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.

The Elements of Scent-Dry

dryDry is a word we don’t often associate with perfume and it might mean something different to different people. I mean that it is not flowery, it is not candy sweet, and it is a slightly bitter scent. Hatshepsut comes to mind from my collection, it is a scent based on galbanum, an element which I think of as the soul of dryness. It is beautiful but you would never be tempted to put it in your mouth. Boozy note add a dry element as well mostly because of the sour/bitter thought they conjure up.

A huge component of the idea of “dry” is that the scent has no sweetness of flowers (i.e. honeysuckle, rose, lily, lilac, or any of the sweet flowers). It can have no aquatic/ozone notes. There should be no hint of the gourmand scents (like candy scents) or fruity notes. I also think that a crystalline musk is a very dry element.

In the current collection, Mona Lisa is a great example of a dry perfume.

Hop over to Possets and take a look at our brand new Yule listing for 2015. There are representatives from each of the scent families and it’s just fun going through the list of perfumes on offer. This year our Yule theme is Portraits and we are offering free shipping on all orders through December. Now is the time to stock up and give your gifts (we always have a great presentation, perfect for gift giving right out of the shipping envelope! Http:www.possets.com

The Elements of Scent-Chypre/Fougere

chypreA well loved classic which few people know anything about, the blend called Chypre is actually named after the island of Cyprus where the original idea emerged. Europe went wild for a new perfume they had never smelled before and it came from dealers on Cyprus. It was a combination of bergamot, labdenum, and oakmoss and smelled ever so much better than the straight up essential oils which the good people of Europe had been using as perfume. Complex, dark and elemental, Chypre took the West Countries by storm and soon they were producing their own version of this item.There is some magic which happens between the two foundation elements in a good chypre, and a lot of it depends on the quality of those ingredients. I have tried chypres which just did not make the grade even though their elements were of the best sort, and I have tried chypres which were divine with great elements, too. Depends on a lot of factors, if the perfume works or not.

Chypres can be dressed up quite a bit, with citrus or leather top notes, floral tops, resins, patchouli, or amber. It is a very versatile category.  Out of all the places which are renowned for chypres, France has to be the most famous. They were the source of such blockbuster perfumes as: Bandit, Cabochard, Mitsouko, and Femme.

A hallmark of the 20th century, chypres fell out of the public preference when aggressive musks and candy sweet scents came along. With the simulacra of fragrances, novelty made chypre seem “old fashioned” and quaint. That started in the 1980s and here, about 40 years later, chypre is re-introduced to a new generation which sees it as being a break from the oh, so expected sharp musk and fruity scents. Chypre does deserve its place among the perfume families and so it is back with a vengeance. I say hooray. One of my favorite chypres is a blend I made and named Sorrow; it’s a classic into which I have inserted a good deal of galbanum. It’s named after a character in a Thomas Hardy novel.

Fougere is a member of the chypre family, too. A fougere is the combination of oakmoss, lavender, and coumarin. I think there is a similarity between that and chypre due to the oakmoss base which is uncommon in other sorts of perfume blends. One of the most famous fougeres (which you never knew was one) was Gillette Foamy shaving cream’s fragrance! It was a beautiful fougere and highlighted the fact that it is considered a man’s sort of scent.

Fougere Royale was first made by Houbigant and it was rumored to be the first perfume which used artificial ingredients as the coumarin (vanilla scent) in it had been manufactured in the lab! It was said to have been presented to the French Empress Eugenie, who was the supreme taste maker for her generation. Her approval signaled the beginning of the rage for artificial scent which persists to this day.

And, the term fougere means fern in French, and refers to the fact that this fragrance is very much like the scent of dried ferns. My perfume, Landscape in Suffolk is a fougere and one of a modern type which still carries the unmistakable traces of the genre.

Hop over to Possets and take a look at our brand new Yule listing for 2015. There are representatives from each of the scent families and it’s just fun going through the list of perfumes on offer. This year our Yule theme is Portraits and we are offering free shipping on all orders through December. Now is the time to stock up and give your gifts (we always have a great presentation, perfect for gift giving right out of the shipping envelope! Http:www.possets.com

The Elements of Scent-The Aquatics

The Aquatics

The Aquatics

Few people are neutral about the classification of perfume known as “aquatics”. They have a sea-like tang about them which might not be what you expect from a perfume.They are usually “cleaner” and not at all spicy/resinous/sweet. So, this is a group of perfumes reserved for mavericks in general.

They were practically non-existent until Issey Miyake came out with his blockbuster, Eau d’Issey. It was the soul of aquatic and became the darling of taste-makers everywhere. This was the 1990s and overnight the “old” perfumes became out. This strong and slightly aggressive type was in every collection from Guerlain to Demeter, everyone wanted to smell like the sea.

And what gave the “aquatics” their characteristic fragrance base? In most cases it was the use of  a compound called calone. Calone is supposed to be the scent of the pheremones of the brown algae. This makes perfect sense. I am sure that our ancestors perked up when they smelled the mating “call” of one of the most common of all plants. Must have signaled food and comfort. Calone is frequently described as having a melon odor and I think an argument can be made for its having a cucumber fragrances. Think about it, both of those vegetables have a very high water content.

I have a great deal of fun coming up with aquatics, mainly because I never liked them and decided to create a form of aquatic that I did like. Maryland (one of the perfumes “about” an American state) is a classic aquatic from Possets, but I managed to bend that prim seashore edge until it was much more interesting and merged with a true perfume vibe. It’s one of my favorites, and I never thought I would say that about an aquatic! I have done that with Michigan, Custance, and The Shipman. All of them have been VERY successful, and that is in a collection which features loads of vanilla (that perennial top-seller).

Pick of a sample of one of my aquatics and see for yourself. You could even write in the comments section that you want a sample pack of 6 and you want me to pick them out for you!

Hop over to Possets and take a look at our brand new Yule listing for 2015. There are representatives from each of the scent families and it’s just fun going through the list of perfumes on offer. This year our Yule theme is Portraits and we are offering free shipping on all orders through December. Now is the time to stock up and give your gifts (we always have a great presentation, perfect for gift giving right out of the shipping envelope! Http:www.possets.com