aromatic profile: green pepper tincture


Common name: Green Pepper

Genus name: Piper nigrum (of the Piperaceae family) native of Malabar India

Supplier: bought a small bag from the grocery store and tinctured in 96° alcohol

Note: Heart to Top

Family: (cool) Spicy/Green

Diffusion: 3

Blends well with: gourmand accords, Oriental accords, spice accords, amber bases particularly with sandalwood, rosemary, citrus, lavender, ginger, clove, lemon, coriander, geranium, litsea cubeba

Chemical components: a-pinene 30.7%, b-pinene 16.2%, d-3-carene – 1-15%, b-myrcene 0.8%, limonene 19.3%, elemene 2.1%, B-elemene 0.1%, B-caryophyllene 4.8%. (

piperine, piperetine and piperidine, amides-peperyline, piperoleins. (Fragrantica)

Interesting bits: Pepper grows as a woody, climbing and flowering vine that can reach up to five meters. Green Pepper essential oil is directly distilled from the unripe, undried green colored peppercorns (the fruit). Black peppercorns are formed when the unripe pepper is picked and then dried in the sun. (White Lotus Aromatics)

Black Pepper, christened as “King of Spices” and “Black gold” is the most important and the most widely used spice in the world, occupying a position that is supreme and unique. Black pepper essential oil is stimulating, warming, comforting and cheerful. The quality of pepper is contributed to by two components. Piperine that contributes the pungency and volatile oil that is responsible for the aroma and flavour. (Fragrantica)

The flowers may be unisexual, with monoecious or dioecious forms, or may be hermaphrodite…The pepper is crushed to a coarse powder and on steam distillation in which ammonia is evolved (in common with, for example, ginger, pimento and cubebs). (Fragrantica)

Their nose:  a fresh, light. spicy-aromatic(pepper-elemi-cubeb complex) bouquet with a dry, woody, terpenic undertone (White Lotus Aromatics)

hot and bracing note, short-lived and earthy spice…pleasant, fresh, spicy and peppery, warm, woody (Fragrantica)

My nose: my green pepper tincture opens with a light, barely-there element, then the pepper jumps out! Green, wow! Uplifting, spicy, almost watery and watered down, yes I definitely get that impression of dilution. 15 min later and it’s now very exotic spicy, like India, I get India with this tincture. Almost aniseed-like, aged, old, like it’s been sitting in the spice cabinet for years. After 30 minutes it’s fading very quickly, I don’t seem to get a thing when I sniff, just a vague impression of aniseed. 45 minutes into the dry down and now it’s just a glimpse, a hint of green and pepper is the last impression. It’s a cool spice note. Aniseed tea that mom used to give us for tummy aches. After 1 hour when it slides into the heart note it’s almost gone, I have to blow on it to wake it up but the pepper quality is still in tact. After 2 hours it smells faintly of a spice cupboard but it’s pretty much gone only a slight green note remains. 3 hours later and there’s a faint smell of spice lingering so is the aniseed thing. 7 hours into the dry down and all I get is a faint green impression mingled with paper – dry!  24 hours later and the impression of green pepper is so faint I think I’m imagining it. It’s gone.  But for a tincture it lasted much longer than expected.

Musings on composition: I would use this tincture as a base or backdrop for colognes because the impression is so weak, but that’s what I would want anyway. I discovered spicy can be both cool and warm and that this particular tincture could straddle both the green and the spicy family. Hmmm, all these facets of the single notes that no one can teach me really, I simply have to discover them for myself as I open up to learning more.

Wishing you a wonder-filled day!


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!

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!


It’s here, it finally came! From all the way around the world in New Zealand to our little village in the Alps. Ah! It’s Christmas already!

4.4 generous grams arrived in the mail and once I tore the padded envelope open I could smell the odour rise to caress my nostrils.  Honestly, that’s what it felt like.

When I opened the package I stood there holding them reverently, in awe that what I had in my hand was more costly than gold; that in the world of perfumery this ingredient is sublime and has cult status.

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In the close up shot you can see they very much resemble pumice stones, very porous and flaky.

I ordered the white variety, apparently it’s superior, with a mellow and fine odour, extremely subtle and seductive, with a very light fragrance.  What I get is a very dry, slightly fecal, animalic smell but compelling, addictive almost as I found myself leaning in for a sniff every few minutes.  It also has a delicate sweetness about it, even sort of “moth-bally”. But even with all that it is never off putting, I never found myself recoiling in disgust.

Anyhow, after taking my photos, I wrapped the pieces in a large piece of wax paper, folded it many times and began bashing it with a meat tenderiser.  I then emptied it into a bottle via a funnel and then covered it with 1 Lr of grain alcohol, labeled it and voilà! My very first ambergris tincture! The tincture photo displays the heavier pieces that have fallen to the bottom the lighter ones are floating around the alcohol in suspension.  Eventually, after much waiting, anywhere between 12-48 months, I’ll filter and store it.

