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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Adventures in Natural Candle Making

By Charna Ethier from Providence Perfume Co, we make 100% natural perfumes.

When I decided I wanted to create a few naturally scented candles for the holidays I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  I expected my foray into candle making to be fun and somewhat challenging.  A little bit or trial and error I thought.  I thought wrong.

Being a natural perfumer I knew I wanted to create naturally scented candles.  I wanted to use essential oils and floral waxes to scent the candles.  I knew I would have an uphill battle in getting the candles to "throw" scent using no fragrance oils.  In addition I wanted to use soy or beeswax to create the candles as eco-friendly as possible. I also wanted the candles to smell amazing.  I have yet to piece all three aspects into a wildly successful BURNING candle.  

I'm going to break my candle making process into four main components: Wax, Wick, Scent, Burn.

WAX: ah, the controversy!  

  • Soy wax is considered eco-friendly, burns cleanly but is apparently made from genetically modified soybeans. Thanks Monsanto!  Soy wax is considered one of the most difficult waxes to pour with and apparently many "newbies" to candle making become frustrated with soy wax as using it can require multiple pours and little aroma.  In my experience soy wax also produces the least scent throw of all waxes.  It literally swallows up essential oils.  And, if you add too much fragrance--watch out!  (More on this later.)
  • Paraffin wax is created from petroleum distillation.  Bad for the environment and does not burn cleanly.  It holds lots of fragrance and throws scent very well.  Damn you paraffin!
  • Cream wax is a version of paraffin wax that possesses a creamy texture, is very easy to use, typically requires one pour and holds the most amount of fragrance.  I believe cream wax is often used in many high priced designer candles that I seem to be attracted to.  Candles that cost more than a good bottle of wine.  These candles have a very soft consistency and can permeate an entire room quickly with fragrance.  Too bad this wax is paraffin based.
  • Beeswax is the most expensive wax, priced at about $10.00 per pound.  FYI, 1 pound of wax will typically fill one-two large size candleholders.  Beeswax can be bought yellow/golden and unfiltered possessing an amazing honeyed beeswax aroma or processed and bleached white.  Beeswax candles burn forever!  Beeswax seems to be able to hold a good amount of fragrance but seems to have trouble "throwing" the scent.  Beeswax candles possess a very hard wax consistency and burn the longest in my experience.
I ordered bags of four different types of soy wax.  From Cargill's Nature Wax to Golden Foods 444.  Two additional soy waxes that were recommended to me were Soy-125 and Soy-135.  After working with them I noticed . . . nothing.  Umm, seriously I couldn't tell the difference between them.  I tried to note if one type of wax burned longer than another or if one wax seemed to hold or throw fragrance better and, I really could not detect differences between them--but don't forget I'm a novice.  To my eye, no wax seemed to leap out as being better than the rest.  (It didn't help that I was constantly changing the fragrances of the candles from batch to batch.)

After my experiments with soy and beeswax, I decided to work with mixing the two.  The difficulty came in what proportion to mix the beeswax and soy wax.  After some experimentation, I think I like 3/4 soy and 1/4 beeswax or even 2/3 soy to 1/3 beeswax.  The small amount of beeswax allows the candle to burn longer, imparts a slight honeyed aroma and increases the amount of fragrance load one can add to the wax.

WICK: the most important part of creating a successful candle.  Who knew?  Alas, not me :) I'd like to thank Nikki Sherritt of Gabriel's Aunt for all her assistance.  Nikki is the owner of a successful natural candle line called Gabriel's Aunt. I've sampled her candles and found them to be top of the line.  I booked a consultation with Nikki last year to discuss candle making and quickly realized I might be over my head.  While making candles may not seem difficult, it is difficult to create naturally scented candles that burn well and smell good and Nikki is an expert.  She stressed the importance of finding the correct wick, experimentation, and sticking with the same size container.  

Side note - I consider Nikki a friend.  She is such a doll that she recently fielded a phone call from me that went something like this: 

"Hi Charna.  Yes, I got the text with the pictures you sent of your candles.  Um, well I wouldn't call them Frankenstein candles, but ah maybe they cooled too quickly? 
Me (sullen) 
"They're MONSTER candles!  Admit it.  Hey, what's that noise?"

"That's a tow truck.  I'm on the side of the road.  My truck just broke down."

Me (embarassed) 
"Oh, sorry Nikki. I'll let you go.  Ah, good luck with your wedding next week?"

Scene ends with Charna realizing that Nikki is indeed a saint and Charna is indeed neurotic.

