Amber-What Is It?

Orientals ImageAmber is a great ingredient in many perfumes. It’s very feminine, almost foody, very smooth, not quite vanilla, will beautify just about any blend in a deep honey-like way. A lot of people think it is liquefied amber (the semi-precious fossilized resin) but it isn’t. Here is what amber is…

There are some “recipes” in perfumery, and amber is one of them. Think of this like “my recipe for red velvet cake” or “my recipe for Green Goddess Salad”. Lots of people make amber from scratch, but the results vary wildly, some are very sweet like honey, some are dry and are like a dry martini. They are all ambers, and making one and choosing the right one for a blend will make or break that blend.

Classically, amber is a combination of benzoin, labdanum, and vanilla (only natural vanilla though). There are (of course) as many recipes as there are ambers and they all give different results. People might substitute tonka for vanilla, vetiver for labdanum, frankincense for benzoin or put them with the base ingredients for a deeper and more complex blend.

Most perfumers use other people’s ambers, there isn’t any sense in re-inventing the wheel. That can become a problem, though, if your supplier goes out of business…if your supplier changes his recipe…or if your supplier decides to increase his price so that it becomes crazy. Of course, making your own is a risky business as you are at the mercy of your raw materials suppliers (these ingredients can change depending on weather conditions or the greed of the supplier).

Making your own is great but you need to have a lot of time to experiment and come up with your best recipes. I make ambers but I don’t say it’s an easy thing to do…it isn’t. I have had to abandon several because of ingredient changes. That does break your heart…no one is going to help you either, it just happens. If you hit it, though, it is exhilarating!

I find that the most dangerous thing about making an amber is the temptation to make it too universally pleasing, and therefore bland. Keep on pumping that vanilla in there and you are going to become Hello Kitty Purr-fume. Not enough and too much labdenum, you are into Dawn of the Living Goth territory. Too much benzoin? A bit volatile and not attractive. And that is about the ingredients which are the “classics”. With amber, I find that you can blow it in hundreds of ways. Don’t be bold, be wise; that’s the motto I have to use for making an amber. It is more difficult and it’s painstaking, and makes me fidget BUT when you hit it, you know it.

Amber goes with so many things. It is an adornment to florals, a dear friend to patchouli, it dances with citrus, and in large doses it can enhance musk like nothing else can do. But again, it’s all about harmony…too much becomes bland and too little and it’s nothing special.

Here are some perfumes I have made with amber, and I dearly love them all no matter how difficult they were to make: Huile of Fortune, Dominions, Seraphim, Howl, Chocolate Incense, Death, Dies Irae, Fabienne, Hatshepsut, Hophead, Oiche Shamhna, Silver Amber, Mistress of Power, Skeletons’ Ball, and Twee (to name a few). Take a look at them at Possets.

This blog is brought to you by Possets Perfume which is featuring The Halloween Collection: Haunting Music 2014 Collection now. The Haunting Music Collection celebrates fabulous spooky music by way of perfume.

Cityblis

Posted in Art History, Autumn, General Comments, Halloween, Perfume Oils, Possets, Recipes | Tagged

Twee From Possets Perfume

bastardchildlilWell, I am totally out of Twee Perfume from the Halloween Collection. It is an unusual fragrance and I think it’s uniquely attractive. I had a moderate amount of one of the components and used it all up in the first batch of Twee I made. Since this was a perfume on which I was taking a chance, I didn’t think anything of it. However, the description seems to have hit a nerve, and I have sold out for the moment.

I do have more of the missing component coming Priority Mail. It should be in my hands by Tuesday at the latest and I will immediately start making and shipping Twee. If you ordered Twee I will pack and ship all of your order minus Twee now, and then send your Twee along by itself as soon as I have it made and bottled.

This blog is brought to you by Possets Perfume which is featuring The Sicilian Summer 2014 Collection now. The Sicilian Summer Collection is loaded with glorious fragrances perfect for the heat and redolent with the rich beauty of the Mediterranean.

