Category Archives: How to Make Perfume

Strange Magic Perfume

Sunday - 18 June 2017

STRANGE MAGIC PERFUME

A perfume of color changeable tinctures from an organic garden in Miami, Florida. Read about a giveaway of this perfume, below.

Strange Magic perfume 15ml spray

Strange Magic perfume 15ml spray

Sustainable, cold-process extraction process of plant fragrance debuts

Launched May 31, 2017

Anya McCoy, perfumer, botanist, and founder of Anya’s Garden Perfumes in Miami has released Strange Magic, the first perfume composed of about 95% organic fragrant tinctures. Strange Magic is made with tinctures that reveal hidden colors in the flowers, leaves, and roots when they were placed in the alcohol. Anya has tinctured for herbal purposes for forty years, and for perfume purposes for twenty years. It wasn’t until she dropped snow white Michelia alba flowers into the alcohol and saw the alcohol turn pink, then red, then dark red that she realize there was some hidden secrets in some flowers – Strange Magic.

White champaca flowers turn a gorgeous red in alcohol

White champaca flowers turn a gorgeous red in alcohol

The magic appeared a few years ago when she dropped a handful of white Michelia alba flowers into 190 proof alcohol. She wanted to make a fragrant tincture of this delicious smelling flower to add to her array of natural raw materials for her perfumes. As soon as the flowers started to sink into the alcohol, the alcohol took on a pink tinge. It was quite startling, and by the second day, the alcohol was a light shade of crimson. The more flowers added to recharge the alcohol with scent, the deeper red the menstruum got, eventually becoming burgundy/opaque. Some said it was the dyes or waxes in the flowers revealing themselves, but she said it was Strange Magic.

Plant dyes have been known for thousands of years, but the colors extracted are somewhat related to the original plant material’s color. Onion skins make a golden dye, blueberries a bluish dye, and so on.

This was different.

She’s tinctured herbs, woods, roots, leaves, and flowers for many years, beginning with simplers herbal tinctures. What an epiphany the white champaca flowers were. Numerous tinctures that had changed color now flooded her consciousness. The yellow ylang ylang flowers turned the alcohol olive green, and eventually opaque, like the Michelia.

White jasmines such as the sambac Grand Duke of Tuscany turned deep gold. White gardenias and tuberoses again – deep gold. She had been using the orangy/brown jasmine absolutes and concretes from the 70s, but  never put the color change together until the white champaca. She’d never seen any talk of the color change on any of the aromatherapy or perfume forums she’d been on for decades, other than the color change mentioned was the blue azulene color that developed when chamomiles were distilled, everyone seemed entranced by that. The azulene is not present in the fresh flowers, but develops in the distillation process.But white jasmines turning orangy/brown? No. No discussion.

Yellow ylang ylang flowers turn the tincture green, and get darker with each recharge. The scent is very, very strong! Beautiful

Yellow ylang ylang flowers turn the tincture green, and get darker with each recharge. The scent is very, very strong! Beautiful

Ylang Ylang essential oil is pale yellow. The absolute of the same flower? Green. Her  tincture? Dark Green. It’s the alcohol wash of the concrete that reveals the green color, and the alcohol menstruum I used.
Well, it’s time to honor the Strange Magic of color change that happens, don’t you think?

Here are a few color-changing plants in Strange Magic, but not all are listed – after all, magic needs a bit of secrecy:

Aglaia: yellow flowers Dark amber tincture
Orris: pale white rhizome Bright coral, orange tincture
Chamomiles: white flowers Blue oils when distilled
Gardenias: white flowers Dark amber tincture
Jasmines: white flowers Deep amber tincture (some, not all)
White Champaca: white flowers Crimson red to dark red tincture
Ylang ylang: yellow flowers Olive green to dark green tincture
Cashmere Bouquet Clerodendrum: white flowers Deep red tincture
Vintage white ambergris from Vanuatu Orange tincture

Artisan perfumers can work with sustainable fragrance materials with a “grow your own” plan to harvest and tincture the fragrant plants. If they can garden, and have suitable space in the garden, it’s possible to lessen the carbon footprint associated with purchasing essential oils and absolutes. All that’s needed is 190 proof alcohol, and harvesting and recharging the alcohol to make the tincture strong with fragrance.

