The Elements of Scent-Musky

Musky things.No other scent group has taken the world by storm quite like the “musky” perfumes. Musk has been around for a long time, and artificial musk was a happy accident which occurred during the development of dynamite! One of the scientists who was working on TNT noticed that there was a lovely smell coming from the workbench and called that to the others’ attention. Not being shy about making a buck off research, the group sold the liquid (which was not explosive, except socially) to perfume houses and the fad for musk started in earnest.

Musk has a great many different smells: subtle, aggressive, hawthorny, sharp. One thing it has in common is that it is a heavy molecule and stays around a long time and so is a basenote. In the 21st century it never smells like anything you encounter in nature, it is decidedly a man made item. There are attempts to mimic modern musk among natural perfumers (e.g. musk ambrette) but the array of perfumer’s artificial musk outstrips the variations on anything the natural perfumer has to work with.

Of course, the original perfume musks were taken from animals. They were the basenotes, and diluted they are often delightful. However, public sentiment has sharply turned against using secretions from civet cats and musk deer due to animal cruelty issues (and the more crass reason that artificial musks smell better and are cheaper). You would be hard pressed to find any perfume which boasted real castorium (beaver musk) for example, nowadays.

Though musks have always been with us, they were more bit players than the star of any perfume, even through the glory days of French perfume in the post war 1950s, Not until the corporate-loving era of the 1980s did the aggression of the culture called for aggressive scent to match. Giorgio of Beverly Hills was a flagship fragrance of mega musk and sweet flowers, crystalline musks became the darlings of the public (and remain so to this day), and every once in a while, a sly musk catches our imagination (something hawthorny like 301). It is safe to say that if you want a hit you have to employ musk in some form or another, at least for its staying power and star power.

Discover Possets and take a look at our listing for musky scents, we are very good at them. Take a tour of each of the scent families and it’s just fun going through the list of perfumes on offer. Http:www.possets.com

The Elements of Scent-Masculine

ManlyThere are more surprising elements to a masculine fragrance than you would expect.Have you ever walked through the aisles of a department store and smelled a man’s scent just for kicks. Have you ever had the reaction,”This is FABULOUS, why don’t they make women’s perfume this lovely?” And then you think about it, and then you realize you would not wear a scent like that BUT you would follow a man who smelled like that to the end of the earth. THAT is the magic.

Here is the deep secret: Men’s fragrances are not made for men, they are made for women.* They are full of things which attract us with sweetness and suavity. Think of Grey Flannel by Geoffrey Beene, it was a men’s fragrance full of violet, it was sweet and alluring, it lasted a very long time, it was catnip to women. It is still considered a classic, and reason is because it was aimed specifically at women, so it worked. Royal Copenhagen (by Royal Copenhagen) was another sweet and sultry blend which was the limit in seduction, again aimed at attracting women. These were smooth, almost feminine fragrances with no sharpness to them. You don’t smell too much of that today, but it was very effective years ago. Carnation, violet, iris all have connotations of manliness and swagger; so much for the language of flowers.

Fast forward, now it’s a AXE world. Men’s fragrances are often STRONG and aggressive. I suspect that they are made to signal other men to “stay away from my woman (women) if you know what is good for you” and to leave that lingering scent on the lady (ladies) in question so that rivals would be discouraged. Mean musks, concentrated ingredients, chemical cocktails with stingers in them leave the famous “trail of jet fuel” behind the wearer in a scent war. Mmmmm, like squirting through a Game of Thrones of Perfume, eh?

Face it, mating rituals among humans have changed considerably over the last few decades, and what was once taken for granted is now viewed as quaint. The quarry has changed as well. What was once the passive and agreeable lady is now the strong and independent woman. She wears an aggressive scent, too, and will give out just as strong a signal as her companion. This seems to be a more “Competitive Mating” scene than there has been in a long time, and perfumes reflect it.

Once in a blue moon, I like to try to bring back an nicer and more gentle form of men’s scent, something where a guy would be trying to romance a woman and conquer through kindness. I realize that that is sometimes seen as “old fashioned” but I can’t tell you how many times I have been thanked for coming up with Adamus or Stewart or Venus Black (which got me the gig writing for Fragrantica.com). So, you think that chivalry and sweet seduction are dead? Nope, they are the next wave.

