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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How Does Hyper-Natural Smell? Scent Chemicals at Chandler Burr’s National Gallery of Victoria Exhibition

Yesterday I revisited the Chandler Burr scent exhibition, Hyper-Natural, at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) in Melbourne, Australia. To recap, the Hyper-Natural exhibition showcases seven fragrances by Guerlain, presenting them in scent stations, or “pods” in the garden at the rear of the NGV. Each of these pods contains pools of each fragrance, and also the synthetic scent chemical (molecule) used prominently in each of these fragrances. There is also some curatorial information inside each pod (which I draw from in this post) about each scent chemical and fragrance and the significance of the chemical and how it is used in the completed fragrance. I gave an overview of the opening events of Burr’s exhibition a few weeks ago, including the Keynote Address and a curator’s tour. You can read that post and see some great photos of Hyper-Natural here. You can also visit the NGV website to read about the exhibition.

Today I want to talk about how Hyper-Natural smells. For those of you who don’t live in Melbourne or who don’t have the good fortune of being able to visit Hyper-Natural, I want to describe to you how the scent chemicals (molecules) in the exhibition smell. The Guerlain fragrances themselves are generally easily found in department stores and will be well-known to many of you, so I won’t spend too much time describing them here. We don’t often have access to the isolated chemicals or ingredients used in perfumery, however, so it is a treat to be able to smell them and describe them to you, so you can share in the experience of Hyper-Natural.

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One of the scent stations at Hyper-Natural, with Chandler Burr standing to the right of the “pod”.

Before heading out to the garden to sniff the exhibition, gallery patrons are encouraged to pick up a card containing tear-off strips to dip into each scent chemical and fragrance, to facilitate the sniffing process.

Cards to tear off, dip and sniff.

Scent Station 1 – Scent Chemical: Coumarin / Fragrance: Jicky

Coumarin is the common name for scent molecule 2H-chromen-2-one. It was created out of necessity, at a time (the 1800s, in Europe) when it was hard to source certain raw, natural perfume materials. Coumarin is supposed to smell like the tonka bean from South America. It was synthesised by an English chemist in 1868 and was used by perfumer Aimé Guerlain in Jicky in 1889.

What does coumarin smell like to me?

Coumarin does smell like tonka beans, an unusual ingredient I’ve been lucky enough to find and smell at a boutique spice shop in Melbourne called Gewurzhaus. I’ve also eaten it as a flavouring in white chocolate, where it imparted a soft, vanilla-like taste. For a scent chemical, coumarin actually smells very natural. It has a subtle almond, marzipan, creamy vanilla kind of smell.

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The inside of Scent Station 1: Coumarin/Jicky

Scent Station 2 – Scent Chemical: Ethyl Vanillin / Fragrance: Shalimar

Ethyl Vanillin was created by chemists in 1872. It is described by Burr, in the curatorial notes, as a more powerful version of natural vanillin. This chemical is a good example of a “hyper-natural” smell: it’s like the natural smell that it references, but is amplified. Because of the strength of the chemical, Shalimar only uses 2% ethyl vanillin, yet the vanilla note in Shalimar, for those of us that know it, is very dominant, testifying to the strength of ethyl vanillin. Jacques Guerlain created Shalimar in 1925; rumour has it, he added a quantity of ethyl vanillin to Jicky to create Shalimar. Whether or not the creation of Shalimar was this simple (there are other differences between the compositions of the fragrances too), Shalimar does smell like a more vanillic version of Jicky.

What does ethyl vanillin smell like to me?

Like coumarin, this scent chemical also smells very natural, but as Burr says, it is more intense than natural vanillin. To me it is a sharp, savoury, strong, natural-smelling vanilla.

Scent Station 3 – Scent Chemical: Sulfox / Fragrance: Chamade

While this scent molecule is extracted from a shrub, it doesn’t smell particularly natural. At Chandler Burr’s Keynote Address, audience members had different ways of attempting to label this smell, with the general consensus being that the smell is strong, fruity, chemical, yet not particularly nature-identical (unlike coumarin and ethyl vanillin). In Chamade, perfumer Jean-Paul Guerlain balanced out the “oomph” of this synthetic ingredient with large quantities of similarly powerful ingredients such as blackcurrant and galbanum.

What does sulfox smell like to me?

To me sulfox smells like a slightly funky version of passionfruit, specifically the inside of passionfruit skin, after you’ve cut it open and eaten it with a spoon, crossed with a faint, chemical, burning smell, like that of burning rubber.

Scent Station 4 – Scent Chemical: Polysantol / Fragrance: Samsara

Sniffing station 4: Polysantol / Samsara. At the curator’s tour with Chandler Burr and the NGV’s Ewan McEoin.

Mysore Sandalwood, much used in perfumery, has been over-harvested, leading to a world-wide shortage and the need to create synthetic versions of this very popular fragrance ingredient. Polysantol is just one of the synthetic versions of sandalwood to have emerged, which each representing a facet of the natural material, but unable to replicate natural sandalwood in its entire complexity. Burr considers polysantol to be an abstracted, streamlined version of sandalwood, stripped of its cedar and tar-like aspects. Polysantol is a starring note in Jean-Paul Guerlain’s Samsara, a gorgeously creamy, rich fragrance that combines faux-sandalwood and jasmine in a heady and comforting combination.

