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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!