thuja berry tincture


The other day we were out at Villa Carlotta on Lake Como and while strolling along the lake I noticed a coniferous full of berries.  Curious of course, I picked one and was gently caressed by the scent that filled my nostrils.  Gotta have this stuff, is all I thought — but what the hell is it?!

Luckily, LV having studied as a landscape designer, knows by name over 3,000 species and genus’.  Thuja Occidentalis a.k.a White Cedar (the man’s a walking database).

Of course we picked some and the next day it was in an alcohol bath where it’s been sitting as you can see, since the 25th of July.

I just took the lid off this one and holy cow it’s like full blown Juniper berries! From my research Thujone, the chemical component prevalent in Thuja berries can be toxic and one viable substitute is of course Juniper berries.

More on the details when I do a scent profile in a few weeks — or a couple months. What’s the hurry, really?

Have a great day!

tobacco tinctures


I tinctured a load of natural materials over the past month and I want to share with you what’s been going on.

LV rolls his own cigarettes and I absolutely love the smell of the Golden Virginia rolling tobacco he prefers.  I love how the smell isn’t over-powering and only lightly scents his clothes with the tobacco smell. So I thought why not tincture it? Detto. Fatto.  No sooner said than done!

I started getting all excited with the desire to experiment bubbling up unstoppable so I got bold and bought a very dark, pipe tobacco and tinctured it as well.  The pipe tobacco is full of body and strong aromas, most noticeable is the vanilla!

But, since I only began tincturing them yesterday I’ll have to wait at least a few weeks before doing a scent profile for each.

These tobacco tinctures are purely for research purposes. I’m fascinated by the olfactive facets that make tobacco, cigarette, and pipe smoke such an alluring and attractive aspect in a perfume so hands on research is one way to dig deeper into those layers.  Hopefully, one day, I’ll be able to reproduce the effects in one of my own creations.

Hope the sun is shining wherever you are!


aromatic profile of two ambergris


It’s a rainy day out today and it’s cloaking the study in a wonderful shroud that is so conducive to creativity, at least for me — I love the rain.  I sit here with my tea happily cuddled by the gloomy, overcast skies.

Yesterday I did a comparison of the two Ambergris that I have: White Ambergris from New Zealand that I bought a piece of and have been tincturing since December 2013, and The profiles were very surprising to my nose, totally not what I expected at all.

Ambergris from AbdesSalaam ( — 1% tincture strength

9:30am it opens light and luminous with a hint of the old; it’s impactful, and it seems to just keep coming forward, literally moving. 9:45am now it’s more moth-bally, old room, animalic, sort of bad breath, but so intriguing. 10:00am and it smells of antiques, aged character, the ocean and still very animalic.  10:15am and now the animalic quality is the foremost impression, very pronounced, but it now has a shimmering, smooth, golden quality about it.  10:30am warm is what hits me first, closed attic, animalic and poetic and raw, yes, in that order to my nose.  11:30am it’s still very present, warm, seashore, languid as if this note wants to say that it’s in no hurry. Wow, can a odour do that?! 12:15pm and it is still going strong, but now drier, more extensive, further reaching rather than deep like it was in the beginning, and still very warm. 4:30pm now we’re at the seven hour mark and it’s more of an impression than a real presence, bad breath, but even this impression is almost gone, faintly sweet note now, and faintly animalic.  24 hours later and there is a vague animalic impression, still a whiff of bad breath and then the whole thing collapses and disappears.

Volatility: mid

Ambergris from New Zealand ( — 0.44% tincture strength (edited on October 31, 2014)

9:30am and my eight-month-old ambergris tincture opens wet and animalic, moth-balls, old, aquatic, marine, giving me an impression of deepness, profound depths, fathomlessness.  9:45am and it’s already very faint, like a sigh! But there is still that animalic aspect to it that is barely discernible.  10:00am soft, mellow, and warm. 10:15am faintly animalic, still nuances of the sea but more in hints and suggestions though, the temperature is luke-warm. 10:30am it’s bare, white, clean, and still warm. 10:30am an hour later and my nose can’t detect a thing, nada!  Just the merest trace and only if I slow down my breathing and close my eyes.  I can’t believe it, I’m stunned. Where did it go?!  12:30pm and there is a hit of smokiness!  And then it’s gone again.  4:30pm, seven hours later and it’s completely gone, no trace at all.  I feel like weeping!  24hrs later and it’s a very pale sweetness (could it be my imagination?) and nothing else.

