Wednesday, March 14, 2012

M’Eau Joe № 3: The Fragrance Brief

Opus Oils and Glass Petal Smoke are collaborating on another fragrance creation; M’Eau Joe № 3. The fragrance is inspired by three things that resonate with myself and perfumer Kedra Hart; rock 'n roll, the blues and perfume. (Confession: we're both rather fond of Jack White and have seen It Might Get Loud more times that we thought was humanly possible.) 

Fragrance briefs are designed to give direction to perfumers so what is imagined in words will result in a perfume that inspires emotions, memories and archetypes associated with the scent story. I've worked on few fragrance briefs in my day (can't say for who because of the non-disclosure agreements I've signed), but I can tell you that they come in all shapes and sizes. Some are elaborate and some are as short as a single page. Competitive fragrances are usually mentioned as are demographics targeted by age and gender. The essence of M’Eau Joe № 3 is not constrained by these requirements so you'll get to see creativity up close and personal; starting with the brief. 

As a perfumer, Kedra Hart will rely on the contents of the fragrance brief for inspiration and use what moves her to create a formula. The formula will be tweaked as part of the fragrance development process. Each variation of the formula is referred to as a "mod" in the business which is short for modification. Glass Petal Smoke will evaluate the mods and provide guidance in the development process, respecting the perfumer's style and the contents of the brief. Fasten your seat belts ladies and gents; it's going to be an interesting ride.    

M’Eau Joe № 3
A Fragrance Brief Prepared by Michelle Krell Kydd 
Presented to Kedra Hart of Opus Oils

M’Eau Joe № 3: The Scent
A fragrance inspired by the charismatic magnetism that is unique to musicians; blues/rock guitarists in particular. Subtext includes cooking and magic.

The Name:
·     A play on the word “mojo” referencing the term “eau” in perfumery. “Eau” is the French word for “water” in English and is the phonetic sound of pleasure often found in blues /rock songs.
·      “Joe” as a universal man’s name and a character in the Jimi Hendrix song “Hey Joe,” the first song to draw acclaim for the renowned guitarist on the English charts. 
·      Music and perfumery are linked. Base, middle and top fragrance “notes” reflect the rate of evaporation in a perfume, which in sum is referred to as a “composition.”
·      N°3 as a numeric reference that is pervasive in mythology and religion (life, death, and rebirth). The number three is known to be a favorite of musician Jack White.
·      “Mojo” is a spicy sauce used to marinade meat. It contains olive oil, garlic, paprika, cumin and citrus (usually lemon, orange, lime) or vinegar. Mojo originated in the Canary Islands and is common in the cuisine of Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean Islands.
·      “Mojo” can refer to a concealed cloth bag (red flannel) containing a magical charm and herbs that are carried for good luck. In “Hoodoo Theory and Practice,” Catherine Yronwode links scent and mojo, “…mojo hands are customarily fed with scented liquids that are themselves derived from various magical herbal ingredients -- herbal conjure oils, magical herbal-floral colognes, and even liquors such as whiskey ("water of life") in which herbs have been soaked. This is nature magic, the use of this earth's spiritual interweb of magically active beings, in which persons, animals, plants, and minerals are bound together in social patterns on an invisible plane.”

Defining Mojo:
Mojo says everything about being alive. Mojo gets inside a person’s soul, in the place where wonder, mystery and longing live, waiting to be stirred. How do you know you’ve encountered mojo? Your heart skips a beat in its presence and when the source of mojo is gone you are left with a combination of satisfaction and yearning. Mojo is pure unadulterated magic; the essence of the creative force of life. If you’ve got it you naturally give it, but no one can take it away from you unless you lose it, (this has been known to happen to several performers and self-proclaimed Casanovas).

The Connection between Mojo and Perfume:
Perfume is an invisible talisman of power meant to pleasure and attract. Perfumers alleged to have mojo by the perfumista digerati include: Christopher Sheldrake (under the direction of Serge Lutens, currently developing fragrances for Chanel), Maurice Roucel, Germaine Cellier, Yann Vasnier, Christophe Laudamiel, etc. Perfumers with mojo break olfactory barriers. They don’t think outside the box; they smash it to bits. They can’t help it. It’s who they are. Jimi Hendrix smashed guitars. Perfumers smash boundaries (and sometimes glass).

The fragrance could be housed in an amber bottle with potion-inspired labeling (retro chic rockin’ mad science kind of thing). Packaging should include a red velvet bag in homage to a mojo hand with a talisman hidden inside.

Inspiration for Creation:
 "I always return to the number three. I use it as a basis for everything I do. Red, white, black... Vocals, guitar, drums. Storytelling, rhythm, melody. I was also one of three upholsterers on my block growing up. The Holy Trinity, that's the big one." –Jack White of the White Stripes

Perfume101: Stealing Mojo (a story featured on Glass Petal Smoke)

Graphic for “M’Eau Joe № 3 is Cooking,” and “Mojo” perfume bottle designed by Michelle Krell Kydd. 
Photo of Jack White taken by Scott Penner at the Ottawa Blues Festival in 2009. Licensed via Creative Commons.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Olfactory Studies: Honeysuckle and Poplar Buds Absolute by Aftelier Perfumes

A perfume absolute is the concentrated aromatic essence of a plant. It is derived using solvents (hexane or liquid CO2) as opposed to steam distillation which is used to extract essential oils. An absolute is rich, complex and yields its character over time, a quality that halos the absolute as a perfect subject for olfactory study. The allure of terroir also adds to an absolute's intrigue, but its devastating beauty is what compels most.

Interest in difficult to find and renowned absolutes is growing among  independent perfumers who join traditional perfumers in a love affair with rare and sacred ingredients.  When Givaudan's Yann Vasnier created the a perfume based on Baudelaire's "Le Flacon" for Glass Petal Smoke, he described the pedigree of Rose de Mai absolute used to formulate the fragrance with the passion of a vintner, "It is from the famous rose fields of Grasse," he said, "fields adjacent to the same roses harvested for Chanel No. 5 and that is the best rose in perfumery."

Because absolutes are expensive one will not always find rare variations in the traditional perfumer's palette. This indulgence is left to independent perfumers and luxury niche brands who actively seek the rare and the sacred for their perfume formulas. Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes offers independent perfumers, fragrance enthusiasts, and collectors a carefully curated selection of raw materials. Aftel recently acquired Honeysuckle Absolute and Poplar Buds Absolute; the first is a rare essence, the latter is a sacred essence that has a history of healing and is respected among herbalists. Poplar Buds Absolute is commonly mistaken for the biblical Balm of Gilead that is derived from Balsam of Mecca (Commiphora gileadensis, syn. C. opobalsamum) which is related to myrrh. Poplar buds are used in salves as they possess healing properties that are anti-inflammatory, antipyretic and analgesic. These properties are due to the presence of salicylate precursors related to aspirin*.

Aftelier Perfume Poplar Buds Absolute is fruity, floral and animalic in nature. When smelled neat it can be slightly off-putting due to the initial aroma of overripe stone fruits. If given time to breathe Poplar Buds Absolute reveals a rich olfactory impression and is an ingredient worthy of the perfumer's palette. It follows the following pattern of evaporation over time:
Green - Acacia (Mimosa) Absolute 
Sweet - Cassis (Blackcurrant)
Floral - Genet (Broom)
Fruity - Osmanthus
Balsamic - Peru Balsam
Animalic - Beeswax, Leathery (Cistus Labdanum like)
Woody - Calmus
Honeysuckle Absolute is rarely used in perfumery because there is little of it to go around; it is simply too expensive to produce. Honeysuckle flowers emit their fragrance at dusk and the gathering of blossoms must occur at a specified time. Most "honeysuckle" perfumes on the market contain synthetic honeysuckle which has a musky citrus apricot quality resembling the fresh flower versus the complex character of an absolute.

Aftelier Perfume Honeysuckle Absolute is sourced from Italy. Little is known regarding the olfactory profile of Honeysuckle Absolute in general as it is so rare (little if any gas chromatography–mass spectrometry has been conducted on the raw material and there is no reliable data on its flashpoint and safety). Honeysuckle Absolute offers an aromatic impression that is less complex than Poplar Bud Absolute, but it engages the senses by telling the kaleidoscopic story of all narcotic florals (Tuberose, Jasmine, Orange Blossom, Magnolia, etc.) The character it reveals is one of a white floral vintage which evaporates in fits and starts before reaching a honeyed dry down that echoes the enigmatic scent of autumn outdoors. The order of olfactory impressions is contained in the accompanying graphic.

Experiencing the smell of something as complex as a perfume absolute takes patience and quietude. It can take a few hours to see how the aroma unfolds, but the process is rewarding with continued practice. Evaluating aromas teaches us to separate our likes and dislikes from what experience in the present. This allows us to savor the moment for what it has to offer. Glass Petal Smoke recommends cataloging sensory impressions in the form of an olfactory diary should you choose to take up olfactory study. Some aromatic qualities may be difficult to express in words which is as it should be. The savor of mystery is just as precious as a fleeting moment of perfection that can never be repeated.

Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes curates an interesting selection of essential oils and absolutes, as well as singular and compounded natural isolates.

Ryan Drum of Island Herbs has an interesting article on poplar bud harvesting with detailed information on the raw materials active constituents.

*Poplar Buds contain salicylates which can cause a reaction in people with aspirin allergies. If you have an aspirin allergy avoid poplar bud absolute.

Perfumer Christophe Laudamiel offers tips on how to smell perfume from a smelling strip (blotter) in this post on Glass Petal Smoke

Photo Credits:
Image of the poplar bud taken by photographer Marilylle Soveran and edited by Michelle Krell Kydd. It is licensed under Creative Commons.

Image of honeysuckle taken by AWA and edited by Michelle Krell Kydd is licensed under Creative Commons.

Images of Aftelier Perfume absolutes provided by Mandy Aftel, and edited by Michelle Krell Kydd.

Photo collage with absolutes and plant shots created by Michelle Krell Kydd using attributed images. Some rights reserved.

Photo of rosin by Just Plain Bill (Creative Commons). Quote from a letter to
Crawdaddy's editor by singer Patti Smith added by Michelle Krell Kydd. Some rights reserved.