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Quandary

When I finished composing Green Iris, I ran over to The Twisted Lily, a perfume boutique just a few blocks from me, to get their opinion. One salesperson exclaimed “Iris!” while another said, “Well, that’s certainly outside the box.” Since, I’ve been thinking about...

Violets

No doubt because of the intense labor needed to accumulate enough violet flowers, violet flower absolute disappeared from the market many years ago. Perfumers use violet leaf absolute instead. While violet leaf has a nice green aspect that fits well with the...

Fixation

For some perfumes, the greatest challenge is getting them to last. Natural floral aromas, especially, evaporate quickly—they last no more than an hour or two on the skin—and need to last longer to be viable.  It has long been the supposition of perfumers, master and...

Cedar

As a child, I used to press my nose against the inside of my grandmother’s cedar-lined chest. It smelled of the Orient, as we called it then, of ships and harbors and of China.  Despite having since survived the assault of cheap “cedar-scented” cleaning products,...

Sandalwood

Because sandalwood has gotten very expensive–the best genuine Mysore stuff goes for around $25/milliliter—many try to emulate its scent using inexpensive aroma chemicals. Despite my own efforts, I’ve never been able to match the silvery, creamy woodiness of...

Shalimar: The Ambreine accord

Perfumers work with a seemingly infinite number of ingredients all of which need to be memorized (at least in theory). In addition to these individual elements—chemicals, absolutes, and essential oils—are accords, which are combinations of more than one ingredient...

The Grossman Accord

One of the 20th Century’s greatest perfumes, Trésor, was created by Sophia Grojsman, whose name is forever associated with an accord. The Grojsman accord, based on only four ingredients: two parts iso e super or sylvamber, two parts hedione, one part methyl ionone,...

Hedione

While I’m astonished by the beauty of natural products, I’ve never been against using something that comes out of a lab. Though natural substances contain an infinity of compounds and so-called chemicals only one, I’ve never hesitated to use something that smells...

Patchouli

Not all of my readers will remember the days when patchouli was almost ubiquitous among young people. It was impossible to go to a rock concert without being overwhelmed by thick, dense wafts of the stuff. Long after, I now know that patchouli is a common ingredient...

Magnolia

I’d never thought much about magnolia, until the giant tree next door bloomed in the early spring. While the flowers’ aroma was subtle, I noticed how the beautiful floral aspects were underlined with a kind of earthy decay, as though fall were already here. ...