*Except when they are not, please see above.

Discover Possets and take a look at our listing for masculine scents, we are very good at them. Take a tour of each of the scent families and it’s just fun going through the list of perfumes on offer. Http:www.possets.com

The Elements of Scent-Leather

leather is lovelyLeather seems like a surprising classification for perfume. First, it’s pretty specific, next it’s something some people really don’t like, and finally, it’s not a “perfume scent” per se, right? Wrong! It is a big element in a lot of famous perfumes, like the vaunted Bandit, the most famous chypre of all.

Some people think that leather is a masculine note…again, that isn’t true. Even serious rawhide can be a real turn-on when used with a discerning hand. Mixed with a strong floral can become a unique and glorious sexy thing. And please know that there is a plethora of different leather accords: soft suede, rawhide, saddle, highly refined leather like on a fine chair, and leather jacket. I even know of one which is the exact match of a very light, soft, hard finished leather! So, the savvy perfumer has to know the character of each, what is the classic pairing/combination, what would be daring and successful, and what is an all out risk!

Leather is a base note usually because it is strong and it lasts for a very long time. It can be the central theme of a perfume or a charming side player if used with a light hand. If used with a light enough hand, it becomes very subtle yet retains its character for a “it’s great, what IS that?” surprise.

Discover Possets and take a look at our listing for lavender scents, we are very good at them. Take a tour of each of the scent families and it’s just fun going through the list of perfumes on offer. Http:www.possets.com

The Elements of Scent-Lavender

lavenderLavender is always such a popular type of scent. Aromatic and fresh it’s surprisingly versatile and can go from sweet and unctuous to sharp and modern with very little trouble.

Lavender’s name comes from the Latin word for washing, and scenting your sheets with it was thought to give a good night’s sleep (still true today). There are a lot of different lavenders, the one prized for perfumery is probably the type which smells strongly of vanilla (coumarin) and if you find a source of that, hang on to them…it is precious stuff. On the other end of the spectrum, lavender can be volatile and smell like paint remover because some forms of lavender are just that: paint solvents. It’s a common practice to use lavender in fine art to thin paint, and that sort of lavender is called spike lavender.

Lavender is one scent which just never seems to grow old in the imagination of the public. It has not suffered the same fate as rose (“Ew, old lady”) and general florals (which seem to be on everyone’s avoid list except iconoclasts). Magically lavender is more associated with “natural” scents, “clean” scents (but it still avoids being classified as ‘sexlessly clean’), and “healthy” fragrances. I have no idea of how it has done that, but it is quite a feat for a unique smell.

Discover Possets and take a look at our listing for lavender scents, we are very good at them. Take a tour of each of the scent families and it’s just fun going through the list of perfumes on offer. Http:www.possets.com

The Elements of Scent-Fruity

fruityFruity scents are sometimes problematic.We are so familiar with them that they have to be exact before we will call them “good”. Apple can be a problem because if too strong, it can be interpreted as turpentine-ish. Banana can easily head into the “nail polish remover” category, and lemon has been saddled with the undesirable comparison to furniture polish. Knowing how to handle any of the above does separate out the real perfumers from the juvenile ones. There are ways to come up with divine lemon, you just have to know how.

Fruit scents pair wonderfully well with quite a few traditional perfume ingredients.Grapefruit smells wonderful next to sandalwood, banana is exultant when sandalwood is its partner (it’s the volatile part of both which is the reactor), and grape can become so much more than grape when it’s with some kinds of musk.

Fruit has always been a big favorite especially in French perfumes (!). Yes, the French love to exploit plum and you can love it in Femme by Rochas, or love it in Or Noir by Pascal Moribito. Those are two grand scents which elevate plum to celestial heights  and make it dive to the sexist of all places.

American perfumes didn’t really get excited about fruit accompaniments until the turn of the millennium.  In 2000 apple became all the rage. There were straight up apple blends, apple with musk, apple with other fruits, apple with everything. Apple was flying off the shelves, and perfume lovers reveled in it. From there, the other fruits have come tumbling in. I have detected pineapple in places you would not suspect, cherry as a bass note, and orange reveling in patchouli. Fruit is a standard category now, and seems to be beloved by scent lovers everywhere. One surprising thing: the French seem to just LOVE red fruit fragrances.

