November 24, 2011

Another olfactive reason to return to A'dam

Laboratorio Olfattivo. (That sound you heard was my heart going *boom* *boom*). Yes, of course you can get these elsewhere. But you can also get them in Amsterdam, at Louis Maximilian, a new store in Haarlemmerdijk where you can get nice soft sweaters, men's bracelets, Prada jewellery and Marvis. And in Amsterdam you can also get and do an infinite lot of other different really nice Amsterdamish things. And visit this store that seems very nice.

Louis Maximilian also have a really nice blog where you can read a little bit about about Laboratorio Olfattivo. Nice things just somehow always find eachother. Just like people, and scents.

You can read a lot about Laboratorio Olfattivo (yes, same sound) here.

Wood, floral or oriental and does it matter?

Does it matter if you can classify what fragrance you’re wearing? If you know whether it is a floral, fougère or oriental? In theory, if you ask someone like me who is against superficial pointless namedropping – the answer is no. There is absolutely no point in keeping that sort of stuff in your head just for the sake of it or because you “should” know. In practice however, there are two reasons for you to think about perfume classification – the main one being that it’s a great tool for new discoveries as it will provide you with concrete links between what you like or dislike, and this will lead you to new fragrance pleasures. And pleasure is a great reason to care about things. The other reason is just simply curiosity. Some people just like maps. I do.

19th century perfumer Charles Piesse was one of the first to start classifying perfumes. He quickly turned to the world of music for symbols and so the language of perfumers became similar to that of musicians (which it still is today). The terms used in perfume language have the purpose to describe the different aroma layers in a fragrance, like chords. We also talk about top notes and different tones when distinguishing between ingredients and specific scents. We talk about the tonality of a fragrance just like we when analyzing a music piece.

There is also a more architectonical way of visualizing perfumes. William Poucher was one of the first to use the ‘fragrance pyramid’ to explain the top, middle and foundation as layers. He created the structure based on measurement of evaporation rate of perfume ingredients (fastest evaporation = top).

Image borrowed from

Here are some terms (from different eras, let’s not be so dogmatic) that are good to know when going on your perfume quest. The terms continuously develop and some perfumes contain traits of different families.

November 23, 2011


I'm thinking... don't go there? Or can't avoid going there?

In the meantime, here is some hairy chest.

Dior Homme is a woody aromatic created by Olivier Polge. It is characterized by the top note iris (Tuscan) and has an amber/wood base dominated by cedar and ambrette from hibiscus seeds.

‎"If commercial fragrances are not for you..."

Some time ago Désirée M, a never-ending source of things inspiring, sent me this article from Interview Magazine. It includes a guide to finding the right fragrance with 10 smart tips from Dawn Goldworm, cofounder and scent director of olfactive branding company 12.29 and the personal nose of perfume house Coty. Swedish readers of this blog will recognize some things from my post 'Att köpa parfym 1A' and 'Köp inte parfym på lunchen och noterna', for example the importance of avoiding hasty decisions. Goldworm also mentions osMoz fragrance guide tool which you might find helpful on your fragrance quest.

Photo from the article in Interview Magazine

So, tiger or butterfly?

From coumarin to Tonkene: Luca Turin TED-talk

Luca Turin is a biophysicist who studies the science of smell with particular focus on the vibrational theory of smell, eg a theory that states that what we perceive as our nose noticing a smell is in fact our reaction to the properties of a molecule. Basically this means that he deals with how molecules smell. 

A few years ago he gave a TED-talk on this. Now, my childhood dream of becoming a marine biologist so that I could work with dolphin rehabilitation was destroyed by my brains total inability to excel in chemistry. So this talk demands some energy and focus from me. But if you are a more scientific kind of thinker this will probably be like a night at the cinema for you. And it is an interesting talk as it touches upon the issue of natural vs synthetic ingredients. Luca Turin is also just generally a great speaker. There is a section about coumarin (which I wrote about yesterday remember?) with this super-nerdy quote.

"So they asked us to make a new coumarin. And so we started doing calculations. 
And the first thing you do is you calculate the vibrational spectrum of coumarin, 
and you smooth it out, so that you have a nice picture of what this sort of chord, 
so to speak, of coumarin is. And then you start cranking the computer to find 
other molecules, related, or unrelated, that have the same vibrations."