It is not a fast or rushed process: Anya and her assistants spent many hours over the years hand-harvesting the flowers, placing them in alcohol, straining them out, recharging them over and over. If you know the heat and humidity of Miami, you know the dedication this took. Some tinctures have been recharged dozens of times to reach the scent strength desired. Still, it is worth it because the cold process, with no heat destroying some of the more delicate floral notes, and the sustainability of producing some of the raw product on-site are dual bonuses of the eco-conscious perfumer.

Anya is currently in discussions with publishers about a book she has written Perfume From Your Garden. It’s the first of its kind, detailing extraction methods for the perfumer, soaper, gardener, hobbyist, or DIYer who wishes to capture the fragrant plants from their garden at the height of their beauty.

Samples and 15ml spray bottles of Strange Magic are available at http://anyasgarden.com/store.htm

Until June 20, 2017, there is a chance for you to win Strange Magic by registering and commenting on the Cafleurebon review of the perfume.

Anya’s resume:

Founder and Instructor at Natural Perfumery Institute http://perfumeclasses.com

Owner and CEO at Natural Perfumers Guild http://naturalperfumers.com

Owner/Perfumer at Anya’s Garden Perfumes http://anyasgarden.com

Former Writer at Organic Gardening (magazine)

Former District Manager at USDA Soil and Water Conservation District (elected position State of Florida)

Former Adjunct Professor of Urban Planning and Design at Florida Atlantic University

Former Landscape Architect at Collier County, Florida

Studied Landscape architecture at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry Masters Degree

Studied Economic Botany at University of California, Riverside Bachelors

Strange Magic Perfume

Wednesday - 3 May 2017

Strange Magic Perfume

Strange Magic is inspired by the color magic of the flowers I grow. I have spent many years gathering the rare tropical flowers that provide fragrance and beauty in my organic garden in Miami, transforming them into strongly-scented tinctures. Some have been used in perfumes in the past, but this is a new approach, born of an observation that stunned me. Some flowers, when tinctured, or distilled, create a colored tincture that defies the color of the original flower. Some white flowers turn crimson or amber in a tincture, ylang ylang turns green, then so dark its opaque. Some white flowers turn blue, well, the colors are just surprising!

I believe this is the first perfume made almost entirely of tinctures, with some color magic essential oils and absolutes in the blend.

Strange Magic will be launched later this month, and I will post a guide to the flowers and their transformative color magic when the scent is extracted. The other magical aspect is that the scent is very, very close to the scent of the living flower, since no heat was used in extracting the scent. Magical!

Mother’s Day – 

Treat Her with Natural Goodness

My mother, Ann, around age 46
I was a toddler when I first raided my mother’s perfumes. I was besotted with the heady perfumes of the 50s and 60s, and would play with them for hours. In her later years, my mother came to live with me in Miami, and she loved the natural perfumes I make. Moon Dance was her favorite, and I do admit it is closest to the vintage perfumes of her era.
Sale on all perfumes and soaps for Mother’s Day
Use the discount code earthalways at checkout for 20% off all perfumes and luxury natural soaps through Sunday, May 7th so that your lovely gifts can be shipped in time to reach your mom by her special day. Live in the USA? Free shipping! Please visit Anya’s Garden Perfumes to choose your Mother’s Day fragrant delight.

 Rare Discount – on Perfumery Course

Have you been wanting to learn perfumery? I started teaching in 2007, sixteen years after I launched my first perfumery line, bringing experience in techniques, processes, and business and legislative matters. The textbook for the Basic Course is written at the university level, and the education you’ll receive is broad in scope and precise in detail regarding the art.
I don’t offer discounts often, so take advantage of 20% off the course. Read more here, and I hope to see you “up your game” and enroll in this course, a labor of love for me. Click here to read more. Discount code is earthalways and ends Monday, May 8th. Discount does not apply to kits.

June 1st is the 11th Anniversary of the

Natural Perfumers Guild!

 
From our website:
The Natural Perfumers Guild was established in 2006 and is the only international trade organization dedicated to promoting the beauty and benefits of 100% natural fragrances and giving a voice to the artisan natural perfumer.
Our mission is to gather, strengthen and empower our existing member community, increase public awareness through education about pure and natural perfumes, and establish standards of excellence in perfumery by protecting the traditional art of perfumery through ethical standards.
The Guild also addresses legislative issues that affect natural perfumery. Our Code defines the elements that make us a self-regulating organization. Our standards for our Professional Perfumers are the highest in the world regarding the use of natural ingredients. Please see the Definition of Natural Perfumery link in the menu and feel free to contact the Guild if you have any questions about natural perfume.

