Top Ten Olfactory Moments of 2014

This time of year perfume bloggers around the world often post their top ten fragrance releases of 2014. Living on the somewhat fragrantically-isolated island of Australia, without easy (i.e. free) access to many of these releases makes it difficult for me to write such a post. No matter, as this blog is as much about the sense of smell and all things olfactorial, I am going to list my top ten olfactory moments of 2014 instead, in no particular order. This list includes perfumes, real-life smells that really made a mark on me and my nose, and creative experiences based around scent and fragrance.

Sheep and twin lambs in the clean, fresh country landscape.

1. Moving to the country

Moving to a small rural town in Australia, away from the stinking, pollution-filled hubbub of Melbourne this year, has given me access to clean, fresh air, a wonderful petrichor-like smell as dusk falls and the massive fields of grasses release their oils into the atmosphere, and of course the smell of sheep. We live on a sheep farm, and I love the smell of oily, slightly animalic lanolin that pervades the air subtly at all times. It’s warm and comforting, just like the smell of your favourite woolly jumper.

Guerlain's Shalimar

Guerlain’s Shalimar

2. Shalimar

As much a constant in 2014 as the clean country air, the gorgeously rich, animalic and constantly delightful Shalimar was my most worn fragrance this year. While I own this in many different vintages and versions, including several flankers, the 2010 EDP is the version I like most. Every time I wear Shalimar, it surprises me, but it also soothes me. I wear it on special occasions, when I want to wear an old favourite, and when I need cheering up.

Bois des Iles by Chanel (vintage version)

Bois des Iles by Chanel (vintage version)

3. Smelling Bois des Iles for the first time

When a friend brought her large bottle of Chanel’s Bois des Iles to a lunch catchup last Easter, I was taken aback by this beauty. I’ve long been a fan of sandalwood, and smelling Bois des Iles for the first time, I felt like I’d discovered the superlative sandalwood fragrance. This fragrance is such a gorgeous melange of creamy sandalwood, ylang ylang and spice, held together with the floaty, fizzy lightness of aldehydes. This will be a life-long love, up there with my favourite fragrance Shalimar.

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Smell walks

4. Smell Walks

When I started this blog, I started going on smell walks. Smell walks are an exercise in mindfulness, appreciating the present, and the everyday smells around me. These walks open my nose up to all kinds of smells, and I’m learning to notice and appreciate all the odours around me, not just those that are considered pretty or pleasant. A good side-effect of these walks is that I am more mindful of the smells around me most of the time now, whether I choose to write about them for Perfume Polytechnic, or not. If you’re interested, you can read about my Smell Walks here.

Karatta House – finally restored

5. Making my own “Karatta” perfume with Emma Leah at Fleurage

Not only was this a creative person’s dream activity, making perfume for the first time under the guidance of perfumer Emma Leah, but I had a ball sniffing all of the 80 ingredients available to me! What fun for a perfume enthusiast! Best of all, I got to create a perfume that was a tribute both to a wonderful old family holiday house, Karatta (in Robe, South Australia), and to my now-departed father, who had dreams of restoring this lovely old mansion from a state of extreme disrepair, but was not able to do so.  You can read about my experience at Fleurage making my own perfume here and here.

Karatta Beach, Robe

Karatta Beach, Robe

6. The smell of the ocean at Robe

Just before Christmas I made a pilgrimage back to Robe, South Australia, the little seaside town where we spent many family holidays throughout my childhood. I wanted to see Karatta House, and I wanted to see if my smell memories (from creating Karatta perfume, see above) were accurate. The ocean at Robe has the most beautiful smell: intensely salty, strong, slightly fishy, and incredibly fresh. It was marvellous, and I think Emma at Fleurage captured this salty sea smell very well in the Karatta perfume that we created together.

Giant Morton Bay fig tree

Giant Morton Bay fig tree

7. The Moreton Bay fig tree

Smelling the Moreton Bay fig tree at my childhood holiday house in Robe for the first time in almost 27 years was a treat. This fig note also made it into my Karatta perfume, but smelling the actual tree, in real life again, offered so much more than I remembered. If you haven’t smelled a Moreton Bay fig (it’s an Australian type of ficus), let me describe it for you: it’s a bit like a standard fig tree, but with some differences. It’s sweet and figgy, but also dusty, slightly earthy and powdery. It’s a strong smell and this massive old tree gave off quite a fabulous aroma.

