Posts Tagged ‘Cannabis note perfume’

For awhile now, since cannabis became legal in Colorado, it’s been on the news, on talk shows and buzzing just about everywhere.  There of lots of folks having a lot of fun with this whole thing and I’ve been thinking that it’s about time that I had some fun with it, too.  In all honesty, I have played with various marijuana accords for years (I think that I started in earnest in about 2005 when a friend said that a various strain was their favorite smell EVER).  I’ve created and even used a few of my accords in perfumes, from Bodhi Sativa for the PLAP-athon in 2010, to Le Smoking for the YSL Retrospective collection in 2012.




It’s funny to think that I have smelled and “appraised”?, “reviewed”?, no, dissected? quite a few strains of cannabis over the years, mostly as a kind of parlor trick for many of my musician* / stoner friends even though I’m not a smoker myself (being asthmatic and all, smoking anything is OUT).    My friends think it’s hilarious and / or fascinating as they hear me describe the top, middle and base nuances of their favorite kind bud.  There is an intrinsic sort of perfume to this generous plant from animalic (skunk) to fruity, incens-ey, conifer, floral, sticky sweet, dry woody and green leafy, etc.  To check out some real flavor / fragrance profiling, this chart from a Netherlands seed company has some amazing variation:




So, here comes the fun.  I’ve busted out some of my older notebooks and taken a look at some of my early accord notes and yes, I like what I started.  It’s time to finish and I’ve chosen four variations to focus on.  I’ve actually been contacted many times to create some cannabis perfumes using exclusive strains for some of the dispensaries, but none of these potential clients has taken the final plunge into investing in the concept.  Mores the pity for me as it would be wonderful to play with some of these unusual flavor/ fragrance profiles that these unique strains possess.

Back to playing with the accords: I’m going to start at the beginning with my very first which was based on a conifer-resin / dried  bud / green smoke kind of scent.  It’s quite woody with a definite conifer (junipers, spruce and pines) feel but it’s the ‘green smoke’ that interests me.  I want this scent to be a kind of “you’re walking in the woods and you smell the smoke(rs) over the trail” kind of thing.   All of the cannabis scent designs feature an atmospheric quality; I think that is just part of the mystique around the plant and the imbibing culture.  Cannabis has such a distinctive aroma that it tends to evoke some kind of ‘otherness’ which is transporting.  The real design challenge is to create with this distinctive / atmospheric note and still end up with something you would call ‘perfume’.  To my mind, a perfume has a sense of presence that is beautiful, well constructed, tells some kind of story (or sings a song or paints a picture… you get the idea) and very often displays it’s sense of continuity to the history of perfume.  There are artistic references and precedents that came before that show up in a contemporary work that make it seem to ‘fit’ within the structure of our expectation.  This is just part of my loose definition, however.  I suspect that there are many other perfume designers out there working today that want to break with any sense of continuity and create purely abstracted / atmospheric / story telling aromas and that’s great but if it’s not wearable and recognizable as perfume, maybe it isn’t.  It’s aroma but not perfume.  Anyway, that’s a debate that could take far too long to ever get to a conclusion with.  These are just my thoughts on it.  Back to the perfumes (and yes, I want these to be perfumes within my own criteria, so they have to be wearable).



The conifer design has come together with the help of some unusual materials that I had to bust out just for this project.  One of them is chrysanthemum.  I haven’t used this note in too many designs; one reason is that studies show that many people associate the scent of chrysanthemum with death.  (I don’t really want to create funereal perfumes – unless I am expressly trying to do that).   But paired with the sulfuric, tangy-sweet scent of hemp, it works beautifully.  Another aromatic that I haven’t had the opportunity to use much before this design is the common juniper oil that I got from my friend, distiller Eric Bresselsmith.  It’s a great fresh, green juniper note that doesn’t do the too terpenoid signature that juniper berry oil does.  It gives a fresher, sweeter feel to the topnote and does part of that sticky sensation that speaks to ‘bud’ as it heads to the heart.  Lastly, the Ayurvedic co-distill Choyas, which I just can’t seem to get enough of these days, were indispensable.  I used a combination of  the rich, smoked wood Choya Loban as well as the densely calcined Choya Nahk.  It took a bit of doing to turn this smoke note from brown / black to ‘green’ but I did it, I think, with the help of galbanum and sweet basil.  The entire foray into the woods and back rests on a smooth bed of sandalwood, both natural and some of the sandalwood-like molecules, as well as some animalics (yes, I had to use the synthetic skunk note I found).  All in all, this design dries down into a very elegant, masculine-leaning perfume that displays the hemp thing but doesn’t totally flaunt it (even with the skunk).  I really like that.


i love you mary jane

My second indulgence is way more playful and another completion of an older accord / idea from more than a few years ago.  It’s a fruity – indolic floral cannabis that is *very* hemp, and very clearly a pot perfume.  It’s got a surprising amount of fruit, at least *I* am surprised at how many / much fruit the cannabis could handle and require, really, to fulfill the design.  One of the elements I love about this perfume is the topnote…all tangy grapefruit, rhubarb and cassis bud juxtapose  a richly sweet blackberry, apricot and mango accord.  ( I said there was a lot of fruit).  I never would have thought that I would go for anything quite like this but it’s surprising.  The dominant cannabis note with the ‘super fruit’ in the top and a big sampaguita flower heart makes for a sensuously wild ride.  I did want at least one of these designs to read as a big sweet bud and this is the one.  I don’t think that this kind of design is for everyone (well the whole cannabis thing is divisive) but for those that love that smell, this will be the one that hits the spot, I predict.  There’s also a very nice oriental lily, osmanthus and some ylang ylang in the heart and  more than a few fun resinous-wood with incense nuances in the drydown.  Of course one of the notes that many folks associate with pot is patchouli and this is where patchouli is the most featured of all of the designs.  I couldn’t call this a typical “fruit-chouli” but on some skins it may actually read that way.  On my own skin, which has gotten way sweeter since I had a child, it’s bright, sweet, and very hemp-ish in the first notes but dries down into a soft, green edged, fruity-floral-woody.

