Impressions De Giverny by Rasei Fort for Fort & Manlé 2018 + Interview

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Portia

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Hi there APJ,

There has been a lot of buzz around the Fort & Manlé brand in the last couple of years. The fragrances are excellent and not stereotypically niche. When you hold a bottle in your hand you can feel the heart and love that’s gone into creating something so beautiful, and then when you spritz! That’s when the real fireworks start. I’m an unashamed fan of Rasei and his work. We’ve met and I found him a Continue reading

Roxana Villa of Roxana Illuminated Perfume: Interview #2

Hey APJ,

Yesterday Azar started her amazing in-depth look into the life and work on one of APJs favourite Independent Perfumers, Roxana Villa. Today we continue the fascinating story. I hope you are enjoying this insight as much as I am.
Portia xx

Roxana Illuminated Perfume Portrait

Roxana Villa of Roxana Illuminated Perfume: Interview #2

You use vital, natural materials to create your perfumes. How many of these materials do you distill, tincture and create yourself from what you gather in your own garden?

I prefer using the word botanical rather than natural since the terminology more accurately and authentically represents what I do. The word natural doesn’t mean anything and can be ascribed to all sorts of materials which are far from nature and what I personally would ever term as natural.

I currently do not distill any of my materials, I do work with small distillers and am extremely mindful where my essences come from. I am not interested in working with materials that have anything to do with the petroleum industry, which is where synthetics and most isolates come from. I’m also making more of an effort to use ingredients from companies that do not do animal testing or offer historical animal ingredients such as civet and castoreum.

I do extract scent and vital components from plants in my garden using processes that stem out of herbalism and ancient perfumery such as infusing, tincturing and enfleurage . A few weeks ago my jasmine sambac plants started their flowering cycle. Everyday I check for blossoms that will go into 190 proof alcohol, jojoba oil and a wax+oil preparation. The end result of the process will go into different products I offer and ones that are just for myself.

Roxana Illuminated Perfume logo_t

I find your artwork both profound and light hearted. The pieces entitled “Botanicus” and “Pollinate” are two of my favorites. Could you describe the process that brings your perfume and visual art into being?

Thanks so much for your sweet comment about my illustrations. Conceptual thinking is a skill set I learned while studying illustration at Otis Art Institute in the mid 80’s. The talent for taking an idea and transcribing into a visual image easily translates into a fragrance. For example, the fragrance Q in my line came out of the intention to save seven California native oaks on a lot next to our home. As a visual artist I would do a drawing and or painting to bring attention to the challenge, in this case I decided to take action by gathering leaves from the trees on the high holiday of Beltane, putting them into 190 proof alcohol to extract their essence and scent and creating a fragrance. At the time I did not have a line of perfumes, I was making my living as an illustrator, teaching aromatherapy on the side and creating custom fragrances. The oak is called Duir by the Druids, stemming from the Sanskrit Dwr meaning door. Q was the perfume which motivated me to launch my line so that I could bring awareness to the plight of this glorious native tree. My intention as an artist, whether working in the visual or aromatic realm is to illuminate, bring light, to the connection between humans and the realm of plants so that we may live in harmony.

I am curious about your work with feral bees. Are these bees the same genus-species (Apis mellifera) as our domesticated honeybees? Do you manage them in commercial style hives or just hope they will return to wild hives on your property?

The feral honey bee we have here in the US is indeed Apis mellifera. The difference between her and the genetically modified version used by industrial bee keepers is that sheRoxana Illuminated Perfume LyraPinkie1t hasn’t been tinkered with in a lab to make her larger with the intention of producing more honey. The feral bee is smaller and contains a diversity of genetics making her resistant to the perils of her larger, frankensteined sisters. She is surviving quite well in urban areas where there is a diverse diet of plants and flowers versus the chemically treated crops of commercial agriculture. A great film to watch that addresses this topic really well is More Than Honey: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2NT05qEJxUk

There is a lack on consciousness when corporations get involved with nature, greed takes over and methodologies are practiced with no long term thinking. The current situation with GMOs is a great example. The major sources of media are all owned by giant conglomerates which choose what the masses need to hear. They edit information without fact checking and present views that further their causes.

The two hives on my property are feral bees saved from three different locations around Los Angeles. The methods I use are those of holistic beekeepers, or my new favorite term bee guardians. My mentor, Kirk Anderson, teaches us that the bees know exactly what they are doing, its humans who are messing things up. I allow the bees to build their own comb and I use absolutely no pesticides, fungicides, sugar water, etc. The honey bee is very fastidious and keeps the hive very tidy, at 98 degrees and knows what to do if things go out of balance. The more we stay out of the way the healthier they are and the more they can concentrate on the task given to them.

If you could chose only three people who have had the most influence on your life as an artist and perfumer who would they be?