Hyper-Natural at the NGV

Hyper-Natural at the NGV

8. Chandler Burr’s Hyper-Natural scent exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria

Melbournites were treated to an exhibition curated by Chandler Burr at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) this past spring. This scent exhibition, situated in the gardens behind the NGV, was a delight. It featured sniffing stations, or “pods” that contained seven different Guerlain fragrances and the corresponding aromachemicals that feature in each fragrance, and atmospheric mist (sadly unscented, but visually pleasing) was pumped into the air around the garden. The sniffing stations were arranged chronologically in the garden, starting with Jicky (1889), and ending with one of Guerlain’s most recent releases, L’Homme Idéal. I attended the opening keynote speech given by Chandler, and a guided tour with him the next morning, and visited the exhibition a couple more times. Hyper-Natural was my first ever fragrance exhibition, and as Guerlain is my favourite house, this event was pretty exciting! I also made lots of new fragrance buddies and met some online fragrance friends in person for the first time. You can read my blog posts about Hyper-Natural here.

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Cèpes Mushroom

9. The smell of Cèpes Mushroom Absolute

At a meetup at Fleurage Pefume Atelier a few months back, a small group of Melbourne perfumistas got to smell many rare and unusual fragrance ingredients. A highlight of the night for many was the cèpes mushroom. This unusual perfume ingredient smelled of an intensely savoury and rich combination of mushroom and vegemite. I would love to smell this ingredient in a perfume one day. If you want to smell this magnificent, rare ingredient for yourself, you can purchase some from my friend, perfumer Mark Evans (of Evocative Perfumes and Hermitage Oils) here.

Rainbow Lorikeet feeding on a lemon myrtle tree. Copyright  James Niland, Brisbane, Australia.

Rainbow Lorikeet feeding on a lemon myrtle tree.
Copyright James Niland, Brisbane, Australia. URL: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/20/Trichoglossus_haematodus_-Brisbane%2C_Queensland%2C_Australia-8.jpg

10. Native Australian Spices at Saltbush Kitchen, Ballarat.

Olly Technic and I had a thrill just yesterday while we were snacking at the new Saltbush Kitchen Cafe at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka (M.A.D.E.) in Ballarat. As well as offering scrumptious food and drinks using Australian ingredients (something that is done far too infrequently in Australia), they had for sale some Australian “Bushfood” spices that smelled absolutely incredible. Our favourites were Lemon Myrtle (a sharp and vibrant smell reminiscent of fresh lemongrass, but somehow richer), Strawberry Gum (a combination of eucalyptus, and intensely sweet, sharp strawberry), and Aniseed Myrtle (a strong, sweet aniseed smell with a hint of lemon myrtle). It was a great olfactory experience to finish off 2014! You can read about Saltbush Kitchen here, and while their yummy herbs and spices are not yet for sale online, they do have plenty of other temptations to indulge in. Or if you’re visiting Ballarat, drop in and see them at M.A.D.E.


I do hope you’ve enjoyed my top ten wrap-up of olfactory experiences in 2014. What were some of the best things you’ve smelled this year? I’d love to know – make a comment in the box below!

Happy New Year readers and followers and thanks for your support in 2014. See you next year!

Polly Technic

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A Christmas Eve Message from Polly Technic, Featuring Vintage Christmas Perfume Ads

Dear friends and followers of Perfume Polytechnic, I don’t know what the year has been like for you, but 2014 has been a big year for me. I moved from Australia’s second-largest city to a rural town with a population of 1,600, celebrated a mile-stone birthday, learnt many valuable life lessons, and started this blog. In the three months that Perfume Polytechnic has been running, I have learned so much about fragrance and how we smell, and I hope you’ve also enjoyed my verbose posts and the information I’ve shared with you. Thank you to all of my readers for helping put Perfume Polytechnic on the map. It’s taken a lot of hard work to get things up and running, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the challenge. At nearly 2,000 views over three months, I’m very happy with how things are going, but I have to thank all of you for that: for visiting, commenting, and supporting me in this venture. Thank you. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to those of you who celebrate these holidays. I look forward to continuing the Perfume Polytechnic journey with you all next year.

To say adieu to 2014 and to celebrate Perfume Polytechnic’s first Christmas online, I’d like to share with you some vintage, Christmas-themed perfume ads. Let’s take a look together at how perfume was promoted, and what it meant historically to people, in decades past.

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Caron’s Nuit de Noel, ad from 1928.