Tonka bean

My plan is to have a few re-occuring topics in the blog, for example perfume searching tips and tricks, famous houses/brands and common - or just interesting - ingredients.

This time - tonka bean.

Dipteryx odorata (known as cumaru) is a flowering tree in from northern South America. Today, the main producers of the seeds are Venezuela and Nigeria. Kumarú is the word for tree in Tupi, in the region of French Guiana. The tonka bean is the seed from this tree. The beans are black, wrinkled and brown on the inside. They smell like vanilla similar to vanilla with a touch of almond, clove or cinnamon. The seed contains coumarin, which gives the seeds the great smell. The taste however, is bitter and eating coumarin can damage the liver.

Tonka beans are banned or subject to restrictions in several countries (for example use in food is forbidden in the US – probably because it affects coagulation). In others (like France), they are used in desserts as a vanilla substitute or to enhance the flavor in nuts or poppy, and in South America it seems it is used to create a specific aphrodisiac beverage. A google session will indicate that there seem to be a lot of chefs around the world who do like to experiment with this bean. And then they also appear in pipe tobacco and…in perfume.

The tonka bean has been considered to have both magical and medicinal powers. It has been used to cure depression, to boost the immune system, to cure snake bites and to treat coughs and rheumatism. The bean has been used for a long time for medicinal purposes among tribes in the Amazon. In occult traditions ceremonies that involve tonka beans are believed to help wishes come true. I also found recommendations to carry a bean in your pocket or bag for courage.

November 22, 2011

Famous perfume creators: Creed

CREED, or House of CREED to be correct, was founded in London by perfumer James Henry Creed in 1760. Throughout it's long history this house of perfume has had many royal clients. The first royal commission came already in 1781 from King George III, for whom CREED made the scent Royal English Leather. When it was time for CREED's 100th anniversary the company moved to Paris at the request of client Empress Eugénie for whom CREED created Jasmine Impératice, a fragrance that the company to this day continues to make and sell. (Top notes: bergamot, middle notes: Bulgarian rose, ambergris and Italian jasmine, base notes: vanilla and sandalwood). Eugénies husband, a certain Napoleon III, was also one of CREED's clients.

In 1885, Queen Victoria appointed CREED “official supplier” to the British royal court. For her majesty, CREED created the scent Fleurs de Bulgarie by commission. This engaging scent, rich with roses, is available today. (Top note: bergamot, middle note: Bulgarian rose, base notes: ambergris infusion and musk).
The list of famous persons who have not left their home without their favorite CREED on their skin is as endless as diverse. Queen Maria Cristina of Spain was a client, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor wore CREED, for some time Sir Winston Churchill's favorite perfume was Tabarome. In 1933 CREED created Angelique Encens,  for the Bishop of Paris. And in 1956, CREED created Grace Kelly's wedding scent, Fleurissimo, by order of her fiancé Prince Rainier.

The brand had a powerful revival in the 1980’s with the fougère Green Irish Tweed, created by Olivier Creed and Pierre Bourdon. I cannot really go in without mentioning something more about fougère... A fougère is a classification. These perfumes belongs to a family with a top note of lavender and base note of oak moss and coumarin and are more common in fragrances pour les hommes. There are also aromatic fougères which then also have spices and wood in them. You often find vetiver and bergamot in a fougère. The name comes from the paradigmatic perfume Fougère Royale for Houbigant created by Paul Parquet in 1882. It was relaunched in an updated version in the late 1980's, then production was not produced anymore but I heard that it has just been relaunched again? Epic however regardless.

Back to CREED. CREED is a rare fragrance company, not only for it's respect for the traditions of perfume making but also because it is the world’s only privately held fragrance dynasty. It was founded by a CREED and it is still 250 years later passionately developed by the same family. This also makes it one of the world’s oldest family businesses in general. Today, the company is based in Paris and led by Olivier Creed. His son Erwin works with him and is likely to be the seventh generation of CREED perfume makers. I find this aspect of the company immensely admirable and fascinating. 

Olivier Creed
CREED perfumes are created using the techniques of maceration and filtration. The house is famous for being a strong proponent for natural ingredients.

As you can imagine there is quite a range of CREED fragrances to choose between. I have yet to find a favorite but wouldn’t mind owning a selection of bottles with magic from this house. Especially Sublime Vanille from 2009. You can find a complete list of CREED fragrances and information about them here.

