rose apprehension

Continuing in the philosophy of avoiding to describe scents as LIKE vs NOT LIKE, I must be careful how to put this: I am simply not immediately attracted to rose as a raw material — it just does not speak to me … yet.  When I think of rose I get silence.

Rose to me is an olfactory no man’s land.  It is everything to everyone and at the same time it is no (one) thing.  Everyone has their opinions about rose and everyone’s right.

I want to be captivated by a raw material, especially florals, for my nose being captivated is a pre-requisite, probably because florals are so defining, polarizing even, and those that do attract me seem to be the in-your-face florals like Tuberose, Osmanthus and Ylang Ylang.

A floral must captivate me the way Oud did for Mona Di Orio here in this article:

“So in the morning, when the alarm clock was ringing, I smelt something…not a smell… I smelt a presence.  I had the feeling that someone was in my bedroom…and I turned my head, and I opened my eyes, and I saw the blotter. And I had a shock.  And I said, “This is it! Wow!  Okay, I want to do it!”

When I read this description about how she was transfixed by the scent of Oud after not really wanting to work with it, I knew I had unconsciously set a marker for myself with regards to florals.

I find floral notes challenging because they deserve the utmost consideration, a gentle hand and a wise heart.  They are after all the heart of a perfume.  And, is there anything more important than the heart?

To date, whenever I have been tempted to make a purchase of rose essential oil or absolute, my finger pauses perilously over the ENTER button like some sort of suicide victim teetering on the edge of a precipice. On the edge. Completely unsure and afraid. Slowly, oh so slowly, gently I am drawn back to safety by an olfactive wisdom of rose that tells me I am not yet ready for this note.

I am still in training and so I succumb to its wisdom and wait.


olfactive contemplation

olfactive-contemplationQ: What do you do when you’ve got very little time to spend evaluating single notes  but you don’t want to lose the ground you’ve gained in training your nose?

A: Olfactive contemplation

I’m waiting for a school composition exercise to mature first in the freezer then in the fridge before I can move forward in training also beginning this week and for the next two months I will be in a teaching flurry with little time for scent immersion so I decided to keep the nose in shape by choosing  three notes each day (if I can) and just BE with them. That’s right, nothing more than just letting their personality wash over me, talk to me and simply listen to their story, how they express themselves.

This is definitely not an active exercise in training the nose but a very passive route of discovery.  During this time I try to observe my breath by practicing breathing yoga; paying attention to how the note affects me on any level including my mood, how often I reach for it and if I am able to remain neutral to any that do anything less than thrill me.

It truly is an exercise in itself not to push, reach, try to, grasp for meaning, awareness or revelation but to simply create a space to be with the single note.

Hope all is well with you and yours.  Have a joy-filled day!

aromatic profile: oakwood, extract


Common name: Oakwood

Genus name: Quercus robur L.

Supplier: Hermitage Oils (UK)

Note: Base to Middle note

Interesting bits: I had a hard time finding information on this natural raw material, but when I changed my approach and came at it as a flavour ingredient that was historically used in wine making, open-sesame!

I found a lot of useful information at this site for home made wine making at E. C. Kraus. Great site, lots of really good information and I think I’ll be purchasing some of his Oakwood in powder form for some tincturing experiments.

In the making of wine, particularly Chardonnay, (Cabernet and Pinot Noir often use this ingredient also) often toasted chips are added to give a wine character.  The marriage of oak and wine was due to logistics — in order to transport the precious cargo they needed a reliable vessel.  Wine makers needed a wood that would not alter their wines and so between 1500 to the early 1700’s most oakwood was sourced from the Baltics, the area North and East of Poland. Around that time wine producers began to find benefits of casking wine in wood — namely for ageing.

According to my research, the major benefits are:

  • improved stability of clarity and colour
  • softening of harsher characteristics common with young wines
  • wood flavours lend an overall smoother, deeper texture to the wine.

Apparently, oak barrels breathe correctly, that’s why they were favoured over other woods, allowing a slow infusion of oxygen to aid in the ageing process, helping the wine to release its natural fruity elements.  Wine barrels are carefully toasted on their inner walls, toasting helps concentrate the flavour compounds and bring them closer to the surface of the wood so they can be more easily absorbed by the wine.  Lighter toasting brings out a more coconut flavour and more toasting hightens the caramel flavour.

There are many different flavour compounds in oakwood the most important being vanillin — this single compound can add a wide range of flavours to a wine: from coconut to vanilla to caramel.  Who knew?!

The complex profile of oakwood will enhance alcoholic flavours like whisky, rum and chardonnay by adding aged, sweet, “casky” notes.  Fruit flavours of the dried fruit type will also benefit especially raisin, prune, tamarind and apricot.  Other areas where this oak extract will shine are brown flavours like butterscotch, butter rum, caramel, sweet spice blends, vanilla and balsamic vinegar.

Oakwood extract is produced from medium toasted oakwood chips with supercritical carbon dioxide under gentle conditions.

Their nose: (Adam of Hermitage Oils): The top note is soft, soulful, balsamic woody. The heart is teacake-fruit-sweet, soulful-dry-woody with hints of luscious vanilla cream. The base note is fruity-rum and dry-raisin-woody. This material is of exceptional tenacity, lasting two full days alone on my smelling strip.

(Perfumer & Flavourist): Odour @ 100%, woody, oaky, brown, rummy, bourbon-like, phenolic, resinous, slightly spicy and vanilla-like.

My nose: instantly reminds me of alcohol, specifically rum, whisky, brandy, cognac.  I am definitely hit by the vanilla aspect, but it’s also sweet, woody, round and soft, with a sense of antiquity and age, as in old England and France, old.

Musings on composition: this wonderful extract makes me think of far away lands, ships and the salty air, and high sea adventures.  I would definitely want to try to include Ambergris in there somewhere, perhaps seaweed.  Not only but I have a mind-blowing Taihitian vanilla macerating in some drop-dead, yummy Courvoisier VSOP and I think these two would be a perfect pair!  Anything balsamic, raisiny, apricot, pruney, caramely, I think would do wickedly well with Oakwood.  Furthermore, since there’s this fruity aspect to Oakwood, my new purchase of Peach CO2 also from Hermitage, could also be a great fit. I’m learning that you can’t approach all perfume ingredients from the same perspective, some demand that you change the way you look at things.  Which means that we as perfumers change, and that’s wonderful!


aromatic profile: lavender seville, absolute

lavender seville essential oil

Common name: Lavender Seville (Spain)

Genus Name: Lavandula luisieri

Supplier: White Lotus Aromatics

Note: base-mid

Some interesting bits: the absolute is extracted by Hexane

The essential oil was only analysed for the first time in 1992!

A hybrid and sub-species of the L. stoechas, native to coastal and inland Portugal and neighbouring Spain.

According to the French, essential oil producer, Albert Vieille, “the properties of Seville Lavender essential oil and absolute have little in common with those associated with Lavandula officinalis or lavandin.  Their fragrances, in particular, are completely different.”  and, “The composition of Lavandula luisieri absolute is exceptional.  As with the essential oil, we find a series of irregular terpenoids with cyclopantanic structures that are rare, if not unique, in the vegetable kingdom.”

Main Chemical Components: Trans-alpha-necrodyle acetate 18%, Eucalyptole (1,8 cineol) 12%, Trans-alpha-necrodol 5%, Lavandulyle acetate 4%, T-muurolol 3%.

Their nose: The absolute is a viscous liquid at ambient temperatures, dark olive green in colour, with grassy, vegetal…notes, recalling liquorice and fig leaves.  The heart-note has a sugary character, amber, evoking dried fruit and jam.  The base-notes retain characteristics at once sugary, vegetal, hay-like, and acidulated. (

My nose: First impression straight out is that it’s much heavier than I expected; it’s thick and quite beautiful, like a woman with curves, dark, very woody, earthy, with a hint of camphor and only recalls the memory of Lavandula oficinalis.

