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.

Natural perfume

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. 

For Natural Perfumers, every day is Earth Day – and a giveaway!

Thursday - 21 April 2016

I’ve neglected my blog for a few months, while cultivating and nourishing other aspects of my life as a natural perfumer. I chose today to rebirth the blog in celebration of Earth Day. It feels right, and I look forward to posting regularly again, reporting on discoveries, musings, and general fanciful natural aromatic news.

I took part in the first Earth Day celebrations on April 22, 1970. It was a “happening” on Belmont Plateau in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia. Fairmount Park is the largest park in an urban area in the world, encompassing woodland trails, meadows, wetlands and manicured grounds on 9200 acres.

I spent many hours crossing the stepping stones, loving the wildness of the park.

The Cobbs Creek area of Fairmount Park photo is circa 1905, showing a child of that time doing what I did 50-60 years later. I spent many hours crossing the stepping stones, loving the wildness of the park.

I was very familiar with the park, because as a child growing up in Philly, the park was just a few blocks from my home. It’s the largest urban park in the world and it provided a playground for the kids. I loved the pine forest, the open meadows, and all the fragrant beauty it offered. Earth Day seemed an extension of my fun days of childhood, and was a signal of an awakening of the general population that we need to take care of Mother Earth.

earth week 1970

The last name was spelled incorrectly – we called it Filthydelphia, and were determined to clean it up!

A video of Belmont Plateau and why we needed Earth Day in Filthydelphia:

Did you know that the first Earth WEEK was that week in Philly? It was conceived at the University of Pennsylvania, right in my neighborhood. Interesting fact, and one I’m proud of. I was distributing a local underground paper at that time, and writing a bit for Rolling Stone (very informal stuff), and the city was abuzz with the big event upcoming at the Plateau.

I don’t have any photos of myself at the event, this was a time waaay before every event was memorialized on film. Yes, of course, we had film in those days 🙂 I can’t even find any photos of myself around that time, since I’ve moved so much in the intervening years things, like photos, got lost.

However, memories remain: I’m sure I was wearing patchouli or sandalwood oil that day, and later, when I was able to collect absolutes and a wider range of aromatic oils a few years later, the path to natural perfumery was beckoning. In the interim, I got degrees in Economic Botany and Landscape Architecture, wrote for Organic Gardening magazine, started community gardens, and was elected to a State of Florida office as District Manager of the USDA Soil and Water Conservation District in Collier County. All the time I was studying perfumery, herbalism, and aromatherapy. I connected the earth with healing and pleasure, and still do, every day. I am an Earth Child, for sure.

The label of Pan has changed, but the juice remains the same - pure earth, forest, soil, field, musk!

The label of Pan has changed, but the juice remains the same – pure earth, forest, soil, field, musk!

I love my perfume Pan because it’s an agrestic forest and field fragrance that reminds me of the park and my childhood. It’s also a very sexy musky scent, and when I created Pan I realized how musky the park was with wild animal pheromones. I was a lucky urban child because I was able to explore the feral natural world, and am lucky enough to still be doing that today, with my perfumery materials. To a natural perfumer, every day is Earth Day.

To celebrate Earth Day 2016 – a celebration that I never envisioned all those years ago, as a teenager lolling around on a warm sunny day on Belmont Plateau, I’m offering a 15ml spray bottle Eau de Parfum of Pan. Leave a message what Earth Day means to you, even if is a short note, just a phrase, a feeling, or something you learned about me from the post – and you will be in the random drawing to win Pan. Share on Social Media and you’ll be entered twice! Drawing is open until 11:59PM Saturday, April 23, 2016.

PS Enjoy Spring!

Make Hydrosol the Simplers Herbalist Way

Sunday - 17 January 2016

Simplers Distillation to Create a Quick and Easy Hydrosol

There are times I just want to spray a delectable floral, spice, herb, or other botanical water on my face or body. The well-known botanical waters, rose or orange blossom, are also known as hydrolats, distillate waters, or hydrosols. I’ll call them hydrosols for this article, because that is perhaps the best-known name for them.

