacting EOU and asking them about the yuzu, but I haven't had good experiences with their customer service.  I assume I will have to chalk this up to a bad choice, money lost and move on.  Don't buy yuzu from here.
  • Eden Botanicals Tuberose Absolute:  I'm not a fan of the tuberose here.  It's floral and fussy and reminds me of old lady cologne or Fracas before I even begin blending.  I prefer my tuberose big, creamy and buttery.  I find this tuberose thin.  It's not waxy.  It's just lackluster, and it's expensive.
  • Eden Botanicals Carnation Absolute:  Again I find this absolute lackluster.  The fragrance is faint, with a weird undertone of decomposition.  I do not like it.

So, in summary there are hits and misses with most suppliers.  It's hard to write off a supplier for one bad botanical when they offer others that are good.  There's lots of opinions regarding which suppliers are the best, which have the best or worst quality.  I think it's all a roll of the dice.  A company may offer a great rose otto, but their citrus oils are awful.  Some offer beautiful but pricey absolutes but the selection is limited.  That's what's so tough about finding good ingredients.  Unfortunately, we often find out through trial and error and it can be easy to make pricey mistakes.

I usually order my botanicals from Eden Botanicals, Liberty Naturals, White Lotus, and Aftelier.  I have experience with products from many other suppliers.  I have listed my personal impressions below.

LIBERTY NATURALS: Great citrus oils.  Some great absolutes.  Website is not user friendly or informative.  Shipping takes a very long time.  The best prices.  I have had bad luck with some lower priced essential oils like palmarosa, juniper berry, nutmeg.  Avoid their Sco2's.  They don't blend in alcohol and their scent profile is faint.

WHITE LOTUS:  Amazing high quality oils, great customer service, and informative newsletter.  Website is awkward to navigate and you must email your orders.  Prices are very high.  I wish I could shop here more often.

EDEN BOTANICALS: One of my favorites.  Great website, and generous free samples.  Try before you buy.  Middle of the road prices.

AFTELIER: Rare botanicals in small sizes.  Very nice website.  You can often find botanicals here that you can't find anywhere else.  Remember the botanicals are rare and you may not be able to get them again.

NEW DIRECTIONS:  I have had bad experiences with this company ranging from them double charging my credit card, to receiving adulterated rose absolute.  Prices are low, but trust me.  It's not worth it.

ESSENTIAL OIL UNIVERSITY:  All oils are available in 1 ounce size and up.  NO samples.  I was not impressed with the absolutes I have ordered, however some oils such as patchouli and rosewood were good and very reasonably priced.  After the yuzu I received I don't think I will place another order with them.  However, for soapers or those who need larger quantities of essential oils (not absolutes) they are a good option and very economical.  Also, great prices on bulk disposable droppers here.

I'm hoping this will spur those who read this to leave comments regarding their own hits and misses.  I love trading tips and sources and maybe next time you can save me from wasting money on bad yuzu.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Halitosis or Heavenly? What To Do When Critics Pan Your Perfume & Why Gin & Tonic is Not The Answer

As the Mystery of Musk project draws to a close, I find myself reflecting on things I've learned from my participation.  I never expected the experience to be so educational.  One of the biggest lessons I've learned is on accepting criticism.

Let me be clear, I've heard my share of negative comments.  Of late, I've been hearing quite a bit.  I've been out in the field, meeting and greeting.  Talking up boutique owners, attending fashion events, networking, selling my perfumes.  People have told me they don't care for a particular scent, or that my fragrances are too expensive.  While I accept this, I do try my best to educate these people.  I try and explain the differences between synthetic and natural perfumes, the difference in cost of materials, the art of creating natural perfumes, my philosophy as a natural perfumer.  But when it comes down to it, my perfumes may not be what he or she is looking for.  My mantra has become: You can't please all of the people all of the time.  Sometimes I become entrenched in my natural perfumery world; speaking exclusively with people who make perfumes, write about perfume, or have an interest in botanicals.  It's when I step outside this world, and interact with people who have no idea what I do or why I do it that I discover I have an uphill battle ahead of me.

I'm learning to toughen up.  Rejection is tough.  Being the sensitive type, my feelings can be easily hurt when people don't respond the way I want them to.  (Which is gushing enthusiastically by the way.)  My perfumes are an extension of myself, and when people don't like them it's hard not to take it to heart.  Working in sales for years, it was a bummer to hear customers criticizing a product.  When this happened it meant I most likely wouldn't be hitting my sales target, or receiving a bonus.  Now when a customer criticizes a product, it's all mine!  A baby I slaved over for months, trying to perfect!  I realize one cannot run a successful business with this level of attachment, and I'm working on distancing myself.

Speaking of distancing myself . . . all hail the powers of a stiff gin and tonic!  The first critique posted of my new perfume Musk Nouveau described it as (having the scent of) "halitosis."  The review ended with, "After a number of hours, that note-from-hell dissipates, but the damage is already done." WHAT?  After reading this, I promptly poured myself a drink and called my Mom.  And yes, I am 35 years old.  Needless to say, my Mom was less than thrilled by my garbled (tipsy) complaints and gave me a tough love response I was not seeking, which was: "Charna--get over it.  Are you drinking gin . . . again?  It makes you maudlin, and really the review could have been worse." Really???  Worse than your perfume being described as smelling like bad breath in a blog that's read by thousands of perfumistas?  Thankfully future reviews were much more positive, and I glowed from head to toe when reading comparisons between my Musk Nouveau, and Tom Ford and even Caron perfumes.

Lesson learned.