Join us as we enter our 12th year, and enjoy the benefits of the community, while supporting the advancement of natural perfumery.

In the coming year, we will be working on a definition of perfume permaculture, looking at ways to promote sustainability in the art. Climate change has accelerated the rise in issues concerning raw materials, and demands by consumers are two main areas to address. The Guild encourages artisan distillers, micro perfumery businesses, and a paradigm of respect and responsibility towards natural materials.
You can read of our previous projects, white papers, and benefits – such as downloadable vintage perfumery books – here.
Copyright © 2017. All Rights Reserved.

A Modern Perfume Organ

Sunday - 2 April 2017

I started collection essential oils and absolutes in 1966. At the time, I didn’t know my bottles of aromatics were supposed to be arranged on a tiered shelf called a perfume organ. Because I was a botanist, I categorized them by the part of the plant they were extracted from: florals, woods, leaves, etc., and kept them in plastic boxes for storage.

Later, I had a beautiful old wooden printer’s tray, which, when attached to a wall, provided a lovely display for the small bottles, but was impractical for working, and, of course, didn’t hold the larger bottles.

In 1990 or so, I stored my perfume organ in a beautiful Thai display case.

Anya McCoy with Thai display cabinet holding perfume organ oils

Anya McCoy with Thai display cabinet holding perfume organ oils

I finally located a man in Kentucky who made the wooden tiered racks for essential oils you’d see displayed in stores. I carefully measured what I perceived I’d need, and sent him the information. He constructed a lovely, modern-looking perfume organ out of pine, sweet and pale yellow and perfect for my needs – at the time.

What many perfume organs still look like, but this was only temporary. You can see the beginning of my dilutions on the bottom row. This photo is about 10 years old

What many artisans’ perfume organs still look like, but this was only temporary. You can see the beginning of my dilutions on the bottom row. This photo is about 10 years old

All my bottles, except the ones that needed refrigeration were on the organ, interspersed with the dilutions I used in everyday blending. The dilutions sat right next to the undiluted aromatics, and that was okay for a while.

The Modern Perfume Organ in Practice

Ah, visual serenity, aesthetic beauty, and so much more refined! This perfume organ should be the desired type for artisan perfumers. Modern, cost-effective, and so easy to use!

Ah, visual serenity, aesthetic beauty, and so much more refined! This perfume organ should be the desired type for artisan perfumers. Modern, cost-effective, and so easy to use!

Top notes are on the top level, middle notes, of which there are hundreds, are on middle levels, and base notes along the bottom. Why dilute your essences? It saves a lot of money, first of all. Imagine using undiluted pricey oils, like rose otto, for all of your mods. Secondly, now you get the scent of the rose “opened up” by the alcohol in the dilution, too. Two great bonuses!

Don’t ever struggle with trying to use labdanum or tobacco absolutes by the drop again! The diluted essences are very fluid.

Now only dilutions are on the perfume organ. Most are 10%, some higher, some lower. The undiluted raw materials are kept in a refrigerator, with their specific gravity noted on a blending database. You may be able to blend a perfume modification with a diluted essence, but you need the specific gravity to be able to blend any quantity. This is taught in my Intermediate Level Perfumery course. Enroll now in the Basic course, which will prepare you to further your studies at the Intermediate Level.

 

How to Make Perfume – Why I don’t enfleurage golden champaca

Friday - 28 August 2015

When you make perfume from flowers, there are several ways to extract the scent. I love to enfleurage rare flowers. Enfleurage is placing flowers on a bed of semi-hard fat, such as shortening, or rendered leaf lard and suet. The next step in the process is to “wash” the fat in alcohol. This post isn’t about enfleurage, except to point out why I don’t enfleurage a flower that seems ripe for the process.

Some flowers, even though they emit a lovely fragrance, shouldn’t be enfleuraged. There are several reason for this. Orange blossoms are fragile, and would fall apart in the enfleurage tray, requiring laborious defleuraging process – picking the petals out, one by one, with tweezers. Tweezers are routinely used to remove flowers from enfleurage fat, but not these, it would be a greasy fiasco, with much fat clinging to the petals, enveloping them.