What could be more Christmassy that Caron’s classic, Nuit de Noel? I adore this fragrance, and the sublimely stylish art deco bottle is still in production today, proving just how popular it is.

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A perfume made by Colgate?

I don’t know if this surprises you as much as it does me, but while ferreting around online this evening for vintage ads, I discovered this 1922 advertisement for Colgate, featuring toothpaste, a shaving stick, and… perfume! The ad claims: “Instead of being quickly tossed aside, a Colgate Gift is used for a long time, and is a constant reminder of the giver.” Maybe I’ll start giving toothpaste as gifts?

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Coty fragrance advertisement

This gorgeous Coty ad shows a range of fragrances adorning a Christmas tree, and the slogan “Kindle her heart with Fragrance.” I know I’d be pretty excited too if someone special adorned my tree with fragrances. Hint, hint, Olly Technic. Oh, and I’d be happy if they were vintage Coty too.

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Bourjois’ Evening in Paris advertisement

I’m guessing from the woman’s sculptural hair and the man’s military outfit that this is a war-time advertisement. Is it just me who thinks she looks a little wary as her man leans in, eyes closed, for a romantic kiss? Maybe she wanted something from Chanel instead?

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Chanel advertisement

Aha! Perhaps I was right? The woman in this ad looks much happier than our Bourjois lass above, after being given the classic Chanel fragrance, No. 5. “When the world’s a Christmas valentine and it’s all addressed to you… You’re ready for Chanel.” I can hear Don Draper uttering those words.

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Avon: sharing the Christmas joy in 1968.

Avon has always been reliably affordable, and they make great novelty fragrance bottles. This lucky lady seems to have a whole table-full of fragrant gifts for Christmas. Good thing they didn’t cost too much.

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Coty advertisement, 1950s.

There’s nothing I love more than a kitsch photo or illustration from the 1950s that makes women look just plain silly! Here we have a group of young, gorgeous debutantes, who form the shape of a Christmas tree. They are the tree and its decorations all at once! They are “the beauties of Christmas”!


I hope you enjoyed these ads and found them as elegant, interesting and amusing as I did. Merry Christmas all, and thanks again for your support. May all your fragrant wishes come true tomorrow…

Polly Technic

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Shop Local: An Australian Perfumista’s Christmas List

Since the Australian dollar has been strong, it’s been tempting for us in Australia to do most of our perfume shopping online in order to find the best price. While this is nice for our bank balances, it means that sometimes we don’t pay attention to all the gorgeous scented products being made and sold right on our doorstep. As Perfume Polytechnic is an Australian perfume blog, this Christmas I’ve compiled a list of fabulous, fragrance-related gift ideas from specialist Australian perfume stores and Australian perfume makers. There’s a wide range to choose from, including gorgeous fragrances, creative experiences, books and scented products for your home. Better still, there are options for perfumistas and non-perfumistas alike. I hope you enjoy this list, get some inspiration for your Christmas gift shopping, and support Australian makers and shops in the process!

1. Kleins Perfumery’s Moor Street Gardenia Eau De Parfum

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Kleins Perfumery’s Moor Street Gardenia

If you’re a Melbourne person, you will already know and love Kleins – the legendary little store on Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, stacked literally to the rafters with an eclectic and exquisite range of high-quality niche perfumes and beauty products. Relatively new to the scene is Kleins’ own range of fragrances, including this gorgeously realistic gardenia fragrance, Moor Street Gardenia. Fitzroy locals will know Moor Street (located only a few hundred metres from Kleins), and may even know of the very gardenia bush that inspired this fragrance. Imagine buying this for a local! Adding further kudos to this Australian-made product, Kleins’ fragrances are created using distilled grape alcohol from the Australian Barossa Valley. The fragrance is richly creamy and heady, and is perfect for summer.

Moor Street Gardenia comes in Eau de Parfum strength and you can buy a 50ml bottle for $110, online at Kleins, or wander in and buy in store, if you’re a local.

2. One Seed Scent Bar Fragrance

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One Seed Scent Bar Fragrance. Photo courtesy of Liz Cook.

