This blog is a constantly evolving forum for thoughts on perfume, perfume-making, plants (especially orchids and flora of the Pacific Northwest) and life in general. It started out chronicling the adventures of Olympic Orchids Perfumes, established in July 2010, and has expanded in other directions. A big part of the blog is thinking about the ongoing process of learning and experimentation that leads to new perfumes, the exploration of perfumery materials, the theory and practice of perfume making, the challenges of marketing perfumes and other fragrance products, and random observations on philosophy and society. Spam comments will be marked as such and deleted; any comments that go beyond the boundaries of civil discourse will also be deleted. I am grateful to all of you, the readers, who contribute to the blog by commenting and making this a truly interactive perfume project.
Welcome to materials Wednesday as the green lineup continues.
Most people seem to love the smell of freshly cut grass. I
don’t – in fact I find the smell of freshly cut lawn grass slightly disgusting.
Maybe it’s because I associate it with the nasty clumps of green slime that I
have to remove from the weedeater after I’ve been cutting the jungle of tall
grass and other plants that takes over our little farm every summer right at
the end of the rainy season, or maybe it’s just because I don’t associate that
smell with childhood suburban lawns the way many people in the US do.
Cis-3-hexenol, aka leaf alcohol, is one of the main odorants
that occurs naturally in grass, leaves, and other green plants. It’s used in
artificial flavorings for food like “watermelon” and “green apple”. By itself,
it does a perfectly convincing imitation of “cut green grass”, and is probably
the main (or only) fragrance ingredient in those commercial fragrance oils called
“fresh-cut grass”, “bamboo”, and the like. If you like the smell of macerated
green vegetation, this one’s definitely for you.
As you can tell, I’m not fond of this material, and have
used it only in trace amounts in creating green scents of various types. It
serves as a powerful top note, but given that it only lasts a few hours neat on
paper, it needs other materials to extend longevity and temper the super-grassy
Leaf alcohol is one of the “green leaf volatiles” that is
released from wounded leaves when insects like caterpillars feed on them. In
some cases the leaf alcohol that’s floating around attracts more pests, but
more often than not it repels them, or even attracts the enemies of the pests,
which is what the plant wants. There is also some evidence that the most
important role of leaf alcohol is to provide a means of communication among
plants, triggering preemptive defense mechanisms in intact plants if their
neighbor has been attacked. You can read all about it here.
It never ceases to amaze me that the chemical defense
mechanisms of plants have produced so many wonderful perfume materials that we,
as humans, enjoy. If you want green scents, leaf alcohol is a must-have to
achieve that grassy green scent note. Just watch out for that very hungry
caterpillar! Or maybe if you wear it while gardening, it will boost the defense
mechanisms of your favorite plants.
This Saturday continues the exploratory journey through my
pile of little envelope samples, considering three very different versions of
skin lotion/treatment products.
Fresh Lotus Youth
Preserve Radiance Lotion
Like all of the other Fresh products I’ve sampled, this has
that annoying cucumber scent. Given all of the plant extracts that supposedly
are in it (lotus, algae, hibiscus, fig, star fruit, etc) you would think it
might have the scent of those things. The one thing I will have to concede is
that my little envelope sample contains quite a bit of product, unlike other
Fresh products that I’ve tried. It’s fairly liquid in consistency, so a little
goes a long way. I’ve been smearing it on my face at least once a day for a
week with no observable results except that I smell like Fresh’s version of
cucumber. It looks like the full size may come in one of those silly sealed pump jars
that consistently malfunction and end up on the deep discount shelf at TJ Maxx for unsuspecting people to buy thinking they're getting a bargain. As in the case of other products of this type, I
think one would have to use it for an extended period of time to fully evaluate
it, so will reserve judgment on its efficacy based on a sample envelope. It is
DermaDoctor KP Duty
This product contains AHA, glycolic acid, green tea extract
and urea in a very thick, greasy base. I couldn’t bring myself to put it on my
face, but have used it on my hands and other body parts, and it does seem to be
an effective moisturizer. It’s low-odor or unscented, which is a plus. It’s
relatively inexpensive, so might be a good choice if you want an intensive
moisturizer. Besides, I inexplicably like the gratuitous but cute chicken cartoon on the sample
envelope and the small full size tube. It’s probably a decent product at a
Sunday Riley Good
This contains lactic acid, licorice, lemongrass, and who
knows what else. It’s intermediate in consistency between the above two
products, not thick and not runny. It has an acidic scent, which I suppose is
to be expected. I’ve been using the little sample for about a week and feel
like it actually has made my skin softer and smoother. Whether it’s brighter or
not, I’m not sure, but I can imagine that it is. The full size looks like it comes in a pump jar, but it appears to have a screw-on top so that if the pump malfunctions the product can still be extracted and it's not a total loss. This seems to be a pretty good
product, but the down side is that it’s expensive.
For this week’s Materials Wednesday, the green parade
continues with the old standby, violet leaf absolute. This is a
solvent-extracted absolute from the leaves of the common violet, Viola odorata,
which grows as a weed in my yard and garden, propagating itself lavishly by
both seeds and runners. In fact, the violets are in full bloom right now. The
flower scent isn’t as strong as that of their larger cousins, the pansies
(Viola tricolor) or domesticated violas, which are one of the winter garden
standbys here. I imagine the leaves of any species or hybrid could be used to
make “violet leaf absolute”, but it’s always listed as Viola odorata.
The leaves of Viola odorata are dark green in color, toward the
blue side of green, tinged with purple-red. Violet leaf absolute is a viscous,
yellow-green semi-liquid that at first has a penetrating green-vegetation
smell. It’s heavier and darker than tomato leaf absolute, with an earthy,
minerally note that’s quite unique. To me it’s evocative of geologically ancient places in
cold, foggy, northern parts of the world, places that have not yet driven out the fairies, gnomes, and invisible ancient spirits of the land. If I wanted to make a perfume that
symbolized the old stone ruins of druid burial grounds in Ireland, it would be
heavy on violet leaf.
As the absolute dries down, the earthy, minerally, damp-dusty,
slightly metallic notes gain strength. Throughout, there’s the slightest hint
of violet flower scent. It’s a top to mid note, lasting for about 5-6 days on
paper. By the end, the violet flower note is subtly perceptible, so it seems to
last longer than the greener components. I am looking forward to using violet leaf absolute in a new composition that I’m
The winner of the CLEAN SKIN draw is JOCELYN PROBASCO.
You have won the cumulative package with Clean Skin, Luna
Rossa Extreme, and a few random small things. Please contact me at
olympicorchids at gmail dot com with your correct name and mailing address, or
leave a PM on Facebook.
If you do not claim your prize within a week, everything
will go back into the pot and become part of the next drawing.
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