What’s the difference between Hydrosols and Simply Boiling the Botanical?

When you boil a botanical, whether it’s a rose or oolong tea, you are making an infusion. All of the properties of the botanical are being drawn out into the hot water, and you can drink it ‘as is’. When you make a hydrosol, many of the chemical properties of the botanical are left in the water in the bottom of the pot, as in making tea. It’s the volatile, scented properties of the botanical that rise with the steam, condense on the iced top of the container (more about that below) and drip down into a container that will collect the hydrosol.

Hydrosol is much more concentrated than the tea, and should always be diluted before using it in food or drink. However, if you’re like me, you make it mostly for spraying on the body or hair, or for splashing on the face, like a toner.

Why Make Hydrosols?

Why hydrosol? Besides the health benefits of using a botanical with beneficial chemical components, maybe I just want to capture the ethereal citrusy scent of a rare lemongrass (C. flexuosus) from my garden. It’s sweeter and lighter than the bulbous “regular” lemongrass we all know from Asian recipes, and I find it very refreshing. Maybe I only have a few dozen golden campaca flowers, or a few handfuls of ylang ylang, in all their rare and glorious sensual beauty. Let’s not forget the lemon leaves, rosemary, lime leaves, patchouli, pineapple sage and other fragrant beauties I have in my garden — the list is long, and I love them all!

Some ideas for a simplers' hydrosol - lilies, rose geranium, citrus rinds, leaves, or flowers, dried patchouli or other herbs or teas - etc., etc.

Some ideas for a simplers’ hydrosol – lilies, rose geranium, citrus rinds, leaves, or flowers, dried patchouli or other herbs or teas – etc., etc.

I have several distillation devices: a 2 Liter glass hydrodistillation unit from Heart Magic, and a gorgeous piece of art in the form of a 20 Liter copper hydro- or steam- distillation unit from The Essential Oil company. Due to their small size, I mostly get hydrosol, and a little bit of essential oil. Using them, I get anywhere from a pint to three liters or so of hydrosol. These units are great for production, but sometimes when I just want a quick hydrosol, I don’t set up the formal distillation units. Instead, I use a method that was probably used thousands of years ago, and is still efficient and productive today.

I call it a simplers’ distillation, paying homage to the ancient simplers’ method of herbal tincturing and infusion. The simplers’ way means nothing is measured, and the botanical is simply covered by the menstruum – water, in this case – and the process is adapted for a stovetop or campfire.

Our ancestors in northern climates probably used cold water from a stream or well, but since Miami’s tap water (which I filter) rarely goes lower than 78F, I have to resort to using ice to facilitate the necessary condensation. This condensation of the rising steam is what chills the steam and allows the scented hydrosol to fall into the bowl for collections.

simplers hydrosol pot with bowl lid and steam small_opt

Inverted glass lid with metal handle (all non-reactive materials) showing steam starting to materialize after a few minutes of water and rosemary in pot being heated.After steam appears, place a ziplock bag filled with ice on the lid. You will have to replace with a new bag with ice several times during distillation. They can be refrozen and reused over and over.

After steam appears, place a ziplock bag filled with ice on the lid. You will have to replace with a new bag with ice several times during distillation. They can be refrozen and reused over and over.

This method is easy any season of the year, anywhere you live, and with any fragrant botanical you have on hand, which can be from your garden, the grocery, or even dried – dried rose petals work well with this method, as do many other dried botanicals.

Equipment needed:

All of the equipment needs to be made of non-reactive material, such as stainless steel, enamel, or pyrex.

