In the midst of the current disruption to our everyday lives and the mixed emotions that accompany constant adjustment to shifting expectations while anticipating new information by the hour, it struck me how remarkably the situation has jolted us all, collectively, into the present.
With our physical fields of vision literally narrowed to the confines of our homes, little annoyances can be magnified, but so can little blessings come into focus. My coworkers have been sharing reminders of the latter, as well as listicles of productivity tips and suggestions for self care. I hope it doesn’t start getting competitive as to who manages to maintain the most zen through it all. We can tend to be a society of alpha flower sniffers sometimes—the one who stops to smell the most flowers, wins!……
But for now, we live in the now, and we can be encouraged that we are definitely not alone.
Forever – is composed of Nows.
For a couple of weeks already, I’d been meaning to compose a blend of warm, fuzzy notes—a fragrant security blanket of sorts. I had just bought some ingredients I hadn’t tried before:
- Ambrette seed extract: very nutty and powdery. Reminded me of halva, though not sesame. Nothing like Ambrettolide for sure!
- Mimosa absolute: warm like a dense fruit. Rich and deep in its semisolid form. Hard to describe in words.
- Osmanthus absolute: first of all, I didn’t expect this to look almost black. Greenish black. The tea and apricot tones are all there, in a very concentrated juice form that makes it a bit astringent.
- Tagetes (marigold) essential oil: a beautiful dark orange color. Its scent reminded me of light coffee. My other half countered with “bubblegum,” and now I can’t un-smell that either.
- Tonka bean absolute: I didn’t have high hopes for this one, because I haven’t met a marketed perfume touting tonka that I really liked. Even the eponymous Commodity Tonka and Le Labo Tonka 25 didn’t impress me much—they were vaguely chocolatey and resinous (maybe because of other ingredients). But this—rich, dark, nutty chocolatey-ness swirling in bright booziness—is unexpectedly divine. I am IN LOVE!
- Cinnamon bark essential oil: it really is the smell of all the gourmet associations many of us have formed with cinnamon spice, without the distractions of heat, sugar, or gritty texture. I recently read 2 of Mandy Aftel’s books almost in parallel—Essence & Alchemy: A Natural History of Perfume and Fragrant: The Secret Life of Scent, both of which are fascinating, well researched, and wonderful resources for anyone experimenting with botanical (and some animal) ingredients. From those books, I learned about “accessory notes,” whose “trace presence can transform a blend […] Yet if used in more than minute quantities, they will create a disaster” (quote from Fragrant). Cinnamon is one such accessory note.
- Bitter yuzu absolute: this smells just like the citron teas (large jars of marmalade that you dissolve in hot water) you could find in many Asian supermarkets. It smells much sweeter than the sweet yuzu essential oil I have mostly used up, which smells cold and bitter. What a double paradox!
After spending some quality time with each ingredient, I finally put them together with some others. The first attempt smelled very much like rooibos tea, probably thanks in large part to the tiny dot of cinnamon. The tagetes made it surprisingly orangey, and the next day, it smelled like Irn-Bru (a sugary, carbonated soft drink from Scotland) or cream soda. Very bright, fruity, and even sweet—not the nutty, fuzzy comforter I had imagined; but it has its place.
I then made a couple more iterations, making minor tweaks to proportions and adding guaiacwood and then shamama agar attar, but both of these turned a bit sour at the drydown.
This version managed to be warm and cozy while maintaining some intrigue at the top, at least for a few minutes:
- Top: bitter yuzu, black pepper, mimosa, rosewood*
- Heart: osmanthus, cinnamon bark
- Base: ambrette seed, Peru balsam, tonka bean, sandalwood
Each ingredient gets a brief moment in the sniffing equivalent of a spotlight, but the harmony quickly fades into a smooth solo note of creamy sandalwood.
I hope the blend gets richer with time. In the meantime, it is serving as my all-botanical… Anecdotal Antidote!
*This rosewood essential oil is really a mix of mostly other woods such as ho wood for sustainability reasons.