The End of Oudh: Ensar Oud: Interview


Guest Post by Jordan River


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


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.


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.

Photo Stolen fanpop

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:, many more inspirations on both the book and the Devilscent Project at the Quantum Demonology fan page on Facebook:, 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

Sheila Massetti of Perfume and Skincare Co. Interview

Hey APJ Family,

Part of what I and EvieC wanted to do when we started this blog was to ferret out and show the world our emerging perfumers down here in Australia. We are far away from much of the world but our fragrance makers are doing some pretty inspiring, wearable, boundary pushing, affordable scents in the true niche historical context. Going for product over marketing and price.

So when Director, Perfumer and Product Formulator for the Perfume and Skincare Co, Sheila Massetti, from Robertson NSW gets in touch and offers to send some samples to APJ to have a sniff around with I was ecstatic. When those samples arrive as bottles I am overwhelmed. So I sent a few decants around the world to some of my blogging buddies, shared a few with my friends and I have been wearing 3 of the 5 fragrances sent quite a bit too.

We’ve asked a slightly tweaked version of the APJ questions and here is Sheila…

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 and how did you become interested in becoming a perfumer?

I started my career as a Journalist – something that is now incredibly useful as it taught me the art of research, research, research.  My early fragrant memories have guided me into the Perfumes I now formulate.  Gardenia for my Mother off to a ball wrapped in swathes of white chiffon and smelling of Gardenias.  Ginger Milk for my Grandmother who used to make me a “homesickness” remedy with warm milk, honey, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Fig & Olive from a trip to Tuscany etc etc.
I did as I think a lot of little girls did and collected Rose petals, put them in a jar of water and left them for a few days to create my own Rosewater.

How did you get your education as a perfumer?

I trained as an Aromatherapist and discovered my interest in Perfume through blending Essential Oils but they were never enough.  Meeting up with the owner of a company which specialised in the production of Aroma Accords and Synthetics brought my dream to life and he helped me with the basic tenets of Perfume formulation.
Working with Synthetics gives me a much broader base on which to draw and I find them more stable with the ability to steer a fragrance from the “norm” to spectacular.
Training as a Perfumer is impossible in Australia so I became an Artisan Perfumer using my intuition and love of fragrance to steer me in the right direction.  My trips to France lead me to meet Perfumers from Chanel, Issey Miyake and Jean Paul Gaultier and I had the opportunity to work with them, or should I say “play with them”.  This furthered my technical knowledge but I still work from intuition.

Robertson Photo stolen ideal-sydney-getaways

Why did you want to come home and be a perfumer in Australia where the culture of ‘perfume’ seems somewhat limited?

Being a Perfumer in Australia is somewhat limited as the general perception is that “all Perfumers come from France”, but if you can get people to think outside the square they realise that this is not the case.

Do you have any inspirations in the perfume world?

My inspiration in the world of Fragrance would have to be Jean-Claude Ellena.  How could you not be smitten with him.

Do you have a favourite mass-market perfume?

My favourite mass market Perfumes are Tom Ford’s Black Orchid and Tobacco Vanille – very opposite in type but equally beuatiful.

What about a favourite independent perfumer and how have they influenced you?

I don’t have a favourite independent Perfummer as yet but I’m sure that will change.

What does your immediate future at Perfume and Skincare Co hold?

The immediate future of the Perfume & Skincare Company is affected by the market.  It is incredibly difficult to convince Wholesale Buyers to try something new when Retail stores are finding it hard enough (under the global financial situation) to get their customers to spend anything.  This is a situation which will improve over time and I forsee Retailers going back to a time when they want something new to tempt customers.  In the meantime we have our own Retail stores in the Southern Highlands and our Web Site which offers the chance to sample all the different fragrances.

Carrington Falls Photo Stolen

I applaud Sheila for her push to bring the good juice to Australia. They ship worldwide and have a really terrific sample program, you won’t believe how reasonable their prices are for true niche extrait-plus strength fragrances. Do jump across and have a look at ThePerfumeAndSkincareCompany. Then come back tomorrow to have a look at our reviews for 5 of the fragrances they offer.

As always wishing you the best of everything till we see you tomorrow,
Portia xx

Neela Vermeire Talks To APJ

Hi Perfume Family,

You may have heard about Neela Vermeire Creations, if you have been anywhere on the scentbloggosphere then you’ve probably read about their line of fragrances too. If you are a perfumista then chances are you have smelled at least one of the magical fragrances, and maybe own a bottle, decant or sample set. I was lucky enough to win a sample set in a blog competition and have fallen deeply under the spell of these beautiful reminders of my times through India since 2000 with my last long term partner who is part of a hotel family over there. Loving the fragrances so much I wanted to understand the woman who has been the catalyst for their creation, the friendly, driven, intriguing and very pretty Neela Vermeire. Today she talks with us and I am thrilled that she has.

