Category Archives: raw materials of perfumery

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

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.

 

The Passion of Natural Perfumers

Thursday - 12 January 2017

The Beauty of Botanicals Made Liquid – The Passion of Natural Perfumers

This article originally appeared on Basenotes.net on Feb. 20, 2008

by Anya McCoy

20th February, 2008

This flower is at the limit of wilting or decomposition that I will allow into my tincture. On-the-spot decisions are necessary when processing botanicals, and hands-on natural perfumers become adept at the process.

This flower is at the limit of wilting or decomposition that I will allow into my tincture.  On-the-spot decisions are necessary when processing botanicals, and hands-on natural perfumers become adept at the process.

The 21st Century Revival and Redefinition of Natural Perfume by Natural Perfumers

Like everyone who has progressed with passion, training and persistence to become a perfumer, the new wave of natural perfumers started with an intense love of scents. Many can trace their formative moment – the zing of recognition – when a scent transformed their life, and put them on the path of creation. They probably smelled everything around them (as did I) from grass to dirt, flowers, other people, cement, perfume, cereal, ink, paper, plastic dolls, toys, food cooking, hair, furniture, the air before a storm, rotten wood, burning leaves – in other words, the full spectrum of fragrance in the environment. The natural environment, complex, challenging, and often sweetly rewarding enticed and enchanted us. We were hooked.

Many who love perfumes in general, whether they contain all-natural ingredients or not, cite the kiss goodnight from a mother swathed in evening clothes, diffusing an exotic perfume as she bent over them before setting out to a party as a defining moment, a moment when perfume’s magic of transformation of their mother into an otherworldly, fragrant unknown star in the sky touched them deeply. Perfume profoundly moves us, and natural essences move us the most – we are entranced with their beauty, complexity and “aliveness.”

When the synthetic chemical scents coumarin and vanillin were discovered in the 1880’s, they were quickly added to the corporate perfumer’s palette, and natural perfumery as it had existed up until then disappeared. Looking back in time perhaps four or five generations, it must be acknowledged everyone who loved perfume knew only perfume with synthetics blended in with the naturals.

Whether floral and discreet, or Oriental and animalic, loaded with civet, musk, castoreum and ambergris, the all-natural perfumes created in the pre-synthetics era disappeared.

The pre-1890 natural perfumer had a rather limited range of aromatics to choose from, as many of the Indian and Asian essences we now have easy access to were not used in western perfumery at that time. Today, champaca, lotus, ambrette, agarwood and many other exotics round out the number of botanicals available to the natural perfumer. That, along with the adoption of classic French techniques of blending using top, middle and base notes, helps differentiate the modern natural perfumer from the 19th Century one.

A look back to the 19th Century would be little more than an intellectual exercise for a perfumer without the eternal beauty and complexity of the fragrant botanical extracts to kindle the fire of passion in the modern natural perfumer.

Since aromatherapy had opened the doors of small-scale distribution of essential oils, all the natural perfumer had to do was nudge open a few more doors, and suppliers were providing them with concretes and absolutes, attars and other raw materials. The aromatic palette was complete, and the niche field of modern natural perfumery was launched.

Some of the beginner natural perfumers liked, and had, all sorts of perfumes in their possession, from the classics like Chanel No. 5 to modern niche Serge Lutens creations. Still others professed a dislike to the strong sillage and diffusion modern perfumes. There was no common ground on like or dislike of perfumes containing synthetic chemical – only a professed love of natural aromatics.

Yes, even though they had easy access to aromachemicals – synthetic versions of the naturals, and fantasy scents – they chose to work with only naturals.

Why have you decided to be a “naturals-only” perfumer is a question we often get. The person asking the question may list the negatives:

Your raw materials are very expensive.
Your perfumes don’t last as long as those with synthetics, and they don’t have great diffusivity or sillage.
The raw materials are difficult to work with.
You’re artisans, often working out of a spare room in their house, isolated.
You have to for the most part, train yourselves and fund your own business.
You have to search out distribution networks, or, more realistically, depend on the internet or local stores for sales.
You realize they’ll never get rich at this, or have a corporate safety net.

We answer – Because.

