Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Perfumed Ink: Past and Present

I have always liked the idea of perfumed letters, however you have to be very careful with the perfume you use and the method of application to ensure that you don't leave a stained area, which will just make your beautifully written letter look like you spilled your coffee on it ;)

One way to solve this problem is to have the ink itself be perfumed - and after doing some research on the topic I found this interesting image which is a scan of an article from the 40's. It talks about a machine that could print a design of one colour over a freshly pressed newspaper sheet (when attached to a commercial printing press). This coloured ink would be perfumed, which would allow the reader to experience a perfume that was being advertised - of course assuming the newspaper was fairly fresh.

For 2009, if you choose to go the hand-written route, Mont Blanc created a special perfumed ink during the season of Valentine's day 2009 that you can use to write a note for that special someone.

At some point I think I would like to try my hand at making a *signature* perfume, not one that I would always wear, but in fact a perfumed ink that I could use whenever I had to sign a letter! At this point I have no clue how this would work and I can imagine there might be some very difficult solubility issues to overcome, but it is an experiment I will try at some point.

Giant Chanel no.5

Here we have something I have never seen yet, an actual 450ml perfume flacon full of Chanel No.5, this is not a refiller or a drammer, as we can see the bottle is labeled and packaged just as a normal retail size. It is also not a display factice, as those are filled only with coloured liquid, this one is full of perfume. This must be one of a very few bottles of this type produced as more of a marketing device than an actual inventory item intended to be sold. I would assume that it would have been placed in a very conspicuous location with a small price tag, to draw attention and have customers purchase much cuter, smaller and more affordable 1/4 ounce bottles by the hundreds - maybe around christmas time ? ;)

(Photo is taken from an Ebay auction, the seller has placed an opening bid of 800$ for this item. I am in no way linked to this seller so I will not post a direct link to his item, however it shouldn't be too hard to find if you happen to be in the market for a half-litre of number 5 !!! )

Parfum Disparu - Vintage Guerlain: White Rose

Here we have an example of a vintage Guerlain bottle, which once contained the perfume "White Rose". This is a perfume I would assume to be soliflore in its type but I haven't got any information on it at all, so I can't comment with certainty the exact nature of its composition. I will write it down as something to look out for on my visit to the Osmotheque later this summer. The bottle was claimed to be a 1904 piece from the ebay auction in which it was taken, but this perfume itself was known to be created in the preceding century - around the 1890's.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Blog Spin Off: H&R Geneologies and the future

(very low res-photo of H&R Geneologies Table)

Here is just a short spin off of a blog posting on Octavian's 1000 fragrances which can be read here:


The reason that I have decided to spin-off this article is that I am currently studying the Haarman & Reimer genealogies for my perfume schooling. In my assignment I have been asked to update the H&R tables with fragrances that I would choose for a number of different categories. The categories in my assignment differ from the H&R tables slightly but the idea is the same. Instead of posting my assignment here I will just list a few of the perfumes that I might place in "uppercase" letters as Octavian mentions, basically perfumes which I would bet will be around for a while due to their total uniqueness on the market at the time of their launches.

Giorgio Armani - Aqua di Gio (men's)
Issey Miyake - L'eau Dissey
Serge Lutens - Ambre Sultan
Thierry Mugler - Angel Men
Creed - Erolfa
Calvin Klein - ck One
Lancome - Magnifique (I'm sure I will get alot of flack for this one ;)
Davidoff - Cool Water

Fragrance Review : Guerlain Heritage EDT

If the idea behind Heritage is suppose to be a blending of all of the Guerlain men's fragrances released prior to 1992 (its release date) then I must say that succeeds, because the perfume is very "Guerlain" - but if I had to describe it in my terms of geneologies, I would say this is influenced by three great fragrances that have come before it, Shalimar (1925), Bois Du Portugal from Creed (1987) and Tsar of Van Cleef and Arpels (1989).

