Posts Tagged ‘summer of patchouli love’

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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The results of the judges are still trickling in so we’ll soon, VERY SOON, get the reveal: which perfumers are behind each of the, up to this point, numbered designs as well as where the ranking is.  Of course, we all have our fingers crossed for our labors of love.  One thing I do know at this point is that with such a diverse group of ‘patch test bunnies’ (aka judges) every perfume will find a lover; no one will be left behind.  And I am happy to report that just after listing my three designs on the site one kind sampler of the three has emailed to say that she has not only found the patchouli project scent she desires but perhaps her ‘holy grail’ patchouli perfume.  Of course, this makes me immensely happy.   Her choice?  Bodhisattva: my number 3 patchouli project perfume.

Bodhisattva was actually the very first concept that came after being asked to take part in the PLAP project.  As I mentioned in an earlier post about ‘PLAP’, I was having Indian food and drinking a lassi and thinking about patchouli when the first hit came: the home of patchouli is India.  And this lassi I’m drinking is sending me over the edge in swirls of creamy delicious glowing, orange-colored clouds.  It’s sublime.  I want to make a patchouli perfume that sails on clouds of divinity.  It’s spiritual and yet earthly.  Something or someone who has a foot in both worlds.  Then the Thangka image popped into my head.  Yes, like this: a patchouli perfume that smells like this *feels* to look at…exactly like what this image invokes.  That was where it started… the lassi, the Thangka (Tibetan) and India.  I chose nearly all the notes from traditional Ayurvedic / Indian perfumery and set out to create heavenly orange / red clouds swirling and billowing up with flowers that float down to rest on the soft earth of patchouli, sandalwood, incense and subtle spices.  Oh yes, and a little sparkle in the very top note like a gleam from a knowing eye.

The resultant perfume is a subtlely fruity floriental patchouli.  The fruity nuance is ‘plum-like’ and one of my favorite fruit notes to pair with patchouli.  (Did I mention that there are many perfume ‘precedents’ for the use of patchouli with plum?  and also peach?  Many great perfumes contain this ‘dialogue’ between these two notes. It was especially popular in the late ’70’s through the ’90’s.  Magie Noir by Lancome, Poison by Dior,  Nahema by Guerlain, and Feminite du Bois by Shiseido / Lutens all contain this juxtaposition to great effect).  The heart is redolent of champaca, orange blossom and centifolia with the base of the spiced wood and incense.   It has a creamy luminousness and a deep spiritual quality in the drydown while maintaining the theme of patchouli very well.  I also like to think it’s a graceful patchouli walking softly.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I personally love all three of my very different patchouli progeny.

image credit:   graceful wooden bodhisattva here ; bodhisattva thangka here  ; bodhisattva eyes here

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The judges have been steadily sending in their votes and soon, all will be revealed as to who is the nose behind which numbered bottles and we’ll all be able to talk more freely about our entries to this, for now, still secret project.  In the meantime, I have my two ‘alternate’ designs to talk about.  No surprise that I followed a winding creative path that produced three designs; there are just so many ideas that I *want* to do.  So, I just go.  (I’m currently brainstorming another project for this fall and I have 12  ideas  / 6 pages worth, so far,  in my notes.  No, I won’t do all of them, but I might end up with two or three again.  But that is for another time).  Let’s not get ahead of ourselves…

Back to the project at hand: the patchouli project.  I mentioned in my last post about “PLAP”  that from the beginning I made the decision to go for the ‘soliflore’ concept (ie: make patchouli the focus and not to attempt to hide 25% patchouli in a design that accents some other family).   The coherent aspects to all three designs for me were: 1) the focus is on the patchouli and 2) these are summer patchoulis, so all have a lightness to them that make them wearable all year, even in summer.  That sense of  lightness is not exactly easy, as anyone who has worn patchouli oil can attest.  It’s got a strong character and its got weight.  Sadly, there are a number of people who do not wear straight patchouli oil very successfully and this gives patchouli a very bad name with perfume connoisseurs and passers-by alike.  When patchouli is not right, it’s REALLY not right.  This phenomenon goes like this: you smell sort of mildew-y.  The earthiness, kind of like dirt, can smell like a moldy basement  on certain skin types and this is, well, not pleasant.  Mix that with, how shall I put it?, overindulgence and potentially poor hygiene and you’ve got a BIG STINK going on.  This is what many people think ALL patchouli smells like.  Au contraire.  Patchouli, even worn straight/no mixer,  can be beautiful.  When it works ‘correctly’ on a person’s skin, it smells like mystery.  Like rich dark tea leaves mixed with soft, sexy smoke, and warm ambery wood.  Yes, you heard that right.  Sounds amazing, doesn’t it?  And it is; when it works.  Most people could smell good in patchouli if they wore it in a well designed fragrance.  It usually has to be tempered with other notes to consistently work on most people.  Sadly, many people are scared straight by straight patchouli.  Or they have ‘flashbacks’ of a sort, not good ones, from back in the day.  This brings me, to the concept anyway, of Aquarius (my no.2 design for PLAP).