Because:

We’re in it for the art.
We regard the natural essences as providing the richest, most beautiful, complex, challenging liquid artform to work with.
The fragrances evolve on the skin in a way synthetics don’t, and captive us with their slow, seductive nuances.
We don’t like big-volume perfumes with a lot of sillage or diffusivity.
We like subtle, complex aromatics that stay close to the wearer’s body and evolve slowly on the skin.
We take delight and pleasure in experiencing a unique natural aromatic.
The discovery and unlocking of a complex accord within a natural is rewarding.
The ability to connect on a level that speaks to an eternal fragrance is wonderful e.g., the cypriol we use is the same cypriol that was used in ancient Egypt.
The excitement of being in on the ground floor of a new art as it develops, and realizing that if we’ve come this far in approximately five years, how far we can go with natural perfumery in the next fifty?

Natural Perfumers create perfumes from 100% natural aromatics

There is no competition with mainstream perfumery. We’re just two different artforms, like oil painting is different from digital art. There are completely different aesthetics, mediums and results, and so it is and will always continue to be. These parallel arts will always have things in common, such as the need to respond to market trends, sourcing, R&D, and the need to always keep learning, keep on top of the perfumery and keep current, and that is our common ground.

Natural perfumers will always create for those who appreciate hand-made items from natural sources, and they are fortunate to live in the time of the internet and global transport that delivers raw aromatics and customers orders to their studio, allowing them to develop their art and business outside of the closed world of corporate perfumery schools.

We have a pronounced advantage in our pioneering of tincturing and infusing rare botanicals for our own use. Natural perfumers are as apt to create their own jasmine bases and tuberose tinctures as buy it from the supplier, if they have a garden to grow the botanical in. Others are tincturing seeds and soil to recreate some of the more exotic scents out of India, such as ambrette and mitti, which is soil attar.

And the clincher? Our mothers, who first turned us on to the world of perfume love our scents, and we now give back to them and their generation our liquid treasures, botanicals made liquid – naturally.

You may wish to sample the creations of the Certified Natural Perfumers in the Natural Perfumers Guild. Their perfumes undergo a rigorous certification process and are also held to high standards of packaging and ingredient transparency. http://NaturalPerfumers.com

Natural Perfumers Guild logo

Natural Perfumers Guild logo

Comparison Between Natural and Synthetic Perfumes

Monday - 25 April 2016

As head of the Natural Perfumers Guild, founder of the Natural Perfumery Institute, and a perfumer who only uses 100% natural aromatics in my perfumes, I am often asked about the differences between natural and mainstream (contain synthetics) perfumes. I created the following chart years ago for my textbook, and it’s a good, quick reference on the subject.

The bottle may hold natural or mainstream perfume. It's the customer's decision based on preferences, scent, price, or lifestyle whether to purchase it - or not.

The bottle may hold natural or mainstream perfume. It’s the customer’s decision based on preferences, scent, price, or lifestyle whether to purchase it – or not.

Chart for Quick Comparison Between Natural and Synthetic Perfumes

  Natural Mainstream (contains synthetics)
Perfumer’s Goal: Beauty and Health Beauty
Aromatic Palette: Essential oils, concretes, absolutes, CO2s, tinctures, and infusions Primarily synthetic aromachemicals, minimal essential oils and absolutes
Number of Aromatics per Blend: 10 – 30 30 – 100+
Creative Process Goals: Blend to create unique classic artisan vision with top/mid/base notes For corporate perfumers: meet market demands; can use top/mid/base structure, or linear
Diluent: Typically undenatured alcohol; sometimes oil, cream, or solid base Typically synthetic denatured alcohol; solid, dry spray
Customer Experience: Perfume unfolds on skin, revealing layers of scent Strong aesthetic statement, trendy, or nod to vintage
Drydown time: 1  – 8 hours;base may persist for 24 hours 1 – 24+ hours
Cost per pound of undiluted compound: Extremely expensive; some aromatics are $10 – $100,000 per pound Very inexpensive; corporations insist on lowest cost; there are rumors of a $20 per pound limit
History: Link to ancient Egypt, historical figures, use naturals in both ancient and modern style blends. Link to ancient Egypt, historical figures, use of synthetics to replace naturals began in 19th century.
Diffusion of Scent: Arm’s length, slight sillage, unobtrusive Can scent an entire room; strong sillage
Known respiratory issues: Little or none. If you are allergic to roses, rose oil in a natural perfume might trigger an allergic response. Well-documented; some municipalities have enacted no-fragrance laws

I hope this guide will clarify some issues on natural versus synthetic perfumes. If you have any questions on this issue, feel free to comment.