Photo Stolen

Tell us about young Neela please, where you came from, family, siblings, poignant or helped create who you are moments?
Who am I? I guess I am a result of my life and travels. I am a global villager – restless, hopefully a mindful soul.
I was born in India and most of my family still live in India. I was educated in the eastern part of India in a city called Calcutta. I went to the US for my graduate studies. After completing my masters degree I moved to London, Aberdeen, Paris, London, Paris.
My earliest memories of perfumes were from the various ceremonies that took place in temples, my family who wore some form of perfumes – immediate and extended.  India is in general a phenomenal assault to ones senses – good and bad and ugly.
Family and school trips to various parts of India made me appreciate the vastness and variety of India and Indian culture. The smell of Indian flowers in markets, roadside food stalls – smell of Indian snacks like chaat, puris, parathas, wood stoves, roasted peanuts, tea stalls, fruit stalls – smell of mango ripe and unripe, guava, lychee, jack fruit (very strong smell), musty book stores, wet earth after monsoon, dry earth under the scorching sun, smell of freshly brewed Darjeeling tea, spices etc.

India (like most warm countries) can provide the most amazing natural smells and the most awful smells.

What were you doing before you became a perfumer?
I am a qualified solicitor in the UK, I started working on consulting projects, exhibiting emerging artists and creators in Paris and also doing Perfume Path Tours.

How did you become interested in fragrance?
Since my childhood days in India. Also each move to different countries made me deeply aware of cultural differences and preferences.

What qualifications do you have as a perfumer?
None because I am a creative director or a creator but not a “nose” or technical perfumer.A nose/perfumer must be a qualified and trained person. I worked with Bertrand Duchaufour who is a well known nose for the first India trio.

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Who were and are your mentors and inspirations?
Too many to mention. Some other niche perfume creators were and are my mentors.
My inspirations are my life and travels.
Friends and loved ones who enabled me to express with the help of Bertrand the perfumes as a tribute to India.

Who is your favourite perfumer, other than yourself, and why?
As I mentioned before I am a “creator” and not a “nose” or technical perfumer. Many people call themselves “perfumers” when they have “noses” working for them.
Do you mean creators?
Frederic Malle (Creator)
Serge Lutens (Creator)
Guerlain (Perfumer and creator)
Annick Goutal (Perfumer and creator)
Patricia di Nicolai (Perfumer and creator)
IUNX by Olivia Giacobetti (Perfumer and creator)

You know many others who are true creators and not trained perfumers..etc….
There are many other independent niche perfumers .

Synthetic, natural or mixture, why?
Mixing is good. Mixture is great – one is able to create exceptional creations with mixology.
Naturals can be heavy and aroma chemicals add the playfulness.

What do you have in development that you’d like to share with perfumistas everywhere?
A couple of fragrances – work in progress.

Photo Stolen lfort

Isn’t it nice to get a little insight into the lovely Neela, I hope you have enjoyed it. Please come back tomorrow, we will be looking at one of the Neela Vermeire Creations fragrances in depth,

NeelaVermeireCreations was where I bought my 10ml x 3 frags Discovery Set for only 90 euro delivered anywhere in the world or you can get 2ml x 3 frags Try My India Set only 22 euro delivered!
LuckyScent has 55ml bottles $250

Love to you all and hope for your good health, wealth and happiness,

Portia xx

Musette? Interviewing Anita Berlanga from Perfume Posse

Hey Hey Fragrance Lovers,

When I finally discovered you all it was a complete revelation. My own fragrance story was so introverted and self fulfilling that though I shopped online quite a lot I had not twigged that there would be other people who were already reading, writing, exploring, sharing, corresponding and generally enjoying the community that is the fragrance wormhole, for years!! Who knew there was a world of scent-ualists online?

I don’t know about you but I am often intrigued by the people who found the scentbloggosphere years before I did. They are now an elite crew whose knowledge, entrenchment and sophistication are world renowned, as are each of their personalities. They all took their baby fragrant steps together or helped the new kids on the block towards their own perfumista status, and still do.

Today we are talking to Anita Berlanga, you may know her from PerfumePosse as Musette, with the sharp and witty wisecracks. Anita has been unstintingly warm and generous to me and I’m sure many others of you so I thought it would be fun to get into her head a bit. She gets the APJ question but just tweaked a little….

Photo Stolen Musette’s Private Cache

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 was a typical Midwestern teenaged nerd with romantic literature leanings (windswept moors, dark, brooding heroes)…went well with my braces and zits.  Early scent?  Heaven Sent.  Vats of it.  My high school REEKED of the stuff.  That, and Love’s Baby Soft. Enough to bring up your lunch. Oooh!  and Coty Elan, which I liked because it smelled romantically windswept and had a cool bottle (I just scored a vintage bottle recently – it’s a greenery-yallery scent.  But such a fab bottle!
Then I found that greeny galbanum Norell on my mother’s dresser, which I thought smelled so…windswept, with heathery scarves and velvet cloaks (hey!  I was – what?  14?  15?  And I was totally on that moor, with the wind whipping my straight, shiny, Cathy-esque black hair and sooty black lashes fringing my violet eyes, with a young Laurence Olivier striding towards me.  Yah..  Except on me it smelled like I’d guzzled a bottle of Scotch.  Then it was Nina Ricci Bigarade (which was the beginning of my bitter orange love, though Bigarade is, in truth, an unassuming orange blossom – but that is for Another Day). To be honest, I have NO idea how I came upon that one. But that leads us into your next question…

