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11 Jan

I’m really torn about my two new perfumes, Phoebe and Chronos. I was prepared not to release them in the end, but I sent them to my friend John Reasinger (who’s reviewed all my perfumes and is a real champion of Lord’s Jester) and he and his mother really liked them; at some point in a chat, John wrote, “Wait a minute–Phoebe rocks!” To me, neither one is full of enough character. They both have odd undertones; Phoebe smells intensely floral, but there’s a little bit of funk/stank underneath (from stinky costus-root absolute); Chronos smells to me at first a little like rubber, and not until well into the dry down does it begin to smell like the telltale “maple candy” of immortelle flowers. I’m torn: I don’t think these are as good as my other perfumes, but John assures people will love them. Do I release them or not? I think I’ll decide in the next week.

Benzoin. The first and most important ingredient in amber.

They’re already bottled, in all four sizes. I listed them on my site as “limited editions.” That way I can change the formulas; no one will expect the same perfumes. The main problem here was this: I made several test batches (with Phoebe over several years), but in both cases, there was a big disconnect between the odor of the test batches and, in turn, the full-size batches. That’s happened before with other perfumes, but it was because I changed certain aromatics; I don’t change aromatics anymore. The test batch must use exactly the same aromatics as the larger batch. That’s why I’m a bit confused; perhaps we have to be even more precise with amounts of each aromatic. I’m thinking, on smelling the final products, “Oh! That is SO not what I smelled in the test batches.”

Vanilla. Another important ingredient in amber.

Perhaps, in the end, certain aromatics need to change non-uniformly in making the bigger batches. I know with Phoebe, I detect a slightly funky undertone. I know why: because of costus-root absolute. Costus is a little stinky. When I went to make the bigger batch, I just multiplied the weight of the test batch to figure out a weight for the larger batch. With stinky things like costus, I should adjust the weight according to what I suspect will happen in the larger batch. I tried for a while to use lavender in perfumes; no matter what I did, I ended up with something stinky. The only place it appears in my line is Ares eau de cologne; a cologne is light enough you can’t really detect lavender. The point of Ares is to be a kind of spicy amber cologne. I plan to make a “real” amber perfume, eau de parfum. It will be simpler and let the amber smell really shine through. I think I’ll call it Zeus; the smell of amber is sort of ancient.

Copal. I think Al-Kindi used copal.

An Arabian apothecary and philosopher, Al-Kindi, in the ninth century, was the first to make “amber perfume” (I think); it quickly spread through the ancient world. I happen to think amber is a good backdrop for perfume in general; a perfumer can play around with proportions of the three ingredients, and even add other layers. I use tonka-bean (in addition to benzoin, labdanum, and vanilla) in Daphne, which is a twist on amber (tonka smells similar to vanilla). Amber is a lovely smell. I want Zeus to be a simple amber; I want it to be robust, so I might make it an eau de parfum. I don’t think anyone will object if you walk into a room smelling like amber. I think of Zeus, king of gods and ruler of Mount Olympus, when I think of glorious amber. It’s not a masculine scent; I prefer to think of it as unisex, like all the rest of my perfumes.

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