If you want a quality education in natural perfumery, click here to read more. 

Perfume Oil Flash Sale – Sandalwood, Vanilla, Boronia

Wednesday - 30 December 2015

This sale is on until midnight, December 31, 2015

Stock up on rare and beautiful 100% natural oils at 30% off

I’ve added the rarest of the rare oils – Golden Boronia absolute from Tasmania – to the Flash Year-End Sale. I’m one of the few retail sources for this uplifting floral oil, and I love to share it at an affordable price to perfumers and perfume lovers. This price will not be repeated for a year, so stock up now. Use the code boronia at checkout.
Syrupy, unctuous and utterly delicious - boronia!

Syrupy, unctuous and utterly delicious – boronia!

Included in this flash sale: nine-year old vintage sandalwood, wildcrafted from Sri Lanka. This smells as delicious as Mysore White sandalwood of legend.
Vintage, wildcrafted sandalwood oil from Sri Lanka - rich, buttery, woody

Vintage, wildcrafted sandalwood oil from Sri Lanka – rich, buttery, woody Available in 5ml (shown) or 15ml sizes.

Image of former 4ml vanilla abs - now available in 5ml and 15ml sizes!

Image of former 4ml vanilla abs – now available in 5ml and 15ml sizes!

And finally: Madagascar is known for its fine vanilla, and this absolute is a ten-year-old vintage, aged like fine wine, made from organic (non-certified) vanilla beans and organic sugar cane alcohol. Great for food or perfumery. Available in 5ml or 15ml sizes.

 

Click here to buy and remember to use the code boronia

for the 30% discount.
 
Happy New Year and Best Wishes from Anya’s Garden!

 

Distilling Cornutia grandifolia for perfume and health

Thursday - 29 October 2015

I’ve long been obsessed with a tropical member of the Mint family Labiatae and focused on obtaining some plants of it to grow in my fragrant garden. They were harder to find than I imagined, but I got two in small pots about a year and a half ago. You can read more about them here.

These plants are as aggressive in their growth habit as mints; instead of growing horizontally via runners, they grow vertically, leaping skyward at an astonishing rate. I don’t fertilize them, and they don’t have any pests or diseases. On a sunny Sunday in Miami, Angie and Julia showed up to harvest them and we worked together on the distillation of the big, soft, velvety, fragrant leaves. The leaves smell like a combination of balsam, tobacco, mint, and sweetness.

Angie and Julia harvesting the Cornutia grandifolia leaves

Angie and Julia harvesting the Cornutia grandifolia leaves

This photo gives you a sense of the size of the leaves: “grandifolia” for sure. Some are as big as your head, most will cover your hand, even with fingers outstretched.

Julia harvesting cornutia

Julia harvesting cornutia; a context shot to show the size of the leaves, and the height of the plant

Here’s a shot of a leaf covering my hand:

Cornutia leaf covering my hand - with Lulu looking on

Cornutia leaf covering my hand – with Lulu looking on

Once the branches were harvested, they were brought immediately inside, and the leaves were stripped off of them, and torn into pieces. From harvest to distillation pot, approximately a half hour. Cornutia is amazing: no insects, no diseases, very healthy foliage. We did find one ladybug who hitched a ride inside!

Angie and Julia starting to process the leaves for the distillation pot. It soon got serious and focused, with the three of us around the table. We then weighed the leaves, and got over four pounds for the hydro pot and the steam column.

Angie and Julia starting to process the leaves for the distillation pot. It soon got serious and focused, with the three of us around the table. We then weighed the leaves, and got over four pounds for the hydro pot and the steam column.

Angie kept meticulous records throughout, and she is still refining the record sheet to adjust it as we learn more of the process.

So the retort (hydrodistillation pot) and the steam column were packed, and we used Ann Barker Harmon’s book Harvest to Hydrosol as a guide, finding the ratios of water to plant material very helpful.

The beautiful 20L copper alembic is from The Essential Oil Company, and is adaptable for either hydrosol or essential oil production. It’s the minimum size required for essential oil, as the yields of that are typically very low, so you need a critical mass of plant material to get some. We were happy to get hydrosol, because distillate waters have a beauty and magic all their own, and we wanted to explore this rare plant’s hydrosol.