Back to wicks.  Wick size is chosen based on the diameter of the candle, along with the type of wax used.  Thus far, my favorite wick for soy and wax candles in glass jars measuring about 3 inches across is RRD-47 or RRD-55 from  Did I mention that candle making was more difficult than I anticipated?

One tip I discovered along the way is to use a slightly larger than average wick when creating candles made with soy and or beeswax.  The larger thicker wick seems to burn better in bee/soy and create a larger pool of wax increasing scent throw.  Is it just me or is this candle making endeavor becoming more complex by the minute?

SCENT: sigh.  A general rule of thumb is to add one ounce fragrance per pound of wax.  These guidelines are for fragrance oils which is where it gets complicated.  Weighing your ingredients, just as with making perfume is advisable.  Some waxes are able to hold more scent, some less.  I like to add as much aroma as possible but am still not thrilled with the amount of fragrance my candles possess.  If you add too much fragrance the candle will not burn.  Take it from me and don't try to add anything thick like benzoin or labdanum.  The candle smelled INCREDIBLE.  The candle did not burn.  Not one bit.

Beware the dreaded citronella complex.  The citronella complex occurs when you add a variety of lemony or spicy essential oils to the wax.  The aim is sophisticated freshness.  The result is Walmart tikki torch.  As your spiced citrus scented candle cools, it smells wonderful.  Enjoy these fifteen minutes or so of pleasant aroma as they will be your last.  Beware the lighting of the candle the next day as you will smell the repellant aroma of citronella somehow wafting from your candle made with any of the following oils: coriander, black pepper, juniper, litsea cubeba, ginger, bitter orange.  You have just created a very expensive citronella-like bug repellant candle.  Sad times.

I'm still experimenting with adding floral waxes to the candles.  It seems to be the only economical way to add faint floral aromas to the candle.  It would be cost prohibitive to add rose or jasmine as they are so incredibly expensive, but high quality floral waxes add a soft roundness to candle aroma.  More on this another time.

BURN: As I've mentioned earlier the type of wax and wick one chooses for their candle has a great deal to do with how long the candle burns.  The container or candle holder also determines candle burn time and success rate.  I am only experimenting with container candles, so I can only speak on my experiences with this type of candle.  I've noted that candle containers that are tall and skinny (like the candles with saints and religious vows printed on them) are harder to master.  Candle holders that are short cylinders or have a wide mouth seem a bit easier to burn.  I've wondered how accurately one can record burn times of candles?  Will I have to burn the candle in four hour intervals to accurately gauge how long the candle will burn for?

I can recommend sticking with one type of container for experiments with candle making.  Each time you change the candle holder, you must change the wick and some waxes and wicks work better in different styles of containers.  To cut down on the confusion, I've found sticking with one container is best.  I'm currently working on mastering one scent, with one wick in one container.

Wish me luck.  Oh, and if anyone's interested in purchasing some overpriced citronella scented candles, let me know.

p.s. the talented Marla Bosworth also provided assistance in my candle making.  I think I may be a lost cause.

Charna also makes natural perfumes, her company is Providence Perfume Co.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Unsolicited Advice is . . . unsolicited

 By Charna, Providence Perfume Co - 100% all natural perfume

"You should try and make your perfume's lighter.  They smell too old-ladyish."

"You know what your next fragrance should be called?  Xylophone!"

"I wish that you would make something that smelled more like perfume X."

"I wish you would make something that smelled less like perfume X."

"Are you that lady that makes all natural perfumes?  What do you have that smells like Tommy Hilfiger?"

"Are you wearing one of these perfumes that you made?  I'd like to smell it on you.  Maybe on your neck?  Are you single?"

"Why don't you try selling your perfumes at farmers markets or craft shows?"

"You should make your perfumes cheaper."

"I don't like natural perfumes.  Why can't you make something that smells like perfume X?"

"I wish you would make your perfumes lighter.  They're too strong for me.  Why don't you make a light pretty perfume?"

"I wish your perfumes lasted longer.  They fade too fast.  Have you considered making them stronger?  When I wear Curious, by Britney Spears it lasts all day!"

I've heard (or overheard) all the following comments in the past month.  Being a micro business owner requires a thick skin.  If someone doesn't like your logo or your labels or your product or your website the blame falls squarely on your shoulders.  There's no blaming Ted in accounting for a clerical error.  All business decisions are made by you.  When people offer you their sincere unsolicited advice on your business it's hard not to be offended, especially when they're criticizing something you've created.  Something that speaks to you.  Something you've toiled over and offered up on a silver platter.