What does polysantol smell like to me?

Polysantol smells like a creamy, slightly fake version of sandalwood. It’s almost a little sickly sweet and too cloying on its own. In Samsara, the jasmine provides a balancing counterpoint to this sickly aspect of the scent chemical.

Scent Station 5 – Scent Chemical: Cis-3-hexanol / Fragrance: Aqua Allegoria Herba Fresca

Cis-3-hexanol is a green-smelling scent chemical. As Burr explains in the exhibition notes, there have been other green-smelling scent chemicals before, but cis-3-hexanol is unique in that it smells strongly of cut grass, crossed with the smell of an unripe (green) banana. In Aqua Allegoria Herba Fresca, perfumer Jean-Paul Guerlain uses cis-3-hexanol in combination with other green plant smells, such as mint and green tea, to create a hovering, floating, fresh scent that most certainly references nature but is somehow abstract at the same time.

What does cis-3-hexanol smell like to me?

Cis-3-hexanol smells like a chemical, hyper-natural version of cut grass to my nose. It is also a tad earthy and hints at the cool aspects of crushed peppermint. I can also detect a faint burning smell in this chemical.

Scent Station 6 – Scent Chemical: Methyl cyclopentenolone / Fragrance: La Petite Robe Noire

This scent chemical is considered a “maple lactone”, and, according to Burr’s exhibition notes, is used “to generate sugary caramel notes without associations of fairy floss.” When perfumer Thierry Wasser was working on creating La Petite Robe Noire (The Little Black Dress), he wanted to represent the colour black in the fragrance. As methyl cyclopentenolone has a very deep, dark smell, Wasser chose to use it in La Petite Robe Noire.

What does methyl cyclopentenolone smell like to me?

Methyl cyclopentenolon smells like a deep, earthy, almost-savoury, synthetic maple syrup. It is a touch woody, and burnt-smelling, like a burnt-sugar topping on a crème brulée.

Scent Station 7 – Scent Chemical: benzaldehyde / Fragrance: L’Homme Idéal

Benzaldehyde has actually been around for quite a while, as far as scent molecules/chemicals go. It was created in 1832, and is, according to Burr, notoriously difficult to use because of its intensely strong smell of bitter almond. In L’Homme Idéal, Thierry Wasser has balanced the intensity of this ingredient with coumarin (from Jicky) and ethyl vanillin (from Shalimar), no doubt rounding out its strength with these other, slightly softer gourmand notes.

What does benzaldehyde smell like to me?

Benzaldehyde has a glorious, rich, true marzipan smell. It’s a tad sweet and while it smells a bit like coumarin, is much richer and more intense. As I continue to smell it, after a few minutes I detect a strong cinnamon facet to this chemical. The aldehyde component (aldehydes give fragrance ingredients lightness and help them to “float”) helps to create an overall impression of a floating, hovering, sweet, spicy, cinnamon-infused almond tart filling. It’s incredible, dark, rich and gorgeous, and is my favourite scent molecule in this exhibition.

In Summary

I hope that this report of my own impression of these scent chemicals and a brief discussion of how they were used in the corresponding Guerlain fragrances has helped to evoke a sense of what it is like to experience Chandler Burr’s Hyper-Natural. Have you been lucky enough to smell any of these scent chemicals yourself in another context? Have you been to Hyper-Natural, and if so, what did you think of these ingredients? What did they smell like to you? I’d love you to share your thoughts in the comments below.

Bibliographical note: I drew upon the curatorial/exhibition notes from the NGV’s Hyper-Natural exhibition in order to write this report, however, the opinions stated about each scent chemical are my own.

How Smell Works: Olfactory Cells Heal Paralysed Man in Breakthrough Treatment

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A coronal section through the main olfactory bulb of an adult male mouse. “Mouse MOB three color” by Matt Valley – Released by author. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Last week I posted a link to an interesting article about how olfactory receptors are not just in our noses, as previously thought, but can actually be found throughout our bodies. Scientists have discovered that there is the potential for healing damaged skin and tissue with the application of various aromachemicals to damaged areas. You can read more about these discoveries and find the link to the article via my How Smell Works: It’s Not All in the Nose blog post.

This week, another interesting article made headlines around the world, again demonstrating the powerful healing potential of olfactory cells in the human body. In this case, cells taken from the olfactory bulbs in the brain of Darek Fidyka, a 38-year-old Bulgarian man, were used to heal his severed spinal cord. Darek has now learnt to walk again and can drive a car. You can read more about this incredible finding in this ABC News article.  If you want to read a little more about the method scientists used in the procedure, this article from The Guardian contains some good information.

Here is a short extract from the ABC News article:

The breakthrough came after four decades of research by Professor Geoff Raisman, from the University College London, who spotted the potential of cells that repair damage to nasal nerves.

The circuitry that gives rise to the sense of smell is the only part of the nervous system that constantly regenerates.

“The idea was to take something from an area where the nervous system can repair itself, and does throughout life, and put it into an area that doesn’t repair itself,” Professor Raisman said.

“I believe this is the moment when paralysis can be reversed.”

Amazing stuff! Enjoy reading and let me know what you think in the comments section below.