Wednesday, December 31, 2008

How to make Japanese incense with agarwood and various traditional ingredients: Part 1

Hello again everyone, I know it seems that progress has slowed a bit over here at Par:Fum - yes it is the time of the holidays and unfortunatley I can't nerd out in front of the computer as much as I do during the regular season! although technically, you shouldn't be wasting your time on here either, so hopefully both forces will cancel eachother out. Anyways, I didn't want to tide you guys over with some low effort post so I went all out and made a pictorial how-to on making Japanese incense with traditional materials. Lets get started!

Ok, so the first step is to collect our materials, if any of these seem unfamiliar to you at first don't worry I will explain their purposes. I have coded them by letter in the photo above:

A - Cinnamon
B - Makko Powder
C - Sandalwood Powder
D - Agarwood Chips
E - Frankincense direct from Somalia (thanks bro!)
F - Cloves

I have used five traditional ingredients in this blend, and Makko powder which is a binder to stick everything together. Makko is the resin of a native Japanese tree, has virtually no odour and is very sticky so it is what will keep your dried finished product from crumbling back into powder! The agarwood and sandalwood make the heart of the perfume, frankincense adds a nice sparkle and of course the cloves add spice while the incense keeps things sweet and warm. The materials in the photo are not the ratios used, I just wanted it to look pretty for the photo! For a first time experiment, you might want to go easy on the spice!

Step two: We take all of our materials and place them in a mortar and pestle and grind until we have a fine powder.

Note: I have used the mortar and pestle to make this tutorial appear classy and aesthetically pleasing, in reality I would take all this stuff to the magic bullet (a super blender) and you should too unless you want to be grinding for an hour! Remember, getting it to as fine a powder as possible is very important for later steps!

Step 3: we add the water and mix

Mix the ingredients in with the water slowly until you get a thick paste, it should hopefully not stick too much to what your mixing it in with, if it becomes too sticky, you will have to wait a bit for it to get dry again, so add the water very slowly!

Once we have got it to the right level, remove some pieces onto a piece of paper, I used printer paper here but for non-stick purposes its better to use weekly flyers (the kind you get in the mail). This step is for making cones only so if you are wishing to make sticks, skip these two photos.

Step Four: Roll the incense into a cone with your fingers, then let them dry. If you are making cones this is the last step and you are finished. I recommend at least 2-3 days of drying time but the actual drying time according to Japanese tradition is about 9 weeks!

Step Five: Extruding on the cheap - Ok so I am assuming you don't have an extruder at home, I made one out of a caulking gun and empty tubes, but just incase you dont want to put that much work I have invented the plastic bag method as well. Extruding is a way of making coreless incense (ie: not wrapped around a little piece of wood like the cheap stuff is) by squeezing paste through a hole, similar to a pasta maker! For this, take a ziploc type back and stab a toothpick through the corner of it to make a hole.

Fill the corner of the bag with your paste and use a motion similar to how you would decorate a cake, squeeze the paste through the hole and make the bag across your sheet of paper in order to make as straight a line as possible!

In my example I didn't spend enough time powdering and I had some tiny chunks which kept clogging the hole :( As a consequence it was difficult to make the sticks the right length. This is why I recommend that you use a power blender instead such as the magic bullet. Blend it for 5 minutes if you have to, the finer the powder the much easier it will be to extrude after!

Step Six: Light your incense and enjoy :) Remember, even for extruded sticks you should let them dry at least 24 hours! The incense made during this tutorial exhibited a very pleasant and traditional aroma.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Par:Fum Fragrance Awards

Ok, so I know I am probably the last one to come out with a set of awards this year, but figured I'd like to reflect on (and judge) some of this 2008's perfumes and fragrance products. Some categories are reserved for perfumes launched only in 2008 and some are cumulative.


Most creative new product mainstream: Magnifique de Lancome

Most creative new product niche: Boudicca Perfume ( Wode paint sprays)

Best bottle (mainstream womens'): Very Pretty - Michael Kors

Best bottle (mainstream men's): Roadster - Cartier

Best bottle (niche womens'): Cosmic - Solange

Best bottle (niche men's): Parfums MDCI

Best Fragrance men: Versace pour Homme

Best Fragrance women: Citizen Queen - Juliette Has a Gun

Best Fragrance Blog 2008: 1000fragances


Most bang for your buck (women's): Madame Rochas (avg price 12.99-15.99 30ml EDT)

Most bang for your buck (mens): Adidas Moves Deodorant Stick (avg price 6.99-8.99)

Most bang for you buck (niche): Serge Lutens Export Collection

Best Drugstore (mens): Cliven for men

Best Drugstore (womens): Bal a Versailles

Worst of 2008

Worst Name (men): The Beat (men) - Burberry

Worst Name (women): Notorious - Ralph Lauren

Worst Bottle: Love and Luck (men and women) - Ed Hardy

Biggest Fiasco 2008: Fake Ebay Creeds

Most Missed Ancillary Product: Bar Soaps

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Ranjatai: King of Agarwood

The famous piece of Agarwood called Ranjatai was presented by Komyo Emperor for Todaiji Temple in Nara, Japan, in the year 756 A.D. Ranjatai was kept in the Shosoin warehouse of Todaiji Temple. Today, Ranjatai belongs to the Royal family of Japan. Every autumn, many treasures of Shosoin are exhibited in National Museum in Nara, titled Shosoin Ten (Exhibition). Because they change the object of exhibition. Ranjatai can be seen there every 10 or 15 years. The paper on Ranjatai mentions three parts were cut; one by the Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa, one by the Daimyo Oda Nobunaga, and one by the Meiji Emperor. The cut parcels were often given as gifts in important political processes. These cuts however were insignificant in size (less than one square inch at a time) and the piece of wood today has dimensions of approximatley 152 cm in length, with a width of 122cm at one end and 13cm at the other. Ranjatai has been now been identified as coming from Laos or Vietnam by Japan's leading expert on Aloeswood, Dr. Yoneda from Osaka University.