Cityblis

Posted in Autumn, Changes, General Comments, Halloween, Perfume Oils, Possets

Phone Phun

batI don’t like to get cold call sales calls on my phone. No one likes it. I really feel like I have been taken advantage of by slimy people and my number passed around like a can of Pringles. I got one today, they are always the same, the name and company are announced at the beginning of the call BUT you can’t understand it, and if you ask them to repeat it it’s always muffled. But they cheerfully bang on clear as a bell and when they ask you to do something, it’s perfectly understandable. This has been going on for decades BUT the current crop of employees has really deteriorated quickly. Here is one exchange:

*RING RING*

I see the call is from offshore, I answer.

ME: “Hello”

SALESMAN: “This is (muffled) from the (muffled) Flo mmmmphhhh Sweepstakes mmmmffffffff And how are you today?”

ME: “From the MMMffffghhhhhh mipmip bla phfffft Company?”

SALESMAN: “Uhhh, yes from the Mffffttttt Sweepstakes Flooofffff Company”

ME: “Sweepers? I already have a sweeper. Do you mean a vacuum cleaner?”

SALESMAN: “No, the Mffftphhght SWEEPSTAKES Company!”

ME: “Oh, Mfffftphttt Sleeping Company! Why didn’t you say so? Why Sleeping, aren’t you supposed to be working?”

(Obviously, at this point the guy knows I am messing with him and he does the logical thing: he loses his temper)

SALESMAN: “F*#K! F&%K you! F&%K you! F&%K you! F&%K you! F&%K you! F&%K you! F&%K you!” the salesman says with a bit of passion to his voice.

I just have to start laughing. Here is someone trying to bilk me and he got beaten at his own game. The world is full of people like this and I don’t trust any of them. If you can get their goat, it’s worth a laugh. Any more, I usually screen my calls, a sad thing to have to do in this modern world, but necessary.

Posted in Perfume Oils

test of podcast software

Posted in Perfume Oils

Gold/Grey Fountain Pen Ink

Stormy GreyWhen you get your invoice from Possets, you will probably get a note on it written with the latest in my collection of inks. This one is from the French firm of J. Herbin and it is a special anniversary ink called Stormy Grey. The base color of the ink is a very attractive mid-grey but the sheen in it is all gold. On some papers it looks like I have written it with gold ink. On the invoice paper, I think you have to tip the paper to see the sparkle, but it is there. One fun thing for Halloween.

On each invoice I send out, I try to write a little note thanking you for your purchase and signing it. It takes a little longer but it reflects the way I feel toward my clients and Possets in general. I have a red J. Herbin sparkle ink as well and I think I am going to use that one for the Yules!

This blog is brought to you by Possets Perfume which is featuring The Halloween 2014 Collection now: Haunting Music. Finally the season for deep resinous and spicy fragrances is on us. Visit Possets and be seduced by this sinuous collection of irresistible perfumes.

Cityblis

Posted in Autumn, General Comments, Halloween, Inks, Perfume Oils

Hot Pursuit-Chasing the Blood Moon

newwordpressheader21.jpgWe were all warned: the Earth, Moon, and Sun would be lining up today and there would be a spectacular lunar eclipse. Lucky us, we have an observatory in Cincinnati. Luckier us, the observatory is located two blocks away from my house.

I set my alarm clock for 5 a.m., put on the coffee, primed my husband and anticipated the event as if it were a birthday party. Woke up at 4, not time yet. Woke up at 4:30, not yet. I peeked at the light coming in my window at 4;45, it was brilliant, painting the cascade of poplar leaves with silver and spilling out on the lawn as if the power was turned up and it was alerting the world,”Something great is about to happen!”

It was hopeless and so I stumbled downstairs and watched the coffeemaker spew and steam. My husband was close behind and already in his clothes. “How’s the coffee and how’s the moon?” He laughed. “Not ready yet,” I observed and really believed what I had just said.

I strolled out onto the porch with my first cup of the day and looked up expecting to see that glowing disk from 20 minutes ago AND THERE WAS ONLY A CLIPPED FINGERNAIL OF A MOON SHOWING! She had been quenched to a low glow and it was time!

