Amber-What Is It?

Orientals ImageAmber is a great ingredient in many perfumes. It’s very feminine, almost foody, very smooth, not quite vanilla, will beautify just about any blend in a deep honey-like way. A lot of people think it is liquefied amber (the semi-precious fossilized resin) but it isn’t. Here is what amber is…

There are some “recipes” in perfumery, and amber is one of them. Think of this like “my recipe for red velvet cake” or “my recipe for Green Goddess Salad”. Lots of people make amber from scratch, but the results vary wildly, some are very sweet like honey, some are dry and are like a dry martini. They are all ambers, and making one and choosing the right one for a blend will make or break that blend.

Classically, amber is a combination of benzoin, labdanum, and vanilla (only natural vanilla though). There are (of course) as many recipes as there are ambers and they all give different results. People might substitute tonka for vanilla, vetiver for labdanum, frankincense for benzoin or put them with the base ingredients for a deeper and more complex blend.

Most perfumers use other people’s ambers, there isn’t any sense in re-inventing the wheel. That can become a problem, though, if your supplier goes out of business…if your supplier changes his recipe…or if your supplier decides to increase his price so that it becomes crazy. Of course, making your own is a risky business as you are at the mercy of your raw materials suppliers (these ingredients can change depending on weather conditions or the greed of the supplier).

Making your own is great but you need to have a lot of time to experiment and come up with your best recipes. I make ambers but I don’t say it’s an easy thing to do…it isn’t. I have had to abandon several because of ingredient changes. That does break your heart…no one is going to help you either, it just happens. If you hit it, though, it is exhilarating!

I find that the most dangerous thing about making an amber is the temptation to make it too universally pleasing, and therefore bland. Keep on pumping that vanilla in there and you are going to become Hello Kitty Purr-fume. Not enough and too much labdenum, you are into Dawn of the Living Goth territory. Too much benzoin? A bit volatile and not attractive. And that is about the ingredients which are the “classics”. With amber, I find that you can blow it in hundreds of ways. Don’t be bold, be wise; that’s the motto I have to use for making an amber. It is more difficult and it’s painstaking, and makes me fidget BUT when you hit it, you know it.

Amber goes with so many things. It is an adornment to florals, a dear friend to patchouli, it dances with citrus, and in large doses it can enhance musk like nothing else can do. But again, it’s all about harmony…too much becomes bland and too little and it’s nothing special.

Here are some perfumes I have made with amber, and I dearly love them all no matter how difficult they were to make: Huile of Fortune, Dominions, Seraphim, Howl, Chocolate Incense, Death, Dies Irae, Fabienne, Hatshepsut, Hophead, Oiche Shamhna, Silver Amber, Mistress of Power, Skeletons’ Ball, and Twee (to name a few). Take a look at them at Possets.

This blog is brought to you by Possets Perfume which is featuring The Halloween Collection: Haunting Music 2014 Collection now. The Haunting Music Collection celebrates fabulous spooky music by way of perfume.


Twee From Possets Perfume

bastardchildlilWell, I am totally out of Twee Perfume from the Halloween Collection. It is an unusual fragrance and I think it’s uniquely attractive. I had a moderate amount of one of the components and used it all up in the first batch of Twee I made. Since this was a perfume on which I was taking a chance, I didn’t think anything of it. However, the description seems to have hit a nerve, and I have sold out for the moment.

I do have more of the missing component coming Priority Mail. It should be in my hands by Tuesday at the latest and I will immediately start making and shipping Twee. If you ordered Twee I will pack and ship all of your order minus Twee now, and then send your Twee along by itself as soon as I have it made and bottled.

This blog is brought to you by Possets Perfume which is featuring The Sicilian Summer 2014 Collection now. The Sicilian Summer Collection is loaded with glorious fragrances perfect for the heat and redolent with the rich beauty of the Mediterranean.


Phone Phun

batI don’t like to get cold call sales calls on my phone. No one likes it. I really feel like I have been taken advantage of by slimy people and my number passed around like a can of Pringles. I got one today, they are always the same, the name and company are announced at the beginning of the call BUT you can’t understand it, and if you ask them to repeat it it’s always muffled. But they cheerfully bang on clear as a bell and when they ask you to do something, it’s perfectly understandable. This has been going on for decades BUT the current crop of employees has really deteriorated quickly. Here is one exchange:


I see the call is from offshore, I answer.

ME: “Hello”

SALESMAN: “This is (muffled) from the (muffled) Flo mmmmphhhh Sweepstakes mmmmffffffff And how are you today?”

ME: “From the MMMffffghhhhhh mipmip bla phfffft Company?”

SALESMAN: “Uhhh, yes from the Mffffttttt Sweepstakes Flooofffff Company”

ME: “Sweepers? I already have a sweeper. Do you mean a vacuum cleaner?”

SALESMAN: “No, the Mffftphhght SWEEPSTAKES Company!”

ME: “Oh, Mfffftphttt Sleeping Company! Why didn’t you say so? Why Sleeping, aren’t you supposed to be working?”

(Obviously, at this point the guy knows I am messing with him and he does the logical thing: he loses his temper)

SALESMAN: “F*#K! F&%K you! F&%K you! F&%K you! F&%K you! F&%K you! F&%K you! F&%K you!” the salesman says with a bit of passion to his voice.

I just have to start laughing. Here is someone trying to bilk me and he got beaten at his own game. The world is full of people like this and I don’t trust any of them. If you can get their goat, it’s worth a laugh. Any more, I usually screen my calls, a sad thing to have to do in this modern world, but necessary.