There are many stories about aloeswood being buried under the ground or under river beds for hundreds of years, of which the story of the source of Ranjatai is sometimes reported to be. This legend comes from an old Chinese book on incense, but today most aloeswood comes from infected trees that, although in the process of decaying and dying, are indeed still standing. However, sometimes the roots become infected with the fungus and these can be found underground.

I have been interested in this piece of wood for a very long time, and I hope that next time it is viewable in the museum that I will have the chance to go and see it in person. An interesting excercise that I have done was to try and estimate a street price for Ranjatai. Since we know Ranjatai is sinking-grade kyara, we must say that its density is over 1.0 gram per cubic cm (the density of water), since all aloeswood can have a different densities due to the difference in formation of resin, let us approximate the density of Ranjatai to be equal to Lignum Vitae, another very dense sinking wood - this is 1.4g per cubic cm. Therefore based on the measurements above, and an assumption of the average depth of Ranjatai to be 30cm (based on the image) we can assume Ranjatai to weigh appx 315.9kg. At a cost of 395$ per gram for the highest grade Green Kyara ( ), let us assume this to be our street price for the gram-fragmented Ranjatai. Not counting the obvious price premium that would be created in the market due to the fact that the pieces sold would be from one of the most famous pieces of wood in the world, the street price of Ranjatai is about $124,780,500. I suppose this is what people mean when they call something "priceless" ;)

*historical information fragments and photo written by David Oller of Esoterics, LLC and edited by Par-Fum

*dimension information sourced from The Trail of Time: Time Measurement by Silvio A. Badini

Please send me a message if you would like information about this book.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Stagnation: The perfumer's worst enemy

Getting comfortable, playing it safe, rehashing past succeses; these are the symptoms of an artist who has lost the will to innovate and shock - they may lead to a profitable lifestyle but they are also destructive forces which will impede or even reverse personal growth. However, as much as this phenomena can affect established artists (or perfume houses for that matter) it can also be crippling for the novice perfumer. Take me as an example; I hate fruity florals! Bright Crystal? Yuck! Gucci EDP II? barf! Paris Hilton?? say no more...

So why should I ever bother to try and make one? well logically I thought I never should, until last night. You see, it took me years to realize that I am shooting myself in the foot for not poking my nose out of its spicebomb, amber based comfort zone. I had no idea what a freesia even looked like, let alone how it smelled. Despite having some reconstitution, I hadn't even opened the vial since the 3 years ago that I purchased it. Lately however, I had read an article by a famous perfumer (can't remember who now - was it Jean Carles?) who said that a perfumer, to gain great skill must work outside their comfort zone, for instance if one hates vanilla as a note, they MUST in fact try to use it twice as often as the notes they like, for this type of diversity will bring true knowledge.

So in the photo above you can see the fruits of my two-nights labour, my first try at a fruity floral, here are the notes:

Citrus, Grapefruit, Neroli, Berries, Pineapple, Melon, Aldehydes.

Freesia, Tuberose, Ylang, Jasmine, Rose, Iris/Violet

Vanilla, Nuts, White Musks, Sandalwood, Ambergris

I would describe it as a somewhat elegant fruity floral with the melon notes and citral imparting a guava-like fruityness at the top, it is less fruity than the Escada summer offerings and plays highly on the white florals. The base is very comfortable, a creme brulee type vanilla, with foody nuances of nuts. The musk base is also assertive but very comfortable at the same time (tonalide). This is only attempt one, I will soon try a re-work with the addition of davana (more elegance), cedar (a bit colder woods), heliotropin and maybe a touch of saffraleine.

Video: Une pin-up chez Caron

Here is a video which will probably be easiest to enjoy by our French-speaking viewers. It basicly follows a young ladies visit to the luxurious boutique of Caron (not the one Ave. Montaigne tho) in Paris. They talk a bit about the history of the company and the various parfums and she does some shopping. Pretty cool eye candy of the Baccarat fountains too - neato :)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Beware fake absolutes and essential oils from India

Hi again readers,

It has come to my attention over the past few weeks that there are an increasing number of Indian and other Asian sellers on the internet offering absolutes of different flowers, mainly tuberose, rose, gardenia, jasmine, ylang, etc for rediculously cheap prices. These products are generally around 10-15$ per 5ml and are named as absolutes on the websites as to suggest to the buyer that they are of natural origin. These products are often described as 100% pure or "pure", but generally these sellers tend to shy away from obvious lies and they are almost never seen describing them specifically using the word natural. A typical tactic of these sellers is often to assuage the skeptical buyer by citing cheap labour costs in India - but after many emails you can often get to the truth, where the seller will explain a complicated GC process was used to recreate a nature identical absolute and will continue to assure you that it is "pure". Please do not be fooled by any of this, all these products are synthetic reconstitutions of the original absolutes. Now, of course there is nothing wrong with such a product in concept (as I am certainly not a natural perfumery fanboy) but once it is realized that it is in fact a reconstitution, the seemingly low price of 12$ per 5ml suddenly becomes shockingly expensive.

I am not going to name any of the sellers that I have seen commiting this, because it is not my place to police the internet or slander anyone, but I also know many of our friends and readers out here in cyberspace may be interested in perfumery, and be on a budget. These are the prime target victoms. Therefore, I do want to show them warning signs so they are not fooled by such dishonest sellers. Remeber, the internet is a very different place now than it was five years ago! I have even had problems lately with sellers who I have grown to know and trust over a number of years. It seems the potentials of profits that can be made from the uninformed western buyer are too great!


PS - I hope my readers understand that I am not suggesting these dishonest business practices are solely occuring in this area, as there has been some recent controversy with Bulgarian production as well, however in the west our legal infrastructure seems to keep this to a minimum. Unfortunatley, right now developing countries do not have the legal structure to deal with these types of problems 100% effectively so we will have to keep our eyes open ourselves. This of course goes for all of us worldwide.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Blog is back up again!