What perfume started your journey?
Nina Ricci Bigarade.  Well, it didn’t actually start my journey.  It started my journey HERE.  Blame the Internet.  Blame NST.  Blame …?? 40 years later, I began to wonder about that perfume, which led to the Internet to revisit (I dunno how old you are but when you hit 50 you start looking for the weirdest things from your past.  Puppet Fairy Tale books from your childhood.
Hostess cupcake packaging from the early 60s.    Perfume is a biggie.  Google has a LOT to answer for, lemme tell you.   But in all honesty, it really was Google.  I Googled Nina Ricci Bigarade, which led me to Now Smell This, which led me to the Posse.  And the rest……..well, you know!Most embarrassing thing about my journey? I wasted SUCH an opportunity.  At 23 I was a card-carrying moron.  I didn’t know where I would be, 25 years later…… back when I worked as the Ad Mgr for Marshall Field & Company (only THE most elegant department store in Chicago -nay, the Midwest.  At one point it was one of the few department stores in the country to rival Bergdorf)  – managing advertising for COSMETICS AND FINE FRAGRANCES.  Morong.  I had access to Every. Single. House.  Guerlain.  Chanel.  Dior.  I met Karl Lagerfeld and Bill Blass and Calvin Klein – back when they were doing their own perfumes.  (remind me to tell you about Herr Karl and me …and our fans….) I had No Clue.   I took my first trip to Paris, without telling the Fragrance honcho I was going.  He was stunned!  What did I wear?  Only what everybody else did.  Chloe.  Anais Anais.  Though I did scent my sheets with  Patou Vacances – but to tell you the truth that was more because I loved the little emerald-green stopper.  I had scads of that stuff.  Scads!!  I wasted it.  On sheets!   30 years later I am in tears about it.  Who knew?


How did you get your perfume education and did you have any mentors?
I’m still a student and hope to always have a beginner’s mind. Otherwise this will become a bore.  This is going to sound like a cop-out but it’s true:  my mentors are the perfumistas who come on the blogs and the FB perfume pages.  I’m stunned at how much I’ve learned from them.  There is no ‘teacher’ – we are all amateurs, in the truest sense of that word, loving and learning as we spritz. And when it comes to parsing out notes?  Nobody can do it like the folks on the Posse.Speaking of notes, though, I will tell you one of my very first ‘note’ experiences.  I’d just started writing for the Posse and a friend sent me several samples to try – one being Anne Pliska.  So..I spritz on the AP and am immediately assailed by this…note.  Can’t for the life of me figure out WHY I KNOW THIS DAMN NOTE!  It teases me allll day but I don’t have time to research (aka Google) it.  So time ticks by, I’m working and this note is worrying my Very Last Nerve.  Finally, bedtime arrives.  El O and I go to bed, the boys just outside our bedroom door.  All is peaceful…suddenly, at 2am, I sit bolt upright in bed and shout ‘PLAY-DOH!!!’.  Used to my craziness, nobody in my house even turned over!   But that was my very first ‘note’ experience.  And yes, Anne Pliska smells persackly like Play-Doh.  Which is not a bad thing.

What is your current favourite mass market perfume house?
Guerlain.  Even when they miss, they do it spectacularly and they get huge points for keeping the classics in their line and even showcasing some of the lesser-known  perfumes of yesteryear (Neiman Marcus in Chicago had a breathtaking display of the Guerlain ‘oldies’, some in the original bottle design.  It made my heart sing!)  In my opinion, they are the embodiment of Western haute perfumery (non-niche).  Large niche house: tie between Amouage and Frederic Malle.  Both Houses are intriguing, unwilling to pander to focus groups and mass trends. And they consistently deliver stellar perfumes .  I wish they were better known.  I don’t understand the urge to smell ‘exclusive’ – as far as I’m concerned, a roomful of people wearing Carnal Flower or Epic is a GOOD THING!


Do you have a favourite independent perfumer and why, or if that is too politically loaded; what makes a good indie perfumer?
I have several but my  steadfast favorite is Liz Zorn – I think it’s because  so many of her scents touch my core, immediately and viscerally.  The first one, Historical Chypre, I thought might’ve been a fluke.  But we’re well into double digits now, so obviously there’s a connection there.  The first time I smelled Violets and Rainwater, I teared up!  I was back on Lexington Ave in NY, in front of a florist shop, after a pelting Spring rain.  Busted pot of violets on the sidewalk.  Nobody loved them.  Or me.  I was bereft.  Then I realized, if I just picked the damn violets up and put them back in the pot everything would be just fine.  And it was. By the way, none of that actually happened (though there was a florist on Lex that I loved)  But such is the power of Liz’s scents that the entire scenario leapt, unbidden, into my psyche and became part of my history.  In one spritz.