It is most immediately sensed upon application the strong similarity between Bois Du Portugal and Guerlain, and if I had to nominate and fragrance to say could be its stand-in, this would be BDP. Heritage however, certainly does make itself distinct in a number of ways along its development on the skin. The first noticeable difference would be the fruity note, which some people complain creates a bit of a sour feeling. Although it is not mentioned in the official pyramid, this fruity note is largely created by allyl amyl glycolate, which is used in other perfumes (notably its contemporary: Tsar) to create a suggestion of pineapple. This fruity note lingers for a while into the drydown at which point one notices another difference between BdP and Heritage: Heritage, true to Guerlain form (think Shalimar), concentrates its basenotes more solely into vanilla and woods (with a touch of patchouli), whereas BdP's drydown is made more complex and powdery via the use of vetiver and moss.

If I had to give my personal opinion on Heritage, I would say that it is slightly less "together" than its predecessor Bois du Portugal, and neither the fruity changes at the top, nor the softer more comforting vanilla drydown are neccesary nor are they an improvement upon BdP. However, it is readily available at a much lower pricepoint, and if one has such economic limitations (I personally couldn't afford either at retail right now!) then I believe Heritage is an excellent stand-in. Even hours into its drydown (EDT applied 6 hours ago) it still radiates class and quality. Long lasting with quality ingredients and reasonable construction - Four stars!

Coco Chanel: Just when you though pink was getting old!

Just when we all thought that maybe pink juice might finally be starting to fall out of fashion, the last fragrance in the world I thought would ever become pink actually has: My beloved Coco Chanel. Soon we will start seeing this pink version replacing testers and displays everywhere, and ending up in our homes. Since the testers are very new I had to struggle to find a shop which would allow me to take a photo of the new bottle. Finally I got one who was nice enough, although I won't mention where it was as it is of course against every stores policy to allow photographs to be taken within the store. The photo above is of the EDT although the EDP is now also pink, and is sold in the same bottle as the 100ml No.5 bottle.

It seems that the colour is not the only change, as we would expect since the colour of a fragrance can also yield many clues as to what is inside. We can pretty much deduce that our new juice is made with clear raw materials and then dyed pink, which means that either naturals have been replaced with synthetics, or that more expensive colourless absolutes are now being used instead (I wonder which one is the case!)

Alas, the fragrance itself has suffered, the first word that comes to my mind is "diluted", and when I say diluted its really quite a pale lifeless version of what it once was. Baroque? Opulent? Dark ? no more! It is now sweeter, a lightly spiced floral, with just enough of the essence of what it us to be that we can still recognize it. It appears also that a large portion of the changes have appeared on the bottom end; I have had the EDP on my right hand for a few hours now, and it has fallen apart. What a shame!

Another one of my favourites, has also recently suffered the same fate. Boudoir by Vivienne Westwood was once a rich dark brown juice, and a very powerfull fragrance - it is now pink and a just a shell of what it use to be.

This marks a very sad day for me, as I can now for all intents and purpose consider Coco a parfum disparu, looks like I will have to stock up! Also, my mother who has been wearing this perfume for over 20 years will be very disappointed - At least I can take comfort in the fact that I presented her with a vintage 60ml pure parfum of Coco just about a year ago and it should last her for a while. My only question is; does Parfums Chanel really bet this new version will bring in more new customers than the loyal ones it will alienate ?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Follow up to perfumers smoking

(Skull With Cigarette - MC Escher)

just found this quote by chance on the website of the Societe Francaise des Parfumeurs which ties back to my earlier post on whether perfumers smoke or not...

