• Sticky and Stuck
  • AmberJournalSolid Perfume

Sticky and Stuck

candy lane, originally uploaded by Carol Esther.

You won’t ever hear me complaining about my work as a perfumer. I have the most creative freedom possible on this earth and I enjoy every bit of the process from concept to getting dirty and messing up with the scents. It is also very rare that I find myself “stuck” and in a sort of an awkward situation when it comes to fragrance development.

But now I am. I am feeling quite frustrated with a particular composition I was commissioned to create for a client. There are a few technical issues at hand, one being that the medium is a solid perfume (rather than the alcohol I usually prefer to work in). The second is that the scent itself is an ambery fragrance, and is meant to be mostly amber. The issue is not so much with the scent itself as it is with the medium it’s in. You see, most of the essences used to create an amber accord are stickier than molasses. Benzoin, Peru balsam, labdanum… These are all thick and sticky materials that without the helping hand of alcohol are really difficult to work with. I feel like I hit that spot in Candyland and I am just not seeing the way out… I already missed 8 turns, and that's more than I'm used to...

The other problem I am finding myself in is that originally, this was meant to be an amber/incense scent. I am feeling a lack of direction, even though these two seemingly have no conflict with one another whatsoever. When it comes to a scent that is rather simple, they seem to just not get to where I’d like them to be. Amber and incense should be rich, deep, penetrating and sweet. Instead, I am getting a gooey mess that smells more like rancid resins than anything else. Plus you get that sticky feeling when you finally get to smear it on your skin. Not fun at all, I’m telling you. And with the amber pulling one direction and incense pulling the other, I am feeling totally stuck in the middle from an olfactory design point of view.

Last night, what I did was blend together a new amber base. I already developed 5 different ambers which I love. But for this client I think they deserve to get something new. It is mostly based on Peru balsam with hints of other balsams, vanilla, benzoin and styrax. What makes this interesting is the added note of helicrysum absolute. And this is what I am hoping would set this apart from other ambers (meaning: keep it from being lame…). To that amber base I would like to add a tad of smoky-resinous notes of Choya Loban (the distractive distillation of benzoin, meaning it is left ot burn and scortch a little in the process, to produce a wonderfully smoky burnt caramel scent). Aside from that, a bit orange for sweetness and a lift, guiacwood for additional smokiness and finally a bit of cedar to thin out the consistency and add a smooth woodsy touch.

Cross your fingers for me... I am hoping in the morning, after I melt these all together into a solid perfume, I will finally get what I want: A stunning smoky amber.

Update: I spent most of the day struggling with the amber. I made additional 3 mods and melted them down to make a creme parfum. In all instances, the resins sink to the bottom after melting and even after re-melting. Changing the order of melting didn't help much either (i.e.: melting the essences together with the beeswax, or alternatively heating them up gently inside in oil base). I am getting scorched caramel lining on all of my pots and am feeling almost helpless... But wait, there is hope. One of the ambers seems to smell right after becoming a solid. It's a sweet, sugary amber and my friends who came over for dinner tonight tried it on and loved it. They even thought it is very girly and fashionable, which is the last thing I would have thought about it... Which is a good thing, because this amber is suppose to be very approachable, even if a bit off-beat and interesting. Is it possible that I am over-criticizing my amber?

A few hours later, my amber on my arm has warmed into a truly caramely, sugary layer glimpsing at me from my skin. I am starting to think that it might be it. Or at least very close to where I want to get. Forget about the woods and smoke. Let's just do a caramely amber and enjoy the dessert...
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