While attending Otis Art Institute in downtown LA I had an illustration teacher named Laurence Carroll that was really different because he was passionate, full of energy and visionary. He encouraged me to follow the personal style he was seeing in the drawings in my sketchbook instead of doing standard representational type of illustration that was acceptable. Since then I’ve been using my own authenticity as my guiding light.

Here’s a quote by Steve Jobs that sums up what I learned from Laurence:
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”

Roxana Illuminated Perfume Impromptu bottle sideSecond on the list is Dr, Streicher who I heard speak at the very first World of Aromatherapy Conference in San Francisco. At the time I was still a newbie to aromatics. During his presentation he made a comment that really resonated with me about how some individuals entering into the field of aromatherapy have been called upon by the plants. That simple phrase resonated very deeply and made me feel like I was on the correct course.

The third person is the support of the collective from my family, which includes my mother, daughter, husbands, uncle, grandmother and ancestors.

I understand you will be launching an exciting new project soon. Can you describe it now or will you let us know when and where we can learn more about it?

I have multiple projects going on all the time, most of them are kept secret until they have manifested, they seem to have their own schedule. I’ve learned to stay in the act of flow. The one that is about to be birthed is still in secrecy mode. I can’t wait to shout about it from the roof tops. I may have more details once this interview is published.

Last question – I’ll keep it short: Do you have a favorite flower?

As a visual artist I would get asked “Do you have a favorite color” which as a perfumer is similar to having a favorite flower. I like different flowers for different reasons. In termsRoxana Illuminated Perfume Blooming Vortex Girl of my palette I seem to be most drawn to all the jasmines, particularly jasmine sambac, although auriculatum and grandiflorium are also favorites. The earthy, sexiness of labdanum and the soft, powdery cucumber notes of orris are others I am constantly attracted to.

Thank you so much, Roxana, for answering these questions and for taking the time to join us at APJ. I’m looking forward to reviewing the new version of your Impromptu and perhaps the 2014 edition of Gracing the Dawn as well. Best wishes for every success. I hope to make it to the NAHA conference this year to hear you speak in person.

It’s been a pleasure to chat with you Azar, I appreciate your intellect with the research and mindfulness you’ve displayed in preparing these questions.

All Photos Stolen Roxana Illuminated Perfume

If you would like to try Roxana’s Illuminated Perfume <<<JUMP

Stay tuned Friday for a review and MAYBE a GIVEAWAY…….

Roxanne-and-GregRoxana & Greg at home May 2013 taken by Portia

 

 

Roxana Villa of Roxana Illuminated Perfume: Interview #1

Hello APJ,

Today it is my privilege to speak with Roxana Villa of Roxana Illuminated Perfume about her life and work as artist and perfumer.

Roxana Villa of Roxana Illuminated Perfume: Interview #1

Welcome to APJ, Roxana! You are a multi-talented artist with abiding interests in various fields including aromatherapy. Has your professional training in aromatherapy contributed to your skills as a perfumer?

The skill sets I learned in professional aromatherapy training have absolutely influenced my work as a perfumer! I use what I learned in aromatherapy training and working as a practitioner everyday. I came to aromatherapy via a little bottle of Juniperus viriginiana at a sweat lodge. That little amber bottle had me witness firsthand the power of essential oils as agents that facilitate mind body wellness in a very holistic framework. Later on, as my knowledge and experience deepened on the healing power of plants, I yearned to combine my two skill sets. At an artists’ workshop in Austria titled “Old Masters, New Visions,” I witnessed the divine interconnection between the visual arts, alchemy and perfume. I then decided to weave all my talents into a perfume business highlighted with the word “illuminated,” referencing the 15th century, when the arts were united by the use of raw plant matter.

Roxana Illuminated Perfume logo

Do you consider your perfumes to be therapeutic as well as beautiful and if so could you give us an example of what you consider to be a “therapeutic” perfume and explain how (why) it works?

All my fragrances have a therapeutic imprint because of the intention I hold when creating them and due to the vitality of the materials in my palette. Just today one of my customers sent me this note: “A simple note to say a tremendous thank you for doing what you do. I have not found another perfumer quite as outstanding as you. Your perfumes make me feel instantly uplifted when I am enveloped in their mystical fragrances.” On a more scientific level, looking at the ingredients contained in my fragrances, you will see that my palette is composed of elements that contain life force, vital energy from the plant world. My fragrances go beyond being a “chemical soup”, I use materials that are as close to nature as possible, no hybrids, no isolates, no historical animal ingredients, etc.

Therapeutic can be defined differently by individual human experience. I am looking at therapeutics on a very holistic level from how and where a plant isRoxana Illuminated Perfume Gracing the Dawn grown, the manner the essence is obtained and distilled to the integrity of the company that sells the aromatic. For example I choose to buy and support companies that are having a positive affect on the planet because that energetic is all part of end product.