“Gordie! Come out here now!” I called to my husband who dashed out and said,”It’s time to go!” We sped out to the car and up to the observatory.

Now you might think that before 6 a.m. is a bit early for the average Joe to pick himself up just to see the moon, wrong…very wrong. There was a traffic waltz in progress. People with flashlights, signs for parking, lines to get into the observation telescope. There were well over 100 people milling around, maybe 200; and the News 7 cam was trained on the action from a telescoping pole in the air about 20′. Eye on the sky, it was kind of funny because the event was so much more important than the camera.

We milled around in front of the observatory. I tried to take a shot of it with my new iPhone 6 Plus but it was defeated by the distance, color, darkness, and subtlety of it all. All the phone could do was show a grainy pinkish dot. Not good enough. We felt we were wasting our time, there were 199 people ahead of us to see the eclipse and by the time we were to peer through the scope it would be noon. Better go back.

“We have the binoculars,” observed Gordon. Great idea. I had been told repeatedly that a good set of binoculars is an excellent telescope substitute. We returned to get them and have a good look.

I grabbed the binoculars while Gordon got a coffee. I ran out onto the deck, looking around for the moon and not finding it. Curses, it was just here! What the hell? Gordon came up behind me,”It’s between those two trees but look quick, it’s moving fast!” I glimpsed it and put the binoculars to my face.

A perfect pink pearl resting among pine branches was what I saw in the sights. You could just make out a hint of green in the black of the evergreens and that was glorious against the shell-apricot of the moon’s glow. Fat drops of water cascaded down from wet leaves overhead, reminding me that the moon is the mistress of the water element.

“Come on! Let’s get a better look. It is dropping like a rock, Gordon, and if we want our fill of it we are going to have to go after it,” I cried hustling out into the black street with the binoculars.

“Go on without me,” chuckled Gordon,”I’ve seen it and this coffee is more appealing to me.”

Off I trotted feeling that I had to find the moon and see her well. Dark and wet, autumnal and chilly, people walking their dogs and joggers, cars gliding around the streets to work and cute street lights, no moon. I searched and half trotted along and could not find her. I knew she was up there somewhere and I was going to keep looking.

Down the street, take a left, look up and over my shoulder. No moon. Further down the street, no moon. A car cruised by and its lights were brilliant and just then I saw what I had been looking for, that huge pink pearl.

I trained the binoculars on it and it came out in great detail. I could see craters, more like old pockmarks but softened by all that glow and bending light. The color was indescribably glorious; and it wasn’t just the color, it was the array from light to dark apricot and the curve of its presentation. The lightest side appeared as if there was fog rolling off it, which was an illusion of course but a pretty illusion. They call this a “Blood Moon” but I would rather call it a Pearl Moon for all its low shimmer glow.

I stood there for about 10 minutes in the gloom admiring the lunar show and being grateful for its presence. I saw her roll into the tree branches and roll out again, I admired its dignified motion, and knew that it was not just one color which made this scene special but the array of that light orange to dark that cast the spell this morning.

Time lapsed and it was morning in earnest. I turned home and came in with wet shoes. “Was it wonderful,” asked Gordon. “Yes,” I replied heading for the coffee pot after putting the binoculars away.

Now I am watching the sun come up. The world is emerging as a place where autumn is turning leaves and the scene yellow. Our witchhazel is blooming with confetti yellow blossoms making little stars on the branches, and sending out an odd smell like cloth. I like to pretend that the moon cast a spell on my backyard and turned the leaves from dark late summer green to fall yellow, and all the world became autumnal, thicker atmosphered, and cool for snuggling.

This blog is brought to you by Possets Perfume which is featuring The Halloween 2014 Collection now: Haunting Music. Finally the season for deep resinous and spicy fragrances is on us. Visit Possets and be seduced by this sinuous collection of irresistible perfumes.

Cityblis

Posted in Autumn, Changes, General Comments, Halloween, Perfume Oils, Possets | Tagged , ,

Chyribdus

ShellI told you the sad story of Scylla, the beautiful maiden who was transformed into a hideous monster. There is another side to the tale.