What do you see as the most important trend in perfumery currently?
I think all trends suck.  Truly.  The one ‘trend’ (in mass market) I would like to see is a return to ‘real’, structured perfumery, for adults, crafted with quality ingredients.  But I suspect that time has come and gone.  There’s too much money invested in the quick ROI, ingredients are astronomically expensive and the general public’s taste seems to be devolving, with the aspiration more for the marketing image rather than what stuff smells like.   Then again, I love the smell of Clinique Happy – so what do I know??

Isn’t she AH MAY ZING? Thank you Musette for taking the time out of your busy schedule to do this. I feel blessed that you’d come and chat so openly, honestly and interestingly for us.

Wishing you all painless, easy and harmless world domination,

See you tomorrow.

Portia xx

Clayton Ilolahia, Blogger, Writer, Fragrance Junkie. Interview

 Hey All,

Today I have for you Clayton Ilolahia, a man with a very successful blog (, who writes for the The Perfume Magazine and has been giving talks about perfume around the traps. He is also an Australiasian, YAY! and general good guy.  I have cajoled Clayton into answering some questions for us. He has been crazy busy so took the time to do it while flying to Bangkok! So read on and find out about this fascinating man who knows What Men Should Smell Like….

Tell us about young Clayton please, where you came from, family, siblings, poignant or helped create who you are moments?
I was raised in New Zealand and was bought up on a farm. I have a large extended family, somewhat expected if you have a Maori/Polynesian background, but my immediate family is quite small with just my sister and I. My upbringing was pretty standard for rural New Zealand. One of my first scented memories is the jonquils and jasmine that grew wild on the farm.

 How did you become interested in fragrance?
I want to say I have always been interested in fragrance, but then haven’t we all? It’s true, I only became conscious of this interest in the past 10 years, but I think if we all look back, we have memories of scent that trigger emotion. For me, the picture became clearer after I left New Zealand and moved to Melbourne, Australia in 2004. I had retail management experience and was offered a job managing a small perfumery opened by the Polakis brothers of Harrolds, luxury designer mens stores in Sydney and Melbourne, who’d noticed niche perfumeries opening in France and Italy so they wanted to replicate the idea in Melbourne. At that stage I had no interest in working in the perfume industry. In my spare time I was always mixing fragrant oils and reading about perfume, which lead to blogging.

Who were and are your mentors and inspirations?
I have always had a soft spot for perfumer, Jean-Claude Ellena, I really admire his work. I also think Jean-Paul Guerlain is one of the most extraordinary perfumers of his age. I would love to interview him.
In terms of writing about fragrance, I love the sharp wit of Luca Turin and Chandler Burr is also one of the best fragrance writers, a wonderful storyteller and his statements are always backed up by fact.

Do you still wear mass-market fragrances, if yes which and why?
Absolutely! I love the mass market. Sometimes the most luxurious brand that promises creativity and quality can disappoint me. And a small budget, mass-market perfume, made by a perfumer working with a cost-considered palette of materials is able to express the most memorable idea. Some of my recent under $100 buys are Narciso Rodriguez Essence Eau de Musc, Chanel Bleu and Marc Jacobs Bang.

Who is your favourite independant perfumer and why?
Serge Lutens (or Christpher Sheldrake if you are talking about the ‘Nose’). It is a range that stands on its own. If anything, Lutens references himself instead of others.

Synthetic, natural or mixture, why?
All my favourite perfumes combine both. Naturals are so complex and filled with personality; I love the tension they add to a composition. Synthetics are much more singular in their message and they can alter or colour a perfume story in ways naturals cannot. Synthetics and naturals work beautifully hand in hand.

How has your developed?
Great. Originally it was just a sounding board for me to write about my perfume collection. I wanted to dedicate more of my time to learning about perfume. Blogging became my way of keeping myself on track, so I was regularly thinking about perfume. I am fortunate to travel regularly for work. When I can, I like to write about my experiences in other cities whether it is a shopping guide or some personal experiences.

What qualifications do you have to write about perfume?
Lol- absolutely none. I think that is the clear distinction between bloggers and journalists- we are not professionals and I am very aware not to cross that line. As much as possible I ensure what I write is accurate as there is a lot of misinformation online. I try to read and research as much as possible before I commit to a post. In terms of working with raw materials I had my breakthrough moment when I did a course with Perfumers World, a training organisation in Bangkok, Thailand. Their programs are great for perfume enthusiasts that want an introduction to basic professional knowledge. In September I am doing a short course in Grasse.

Tell us about how you came to be working for The Perfume Magazine, and a bit about them for our readers who may not have come across it yet?
The Perfume Magazine was a serendipitous occurrence. Their Editor in Chief contacted me after she stumbled across my blog and asked if I would be interested in contributing. I submitted something for their summer edition and they asked me to join them permanently as their mens contributor. They are a lovely team to work with.

 What are the 5 most important things you have learned so far that could help budding perfumistas/bloggers?
1: Create an environment others want to be part of. Write about the things you love, forget the things you dislike and have no control over.
2: If you are expecting to be paid for your blog, don’t quit your day job.
3: Spend some time with a fragrance before writing about it. Get to know the fragrance intimately- the quality of your writing will be much better. Readers want to know your opinion and not just information that can be found on a press release. Make each post personal.
4: I never throw out a perfume brochure, I tear out magazine articles and I pdf any online perfume articles that interest me. They are a valuable resource for information, which often disappear over time.
5: Don’t be shy and approach others to get stories. Most people I have spoken with are really encouraging of bloggers, at the worst; you will only get a ‘no’.