At one of the many aromatherapy conferences I attended in the nineties Jan Kusmirek of Fragrant Earth showed us the difference between a lavender essential oil obtained from plants that were harvested by hand using a sickle versus one where a machine was used. These kind of subtleties contribute to quality and what might be considered a therapeutic perfume.

This year you will be one of the main presenters at the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) “Beyond Aromatics” conference at the Bastyr University campus near Seattle. Your topic “The Tree of Life: A Mystical Approach to the Art of Botanical Perfumery” is fascinating to me. Can you give the APJ a brief overview of your presentation? I am especially interested in your take on “essential oils and the elementals”.

The presentation I am giving at the Beyond Aromatics conference is based on ideas of intuition and creativity from William Blake combined with a book proposal I created in 1998. There are many ways to approach creating a fragrance, a mystical approach requires freedom from rational constraints and strict rules. To be in creative flow requires the ability to break free of guidelines and courageously jump into the watery realm of the circle and intuitive mind.Roxana Illuminated Perfume bottles In the end both the left and the right brain are important but its crucial for those seeking to ascend the art of perfumery and their consciousness. I will delve into the multiple meanings of The Tree of Life and how it is the perfect metaphor for creating botanical perfume.

I discovered essential oils at a time when I was working as an initiate with a shaman, learning Celtic and magical wisdom alongside with aromatherapy studies. As I did so, I began to see parallels and thus created content for a book and card deck. Publishers back then felt the content was too niche and progressive. Over the years I’ve refined the ideas which are part of the presentation for the conference. Here’s a link to a post on my blog that gets into some of the elemental aspects I will be referring to.

Since I was a child I have been convinced of a type of sentience unique to plants and to the earth itself. I believe that there is much more to a creating a real fragrance than using an analysis derived from headspace technology to chemically copy the scent of a flower. Is it possible to make the life and the sentient spirit of flowers, plants and the earth really come alive in a fragrance?

The fragrance industry is very much like the art world, there’s a lot of variety in the equation from those who work as an art director or figure head to those working on a deep level with the plants and earth elementals. I completely agree with your observation on the sentience of plants and the earth. The challenge is to assist humans in connecting to the refined, subtle energies of the plant divas. When we do this as a collective then Mother Earth will begin to sense our awakening and respond to us. One of my teachers said that dancing outside on the land is acupuncture for the planet. The simple gesture is a conduit between heaven and earth that gets us out of the logical brain, away from electronics, connecting to our physical bodies and the subtle earth energies.

There have been a number of recent scientific studies of plant communication involving enzymes and mycorrhizal networks. Do you believe that there is a historical precedent or background to this work?

It’s fabulous how modern science is now validating ideas that great yogis and masters have been communicating for centuries within sacred texts like the Bhagavad Gita and our Roxana Illuminated Perfume Handmore modern sages like Rudolf Steiner and Machaelle Small Wright. In the answer to your first question in this interview, I briefly mentioned an experience a little bottle of Juniperus virginiana. Inhaling the aromatic molecules of the red cedar produced a moment out of time where I was transported to a dense forest of ancient Redwoods. I felt as if I was deeply rooted, connected with the trees and a feeling of expansion that traveled upward up to the sky. Then, pop, I came back to the scene of the women and sweat lodge feeling with a sense of profound gift from the plant kingdom.

Where do you stand on plant communication, plant sentience and this “secret life of plants”?

I stand amongst the ancient redwoods and the California native oaks. The mycorrhizal networks is another example of how the plant, insect and segments of the animal kingdom function as a collective. For example in an ancient forest you will have a “Mother” tree while in a hive of european honey bees you will have a Queen, in both instances the Mother and the Queen are integral to the whole. These are examples of systems that work together as a team that benefit their own community and the greater good. As humans we seem to be stuck in a cycle, like the Karmic Wheel, we have periods of enlightenment like the stage in the mid 50’s when we became conscious of civil rights. Then the wheel turns and dark forces of unconscious behavior of corruption and greed take root where we once again must awaken and ascend. There are many metaphors of this cycle in traditions throughout the world, one of my favorites from western story telling is the trilogy of the Lord of the Rings.

Here’s are two examples of how in tune nature is, the first explains how the mycorrhizal networks work:


and the second (sorry about the commercial) shows how wolves change rivers:

Everything is connected.

(Ed: Please watch the two under 5 minute videos, they will change the way you see the world)

All Photos Stolen Roxana Illuminated Perfume

If you would like to try Roxana’s Illuminated Perfume <<<JUMP

Stay tuned tomorrow for a continuation of Roxana Villa’s incredible and inspirational journey to now…….

