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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.