WOW!! I hope you found that as interesting as I did. Thank you Clayton for taking the time out of your busy schedule to let us get inside your head, just a little bit.

Portia xx

SOIVOHLE by Liz Zorn Interview

Hiya Everyone,

Photo Stolen fragrantica

Today I am bringing you artist, photographer, perfumer and genuinely lovely person with biographies in both Who’s Who In America and Who’s Who of American Women; Liz Zorn. Liz Zorn, founder of and perfumer for SOIVOHLE, is an inspiration on many levels. I am always impressed people who can excel in more than one field, it also reminds me that it can be done. One of the things I am loving about writing perfume is that I have been able to interview some astonishing people who are also perfumers. We have previously done a story on SOIVOHLE << hit the jump and find a history and some reviews.

Straight up; I am completely addicted to the SOIVOHLE (pronounced See-Voh) range. It is an acronym Sending Out Inspired Vibrations Of Healthy Loving Energy and their mantra is “Passing on the happiness and good cheer one bottle at a time.” This resonates so strongly with my own beliefs and processes that I was predestined to love the range.

Liz is unafraid to push boundaries and buttons. Some of her fragrances have unsettling notes or bring on inspired memories. Never really challenging but sometimes confronting they are gateways to loveliness, art in a bottle.

1.Can you tell us about young Liz Zorn and some “Who I Am” making moments?
I can’t say that I have had any profound moments, at least none that come to mind. I think I have always been on this path.  I was born in a small southern US town, moved to a big city at the age of ten. Lived in the suburbs and spent my summers at the pool. Very typical American.
2.What were you doing before you became a perfumer?
I was a painter. I am still a painter, just not so active these days.
3.How did you become interested in perfume and becoming a perfumer?
My interest in perfumery goes back to my teens. At the time it was not an option to be a perfumer. As the years went on I took more interest in perfumery and the Olfactory Arts, until I decided one day to put the painting aside to see if I had a true feel for perfumery. It is an ongoing process.
4.How did you get your education as a perfumer?
I am self taught except for a summer when I was 12 years old. A couple of retired teachers opened a New Age shop near my parents home. I would go there everyday and hang out with them. They taught me how to make incense from natural herbs, oils and resins. They also taught me how to make altar oils and the basic blending of essential oils. From there I started collecting oils, and perfumery books.
5.You use both naturals and synthetics, what is your philosophyand what are the selling points of each?
They are all tools, I make no distinction between them. Sometimes I like to work with an all natural palette, sometimes not. I have no interest in the politics or philosophy (if there is such a thing) of perfume. My focus is on the art and how best to bring my vision to life.
6.Soivohle is undergoing some changes currently, what news?
Yes, I am in a sense cleaning house.  Fine tuning my aim.  Like anyone else I get distracted at times. I am upgrading our packaging and cleaning up the look. I do not like clutter, so I try to nip it in the bud.
7.Can you tell us some of the exciting stuff you have in development?
I am working on two new scents, the Tears of Ra and Anubis. Exploring through scent the power of myth.

I wanted to leave you with some of Liz Zorn’s art. I find it moves me in much the same way her fragrances do.

Photo Stolen lizzorn

Photo Stolen Tumbler

Photo Stolen cafleurebon

Tomorrow we look at a few of the luscious fragrances on offer at SOIVOHLE. Do come and sample with us. In case you are wondering, they are currently updating their site with a Grand Re-Opening tomorrow July 24. It promises to be spectacular with the launch of 2 brand new fragrances.

I hope this has found you happy and well. If not, it gets better, promise.

Portia xx

Smell Bent Perfumer Brent Leonesio Interview

Hello pursuers of fine fragrances,

This week I have again chosen to highlight the incredible talent of an Independent Perfumer; Brent Leonesio from Smell Bent. It wasn’t so long ago that I discovered the Smell Bent brand, I’m not even sure how it happened now. Maybe another blogger was writing or I could have stumbled upon them in a late night google search. Maybe I came across his picture, because the man is really, decidedly, damned cute. Yummy McYUM!!

Doesn’t matter where I found Smell Bent, what do matter are the juices, they are fun, frivolously named, sideways and sometimes shocking fragrances. The fun belies the fact that if it’s a Smell Bent fragrance, then it will be awesome. Not always to my taste, it’s true, but something extraordinary never-the-less. The first scent I bought was a bottle of Tibet Yr Bottom $; a fun look at incense, woods and stuff, it stayed front and centre of the collection for 3 months, unheard of. Then, more recently, it was the Vocabulary range, the wolf pair, some gourmand Christmas frags, a couple of the Frankin-Smelly releases and to go along with this interview Brent has sent us 4 new sample size frags from his latest range for me to review and then for you to WIN! Check back on Thursday for details of how you can.

Here are a few questions that Brent was kind enough to take some time to answer, what a star….