DECEMBER 11th Hi guys, I've got a bit of a sad announcement to make, Im going to have to put the blog on hold for a while, as I haven't been able to contribute much the past week, and university exams are just taking up too much if my time. Sorry to pull an LT so soon after starting the blog, but I should be up and running again after the 17th of December. Thanks for your support so far and I promise to be back ASAP, I just didnt want to be forced to write articles that I wouldn't deem worthy in the meantime, as I really have too much studying right now. Wish me luck on Stats!


DECEMBER 17th: FOLLOW UP: Hi everyone, back from the break and I hope everyone is having a good time gearing up for the holidays. I am done my examinations at university now so I will be able to contribute regularly to the blog again. Thanks for your patience and support and I hope to bring you some great content in the future!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Perfume Raison d'Etre

A photograph I took today struck me with a thought about the meaning of life of the perfume; to make appear something that is not really there. A perfume is more than the sum of its parts. A perfume can be considered a form of magic, but not the type of magic of witches and devils. Perfume is the magic of a magician, it is a trick meant to create illusions. It creates something that cannot be touched but is made from tangeable materials (aromachems). This photograph is actually just coats draped over my hatrack in a random way, but at the correct angle what we get is in fact the face of a person; something so lifelike we feel that it will almost start to speak to us (tell us to buy Nabob coffee no doubt).

A few modifiers layered over a basic accord can give a rose that is so lifelike you can almost feel the prick of its thorn ;)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Fragrance Proposition: Candied Orange

I propose a new fragrance pyramid, much in the spirit of Caron's Nuit de Noel I would like to make an outline for a new fragrance to celebrate the spirit of Christmas. For this I have chosen a fruit which was once considered an exotic treat, to be enjoyed over the holidays but is now a common juice served at every continental breakfast; the orange. My vision is for a candied orange perfume, but not a lifelike orange jumping out of the bottle as todays niche houses may create, nor an overly sweet fruity musk that would push the perfume into overly mainstream/commercial territory. I would like the proposed perfume to be a perfume first and an orange second - this is to mean that under the first impression of candied orange there must be a perfume with depth and integrity. My pyramid is as follows:

Mandarine, Lemon Zest, Citrus

Sweet notes, Metallic notes, Honey, Rose, Cinnamon, Spices

Amber, Vanilla, Robust Musks (such as tonalide).

I will set to work developping this pyramid but I do not have a set date for completion, stay tuned and I might post a follow up about it sometime in the future :)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

"Des Parfums" : Identifying Game

I was recently cleaning an old bookshelf and found this antique of a book "Learn French as the French do as if you were in France". Okay, perhaps this authors should learn some better English before making anymore book titles, but thats beside the point ;) After flipping a few pages I found an interesting photo amongst a group of photos which teaches you how to pluralize commonly used words. This photo is titled "des parfums" and I have been able to identfify a few of the bottles so far, for some of them I have put my best guesses. The remaining perfumes: I have no idea. I've placed a letter corresponding to each along the photo. My attempts are added in red text in the image at the bottom of the post. If anyone thinks they've got some good guesses I'd love some help with these! All photos can be clicked on for an enlarged view. I will of course have a fragrant prize for whoever can name them all ;)

A - Dior Eau Fraîche (Carmen Canada)
B -
C - Carven - Ma Griffe (Dimitri)
D - Vintage Caleche (Dimitri)
E -
F - Rochas Femme (Carmen Canada)
G -
H -

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Guerlain: Djedi

In my hand I have got a vial of vintage Djedi; this is a very curious perfume. At first application I don't really know what to make of it. I sense an opening burst of rose/honey-like sweetness paired with camphor, dead vegetation and mould??? Not to worry, it doesnt actually smell as bad as it sounds and this quickly fades (5 minutes) into a half and half mix of sweet vs. Russian leathers -Something akin to a 50/50 mix of Creed's petrol fueled (no pun intended) Cuir de Russie and Royal English leathers' sweet powderyness. Also among these leathers is of most interest to me a mineral note, that immediatley calls to mind the mineraly scent of ambergris tincture that I discussed in a post earlier this month (see that post for the fully story). Since this is in fact the vintage Djedi (I think its a 40's release) I am certain that this note is in fact natural ambergris tincture! This is meaningfull in both ways; 1. I finally have before me evidence and example of the effect and use of natural ambergris in a perfume 2. It smells alot like my ambergris and since this is a Guerlain product, this means mine is of a high quality (hurray me!). I have read somewhere that Luca Turin described this as the driest perfume of all time, this is absolutely untrue; one whiff of Bois du Portugal and you'll be chugging the next available Perrier. I would instead call this perfume physically damp(ambergris), which brings to the moss and vetiver notes a semi-sweet aura of decay (help of indoles as well). The last step in this perfume is a deeply animalic accord, sweet with a touch of cinnamon. I do not seem to end on a vetiver note as many people have described...

Final verdict: Don't get caught up in my strange sounding analysis, this is a perfume of course, it doesnt *actually* smell like decaying vegetables! I often feel like a nerd writing these things and I try to not go over the top with my descriptions. Bottom line - if you are curious about this scent, I'd say do not expect something thats going to knock you off your feet upon first smell (like Ambre Sultan). Djedi is in fact a very beautiful fragrance, but I must acknowledge that it may have somewhat limited appeal, and it needs more than a whiff of the topnotes to fall in love with. I would say start off with a sample vial if you can :)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Vintage Parfums: Advertising Eye Candy

Here is some eye candy from a time when the perfume experience was more tied in with the visual arts instead of the gimmicks and sex appeal of today...