 

Chandler Burr Interview: Untitled + Art Of Scent Exhibition

Hello APJ Friends and Family,

Admission time everyone, I have a crush. Since I found you all on the scentbloggosphere, and started reading the stuff you’d all known for years, I have been hearing and reading about one name consistently. Some people love him, others feel otherwise, but no one can dismiss the changes he has helped bring to the way personal scenting is viewed by the greater public. This man, alongside Luca Turin/Tanya Sanchez, Victoria of Bois de Jasmin, Denyse of Grain de Musc, Robin of Now Smell This, Patty from Perfume Posse, has been a positive voice for change. Educating, expanding the horizons and realigning perfume into the modern consciousness in ways it’s never been before in modern times.

He was the New York Times fragrance reviewer, yes, but have you read his books? The Emperor of Scent, The Perfect Scent? Excellent reads in the perfumed maze of literature but did you also know he wrote a book, A Separate Creation, about how we are biologically pre programmed if we are gay? Or his novel, You or Someone Like You, a story about a gay Jewish young man whose mother was not Jewish? This man is not only sexy, erudite and engaging: he can also write a rollicking tale that is a page turner without being a pot boiler.

You might want to grab a cuppa, or a glass of something, I hope you really enjoy this interview….Please welcome APJs very special guest today

Chandler Burr

Interview: Untitled + Art Of Scent Exhibition

Chandler Burr kris krüg  FlickrPhoto Stolen kris krüg  Flickr

I have a couple of questions firstly about your very interesting “Untitled” series please Chandler. There is so much I love about it, the blind testing and the history of that being the way you measured your frags for the NYTimes reviews, that you have brought all these prominent houses together to do it, the hype and fuss you were able to generate: all these things thrilled me. I’d like to know why you felt the need to send 50ml bottles: surely a 10ml atomiser would have served the purpose as well and been easier to ship?

Actually they’re all 30ml bottles except for E03, which was 15ml. Mailing a 30ml and a 10ml is virtually the same thing logistically, and I very consciously chose to give those who bought each episode a serious amount of the work and not a mere sample.

It was a great shame that it wasn’t open to the world as I’d’ve loved to have been part of the experiment and so would some of the rest of the crew down under?

It’s infuriating and disappointing for us as well. We tried every possible way of getting around it, but it is just flatly illegal to ship alcohol outside the US. That includes 10mls. We talked to people at the US Postal Service, UPS, FedEx, etc. Maybe in the future. People send perfume illicitly all the time—you just write “book” or “sample” or something on the customs form—but if it’s caught the contents are either refused or destroyed and, if it comes from a business like Open Sky, the fact that it’s illegal can lead to serious problems. So there we are, unfortunately.

What were the most important things that the fragrances needed to possess before being put into the series?

One criterion was the inclusion of works that in my opinion are hugely underestimated. The quintessential example is Mugler Cologne, one of the most ingenious works of olfactory art ever created, a masterpiece by Morillas. I have another coming up in the next three episodes. It was and is very important to me in this series that participants re-experience—as pure works in and of themselves with no interference—these pieces. A second criterion was presenting works that I think are the most aesthetically important, that changed the state of the art. Sel de Vetiver by, brilliantly, Celine Ellena. A third: works whose structure and technical performance are landmarks. Epinette’s Rose Noir. A fourth criterion: The introduction of artists whose work is not well-known but which I think will stand the test of time. E10.

I suppose the fundamental criterion is that the Series be utterly unlike anything else in the world or anything anyone’s done before. I’m continually reimagining it.

Are there any in the series that you would prefer not to wear but judge them purely as excellent fragrant pieces that are best enjoyed without their usual accompanying fanfare?

Very interesting question. There are actually two. I included Schwieger’s Vanille Insensee Cologne because it is a fascinating reinvention of the cologne trope in the most unlikely way possible—a structure indelibly (we thought) associated with “fresh,” as in the olfactory concept of fresh, which has nothing to do with a natural-world freshness but is a brilliant aesthetic / social construction, built from a material (we thought) fundamentally contrary to the idea of “fresh,” a material of opaque sensuality.

The cologne trope was irrelevant and outmoded; Schwieger did a Modernist version—this is the most trenchant, perfectly-fitted example of Modernism’s mission and definition, “the reinvention of old, traditional art forms with new materials, technologies, and aesthetics so that they speak to the modern person,” that it’s possible to find—and suddenly it became fascinating again. I simply wouldn’t wear it because…I don’t know why, I just wouldn’t, but I wouldn’t watch Midnight Cowboy again and I loved it the first time and it is a masterpiece. Likewise Bal d’Afrique, a 21st century abstract expressionist work that is like being choked to death with a silk rope dipped in mango and passion fruit. A great work.

Currently you have just finished, I think, the first The Art of Scent exhibition. Were you happy with how it went, did you get your desired result?

Yes, absolutely. 150,000 people saw the exhibition, it was a huge success with the public I’m very happy to be able to say, and it established the aesthetic and design premise I will build my curatorial work on.