Tell us about young Brent please?
I was definitely a curious kid.  I lived in my head and frolicked in fantasy.  And I think I still do.

What were you doing before you became a perfumer?
I worked in the fashion industry, had a bunch of different jobs – designing, wholesaling, buying.  But I got a little disenchanted with the business and was ready for a change.

How did you become interested in fragrance?
I ran out of a bottle of Armani Prive Bois d’Encens, which was going at about $200 at the time.  I went online looking for an affordable replacement when I fell down the rabbit hole known as Basenotes.  If only I had shelled out that cash, I wouldn’t be here today.

What qualifications do you have as a perfumer?
I love perfume and have studying it for 6 years and creating it for just over 3.  I guess you could say my qualification is passion.

Who were and are your mentors and inspirations?
I’ve been influenced by numerous artists in various mediums.  I look up to people like Franco Moschino, Estee Lauder and E.M. Forster.

Do you still wear mass market fragrances, if yes which and why?
I don’t wear much perfume as of late.  I usually save my nose for my work.  Recently though, I’ve been spraying myself with a bit of Alexander McQueen’s (sadly discontinued) Kingdom.

Who is your favourite independent perfumer and why?
I just got back from a show with 19 other indie perfumers.  I can’t think of a more exciting time to be working in the medium.  For the first time, in a long time, perfume is opening up and individuals who are passionate about making perfume are able to do so.  If you’re going it on your own, my hat is off to you!

Synthetic or natural, why?
I love a mix.  Naturals are incredibly interesting and complex on their own.  But there are so many exciting synthetics that offer smells the natural world doesn’t.  I couldn’t choose one over the other.

What constitutes a Smell Bent customer?
Anyone who thinks perfume can and should be fun.

How has your online business developed?
I started with a website and an email.  A friend ran a blog and wrote about me.  I just followed the aspects of businesses I respected- quick-turnaround, personalized service and high quality products at a good price.  I try and keep things as simple as possible.

Smell Bent is renowned for its quirky names and slightly sideways scents, why have you chosen that road?
When I started, I wanted to put me in the work.  And I guess a big part of it is just my personality coming through.  I also think that sometimes perfume takes itself too seriously and I wanted to change that.

Do you wish someday to work for the big end of perfumery, why?
I can’t say where I’ll be or with whom.  I’m gonna stick with smell bent for the foreseeable future.  The company is growing and finding an audience beyond my wildest dreams.

What fragrance, that you have made, do you always refer to in your mind as success, why?
I know which are most loved by my audience – scents like St. Tropez Dispenser or Bollywood of Bust.  I’m loving Short Fuse and Little Miss Panda Gets Lei’d.  But I’m always partial to the last things I’ve done.

What are the 5 most important things you have learned so far that could help budding perfumistas/perfumers?
1.     Start small.
2.     Ask for help.
3.     Don’t be afraid to try something new.
4.     When you’re most afraid of being different than everyone else, just keep going.
5.     Believe in yourself.

Where do you see Smell Bent in 5 years?
I would love to see the business continue to grow.  Every year has been a real adventure for me and I feel incredibly fortunate to be doing what I love.

Told you, Ah May Zing guy. Tomorrow I want to take you through the 4 newbies I’ve been sent to review for you, if you want to check the site before then SMELL BENT <<<JUMP
See you back here tomorrow then,
Portia xx

Photos Stolen Fragrantica

Olympic Orchids Artisan Perfumes by Ellen Covey

Boy do I have a treat for you all today.

Ellen Covey

Even before we started AustralianPerfumewJunkies I was awed by the amazing Ellen Covey of Olympic Orchids Artisan Perfumes. I had ordered a sample set and then a deluxe sample set. Doc Elly, as Ellen Covey is known, and her fragrances were one of our early reviews and she was the first perfumer to give our site her blessing. There was a lot of Woo Whoo-ing and high five-ing that day. It was like we had arrived and been given Benediction. I have a FB of Bay Rum and my next purchase will be Ballet Rouges, but I love Little Stars, Gujarat and Golden Cattleya too. The one thing I find so interesting is that Olympic Orchids artisan Perfumes are so affordable while being filled with the good stuff.

I have given Doc Elly our APJ set of standard questions just tweaked a little and she has bared her soul for us. You’ve got to love her direct honest answers, one day I’ll be lucky enough to meet her.

Tell us about young Ellen please, where you came from, family, siblings, poignant or helped create who you are moments?

I was born in Chicago, where my father owned a successful business. My mother had grown up on the Florida East Coast, where her family owned a hotel, but she moved to Chicago to study art at the Art Institute. She hated the cold winters, so when I was a preschooler she convinced my father to move to Virginia, where he re-established his business. My family included my parents, my grandmother, who lived with us, my younger brother, and two dogs.

About the time I started high school my father sold his business, invested the money, and the whole family, including the dogs, went on a long adventure trip through Europe, with the vague goal of ending up in Israel after exploring everything on the way. We lived in Switzerland, France, Germany, and Italy, where I attended local schools. Whenever we moved to a new country and a new language, I was the family member delegated to make phone calls looking for housing. Having to cruise the streets of an unfamiliar city taking down phone numbers from signs and then talking to potential landlords on a pay phone in a language I’d not yet learned was stressful, especially when I had to explain about the dogs, but if nothing else it made me resourceful.

