Fleur de Magnolia

Rich in enveloping floral notes of orange blossom, jasmine and magnolia all with a fresh green aspect.Fleur de Magnolia Perfume Oil

The classic magnolia formula is based on ylang ylang, orange blossom and lily of the valley with some rose and a bright green citrus top.

Fleur de Magnolia also includes a little spiciness in the form of a carnation note along with green tea, a little myrrh and a touch of civet which all add some complexity and interest to the perfume.

When I started work Fleur de Magnolia, fine perfumes that featured magnolia were decidedly out of fashion, with Chanel’s Magnolia being a notable exception.  Since then, for some unexplained reason, there has been a plethora of new Magnolia fragrances released, especially in the niche arena.  Maybe they all had the same idea at the same time!


Olibanum‘ was created in homage to the emotive and mystical fragrance of frankincense.Olibanum 12ml Perfume Oil

Historically in perfumery frankincense is referred to by its old name olibanum, derived from the Arabic word “al-luban” which means “that which results from milking”. There are no surprises with this perfume, if you love to burn the pure resins or use the oils in some way then you will be familiar with and hopefully delighted by the Olibanum’s development.

It starts with a burst of fresh grassy notes and cypress leaf with its citrus, pine and slightly spicy character. This is complemented with a little Australia blue cypress heart-wood which adds a terpene aspect. I’ve added a little juniper berry here to balance the cypress wood a little with a little peppery fruitiness.

I spent a lot of time coming up with a combination of frankincense oils and extracts that resulted in a representative frankincense scent, one that has aspects of the various different oils sourced from around the globe.

Frankincense ResinFrankincense resin is sourced from many members of the genera Boswellia but the resins that are usually used in perfumery are harvested mainly from B. carterri and B. serrata. The former has a more lemon / piny and the latter has more incense / woody notes. Other less common species used include B. frereana, B. neglecta and B. rivae each with their own unique aspects. The heart of ‘Olibanum’ balances aspects of all these oils to an archetypal representation of frankincense in a balanced, harmonious way.


Much later, as the fragrance comes to the end of its time, a cold ash note becomes present – in the way that ash is left after the resin is burnt. Lastly, the fragrance finishes close to the skin with a subtle vetyver and moss.

Frankincense Tree


The idea of portraying an idea or concept, impression or emotion with a perfume rather than just a literal translation of something that smells nice is what modern perfumery is all about. Before the development of synthetic ingredients, the pallet of materials that could be used by perfumers did not allow much more than the reproduction and combination of smells that already existed in the environment. Some wonderful and functional perfumes were created, but it was the development of the first aroma chemicals such as vanillin, coumarin and so on and also the isolation and cheap manufacture of the aromatic components of flowers that allowed the blossoming of true artistic perfumery.

Chandler Burr, curator of the first museum exhibition dedicated to the olfactory arts The Art of Scent, 1889-2012 at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York city, has been quoted as saying that artistic perfumery started only with the advent of these materials.

Work on Aquarelle started with my experiments with the concept, the idea, of water.  What is it about water that can be translated into a smell, after all water itself doesn’t have a smell – only any impurities dissolved within the water impart any smell that can be detected. So descriptions of the smell of water include terms like ozone, weeds, algae, mineral, salty etc. But there are other more poetic terms we use such as fresh, clean, crystal, pure and blue -more ethereal, subjective concepts. I believe that to create a scent that would evoke the impression of water, a blend of both the down to earth, real components and the more subjective, ethereal impressions needs to be created. For example, ozone with fresh or salty with clean or mineral with blue.

So Aquarelle developed out of an initial short formula that was inspired by these ideas and combined a bright, airy, ethereal accord with a touch of marine, earthy notes.  All very well, and the result was like an earthy version of Cool Water (Davidoff). Nice, but I wanted to take the fragrance further and after adding more dihydromyrcenol and then some fruity and berry notes that provided an amazing balance to its marine and somewhat metallic nature. The end result turned out to be a wonderfully ethereal, slightly sweet and airy with notes of citrus, white florals, berries, cedarwood, ambergris and powder.

Then came some musks and a touch of cassis (blackcurrant) and even a touch of pineapple and lemon in the top note and I was finally happy with the result.

The final version of Aquarelle is somewhat more feminine than it started out and has moved away from the initial concept of pure water. Now it is water with floating petals and berries! It is certainly wearable buy the any gender and age and of course, I wear it frequently. It also is a versatile fragrance and suitable for the office or out-doors, summer, winter or whenever. I hope you enjoy it.




Imogen eau de parfum

Imogen eau de parfum

Imogen is a feminine, heady, powdery ambreine, oriental perfume that actually evolved from my studies of Shalimar.

The incomparable flagship for Guerlain, Shalimar was created by Jacques Guerlain , third in the line of Guerlain family perfumers to head the historic house, and released in 1925. This is the same perfumer who created Mitsouko, Champs Elysées and many more classics in the Guerlain line. Anything created by Jacques is required study for a student of perfumery.

