Today is a celebration of resurrections.
We are settling into our cob house, an old building method we hope to promote for all its green and sustainable advantages. The transition from our temporary house to our new home has been long and challenging. My perfume organ is in its new home and, as of today, all the bottles are arranged and ready to blend. This inspired me so much that I’ve put amaravati back on the web, hoping to bring it back to life for my own and others’ enjoyment.
Through this long interlude my nose gave out for blending, but I’ve had plenty of time to enjoy the aging of some blends I made two and three years ago. First and foremost of them are the patchouli-jasmine and a couple of variations on what I’m calling L’Empress.
Striving for the perfect blend
What we consider to be “natural perfume” was a hundred years ago simply perfume. Perfumers and pharmacists did not have synthetic scents to work with. Of course we imagine those perfumes were better than any synthetic fragrance we have today, because we romanticize the past. Well, the past was a stinky place. Thankfully, we don’t have open sewers and garbage piles assaulting our senses. However, today’s better hygiene doesn’t change our basic desire to smell heavenly, pleasant, erotic, enjoyable odors.
Naturally, natural perfumers want to see for themselves how perfume making was done in the past. There are some reproductions of books of the trade one can get today. When I set out to recreate some of the blends in Dussauce’s “Practical Guide” I was daunted by the volume of raw ingredients in the formulas, sometimes by the pound and quart, as they were used by perfumers of the past. Luckily, some bulk raw ingredients are available for incense making, and I’ve found a couple of wonderful suppliers.
What I was searching for was a way to get lots and lots of tonka, to use in the old recipes. Grinding up the beans gave me a good (no, pretty damned great) tincture and the left over nutty material is perfect for adding to incense. My eye is now on a copper alembic still for steam distillation of bulk ingredients, including home grown herbs and wild harvest from our property. Distillation gives the three products of essential oil, hydrosol, and leftover solids for incense.
Almost two years old
The quest is on to perfect a modern rendition of Empress Eugenie’s Nosegay. My first attempt is staying true to how it smelled at the outset: very sweet, definitely heavy, and the woody-vanilla exotic tonka dominates. It’s so decadent I think a lifetime of trials would be worth the effort of pulling together the best attainable raw ingredients. Aging this blend gives it time to ripen without mellowing out, as I continue to also appreciate with my ambergris. This is a long process, aging is.
Not being able to use my perfume organ this past year led to this happy accident of experimenting with incense, using purchased as well as home grown and harvested ingredients here at Bliss Haven. I harvested artemisia and other plants last fall, and again a special sunrise harvest on this year’s full moon solstice, for makeing smudge and incense. Last fall’s dry stuff was worked with a little fermented fruit and honey solids and a big portion of labdanum resin. It’s sealed up in jars aging too. Working with whole ambrette seed and tonka bean, frankincense tears, onycha plates, and other wonderful raw materials is challenging but just as rewarding as blending with purchased perfume ingredients.