My golden champaca tree is in full bloom, and I have never enfleuraged these flowers. Why? The edges of the flowers tend to start to ‘brown’ or slightly decay shortly after harvest. They would be a watery, moldy mess in enfleurage fat. I also don’t macerate them, which is place them in heated oil. The French, and before them, ancient cultures, such as the Egyptians, routinely placed flowers in warm fat or oil to extract the scent, but I find champaca so delicately scented, so ethereal, I use alcohol to tincture them.

Dozens of beautifully-scented golden champaca (Michelia champaca) flowers, all starting to  decompose shortly after harvest

Dozens of beautifully-scented golden champaca (Michelia champaca) flowers, all starting to decompose shortly after harvest

I have been making my golden champaca tincture for several years now, and probably have about 20 charges of replenished flowers in the menstruum. The tincture is divine!!

This flower is at the limit of wilting or decomposition that I will allow into my tincture. I may snip off the tips if the browning is too much. On-the-spot decisions are necessary when processing botanicals.

This flower is at the limit of wilting or decomposition that I will allow into my tincture. I may snip off the tips if the browning is too much. On-the-spot decisions are necessary when processing botanicals.

This is why solvents are used to extract champacas. It’s quick, and saves the flowers from decomposition. Alcohol is a great solvent, and does the job. I have a glorious extract to work with, a statement every artisan perfumer can relate to. To make perfume with raw materials is fun, and you often get rare plants into the mix that you might not otherwise have access to.

Do you enfleurage? What observations have you made as to the limits of the materials you choose to work with?

PS. White champaca, Michelia alba – same decomposition problem, but to a lesser degree. An added problem with them is their tendency to shatter, thus the same problem as orange blossoms.

 

How to Make Perfume – Excerpts from my textbook

Sunday - 9 August 2015

Slow Study

Making perfume takes time, and lots of thinking and introspection.

As I work through adapting my textbook for my new website, I am finding many passages that are very helpful for anyone who wants to make perfume, or is already making perfume, whether you stick to 100% natural ingredients like I do, or if you use aroma chemicals. I’ve decided to excerpt some passages on a regular basis, because I believe they can inspire and help others on this path. My first excerpt deals with the fear and indecision that every perfumer faces. If you don’t face it, I challenge you to challenge yourself, you’re too complacent.

Springtime image from the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia, my hometown. I grew up knowing and loving this statue.

Springtime image from the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia, my hometown. I grew up knowing and loving this statue. So, it’s springtime, and you’re evaluating the mods for your new perfume.

Excerpt: Conclusion of Module 5 – Some Closing Thoughts

Although I am an experienced, professional perfumer, I sometimes face creating modifications with a bit of trepidation.  For someone like me, a generally positive, self-assured person, that tinge of fear is a good thing.  It keeps me balanced, so that I don’t become overly confident that everything I create is a masterpiece, because if I feel that way, I know I’m fooling myself.

Why do I instruct you to re-visit your vertical accords, although you just performed that exercise in the last Module?  You might think it’s registered in your head, but I guarantee that, with your new concept or brief, you will be humbled when you evaluate your accords again.  Subtle nuances, bits and pieces of it that didn’t seem prominent before, will become obvious now.  Why?  Because you now realize that you have to build upon the structure of that one simple accord, and you have to engage your scent memory and your artistic passions simultaneously in order to meet the final challenge in the next module – building a perfume.

A perfumer cannot become too comfortable, and the perfumer also cannot be afraid.  Mods can humble you more quickly than any other exercise in this course.  An accessory note, which is so beloved, so necessary to give a mod or a perfume panache, can begin screaming out its aggressiveness, overwhelming the blend, or just poking out in the drydown in a negative way.

Autumn -- still thinking! Slow Study

Autumn — still thinking! Slow Study – taking time to make the right decision, apply the right tweaks to the perfume.

My course is online, a resource in distance learning for those who cannot travel to attend a perfumery course. The 350 page textbook is the first American perfumery textbook, and it is written at the university level. For thinkers. And doers.

If you’re a perfumer, or thinking of becoming one, subscribe to this blog so you receive updates on this series, which I hope will inspire and instruct. There is a place to subscribe in the right column. Your email is private, and will be treated as such.

Click here to find out more about the course.