There is an overuse of the sealing tape, because we're beginners and were nervous about steam escaping, but we're pretty happy about the set up for the distillation itself, and have captioned it to help convey the logistics of the process.

There is an overuse of the sealing tape, because we’re beginners and were nervous about steam escaping, but we’re pretty happy about the set up for the distillation itself, and have captioned it to help convey the logistics of the process. One correction: the arrow for “warm water out” should be pointing in the opposite direction of the “cold water in” arrow. It flows from the top of the condenser back to the ice chest where it is cooled again.

We were so excited when the hydrosol started dripping into the jar, I had to remove the sound from the video! 🙂 Anyway, this may be the first-ever video of Cornutia grandifolia being distilled in the USA.

This is my first attempt to embed a youtube video into a blog post, I hope it works.

The first part of a hydrosol that appears is called the “head”, and it is typically very beautiful, sweet, perhaps full of esters. Not only did the Cornutia fill that description, it was the palest of silvery blue. I was wondering if it might contain chamazulene, the antiinflammatory agent in Roman Chamomile. The undersides of the leaves are silvery, and maybe the blue is present because of the blue flowers – which we did not distill, but might be present in other parts of the plant. After I posted about this on Jeanne Rose’s Hydrosols group on Facebook, she informed us that the flowers are mixed with lime(stone?) in France to make a blue ink.

Here is a photo of the “head” hydrosol:

The "head of the hydrsol captures the sweetest, prettiest notes. We got about 16 ounces.

The “head of the hydrsol captures the sweetest, prettiest notes.

We then switched to another sterile jar, and go the “body” of the hydrosol, and all the time, including while the “head” was processing, we were chatting about the scents we were observing coming from the still. Artichoke, ghee, floral, tobacco, mint were the first observations. Then in the “body” the artichoke receded a bit, and a balsam scent came through. I think we were a little perplexed, because we had never smelled anything like this before. We all agreed that the fragrance was strong, and an analogy could be made that it was a big and powerful looking as the plant and leaves.

I feel the hydrosol could be used in perfume, a tiny bit added to round out and give a complex, beautiful note.

When we detected that the scent coming out of the distillation was going flat, we knew we had reached the “tail” or end of the great-smelling distillate.The hydrosol was now finished, so we turned off the gas, capped the jar, and began the process of disassembling and cleaning the still – no easy task! Angie and Julia were so helpful, I can’t thank them enough.

Here is what the spent Cornutia leaves from the retort pot looked like when we took the column off:

The spent Cornutia leaves after the distillation is over. Looking down into the retort pot. We were surprised at the green leaves that survived the heat.

The spent Cornutia leaves after the distillation is over. Looking down into the retort pot. We were surprised at the green leaves that survived the heat.

Ann Harman’s book has instructions for evaluating the marc, how to examine the texture and look of the plant material, and despite the few odd green leaves, the marc fit the description of what it should look and feel like. You also have to examine the marc in the column, the part that was steam distilled. There were no dry spots, no areas where the steam did not pass through, so we felt pretty good about the project.

We now have almost two liters of “body” hydrosol distillate, and slightly less than one pint of “head”. We all took samples of the “body” to evaluate as it slightly aged. Over the course of this week, the artichoke has disappeared, and some sage notes, and then black tea notes (it even smells like sweetened iced tea!) have emerged along with floral, balsam, and others that are hard to define. No, no essential oil. Perhaps like the other Mint family plant that yields *very* little essential oil – Lemon Balm – this plant is to be prized for its hydrosol. What are the medicinal properties? Good question.

Angie Gonzales is an Ayurvedic practitioner and she will be delving into the large body of Spanish language written materials on this plant . It’s an ancient, powerful medicinal plant, and there have been a number of studies done on its medicinal properties in Central and South America. Since it was used by the Mayans, and Angie is from Mexico, she feels a special affinity for it. We will be reporting more on this wonderful plant in the future. Subscribe to this blog to be informed when we update it regarding Cornutia.

Making Perfume Tip About Using Abbreviations for Descriptors

Tuesday - 13 October 2015
Learn how to dilute aromatics, use a scale, and work with professional evaluation forms to record your impressions.