Friday, November 28, 2008

Bois 1920: Santalo et Thé

Whilst filling out my P-Port papers today I ventured into a luxury department store to take a look-see if they had anything of interest to my nose. I had never tried the Bois 1920 line (it just seemed so gimmicky) so I figured I might as well give one of them a test and see how it was. Out of the 8 scents on display I chose Santalo et Thé since I have been appreciating sandalwood more and more lately. Here goes the play by play review:

Yuck! This stuff is cheap and awful; the intial blast is overwhelmingly plasticky. The tea note is most prominent in the opening stages (and pretty much the rest of) this fragrance. I don't understand what they were thinking when they created this; if I didn't know what I was smelling I wouldn't have been able to distinguish it from a $5.99 bargain bin "fragrance oil". Not only is the construction of this fragrance poor and very, very common, the green tea accord that they threw together (in a matter of minutes I think) does not even attempt to replicate an aromatic high quality tea as in Creed's Tabarome, but maybe that of a two dollar scented candle. It's that bad. Now that we have got the "thé" part over with, lets move on to "santalo". Santalo must be the code word for vetiverol + cedramber over at the 1920 marketing department, because there isn't really much "sandalwood" here to speak of. I pick up a few whiffs of something that reminds me of those cheap Australian Santalum Spicatum essential oils from the health food store. This stuff was really dirt cheap to put together and it shows. To tie everything together theres an awful foody-spicy note that just makes me feel kinda dizzy and sick if I sniff the back side of my hand too much.

I had low expectations for this brand, and this fragrance somehow managed to fall short of even those. I will not pass judgement on the entire line before trying a few more of them though - lets hope they are better than this !

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Today my assignment for perfume school was to take a list of raw materials and give them a Synaesthetic code. The paramaters for each material were; colour, image, temperature, sound, weather. Here is the first five materials I took and my responses. I did five at a time and took a break in order to keep my nose fresh. I know it sounds silly but we're forced to do it, and after I completed the first few I realized how much it actually helps!

eugenol - brown, buffalo hide hut, warm, drum, summer evening
benzaldehyde - creamy custard yellow, hospital, room temperature, glugging sound, overcast
vanillin - brown, velvet, warm, thud, hot summer night
oakmoss - greenish brown, water (lake) mossy wood, warmish, silence, dry and warm air in a wet environment
iso super e - beige/blonde, nubuck, slightly cooler than room temp, sound of running stream or dipping hand in water, sun after rain

PS - I had a way better image planned for this post, but I think its copyrighted - email me if you want to see it and I'll send the link!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Fragrant Discovery: Alfred Sung Homme

Bottle: Deco inspired 80's
Juice: Electric Deep Purple
Reputation: None
Price Point: Generally discounted
First Glance: What is this relic???

However, I like to root for the underdog, so today I sprayed a tester of this Canadian designers first mens release (1988) and was pleasantly surprised. Its a very warm and spicy "powerhouse" type, with mossy and dry oriental facets, there is also a distinct pine note that remains through initial spray to the final drydown. Very long lasting and excellent sillage - the only detraction is a lingering overly synthetic (dihydromyrcenol) lavender note (it is not too overtaking).

Cousins: Bois du Portugal, Cool Water

Monday, November 24, 2008

Personal Perfumer: The way of the future

So we've all heard of personal shoppers, personal stylists, personal yoga instructors, personal fitness gurus, personal non-fitness gurus, personal hairdressers, etc. It seems as though the celebrities of our time have a personal everything! So why not a personal perfumer? Well, not yet anyways. You see, I have this crystal sausage that predicts trends and we were just hanging out last night when it got to telling me that it foresees custom personal perfumers to be the wave of the future. Both Hollywood and the uber-rich seem to be constantly looking for new ways to spend their fortunes on completely customizing their experience on this planet. A personal hairstylist for example, assures that their look is always perfect and can be changed to reflect up to the minute fashion trends. If your personal "insert profession here" is actually any good too, you might even start a trend!

So I got to thinking, if the average perfumer can pump out up to three fragrances per year, thats more than enough for any socialite to want to keep him/her by her side - and almost enough to satiate a ravenous young Hollywood celebrity (they may only need two or three perfumers). These perfumers could work absolutely exclusively, or they could operate made to measure services for a few clients at a time. If the type of niche consumption trend we are currently experiencing in the working class (ie: at basenotes we count by the litre per year!) can be cut and pasted to the nouveau-riche and Hollywood, there's cash to be made gentlemen(women)! The only thing standing between reality and this vision of the future is a bit of brainwashing; we just need a celebrity or two to make a bold move, signing on a personal perfumer, then talk about it for a few episodes of their reality shows and we're in the money! Drop your government jobs its off to ISIPCA!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Towering Giant: Aquilaria

In recent times Aquilaria (the tree that produces agarwood) is not thought to be a terribly large tree. This is because these trees are now mostly cultivated, and therefore felled for resin before they have the time to grow very old or large (about 6-10 years now, some even 3-4 for low quality distillation and agarwood). This tree in the photo is an Aquilaria Malaccensis tree in the Bukit Nenas virgin forest reserve. The girth of the trunk is about 160 cm circumference at 4ft from the ground. The tree is about 80 m (appx 260ft) tall, which is comparable in size to the giant California Redwoods. Trees like this are estimated to be nearly 100 years old. This photo was taken from the blog - you may click it for a larger image.

Mature trees like this must be protected for historical and cultural reasons as well as to provide genetic diversity for the species as it becomes more and more exploited.

Essence of Greece: M by Mimmina

Here is a rare gem, I have never heard talk of it anywhere on the internet, in fact it barely exists. A relic of the early 90's (Versace Inspired) trend towards Greek motifs/themes in fashion and fragrance that probably wasn't even too well known in its heyday. However, if there is any single fragrance out there that evokes images of marble pillars and mediterranean scenery upon a single spritz - this it it! I can't find any notes posted so I will do my best to try and pick this apart with my nose. It is a very well blended formula with not one note standing out forcefully so its a bit difficult:

Top: Juniper, Citrus

Middle: Mandarine, Rose, Clary Sage, Tarragon

Base: Sandalwood, Cypress, Atlas Cedar, Musk

In my opinion this is a landmark scent for this category, and should be a reference for all others who set forth to make a greek/mediterranean inspired fragrance.