– A large pot or saucepan
– A lid with a slight dome, no flat lids. Turn the lid upside down, so the hydrosol will drop down into the bowl.
– A platform to elevate the bowl. It should be as small as possible to do the job, because the area around it needs to be sufficiently generous to hold as much plant material as possible. I use an upside-down custard cup aka a ramekin, with a flat bottom
– Plant material: fresh is best, but you can experiment with flowers, seeds, bark, roots and other materials that are dried.
– Filtered water
– Appropriate size ziplock plastic bag to fit onto the lid. I use one gallon bags.
– Ice to fill the plastic bag. You may need to refill the bag several times as the ice melts, so have a backup supply of ice. After the distillation is completed, I let the melted ice in the bag refreeze by placing the bag inside the lid and placing it in the freezer. That way, the bag is conformed to the lid, and in a solid chunk, which slows down the melting time for the next distillation.
– Sterile container for the finished hydrosol. Directions on how to sterilize the container are detailed below.


1. Place the pot or saucepan on the heat source
2. Place the platform to elevate the bowl in the bottom of the pot, centered.
3. Place the plant material around the platform, up to the top of the platform. Pack the plant material to fit as much as possible in the space.
4. Pour in enough water to cover the plant material.
5. Place the bowl on the platform
6. Place the lid on the pot, inverted, so that the dome faces down, to allow the steam to drip into the bowl. The hydrosol will drip from the handle into the bowl
7. Turn on the heat to high, and when the water begins to boil, turn it down to medium and place a bag of ice on the lid.
8. Maintain an even temperature for the heat, and replace the bag of ice as needed with a fresh bag of ice.
9. The distillation is finished when the plant material looks “spent”, or you detect an odor that indicates no more fragrant molecules are being extracted.
10. Lift the bag of ice from the lid
11. Do not open the lid. Allow the pot and contents to cool down to room temperature.
12. Remove the lid and pour the contents of the bowl into a sterile container and secure a lid on the container.
13. Label the container with date, plant material, and method used.
14. Store in a cool place, out of sunlight.

Sterilizing The Hydrosol Container

There are several methods that you can choose from to sterilize the container you use for storing the hydrosol, whether it is a jar or bottle. Of course, glass is the best choice, due to its non-reactive properties, and a tight fitting cap is necessary, as a cork will allow microbes to migrate into the container.

1. While the hydrosol is cooking on the stove, place your container and its lid into a separate pan and gently boil for at least twenty minutes. Carefully remove the container and lid with tongs, and place them upside down on a clean towel. Allow them to cool. You may also boil a pyrex or stainless steel funnel at this time if you wish to use it for transferring the hydrosol to the container.

2. Use an alcohol wash of the container and lid and funnel (optional) by diluting 190 proof undenatured alcohol to 170 proof and washing the inside of the container and the lid and funnel with it.

3. I use a UV light box, such as the ones used by tattoo artists and cosmeticians. I place the container and funnel on the top shelf, and the cap on the bottom, facing upwards, so the UV light can reach the inside of it. Put the UV machine on for 15 minutes to sterilize.


Quick and easy way to sterilize materials with UV light.

Quick and easy way to sterilize materials with UV light.

Refreshing rosemary simplers' hydrosol made with fresh rosemary from my garden. Note the bottle and cap from the UV sterilization unit.

Refreshing rosemary simplers’ hydrosol made with fresh rosemary from my garden. Note the bottle and cap from the UV sterilization unit.

My photos don’t do the process justice. The first link is a good documentation of the process. The author uses dried elderflowers.

This video is a great tutorial on simplers’ hydrosol making. She uses fresh rose petals, so it’s a great visual. My instructions and preferences differ a bit from hers: I like a glass lid so I can observe the process, and I think it’s a lot more convenient to place the ice cubes in a plastic bag. Also, as noted above, I’m very strict about sterilization. Hydrosols can grow microbes very quickly if not transferred into sterile containers with sterile lids.

Combo hydrosols

Experiment and find some combinations of plant materials that you like. Mint, rosemary, and bay leaf. Rose and jasmine – yum! Patchouli and cedar wood shavings. Citrus and ambrette seeds. Have fun!