Chandler Burr Sam Fam FlickrPhoto Stolen Sam Fam Flickr

What will you do differently when you take it on a world tour? (I have no doubt that this will happen)

We’re working on the touring exhibitions, and we’re planning on adding an entry section that will prepare the visitor better for the experience, provide context. Nothing big. The show’s Museum of Arts and Design / New York installation has been retired permanently, and we’ll be looking for new architects and designers with whom to collaborate on the traveling shows, which is going to be fascinating.

Please give me the most important reasons that you think people should treat Perfume as Art, because though it ticks some of my art boxes I still lean towards craft/trade as a whole, especially in these days of fragrant chemistry.

That scent is a major artistic medium, equal to photography, paint, music, and dance is simply incontrovertible in my view. Indeed, it’s grossly obvious. The medium is utterly artificial, which all art mediums must be to allow artists to create fictional works, works of art, which are defined in part by the condition of being artificial things created by human artistic visions. Music is made of tones that exist in the natural world, and it is the most wildly synthetic, artificial, human-manufactured thing there is; when the hell would a group of notes in a man-made key come together to produce “Claire de Lune” or “Beat It”? Answer: never. When would any perfume—any—come together, those materials, all made by people, in those quantities by anything even remotely resembling natural means? Answer, obviously: never.

I’m not sure why there is this ridiculous confusion coming from the fact that some of the materials used by scent artists are “naturals”—very much in quotation marks since there’s nothing natural, at all, about a rose petal whose oil has been extracted in a man-made machine with steam or by a gas at critical phase in yet another man-made machine. Clay is actually natural, or a hell of a lot closer to natural than a vetiver absolute that’s been manufactured with a solvent; sculpture is utterly artificial. Wood is natural; architecture is utterly artificial. All these materials are used to create works that force the public experiencing them to grapple with the artist’s purpose: to change the way we perceive the world, reality, and ourselves. Any work that does that is a work of art. In my view I think it would be impossible to find any logical, intellectually honest way to exclude scent from all the others mediums as an art medium.

Could you tell me about the exhibition catalog that came with the piece and how to get one please?

I’m as proud of The Art of Scent catalog that we put together as I am of the exhibition itself. If that seems strange to you, well, I believe it is arguably a greater achievement than the show. (“We” by the way is our heroic team at MAD, Yasi Ghanbari who oversaw the entire incredibly complex project, the wonderful catalog designers Christian Hansen and Gloria Pak of Hnt Creative, Heather Barrett, Patrick Gosse, Eric Koelmel, James Reardon, Tony Perez, and everyone from The Estée Lauder Companies, Hermes, Guerlain, l’Oreal, IFF, Givaudan—I’d make the list three times this long if I included everyone.) When I arrived at MAD the catalog we created was deemed by everyone flatly and categorically impossible. The brands would never allow their works to be taken out of the packaging. It would be impossible to convince them to allow the works to be treated as true works of art and sold with competitors’ works as a curated art historical collection. And so on.

art-of-scent-catalogue Now smell ThisPhoto Stolen Now Smell This

And we did the impossible. We created a limited 1,000 pieces of this catalog of which only a few hundred remain for sale—a single collector bought 25 copies the first hour it became available—it will never, ever be reproduced, and it is, I think, with all due humility, an object that will multiply in value both monetary and historic as the first and only one of its kind. There will be future catalogs from my future exhibitions. But there will never again be The Art of Scent catalog.

http://thestore.madmuseum.org/products/the-art-of-scent-1889-2012

Best to you,

Chandler

Chandler Burr VromansBookStorePhoto Stolen VromansBookStore

 

Stolen Post Script from The Perfumed Dandy…

To learn more about Chandler and his various projects, including where to buy ‘The Art of Scent’ catalogue and join the ‘Untitled Series’ simply click on any of the links in the article, there’s also that intriguing profile of Chandler by the art critic Blake Gopnik, that’s worth a peek.

My conversation with Chandler is one of a series with a number of bloggers organised by the inimitable Lanier of Scents Memory. Do look out for the others in the project which will be appearing over the weeks ahead at:

Another Perfume Blog: http://anotherperfumeblog.com/

Australian Perfume Junkies 8/9/13: https://australianperfumejunkies.com/

EauMG: http://www.eaumg.net/

Scents Memory 20/8/13: https://sentsmemory.wordpress.com/

Smelly Thoughts: http://smellythoughts.wordpress.com/

The Fragrant Man: http://thefragrantman.com/

The Perfumed Dandy 31/8/13: http://theperfumeddandy.com

The Scented Hound: http://thescentedhound.wordpress.com/

What Men Should Smell Like: http://whatmenshouldsmelllike.com/

The End of Oudh: Ensar Oud: Interview

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Guest Post by Jordan River

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Hello APJ Family,

Many of you will be familiar with the smell of synthetic Oud in modern perfumes. This is not what we are talking about. We are talking about oud from nature, from a tree. Most of you would not have come across this smell in daily life unless you have spent some time in an Islamic culture. We will explore this culture today through the prism of scent.