Learn how to dilute aromatics, use a scale, and work with professional evaluation forms to record your impressions.

Making Perfume: Perfume Shorthand Key to Comprehensive Descriptors for Organoleptic Evaluation

Perfumers need a jolt, or a boost to the thinking process, to help them come up with a descriptive word for various aspects of a fragrance. When making modifications (aka mods) to choose the perfect perfume, it helps to have both the Aromatic Lexicon that I supply my students with, and the next step, a shorthand way to jot down those descriptive terms. The following shorthand key included in the textbook for The Natural Perfumery Institute, (NPI) is valuable for this, and I’m sharing it here to pay it forward to those who need some help with their word searching. I hope you find it useful.

If you’re considering studying perfumery, join us at the NPI, and you’ll find the textbook and supporting materials will give you an outstanding perfumery education.

You can right-click the image and save it as a .jpg, or copy and paste the individual entries, below. Saving the individual entries will give you the chance to create a document of your own, and add the descriptors your develop in your studies. I provide my students with an editable Word.doc to do this, and they really come up with some creative terms! Use the document as a jumping-off point to allow you to add to when new terms arise during your observations. Feel free to share this with your perfumer friends, and most of all, have fun!

A quick and easy way to keep notes while evaluating perfume modifications. Courtesy Anya McCoy Natural Perfumery Institute

A quick and easy way to keep notes while evaluating perfume modifications. Courtesy Anya McCoy Natural Perfumery Institute

AGR Agrestic

ALM Bitter Almond

AMB Ambergris/Amber

ANI Anisic

ANM Animalic

APL Apple

APR Apricot

BAL Balsamic

BER Bergamot

BIT Bitter

BLC Black Currant

BNA Banana

BNT Burnt

BRM Broom

BUT Butter

CAM Camphorous

CAR Carnation

CAS Cassie

CAT Castoreum

CBR Cucumber

CDR Coriander

CED Cedarwood

CEL Celery

CIN Cinnamon

CIS Cistus

CIT Citrus

CIV Civet

CLO Clove

CML Caramel

CMN Cumin

COC Coconut

COE Concrete

COF Coffee

CON Coniferous

COO Cool

CRS Coarse

DEL Delicate

DIF Diffusive

DRY Dry

ERT Earthy

ETH Ethereal

FAT Fatty

FCL Fecal

FLO Floral

FNG Fenugreek

FOR Forest

FRE Fresh

FRU Fruity

FUN Fungal

GAL Galbanum

GAR Gardenia

GER Geranium

GIN Ginger

GRA Grapefruit

GRE Greasy

GRN Green

GRS Grassy

HAI Hair

HAR Hard

HEL Heliotrope

HER Herbaceous

HNY Honeysuckle

HON Honey

HSH Harsh

HVY Heavy

IND Indolic

JAS Jasmine

JON Jonquil

LAB Labdanum

LAV Lavender

LEA Leather

LEM Lemon

LFY Leafy

LHT Light

LIM Lime

LIN Linden Blossom

LLY Lily

MAG Magnolia

MAR Marine

MED Medicinal

MEN Mentholic

MET Metallic

MIM Mimosa

MIN Minty

MOS Mossy

MUS Musky

MYR Myrrh

NAR Narcissus

NON Nondescript

NUT Nutmeg

OFL Orange flower

OIL Oily

OPO Opoponax

ORB Orange oil, Bitter

ORR Orris

ORS Orange oil, Sweet

OZN Ozonic

PAT Patchouli

PEA Peach

PEP Peppermint

PER Peru Balsam

PHE Phenolic

PIN Pine

PNP Pineapple

POW Powdery

PPR Pepper

PRN Prune

PUN Pungent

RAS Raspberry

RES Resinous

RIC Rich

ROS Rose

RSM Rosemary

RWD Rosewood

SAG Sage

SAN Sandalwood

SEA Seaweed

SHA Sharp

SMO Smoky

SMT Smooth

SOA Soapy

SOF Soft

SOU Sour

SPI Spicy

SPR Spearmint

STA Stale

STY Styrax

SUL Sulphurous

SWE Sweet

TAR Tar

TEA Tea-like

TEN Tender

TER Terpenic

TGN Tangerine

THI Thin

THY Thymolic

TOA Toasted

TOB Tobacco

TOL Tolu balsam

TRP Tropical

TUB Tuberose

URI Urinous

VAN Vanilla

VEG Vegetable

VIO Violet

WAR Warm

WAX Waxy

WET Wet

WIN Wine

WOD Woody

YLA Ylang-ylang

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.

