The Scent of Possibility, a Novel by Sarah McCartney, in Which Kindness, Connectedness and Scent Play Starring Roles

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One could be forgiven for thinking lately that the world seems to be going to hell in a handbasket. I needn’t mention all the unsettling things that have gone on globally in recent times, the events are still so fresh and are being discussed endlessly in the media. Fear of instability is rampant and is, I feel, often incorrectly attributed to certain groups in society, often those who are most vulnerable. Divisiveness is encouraged as we are told to fear those who may take from us what is “rightfully” ours.

Those of us who don’t subscribe to this way of thinking might be struggling a little with the current social and political climates. I know I am. Lately, as I’ve dealt with chronic illness, and the long struggle to get well again, I’ve turned to meditation and to writers such as Tara Brach, a Buddhist psychologist. I also find myself pondering the things that make life (and humankind) good, thinking about the similarities between us all, and how we are all struggling with one thing or another. It’s important at a time like this to cultivate positive connections with others (which we need for health and survival), love, kindness and understanding. We all fear the loss of safety and stability and the loss of control over our lives:

Wanting and fearing are natural energies, part of evolution’s design to protect us and help us thrive. But when they become the core of our identity, we lose sight of the fullness of our being. We become identified with, at best, only a sliver of our natural being — a sliver that perceives itself as incomplete, at risk and separate from the rest of the world. If our sense of who we are is defined by feelings of neediness and insecurity, we forget that we are also curious, humorous and caring. We forget about the breath that is nourishing us, the love that unites us, the enormous beauty and fragility that is our shared experience of being alive. (Tara Brach – Radical Acceptance)

This sense of connectedness, of beauty and collective fragility, is at the core of perfumer and writer Sarah McCartney’s novel The Scent of Possibility. When I read this novel last year, I was quite moved by the kind and generous spirit of the book, the intense Britishness of it (there are many, many cups of tea served), and the way the characters connect and intertwine. The Scent of Possibility is both a remedy for and a respite from real life, while encapsulating all that is good about people and their capacity for kindness.

The novel, lucky for us, was the catalyst for the accidental launch of Sarah’s 4160Tuesdays perfumery. The story goes that McCartney was writing a novel about a perfumer/counsellor who creates bottles of personalised scent that capture her clients’ happy memories. Suddenly, all her friends were asking her to make the perfumes she was writing about in the novel, and make them she did. Now we all have the wonderful fragrances of 4160Tuesdays – with their fabulous names and creative backstories – to wear and enjoy. How serendipitous!

hydrosol-939216_640The blurb on the back of the The Scent of Possibility reads:

Down a cobbled mews off one of London’s rare tranquil backstreets, people come to talk, gaze at the garden, have a nice cup of tea and a biscuit, then leave with a small blue bottle of perfume. Captured inside it is the scented memory of happy times.

The protagonist in the novel (our perfumer/counsellor) is aptly named Unity Cassel, and I am inclined to think that she is the sort of heroine we all need right now in this chaotic time. Unity connects and unites the characters in the novel in the most delightful way – I’m not going to give away any plot points – and her kindness and generosity cast a wonderfully warm glow over the whole story. Slightly more sinister characters and plot twists and turns also emerge, but instead of destabilising everything, they ultimately serve to shine an even brighter, more positive light upon the more pleasant qualities and characters in the novel. Goodness and connectedness win out over divisiveness.

And in case you’re wondering, yes, some of the scents created in the novel by Unity for her various clients have been made into perfumes and are available to purchase from 4160Tuesdays. You can experience a multi-sensory journey by reading the book and then trying the fragrances, or order them first and try them as you read! Among them, Ealing Green, Tart’s Knicker Drawer, Shazam!, What I Did on My Holidays, and A Kiss by The Fireside are available. If you know and wear these fragrances already, you will love reading the book and finding out about the characters and the stories that inspired them.

If you’re a perfume buff, or just want to read a really lovely novel about people being kind to one another, give The Scent of Possibility a go. It’s an elixir for the soul and gives hope that good scent, cups of tea and most importantly human connection can help overcome adversity.

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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!