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.
Saturday, January 14, 2012
MAKING NATURAL PERFUMES AFFORDABLE
When I was at the Sweet Anthem shop in West Seattle the other day, I got to sample several all-natural perfumes that I’ve been hesitant to try because of the extremely high cost. With samples running $24/ml, that’s way out of my price range unless it’s a rare and wonderful vintage perfume that I’m dying to sniff once in my lifetime, before it goes away forever. All three perfumes I tried were nice, but not something I’d love enough to buy. The one that has garnered the most rave reviews and been nominated for a FiFi award was my least favorite of the lot. It just goes to show that not everyone’s tastes are the same, and price is not always relevant to perfume love. It also brought to the forefront of my mind the question of why so many all-natural perfumes are so outrageously expensive.
There are a number of natural perfumers whose creations I haven’t tried simply because of cost. I can’t justify it. For the price of a 2 ml bottle of perfume I could buy 2 ml of natural oud oil, 7 ml of osmanthus or pink lotus absolute, 50 g of ambroxan, 60 ml of frankincense oil, 90 ml of Haitian vetiver, a pound of top-quality Madagascar vanilla beans, or 2 pounds of Atlas cedar oil. Of course, most people wouldn’t want to buy any of those things, so they might as well go for the perfume, but in my case it’s a real consideration.
Unless you’re using real oud, aged Mysore sandalwood, certain flower absolutes, real animal-derived materials or other such exotic things, natural materials aren’t much more expensive than good quality aroma chemicals, some of which are actually quite pricey. In any case, the very expensive materials get mixed with less expensive ones, and then the concentrate gets diluted with alcohol or oil. Natural materials can be a pain to work with, but once you figure out how to deal with dissolving, filtering, and such, it becomes fairly routine. The mechanics of bottling, labeling, packaging, and marketing are the same regardless of what’s in the bottle. Many of the natural materials that smell best and contribute most to a perfume are not terribly expensive in the overall scheme of things. To me, the smell of the final product is what’s important, not the rarity or cost of the materials that go into the mix.
The high prices of so many all-natural perfumes have made me realize that it might be a good idea to create a line of high quality all-natural perfumes that ordinary people like myself can afford, or at least afford to sample. My Kyphi fragrance is all-natural, and although it does contain some expensive materials like French beeswax absolute and saffron absolute, they’re only a small proportion of the whole, so I can sell it for the same price as the mixed media perfumes. Some of my mixed media perfumes, like Salamanca, actually contain a much higher proportion of expensive materials, even though they’re not 100% natural, so “all-natural” is not synonymous with “all costly materials”.
I’ve written fairly detailed briefs to myself for six all-natural fragrances, which, along with Kyphi will make seven. Some of them are spin-offs of my mixed media fragrances for people who want all-natural formulas. They’re all designed to have decent sillage and good longevity, properties that are not at all difficult to achieve using 100% naturals. The first one is undergoing its rest period as I write this. I tried it on the back of my hand last night before I went to bed, and today at noon can still smell the base of balsams and labdanum absolute.
What do you think about all-natural fragrances? Leave a comment and be entered in a random drawing to win a Kyphi 5-ml travel spray. The winner will be selected on Tuesday, January 17.
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