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


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


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


WIN Wine

WOD Woody

YLA Ylang-ylang

How to Sample Perfume

Sunday - 30 August 2015

I just revised my insert card that I include when customers buy my sample box of 12 perfumes. I decided years ago that it’s best to make a suggestion about the sampling process, and the parallel to wine sampling. If you’ve ever visited a winery, or attended a wine sampling event, you’re familiar with this process.

At the wine event, you’ll be given the light, crisp whites to experience first. You inhale the bouquet (smell) and then taste the wine. Then you’ll move on to a more robust white, something like a Chardonnay, and so on, through light reds, to deep, full-bodied reds.

Why? Because the fuller-bodied, deeper, more robust wines will dull your taste buds and sense of smell a bit, overwhelming them so that if you taste a lighter wine afterwards, all the nuances of that wine will be lost. Light first, then move on through the more assertively scented and tasting wines, and you’ll be able to enjoy and fully experience all the nuances. It’s the same with perfumes!

How to Sample Perfumes - from Anya's Garden Perfumes

How to Sample Perfumes – from Anya’s Garden Perfumes Photo: gardenia by Anya McCoy

Ironically, my lightest perfume is named Light, so I worked out the sampling progression from there, and each perfume from that starting point gets stronger and more full-bodied. By including this card, I help my customers in two ways: they have learned about the intensity and sampling system of wines and perfumes, and they don’t overwhelm their nose by choosing Fairchild or Star Flower first!

Hope this helps everyone understand and use a logical way to enjoy perfumes.

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.



Enticing Perfume from Anya’s Garden Giveaway

Tuesday - 2 June 2015
Super Moon over Miami and Tuberose photos by Anya McCoy. Reclining Lady by Raimundo Madrazo

Super Moon over Miami and Tuberose photos by Anya McCoy. Reclining Lady by Raimundo Madrazo

Research that Inspired the Creation of Enticing Perfume

On May 21, 2015, I launched my new perfume Enticing,

my 21st Century interpretation of the power of this tiny flower.

As an ethnobotanist and perfumer, I take the artistic license to call it the bad boy of flowers. Of all the “narcotic” fragrant white flowers, such as jasmine and gardenia, tuberose is the only one given the power to make girls lose their inhibitions. Perhaps there is some pheromone in the flower that is unidentified? I think research needs to be done to try to confirm or deny what makes tuberose so different, so seductive.

Perhaps 21st century young girls don’t swoon and lose inhibitions as they did in the past when smelling this narcotic flower at night, but its reputation is still sexy. In all my research over the years, I have never seen a flower given such incredible powers in aiding seduction.
The original warning seems to be pan-European, after the introduction of the tuberose flower in the late 1500s.

From the thesaurus, synonyms for “enticing”

• alluring
• appealing
• captivating
• desirable
• engaging
• fascinating
• inviting
• tempting
• attracting
• bewitching
• charming
• enchanting
• fetching
• luring
• winning
• siren

Yes, those synonyms pretty much sum up what the parents and guardians noted about the powers of this tiny, innocent-looking flower.

Tuberose by moonlight in Anya's Garden

Tuberose by moonlight in Anya’s Garden

Traveling out of Mexico, tuberose didn’t even follow the typical west-to-east route of New World imports, moving from the New World to Europe. It was wayward even then, moving east-to-west, first arriving in Indonesia. Not too much chatter about its seductive powers there, but India, Italy, France, and Britain all sounded the alarm.

The dainty white flower begins releasing its narcotic scent after dusk, and continues throughout the night, and parents and guardians thought the girls could be easily seduced while under the spell of its fragrance.

Enticing, the new perfume from Anya’s Garden, has a superdose of tuberose, lush and loud, announcing the intensity of the flower. 100% natural aromatics that hype the creamy, warm scent of skin were chosen to draw the user – and those close by – into the warm, heady nighttime allure of the tuberose in its most potent form.

