Friday, 27 January 2012

The Winter 2012 Top Smells - a joint blogging project

I had a reliable trio of winter fragrances: Donna Karan's Black Cashmere, Annick Goutal's Encens Flamboyant and L'Artisan Parfumeur's Dzongkha. Especially Encens Flamboyant which smells like fire.

It's either because I'm getting old or because this winter is taking a toll on my nerves. Or because this is not a proper winter. I just didn't feel like using my winter classics and way too often, I went around without any fragrance at all - me who carries a bottle or two in her bag, just in case. (I would still carry those without using them.)

I got a Christmas bonus just before, well, Christmas so I decided to invest it wisely. I bought a few books, an Issey Miyake purse (no idea what I will do with it but it could hold a small knitting project, I envisage), a pair of Blahniks and a few other things I'll be painfully decluttering in a few years' time... and somewhere between a crapton and a shitload (the decision which of them is bigger hasn't been reached yet) of raw materials.

It all happened to arrive within three days - four different orders from four different directions, mind you. I'm often surprised how raw materials smell differently from the plants they come from (I haven't had a chance of a close encounter with a civet cat and I know the musk ox only from the fine fibre it yields). I'm a wood freak so now I'm richer by one big bottle of Atlas Cedar essential oil, which is so much nicer and more interesting than the generic cedar oil I used to get in the local fancy faux handmade cosmetics store, more smoke, more of a certain harshness. Or oakmoss - the absolute is dark green, smells faintly of crushed vegetation and glowing embers and it's totally different from the smell of actual oakmoss or whatever I thought it in fragrances that contain it.

Should a dear reader remember some of my former perfume musings, I have a certain predilection for weird stuff. Eyewatering leathers (such as Cuoio di Spagna by Santa Maria Novella), patchouli that needs three or four baths to disappear from one's skin (I'm looking at you, Patchouly Indonesiano) or just something plainly extraordinary.

Being pretty choleric, once again I chose the DIY path. Upon careful reading and considering my financial situation, I ended up with several bottles of basics - Siberian fir, vetiver, cedar, cypress, rosewood or benzoin, and hear me say, there's never enough benzoin and cedar, several bottles of basics I was able to afford only due to huge discounts, such as neroli or vanilla absolute.... and then the odd stuff. I wouldn't believe what can be distilled, dissolved, absoluted or extracted.

I spent a fruitful evening trying to render a cuir-cologne version of a perfume I've been making for myself for a few years but that needs maturing or I need to mature and find out what my opinion actually is. I don't really like citruses and I can smell that damn petitgrain and neroli in it but day after day, it appears to be more and more promising

Meanwhile, the ugly brown jus made of birch tar and many a viscous dark thing is living its own life. I blended the dark and viscous things with all things leathery I could think of (which amounts to exactly two, ylang-ylang and vanilla) and some odd-smelling plants - mainly but not exclusively tagetes. I wanted to render a salty floral and I was hugely disappointed when it smelled of vetiver and vanilla - nice in itself but not what I wanted. Things kept happening, though, and this is the magic of natural materials - they keep changing. Now, four days later, I'm wearing the would-be salty floral which is actually.... sweet and leathery. I need to find someone to blame yet but meantime, to put it in Elena's words, I'm walking around wrapped in an olfactory equivalent of expensive fur - warm, pleasant, protecting one from however evil the surroundings may be.

Speaking of fur, I got half of a fleece the other day. For those who don't happen to be fibre maniacs, fleece is what comes off a sheep. Half of a fleece... go figure, my dear smart readers. Almost a kilo of sheep fibre along with an occasional bit of twig or grass. It was washed but not totally devoid of both lanolin and vegetable matter so bit by bit, I soaked it in hot water with some soap and it's then when wool yields the most beautiful smell of lanolin. I did a cursory search but I couldn't find any information regarding possible existence of a lanolin absolute or any other sort of extract of whatever the fragrant bits from the complex composition may be.

And now excuse me while I go and bury my nose in my virtual fur. Meantime you can check variations on the same theme at Abigail's, Katie's, Gaia's, Ines', Carol's and Elena's blogs.

Added two hours later: Reconsidered. My newest thingy was a virtual fur yesterday. Today it's approaching towards the salty garden. Life is interesting.


  1. Your mad scientist experiments with raw materials is fun to read. From virtual fur to salty garden? It's a Dada cabaret.

  2. Life IS interesting reading your experimentation with raw materials that's going further than I ever ventured (mixing them in any concise way has been problematic, let's say). I am really really interested in following up with that tagetes thing, tagetes being so very exciting on its own and you being the extra-sprinkle-fascinating thing on top. :-)

    Have a great weekend!

    PS. Got "genes" as confirmation word. Then "wollun". Are you sure you haven't hacked on the Blogger code-words list for robot spamming? :-D

  3. Katie, that's one of the things I like about making my things. Since I'm untouched by education in many fields into which I dabble, I'm perpetually surprised. (No, no worries, I'm not trying to run a nuclear reactor in my basement. If nothing else, my dear and beloved collection of wine lives there.)

    Now, it's tagetes leather. Eyewatering tagetes leather.

  4. Elena, I wouldn't claim I'm doing anything concise. Definitely not on purpose.

    I see a similarity between my knits and my perfume compositions, though. I find materials that go together and put them together. I like woods and weird stuff so whatever I'm making contains half a bucket of cedar or Fokienia or some such. I like benzoin. I try to avoid synthetics. Sometimes I do have some idea on my mind - gotta rework the rotting apples and burning leaves in time for next autumn - and sometimes it's along the lines of Hey, these two might work together, oh, they do, and now let's add some substance to this weird alliance of dill and vetiver.

    In fact, I work in the same way when I'm designing my knits. Often I work on the go, with only a summary idea which may be rethought several times in the process. I guess I'm reasonably good in it because I already have a small fanbase and as a part of tomorrow's declutter, I'll try to put some patterns together for publishing. I'm curious to see whether my ideas are able to survive outside of me.

    I swear I didn't do anything to either genes or wollum.