Volatility: high

I really believed that my 4.4% tincture would have made more of an olfactive splash (pardon the pun) than the 1% tincture from AbdesSalaam, but then I have no way of knowing for how long his has been aging. Thankfully I found this on a forum for Oud enthusiasts while doing some online research:

“…the scent doesn’t even project or last very long by itself, but when I mix it with oud or some of my own natural perfumes, it will take the other scent into the fourth dimension.  First of all the scent will open up much more quickly and each note will become perfectly clear in perfect harmony…secondly, this open state will last for a really long time…”

This seems to suggest that there are many layers to Ambergris, the obvious being the olfactive impression the nose receives and the brain registers; and could it be the other facet only reveals itself in combination with other notes which the perfumer can only discover through experimentation and that side remains hidden? This could be true because in my first formulas there are two that I added a couple drops of Ambergris to and they are completely different than the others, existing at an elevated level compared to the others.  I am in awe of Ambergris, I must say.

The photo was taken in Croatia, on the island of Krk, during a vacation in 2012, I was hoping to get lucky :).

Have a wonderful weekend!

pleasant gifts



A couple weeks ago we took our niece and her boyfriend from New Jersey up for a hike in the Alps to a place called Vazzeda Inferiore (and before you ask, no, I totally forgot to bring my camera! Duh!).  It was a gorgeous afternoon, the sun was shining and there weren’t too many people about.  Perfect.

As we advanced upon our destination, at about 2,000 meters, where some well deserved prosciutto sandwiches were awaiting us, we noticed greater and greater evidence of avalanches that had ripped through the area the previous winter.  Holy smokes, nature can be scary!  The bridge that we usually cross was broken in half and we had to gingerly navigate our way across, one person at a time and taking extra care to walk in the middle. The river Mallero that carriers glacier water from the Alps was flowing furiously a mere three feet below us!  There was snow five and six feet thick in a lot of places still and trees literally littered our path as we picked our way across.  It was well worth every gasp.  The scenery and the altitude were both breath-taking.

After lunch we snoozed and caught some mountain rays.  Later we went nosing around some of the surrounding stone cottages and I ended up straddling an enormous Larch, victim too of the avalanche.  With it’s roots up in the air and the top half God only knew where I felt draw to just being with it for a while.  LV joined me as we looked at the young sweethearts musing on our own loves and as the memories spread across my heart making my mouth turn up into a smile my hands melted into something gooey.  When I turned upside down to inspect the ickiness I was as dumbstruck as a sailor witnessing land for the first time in months — eureka!

I couldn’t believe the amount of resin at my fingertips!  It was literally oozing out of where it had been broke in half.  LV got out his knife and we scraped it all up, every last ounce! Back home I weighed it, 55 grams of aromatic heaven, scraped it all into a mason jar and added 250ml of 96 proof alcohol to it.

To my nose Larch resin is soft and almost boozy in nature.  Sure, the woody note is definitely central but there’s much more depth to this resin and I can’t wait to evaluate it on a scent strip. It’s also very, very sticky and I don’t know how I’m going to deal with that in a final formula.  I’ll cross that rickety bridge when I come to it.

In the meantime, I’m just basking in the pleasant gifts of an unfortunate event of nature – I can only hope that my perfume failures turn out half as captivating as this.

Have a wonderful weekend!

adventures in tincturing: cardamom and coriander


During my break I did try to keep my nose in shape mainly just by being consciously aware of smells, noting them and mentally cataloguing their impressions and being aware of my nose as a very important instrument in how I perceive my world.

Spices have always been a part of my childhood and they are some of the first ingredients I reach for in my mind when mentally formulating, or wishing. So it comes as no surprise that on a visit to D’s place in April I purchased some organic coriander and cardamom to tincture.