The Language of Flowers

The Victorians developed a complex system of nonverbal communication, using flowers as the symbols for emotions. Tuberose was assigned the title of “Dangerous Pleasures”, and this idea is expanded upon:

From The Language of Flowers, published Lea & Blanchard 1848 Philadelphia, no author cited:

If you would enjoy it without danger, keep at some
distance from the plant. To increase tenfold the
pleasure which it affords, come with the object of
your affection to inhale its perfume by moonlight,
when the nightingale is pouring forth his soul in

The Tuberose, with her silvery light,
That Is in the gardens of Malay
Is called the mistress of the night,
So like a bride, scented and bright,
She comes out when the sun’s away.

Then, by a secret virtue, these grateful odours
will add an inexpressible charm to your enjoyment;
but if, regardless of the precepts of moderation,
you will approach too near, this divine
flower will then be but a dangerous enchantress,
which will pour into your bosom a deadly poison,
Thus the love which descends from heaven purities
and exalts the delights of a chaste passion ; but
that which springs from the earth proves the bane
and the destruction of imprudent youth.


Rajnigandha means tuberose in Hindu language

Rajnigandha means tuberose in Hindu language



This beautiful and most odoriferous flower, commonly known as the Tuberose, and which is calculated to please all, was brought from Persia in 1632. It flowered for the first time in France, at M. de Peiresc’s, at Beaugencier, near Toulon. The flower was then single; but its petals became double after some time, under the careful hand of Lecour, of Leyden. From that place it spread everywhere. The Tuberose, that superb native of the East, which the illustrious Linnaeus has named Polianthes, from the abundance of its flowers, a flower worthy of cities, has become with us, as it is in Persia, the emblem of Voluptuousness.

A young Icoglan, who receives from the hands of his mistress a stem of the Tuberose in bloom, experiences supreme happiness; for he knows that he may thus interpret the happy symbol of their mutual affection; “Our happiness will surpass our anxieties.” All the world knows and admires the white spikes and stars of the Tuberose; those beautiful spikes are the termination of a tall and slender stem, and they diffuse a most penetrating and intoxicating perfume.
Shelley says of it, “the sweet tuberose, the sweetest flower for scent, that blows”

The Perfume Brief for Enticing

My goal was to recognize the sexiness of the flower and to enhance the buttery, lactonic, deep, dark aspects of it. I wanted to make a skin caressing, long-lasting perfume that holds tuberose close to you, and one that has a silky effect when breathed in. Clary sage is another plant recognized for its power to affect your senses merely by breathing in the essence, both in the garden, and from the distiller’s essential oil. It’s perceived in the opening top note, along with a trace of cardamom, to tease the nose into not quite recognizing the lush floral headiness of tuberose, and then they recede, and the full blown power of tuberose, bold and soft, smooth and velvety, takes over – like it has always done.

Enticing Perfume Ingredients:

Organic Sugar Cane Alcohol, Tuberose Absolute, Scented Alcohol extracted from Anya’s handmade Tuberose Enfleurage Pomade, Butter CO2, Opoponax Absolute, Clary Sage EO, Terpene Acetate Isolate ex. Cardamom, Beeswax Absolute and Anya’s handmade Beeswax Tincture, Patchouli EO, Mushroom Absolute, Siberian Musk Tincture.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about my interpretation of this heady flower, and the ingredients I used to create Enticing. Leave a comment, and you’ll be in a random giveaway drawing to win a 4ml mini of the pure perfume. Giveaway deadline ends 11:59 PM June 4, 2015. I encourage you to subscribe to the blog and to this post in particular to discover if you are the winner. The winner will be announced here in the comment thread June 5. Open to all worldwide readers and commenters.

Enticing is available in both pure perfume form as a 4ml mini, and as an Eau de Parfum 15ml spray from Anya’s Garden Perfumes store. Click here to purchase.

4ml bottle of Enticing pure and natural perfume from Anya's Garden

4ml bottle of Enticing pure and natural perfume from Anya’s Garden

Reclining Lady by Raimundo Madrazo

Reclining Lady by Raimundo Madrazo