One Seed, based in Adelaide, is the natural fragrance company of perfumer Liz Cook. One Seed’s fragrances contain 80% organic materials, use recyclable packaging and are cruelty free. As well as making a range of wonderful fragrances and offering a bespoke fragrance service, One Seed offers a Scent Bar Fragrance service to appeal to the creative soul lurking in all of us. The Scent Bar service is a satisfyingly easy process in which you choose the top, middle and base notes (single ingredients and accords) of your handcrafted fragrance. Perfumer Liz Cook then does all the hard work, blending these ingredients to create a beautifully balanced creation just for you. Make a custom fragrance for a friend or loved one, and try your hand at making a fragrance!

At $29.95 for an 8ml bottle, it’s a steal. Scent Bar Fragrances can be purchased online here.

3. Create Your Own Perfume Experience at Fleurage Perfume Atelier

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Create Your Own Perfume Experience. Photo by Emma Leah.

If you know a creative type or perfume enthusiast who is keen to make their own unique fragrance from scratch, under the guidance of a trained perfumer, then the Create Your Own Perfume experience at Fleurage Perfume Atelier in South Melbourne is the perfect gift. Readers of this blog will know that I was lucky enough to be gifted with a Create Your Own Perfume experience a few months back. You can read more about that experience in this blog post, and also here. I can’t recommend it highly enough! This two-hour, one-on-one experience is a great introduction to perfume making. Best of all, you end up with a one-of-a-kind fragrance, and you can order refills once you’ve used it all up! Master perfumer Emma Leah, who also creates sublime, botanical, vintage-inspired fragrances, will guide you through this process.

The experience costs $250; for that you receive 2 hours of personalised, one-on-one attention from Emma, and take home a 40ml bottle of fragrance. You can read more about the Create Your Own Perfume experience and make bookings here.

4. Siberian Fir Perfume Oil and Eau de Toilette by Evocative Perfumes

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Evocative Perfumes’ Siberian Fir. Photo courtesy of Mark Evans.

We all love the smell of a Christmas tree, don’t we? Adelaide-based perfumer Mark Evans’ camphoraceous yet surprisingly rich fragrance, Siberian Fir, will satisfy all longings for that wonderful smell, while offering a fragrance that is much more interesting and complex than that. Siberian Fir is a rare variety of fir from Russia with an unusual complexity and richness, and has a green fruitiness that adds sweetness and depth to any cool, camphoraceous notes that one usually expects from fir. The fragrance is balanced out beautifully with notes of Poplar bud, Australian Buddha Wood, chamomile and rose. Siberian Fir is a great fragrance to wear in both warm and cool weather. The cool, green freshness of the fir, while evocative of winter, snow and Christmas, is refreshing on a warm day too.

You can find Siberian Fir online here, priced at a very reasonable $40 for 12ml of perfume oil, and $50 for the newly released Eau de Toilette.

5. Mud 01 and Mud 02 Scented Candles by Ainslie Walker

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Mud Candles by Ainslie Walker and Mud Australia. Photo courtesy of Ainslie Walker.

Ainslie Walker really knows her stuff: she is a Jasmine Award winning writer, fragrance journalist and perfumer. A recent collaboration with Australian ceramics company Mud has resulted in two scented candles created by Ainslie and encased in Mud’s serenely clean and minimalist porcelain vessels, in a range of edible colours.

Mud 01 features tuberose, along with notes of green ginger, jasmine & tolu balsam. This lusciously creamy and narcotic fragranced candle is available encased in either red, slate, or milk coloured porcelain, and refills are available. The candles are 100% hand blended and poured in Australia.

Mud 02, released only two days ago, features a warm blend of amber and woods, complemented with animalic notes of leather and musk, heady neroli, fresh orange and sun-dried hay and herbs. Divine! Mud 02 is available in the following colours: bottle, plum and dust. Refills are also available.

Mud candles range in price from $100-120, with refills costing $50. Mud 01 is available at the Mud Australia website and directly from Ainslie at her website. Mud 02, which is brand new, is currently only available in store. See the Mud stockists page for details.

6. Fragrances of the World 30th Anniversary Edition by Michael Edwards

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Fragrances of the World 2014 Edition

Not strictly speaking an exclusively Australian item, but as Michael Edwards’ legendary book, Fragrances of the World, was conceived and born in Sydney in 1984, and his publication team is still based here, I am claiming it as Australian! Edwards, an Englishman, now divides his time between Sydney, New York and Paris. This year marked the 30th anniversary edition of Edwards’ now legendary Fragrances of the World, an industry guide-book suited to perfume retailers and enthusiasts alike. Fragrances of the World classifies thousands of commercially available fragrances into categories as defined in Edwards’ equally famous fragrance wheel. Retailers can use the guide to recommend new fragrances to customers, based on their existing preferences, however the guide is also an invaluable tool for perfume enthusiasts to help them learn about fragrance families and classification, and their own tastes. A must for any perfumista!

