Wooden Flowers

Takashi Murakami MFA
Takashi Murakami exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, MA, USA (2018)


It’s in our nature to pooh-pooh what’s “been done,” as though attempting to emulate something good were in and of itself some kind of taboo. Without any incentive for loyalty—even to the latest new thing—fad culture becomes the most valuable proposition. Why make something that lasts if no one is going to hang around to see it last?


I decided to take a step back from building off of abstract ideas for perfume and try to construct one with a traditional pyramid: a bright-floral-woody structure. I wasn’t set on a particular top note in the beginning, because I mostly wanted to showcase ylang-ylang and elemi and figured I’d experiment with different top notes to complement these.

  • I tried benzyl acetate, which pervaded the opening with an apple tone (much more so than the white floral it’s supposed to highlight) and then quickly dropped out to reveal the more stable yellow florals and woods without any real transition.
  • I then went for herbal and tried clary sage and angelica root, but they were also too dissonant with the other ingredients.
  • Finally I succumbed to the prototypic and adopted the citrus-peppery with nutmeg and bergamot.

I’m quite happy about the choice of nutmeg here, which I probably wouldn’t have made if I hadn’t learned by reading that nutmeg can be an alternative to pink pepper (which I don’t currently have).


For the base, I initially had the viscerally enchanting Virginian cedarwood in the mix, but its beauty was dominated by its ego and it demanded to be the star. This perfume wasn’t the stage for it, though, so I omitted it from later modifications.


The wholesome, mostly botanical result:

  • Top: nutmeg, bergamot
  • Heart: ylang-ylang, geranium, tuberose, linalool
  • Base: elemi, Bourbon vetiver, Cedramber®, Ysamber®

(I know, the last 2 are powerful aromachemicals that have a cedarwood scent component, but it really was the essential oil that took over in the first couple of versions.)

It’s nothing groundbreaking, and it was deliberately not meant to be. It does feel pretty well balanced, though, which it was meant to be. As this was something of an exercise as well as an excuse to play with some of my newer ingredients (ylang-ylang and all of the base notes), I did not have a name for it already in mind.

My other half, who gets to sniff practically every mod via vials, blotters, and wrists that appear without warning half an inch under his nose, remarked on the latest round: “Wooden flowers?”

I laughed and said, “That would be great name for a perfume!”

As I thought some more about it, I realized, that wood be a great name for a perfume! This one smells just like wooden flowers, or how I would imagine them to smell. The ylang-ylang is quite potent, complemented by the carved-woodiness of the base.


A liquid fantasy made almost tangible—Wooden Flowers.






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