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I sent out four samples to friends, so far two have reported receiving their packages. One had to be resent as the recipient lives in Vancouver and I was having some ish with the USPS. I forgot how many samples were sent to my Canadian friend so I just wrote “essential oils” with a value of $6 for customs. As I await feedback I am already working on a new blend using hinoki (Japanese cypress, but you already knew that), black currant, and citron. I am uncertain as what to call it, I am stuck on “Sunbathing,” “Summerhead,” and “Rakim.” I don’t think the last one will stick and I am leaning toward “Summerhead” as I continue smelling it. It could be a very clean masculine scent or a late evening fragrance for a woman in a dress.

I need to send out more samples to friends. It’s rare to ever hear me use the words “I need feedback.”

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I’ve been super happy with the version of Fat Electrician I created, and something in the vetiver made me think about rose. The combination of the two struck me as a romantic notion that could still translate as a masculine fragrance. I’ve also been singing “Sixteen Days” in my head a lot—Liz Fraser sang a cover of the Modern English song for This Mortal Coil. Not knowing where I would take the fragrance, I decided to christen its DNA with the song title.

I used Haitian vetiver exclusively for my version of Fat Electrician, but for this blend I opted for vetiver from Sri Lanka. The EO has a more smoky body, a certain depth that works in concert with the strong floral vitality of rose. At first I used patchouli, amber, and cedar in the base, only to discover that I wasn’t after woody or resinous notes in the blend. I feel like I lean quite heavily on tolu balsam but it is just so gosh darn versatile in its sweet and spicy quality. One drop too many, however…

The heart notes were just as tricky as the base: rosewood is fantastic as a bridge between notes because it just seems to blend so easily with EOs. However I was running into the same problem as previous with introducing woody notes so, rosewood had to go. I opted for orris but it can pack a punch while simultaneously softening a blend. Harkening to Fat Electrician, I decided olive would make an interesting addition to the heart.

I read somewhere once that lemon, bergamot, and lavender together create a “bright” note. I used lavender in the heart note to act as a transition for the lemon and bergamot in the top notes. The first two experiments used neroli, and unfortunately it used my remaining supply. I know I promised Justin that I would stick to the oils I already own but neroli is just too good to not keep around. Vetiver and orange are classic so, I figured what the heck. I topped off the top notes with blood orange—this EO seems to be the latest craze in modern blends (but that could be my apophenia talking).

The result is a warm, balsamic vetiver with bright, floral notes. I’m quite pleased with the final product, even if I used all the neroli I had left. sighs

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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.

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Saturday Justin and I went to Barney’s as I was almost out of Purifying Facial Exfoliant Paste from Aesop and wanted to buy another tube. The product line can be a little heavy-handed on the fragrance but oh, the magic in those tubes and containers. Don’t even get me started on the shave serum. Adjacent to the Aesop counter was the store’s collection of perfumes and colognes, including Black Afgano from Nasomatto.

Nasomatto created Black Afgano as an homage to quality hashish. I was intrigued by the use of cannabis whereas Justin was delighted by the use of wood for the bottle stopper. I sprayed his right wrist (he insisted) and we were treated to a wonderful opening of dark, strong woodsy notes. My nose didn’t pick up any cannabis, but the smell was so wonderful I wasn’t complaining. The fragrance retails for $185 which I found surprising as I actually thought it was more. It didn’t take long for the middle notes to give way to a powdery base that sat on Justin’s skin until he vigorously scrubbed his wrist.

I decided to have a go at the juice so, I looked on Fragrantica for the note composition. I expected to see Sandalwood in the base but it was Oud and Incense. That incense accord must have chock full of sandalwood to leave that lasting impression so strongly on Justin’s wrist. The middle notes were tobacco, coffee, woods, and resins. I have tried so many times to use coffee but that note is an elusive lil’ critter. The top notes are cannabis and green notes. If I wanted to make a successful blend, I had to start with creating incense, wood, and green accords.

What does it mean to be “green”? The notes are herbaceous and reminiscent of fresh-cut grass. Clary sage, juniper, cedarwood, and lavender feature heavily in green notes. I started with these four notes as my base. The resin galbanum is believed to impart a “green” note but it also has a lingering acrid smell. I used verbena to counter galbanum, and hay absolute to counter the verbena. Hay absolute is thick and requires a hot water bath to ensure blending. I felt like I was living an Alberto V05 commercial. Lastly I added seaweed absolute because I read somewhere that sea plants lend themselves beautifully as green notes. The final product was herbaceous and physically was the color green. I chalk that up to success.

The incense accord was not terribly difficult to create as I have oodles (OODLES!) of resins. Frankincense, olibanum, myrrh, opopanax, benzoin, labdanum, and a drop of sandalwood. Y’know, nothing crazy.

I am severely lacking a good, diverse amount of wood notes for a woodsy accord. My blend uses guaiacwood, cedar, patchouli, nagarmotha, cypress, and muhuhu. I would love to get my hands on Buddha wood, eaglewood, and oak wood, however I am trying to use what I already have because have I mentioned this is a very expensive hobby?

I created a trial batch of the juice and gave it a dip with a fragrance testing strip. The top note of cannabis was present and rather lovely with the green notes. The coffee notes is elusive as ever, but the woodsy note was uplifting. The base finished to a spicy oud attar, not at all powdery like Black Afgano. I was pretty darn happy with the finished product, to be honest. I wouldn&rsuqo;t mind if the woodsy notes were a bit deeper and I would love for the coffee note to make its presence known.

Resisting urge to look at essential oils online.

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