And therein lies the dilemma!  It can be hard to separate ourselves from our product.  I remind myself that there is no pleasing everyone.  I do appreciate feedback, but in the end I make my own choices.  I put my head down and stick to my guns.  I try and trust my intuition and remind myself that it's gotten me this far.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Win a free bottle of Providence Perfume's DIVINE NOIR perfume!

Our newest perfume Divine Noir has launched to critical acclaim!  Check out the review of Divine Noir on Ca Fleure Bon and enter to win a FREE 1 ounce bottle of the vintage inspired Divine Noir perfume (retail value $115.00)

Enter a comment at: for a chance to win.

Hurry--the contest ends tomorrow night: Tuesday evening August 14th.  A winner will be chosen on Wednesday August 15th.

Divine Noir natural eau de parfum

Monday, August 6, 2012

Providence Perfume Co. Launches New Scent: Divine Noir

Providence Perfume Co. Debuts Divine Noir Eau de Parfum

Vintage Inspired 100% Natural Perfume

PROVIDENCE, RI, August 04, 2012 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Providence Perfume Co. will debut their new all natural perfume DIVINE NOIR on August 7th.

The fragrance Divine Noir is a darker foil to the natural perfumery's popular orange blossom scent Divine. Divine eau de parfum, composed by perfumer Charna Ethier is an ode to a glamorous friend who is never without her red lipstick. Divine Noir is a deeper, richer interpretation of the original Divine fragrance. Divine Noir is the little black dress worn after dark.

"My Grandmother's dressing table, with its ever present bottle of Youth Dew perfume captivated me as a child. What mystery that dark perfume held! The deep brown liquid evoked glamour and drama. Without even smelling the perfume, there was an anticipation of enigmatic elegance. In composing Divine Noir, I wanted to capture the sensuality and style of a bygone era using luxurious natural ingredients," Charna Ethier explains.

Ms. Ethier created a dark Madagascar vanilla bean tincture, and built an interesting rootbeer like accord with the addition of sarsaparilla, aged patchouli and liberal amounts of oakmoss into the composition.

Top Notes: bitter orange, coriander, bergamot
Heart Notes: orange blossom, neroli, jasmine grandiflorum, rose absolue
Base Notes: oakmoss, angelica, vanilla bean, elemi, aged patchouli

Divine Noir eau de parfum will be available online at and at select stockists beginning August 7, 2012.

Providence Perfume Co. is an independent 100% natural perfumery devoted to creating artisan perfumes utilizing the finest essences available. Perfumes are hand blended by perfumer Charna Ethier who has garnered global recognition for her innovative natural fragrances.

To learn more, visit or call 401-256-8272. Please contact Charna at Providence Perfume Co.:

Friday, June 29, 2012

Pantone Perfumes: A Guide For Creating Colorful Perfumes


By Charna from Providence Perfume Co., 100% natural perfume


Lady Gaga and I have precisely one thing in common: a black perfume in our roster.  According to a recent press release, Gaga is launching a new black hued perfume called Fame which morphs from black to clear when sprayed.  Hmmm, the wonders of modern chemistry?  My perfume is nearly black (and stays that way) from the addition of lots of delightful dark essences such as oakmoss and black tea. 

I've noticed a slew of colored perfumes being launched by the mainstream perfume industry of late and it pleases me immensely. This is a trend I can get behind.  If there's one thing we natural perfumers do well it's colored perfumes!  Now to be fair, these mainstream perfumes are artificially colored.  However, nature provides a wide spectrum of colors for the natural perfumer to paint with.  In fact, it's often difficult to create a natural perfume that isn't colored.  As a perfumer I made a conscious decision to use any essence I desired when creating my line, regardless of how its addition effected the final color of the perfume.  If I were to limit myself to using clear oils and absolutes I'd be left with only a handful of essences to work with.  I wish to expand, not reduce my palette.  This meant I would have accept that my natural perfumes were sometimes dark brown, or black or green when filtered.  

Despite the fact that I had accepted these colored perfumes, I wondered how potential customers would react.  Would consumers be less likely to purchase my Osmanthus Oolong eau de parfum because it was a dark gray color?  Would the jade tone of Tabac Citron quell sales?  My line has a distinct voice and color; perfumes so very different than the mainstream perfume industry.  Artisanal fragrances.  Perfumes made in small batches, by hand using incredibly rare, expensive natural essences that just so happen to be brightly colored.  I'm happy to report that little fuss and few comments have been made about the colors of my fragrances.  I expected the colors of the perfumes to be more off putting to the consumer than they seem to be.  Acceptance!  I have been asked on occasion if I dye my perfumes, to which I reply, "No, Mother Nature does."