Hop over to Possets and take a look at our listing for fruit scents, we are very good at them. Don’t stop there, there are representatives from each of the scent families and it’s just fun going through the list of perfumes on offer. Http:www.possets.com

The Elements of Scent-Foody/Gourmandy

foodyThe “foody” category of fragrances has always been with us, but until around the 1990s, its components were not very true to the things they were trying to recreate. The fragrance world did have a vanilla blockbuster in Shalimar but nothing of that caliber had hit the perfume scene until Thierry Meugler’s Angel, the it seemed as if the world exploded. Angel was supposed to have been a chocolate fragrance, but it certainly is perfumy and not like sniffing a chocolate bar. It was decried as being juvenile, too sweet, unsophisticated, twee but the sales were staggering and so the critics had to slink off and a new scent category was born.

Overnight, perfume houses sprung up and made a name for themselves by sporting perfumes which smelled just like: baking cookies, tomato leaves, peanut butter cups, bubble gum, sticky toffee pudding. and more. For a while in the early 2000s if it didn’t smell of something edible it was classified as “old lady” and was deemed a dud. That was truly turning the world upside down.

Now venerable houses like Dior, once so icily disdainful of “gourmandy” perfumes, rushed to bring out their versions of Miss Dior with a big splash of strawberry/sugary ingredient applied. There was a riptide of all sorts of bath and body products which followed suit, some of them very lovely. This was a brave new world, and new combinations sprouted up everywhere. The public was now living in the Golden Age of New Perfume, and our tastes would never be the same again.

Nowadays, there is no foody perfume you have to go without. Licorice, raspberry, bacon (!), honey, all are available to the hungry nose.

Hop over to Possets and take a look at our listing for foodies, we are very good at them. Don’t stop there, there are representatives from each of the scent families and it’s just fun going through the list of perfumes on offer. Http:www.possets.com

Another Day At The Office…

Yes, we start with excellent ingredients, but we have had more than just a bit of experience, and it shows. Come on over for a visit and take a look for yourself. There is a “scent by note” link you can click on the left hand side of the screen and bring up all our delightful blends. I think you will be pleased. Http://www.possets.com

The Elements of Scent-Florals, The Mother Of Scents

floralFloral perfume was probably the very first sort of fragrance there was. Man has loved the smell of flowers forever and has always wanted to preserve it.

The first floral perfumes must have been created long ago, and we don’t have records of how they were made. But we do know that herbs were used as a scenting device, especially lavender (which was prized for perfuming sheets in Roman times). On a more exotic note, rose attars from the “mysterious East” were a wonder when they hit Europe, and they still remain very expensive, sought-after elements of perfumery.

But we live in an artificial world which insists on things like: consistency, low price, and many novelties. Enter the man-made floral elements. Among the first of the group were the ionones which were made from paper making byproducts! Ionones smell like violets and are perfectly charming. You cannot actually get the scent of violets out of violets BUT you can simulate it to a great faithfulness by the judicious use of ionones in a blend. You can make a dandy rose scent out of the skilled manipulation of ionones, and it does sneak into the scent of sweet olive with a bit of coaxing.

There are others: eugenol (the scent of carnations), amyl cinnamol (jasmine), and more. The things they have in common are that they are very predictable in every way and very cheap to produce as a rule. However, that does not mean that they are inferior to the scent of the real thing, in many cases they are downright superior! Since they are controlled, things like impurities and levels of components are strictly under control; so a rose scent which is supposed to have a lemony edge to it does have that lemony edge and not a more grapefruity edge.

Hop over to Possets and take a look at our listing for flotals. Don’t stop there, there are representatives from each of the scent families and it’s just fun going through the list of perfumes on offer. Http:www.possets.com

Orris Root, Scent of Florence

orrisrootoilA part of my job which I dearly love is the sciency aspect, made even more fun when I am working with 100% natural ingredients. Today I got to make a blend with orris root butter. Friction is a 100% Natural which sports: Bulgarian rose absolute, aged dark patchouli, palmarosa, and a very generous dollop of the divine orris.