I had intended to leave them till July to filter but after performing these evaluations I think I’ll have to filter tomorrow.  At any rate here are my olfactive impressions so far on the scent strip:

Cardamom: This tincture opened sharp, smelling obviously of cardamom, spicy, tangy, fizzy and cool.  From one nostril I captured a lemony, bright facet and from the other a sharp, luminous, also lemony side.  After 30 minutes it begins to warm up, the spiciness unfurls even more, I get India, an opening, calming, goodness.  After an hour I’m shocked that the tincture hasn’t broken down yet, but is still rather fresh, in tact and holding its own!  It starts to fade around 2 hours, after 3 there’s but a hint of an impression.  But the amazing thing is after 24hours if I breathe on it I can still get it! Wow!  Not bad for a tincture.

Coriander:  On the other hand, this one I had higher expectations because about a month ago when I tested it it was perfect so I think I should have filtered it then and there.  But no, I had to push it and so ended up with this:

First impression is a bit unpleasant. Out of one nostril I get flour!  No, not flour, but dough! A sort of yeasty-ness. Out of the other nostril I get a bit of green, clean and soapiness.  30 minutes out and it has a very metallic, thin, soapy impression but less than before and it’s still giving off a greenness.  After 1 hour it’s barely discernible. Now it’s smelling like something I’d smell in food.  At the 2 hour mark its gone.  Ba-bye.  Sayonara.

adventures in tincturing: basmati rice and mate tea

Toasted Basmati rice tincture and Maté tea tincture
Toasted Basmati rice tincture and Maté tea tincture

On the 13th I finished tincturing basamati rice and Maté tea.  I had seen quite a few times on some perfumery sites that fellow perfumers had tried the basmati rice tincture for it’s properties as a fixative.  I can’t say I’m crazy about the smell of basmati rice but I wanted to give it a try see.  At the same time I got curious about some Mate tea I had in my cupboard and with absolutely zero expectations I decided, ah, what the hell, and in it went.

7 days later here’s the impression I get on the smelling strip:

Basmati rice tincture – soft, lightly coconuty, it does take me into gourmand territory I feel, which I’m not crazy about.  I also get a slight impression of the toasted effect here but not enough to make me want to use it in a composition.  This one has got to convince me in the dry down or it’s a definite “Nein!”.  I’ll evaluate it later in the day for a more well rounded opinion.

Mate tea tincture – the colour is a wonderful soft, green, almost mossy in quality.  The smell is definitely of tea! It reminds me of the smell of the tea leaves that remain in my cup after a few hours of sitting there, giving me a sense of comfort and anticipation because I love making and drinking tea.  Tea brings me solace, directs and grounds me. This tincture is light and so green, Spring-time, fragile green.  Think early fern fronds of Spring.  I can definitely feel this in a cologne composition so it’s a keeper!

This week I’m helping out family so I’ll be back on Friday with more scentual musings.  Have wonderful Tuesday!

cough syrup/liqueur experiment

some experiments are fool proof!
some experiments are fool proof!

This started off as a liqueur.  This is what we got.  A cough syrup. Not that I mind, I’ve always been a believer in taking care of my own health and in natural preventative solutions.

During our vacation we met a couple that gave us a taste of their home-made liqueur and I fell in love with the aroma and the taste.  It was made of Mugo Pine or Pinus Mugo (latin) and we are surrounded by it here in the Alps.  So we collected some, covered it with sugar and set it out on our windowsill for the sunshine to melt it all.  We did everything right other than taking into account that this should be done during the summer’s hottest days not the end of summer early fall.  Duh!  Of course it hardened like concrete and we couldn’t do a thing with it for months.  Then we got the brilliant idea to add some ethyl alcohol (grain) to it and later some hot water and voilà!  Mugo Pine cough syrup!

Both old stories collected from the area as well as a trip on the internet confirmed for me that Mugo Pine syrup is indeed good for upper respiratory tract infections, whooping cough, chronic bronchitis, mucus, and asthma. Taken externally it’s good for rheumatism and muscular stiffness.  Not bad for an experiment that went all pear shaped.

Don’t ask me for the exact measurements of the ingredients we just totally went by intuition.  The smell is wonderful and we sat there last night sucking the sugar and alcohol off the pine cones we extracted until we were woosy.  We slept well though! The cones won’t be thrown out but used for firewood.  Most everything gets recycled in this house.  We’ll eventually filter and bottle the concoction.

Oh, and just because we’ve called it a cough syrup hasn’t stopped LV from using it as a liqueur!

Scentually yours,