The other night Justin and I went for a walk in our neighborhood. Now that we are homeowners, I suppose it’s only natural to walk past homes and find inspiration in our own home improvement ideas. But I digress. Springtime in Seattle means flowers are in bloom, and the delightful floral fragrances in the evening air delight with every inhalation. We have to be careful when we walk near the water as the smell of the sea plants can often be too much for my senses. I’ve tried in the past to blend seaweed absolute with florals but I don’t have all the right floral notes in my already insane collection of EOs. But I digress again.
As our walk home drew to a close, my nose caught a whiff of something in the air that specifically reminded me of birch tar and opopanax. I am trying my darnedest not to continue accumulating EOs and to work with what I have so, the fact that I already have both notes in my collection is a welcome relief. The smoky quality of birch tar is so unlike the wintergreen nature of birch, it’s almost unbelievable the two are derived from the same wood. Opopanax is quite strong on its own but it doesn’t have the strength to overpower birch tar. I immediately combined the two in a small vial, and then I paused. Now what?
I reached for oakmoss. I really have a love-hate relationship with this note and I suspect that is due to not knowing how to properly integrate it into a fragrance. The three notes maintained their composure without drastic side effects. I borrowed base notes from the fragrance I attempted to make for Justin – everything but white cognac (thank you, almost nonexistent fingerprints) – and brought the blend to my nose. So far, so good.
I recently discovered a fascination with combining cinnamon, rose, and carnation. These three notes together create an otherworldly accord that is simultaneously sweet, smoky and floral. Cinnamon has an innate ability to tame oakmoss in a way that few other notes can manage, and masculine nature of carnation brings balance to the femininity of rose. The heart notes were added to the base notes and I waited to see if the blend was structurally sound or ready to fall at a moment’s notice. Everything was just so.
I struggle with top notes because they can easily make or break a blend. It’s probably why so many experiments fall apart at the end when I add too much citrus or angelica root instead of seed. Top notes are meant to open the fragrance and then quickly make way for the heart, and I can’t think of a better “here today, gone yesterday” note than coffee. I opted to give coffee the headliner it deserves and add nothing else. The blend was complete.
I brought the juice to my nose and inhaled. It was good. Really good. But there was something missing. If I were to offer this as the third version of Justin’s fragrance, it lacked the Scotch whisky note he wanted. I no longer had any white cognac so, how am I going to add a Scotch note?
Justin doesn’t read this blog – hell, I would be surprised if anyone reads this blog – thus I can write this without fear of reprisal: I went to the liquor cabinet and selected an open bottle of Scotch whisky. I already added oakmoss to the blend so, I opted for a whisky with the least amount of peat. Using a long pipette I drew just enough milliliters of whisky to top off the vial half-full of juice. Before my eyes the whisky turned cloudy and I cursed under my breath. Well, that was a waste of good whisky. I returned the bottle of whisky to its rightful place in the liquor cabinet and called it a day.
And then something magical happened. The clouds parted and the whisky became one with the juice. The coffee notes contain actual coffee bean and created a light layer of sediment in the vial. But the blend was a deep caramel color. I added a drop to my left wrist and quickly brought it to my nose in anticipation. Holy Mother Malt, this blend is magical. More importantly, I successfully tamed oakmoss!
The only note missing from Justin’s original request is kitten kisses. If kittens drank Scotch I would christen this blend Kitten Kisses. Instead I’m calling it evol. Already I’m breaking protocol by not naming it after a 4AD song, however I recently finished reading Girl In A Band by Kim Gordon and I absolutely loved her memoir—never mind my already existing love for Sonic Youth.
If – if – I were to someday go commercial with my hobby, I would need to contact the Scotch whisky company and reach some kind of license agreement to legally incorporate their handiwork into mine. In the meantime, this blend will be my first fragrance in an underground speakeasy fashion.