Fragrances of the World 2014, 30th Edition, can be purchased online for $195.


I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this list and got some ideas for your gift giving this year. What do you want from Father Christmas this year? Are there any Australian fragrances or perfume-related goodies on your wish list? I do hope you feel inspired to shop locally and support Australian perfume talent!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Polly Technic

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Scent Mapping: Diagrams and Aroma Wheels

Scent mapping tries to make sense of the smells in the world around us by mapping them in a variety of ways. This can take the form of various diagrams, tables, and aroma wheels. Usually such diagrams contain categories that classify and group individual smells, but they can also tell us other things, such as how we relate smells to gender, and also how similar or dissimilar certain smells are to one another. They can also tell us something about how we react – both physically and psychologically – to certain smells. There are a number of famous scent maps, including Paul Jellinek’s odour effects diagram, and Michael Edwards’ fragrance wheel from his Fragrances of World book. In this post I’ll be introducing you to some of these wheels and diagrams, which are fascinating to look at in their own right. In a future post, I will be discussing some of the findings of a study by Manuel Zarzo and David Stanton, in which they compared various odour databases, scent maps and wheels and drew some interesting conclusions about our perceptions of scent. Paul Jellinek’s odour effects diagram (a later version here has been modified by his son Joseph Stephan Jellinek and Robert Calkin) originally dates from 1951. Jellinek’s map proposes various categories or types of smell, and also the various effects that such smells have on us, e.g. stimulating, erogenous, calming or fresh.

Jellinek’s Odour Effects Diagram

Michael Edwards’ fragrance wheel, from his Fragrances of the World book, comprises a number of fragrance categories, showing the relationship between one category and the next. In Fragrances of the World, which is released every year, Edwards groups thousands of commercially available fragrances into these categories. The book is intended for industry use so that sales assistants can recommend new fragrances to customers, based on similarities with a customer’s favourite perfumes.

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Michael Edwards’ Fragrance Wheel. c. Michael Edwards

Mandy Aftel’s Aftelier Natural Perfume Wheel consists of categories of scent families, sub-categories within these (like Jellinek’s diagram, labelled with subjective descriptors such as fresh and heavy), and individual notes/ingredients within the sub-categories. The Drom Fragrance Circle is similar to Aftel’s, complete with subjective descriptors, and aligning some scent categories with gender.

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Drom Fragrance Wheel

The aromachemically-literate among us might be interested in Givaudan’s very beautiful scent ingredients map, which reminds me of a stylised subway diagram.

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Givaudan’s Scent Ingredients Map

There is a well-known connection and cross-sensory interrelationship between the senses of smell and taste, so the following wheels are provided for your interest and comparison with the fragrance-specific diagrams provided above. It’s interesting to me how much overlap there is. First up is Ann Noble’s Wine Aroma Wheel, originally devised in the 1980s.

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Ann Noble’s Wine Aroma Wheel

Below is the Beer Flavour Wheel invented in the 1970s by Dr Morten Meilgaard. wheel

And finally, Niki Segnit’s flavour wheel from her brilliant book The Flavour Thesaurus.

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Flavour Wheel from Niki Segnit’s “The Flavour Thesaurus”

What do you think of scent mapping? Do you have a favourite map, diagram or scent wheel that I haven’t included here? Does scent mapping help you to understand smell, fragrance ingredients and fragrance better? I’d love to hear what you think – let me know in the comments below! Until next time, Polly Technic

White Smell: Like White Noise for Your Nose

Durian – King of Fruits, by Hafiz Issadeen https://www.flickr.com/photos/yimhafiz/4835066590/

I’ve been fairly verbose in my posts of late, so sometimes I like to take a break, link to a smell-related article that interests me, and hope that it interests you too! This article from New Scientist talks about recent developments in the newly conceived field of “white smell”. Like white noise, which is a broad-spectrum sound that can be used to cover up or mask other sounds, white smell (at least theoretically at this stage) will have the ability to mask pungent smells that may offend, such as durian and tuna. How have scientists done this? You will have to read the article to find out!

Another exciting development in the science of smell! You can read the article here. What do you think of this concept? Are you looking forward to the development of a white smell machine? Let me know in the comments section below!