Mais tu fumes ? « Il faut arrêter de penser que les parfumeurs vivent en ascètes dans des jardins odorants, loin de la pollution et du vice ! ».
- Karine Chevallier

translated to english it basicly means

"I cant believe you smoke? We must stop thinking that perfumers live in isolation, in fragrant gardens far from all pollution and vice! "

thought it was interesting to get another perspective on it :)

Parfums Disparu

I have always had a soft side for the brilliant things in our history that for some reason or another, should not and could not continue to exist, in the words of Hunter S. Thompson, "one of God's own prototypes -- a high powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live and too rare to die. " For instance, a scene from my dreams is me driving a Delorean DMC wearing a Nintendo Power Glove and misting the interior of said vehicle with Chanel's Bois Noir ;)

For this reason I have always been very interested in what are called "parfums disparu", discontinued and obscure perfumes from our past, some which have become mythical and others which have just been totally forgotten. Whether it was simply the timing, or the fashion that caused these perfumes to fail upon their launches is always the question - but something can always be learned from their genius. I have actively started to collect what I can, this week will be the beginning of my campaign and hopefully I will have some reviews up in the coming month. If you are the type to search in the shadows, stay tuned ;)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Lemon Verbena: Plant Profile

As some of you may know, I grow a lot of the plants which are used in perfumery. I do this to get a better appreciation of the living smell of the plant and because this helps me understand all facets of it; from the essential oil to the molecules used to create its note. I also do it because most of the time its a lot of fun and makes my house smell pretty :)

I'm sure a lot of novices to perfumery (as I once was) are a bit confused about the many different types of citrus notes - for instance, when I first started out I had no clue what a bergamot was! This confusion can be compounded by the fact that sometimes citrus notes do not come from the fruit itself but from the bark/wood of the tree and even from the flowers!

For this article I will be taking a look at a recent acquisition which is the Lemon Verbena, sometimes referred to as just "Verbena" or "Verveine" in French.

The plant is a shrub which is native to parts of South America, and the leaves are used up to this day as an herbal remedy. It is also used to add flavour to foods, jams, salads and beverages.
In perfumery we can see why it is used as a citrus note as the main constituents include Citral, Nerol and Geraniol. The essential oil is extracted via distillation of the plant matter; leaves and twigs.

As a garden plant it grows with a delightful citrus aura that can be detected anywhere within a few feet of a larger specimen :) It is inexpensive, easy to grow and neat to have around, take a look at a garden center near you - they are not hard to find!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Is 100 year sandalwood oil lost forever?

The global sandalwood shortage has caused such paranoia that I no longer feel safe buying sandalwood oil from ebay vendors, online stores (or pretty much anyone else without a meticulous record and reputation online - safe sellers include Eden Botanicals, LibertyNaturals, etc). Also, with my 100 year old Mysore as a reference point, I have spent hundreds of dollars trying to buy something similar to it, and been "beyond" dissapointed each time. I have now given up! But... does this mean that the heavenly aroma of 1960's sandalwood is gone forever? I had an thought...

I emailed a few people who were much more knowledgable than I about an idea that I had (thanks Octavian as always for helping me with my questions ;) that centered around the point that essential oils can be taken apart and put back together again. You see, in perfumery there are used natural absolutes and essential oils as well as (of course!) synthetic molecules, but there is also a grey area in between these two which is the area of Isolates. Isolates are molecules removed from an essential oil (remember essential oils have many constituents) for the purpose of using as a standalone molecule - an obvious example would be linalool and rosewood oil. Well, if one were to look at sandalwood oil, one would find that ts is (on the most basic level) comprised of "90% sesquiterpenic alcohols of which 50-60% is the tricyclic α-Santalol. β-Santalol comprises 20-25%" (wikipedia: sandalwood oil). Since we know that the odour profile of sandalwood is mainly achieved by the ratio of Alpha to Beta Santanols, could we not isolate these and remix them to achieve the correct ratio? Of course this would give us less oil than we started with! but is it worth it ?

The answer is that this would be the start of a slightly more complicated and expensive process, although it is fully possible to recreate something very similar to a mature sandalwood oil this way. So, while it may be impossible to find, if you've got the $$ in the future you might be able to once again smell sandalwood of the 1960's.