In the strait of Messina, the channel of water which lies between the toe of the boot (Calabria) and Sicily, there was a tale that two huge rocks would come crashing together to try to crush any luckless sailor who sent his ship through this narrow. Scylla was on one side and she would appear to crush the ship and eat all of the men on board. The other side was Charybdis who was also portrayed as a rock but she, like Scylla, had another aspect as well.

Again, the tale of Charybdis is a cautionary tale for women, so popular then as now. Charybdis was a beautiful young girl, the daughter of Poseidon who defended her father when he had a dispute with Zeus. Charybdis submerged a great deal of Zeus’ land holdings under water to aid her father. Zeus became so enraged that he turned her into a hideous grey-green bladder-like monster with flippers, spiky outcroppings, warty skin, bulging eyes, and an unquenchable thirst so that she had to drink the entire contents of the sea three times a day and vomit it forth when she had been distended to her breaking point. The spell was never taken back and she became associated with whirlpools and treacherous seascapes around the Straits of Messina.

She was half of the Scylla and Charybdis rock formation mentioned by Homer in the Odyssey and Ulysses had to successfully sail by this duo in his adventures.

Today the Strait of Messina is filled with long prowed fishing boats looking for swordfish and there are no magic rocks or slurping goddesses to make you question your eyes.

This blog is brought to you by Possets Perfume which is featuring The Sicilian Summer 2014 Collection now. The Sicilian Summer Collection is loaded with glorious fragrances perfect for the heat and redolent with the rich beauty of the Mediterranean.

Cityblis

Posted in Art History, General Comments, Perfume Oils

Go US!

Well...I have always known that University of Cincinnati College of Design, Art, Architecture, and Planning (DAAP, my alma mater) was a great place but it’s nice to be recognized by an independent entity as a great city for commercial and industrial design. That really makes me proud of Cincinnati and all the hard work we put into what we do.

I have been to some of the shows at DAAP at the end of the school year and just looking at what they produce for their design classes is really exciting. It’s what they do when they hit the street and start working in earnest that pays off.

So, go us. I couldn’t be gladder!

This blog is brought to you by Possets Perfume which is featuring The Sicilian Summer 2014 Collection now. The Sicilian Summer Collection is loaded with glorious fragrances perfect for the heat and redolent with the rich beauty of the Mediterranean.

Cityblis

Posted in General Comments, Nature, Perfume Oils, Possets, Summer, Uncategorized | Tagged ,

Scylla–The Myth

The view of Scylla's fishtail

The view of Scylla’s fishtail

The beautiful Scylla was the daughter of a river god and a naiad (a goddess of a small body of fresh water). She was seen by a gentleman (a god, really) named Glaucus who at one time had been a humble fisherman but who consumed an herb which caused him to become a god. Scylla was not at all attracted to Glaucus, he was long haired, bearded, had a fish tail for nether parts (face it, he was a merman) and she didn’t feel at all any sympathy or desire for him. He pursued her along the shores of the sea and she spurned him in spectacular fashion. Everyone thought that was funny EXCEPT the witch Circe (who would later form a crush on Ulysses and turn his men into pigs). Circe thought that Glaucous was rather cute and was angry and embarrassed that a little snip like Scylla would tell everyone he was just an ugly smelly fishman, which was insulting Circe’s taste in men!

Circe approached Glaucous and made eyes at him but he rebuffed her claiming that he cared only for Scylla and no one else would do. Circe flew into a jealous rage, made up a very effective potion and poured it on Scylla while she was bathing and had her eyes closed.

The barking lampreys

The barking lampreys

Scylla started to writhe and call out in great pain, he legs split into six ugly tentacles and she grew a gigantic fish tail, just like the one she had laughed at on Glaucus but hers was far uglier with mud colored twisted scales, lumps, holes, and places where parasites had bored into the flesh and formed barnacle filled nests. There sprung from her spine wide mucus covered fins and dorsal fin with the look of fungus-like grey balls tipping the edges of it. Then six ghastly sea lampreys flew out from her back and stationed themselves on either side of her waist as they twisted and barked.