Orris is an extract of an iris, and one of the symbols of the Italian city of Florence. An image of its flower appears on many mementos. Orris “butter” is quite costly and to be used only by those who know what they are doing in perfumery. It has a scent something like violet and  earth or stone; it’s famed for its staying ability and is considered a basenote and fixative.

Today I had to take 1.8 ml of orris butter and prepare it in oil so I could use it in a blend I needed to remake, Friction, a 100% Natural which had a good run during Yule. You have to be very careful when you handle orris, if you prepare it incorrectly you have just made a very costly mistake. I need to turn the lump of “butter” into a liquid, and like real butter I had to melt it and then combine it with a pure and inert vegetable oil. You don’t just put the jar of orris in the microwave and turn it on…no no no! You have to put the jar into a bath of hottish water and let it melt at its own pace. I use a beaker within a beaker for this job like a tiny bain marie. Fill the first beaker with hottish water to a level well below the opening of the little orris container, put in the container of orris and then immerse that in a larger container filled with very warm water. Cover it and prepare the oil carrier in the same way just using the oil container in a bath of hottish water. Both the oil and the orris should be very warm when combined.

Take the lid off your orris container and you will see that it has turned into clear liquid (just like real butter). Take the container out of the water baths and put it in the warm oil. Stir and enjoy.

You have to limit the amount of orris you put into the oil as it might precipitate out and form “crystals” because you have supersaturated it. You don’t really want that, you want to get the oil to hold as much orris as it can, but not too much. This is a trial and error thing.

Now it’s time to enjoy your product. I keep the little orris container and put it in my lingerie drawer to give a lovely fragrance to my things.

Possets is famous for its wonderful 100% Naturals. Yes, we start with excellent ingredients, but we have had more than just a bit of experience, and it shows. Come on over for a visit and take a look for yourself. There is a “scent by note” link you can click on the left hand side of the screen and bring up all our delightful blends. I think you will be pleased. Http://www.possets.com

The Lady and the Baby Unicorn

ladyunicornWe have a special guest here at the Cincinnati Art Museum, The Lady and a Baby Unicorn. Painted by Raphael in the 1500s, and now hangs permanently in the Borghese Gardens in Rome, we were exceptionally lucky to have her for a while here. The picture is a blonde young woman holding a little baby unicorn who is bleating. She looks somber, almost hurt. The inclusion of a unicorn in her lap fairly screams that she is a pure and virginal girl. There are a few mysteries associated with this painting, it’s not just a pretty portrait of a young lady and her identity isn’t totally agreed upon to this day, though experts think she is Giulia Farnese, related to the evil Borgia Pope Alexander, in some way or another. Here are a few salient facts about her, though:

  • The unicorn was originally a little dog! They found this out through x-raying the image and finding a dog underneath. Since this is thought to be a wedding portrait, the dog was to symbolize faithfulness.
  • The unicorn was added later after some speculation about the bride’s virginity/purity. She may have come from a family reputed to be pretty hot blooded and so the unicorn was put in her arms to show off her goodness.
  • Years later, this picture was repainted to turn the woman into St. Catherine of Alexandria. She acquired a shawl, the palm of martyrdom, and the Catherine wheel symbol which identified her.
  • The pose was heavily influenced by daVinci’s Mona Lisa.

I looked at this painting and wanted to make up a perfume which would represent it and its multiple meanings. I chose a vanilla/vetiver combination for the bulk of it, the reason why is because vetiver is such a dark, earthy, sexy scent, and vanilla is a virginal fragrance. Putting together the two would cause a dichotomy of sweet foody and damp sensual. The rumor about Giulia Farnese was that she was not as pure as she wanted others to think she was, and tongues wagged she was a lusty girl. So the painting has a disapproving look and the unicorn is protesting loudly that the sitter is entirely pure. In my perfume you will find both the divinely pure and the divinely dirty. I think they belong together.

Just for fun, check out the Posset Lady and a Baby Unicorn at Possets Perfume. It is a portrait in itself.