As for me?  I'm drawn to the mystery of a dusky scent.  I'm tired of girly fruity floral scents.  Hygienic clear bottles of scent hold no promise for me.  Be gone era of clean, clear perfumes meant to evoke purity.  I'm a vintage perfumista at heart.  Bring on the deep, dark, richness of amber colored perfumes!  While Estee Lauder's Youth Dew may not be my favorite scent, the fascination I feel when gazing upon it's dark liquid is palpable.  Without even a sniff, Youth Dew makes it apparent that it's rich and deep and resinous.  What secrets are locked inside that dark brown nectar?  

So, along these lines I've created a quick perfume color guide.  The following botanical essences possess serious color saturation.  Adding more than a few drops will color a perfume quickly.  In you've ever wondered why or how a natural perfume obtained it's hue read on.

GREEN: lavender absolute, lavender seville absolute, green tea absolute, violet leaf absolute, tobacco absolute, mint absolute, sweet clover absolute, rooibos (red tea) absolute, fir balsam absolute, geranium absolute, rosemary and basil absolutes.

BLUE: blue tansy, chamomile

ORANGE: rose absolute, pink lotus absolute, tuberose absolute, boronia absolute, immortelle absolute.

YELLOW: genet (broom) absolute, jasmine grandiflorum absolute, saffron absolute, 

BROWN/BLACK: black tea absolute, cocoa absolute, coffee, angelica absolute, oakmoss absolute, cedarmoss, cedarwood absolute, vanilla absolute, labdanum.

Wishing you technicolor perfumed dreams.

If you have any questions about a natural fragrance or natural perfumes please contact Charna at

Friday, June 1, 2012

My First Love - JASMINE!


Providence Perfume Co. is an all natural perfume company.

I'm mad for Jasmine.  Simply infatuated.

I can't recall the first time I smelled the lush aroma of Jasmine.  I grew up in New England, a region not exactly famous for it's jasmine cultivation.  I believe my first contact with Jasmine would be as a teenager working the perfume counter at Macy's.  I went wild with smelling every perfume I could.  I sniffed every exotic gorgeously packaged mainstream perfume I had missed out on growing up in a small rural town.  The perfume counter at Macy's was glamour and glitz and sophistication.  I found myself drawn to a variety of scents and they all had one note in common: jasmine.

Now I realize what I was huffing was most likely synthetic jasmine.  It wasn't until I was a bit older that I actually smelled real jasmine absolute.  Jasmine absolute is so incredible, so creamy and full and plump; in my opinion it's aroma is unable to be wholly duplicated by aroma chemicals.  In Jean-Claude Ellena's book Perfume, the Alchemy of Scent he comprised a pared down list of essences he uses for perfumery he calls "The Collection."  The list is smaller than you might expect.  I found it interesting that along with Jasmal, Jasmolacton and Jasmonal H (synthetic jasmines) Ellena also lists Jasmin absolute and Jasmin Sambac absolute.  It's also interesting to note that Jasmine is the only aroma included in the collection in five different compilations.  From this we learn that Jasmine is IMPORTANT to perfumery and that real Jasmine absolute is UNDUPLICATABLE.

Fast forward a few years and I find myself working for Aveda surrounded by real Jasmine.  I was in jasmine heaven.  During this time I found that jasmine possesses universal appeal.  While many customers wrinkled their noses at the scent of patchouli and even rose, they smiled when sniffing the sweet aroma of jasmine.  I learned my lesson well.  Even now, when blending a custom scent for a more err  . . . challenging client I reach for the jasmine.  When all else fails, jasmine triumphs!

There is a jasmine for every preference.  Sweet jasmine, musky jasmine, dirty jasmine, filthy jasmine.  When teaching Introductory Natural Perfume classes, I'll often pass around a bottle of unlabeled jasmine grandiflorum for everyone to smell.  When I ask the class what essence they think they're sniffing many will guess correctly it's jasmine.  I'll then pass around bottles of jasmine sambac, jasmine flexile, jasmine auriculatum.  Silence.  Many haven't smelled these jasmines.  Many are surprised that jasmine can vary so wildly in aroma.  We talk of indole and jasmine.  We laugh.