Scylla immediately developed an endless hunger for the flesh of men and cruised back and forth in the Strait of Messina looking for boats from which to pluck sailors to eat like grapes. She had grown very large, over 100 feet, and was a match for any craft.

There is an excellent sculpture of Scylla at The Rock of Scylla in Calabria. I took some pictures of it but it is truly 3 dimensional and difficult to capture in your mind all at once.

 

This blog is brought to you by Possets Perfume which is featuring The Sicilian Summer 2014 Collection now. The Sicilian Summer Collection is loaded with glorious fragrances perfect for the heat and redolent with the rich beauty of the Mediterranean.

Cityblis

 

Posted in Art History, General Comments, Perfume Oils, Possets, Summer | Tagged , ,

Making Scents Of Sicily-Part 2

Well...Today we are going to explore more typical scents which inspired the Sicilian Collection at Possets Perfume.

Coffee-Everyone loves the particular smell of fresh ground coffee and Sicily is awash in espresso machinery of all types. From the classic upended tank with an eagle on top to the modern computery looking ones, Sicilians adore everything about the process and the product. You can smell coffee everywhere in the mornings and afternoons in the streets of any Sicilian city. Coffee has found its way into perfume as well, and one of our most popular fragrances was a coffee based creation. The Sicilian Collection is no different yet I have used a light and subtle hand with coffee in a summer series, and you won’t smell it up front but it does insinuate.

Black Pepper-Nothing quite matches the pop and woody zizzle of black pepper. I put it in Sicily and it ads such a mad-good edge. Black pepper is found in a number of famous fragrances throughout the years and is considered a classic ingredient.

Pink Pepper-One of the most memorable meals I had in Sicily had the surprising feature of Pink Peppercorns in a sauce covering pappardelle noodles. A bit more aromatic in a plant way than black pepper, the pink variety must be treated delicately so as not to overpower a fragrance. It should be an enhancement to the background, not a foreground “announcer”.

Hay-The smell of drying hay or dry grasses in the hills is truly marvelous on Sicily. The weather turns hot and dry right after the verdant spring and that is when that wonderful smell of dried grass starts to haunt you. Again, this is a surprisingly strong element and best in the summer as an ornament rather than the star player.

Basil-The quintessential herb and hallmark of southern Italian cooking, basil is prized for its licorice-like scent and ability to conjure hot summer days. Basil is featured in the 100% Natural blend Triskelion to great effect.

Jasmine-May and June are the best times for that sweetest of flowers, Mediterranean jasmine. Everywhere the mad vine displays its small white flowers and creamy fragrance. Very different from the “stinky” varieties, this jasmine is so beautiful it can break your heart. I grow it at home. Since jasmine is so very Sicilian, I put it in my perfume called Mafia to great effect.

Fig-This has been a dark, syrupy summer favorite for many years. A natural partner for the heavier elements like patchouli, musk, and nag champa; fig can range from a molasses-like variety to a very green and light scent. Prestidigitazione and Scylla have fig in them and are luscious.

Cucumber-On a hot dry island, cucumber is bound to be a favorite treat, and the scent of it instantly signals coolness and wet. Arabic influence in cuisine can be seen in the liberal use of spices, a bit of hot pepper, and cucumber. The scent mingles deliciously with a great many elements and I have not used it as a central part of my Sicilian Collection but as a very effective piece of scenery.

Violet-The beautiful purple flower is usually associated with Parma but grows in the shady bowers of Sicily as well. A favorite among the aristocrats in the classic The Leopard, violet has enjoyed a renaissance in the 21st century among perfumers and their fans. I use it as a tribute to the glorious Angelica of that novel, and her perfume Bouquet a la Marechale.

This blog is brought to you by Possets Perfume which is featuring The Sicilian Summer 2014 Collection now. The Sicilian Summer Collection is loaded with glorious fragrances perfect for the heat and redolent with the rich beauty of the Mediterranean.

Cityblis

Posted in Nature, Perfume Oils, Possets, Summer, Uncategorized | Tagged ,