The structure of the perfume is reminiscent of earlier 19th century perfumes with their high proportion of essential oils and balsams and with musky animalic notes in the base. Jacques enhanced this structure with large doses of the relatively new synthetic vanilla ingredient ethyl vanillin as well as the nutty, ambery and sweet coumarin.

The early development of Imogen was therefore also centred on the framework of those early perfumes along with Jacques’ addition of ethyl vanillin and coumarin. As work on the formula progressed the construct began to head off on a unique direction away from Shalimar and followed its own path to become the unique perfume that it is now.

As a side note – the creation of a perfume is a wonderful journey full of dead ends and unexpected discoveries with twists and turns along the way. The perfume will develop itself in an organic, olfactory selective way. Beginning with an idea, theme or framework, the perfumer provides a judiciously selected range of materials for the perfume to try before selecting a surviving combination at the expense of others – letting the perfume evolve through its versions. This is the major advantage of being an independent perfumer without contracts and briefs and time constraints and so on that can only serve to stifle this organic process.

Witness the difference between those fragrances created in a forced, restricted environment of market audiences and budget limitations and those released by such houses as Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle where the perfumers are free to follow their perfumes’ path. Developing purely in response to the market has killed the evolution of perfumes, inevitably resulting in a homogeneous mass of poorly performing unsuitable fragrances that must surely suffer their own mass extinction soon.

Mass Extinction

So anyway, in Imogen there are still a large proportion of essential oils and other botanically sourced ingredients with synthetics used only as a support, except for the major role still played by ethyl vanillin and coumarin.

Imogen’s top note includes the lighter, most quickly evaporating components including bergamot, lemon, lavender, jasmine and coriander.

In particular there is a large amount of bergamot used to create a sharp counterpoint to the overall vanillic backdrop; there is a compromise to be made here as bergamot oil contains the chemical bergaptene which is well known to cause problems with photosensitisation when used on skin. Now, the process of removing the bergaptene to prevent the photosensitising effect can be detrimental to the scent of the resulting essential oil, so a choice had to be made between using a bergaptene-free oil or a synthetic (and therefore completely safe) substitute. I went with the essential oil after finding one whose quality was as close as possible to the completely unprocessed oil.Bergamot Fruit

Imogen has a floral, spicy and slightly aldehydic heart. The floral elements used are rose, jasmine, violet, orange blossom and patchouli. The rose and jasmine notes are composed from a combination of both my own bases (mini perfumes) and the real absolutes.

Absolutes are the very essence of the flowers’ scents with kilograms of flowers famously being used to result in grams of the end product. To smell these absolutes in isolation, especially the Jasmine Grandiflora absolute used in Imogen is enough to convert any cynic to a perfumista instantly! I shall be writing about such materials as these in future blog entries, so stay tuned.

The scent of violets also plays an important role in Imogen and is present for most of the perfume’s journey, combining with the roses and musks to provide a powdery talc scent. The floral talc note is likely to be the first that others perceive at the outer edge of the perfume’s sillage or trial left behind in the air when you pass by. This violet note is provided by an orris root base composed of various synthetics known collectively as ionones along with a touch of carrot seed oil, believe it or not. This powerful base only needs to be dosed in small amounts to provide expansiveness to the perfume as well as the airy, pretty violet scent.

Cinnamon and clary sage also provide some spiciness and a touch of herbal character to the heart of the perfume, and it is from here on that things start to become a little raunchy. As the heart of the perfume heads towards the base, the Russian leather, or cuir de Russi, note begins to show its presence.

Leather GlovesThe scent of Leather has been used in perfumery since the 16th century when it became fashionable to perfume the leather gloves of the aristocracy to mask the malodours left over from the tanning process. The combined odours of the fragrant materials used and the tanned hide became the scent of leather as we know it today.

Traditional Russian leather has its own unique version of this scent that is a little more smoky and tar-like than the sweet smell of new wallets received for Christmas in the West. This stems from the use of birch tar in the Russian tanneries and the fats of sea animals used to soften the leather, each providing their own unique smell.

The cuir de Russi base used in Imogen contains smoky elements with the exotic animalic castoreum (a synthetic version – no animal products were used in the perfume) along with a touch of saffron and other materials to make up that unique Russian leather note.

The leather and vanilla notes blend wonderfully into the final base of the perfume composed of tolu balsam, bezoin resinoid and the best quality West Australian sandalwood oil. Once again, sandalwood oil is as subject that could fill an encyclopaedia and one which I will be writing about on this blog in future entries. The last that you smell of Imogen, usually the next day, is a slightly woody and balsamic skin scent with sweetly powdery musk and a little oakmoss.

Overall, Imogen is a rich, long lasting, powdery, musky and spicy perfume with a heart of leather within a framework influenced by classic fragrances of bygone times when the market was not a perfume’s creator, but the perfumer’s independent hand.