- Jasmine is present in many of my perfumes.
- Jamine's beauty beckons me.
- Jasmine blends well with all essences.
- Jasmine is a team player. In perfumery jasmine is happy to take a supporting role or be a star.
- Jasmine is indispensable and important.
If you have any Jasmine absolute, go grab it and take a deep long sniff.  See what I mean?  It's just that good.

In celebration of the Natural Perfumers Guild sixth anniversary blog event, the following perfumers are participating by sharing stories of their first love.  From sandalwood to rose, be sure to check these articles out (see below.)

Visit our website to learn more about natural perfumes or contact Charna at

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Citrus Showdown

Providence Perfume Co. specializes in natural perfume.


I love the scent of citrus.  Bring on the blood orange, the yuzu the red mandarin! Recently I ordered a slew of citrus oils to restock my supply.  Ordering citrus oils in smaller quantities is important as citrus essential oils can loose their fresh aroma quickly.  Cold pressed citrus oils have the most incredible aroma (important for perfumery use) but also the shortest shelf life due to the high proportion of terpenes which promote oxidation.  Best to purchase these citrus oils in small quantities and replace more frequently.  Another tip to keep citrus oils vibrant?  Store in the refrigerator to help preserve freshness.

As a citrus loving perfumer, one conundrum I face is the photosensitizing nature of cold pressed citrus oils.  Use too much cold pressed lime essential oil in a perfume and you may find the area where you spritzed darkened and irritated after sun exposure.  Bergaptene free bergamot oil is essential to any perfumers palette as the photosensitizing bergaptene has been removed.  Steam distilled citrus oils do not photosensitize, but I find the aroma dull.  Cold pressed citrus oils sing, whereas steam distilled citrus oils hum . . . quietly . . . off-key.  You get the idea.  Always utilize caution when blending with cold pressed citrus oils. 

Andrea Butje of The Aromahead Institute recently published an informative article on citrus oils that don't photosensitize such as green mandarin and sweet orange. Great info!  To read her blog post in it's entirety, click here:

I recently ordered yuzu, blood orange, bitter orange, green bitter orange, bergamot and 10-fold orange essential oils.  I've never experienced any of the folded citrus oils.  I was curious about the usage of folded oils in candles and possibly perfume application.  Folded citrus oils are concentrated and lower in d-Limonene terpenes. The higher the number of the folded oil, the more times it's been folded, or concentrated. I must admit I was disappointed by the 10x orange essential oil.  Despite it's strength, it lacked the fresh quality cold pressed essential oils possess.  Smelled from the bottle the 10 fold orange oil smells strongly of the bitter white pith of the orange rind.  When diluted and applied to the skin, the bitter pithy aroma eventually dissipates leaving a long lasting orange aroma.  

Further experimentation is needed to discern if folded citrus oils will suit my perfume palette.  

While I've been a fan of Liberty Natural Products cold pressed Dominican Bitter Orange oil, my new bottle arrived smelling dull.  A disappointment.  Happily I ordered Bitter Green Orange from Eden Botanicals which was fresh and green and much more to my liking.  Similar in aroma to a sharp yuzu it adds a crisp clean top note aroma I adore.

With the low cost of citrus oils, sampling from a variety of suppliers is always preferential as quality varies wildly.  Have a citrus gem or dud to share?  Feel free to leave a comment.


Coming soon,  see our blog explaining about organic perfume.

For more information on our natural perfumes please contact Charna at


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Providence Perfume Now Available at Beauty Habit!

We are thrilled to announce that Providence Perfume Co.'s full line of natural perfumes have been picked up by the major beauty etailer Beauty Habit!

It's incredibly exciting to be offered the opportunity to highlight natural perfumery and introduce our fine botanical fragrances to a wider audience.  

Look for a new launch promotion special to be running soon!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Tincture Madness

A new blog post on my new blog discussing the merits of using handcrafted tinctures in perfumery.  Check it out at:

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

New Blog, New Joy, New Year

Hello All, Please visit my new blog at

 I am participating in a Natural Perfumers Guild Project titled "Joy in January" where we will be doing a three day giveaway of cheerful uplifting scents to help banish the winter blues. Yesterday's giveaway included our Divine perfume, an uplifting blend of bitter orange, orange blossom, rose, vanilla and botanical musk seed on an amber base AND a sample of the most incredible bitter orange essential oil I've ever sampled--pure sunshine in a bottle. 

Enter for a chance to win scented goodies from all participating perfumers.  For a complete list of participants and to enter for a chance to win, visit our new blog at: