Kyukyodo Incense for Sale

I still have the following Kyukyodo incenses for sale, please write me at sigil23 at sign comcast.net if you’re interested in any of the following. Supplies are extremely limited and will discuss postage and insurance by e-mail only during the evenings. Please check the Kyukyodo catalog page to the left for what descriptions there are for these…

50 sticks of Mizuho (Rose), 50 sticks of Hikari (Jasmine), 50 sticks of Mayumi (Violet), 75 sticks of Hakubaikoh (sandalwood), and 75 sticks of Zuifu (sandalwood/aloeswood mix). $65 for each set of five plastic tubes (I have 2 of these sets)

I have 3 rolls of the aloeswood incense Unkoh in the original roll for $60 a roll. All 3 rolls with the original box for $150 (box originally held 5).

I have 1 box of Umegaka 75g $60

Top Ten Mukhallats (Arabian Perfume Oils)

“Mukhallat” is an Arabic word that means “mix”. Although many mukhallats use the same basic ingredients the variations, for example, in species of rose, whether the musk is plant or animal based, the povenance of a specific oud, the amber recipe, additional essential oils or synthetics, and the quality and quantity of individual ingredients, is what distinguishes them.

Below is a list of favorite mukhallats. In this post I’ve attempted to familiarize the reader with the most common ingredients, and to list examples from large, well-established companies as well as smaller, niche perfumers.

Al Yaqoot, (Aluwwah.com)- -This mukhallat is a bit of a tease – it smells parched and chalky one moment, and rich and sumptuous the next. A combination of the highest quality rose oils enriched with sandalwood, musk, ambergris, and other exotic resins and spices, this perfume is equally suitable for men or women. The many different roses create a feeling of glamour and luxury, the musk and frankincense add a provocative and untamed sensuality, and the amber and sandalwood add creaminess and depth to the dusty notes that unexpectedly appear and then disappear as the perfume unfolds.

There are other less expensive blends on the Aluwwah website which would be an excellent introduction to this genre.

Prince Bandar, (AgarscentsBazaar.com)- This heady blend features rose, oud, musk, ginger and patchouli. From the notes I would have expected a slightly herbal and sassy scent but rose (red, round, bountiful) and musk (powdery but potent) are the real stars. There is nothing understated about Prince Bandar. The intensity and power of this blend suit its namesake who was a fighter pilot, as well as a Prince.

Amir Meshaal, (Abdul Samad Al Qurashi. Available through  shop@agaraura.com)- Although not very complex, the superior quality of rose, oud, amber and musk in this perfume is what earns it a place in the top 10. The oud used is the renowned Kalakassi, an Indian oil distilled from 80 year old trees. The refinement and aplomb of Kalakassi, coupled with the dry spiciness of amber, gives Amir Meshal a dignity and hauteur not always present in such rich blends.

King Fahed, (ArabianOud.co.uk)- King Fahed contains many of the same ingredients as Prince Bandar but it is more subtle, more refined and more balanced. The first “Arabian” perfume I feel in love with, King Fahed is a harmonious symphony of delicacy and grace in which the notes merge together so effortlessly it’s as though they’re perceived as a single element. Unfortunately it is very expensive, and the only way I can justify having purchased it is to remind myself that the scent is extremely long lasting, and  that I always feel very elegant and sophisticated when I wear it.

Prince Diamini, (ArabianOud.co.uk))- for those who love “sillage monsters” Prince Diamini is certain to fit the bill.  This fragrance is BIG- so big that you might be accused of being politically incorrect if you dare to wear it in a crowded elevator. The rose in Prince Diamini is listed as “wild” rose, which doesn’t surprise me. This rose hasn’t been tamed by over breeding. In fact it’s easy to think of it as a wild rambler that’s irrepressible and uncontainable. The clove and pepper add a little bit of “kick” to this reckless blend, oud adds animalic power and ambergris accentuates al the notes. . Beware of getting any on your clothing- it’s likely to outlast at least a few washes.

Rahil, (ArabianOud.co.uk))- This one is for the ladies 🙂  The addition of saffron, , cinnamon and cardamon to the usual rose, musk and oud gives this blend a distinctly gourmand edge, with the exotic sweet and soft spiciness of saffron in the forefront. This  spicy perfume seems perfect for Autumn, when the airiness of Spring and the floral headiness of summer are about to become sweet memories.

Mukhallat Dehen Al Oud Moattaq, (Ajmal; available on Aluwwah.com)- The usual oud, flowers and spices have made it into the mix, but the absence of musk  and the presence of herbs makes this blend feel light, spicy, dry and very masculine . In fact, if I had to use one adjective to describe this perfume it would be “brawny”, although some men feel it is more of a woman’s scent, maybe because rose is clearly there.  But to me this blend feels as though it’s been stripped of its gushing prettiness. Its leaves feel dry and crumbly, and it’s prickly thorns come to mind more than its delicate petals.  There is also a lot of saffron in this blend which adds an element of mystery and intrigue to the mix.

Syoufi Sandal,  (Areej Al Ameerat)-  Although there may be sandalwood in some of the above perfumes it’s in such a small quantity that I’m unable to smell it.  Syoufi Sandal, on the other hand, is predominantly a sandalwood scent, and although it doesn’t contain the buttery, creamy, smooth sandalwood I prefer it’s very refreshing to smell a mukhallat in which sandalwood is featured. This sandalwood smells somewhat sharp and stern; nevertheless it’s a nice compliment to the quieter oud which, for a change, is subservient to it’s less acknowledged sibling. The scent is ultra dry and woody, and feels very grounding, strengthening and calming.

Al Hamra, (ArabianOud.co.uk))- Although this isn’t one of my personal favorites I would like to include it because it’s the only Arabian perfumes I’m aware of that has ever been nominated for a Fifi award. With notes of apple blossom, jasmine, lilac, and balsam in addition to the usual rose and musk, Al Hamra has a more “Western” feel and will appeal to women who prefer lighter, fruitier fragrances. The apple in Al Hamra is more green than sweet, it’s crispness enhanced by the addition of balsam to the blend.  The lighter florals enhance the juiciness of the apples.

Al Arabiya, (AgarAura.com)- One thing that causes me to give a perfume high marks is it’s complexity and ability to show different facets as it develops. Al-Arabiya is one such creation.  It is constantly shifting, each shimmering nuance (floral, resinous, spicy, herbal, earthy- jasmine, frankincense, cloves, tobacco, henna to name a few), revealing unique and distinct impressions while we journey down a winding path through the alleyways of a Middle Easter souk. Every clear and rippling note echoes at a different interval and I never know which elements are going to flow together and form a surprising and delightful alliance. This perfume is as beautiful as it is exciting, and is much more affordable than many of the other perfumes on this month’s top 10.  I have purchased many unusually creative and fascinating mukhallats from Agar Aura, however this is the only perfume currently available on the website.

When I first discovered Arabian mukhallats I began to lose interest in “Western” perfumes; they smelled meek, synthetic and lackluster by comparison. After almost exclusively smelling “Arabian” scents for a couple of years many of them seemed formulaic and uncreative. Now there is a place for both “styles” in my perfume collection, and I am excited to see how Eastern and Western tastes and styles interact, develop and expand in years to come.

Changes

There seem to be quite a lot of changes going on in the incense world, which are becoming more and more apparent. A major one is that the cost of the raw materials to make incense (as well as natural based perfumes and ouds) has been steadily rising for the last few years. This year has seen drastic price increases in sandalwood and agarwood. Much of this is happening because the supply of “wild harvested” wood is becoming much more limited as it becomes harder to find. It has also become much harder to get any of the woods, at any price. There is a real limit to how much is still available; it is not something that can be cultivated (at least not yet). This same process is happening to many of the most popular ingredients, to the point where it is becoming impractical to use them in the quantities they were used in, in the past.

Recently I noticed at least a 30% bump in retail sandalwood and agarwood prices within Japan. It’s worse over the last few years. A fifteen-gram bag of SS grade Jinko that sold for 7200 yen in 2009 is now at 18,500 yen. There are lots of rumors that people or even countries are buying up stock, which will drive prices even higher. Logic would point to big price increases by all the incense makers, not to mention formula changes as a way to keep prices down or offering lesser amounts of sticks in a bundle at current prices. All this appears to be happening, although very few makers are talking about it, at least anywhere the average buyer can find. Which is where the importers are caught in the middle, once you order and pay for and then receive a large order getting a refund or replacement for incense (or rose, jasmine, etc)that is not up to the quality you expected becomes a very difficult task.

To add more fuel to the fire currency rate fluctuations are all over the board so (for the dollar) one’s money does not go as far. The dollar has fallen off about 50 points in the last two years to the yen. If you are an importer of incense right now that means your wholesale profit margin is pretty much gone, one might say, literately, up in smoke.

I notice in our site that there is mention of changes in the scents of a number of incenses from many manufactures lately. Mike’s recent piece pointed out some from a number of the Indian and Tibetan makers and I have seen mention of similar differences from some of the Japanese makers.

Incense, much of which use natural materials has always been subject to change as there are always differences between different batches of the woods or spices/herbs/etc. that go into them, this is very much what all people who work in the scent industry (at any level) go through when ordering a new, say, jasmine absolute or sandalwood or even just trying to restock from the same supplier. One can pretty much count on having to make some adjustments to achieve a similar scent profile for a specific perfume or incense. This goes on all the time; in fact I think that a lot of the training that an incense master (in any country) or perfumer goes through is based on being able to recreate a specific scent profile with the materials that are currently available. I think that this is becoming harder and harder and in some cases not even possible as supplies (especially high quality woods) become increasingly difficult to get at a price that is economically realistic.

There are a huge amount of reviews at ORS, probably more then anywhere else, yet I am starting to see where they may no longer be accurate given all the changes that are going on. I have seen people get upset because our reviews may no longer hold true, or their nose is not the nose or esthetic of the reviewer.  I would like to point out that we are in no way “professional incense reviewers”. We do it because we like the stuff and are crazy enough to buy incense in the amounts that we do. Nor do we get subsidized or bank rolled by any of the makers or sellers. Sometimes we get samples, but then again we also buy a lot. Right now I would be hesitant to make large purchases, unless it was something I had just sampled. Even then it is going to be a gamble.

In this country we assume everything is standardized in quality and will stay that way, no matter where it comes from. That has never been true and is less so now. The people who bring incense into the country are taking huge chances with a lot of money. They are also the same people who took the time to put together the network of communication and trust to get the process rolling. I am quite sure they did so and continue to do so because they feel a commitment to their customers, it for sure is not because they are making any large profits, which have been cut even more of late.

So it is “buyer and importers beware” at the moment and probably for the foreseeable future. Enjoy what you have, be sensible in your purchases, life goes on.

OK, now back to looking for that 15 gram bag of Jinko buried in my closet!

The Incense Market

Over the next few weeks, we’re going to be bringing up incense issues that have to do with the way the market is operating currently. One of the main issues we’ll be talking about is the wave of companies who are changing their incense formulas unexpectedly and how this affects the incense business. This is happening more and more frequently, where we’ll review an incense here favorably only for a new batch of it to come in and be a completely different and inferior incense.

This is a complicated issue that affects everyone from buyers to vendors. It’s completely understandable that the rarity of ingredients is causing some companies to change their incenses, but unfortunately a lot of these companies aren’t telling their distributors they’re doing this. The problem for ORS is that in order to be as honest as we can about what incenses you’re buying, when a company makes this change without telling the distributor and we have to report it, we’re essentially killing the stock of those companies who are taking the risk to bring good incenses to the country.

So we’re going to explore these issues more visibly over the next few weeks because generally speaking there’s no easy fix to this, other than the companies informing the distributors. Of course with all the language and cultural differences this probably isn’t easy either. But I am considering a hall of shame for companies who do this. I’m looking at Purelands, R-Expo and Highland for starters.

Keep also in mind that we often hear about incense changes and don’t always experience them ourselves. In the above instances someone was kind enough to send along samples. As time permits we will be sharing this information, but given the complexity of these issues and how they affect everything, these will be controversial issues to discuss and deal with but not too controversial that we can’t all be civil and understanding about it.

Anyway until we’re ready with more writing, discussion of this is open on this thread.

Shoyeido / Floral World / Gold (Pine, Violet, Jasmine)

Shoyeido / Floral World / Echo
Shoyeido / Floral World / Royal
Shoyeido / Floral World / Star

It has been a while since we covered a Shoyeido incense and in that time I realized we’d never discussed the most inexpensive assortment of Floral World incenses. In the meantime it seems the company has discontinued either part of the line or the entire line (I couldn’t find a link to this one in the Shoyeido catalog, but Essence of the Ages seems to have stock still). so you’re left with what is a 60 stick box, 20 short sticks per aroma.

It’s probably helpful to look at the whole series in terms of its gradient. At the top end in the Star set you have some of the finest modern florals on the market. The ingredients used are extremely high quality and it gives a definition to the florals that is a really rare thing for any incense. This extreme definition is gone with the Royal set, but generally speaking you’re still getting very high quality florals with slightly more static aromas. With Echo you’re definitely a step down and getting close to more of what you see floral wise on the Japanese market. When you get down to Gold what you’re mostly smelling is the moden process involved in the work and the way that process makes the incenses sweet and friendly, however by the Gold they’re starting to lose a lot of individual personality.

For instance, I’m not sure Pine would even be something I’d get out of the set’s red stick, although this is not a suprise given the previous sets’ sandalwoods tend to the floral and not the traditional. This is sugary, sweet, loud and brash , unsurprisingly not bearing any of the subtlety of the higher ranges, while still being a friendly incense in its own right. At this level, however, I get subscents like berry candles and the side effects of the massive perfume hit these incenses are given. The incense in itself is actually not bad, but I think I get a bit of dissonance when I try to think of it as a pine incense.

The Violet is a little thin in the middle and it’s impossible not to think of how wonderful the higher end violet is in the Floral World series. It seems that some of the incenses in the entire series might use some resins to give it some middle, but whatever it is that causes that effect is missing here. Like the Pine, there isn’t so much a specific violet aroma as there is an approximation of it. Maybe in another company such lack of distinction would lead to a poor incense, but again this is certainly nice and friendly just not very specific.

The Jasmine feels like a fainter, less quality version of the Floral World royal jasmine, again the lack of distinction is what really sets these apart from the other incenses in the series. It’s puffy, sweet, overperfumed yet friendly and like the other incenses in the box, I can’t help but sense similarities to the Nippon Kodo Yume no Yume line in terms of what they’re trying to do.

Obviously this Floral World line is priced so that the more you pay the better the quality of incense and really it’s much easier to recommend the better ones even at those prices. These are nice, but it wouldn’t shock me if this really was deleted.

Shroff Channabasappa / Dry Masala / Paris Beauty, Rose, Sachet, White, Woods

Shroff Channabasappa Part 1
Shroff Channabasappa Part 2
Shroff Channabasappa Part 3
Shroff Channabasappa Part 4
Shroff Channabasappa Part 5
Shroff Channabasappa Part 6
Shroff Channabasappa Part 7
Shroff Channabasappa Part 8
Shroff Channabasappa Part 9
Shroff Channabasappa Part 10
Shroff Channabasappa Part 11
Shroff Channabasappa Part 12
Shroff Channabasappa Part 13
Shroff Channabasappa Part 14
Shroff Channabasappa Part 15

This is the final installment (starting with Part 14) of Shroff dry masalas that covers everything up to the latest batch.

Paris Beauty, like Nine Flowers from the last installment, is another wood-based floral and the results are quite harsh. Even trying to distinguish what perfume is being attempted feels like breathing sawdust. It’s just too unpleasant an experience to work, a cheap perfume in a wood shop. To even discuss the florals doesn’t seem worthwhile as they’re masked and interfered with by the base from bottom to top.

The Rose would have been totally redundant with the Rose Masala, but since it strikes me as slightly better and not quite so sickly incense, it’s worth mentioning as an upgrade. As you might expect this isn’t a true rose scent, but it’s a decent floral aroma and still a rough toss in the rose direction. Amazingly, the base is slightly less harsh here than the lion’s share of incenses in this group.

Sachet is a bizarre name for another campfire blend, there’s a huge difference between dry herbs and this sort of harsh burning, bitter mix, like a bonfire of twigs. It’s very hard to see the point of this, it’s harsher than a lot of low grade Tibetans.

The White is so redundant and interchangeable with Kapoor Kacheri or Masala that you have to wonder why the company bothered with any of them. It has lighter touches like the Nagarmotha at times, but for the most part this still smells like burning two by fours with some of the paint still on them.

Don’t let the name Woods make you think it will be a better incense, quite frankly it’s difficult to tell from the aroma what woods were even used. The result is cheap and slightly alkaline, maybe even a little briny. It smells a little like a very cheap chandan sandalwood turned bad. Even if you like random firewood smoke, this still might strike you as off. Seems like just another way of making some money off sawdust to be honest.

Anyway, I can’t imagine most ORS readers will be happy with most of the last three installments of incenses, other than the Chypre these are usually very harsh, cheap woody sticks that barely differ one from the next. I don’t mean to pick on Shroff since they’re still practically the leader in Indian incense, but there’s really no excuse for this batch.

Shroff Channabasappa / Dry Masala / Masala, Mysore Dashang, Nagarmotha, Nargis Natural, Nine Flowers

Shroff Channabasappa Part 1
Shroff Channabasappa Part 2
Shroff Channabasappa Part 3
Shroff Channabasappa Part 4
Shroff Channabasappa Part 5
Shroff Channabasappa Part 6
Shroff Channabasappa Part 7
Shroff Channabasappa Part 8
Shroff Channabasappa Part 9
Shroff Channabasappa Part 10
Shroff Channabasappa Part 11
Shroff Channabasappa Part 12
Shroff Channabasappa Part 13
Shroff Channabasappa Part 14

This group continues looking at the dry masalas from recent Shroff batches that started in Part 14.

The Masala is not very different at all from Kapoor Kacheri (is calling an incense Masala mean this is like a generic?) and especially from Natural Masala of which this seems a variant. It’s a mixture of cheap scented burning woods and leaves, mixed with a slight bit of sweetness. Like a lot of incenses in this group, its main feature is just being boring, Woody masalas of this quality are likely to do little more than irritate your sinuses.

Once again, the Mysore Dashang is a highly dry, woddy masala style, but at least in this case there’s a move to create a more distinct aroma out of it. It’s not a great one, it still kind of has the harvesty quality of burning leaves, but at least here the sandalwood is a touch sweet so the overall stick isn’t as harsh as some of the others in this group. Overall it seems a waste of time and money when you compare this to the wet masalas.

The Nagarmotha has a light, grassy aroma that smells like a quality brush fire. Like so many incenses in this batch, this has cheap wood and a tedious base. All of these tend to run together after a while, even after a half to a dozen sticks there doesn’t appear to be anything to lift these above almost any of the other incenses the company creates.

The Nargis Natural is unnecessary, really, with the much more distinct 1931 scent available. This is similar in style to the Rose Natural, with a gentle floral scent buried in a sandalwood/cheap wood/benzoin mix. Like the others, this is kind of harsh, but at least you do get an idea of the flower scent. But again, very fair overall.

The Nine Flowers came in the same batch as the Bakhoor and Paris Beauty, along with the wet masalas. Like its name it contains a combination of florals that ends up scented like pink valentine candies. However one might expect the word “Natural” here similar to the Rose Natural and Nargis Natural as like those this is a wood based floral that’s really not the best way to portray gentle floral scents. However, of this group this is marginally the best.

Paris Beauty, Rose, Sachet, White and Woods up next installment.

Shroff Channabasappa / Dry Masala / Bakhoor, Basil Amber, Cedar, Chypre, Kapoor Kacheri

Shroff Channabasappa Part 1
Shroff Channabasappa Part 2
Shroff Channabasappa Part 3
Shroff Channabasappa Part 4
Shroff Channabasappa Part 5
Shroff Channabasappa Part 6
Shroff Channabasappa Part 7
Shroff Channabasappa Part 8
Shroff Channabasappa Part 9
Shroff Channabasappa Part 10
Shroff Channabasappa Part 11
Shroff Channabasappa Part 12
Shroff Channabasappa Part 13

It can’t be a secret how much I love the incense from Shroff Channabasappa, but it was in this batch (which will cover the next three installments) where the company has made some serious missteps in what they’ve been deciding to import (they’ve of course made up for this in the last two waves of wet and semidry masalas). In fact many of the larger packages of these incenses have already been cut to move and there’s good reason for it.

I find the sorting schematic for Shroff to generally be problematic, because even though all of these are listed under dry masalas, Bakhoor is a charcoal and most of the rest of this group aren’t nearly as perfumed or intense as most of the other incenses in the same grouping. Bakhoor means well but doesn’t perform well at all, almost entirely due to the charcoal base, which seems to be more offputting than usual for the style. It’s slightly thicker than these sticks usually are and as such it puts out an almost suffocating level of smoke, a level where it would be difficult for any aroma to fight over. You would think Shroff’s perfuming skills would help matters, but unfortunately this ends up being more reminiscent of synthetic perfume oils on cheap bakhoors (although to be fair there are a lot of true bakhoors like this) than deep oud woods or amber. Some of the elements here might have worked better with some adjustment but without an aggressive base, the charcoal ends up taking its place, something you don’t want. The results ring hollow, a sort of pseudo-bakhoor scent with weird citrus subnotes around the edges.

The basil (or tulsi) oil in the Basil Amber is quite nice, it brings out its vivacious green qualities, but the overall incense is a stranger fit. The base stick is sort of vaguely reminiscent of one of the other Shroff ambers, but only their least desirable qualities come out underneath the basil oil onslaught. There’s a bit of sandalwood or benzoin that gives the middle a weakness since it doesn’t seem to merge with the perfume. It’s almost worth owning if you really need a basil in your mix, but as an incense it’s mediocre.

Althought it’s hard to get excited about another Cedar incense, at least with this version we’re getting a new take. The qualities here are high altitude and evergreen, rather than the sweet Madhavadas style masalas. This brings it a bit closer in style to something Tibetan. Its slightly pungent in the end and feels perhaps as authentic as you’d hope, but it’s inevitable campfire associations will be evoked.

Of this batch, the Chypre is probably the most successful, possibly because it’s more akin to the original Shroff releases in terms of perfume intensity. In fact the closest previous Shroff to this style is the Parrot Green Durbar, sweet, sour and citrus, with a nice bit of breadth to it. I’ve found a lot of the sticks faulty in my batch, however, many of them going out at least once in the first inch and some going out later. But it’s essentially a unique enough aroma (it’s much more balanced then the PGD) to be worth checking out, however, it seems pretty obvious this is new enough that not everyone will like it.

The Kapoor Kacheri is a perfect example of how I feel like much of this batch was Shroff getting rid of cheap materials. It’s an extremely dull masala with a very basic campfire/wood scent that does little to distinguish itself from, say, natural masalas. It smells a lot like leaves burning and seems hastily thrown together.

The thrashing continues next installment…

Create Something Beautiful

Two weekends  ago I got to take my fourth class with Mandy Aftel at her studio in Berkeley, CA. It was once again time to revisit the “The Room of Many Bottles Full of Good Smells”. After the class was over I had time for reflection; which during the class one generally doesn’t; there is a lot happening and a limited amount of time to do it all in. It is an interesting paradox to say the least. The class tends to be divided up into Mandy speaking on various topics and actual cord or perfume making. The commentary from Mandy is really insightful and comes from many years of being in the busness and art of perfume making.  I think the comment that really struck me was “Making perfume is the art of learning to create something beautiful” There are many different levels to this seemingly simple statement and they might depend on culture, personal preferences and artistic inclinations. Perfume is generally something that one wants either on their bodies or in the environment nearby. It should invoke an emotion and mindset that is [usually] pleasurable and perhaps leads to other actions. Most of us wear perfumes or colognes because we want to attract others attention in a positive way, which the larger perfume makers spend an exorbitant amount of money on to convince us will indeed happen by wearing their products.

Making “something beautiful” is not an easy undertaking in the world of perfumery, there is a very step learning curve and a constant and never ending educational process that is always happening for any professional perfumer I have meet or read about. During the weekend Mandy pulled out a box of scent tests she had done, it was one box of a large collection and I have a feeling every time a new material from a different supplier or a new batch from the same supplier comes in; guess what? Retesting commences soon after opening that wonderful new flask of rose, neroli or whatever because they are naturals and there are changes between each and every batch. To really work with scent you need to lay down a mental map of the different odors of the materials you work with as well as how they interact with each other. This is a huge but very necessary endeavor. Much of the perfume making process happens in a perfumers mind, deciding on the starting two or three materials that you want to work around and maybe how they could work together and perhaps a theme or inspiration that incorporates them.

A structured approach to the creation process is also very necessary to have mastered and hold to, this is something Mandy talked about quite a lot. Without structure it becomes a free for all and you end up with a muddy mess and no idea where it went wrong. It also takes some real self-harnessing, or as Mandy said “Ask yourself why you are going to put something in.” The wrong answer is “because it’s beautiful”, better would be “because it will give the texture (or whatever other quality you need here) to the scent I am looking for”.  It is very obvious from watching her at work how dedicated she is to her art, and the countless hours that go into it to make it work in a seemingly effortless way. It is quite fun to watch how passionate she is about what she does all the way through sourcing the materials, putting a scent together, figuring out the packaging and then being able to pass it on to others. A great series to look at to see some of this is at Nathan Branch’s blog. It gives one a very rare look at the actual thinking process involved with two different perfumers (in this case Mandy and Dawn Spencer Hurwitz), there are a number of these pieces on his blog and they are priceless for their insight of some of the best in the perfume business.

This brings up another aspect to this profession that people tend to overlook, which is; you will end up throwing out a huge amount of tests, hopeful attempts and outright mistakes that just didn’t work. I think this is pretty true of any artistic undertaking, I distinctly remember a lot of load yelling and cursing from my glass blowing days as I ever so craftily made a mistake on the chemistry of a large batch of glass any number of times (damn that Happy Hour the night before). It is simply an aspect of the business that you accept going into it. But most people never look at this when they start thinking about being a perfumer. It is by no means a warm and fuzzy moment when you are smelling, say test number twenty or so, and realize it is just not going to work and you simply dump ( between that on and it’s nineteen buddies) a small fortune down the drain.

The great thing about the class setting is that there are many people there of like mind, who have some idea of what is going on and you get to bounce ideas off each other and learn from each others success’s and mistakes. You also get to use pretty much all the assorted materials that Mandy has collected over the years. It is also a great opportunity to work outside your comfort zone and receive meaningful suggestions on how to solve problems you might run up against. It also lets you shift mental gears from your regular world and keeps your thinking flexible and opens up new possibilities for ideas that were not seemingly there before. Last but not least, it is great fun. There is also a lot of laughter and comradely, which is a good thing and not to be overlooked.

OK, its time now to go check on the progress of test number twenty one, hope springs eternal!  –Ross