Now I don’t have to buy from anyone else, I can use my own tincture and experiment to my heart’s content because a drop or two can be all you need.  I am however planning my next purchase: silver, grey and golden ambergris!

aventures in tincturing: rock lichen


On Sunday LV and I went for a walk with Charlie; I was on the lookout for some resin growing off of the trees in the forest we walked through but alas found none.  What I did find however was another gift: rock lichen!  How it grows clinging to the rocks fascinates me so I took just a couple pieces and began tincturing.


This beautiful creature is a happy dance between between a fungus and one or more alga and only certain types of fungus and algae interact in this way — it’s a classic example of nature’s symbiosis, living together.

In researching this impressive botanical I found out some stimulating things, mainly, since we’re talking perfumes, that it’s used as a fixative, to hold a perfume in place longer on the skin.  This comes as no surprise as some of nature’s mysteries are quite evident: lichen are called “extremophiles” because they thrive in polar and alpine regions where they are subjected to extreme dryness.

Lichen provide stability, hence their use as a stabiliser in perfume. In their natural environment they help reduce erosion and in the case of rock lichen, can even very slowly break down rocks. Some lichen even extract nitrogen from the air and make it available to plants, this process is called “nitrogen fixation”.  See why it’s not a mystery?

I have to admit that learning to prepare my own tinctures for use in perfumery has given me a whole new respect and consideration for nature.  I find myself approaching them with much more reverence and care; and although I didn’t do it with these couple pieces of lichen, from now on I will be asking permission from the botanical source before harvesting.


adventures in tincturing: jasmine & elderflower

Today I tinctured Jasmine flower. I have high hopes, it smells very promising already.

Yesterday Elderflower. LV went out and picked me about thirty flowers and I cut off the heads and steeped them in ethanol.  It really is humbling to have your hands covered in pollen, something so alive and pregnant with potential life. For the moment all I can say is, meh, not as impressive as the flower in its natural state. I’ve got some more that I will add to the alcohol when I strain off this one tomorrow. Below are my first efforts at fresh flower tincturing:

“The benefits to using tinctures as the alcohol base for botanical perfumes are numerous.  Notice I stated “as the alcohol base.” I recommend using tinctures as the perfumers alcohol for blending a perfume.  …. we are not creating a tincture to replace an essential oil or absolute (although one can tincture vanilla beans very successfully and use them as a replacement for vanilla absolute) we are more creating a subtle back note for the perfume by using the tinctured alcohol to blend.”  – Charna Ethier of Providence Perfume

This is a very interesting idea. Just a few months ago I started formulating for the first time and I’m using drops just in the test phase and haven’t yet made any full versions of my testers. So, this approach really interests me from a purely artisanal standpoint, the uniqueness of each one would be amazing!

As an aside: my package came and and with it the natural isolates and essential oils that I’ll need for the chemistry course, yeah!  I was at the door before the delivery guy could even ring the door bell and literally tore into the box when I got it into the studio. And the smell that met me when I opened the box was divine, heady and optimistic! I can’t wait to deepen my understanding of these wonderful gifts of the Earth.

Have a wonder-filled weekend!

adventures in tincturing – tonka bean


I love tincturing my own aromatics! There’s a special kind of delight that comes from taking something from its raw ingredient to something you can actually wear on your body that just sends me. Today I want to talk about my experience tincturing Dipteryx Odorata a.ka. Tonka Bean.

So, here’s how I did it and some thoughts and impressions during process:

Tonka beans: they are these little shrivelled up black beans and when I cut them up there was this glorious vanilla smell that rose up to tickle my nose.  I cut up about 50gr of beans with a knife, the beans I got from De Hekserij in Holland and then I added 200ml of 96% ethanol.  I used a mason jar and put it away in a cupboard and shook it every day – of course sniffing as I went.

I love that part; shaking and sniffing (…sniffing, sniffing, sniffing – headache!), everyday the smell is different! All of my tinctures I find to be so satisfying, I’m not even really sure why but they seem to leap forward and speak to me.

Decanting it I am totally struck by how much it has in common with Vanilla!  I haven’t gotten the essential oil yet so can’t compare but this smell is so soft. I value tinctures in my perfumes because sometimes I want a watered down effect of an essential oil, something just slightly different and tinctures give me this flexibility, this nuance.  And there’s a certain gratification in knowing I made it.

When I first started tincturing I was so anxious, what if I screwed up and had to throw everything away?! But what’s important to note is that tincturing is not an exact science, that’s what’s fun about it, just trust and follow your nose.

I have yet to use fresh ingredients. It was my intent this spring to use the fragrant petals of our rose bush but my mother-in-law, sweet woman, lay claim to it for her her soap making.  That’s okay, she needs to keep busy and I’ve got enough on my plate…next year.

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