I *didn’t* want to make a perfume that would be like a flashback to 1967, but I did get it into my head that a patchouli, kind of ‘human dirty / sweaty’ and sexy animalic might be fun to make.  This idea came after I had already started working on no.1 and no.3 but I thought, why not just go for it?  Go all the way…do a patchouli that pushes.  I’ll use all of the notes that many folks say are too sweaty, too far, that definitely steps beyond the pale. In other words: FUNK-AY. ( I won’t say the “s” word that so many people use to describe animalic / potentially fecal tonalities since I personally dislike that word…but that’s just me). Yeah, I’m talking in the genre of  patchouli meets Musc Kublai Khan (while using all botanicals, mind you, so synthetic musks and civet are out).

This is Aquarius.  And you know what?  What came from this “pushing the limits” process was something surprising: it’s soft.  Really.  It’s the heaviest of my summer patchouli designs, true, but it has a real warmth and richness that is inherent in patchouli and was coaxed out when I added the animalics.  Even the cumin (yeah, that’s right, I said cumin) works beautifully and I have yet to try it on anyone for whom the cumin sticks out or is reminiscent of curry.  I thought that with the use of so many strong notes: true ambergris,  tonquin musk tincture, cumin and other animalic botanicals, that this patchouli would be BOLD, but no.  To my nose and to everyone I’ve shown it to, it’s soft, warm and inviting.  The warm and inviting part, I was planning on but the softness…not really.  Go figure.  I love it just the same.


NOTE: Aquarius is dedicated to two of the best people in my life (there are many, I am thankful to say; I am very fortunate and grateful for so many dear ones…): Marlena Yannetti, who was a member of the original cast of HAIR and my husband, E, who is not only a double aquarius* but a patchouli wearer from way back.  His skin does that wonderful warm, woody/ ambery / tea leaf thing I was talking about.  He is delicious.  I will have to send some Aquarius to Marlena and see what she thinks but I already know that Aquarius smells incredible on E.  Life is Good.

ANOTHER NOTE: All of my patchouli project explorations (no.1-no.3) are now up at my site,  but if you want to get in on the fun for the whole project, Skye has “PLAP sample boxes” on sale at her site.   Get ’em while supplies last, my friends.

JUST FOR FUN: for the *Aquarius in you… here’s some info about the astrological sign.

image credits:  patchouli drawing , hair record cover , magic forest image

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It’s begun! The Summer of Peace, Love and Patchouli is on and I have to say that I have had a great time playing with this concept; contemplating ideas, moving with the flow and narrowing the designs down to one.
It took a bit of deliberating, but I finally made my choice. It was quite the journey. I brainstormed a number of concepts before one showed up as a strong feeling but wait… that path sent me in two more directions before I settled on a winner. It seemed that the big question was: are we, with this project, hiding the patchouli or making true patchouli perfumes, in the same way that one would think about a soliflore (which is to create a unique setting upon which the ‘gem’ note is placed to SHINE)?  Or are we attempting to create perfumes with patchouli that ‘hide’ it in a way to try and get non-patchouli lovers to say: “Oh, there’s patchouli in that?”  Patchouli is such a versatile perfumery material and depending on the origin, whether it’s light , dark or aged (my favorite! I age all of my patchouli) the patchouli feels and acts differently in a composition.   I knew that I had to first answer this essential question and the answer was: let’s go for a PATCHOULI  perfume, first and foremost.  Another thing I also knew from the beginning was that this was a Summer patchouli project. So, I decided that I would attempt a bit of a trick, which is to make a LIGHT, soliflore patchouli perfume. (Patchouli is not exactly known for its “lightness”, you know.  But you also know how I love a challenge).

