Sunday, June 12, 2011
This perfume that combines burning cedar wood and sweet alyssum flowers has turned out to be the most difficult perfumery task I’ve tackled yet. Initially, it was easy to come up with the various accords of cedar wood, campfire smoke and the flower itself, but putting them together and smoothing out the whole composition is another matter.
A month or two ago I decided to try putting the accords together, but made the mistake of tweaking every one of them first. I decided to add benzoin, Nootka tree oil, and a few other things to the cedar accord, only to find that the changes caused the whole thing to degenerate into dusty pencil shavings. Because Alyssum had mentioned that she’d like some “airy” top notes, I tried adding some ozonic-type notes to the flower accord, only to find that the interaction created an unpleasant sensation of cat-piss. Sometimes it’s better to leave well enough alone.
I went back to the drawing board and re-created both of the ruined accords, and am now letting them mellow for a little while before starting the real mixing. I used a different “airy” aroma chemical in the flower accord and so far it seems to be working OK. I bumped up the aromatic aspect of the cedar wood a little. I think both will be improved versions of the original.
Last night I tried mixing everything together on my skin to get a rough idea of what was going to happen. The bottom line seemed to be that the flower notes dominated the woody and smoky ones, so that gives me a rough idea of what the ratios will need to be. I also understand why sweet alyssum is not used as a perfume note. The other fact that came through loud and clear was that this particular set of woody, smoky, and floral notes are not natural soulmates and will need a lot of trace materials to bind them together and provide a smooth transition from top to base.
Today I'm wearing a mixture of the new accords plus a tiny hint of cyclamen to help bridge the gap between the airy notes, the honeyed sweet alyssum, and the smoky wood. This isn't perfect yet, but it's far better than the last trial.
I’ve gone from feeling overwhelmed by this project to getting back on what seems to be a marked trail. A challenging trail, but one that I think I’ll make it through to the end.
[Firewood photo from Wikimedia]