 

A Historic 19th Century Cologne Recipe Recreated

Wednesday - 6 May 2015

THE PROJECT AND PROCESS BEGINS

In November, 2014, I was contacted by Dr. Claire Shaw, Borough Council President, on behalf of the New Hope (Pennsylvania) Historical Society. They were referred to me as a natural perfumery expert and someone who may be able to assist them in deciphering a cologne “receipt” (also known as a recipe back then, now called formula) for a cologne that was written in 19th century apothecary script. Society Historian Wendy Gladston had discovered the document when searching through the books and records of the Parry Mansion, the most revered historical landmark in New Hope. At first it was believed the recipe was from 1800, but was later clarified to 1859.

Parry Mansion, the oldest home in New Hope, and a landmark on Main Street.

Parry Mansion, one of the oldest homes in New Hope, PA, and a landmark on Main Street. Today, New Hope is a famous artist colony and a destination town for tourists.

My research revealed the fascinating history of the Parry family of New Hope and Philadelphia. Philadelphia is my home town, and I have visited New Hope many times in the past, but never the Parry Mansion. There is a link to the Historical Society at the end of this blog post, so you can explore more of the Parry and New Hope story.

Benjamin Parry is the patriarch of the family, the builder of the Parry Mansion, and the person who named the town New Hope. He is the grandfather of the medical doctor/pharmacist who created the cologne formula, Dr. George Parry. In the 19th century, the local pharmacist often made colognes, toothpaste, curative herbal preparations, and all sorts of household concoctions. He was born in Philadelphia and earned his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania. I grew up in a neighborhood adjacent to the university, so felt an even stronger link to this project.

The original scan Dr. Shaw sent me was faint, and I couldn’t see the details, so when rescanned at 1200 dpi, the recipe was clear – yet still needed a lot of work, converting the measurements to modern milliliters.  I called in a fragrance historical expert, Andrine Olson of Vashon, Washington, to assist in deciphering the document. We both had our own reference materials on apothecary symbols that we had collected over the years so we referred to them this effort After careful examination of the document, Andrine found a typo in the symbols, and once corrected, the formula emerged. Good detective work!

Randolph Parry 1859 cologne receipt/recipe. The name Randolph was to honor the perfumer/pharmacist George Parry's ancestors. The amounts of the aromatics in the formula have been obscured to protect the rights of the Society in recreating the cologne.

Randolph Parry 1859 cologne receipt/recipe/formula. The name Randolph was to honor the pharmacist George Parry’s ancestors. The amounts of the aromatics in the formula have been obscured to protect the rights of the Society in recreating the cologne. You can see samples of apothecary symbols in the hair wash and the black ink formulas.

THE RANDOLPH PARRY COLOGNE RECIPE IS REVEALED

A lot of communication went back and forth, and we made the decision to use the American system (not the British system), and worked from apothecary drams and drops and gallon references, arriving at a modern volumetric formula of milliliters and liters/gallons. The formula indicated that the concentration of aromatics was light, around three percent (3%), what is still referred to as cologne strength. In comparison, modern perfumes may range up to 30% aromatics, which would be very strong by 1859 standards.

The aromatics were very much in line with a classic cologne, going back to the original colognes, notably Hungary Water and 4711. The formula contained citruses, lavender, rosemary, rose, neroli (orange blossom), and some spices – cinnamon and clove. The one ingredient that was used lavishly in those days, and that constitutes a big percentage of the Parry cologne formula is musk tincture. Musk tincture is made from a gland of the endangered musk deer. Today, musk tincture is highly regulated, and almost impossible to obtain. My colleague, Bruce Bolmes, of SMK Fragrance, is the only licensed importer of musk in the USA and he generously donated the needed amount to enable us to faithfully recreate the cologne.

THE COLOGNE IS SMELLED FOR THE FIRST TIME IN APPROXIMATELY 155 YEARS

I was in weekly communication with Dr. Shaw as my colleagues and I moved along in the project, and in February, I wrote them all about the blending of the compound base, perhaps the first time it had been made since the 1800s:

Dear Claire, Andrine, and Bruce:

This afternoon, I sat down and measured and blended all of the ingredients, and the perfume is both sexy and innocent, with an alluring gentle nature. It’s nice to be reminded of how our ancestors in the 1800s liked to smell, it could translate into a modern all-natural cologne that would be marketable.