Friday, November 21, 2008

What the heck is Ambergris oil anyways!? (E-bay)

So we have all been on Ebay, seen the auctions for "ambergris" oil, and those of us who know something on the subject say "ambergris oil?? how can one distill ambergris!". Well, its not possible, and ambergris seems to be quite an enigma. On the left of the photo we have a vial of "ambergris oil" from ebay, to the right, ambergris tincture 3%, aged since sept 18th, and finally in the center we have a piece 0.8g ambergris white/grey. The ambergris was purchased from a merchant who has been selling ambergris to the fragrance industry for two decades.
Stage one of cracking the mystery: first I will try to tell you my observations on the solid ambergris and its tincture:
  • A hard, grey/white solid substance, which can be broken if "snapped" between the fingers with moderate strength
  • Not something that can be distilled into an oil
  • The tincture is actually a light brown/golden colour
  • Ambergris is not something that provides a sweet note, see: benzoin
  • Not the same as Indian "amber", a mix of benzoin and other resins
  • Not "the thing in Creed that makes it smell good"
  • Not a fragrant marvel by itself, that piece seen in the photo has a somewhat salty, mineral, sour and slightly mossy smell - the same as its tincture. Its not something that is immediatley pleasant on its own at all, and definitely not the holy grail scent of its folklore.

So what is this "ambergris oil" stuff that we keep seeing on ebay ? Is it just a scam for us to waste 60 - 300$ on? To tell you the truth, I'm not 100% sure what it is. Is it made with real ambergris ? All I can tell you is my observations and hypothesis:

  • Some aspects of the odour profile of the oil are very similar to the ambergris sample, it has a very strong sour, mineral fragrance
  • The main difference is that the ambergris oil also has a very sweet smell (about 80% of the odour profile), which is totally absent from the natural ambergris in solid and tincture form. The sweetness is a very difficult to decifer accord, but I would say it has aspects of Tonka/Coumarin and Benzoin resin.
  • I also sense in the oil, some spices, such as the suggestion of cinnamon, though not the note of natural cinnamon bark, more like cinnamic alcohol, and also spices and herbs such as oregano and myrtle.
  • The oil is of course, a viscous liquid, definitely not the result of the processing of the actual ambergris, which is a hard, dry, solid substance, similar to a weak, crumbly stone.

Thoughts: Though I do have samples of Indian Ambers at home, of many different varieties none of them smell like this oil. This oil is something completely unique and actually most similar to Ambre Sultan of Serge Lutens. The one thing that sticks out, perpetuating the mystery, is the very distinct natural ambergris sourness that is present in the oil.

The Verdict: If I had to guess, these "ambergris oils" are "amber" type attars, in which natural ambergris has either been infused, filtered, or the tincture added. The particular one which I have is a beautiful fragrance, it is intensely sweet and the heavy coumarine note actually seems to amplify the natural ambergris note.

Worth the money?: As a perfume composition I'd say it is, the one I've got is absolutely beautiful. As long as you buy this for the fragrance, you are okay - just don't be fooled into thinking this is the product of ambergris or that it is 100% pure in any way.

Dsquared He Wood

if it was launched by just anyone, it would be "meh"

since its launched by Dsquared, if F%$(*# sucks.

Everywhere I wear my Dsquared hat people ask me what it is and where I got it, I don't think I'd get a single compliment or curious question wearing He Wood - thats whats missing

Ebay Alert: Bulgarian Rose Otto

I recently purchased this item off ebay and have seen many items like it being offered. It is always advertised as "Bulgarian Rose Otto", Bulgarian Rose Oil or something similar. It is generally suggested to the buyer either directly or indirectly (by means of an anecdote about production methods etc) that it is the natural product. Of course, upon recieving it I noticed this is not the case.

My ability to read the characters is not so good, but im fairly certain it says "Bulgarska Roozha" on the top, meaning of course Bulgarian rose, and on the side I think it says something like "Aroma from Roses" (it is C PO3OB APOMAT, for those who know these character better than I can you please leave a comment :) )

As you can see by the enlargement of the ingredients, is it clearly not Bulgarian rose otto, but instead a perfume of Bulgarian rose. Here is my rough translation of what I think it says on the ingredients:

alcohol, diethyl phthalate, parfum, matieral no.1

Im guessing the last ingredient "material no.1" is rose otto, while "parfum" ecompasses a synthetic blend of rose molecules meant to stretch the effect of the rose otto.

The box is obviously fully disclosing the nature of the product, however it is the ebay sellers which often take blurry pictures and don't disclose information, so be sure to ask for a rundown of the ingredients list or a translation incase you are not sure! Since the characters are not english they can always claim ignorance!

Northern Agarwood Research Center News

The Nothern Agarwood Research Center based in Canada, has released today that it has had major advancements in a new technology to produce agarwood oil, that will greatly surpass the quality of agarwood oil currently on the market. This oil will rival the most expensive ouds (over 400$ per 1/4 thola). Early research suggests that this oud may be produced efficiently enough to be available at half or possibly one third the price of current comparing ouds.

Question: with all this research into cultivation and processing, will agarwood be nearly as expensive in 10-20 years as it is now ?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Creed Bois Du Portugal vs. Chanel Pour Monsieur

Ive worn these two extensively for a few years, until just lately it hadn't clicked. As Chanel Pour Monsieur is a landmark perfume, Bois du Portugal is clearly made in its legacy. I have chosen the bottle of PM Concentree (1989) for my cute little morph-o-vision as I have just sampled it lately. As it was released 2 years after BdP, we can look at it as Chanel's answer back to Creed for "borrowing" something from PM. Both are wonderful fragrances which I own and enjoy :)

The music of perfume: Roman Salzger

I have always found that the music of Roman Salzger is oddly enough very "perfume-like" (and no I don't have synesthesia). For those of you not familiar with his work, here is a remix he has done (its VERY "Roman Salzger"). For me this piece of music represents the creation of the perfume from the moment the perfumer starts to work on it, all the way through the creative process of blending, to the market, to the point it reaches a buyer, and all the way down through the drydown on the skin.