Another great feature of CREEDs homepage is their scent finder form which is sent to their staff who will help you find the right fragrance, you find it here. (Penhaligons also has this kind of service and it is actually a good exercise in itself to think about the questions in the form as this will help you define your fragrance preferences for yourself regardless of where you then go looking for them).

For US citizens, I am happy to tell you that you can order samples from this admirable brand. There is also the store at 794 Madison Avenue in Manhattan which was opened when CREED celebrated its 250th year in 2010.

November 21, 2011

Skins, Amsterdam

There is no limit to my love for Skins in Runstraat (11) in Amsterdam. The combination of my most beloved city, this street AND this store is almost more than I can handle. Everyone in the store is charming, professional, skillful and assist you on your perfume quest with total knowledge and understanding. Last time I was there I bought a limited edition by Kilian and got so lost in fragrance conversations I almost (really...) missed my flight home. I have run across Schiphol many times, but never so happy and great smelling.

The selection of brands and products in the store is exquisite. You find your favorites, limited editions, suprises and new unique discoveries. I love love love Skins in Runstraat. Go there if you can. And if you can't - enjoy their excellent web shop. Also love that they have Swedish Byredo which makes my nose proud of being from Sweden.


Mysk är en basnot förekommer i många, många, parfymer, oftast som "white musk" vilket är den syntetiska versionen. Mest framträdande är den i dofter som hör till orientaliska. Mysk fixerar och förlänger doftens liv samt förstärker vissa andra dofter. Men det är betydligt mer intressant än så...

Mysk påverkar oss hormonellt och känslomässigt. I den mänskliga delen av tillvaron har mysk en del gemensamt med manlig svett (mer om detta i ett mer feromonfokuserat inlägg) och sägs kunna påverka en kvinnas menscykel och förmåga att bli gravid. Kvinnor uppfattar myskdoft som mest under ägglossning. Men det är vanligt hos både män och kvinnor att man inte kan känna mysklukt överhuvudtaget. Få personer både uppfattar och kan definiera myskdoften. De som kan beskriver den som animalistisk, jordig, ursprunglig, ren och alla möjliga liknande lite svårtolkade saker. Men även de personer som inte känner den påverkas rent fysiskt.

Om du inte tycker det är spännande redan så kommer lite mer extraordinära detaljer nu… Begreppet mysk används ursprungligen för en substans som skapas av det som utsöndras från körtlar i typ herrdelarna på myskhjortar. Idag används mysk även som beteckning för substanser som utvinns från andra djur och växter till exempel myskoxe och myskblomma. Men myskens kärna och ursprung är alltså torkad substans från ett manligt djurs manskörtlar. Jepp. Hepp.

För att utvinna myskdoft använder man körteln från det utvalda djuret. Denna torkas och får en mörkt rödviolett färg samt blir mjuk och oljig. Själva ordet musk kommer passande nog från ordet för testikel i sanskrit. Om du är intresserad av att fördjupa dig i detaljerna runt myskutvinningen kan man få ganska explicita beskrivningar av processen om man googlar. Idag åstadkommer man i princip alltid myskdoft i parfymer med hjälp av syntetmaterial (detta har dock endast gjorts sen slutet av 80-talet). Den största anledningen sägs vara etisk eftersom den naturliga framställningen lett till dödande av djur enbart för myskkörtelns skull. Det går att få tag på mysk utan att döda djuret eftersom djuren kan tappa de här körtlarna men det begränsar tillgången att förlita sig på denna metod. En problematisk aspekt är att äkta mysk uppfattas som icke hudirriterande medan det råder viss debatt runt syntetisk.