The End of Oudh: An Interview with Ensar Oud

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Agarwood, Oud, Aloeswood, Gaharu, and Jinko are all names for the Aquilaria tree which grows in South East Asia. This tree can be invaded by tree eating insects. To self-inoculate the tree produces a fragrant resin to repel the invaders. Not every wild tree produces resin and the older the tree the better the resin. The best resin was found in trees that were 60 to 80 years old. These trees have been over harvested and it is now rare to find a wild resin producing tree. They have all but vanished.

The best agarwood is called sinking wood as the amount of resin causes the wood to sink in water instead of floating. This grade of wood is usually reserved for Japanese incense. Chinese carvers also use this grade of agarwood for making fragrant beads and statues.

Khai Yai Oud  wood chip Ensar Oud

Khao Yai Oud wood chip. Private Collection: Jordan River

Portia and I have often spoken about how intense a particular Oud Artisan is. So tonight let’s talk with him. His name is Ensar from Ensar Oud. Ensar Oud specializes in Artisanal Oud oils that are traceable to specific jungle locations. In April 2012 Ensar rang the bell on the end of wild harvested oud by traditional gaharu hunters. He then researched organic Oud sources and re-imagined his business into the 21st century.

Ensar Oud artisan Oud

Oud Artisan Ensar at work.

Let’s zoom over to Medina now for a chat with Ensar.

Welcome Ensar, Peace.
Peace to you too Jordan.

Medina

Outside al-Masjid al-Nabawi in Medina, after morning prayer. Photo: Americophile

What are the smells of Medina?
The copious smoke of Oud wood and burning bukhoor reaches you from all sides as you walk down the street. But to quote one vendor: “Oud is finished. There is no more wood these days. Back in 2004, you had Indian wood that was mumtaz (excellent). You had Malaysian as late as 2006 that used to boggle your mind. Real chips, solid. Now all you get is this stuff… (he points to a drawer of well polished Papuan gyrinops agarwood that feels as light as packing peanuts when you hold it) Nothing is real. Fabricated wood is all you get these days.”

This is known as Black Magic wood because it is impregnanted with synthetic scent and streaked with black paint to give the impression of Oud resin.
Indeed. As for the oils that you smell here, that’s an even bleaker story. I hate to say, none of the stuff you find is natural. Everything (literally) is a scent chemical, whether it be from the so-called ‘big houses’ or the small timers tending the corner shops. The French perfume industry is booming; that is certain; and Medina is one major outlet.

Al-Masjid an-Nabawi

Al-Masjid an-Nabawi, The Prophet’s Mosque

How do Muslim men think of fragrance?
As Muslim men, we are taught that to wear perfume is an act of charity towards others around you. Enabling others to smell something pleasant is equal to giving them a gift.

Why is incense burnt in the Middle East? Is this for fumigation or for spiritual reasons?
Incense burning for remembrance and invocation as well as personal scenting is woven into Arab and Muslim culture. Again, an innate love of anything that perfumes one is what drives Muslims to bukhoor and Oud wood. Fumigating the house, scenting clothing, and cleansing an area of evil spirits who abhor beautiful fragrance; spreading an unearthly scent to facilitate remembrance in circles of invocation;these are some of the uses of incense in the Middle East.

Do you scent your beard? Under your chin?
The way I apply Oud oil is by first taking a swipe on the inside of my left wrist. Then I rub the insides of both wrists. Then I apply that sheen to the left and right sides of my neck, right under the beard. I do not apply any Oud to the beard itself as the scent would be too overpowering.

Ensar oud

What terroir of Oud are you distilling next?
We have some logs of incense grade wood, of the quality that was offered by Baieido back in the day, going into the boilers this very week. They were harvested in Chanthaburi Province (in Thailand) a few years back, and are the last specimens of wild Thai oud wood of this calibre that I’ve seen in a very long time.

Ensar, thank you for your time and for sharing your fragrant thoughts. Let’s catch up with you soon in Amman. Khuda Hafiz.

The end of wild harvested Oud has become the beginning of organically farmed trees. All over South East Asia there are plantations, many of which need several more years to age the resin.

Organic Oud plantation

Ensar on an Organic and Sustainable Oud Plantation

See you soon,
Jordan River

(Ed: This is a much edited version of an incredibly interesting interview. If you’d like to learn how Ensar gets his oils, some of his best selling fragrances and a whole lot more go to TheFragrantMan<<<JUMP)

Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes: Interview

Hello APJ Family,

We are thrilled that one of the world’s leading and most loved niche perfumers, teachers and authors has agreed to chat to us. There are few in the industry whose perfumes and self are spoken about with such reverence and respect as our special guest today. We have given her a tweaked version of the APJ Questionnaire and edited the answers slightly.

