Studio Wafts

Hello Subscribers! Congratulations on making it to SUMMER! It’s been a (half-a-) year, hasn’t it… oy.

Studio Series 3, which is or should soon be in your hands, is a doozy! Sandalwood! Oakmoss! Jasmine! Yuzu! Let’s waste no time and jump right in:

Sandal/Sambac Project
Wood Project
Chypre Project

Sandal/Sambac Project

While I was still developing the three perfumes that ended up constituting my launch, I had several others already in the mix. The original plan was to launch with five (resounding belly laughter) and I was tinkering through seven. Two of those projects dropped off pretty quickly (classic amber and dark floral projects), and once it became clear finishing five before my hopeful launch date was a pipe dream, I had to put two more aside, and one of those was a sandalwood project.

In hindsight, this was a good move, putting the sandal project aside that is, because, if you aren’t already aware that most of the world’s more precious resources are in decline from human greed and by extension climate change, sandalwood is insanely precious, terribly depleted, and insanely and terribly expensive — trying to release a perfume at launch containing true Santalum album would have been from an independent artist’s standpoint indeed economically foolhardy.

But if I learned one thing from launch it’s that sometimes you just have to go for it and do the crazy things that others fear, and isn’t that art and resistance, too, anyhow?

So, once the final three were locked in and macerating, I immediately went back to the sandal because carpe diem — in a time when the now or never feeling seems heightened, doing the crazy thing seems best, even if the project only turns out to be a severely limited run.

In the perfumery canon, sandal and Jasmine are in constant pair, but unlike Quasi una absurdia, which uses Jasmine grandiflorum in its structure, you’ll note I’ve referred to this project explicitly as the Sandal/Sambac project — denoting Jasmine sambac, the other Jasmine of note. The main difference between Grandiflorum and Sambac is the latter’s heightened presence of indole (typically 5-20x higher), a chemical which smells like urine and/or poo, but a chemical which is incredibly important to florality and diffusion, and thus one of the chemicals which creates those hot California nights when the Jasmine hits and Los Angeles smells like a wonderland. It turns out a little dollop of poo can work miracles.

This fact gives me hope for our future.

Studio Series 3, as such, offers a rich, decadent peek into the development of this project. Sandal 1 focuses on just sandal. It displays one of the problems when working with the true oil, which is a particular fatty/rancid quality some harvests display in its opening notes. For these oils, the goal is to mitigate the crankiness of its opening in hopes of weathering through to its more milky and exotic base.

Sandal 2 expresses the power of musks in attenuating the crankiness of natural materials, counteracting their stubbornness to persist, and in general harmonizing new notes that will be introduced as development continues.

Sandal 3 is then a big jump, big in the sense that you experience the introduction of those harmonies here at play: Jasmine sambac with coriander, galangal root, and patchouli. This mirepoix helps build a bridge through the Sambac and toward the lactonic Sandal. Where else will this bridge go for the project? I’m not entirely sure yet, but I’d venture to say this is going to see large doses of aldehydes quite soon.

Wood Project

In contrast to the richness and expense of a deluxe base note, the Wood Project works inversely, in which I have posed to myself this question:

What is the most minimal perfume structure I can construct that will still support a rich chorus of top notes and perform?

Not an easy task! But I’m a sucker for wood and I knew I wanted to finally work with citruses — in my opinion the hardest notes to wrest, think of the dearth of major citrus accomplishments in the perfumery canon over the last century — and here we are…

First, important notes about this project: Because you are experiencing it from its beginnings, Wood 1 and Wood 2 might do some stranger things for a perfume. If you put these on your skin you might notice a white powder upon drying, or crystallization occurring in the vial once temperatures cool. This is normal and unharmful — the primary chemicals of wood oils are crystalline, so working with them when isolated from their esters (which in concert otherwise keep them fluid and oily) causes this.

Wood 1 should display this perfectly.

You’ll note that tenacity is affected, as these raw wood chemicals don’t bind especially well with our sebum. Wood 2, however, demonstrates how the addition of just few key fixatives improves this, and develops its profile, too. Some of you might recognize one of these chemicals — a dollop of Iso E Super — which is the thing that makes the popular perfume Molecule 01 so alluring.

Wood 3, then, starts the chorus. Citrus fruit oils are amazing — they smell vividly fresh, mouthwatering, and colorful. But, they are ethereal and not all that tenacious. Believe it or not, other wood-borne materials are exceptional at extending the phenomena of citrus, so basic materials like myrrh and frankincense at barely perceptible levels help glue that goodness down and encourage pithy qualities at the same time, adding to the perception of freshness and realness.

I think the Wood Project has a long way to go — the minimal structure allows for so much in its container. But, for you the subscriber, this is great, because by the time it’s finished, you will have quite the range of iterations to enjoy and eventually juxtapose.

Chypre Project

Finally, the lone vial of Chypre 1.

The other project I paused with the sandal prior to launch was a chypre. What’s a chypre? Great question — the answer is resoundingly disagreed upon in the industry. Ask a perfume nerd and she might tell you it was Felix Cola’s earliest extent recipe that defines the genre, whereas a different authority will point you toward an even more esoteric and unknown perfumer most of us have never even heard of.

Well, I will tell you that the single common thread between all chypre perfumes is one ingredient: oakmoss.

Oakmoss is a vivid, humid, foresty/woody, peaty, mossy perfume material, highly revered, with the unfortunate problem of being toxic in its natural state. These toxins are easily removed, BUT, because of years of their use without purification, it seems there are threads of humans who have developed allergic or sensitizing reactions to exposure. In response to this, the major controlling industry organization, the International Fragrance Association (IFRA), has all but proscribed its use to a miniscule .1%. Critics like Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez — who just released their updated Perfumes: The Guide this week! — bemoan this unfortunate happenstance because oakmoss is so damn beautiful. Because one of the stipulations of membership in IFRA is the complete compliance with their policies, the largest member-produers of perfume (all the corporations who make the luxury, mass-market brands) rarely use real oakmoss and instead rely on the synthetic and somewhat-inferior oakmoss-like chemicals.

But not indies!

So does Chypre 1 contain real oakmoss? Yes — an IFRA-compliant perfumery grade with toxins removed.

So is Chypre 1 limited to that piddly .1%? Hell no!

IFRA, being an industry organization, is also financially conservative, in that they have at risk trillions of dollars. So, they take a pretty severe stance in how they determine safe use limits. Available research suggests that toxin-free oakmoss itself is not as harmful as suspected, rather it’s the testing methods (e.g., application to the skin in a solution of petroleum jelly) that accelerates sensitization. And small amounts over the .1% IFRA-limit actually make huge differences since oakmoss is a very brawny odor, and my formula is similarly restrained yet defiant.

What does this all mean here, Chris?

It means just put a small dab on your skin and enjoy it — the air we breathe and the news we read online is more toxic than the beautiful perfumes in which we’re finding solace. If you have a goal with Chypre 1 it is to discover the mossy qualities that shine through the otherwise heavily patchouli base. It’s there, I promise!

I restarted the chypre project after launch because chypres are complex to construct and I wanted to come in with a fresh perspective. So this iteration is really basic. Another long-term project on the horizon, but I look forward to your company on a safe, but daring ride to its completion.

Please share your experiences with Studio Series 3 on social media with your friends! In the meantime, enjoy and thank you, subscribers, for your continued support.