(foto Steve Kazlowski)
Myskhjorten kommer ursprungligen från Tibet där man anser att mysk råder bot på lite allt möjligt. Medicinsk användning av denna minst sagt speciella substans har förekommit i Kina i minst 1500 år. I Sverige har man talat om mysk sedan mitten på 1600-talet men det är lite oklart när mysken kommer till Europa. Det verkar som om att det tog några hundra år av myskobservationer på andra sidan jorden innan man vågade sig på närkontakt. Man vet dock att mysk ingick i en gåva från sultan Saladin till Östroms kejsare i Konstantinopel. I slutet av 1200-talet dök mysken upp som handelsvara i Venedig. Cirka ett hundra år senare omnämns mysk i engelska och franska texter och anses vara en lite märklig vara. Man pratar om läkande effekter men också om svårigheten att transportera den eftersom lukten påverkade andra varor på samma fartyg, t ex de värdefulla teerna. Mysk har tillskrivits medicinsk effekt i många olika kulturer och använts för att skydda mot pest, bota såväl cirkulationssjukdomar, infektioner i luftvägarna som melankoli, lösa kramp och fungera som afrodisiakum. Den har även använts som insektsmedel – och smakämne i sötsaker (dock i miniminimala mängder).

Mysk är, säkert delvis med anledning av det lite speciella ursprunget, en mytomspunnen vara. Den måste också hanteras med stor försiktighet eftersom den påverkar doftblandningar även i mycket små doser.


Musk is a basenote that can be found in many perfumes. It is most prominent in oriental fragrances.  It extends the fragrance's life and can reinforce other ingredients.

Musk affects us hormonally and emotionally. It is associated with male sweat (more on this in a pheromone focused post coming up) and is said to affect a woman's menstrual cycle and her ability to become pregnant. Women perceive musk more during ovulation. It is however common that men and women can not detect musk at all. In fact rather few people both sense and can define musk. Those who can, describe it as animalistic, earthy, primitive, clean etc.

Musk is originally derived from glands of a male musk deer an the very word musk comes from the word for testicle in sanskrit. Today it is also extracted from other animals and plants. If you are interested in the details of musk extraction some googling will provide you with rather explicit descriptions. Today, the musk used in fragrances is usually synthetic. The main reason has been said to be ethical since the natural production has caused extensive killing of animals. This is in reality not necessary as animals can rub the glands off so that they drop on the ground. But finding these glands is very time-consuming of course... A problematic aspect however is that natural musk is perceived as non-irritating to skin, while there is some debate concerning the synthetic kind.

Musk deer are originally from Tibet where musk is viewed as a remedy for a bit of everything. In China it has been used for medical treatments for at least 1500 years. It is a bit unclear when musk came to Europe but it is known that musk was part of a gift from the sultan Saladin to the Emperor of Eastern Rome in Constantinople. In the late 1200s musk appeared as a commodity in Venice. Musk was appreciated because of its healing effects but also a bit of a problem in terms of logistics because the smell affected other goods on the same ships, such as the valuable tea leaves.

Musk is one of the most mythical and interesting ingredients in perfume. It is powerful, controversial... It also has to be handled with great care as even small amounts have strong effects on scents.


Det finns många tecken på att inte bara kajal utan även doft var en stor del av Kleopatras liv. Visst är det fascinerande att tänka sig att när Julius Caesar eller Marcus Aurelius färdats mil för att klä av sig och lägga sig i hennes bädd så vägleddes de dit av en omsorgsfullt utvald och skapad doftslöja. Att när dessa historiska män som vi känner som oförgängliga stenskuplturer tog av sig rustningen och la näsan i nacken på Nilens drottning... så omfamnades de av en doft av rosor.

Kleopatra använde gärna färska rosor. Det sägs att hon hade rosenblad i sängen och strödde dem i hela huset i väntan på sina älskare. Älskade? Älskande? Marcus Aurelius sägs ha välkomnats av Kleopatra på ett skepp med parfymerade segel och inför deras kärleksstunder badade hon i saffransvatten som skulle ge hennes hud en afrodisiakisk doft.

Sensuellt, non?


There is evidence that not only eyeliner, but also perfume, was an essential part of Cleopatra's life. Isn't it fascinating to imagine that when Julius Caesar or Marcus Aurelius travelled miles to lie down in her bed they were guided by a carefully delicately created fragrance veil. When these historical men who we know from stone sculptures and monuments took off their armor and put their nose in the neck of the Queen of the Nile... they were embraced by the scent of.... roses.

Cleopatra used fresh roses. It is said that she slept with rose petals in her bed and sprinkled them all over the house while waiting for her lovers. Her beloved. Marcus Aurelius is said to have been welcomed by Cleopatra on a ship with perfumed sails, and for their intimate nights she bathed in saffron water, which would give her skin an aphrodisiacal scent.

Sensual, non?