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Gold/Grey Fountain Pen Ink

Stormy GreyWhen you get your invoice from Possets, you will probably get a note on it written with the latest in my collection of inks. This one is from the French firm of J. Herbin and it is a special anniversary ink called Stormy Grey. The base color of the ink is a very attractive mid-grey but the sheen in it is all gold. On some papers it looks like I have written it with gold ink. On the invoice paper, I think you have to tip the paper to see the sparkle, but it is there. One fun thing for Halloween.

On each invoice I send out, I try to write a little note thanking you for your purchase and signing it. It takes a little longer but it reflects the way I feel toward my clients and Possets in general. I have a red J. Herbin sparkle ink as well and I think I am going to use that one for the Yules!

This blog is brought to you by Possets Perfume which is featuring The Halloween 2014 Collection now: Haunting Music. Finally the season for deep resinous and spicy fragrances is on us. Visit Possets and be seduced by this sinuous collection of irresistible perfumes.


Hot Pursuit-Chasing the Blood Moon

newwordpressheader21.jpgWe were all warned: the Earth, Moon, and Sun would be lining up today and there would be a spectacular lunar eclipse. Lucky us, we have an observatory in Cincinnati. Luckier us, the observatory is located two blocks away from my house.

I set my alarm clock for 5 a.m., put on the coffee, primed my husband and anticipated the event as if it were a birthday party. Woke up at 4, not time yet. Woke up at 4:30, not yet. I peeked at the light coming in my window at 4;45, it was brilliant, painting the cascade of poplar leaves with silver and spilling out on the lawn as if the power was turned up and it was alerting the world,”Something great is about to happen!”

It was hopeless and so I stumbled downstairs and watched the coffeemaker spew and steam. My husband was close behind and already in his clothes. “How’s the coffee and how’s the moon?” He laughed. “Not ready yet,” I observed and really believed what I had just said.

I strolled out onto the porch with my first cup of the day and looked up expecting to see that glowing disk from 20 minutes ago AND THERE WAS ONLY A CLIPPED FINGERNAIL OF A MOON SHOWING! She had been quenched to a low glow and it was time!

“Gordie! Come out here now!” I called to my husband who dashed out and said,”It’s time to go!” We sped out to the car and up to the observatory.

Now you might think that before 6 a.m. is a bit early for the average Joe to pick himself up just to see the moon, wrong…very wrong. There was a traffic waltz in progress. People with flashlights, signs for parking, lines to get into the observation telescope. There were well over 100 people milling around, maybe 200; and the News 7 cam was trained on the action from a telescoping pole in the air about 20′. Eye on the sky, it was kind of funny because the event was so much more important than the camera.

We milled around in front of the observatory. I tried to take a shot of it with my new iPhone 6 Plus but it was defeated by the distance, color, darkness, and subtlety of it all. All the phone could do was show a grainy pinkish dot. Not good enough. We felt we were wasting our time, there were 199 people ahead of us to see the eclipse and by the time we were to peer through the scope it would be noon. Better go back.

“We have the binoculars,” observed Gordon. Great idea. I had been told repeatedly that a good set of binoculars is an excellent telescope substitute. We returned to get them and have a good look.

I grabbed the binoculars while Gordon got a coffee. I ran out onto the deck, looking around for the moon and not finding it. Curses, it was just here! What the hell? Gordon came up behind me,”It’s between those two trees but look quick, it’s moving fast!” I glimpsed it and put the binoculars to my face.

A perfect pink pearl resting among pine branches was what I saw in the sights. You could just make out a hint of green in the black of the evergreens and that was glorious against the shell-apricot of the moon’s glow. Fat drops of water cascaded down from wet leaves overhead, reminding me that the moon is the mistress of the water element.

“Come on! Let’s get a better look. It is dropping like a rock, Gordon, and if we want our fill of it we are going to have to go after it,” I cried hustling out into the black street with the binoculars.

“Go on without me,” chuckled Gordon,”I’ve seen it and this coffee is more appealing to me.”

Off I trotted feeling that I had to find the moon and see her well. Dark and wet, autumnal and chilly, people walking their dogs and joggers, cars gliding around the streets to work and cute street lights, no moon. I searched and half trotted along and could not find her. I knew she was up there somewhere and I was going to keep looking.

Down the street, take a left, look up and over my shoulder. No moon. Further down the street, no moon. A car cruised by and its lights were brilliant and just then I saw what I had been looking for, that huge pink pearl.

I trained the binoculars on it and it came out in great detail. I could see craters, more like old pockmarks but softened by all that glow and bending light. The color was indescribably glorious; and it wasn’t just the color, it was the array from light to dark apricot and the curve of its presentation. The lightest side appeared as if there was fog rolling off it, which was an illusion of course but a pretty illusion. They call this a “Blood Moon” but I would rather call it a Pearl Moon for all its low shimmer glow.

I stood there for about 10 minutes in the gloom admiring the lunar show and being grateful for its presence. I saw her roll into the tree branches and roll out again, I admired its dignified motion, and knew that it was not just one color which made this scene special but the array of that light orange to dark that cast the spell this morning.

Time lapsed and it was morning in earnest. I turned home and came in with wet shoes. “Was it wonderful,” asked Gordon. “Yes,” I replied heading for the coffee pot after putting the binoculars away.

Now I am watching the sun come up. The world is emerging as a place where autumn is turning leaves and the scene yellow. Our witchhazel is blooming with confetti yellow blossoms making little stars on the branches, and sending out an odd smell like cloth. I like to pretend that the moon cast a spell on my backyard and turned the leaves from dark late summer green to fall yellow, and all the world became autumnal, thicker atmosphered, and cool for snuggling.

This blog is brought to you by Possets Perfume which is featuring The Halloween 2014 Collection now: Haunting Music. Finally the season for deep resinous and spicy fragrances is on us. Visit Possets and be seduced by this sinuous collection of irresistible perfumes.