I contemplated a woody / chypre style all elegance; chic and smooth. I also thought about a fruity / wood melange (oh yes: delish!) but while having a mango lassi at one of my favorite Indian restaurants I had this idea of something supremely spiritual and euphoric (but in a new concept… so many times euphoric patchouli designs in the naturals / aromatherpay world are ylang / patch based, as so many Aveda pure-fumes will attest to). While floating in this creamy orange-colored bliss I thought of it as a warm, rich, luscious orange…burnt orange-red orange floating clouds billowing over deep earth all brown, rust, and chocolate-y (not a chocolate aroma, just the color and texture). As well, a Thangka painting came immediately to mind for added inspiration. I thought: Yes! this is where I want to go. To the Himalayas to trek above the clouds and traverse to Shangri-La.

Over the coming weeks I spent time exploring this feeling and ‘color palette’ (you know, more and more I seem to be designing solely in this kind of abstracted short hand of color tonalities and texture to get to the feel of the perfume I want.  No more describing in terms of the materials themselves….anyway, I digress) then something happened.   A new influence started to come to the studio from everywhere at once it seemed and this influence was a note that EVERYONE seemed to want to explore with me.  This ‘note’  got me thinking about another design concept.

But things usually come to me in threes, at least… yes really they do. And this project was no different. Concept 3 came about 3 weeks before the deadline and I have to tell you that it’s given the first two a run for their money in terms of fierceness : a grungy, truly earthy, no hiding the fact that it’s PATCHOULI and maybe it’s the scent of that no washin’ hippie you knew back in 1967.   And yes, this one smells like the summer of LOVE, if you know what I mean. I’m talking inspired by the original HAIR play. (A very dear friend of mine was in that original Broadway cast so it’s kinds close to my heart).  YEAH! I have to say I love this one.  But I really love them all. 🙂

Here’s the facebook page for PLAP so  you can follow the excitement.  Plus, my patchouli project designs will be up on my site tomorrow (June 13).  You should know that I have changed the series numbers so, my choice for the project is now No.1: BodhiSativa.  And the other two are: No.2: Aquarius (our animalic patchouli scent) and No.3: Bodhisattva (a smooth floral patchouli).  I’ve had a blast creating my Summer Patchoulis and I hope that everyone will have some fun following the project and maybe becoming your very own patch test bunnies.

*image credits:  PLAP image is copyright perfume pharmer.com
Thangka Painting image here
Shangri-La image here (and if you haven’t seen the classic movie “Lost Horizon”, do! It’s terrific.
HAIR original cast image found here (plus you could take a listen while you’re there 🙂 )

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I’m thinking about Spring… I’ve *been* thinking about Spring. And Summer. And Autumn…but mostly about Spring. I, like everyone else, is wondering when the chilly rain will subside and warm, sunny Spring will be here to stay. My roses, of course, are loving this rain as are the irises and muguet (!) but I seem to be extra sensitive to what the weather brings and I’ll be damned if I don’t just want to stay home everyday, eat soup, watch old movies and sleep cozily until Spring comes. I’m used to this sort of nagging feeling in winter but by the time May rolls around, I’ve usually hit my stride somewhat and feel ready to climb some mountains and shoot the moon.
In the meantime, there’s still projects, projects and more projects…not the least of which are the new perfumes for DAM and the PLAP project! (Peace Love and Patchouli, for those of you who don’t know about PLAP yet). Oh yes and upcoming stuff with the Natural Perfumers Guild. (WOW! It seems like I’m still showing up, it’s just my subconscious that wants to go back to bed. I have a sneaking suspicion that I am speaking out loud what a lot of people I know have been thinking and wanting. 🙂 )

Well, now that I’ve ranted for a paragraph or so… I’m off to the studio. Better late than never. And I’ll be completing my preparations for Friday’s talk at Denver Art Museum. We’ll be smelling the Italian Splendor collection while walking through the galleries and looking at the works that inspired it. Also on tap today is making further mods on my three (yes, 3!) patchouli concepts in order to narrow my choice down to one for “PLAP” and tonight’s class with my apprentice, Amber. So, even though it’s late in the day, there’s still tons to do. Off I go… wishing everyone a lovely day whether it be rain, snow or sun in your part of the world.

* image credit: rainy spring day image cane be found here
* image credit: attributed to Girolamo di Benvenuto, 1470-1524, Venus and Cupid, about 1500, Tempera and oil on panel, Denver Art Museum, Gift of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, 1961-1972
* Image credit: perfume pharmer

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