There were poignant moments every time we kids were uprooted to go to a new country, leaving dear friends, but the experiences along the way were unique, and shaped who I am now as a perfumer. I’ll never forget the smell of blooming mimosa in Provence, the smell of the polluted Rhine in Germany, or the smell of peeling a tangerine on a bitterly cold winter day in Rome.

Later in life, I have lived in Texas, India, North Carolina, New Jersey, Germany (again), Spain, and now Seattle, in the US Pacific Northwest, and all of these places have contributed to my perfume landscape.

What were you doing before you became a perfumer?

So many things! I started out studying stage design in Rome, then studied biology and neurobiology in the US, eventually earning a PhD in chemosensory neuroscience. Most of my career has been teaching and research in academia, and I continue to do that in parallel with being a perfumer. Other parallel lives include growing orchid plants commercially, and working in local theatre in all capacities from acting to directing, writing, and producing. It’s hard juggling it all, but each separate life informs the others in some respect.

How did you become interested in fragrance?

I’ve always been intensely aware of smells and fragrance, for as long as I can remember. One of my earliest memories is standing in my bedroom smelling the windowsill. It was a really comforting, musky smell of old wood and all of the humans who had lived there. I’ve always stopped to smell every flower I passed. I love the smells of good cooking. I used to spend a lot of time smelling my mother’s perfumes, and started buying commercial perfume mini bottles as soon as I had money of my own. At about the same time I started buying essential oils, and eventually the inevitable happened.

What qualifications do you have as a perfumer?

A good nose and an active imagination! I’m self-taught when it comes to perfumery. I have an extensive background in chemistry, which certainly helps with the practical aspects of setting up a safe and efficient lab environment with all the proper tools and the basics of formulation, but is of very little help with the aesthetics, which are purely intuitive. Over the years I’ve spent a huge amount of time sampling perfumes from both an aesthetic and analytic point of view, sampling and testing perfume raw materials, reading about perfume materials and formulation, and experimenting with everything I can.

Who were and are your mentors and inspirations?

My mentors were and are all of the many people who, over the years, have written about perfume-making in all of its aspects, whose work I have read. They are the people in various discussion groups on the internet who provide useful bits of information. They are the perfumers, both famous and anonymous, who make all of the perfumes that I smell, testing something new every day. My biggest sources of inspiration come from nature and every human environment in which I find myself. Odors are everywhere, and sometimes I’m jolted by a novel juxtaposition of scents on a city street, emotionally assaulted by a natural scent carried on the wind, or even surprised by how a raw material that I’m testing combines with a scent that’s present in the environment. Perfumery is a learning experience that never ends, and inspiration is everywhere.

Do you still wear mass market fragrances, if yes which and why?

Interesting question. I’ve never “worn” any type of fragrance in the usual sense, preferring instead to collect them, compare them, analyze them, and enjoy them in an idiosyncratic and very private way that has nothing to do with “smelling good”. It’s almost like a child playing with toys. Regarding mass market fragrances, I still have my original large collection of mass market minis, and love every one of them. If I “wore” perfume, yes, I would wear them, and I do still occasionally put one on and contemplate it. I really don’t distinguish between mass market, niche, indie, and any other classification because I believe that there’s no monopoly on what smells good or appeals to one’s emotions on a deeper level. There are certain fragrances in each category that move me, and many that don’t. In any case, there’s a continuum that runs all the way from blatantly mass market to crafts-fair-indie, and the lines seem to be becoming increasingly blurred. Those who started as indie perfumers formulate for the mass market companies. Mass market companies launch their own “niche” lines. Niche and indie brands farm out manufacturing to third parties. Some of the bottom-tier “indies” repackage and sell mass-market fragrance oils, coming full circle, if you will. I like what I like regardless of whether it was made by hand or by machine in a factory vat. If it’s good, it’s good.

Who is your favourite independent perfumer, other than yourself, and why?

As a working perfumer, I’ve gotten myself into trouble by commenting on the perfumes of others, so I’ll refrain from saying anything here. In any case, I really have no “favourite” anything, whether it be colour, food, music, film, or perfume. I’m much too fickle for that, and it all depends on context and what I feel like at the moment.

Having said that, in general, I like perfumes that are strong and complex. For my own use, I prefer woody and resinous notes, aromatic herbal notes, leather, smoky notes, and a minimum of floral components. I actively dislike overtly aquatic notes.

Synthetic, natural or mixture, why?

 All of the above, just because they all have their place in perfumery. Naturals are great to work with because each one is a perfume in and of itself, with a complexity that can’t be matched by most synthetics. Contrary to popular belief, all-natural fragrances don’t have to be short-lived, since there are natural base notes with excellent longevity. My Kyphi is an all-natural fragrance, and I’m currently working on a new series of all-natural fragrances that will have good longevity. All-synthetic fragrances tend to smell sparse and  … synthetic. Fleurs de Glace was my only attempt to create an all-synthetic formula, and it ended with my adding a big dose of galbanum to round it out. Most of my fragrances are a mixture of natural and synthetic, mostly natural, but with synthetic notes as accents or to improve sillage, longevity, or other characteristics of the blend.