The blend really came alive with Bruce’s tincture of musk, a product that was used lavishly back then. Of course, all this would have been a much more difficult project without Andrine quickly and precisely transcribing Parry’s notations.

Dr. Parry would be astonished to know his lovely cologne was revived on Feb. 17, 2015!

Sincerely,

Anya McCoy

I wanted the Society to be in charge of all of the remaining process, so that they would know how to replicate it in the future. I provided instructions on suppliers, with websites and suggestions on purchases. Dr. Shaw obtained the organic sugar cane alcohol and necessary supplies for the rest of the project, which included mixing the compound base with the alcohol, aging the cologne for the requisite two weeks, filtering, and bottling. The Society was aiming for an April 27 launch, when they hold their annual “Mondays at the Mansion” meeting. The public is invited to this well-attended event, the deadline was met, and the cologne was a huge success.

Randolph Parry cologne launch in bucks county New Hope Historical Society at the annual "Mondays At The Mansion" meeting

Parry cologne launch in New Hope, PA

Dr. Shaw was delighted with the reception for the cologne. It will be sold at their annual Garden Tour on Saturday, June 6, 2015. They are not ready for mail order sales at this time, so if you wish to obtain some of this cologne, subscribe to this blog, because I will announce it here. Just think – to be able to experience a true replication of a 19th century cologne that includes the gorgeous, rare musk tincture. I truly appreciate the Society’s faith in me and my team for this project, and I am happy to have handed this fragrant treasure back to them.

In my opinion, the cologne has universal appeal on several levels: it is a true glimpse into the cologne preferences of the mid 1800s, and it is a delightful, refreshing scent. It can be enjoyed by men and women, young and old. Those familiar with “Florida Water” cologne will find Parry Cologne very similar in fragrance.

********************************************

The New Hope Historical Society’s website: http://www.newhopehs.org/

My website is http://AnyasGarden.com

Andrine Olson is a fragrance historian and may be reached via her Facebook page.

Bruce Bolmes may be contacted at http://smk-fragrance.com/

About Benjamin Parry, the patriarch of the Parry family of New Hope, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania http://www.newhopehs.org/who-was-benjamin-parry.html

Apothecary systems http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apothecaries%27_system

THE MODERN CAVEAT

Information forwarded to the Society by me: the amounts of citruses and spices in the formula exceeded the more conservative amounts used today. The citruses can cause citrus dermatitis if used on skin exposed to sunlight, and the spices may cause irritation to skin. The Society was advised to provide information about this to customers, and make recommendations that it be used under clothing, in the hair, in perfume lockets, or worn at night.

Perfume Tincture of Orange Jasmine Flowers

Monday - 4 May 2015

First, I have to thank my new garden assistant, Eric, because he was the first one in three years who followed my instructions to radically prune back my orange jasmine tree (Murraya paniculata) so that I would get lots of flowers. The pruning is needed to produce new growth, and the flowers appear on the new growth. Other gardeners just wouldn’t do it, fearing I would not like the woody, bare look of the tree, but I’m a horticulturist and botanist, and I had the tree managed for many years that way, but I just couldn’t convince them. Oh, well, thank you, Eric, you not only pruned it back, in doing so, you discovered some hummingbird nests, which was wonderful. The snakes, not so much, but they were chased off to protect the birds.

hummingbird nests in orange jasmine tree

hummingbird nests in orange jasmine tree Feb 22, 2015

So, three months later, on May 2, 2015, I opened the front door, and was surprised and delighted by the pom poms of flower clusters on the orange jasmine! The bees were buzzing around, so I decided to wait two days before harvesting any flowers, to give the bees a chance to eat, drink, and be merry first 🙂 The moon was waxing, in Libra, and that’s always a wonderful time for white flowers.

The orange jasmine has clusters of fragrant blooms, and is a good neighbor to the ylang ylang tree, and the Aglaia Chinese perfume tree :-) May 2015

The orange jasmine has clusters of fragrant blooms, and is a good neighbor to the ylang ylang tree, and the Aglaia Chinese perfume tree 🙂  The number and size of the clusters aren’t back to what they used to be, but I’m grateful for this first flush.