After the 1st hour I gotta be honest, I wasn’t liking this too much, so I tried to practice what I’d read about an important aspect of scent evaluations and that is to try to keep your opinions detached from the exercise.  The note is much smoother now only more herbaceous.

After 3 hours this is still good into the dryout phase, dry and woody, warm, parched and more hushed. This is a stirring note, it moves the soul, touching deeply.  It is in no way as superficial as the lavender essential oil, but thoughtful and thought-provoking.

1 day later this note is still present, warm and parched and only now is beginning to fade.

Okay, evaluation over: I am enthralled by this note and wish one day to do it honour in a composition.


good things take time

I have been working on stocking up on new raw materials, sourcing supplies, signing up for a more intensive perfume course, visualizing the kind of perfumes I want to create, getting centred and focused.

I also had to come to terms with the fact that what I’m writing about on the blog at the moment is pretty dry stuff: odour profiles, chemical components and such.  But it struck me that at some point in my future I will draw on it for something and so creating such a resource ahead of time, one entry at a time, is just fine.

In the midst of it all I realise that this is exactly the pace I have spent years yearning for and dreaming about.  Yes, these things take time but more truthfully it takes love to invest in pruning the aspects of ones self that are just no longer working, time out to be a better me.

On to work now and back with a regular post on the odour profile of Sandalwood Absolute tomorrow.

Have a happy day!

aromatic profile: Lilial


Source: Perfumer’s Apprentice. What’s on the bottle as a description: muguet, watery, green, powdery, cumin.  Part of the group of green fragrances and to my nose a top note.

To me the first time I smelled it, it had a lightly floral, white aspect, fresh and clean; some people say they smell a slight watermelon note and I can see how you can get that too.

1 hour later it’s even lighter than before, hidden almost.  There’s a slight sweet sigh going on and it’s dry too.

3 hours later and it’s almost not there to my nose, but I can still detect a light floral aspect.

1 day later and if I blow on it with my nose I can smell something faint.

aromatic profile: alpha-terpinyl acetate


Above is the chemical structure of the molecule Alpha-terpinyl acetate. Again, I got this one from Perfumer’s Apprentice, and and have also diluted it to 10%. Here’s how it’s described as smelling by the industry and what I’ve got on the label of my bottle: herbal, bergamot, lavender, lime, citrus.  It’s an obvious top note.

My first impression is sharp, thin, and it immediately becomes clear that I’ve smelled this in detergent before, and for my nose it’s much too harsh smelling of synthetic.

After 1 hour it’s even more detergent-like, with hints of floral, fresher than the immediate impression. Dry.

3 hours into the dry down and the note is almost unnoticeable.

1 day later and I can’t detect a thing.

As you can tell I’m not thrilled. Moving on.

aromatic profile: Lyral


Most of my synthetic aroma chemicals I get from Perfumer’s Apprentice in America.

Here’s the description of it I keep on the bottle of Lyral or Leerall: floral, muguet, cyclamen, rhubarb, woody. Perfumer’s Apprentice says: extraordinary tenacity and diffusivity. A powerful blending agent giving richness throughout all dryout phases of a perfume composition. Lyral is widely used to create a “lily-like” effect.

The odour can last up to 400 hours and the shelf life is 24 months. Usually used as a base note and fixative.

Here are my thoughts: immediately dipping the smelling strip this is the trip I get: clean, fresh, soapy.  There are some floral aspects to it; I get an impression of open space, white.

After 1hr the note is much softer now, drier, with a definite synthetic feel to it, like I said soapy.

3 hours into the dry down and it’s now super dry, sharper somehow too, fading out.

1 day later it’s very light, soft, still present but after a few sniffs my nose can’t detect it anymore!

This is not one of my favourite synthetics to work with, but then, as is my philosophy that I’ve adopted in formulating, perfumery is like art in that no artist would want to limit their palette to just one colour. If I decide to not use synthetics I want to at least try them before making such a move.