Monday, November 17, 2008

My first article for perfume school

Hello readers. I had to write a short article for perfume school today, and although it was kinda rushed an ghetto I'd like to make it available on here too. Its kinda long and will make my blog page like super text infested but if your interested to read it, heres all 755 words:

An observation about perfume trends:

Universal perfume trends since 2005 and beyond can be difficult to pinpoint, especially now that there has been a giant swelling of the market for niche perfumes, often sold under the premise that they are made with higher quality / natural materials, and designed more to fit the growing eclectic tastes of perfumistas and the growing focus on purchasing perfume for ones own personal pleasure rather than for the enjoyment of others. If we take for example the online retailer Luckyscent ( which has over just the past few years grown from carrying twenty-some brands (many of which looked to be almost “home-made”) to now stocking possibly a hundred brands of commercially produced, high priced and very exclusive niche offerings ranging from established companies such as Shiseido's Serge Lutens to Oman's Amouage, we can see the great growth of this niche industry. If one were to take a time lapse of the niche industry over a month one would see that there are not only established companies pumping out new releases at the rate of three or four a year but new companies also opening shop and offering their first collections almost weekly, everyone from hair stylists (Boadi) to the sons cognac makers (Killian Hennesy). How did this industry come about? Possibly the public grew tired of the many less than stellar releases of the 90's and the very bland aquatic era of the early 2000's. In fact all the corporate entrepreneurs currently riding the success of the niche wave can give their thanks to what was just recently a cottage industry of do it yourself'ers. It is amazing to think that “the power of the people” could start such a trend, however this is evidenced by the pioneering successes of perfumes like Yosh Han, Pink Manhatten, Kai, Child, Ebba and Tauer Perfumes.

Getting back to perfume trends, I believe that they are now difficult to pin down as they were in the past (the 80's had power scents, the 90's aquatics), as it seems that the current “trend” for the niche (and even now some of the fashion houses) is to have a version of everything and they need it all at once. Take for example the highly successful house of Serge Lutens, who famous for its orientals, scrambled to release a chypre, woody scents, incense and florals seemingly as fast as they could produce them; all notes are currently in fashion because fashion is currently eclectic. The trend of perfume right now seems to be that there is no trend at all, and that once must have a full offering to let the customer decide what they want to wear to express themselves. Those more keen on the matter will probably agree that this “no-trend” is in fact a trend in disguise; as customers eventually will tire of this freedom and will again want to be told what to do (which perfume to wear). I cannot put a precise date to when this will happen but I believe that those on the cutting edge of style will eventually being to push this concept forward with greater momentum. I have recently read some articles in the that people are growing tired of this free for all and gender bending in the perfume industry; The New York times has recently declared that the power scent is coming back to us, and influential perfume blog Vetivresse has just released a review of the new fragrance Esprit du Tigre by James Heely praising it as a long overdue return to men's fragrance which smells “manly”.

Not to neglect what is still be far the largest perfume market, the so-called “designer” fragrance market, my observation is that it generally catches trends that have already become in their plateau or even decline phase in the niche industry, such as one note perfumes (Prada's Amber and Infusion d'Iris). What will probably occur is that it will continue to feed off spent trends in the niche industry similar to the way that the United States is reported to catch European fashion trends 2 years late. Will this be the new model for fragrance trends? Will the niche market become the new feeder for creative direction in the designer market ? Or will the niche market evaporate in the event that we move towards a more top-down leadership style for trends as its sole purpose was to offer the consumer personal choice and style? Only time will tell

Creed: Tabarome or Teabarome

I know its been saying Tabarome on the label for years, but I seriously think its a mis-print. This fragrance was clearly intended to be called Teabarome - some careless goof at 38 Av. Pierre had obviously just had a sticky "e" key on his keyboard. To prove my point, I would ask that anyone with a fairly reasonable black tea and ownership of a bottle of Tabarome please stick their head into the jar of tea, smell a scent strip of Tabarome, then proceed to tell me whether I am crazy or not. Clearly 30% of the odour profile of the perfume should be near identical to the fragrant pressed leaves. I have chosen last years Simao recolte for comparison, you may try another tea but try to keep it similar, for example do not use Earl Grey!

I know they were going for the whole heritage thing, but seriously? vintage tabarome vs this stuff ? I mean dont get me wrong, "new" tabarome its def. a tobacco scent, im comparing a 5% dilution of the leaf's absolute to the perfume as I type. But which one would win in an arm wrestle? Is this a tea scent or a tobacco?

I invite all comments!

PS - that ugly grey border that this blog puts around my pictures killed my cool fading in effect :(

RIP: Chanel no.19

I thought it would never happen to me... BUT! It seems it has. Not one but two of my precious bottles have turned to the dark side! Curse the deadly effects of time! I do store them away from light and heat as suggested... but I suppose nothing is forever. The first fragrance death I've ever witnessed: My two precious no.19 tester bottles. Boo-hoo, what a beautiful fragrance it was, and how quickly it passed. They were still wearing wonderfully in the summer. So fast forward a few months later and I spray one; Ack! Death! disgusting rotten carcasses. Seriously! If you have never experienced a fragrance that has gone bad, especially one with a citrus top - yuck! its horrendous. One time I had the pleasure of dousing myself with vintage 60's Eau Sauvage. MMMM rotten death! This one was pretty much the same, maybe a bit less rotteny and death-like. I don't know what im going to do... keep them probably. Just like I keep all my dead friends. err.. yes.

Morale of the story: Well there really is none because I kept my frags cool and dark and they still died.