Mandy Aftel

Photo Stolen anuessentials

1. Do you have any mentors/inspirations in the perfume world? The person who has most inspired me in my creative life has always been Bob Dylan. I admire his great genius at expressing the vagaries of the heart — he is able to capture rich emotional states and memories which is something I seek to do in my perfumes. I think the first way I have of understanding the world is through my feelings… so strong in me that the only place that I can capture them and put them down is in a perfume.
My other great inspiration is the beauty of the essences themselves: the complexity, beauty, range, texture, and shape of the natural essences. I happily spend large chunks of time sourcing materials from all over the world. When I get a new essence in my hands, I’m always thinking about how I can bring it to life in a perfume and find my way to understanding each essence from the inside…. I love the range from funky stinky to drop-dead gorgeous and everything in between. They intrigue, inspire, fascinate and thrill me. I love holding in my hand the essences that have been used since the beginning of time in every culture across the world.

2. What is your philosophy regarding the use of natural ingredients as opposed to synthetics? I don’t really have a philosophy about using natural ingredients. I, myself, am more interested in the talent of the perfumer rather than the palette that they use. Personally, I am deeply inspired by the natural essences, and synthetics hold no magic for me. There is a texture and shape to the naturals aromas that’s extremely beautiful to me, and I feel as though I’m able to enter them and see them from the inside. I also must confess that their history intertwined with the history of man around the planet is something that’s quite thrilling to me.

5. Did you have a formal education in perfume or are you self-taught and tell us about your school please? I am a self-taught perfumer — I have a collection of 200 turn-of-the-century perfume books which I have studied over the years but my biggest teacher was the essences themselves. My Level 1 Workbook gives you the necessary perfumery vocabulary, the basics of relative intensity, the very important aspects of construction, and a deep understanding of what makes a top note, a middle note, or a base note. You will learn about the textures, smells, and intensities that differentiate these notes. The exercises in this workbook introduce various families of scents, familiarize you with the blending capacities of similar essences, and refine your ability to distinguish between essences within each family.
After completing the Level 1 Workbook, you can come to work with me in person at the in-studio class. This level of instruction can’t be done remotely – I need to see how you interact with the materials, and spend some time one-on-one (the class size is very small). This is a key step in learning how to critique your perfume formulas. It is very important to understand what contributes to the essences burying or locking with each other; both effects can have either a positive or negative outcome in a perfume blend.

Essence & Alchemy $15.50 @ BookDepository delivered worldwide

6. Your book, Essence & Alchemy, A Natural History of Perfume is a go-to tome often the first that new perfumistas pick up, how did that come about? When I wrote essence and alchemy I felt I had discovered this useful lost world of natural aromatics and want to share. I could not believe all the treasures I found in the antique perfume books and in the essences themselves…. I had no idea that the book would go on to have such a life and be treasured by so many people. I am now working on a new book, which I see as the successor to essence and alchemy. That feels slightly intimidating and I’m hoping that this will pick up where essence and alchemy left off.

Photo Stolen perfumepharmer

7. Can you tell us a little about your new perfume release Wild Roses? Each of my perfumes is created around solving a design challenge and capturing emotional memory. I usually start with a pair of essences that I am interested in working with and from there I build the perfume. The foundation of Wild Roses was the relationship between apricot and rose, and I anchored it with a foundation of tarragon absolute. It was a difficult design challenge to have the rose aromas evolving all the way through the perfume from beginning to end, revealing the various facets and shades of roses.
Having grown roses in my garden for years, I was smitten with the unique beauty and great variety of rose aromas. I wanted to capture in perfume the experience of walking around my garden and smelling each rose, as their perfumes blended in my nose. This is the rose that exists in your mind after you have smelled so many garden roses — blush, ruby, canary, purple, crimson edged with brown, pure white, candy-cane striped — that you feel intoxicated.

Mandy Aftel’s store Aftelier Perfumes Shop
Aftelier also has an  Excellent Sample Program

I feel like we have been able to look a little into Mandy Aftel’s soul and now when I smell her fragrances I will understand them a bit more too. Very seriously considering doing the Perfume Course right now also.

This week we are dedicating to Mandy Aftel and Aftelier Perfumes. Wednesday we will look at some of the range and Thursday there will be a GIVEAWAY!! Don’t forget.

Till we see you tomorrow,
Take care of you and those in your orbit,
Portia xx

Sheila Eggenberger Interview

Hello fellow Perfume Junkies,

Many of you will be familiar with Sheila Eggenberger of TheAlembicatedGenie and her as yet unpublished novel Quantum Demonology that has become a seriously cult-style hit in the fragrance community. Some of you will be going, “Um, What?” and it is to you that I offer this rare insight into a blogger, author and general all round great girl of the scentbloggosphere. Sheila has been a mate and champion in the short time that APJ has been running and I am proud to count her among my yet to be met net friends. Her never say die attitude is a beacon we should all learn to follow.