To me, naturals are a bit like acoustic instruments and vocals in music, providing warmth, depth, and the idiosyncratic human touch. Synthetics perform a function that’s analogous to amplification, mixing, and effects. Moreover, synthetics can provide completely new “voices’, much as electronic sounds can do for music. Go too far to either extreme and you have the thin sound of the coffee house folk singer with no amplification or the annoying drum machine combined with a repetitive twanging, mechanical-sounding treble loop blasting your ears. Both have their place, but it’s limited.

What constitutes an Olympic Orchid Artisan Perfumes customer?

I wish I knew! I think in general they are people who appreciate truly high quality, original fragrances without a lot of pretentiousness and overblown prices. My guess is that they’re people who are confident enough to try things outside the mainstream, and who have enough imagination to let perfumes take them somewhere unique in their own mind without needing a whole prefabricated cheesy story line or celebrity image to go with the scent.

How has your online business developed?

I have always made perfumes to please myself, then I put some of them out there, and a customer base has slowly developed. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have had good reviews early on, with word spreading through the magic of the internet. My business continues to grow and develop as I add new fragrances and increase production.

Do you wish someday to work for the big end of perfumery, why?

No, absolutely not. I’m much too independent-minded to work for someone else. I want and need to be in charge, free to go wherever my fancy takes me. I prefer to be an artist rather than an employee.

What fragrance, that you have made, do you always refer to in your mind as success, why?

I think my two most commercially successful fragrances to date are Golden Cattleya and Ballets Rouges. Both are very good mixed-media formulas with broad appeal. Olympic Amber is also a very good one, with broad appeal. Hell, get me going and I’ll say that every one was a success in some way. Otherwise, I wouldn’t still be selling them.

What are the 5 most important things you have learned so far that could help budding perfumistas/perfumers?

1. Smell, smell, smell. The more things you smell and really pay attention to, the better developed your nose will become. This is the most important thing you can do.

2. Trust your own instincts. If you like it, it’s good. If you don’t like it, its not. If it smells like patchouli, or roses, or corn flakes to you, that’s what it smells like. If it smells like doggie doo, or laundry detergent, or a sweaty soccer player to you, that’s what it smells like. Never mind what someone else says. Never mind who likes it or doesn’t like it. Don’t let yourself be influenced, intimidated or shamed by self-appointed critics or “experts”.

3. Read, read, read. If you want to make perfume, it’s essential that you learn the basic principles of how to do so. If you want to enjoy perfume, it’s nice to know something about how it’s made, its history, and other people’s opinions. Once you’ve adopted strategy #2, you can take everything you read with a grain of salt, so reading won’t harm you in any way.

4. Be open to new experiences. That aroma chemical you didn’t like may be just the touch that will perfect your new blend. That perfume you thought you didn’t like may delight you six months from now. You may hate teak, but find that you love it in a particular context.

5. Have fun. Fragrance is meant to bring pleasure, not stress and anxiety. Please yourself, spend within your means, and enjoy the experience to the fullest.

What do you have in development that you’d like to share with our AustralianPerfumeJunkies?

I’ve always got a roaring avalanche of ideas, more than I can ever bring to completion. Right now the closest things to release are a series of five fragrances made for the Devil Scent Project, based on Sheila Eggenberger’s novel, Quantum Demonology. I’ll be launching them at the Artisan Fragrance Salon in San Francisco in July.  I’m working on a line of all-natural fragrances, one new orchid scent, and a couple of bespoke perfumes that I need to finish up. At least some of these will be released late this year or early next year.

Where do you see Olympic Orchid Artisan Perfumes in 5 years?

I take things one day at a time, but hope that in five years Olympic Orchids Artisan Perfumes will still be motivated by artistic rather than commercial factors, that my fragrances will still be intellectually, emotionally, and aesthetically honest, and that I can keep them affordable by just about anyone, anywhere. Realistically, as the business grows I will need to hire someone to do the routine tasks like preparing samples, packaging and shipping so that I can have more time for networking and creation of new fragrances, but I will still want to be intimately involved with every aspect of the business.


This jump will take you to Olympic Orchid Artisan Perfumes fragrance page. You have 19 fragrances to choose from. There is an exciting new samples choice; 5 x 3ml spray sample set of three different fragrance groups and at $20 with free continental US shipping or only $5 for international. SO DAMN CHEAP!!! I have ordered the Perfumers Spray Sample Set just now. He he.

As a special deal, Ellen Covey has offered $5 off all international orders for postage and handling or $5 off product in the continental USA!! Please enter the word PERFUMEJUNKIE into the coupon code box at checkout. The offer will last through Monday, June 25. AWESOME!!

Deluxe Sample Box

I am so proud we could bring you this amazing perfumer & person.
Please go see the Olympic Orchids Artisans Perfumes website.
Thanks for dropping in,
Portia xx