Double morale of the story: They just die eventually, its sucky

Re:Creating Nature - The Rose

Have a bunch of bizzarro chemicals at home ? you too can recreate the natural fragrance of a rose without having go through the pain of the above! In rose otto you will find (among hundreds of other constituent molecules) these four, which when tinkered with can produce all sorts of cute rose scents. If you don't have them laying around the kitchen, get your science student friend to steal some or something :)


Have Fun!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Agarwood: Not only in perfumes anymore

Well, I suppose that agarwood was found in incense long before it was found in alcoholic perfumes, but nonetheless I believe that alot of people first hearing about oud or agarwood will be hearing about its use in perfumes such as Tom Ford Oud Wood or the Montale series, or even pure oud oil from Oriscent or one of the many sellers on Ebay. However, in Japan, Jinko (agarwood) has been and currently is mostly used for the creation of incense. Japanese incense is often a mixture of aromatic substances (woods, resins, spices) bound together by a resin known as "makko" which comes from a coniferous tree and does not have a pronounced odour of its own. The incense is mixed wet into a paste, extruded so that it is stick-less, and dried until hardening. In the production of the best incense, there is a long curing process as well. In Japan there is a grading system of agarwood which fits each type of agarwood into one of six categories (countries):

Kyara: This is the most expensive and rare of all types of agarwood, generally it is believed that is most found in Cambodia. Kyara has an odor which is gentle, refined and semi-sweet or slightly bitter. This stuff usually goes for 500$ish a gram! holler!
Sasora: This often has a very light and sour/slightly bitter scent, there for the highest quality can sometimes be mistaken for kyara.
Sumotara: Decidedly sour, similar in lightness to Kyara and Sasora but with a definite unrefined tinge to it; "rough around the edges". This is likened to a peasant disguised as a noble. (lets sell it to the nouveau-riches as Kyara, they'll never know the difference!!)
Manaka: This is a very light scent and it encompasses all of the five japanese scent associations (sweet, hot, sour, salty, bitter) in such a way that neither overpowers the other .
Rakoku: sharp and strong smell similar to sandalwood mixed with vetiver. This scent is often likened to a warrior.
Manaban: Mostly sweet it is said the smell is unrefined, and likened to a peasant (sorry peasants!)

The two photos above are incense that I burn sometimes when I feel like it, the first brown tube is not classified in any way by the seller, but I would estimate it to fall somewhere around the Sumotara classification, the second copper tube is suppose to be a mix of Kyara and other agarwoods, it is very light and beautiful. I have once had the opporunity to smell Baieido's offering Ko Shi Boku which is made from Kyara. Yum! its fantastic although I can't afford it.

Heres a plug for my friend (ok ok well we exchanged a few emails, but I hope he's my friend; he's cool!) Dr Blanchette, The team at TRP and - who have all contributed to bringing you cultivated agarwood products. Buying these products is the responsible thing to do to save these amazing trees in the wild, so give them a try, their stuff is great :)

l'Anarchiste de Caron

Here is a cute photo I took of my l'Anarchiste bottle as it started to float around my room. Fans of this fragrance: Enjoy!

PS - I hate l'Anarchiste it smells horrible

Why is Clive Christian Autographing all his bottles?

Everywhere I turn, whether ebay or "for sale" sections in perfume forums, there are people trying to to rid themselves of Clive Christian autographed bottles. I for one, would also want to rid myself of such a yucky thing, but it appears they are trying to rid themselves of them for the market value ? This puzzles me...

First Clive Chrisitan had those rediculous gold bottles that had actually had the phrase "The Most Expensive Perfume In The World" inscribed right on them (see above, I know the text is small sorry!), now he's autographing his own bottles?? who does he think he is! The more important question of course is are there really that many stupid rich people out there? If so, who are they ? I want to sell them my beard shavings

Im growing agarwood trees

Yes yes, from my earlier post you may have thought that I have moved on from agarwood, well its not the case; I have just changed the direction of my agarwood appreciation. My Al Haramains and my bottlles of oil do not get nearly as much usage as they once did. In fact I cant even really remember the last time I wore a pure oud. Oh well, growing these little guys is much more exciting anyways! I think of it as my way of giving back to the fallen trees who have provided us with their fragrant proceeds! well no... not really, I'm just weird and I do weird things.

Expect short updates from time to time as these happy green guys get taller and taller. It'll be like a par: fum blog version of meerkat mansion! (one plant already died too bad we didnt see it drawn out on reality blogo-vision)

How did I get these to grow you ask ? well, a drop of agarwood oil in each pot full of soil - Naturally!

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

I'm a selfish animal for animal scents

Look at this cute little guy, this is a musk deer. Why don't I have a real photo of it you ask ? well because THERES NONE LEFT. Thats right, these populations are seriously shrinking, while everyone out there jumps on ebay buying up musk grains because they've become perfumistas overnight. So whats my deal? If I ever mention that I've smelled natural deer musk before or whatnot you will all criticize me. However let me explain - I am studying to be a perfumer. No, not an "independant" or "hobby" perfumer. A real perfumer, a life long dedication to the art. 1 gram of deer musk may be allotted to me because it will mean alot in the end for my education. For most other people on the other hand, it is merely a novelty, something that makes them think they are more important than they really are. Stop supporting this industry! do not buy musk grains on ebay purely out of curiousity, you know what! they really don't smell that good! not that you'll be able to do anything with them anyways. Theyre just gonna sit on hundreds of your shelves, and hundreds of deer had to give their lives for this. This current niche/perfumista explosion might very well be the final demise for this species. Funny thing is, its not even the perfume companies, its the ebay-handy curiousity seekers. Please people DO NOT buy deer musk, your curiousity is not as important as the life of Mr. Deer-Guy

Perfumes I am currently enjoying: Why not talk about them

Perfumes I am currently enjoying; Here is what I've got on rotation this month. I usually keep my perfumes just in the hall because I like to decide right before going out the door what I am going to wear that day. if anyone is curious here is what I am liking right now with a comment attached to each:

First Photo (from left to right)

Dior Eau Noire - An instant classic, this is a spice bomb that will he hard to beat
C&S Neroli - with the changing of the weather to cooler Neroli makes a fine scent on those crisp days
Pikenz Arrogance - The original! a strong herbal masterpiece, the olfactory definition of black
Stardust - This long discontinued citrus has come around due to a large selloff by the stockist last year, its interesting but I will admit it doesnt get alot of mileage on me

Second Photo (top first, then bottom)