The third of the collection is probably my personal favorite, but on that, I’m going to say goodnight, and save the third and fourth designs for next time.  I will say that this third scent is one that I have a hard time getting enough of…especially in the drydown.  It’s kind of, (gulp), addictive.

(Disclaimer: * This isn’t to say that musicians are synonymous with pot smokers, either).

image credits: lab of cannabis vials image found here; flavor wheel image found here; rocky mountain high image found here;  i love you mary jane image found here;

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The big reveal has begun.  No, the verdict from the  judges is still out in terms of who will have the most favored patchouli perfume in the PLAP project but we now know which noses are behind each of the secret numbered vials.  *For anyone who has been following the numbers on Perfume Pharmer’s site, I’ve posted the list (and the names of the perfumes) at the bottom of this post.  I can now say that I am mysterious #11 and so happy to be so; 11 has always been ‘my’ number.  It makes me smile every time I see it.

So, now that I am free to talk about my own entry, BodhiSativa, I’m wondering what to say about it.  Hmmm…  I mentioned in a previous post that all of the patchouli perfumes I conceived are ‘Summer Patchouli’ designs.  True.  They have a lightness that I think is delightful and so unusual when considering the nature of straight patchouli oil.  I know that some of the judges (aka Patch Test Bunnies) have really been digging the heavy, serious deep patchouli that you would expect or that they remember from back in the day.  I wanted to do something different… you know: a challenge.  And a new aromatic signature for me; a note I’ve never used before.

While I was already working on the original “Bodhisattva” floral patchouli scent (no.3), there was this simultaneous phenomenon happening at the studio: an influx of interest in the cannabis aroma which seemed to be coming from everywhere.  My apprentice has had a few aromatic fascinations from the start: tomato (!), green notes in general and cannabis.  She just loves very complex plant aromas and cannabis is no different.  We had been exploring accords to develop this aroma for a little while when we happened upon some ***hemp / cannabis essential oil.  It occurred to us that an all natural / aromatherapy that had a cannabis note would be very relaxing and soothing to LOTS of clients in Boulder.  And then there were people stopping by the studio wanting to talk about cannabis perfumes.  Like every other day for weeks.  It seemed to be an omen.  That’s when the concept for Bodhi Sativa came.  I really wanted to do a patchouli design that was going to be more long term; something we would keep as opposed to most of the ‘project perfumes’ that have a very limited edition.  This was it.  (Aquarius, patchouli no.2 gave BodhiSativa a run for it’s money, but the animal tinctures are not ingredients I would be able to keep in stock all of the time, so it had to be a limited number).  I also have to say that as a patchouli scent, it seemed to fit like a glove with the project: kinda hippie-ish, has a summer time freshness, and well, something new to give the patch a twist.  I knew that I *didn’t* want to make a pseudo-aveda, head shop or natural food store style patchouli (not that there’s anything wrong with those).  I wanted a real original.  Bodhi Sativa was it for me.

For anyone that has smelled what some would call “kind bud” (aka a really sweet, sticky, resinous pot bud) there is an unmistakable sweet-fruity-ok: mildly skunky-herbal-floralcy to this smell.  Some dislike it but many find it the best part of the cannabis experience: the smell.  And that skunky reference might seem anathema to perfume but there are many smellers out there who profess a deep love for the smell of skunks and gasoline (not dissimilar aromas).  Some even call it addictive.

BodhiSativa is what I feel is the best of balancing acts: the rich aged patchouli, the fruity-floralcy of the cannabis accord and an exotic wood / incense drydown.  Oh, and there are little hints at animalic nuances throughout to give it even more interest.  I like that some of the judges smelled these notes as leather and others as chocolate.  We know what the secret ingredient really is… and according to Alice B. Toklas, it goes well with brownies.


*Here’s the whole Peace, Love and Patchouli / Summer of Patchouli LOVE project perfumers / perfumes lineup:

1) Dupetit, Indienne

2) Liz Zorn, River Walk

3) Shelley Waddington, Go Ask Alice

4) Jane Cate, Haight and Ashbury

5) April Aromatics,  Bohemian Spice

6) Happiness, Perfume by Nature

7) Providence Perfume Company,  No Name yet…

8 ) Lyn Ayre, Patchouli Paisley

9) no one gets this number…

10) JoAnne Bassett, Tetu

11) DSH, Bodhi Sativa

12) Amanda Feeley, Queen of Punk

13) Opus Oils, Wild Child

14) Therapeutate, Royal Water

**image credit: green cannabis found here, cannabis kind bud found here, “marijuana girl” found here

***FYI: Hemp / Cannabis essential oil has no THC.

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