|Creating an Artful & Therapeutic Signature Fragrance|
My vision for the fragrance has always been to see it as a natural extension of my passion for the botanical arts.
Moreover, it will be a kind of tribute to my adored father, George, who bestowed that Duchess nickname upon me when I was a child. Hard to believe my Father left this world 10 years ago...
He was and always will be my inspired, creative muse - in no small part because he taught us kids how to look at the majesty of nature, to take regular forest walks and hikes with him - careful to observe/not disturb, to look at the glory of the sky and ephemeral shape-shifting clouds, to stop and smell the roses - and other pretty flowers and, well -- always and completely embrace the seasons, natural habitats, and the artful aesthetics of an arcadia that delights all our senses.
So you see, I’ve long been smitten with an aspiration to design a true -- and affordable luxury -- to create and share a fragrance that tells a natural - and personal story…
You may be tempted to ask, “How can a fragrance tell a story?”
|Limbic System in our Brain|
Most every home featured a lilac shrub or two - so the combination of the enduring scent and mothers is quite evocative. That’s just one example of how scent and memory are linked.
My dream for the Duchess perfume would be to embrace and capture not only the pure organic oils (vs. the chemicals abundant in most commercial fragrances) - but to also blend with the essence of certain scented elements of nature with those memory-stimulating scents that are important to me and my memories or dreams...
I’ve made no secret of my desire to design a custom, branded perfume that will combine my favorite floral scents - some exotic from afar and some personal, local, and historically forgotten; along with the healing and therapeutic - and re-discovered - healing properties of plants’ essential oils.
The history of perfume itself is a swoon-worthy field of study all its own. Lust, love, and culture blend into heady scents, romantic legends, and powerful dramas filled with emotion.
Add in the artful and vintage decanters and atomizers perched on a beguiling, romantically-arranged vanity or table -- along with elegant, mobile perfume alembics -
|Alembic example -Photo: Met Museum|
I learned of a perfume making program in Grasse, France - the acknowledged, historial, world capital of perfume-making. I researched -- and am most excited to plan next year’s student experience.
But in a kind of prelude -- I signed on for The New York Botanical Garden’s “Essential Oil Perfume Workshop” as a kind of training wheel, scent-making class. I could learn some basics and see if I had a talent or faculty for this artisanal endeavor…
The day of the workshop was a beautiful August day -- and I was not only excited to spend a morning learning about perfume but also was to meet a favorite friend post class, for a “Ladies Who Lunch” - with one of my most treasured friends, Joanne. It was one of those rare, perfect days.
According to the class description we were to learn:
- The history of perfume
- What are essential oils
- Essential oil uses
- Discussion of specific essential oils
- Carrier oils and their properties
- How to create scents
- How to create solid perfumes, roll-on perfumes, and aromatherapy sprays
- We were also going to learn blending techniques -- and key: how to identify and keep perfume “notes.”
- Safety tips.
- Recommends using latex gloves (I didn’t!)
How was the class? As the French say - Encroyable! The morning sped by - the instruction and hands-on workshop was fascinating and fun - and all of us students left with three fragrances we created ourselves, made with carrier and essential oils: a solid, wax-based one, a roll on, and an aromatherapy room spray.
While I love to learn most anything -- I daresay I could study these elements exclusively for the next decade or more...
The course offered an overview of how perfume could be traced back thousands of years to an ancient Egyptian tradition, beloved by Cleopatra -- a great dame if there ever was one. We learned ancient folks used flowers, bark, and roots boiled in water to create fragrance. Centuries later, the French refined the extraction methods. Madame Pompadour - member of the French court, art patron, and mistress of Louis XV is a legend - said to have first used perfume as part of her seduction thereby making fragrance popular and forever a key part of romancing.
Today, distillation remains the main way we get essential oils - which is concentrated plant oils from those roots, seeds, bark, flowers, and leaves. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.
Before we got to the hands-on part of the workshop, our instructor, Karine Gordineer - a knowledgeable, experienced, and supportive, self-described “green girl,” a master herbalist, plant spirit, and a healing and shamanic practitioner. She had everything set up for the students; first reviewing a handout brimming with a list of more than three pages of essential oils and their descriptions - from Amber to Ylang Ylang - along with their plant pedigree and their historical uses.
We learned what essential oils and carrier oils and their properties are. You can too. You can reference Gordineer, take a class, research, and/or as she recommends, read the books: The A to Z of Essential Oils by E. Joy Bowles.
And Kaitlin Stone’s book, Organic Perfume: 55 Ultimate Recipes for Beginners
- Look for Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils
- Some essential oils are quite expensive so be mindful of what you’re buying. You can use some blends to stretch your investment and creative fragrance-making.
- Start with a few Essential Oils - don’t buy everything that strikes your fancy
- Work with the oils in a well-ventilated room
- When creating or making your fragrance, add the Essential Oils one drop at a time - Build your Fragrance
- Black Pepper Essential Oil can be a “fixer” - tying together other scents
- Use airtight Essential Oil bottles with screw tops. Air will diminish oil scent.
- Keep Essential Oil bottles away from light.
- You should date your oil bottles
- Write down the number of drops you add when creating a blend
- When blending, mix Base and Middle Notes, then stir. Give it some time. Smell, stir, then add the Top Notes one drop at a time.
- Creating scents is a little like music - the different notes interact with one another creating something new and different
|A variety of Essential Oils were set up for us to experience and use|
The Notes are the Anatomy of a Fragrance
Base Notes: Simple is best. Three essential oils as Base is maximum. Makes up 50% of a blend. Approximately 25 essential oil drops. The Base is the foundation and the heavier element that will linger on the skin.
Examples of Base Notes:
Examples of Middle Notes:
- Black Pepper
Examples of Top Notes:
- Clary Sage
|My first fragrance blending up|
|Taking Notes of the Fragrance Notes!|
2-ounce dark colored glass spray bottle with spray top
1 ½ ounces distilled water
¾ ounce witch hazel
15-20 drops of essential oil blend
Glass to mix oils
Blend your essential oils
Add to the bottle
Store away from light and heat
I hope you enjoy creating your own, natural, organic fragrances and perfumes. It’s an affordable luxury - and a very personal one too. That’s glamorous…
And so was the walk through Rockefeller Center to meet Joanne.
Ahh, the sweet smell of success...