Mat; Male - Always a staple for me whenever I want to smell "weird". It was like Daim Blond before Daim Blond
Chanel Bois Des Iles - This is a masterpiece, top 5, absolutely gorgeous. This is the old formulation of the EDT, I treasure it.
Chanel Pour Monsieur - A great everyday scent, chypre-y citrus, with a warm amber base
Patou Pour Homme - Another staple, weird glassy jasmine in a semisweet oriental base. Fresh blast of lavender and spice at the top.
Versailles Homme - often reffered to as the sidekick of Patou, but I like it better, best example of Pimento in a refined oriental base
Creed Royal English Leather - I just keep pouring on the classics! this is the sweetest softest most perfect leather scent I have ever smelled!
Creed Erolfa - Probably gonna cycle this one out by next month as it is not as suitable for the colder weather, I love breaking it out when I wear a suit for a school presentation however...
Creed Tabarome - A cold weather fav! yummy melons and green tea + sweet tobacco
Creed Himalaya - Another symptom of the fact that I am still desperatley trying to hang onto summer!
Phat Farm Atman - Do not let the name fool you! this is barbershop lavender at its best!!
Dior Eau Sauvage - Another classic that I do not go without any time of the year, the best citrus fragrance ever made bar none.
Al Haramain Mubarak Ateeq - Leathery Mukhallat, my least favourite of the Al Haramains I have but I still wear it
Al Haramain Special - Special fragrance for special people! or so the perfumes tagline goes, its a very sweet mostly ambery and woody mukhallat. good stuff!
Gendarme - Gosh! so many laggards from the summer...
Serge Lutens Ambre Sultan - Back to the sweet winter scents, this one is excellent in cold weather; a very warm luxurious amber from top to finish
Serge Lutens Arabie - Another great warm scent to make you feel warm even in -20 winter!
Musc Ravageur - Just had to break this one out as the weather got cooler, a beautiful warm vanilla, sandal and guaicwood base with few topnotes to speak of!
Lalique Equus - hamster shavings and spice, how can this be so good ?
Creed SMW - This one is generally worn the day after C&S's Neroli - why? - I don't know
and finally at the bottom:
Al Haramain Khaltat Al Muluk - The monster bottle with an equally impressive scent. A must try for any fan of Eastern Oriental Perfumery. Quite possibly the best ever made!

Since No One Has Done It: Im going to talk about Coco Chanel

So before I had a blog, I searched the internet far and wide for a review of Coco Chanel, unfortunatley this seems to be the neglected child of the Chanel family, the 'net overflowing with 100's of reviews of Bois des Iles or Cuir de Russie - but absolutely no mention of this masterpiece.

I'll start with the notes:

Top Notes
Angelica, Mimosa, Frangipani, Mandarin Aldehydes

Middle Notes
Cascarilla, Orange Flower, Bulgarian Rose, Jasmine

Base Notes
Labdanum, Ambrette Seed, Opopanax, Benzoin, Tonka, Vanilla, Patchouli

What a great fragrance, I remember this from when my memory essentially starts (in the 80's). It is therefore my compass of what is a perfume. Before becoming a perfume enthusiast I never really thought of the notes in terms of floral, ambery etc, but actually I decoded the perfume as the smell of mixed cosmetics. This is actually an association that has stayed with me, both aldehydes and orris have a strong "make-up" connotation in my mind. Anyways, now that my perfume IQ is more developped I can describe the perfume in terms of its actual notes, which are listed up top. For this review I will concentrate mostly on the rose note, which is the essence of this perfume. That being said, the floral bouquet here is mainly jasmine + rose, with touches of neroli, frangipanni and mimosa. The roses are very heavy on damascones and have almost the scent of fresh apples, but not the sweet apple topnote we are now use to in alot of fragrances, this is the semi sweet fresh scent of the apples' skin cut open. This semi-sweet floral note paired despite the oriental base means that this perfume never falls into sweet oriental territory, instead keeping a much drier profile all the way through to the drydown. This is accomplish by a very light application of vanilla, and more spotlight on the dry ambery facets or the oriental base. The only musk that I detect is an ambrettolide type, which makes this fragrance very light, despite its "baroque" character. Both sillage and longetivity are very long with this fragrance.

Another perfume which I own, in which I find a strong ressemblance to Coco Chanel is 1000 de Patou - what do you think ?

Why cant my bodily products be coveted perfume items?

Why cant my bodily products be coveted perfume ingredients like Musk and Civet ? are my anal glands not equal in value to those of a tree-prone catlike fur with legs? I suppose I wouldn't REALLY want anyone to come in and scrape them, but then again if the price was right... and the fame! I would sell myself as an excluse note, only one house could have it! They'd be feeding me like a balloon, "increase production!" they scream! But no really, it would be interesting to see a house using human notes (synthetically recreated of course) such as the natural odour of active humans as basenotes to otherwise standard perfumes; citrus, oriental etc

Agarwood: Why it sucks now

Agarwood, Agarwood, Agarwood... Oh how I remember when you use to be my special little tidbit, my personal piece of knowledge that didnt have 100 simulaneous auctions on ebay. When you weren't being exploited by every niche perfume house. I feel sad that those days have become history. Now that everyone knows about Agarwood, basicly things kinda suck. Its okay though, since I am always way ahead of my time, I know what the new-ness, the new wave of popularity for the future will be. It is also a middle eastern ingredient that will no doubt see its entry into the mainstream. I will not name is because I want to keep "my precious" mine as long as I can... But I will laugh on the day when there are 10 niche offerings with some stupid frenchified name of this beautiful essence on ...

If you are also as ahead of the times as I am you probably know what I am talking about and will chuckle to yourself

actually nevermind, even if you think you know what I am talking about you are probably completely wrong.

whoever emails me with the correct guess will get a prize! hurray!

edit: I hope no one takes this post the wrong way, while I do wish that everyone has the opportunity to find and experience the wonder that is agarwood oil, I feel that it has become cheapened and like a pre-packaged spirituality product by those who wish to exploit it.

First Article: Castoreum Makes My House Smell

yep, you better believe it. a couple grams of castoreum in a ziplock bag is quite the scent-bomb. One must be very carefull where it is stored otherwise that enclosure may become infused with the scent of castoreum. Castoreum is a very pretty scent but too concentrated, it can kinda make you want to puke. Maybe I should put it in a jar or its own samsonite or something. No I am too lazy I will leave it where it is.

Until next time!