A lovely orange jasmine cluster of flowers

A lovely orange jasmine cluster of flowers

A nice harvest of the flowers. The stems are thin, and scissors do the job, and I just hold a bowl under the clusters as I snip.

A nice harvest of the flowers. The stems are thin, and scissors do the job, and I just hold a bowl under the clusters as I snip.

You have to not only remove leaves that were accidentally harvested, but you have to look for insects and try to remove as many as possible from the upcoming tincture. There were ants and spiders that immediately fled when the flowers were spread out on a piece of newspaper. I forgot to take a photo of that stage. Then, when I placed the flowers back in the bowl to transport them to the tincture table, I noticed that there was a reason I felt the “honeydew” sticky exudate when I was picking, and the only reason: ants had been transporting aphids to the flowers. Here’s the cycle: ants transport aphids, literally carrying them on their backs, because aphids can’t walk/move/fly. The ants know that the aphids suck sweet nectar from the plant, and excrete it in the form of a sticky ooze known as “honeydew”. The ants can then feed on the honeydew. Well, then, bad news for the aphids and ants!  In an organic garden, ladybugs move in to eat the aphids! Thank you, ladybugs.

Every harvest has to be picked over to remove leaves - and insects. The ladybug was enjoying a meal on the mealy bugs (pun), and I carefully picked off the leaf and took them both back to the tree and carefully placed her back on it. Enjoy lunch, ladybug. The aphids were removed by snipping off the stems.

Every harvest has to be picked over to remove leaves – and insects. The ladybug was enjoying a meal on the aphid bugs,  and I carefully picked off the leaf and took her back to the tree and carefully placed her on a flower cluster. Enjoy lunch, ladybug. The aphids were removed by snipping off the stems before the flowers were placed in the tincture.

I have orange jasmine tincture that has had many recharges. I forget how many, but the concentration is monitored with a conductivity meter – it’s strong! It smells incredibly beautiful, a jasmine-like sweetness with no indole.

The alcohol is undenatured organic sugar cane alcohol.

Here's a basic tincture set up: a stainless tray to catch spills, and a stainless bowl for the strained tincture.

Here’s a basic tincture set up: a stainless tray to catch spills, and a stainless bowl for the strained tincture.

Now, on to the separation of scented alcohol perfume tincture from the spent flowers:

I use a stainless steel food press as an herbal press for small amounts. I was able to fit about half the spent flowers into the first pressing.

I use a stainless steel potato ricer as an herbal press for small amounts. I was able to fit about half the spent flowers into the first pressing.

Here is a shot of the alcohol draining from the press into the bowl.

Here is a shot of the alcohol draining from the press into the bowl.

The stainless steel tray makes it easy to dump the spent flowers without having to worry about a table surface, as the 190 proof alcohol would eat through a finish, marring the surface.

The stainless steel tray makes it easy to dump the spent flowers without having to worry about a table surface, as the 190 proof alcohol would eat through a finish, marring the surface.

The new harvest of orange jasmine flowers, minus insects (!) is placed into the jar with the original alcohol tincture, but there’s one last item to check: the lid.

Always check your lids, as alcohol can degrade them. I keep a box of extra lids on hand to replace ones like this. Now the recharge process is all done - for this time.

Always check your lids, as alcohol can degrade them. I keep a box of extra lids on hand to replace ones like this. Now the recharge process is all done – for this time.

Note: since I tinctured the spent flowers shown in this post, I conferred with a colleague who has convinced me that perhaps only a few hours to two days is enough tincture time for delicate flowers. I am going to tincture these for one day. I do believe that the essential oils will be stripped from the petals, and that leaving them in longer may contribute to more water being removed from the petals, something I wish to avoid. If you have another time table you like to follow, please do, I’m experimenting, that doesn’t mean you have to. I have used this method with ylang ylang flowers, and it has been very successful.

This series of production photos is for my upcoming book Perfume From Your Garden. I keep adding so much to the book, the publishing schedule has been pushed back – a lot. Have patience, it’s in the works, and will be an treasure of information on how to extract scent from plants, built on 40 years of experience. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter to be updated on the book, and subscribe to this blog to read my posts about all things in natural perfumery.