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In conjunction with this interview if you drop in at PerfumePosse today I have reviewed the Olympic Orchids Devilscent Project fragrances Lil#1 & Dev #2 so down the bottom there is a jump you can easily hit to trot across and read there too.

Sheila Eggenberger

Give us a brief history, who was young you, important you defining moments or early fragrant memories that may have herded you towards the ever moving now?

I grew up with a perfume-mad mother, so perfume was everywhere as I grew up, and living in South Florida – a very fragrant spot! – helped, too. Defining perfumista moment: (It ruined me for life!) A coming-of-age trip to Paris for a 14th birthday, when Maman took me to the Guerlain flagship store and told me to buy what I loved. I bought Jicky, since she didn’t wear it and I loved it. Today, I can’t believe I would choose something so …audacious! The next day, I bought (the original) Miss Dior. I was a great-smelling teenager.

What spurred you onto creating the Alembicated Genie?

It was my book, Quantum Demonology, believe it or not. By the time I neared the ending, I had had it with testosterone bombs and rock’n’roll. I wanted an outlet for my girlie sensibilities, so I created Scent Less Sensibilities which became The Alembicated Genie. I never in my wildest dreams expected to become a perfume writer. But life has been exciting ever since!

Do you have a favourite independent perfumer?

Too many to count! Andy Tauer, Vero Kern. Mandy Aftel, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, Neil Morris, Ellen Covey, Kedra Hart, Maria McElroy of aroma M and Alexis Karl, Amanda Feeley – and a new discovery who has blown my mind – Juan M. Perez of Exotic Island Perfumes. A definite one to watch – and sniff!

What do you see as the most important trend in perfume currently?

Perfume as an art form in its own right. The trend towards indie perfumers pushing the boundaries of defining perfumes is redefining the industry as well as our own perceptions of it. That more and more people are turning to the artistry and dedication of indie perfumers. And I think it’s interesting that more and more, different art forms are coalescing into projects – books and movies to go with perfumes, for instance. And a far sadder trend – world-renowned brands killing the very heritage that made them what they are.

Do you have a signature scent?  If so, what is it and how did you find it? If not, why do you think that is?

In terms of perfume, I’m an utterly faithless slut. I’m fully capable of being virtuous to my favorite brands, but the idea of picking just one perfume gives me hives – and a massive case of indecision. I have complete perfume AHDH. Where would I start, when perfume to me is a case of “Who do I want to be today – tonight – this instant?” But the closest would be Chanel no. 19 eau de parfum, which I’ve worn for over 30 years with no end in sight. It was perfect for a punk and for the Goth that punk became. It’s perfect for this walking midlife crisis and writer wanna-be, even today.

Tell us about Quantum Demonology?

It began with a discography and a discussion in a Copenhagen record store. When I came across a certain inspiring image, it evolved into a short story I wrote one night out of boredom as a joke and posted on my soapbox blog. I never thought I would be asked to continue it, but I was. So I did. Nine months to the day (!), I had a finished first-draft novel. An ode to …music, madness, passion, redemption and perdition, among other things.

How did that translate into the Devilscent Project

I blame Andy Tauer. And Ellen Covey. Perfume was always woven into the storyline. Frankincense and labdanum – two of my favorite notes – are mentioned many times, as are several other perfumes. When I reviewed Andy Tauer’s Incense Extreme as a “Would this be the Devil’s Scent?”, Ellen commented that I nearly dared her to make …the Devil’s Scent and that was how it started. Since then, it’s grown to ten bloggers, eight US indie perfumers, and no less than 19 incarnations of mind-blowing, category-defying perfume, including an incense and a deviously delicious massage bar. 

If there’s anyone reading from the world of Literature Publishing, where can they taste your Quantum Demonology?

They can find some explanations as well as samples of the prologue and the first three chapters in draft form at the Quantum Demonology blog: http://quantumdemonology.wordpress.com, many more inspirations on both the book and the Devilscent Project at the Quantum Demonology fan page on Facebook: http://facebook.com/quantumdemon, and follow the Devilscent Project on Twitter through the hashtag #devilscent.

Photo Stolen Olympic Orchids

Olympic Orchids Devilscent Project fragrances are running a terrific sample program 5 x 3ml Devilscents for $30 delivered to the world.
Read Sheila Eggenberger at TheAlembicatedGenie
Go check PerfumePosse for my reviews of the Olympic Orchid Devilscent Project, go on!

I hope you enjoyed our Sheila Eggenberger interview and also hope to see you tomorrow but till then, love, love, love, from us at APJ.
Portia xx