piranha: red origami crane (Default)
how old this building is:

click for ~68k of questionable decoration )

also, having random thoughts about the nature of symbols. too unformed to talk about as yet.

state of the herbal experiment:

not sedative! in fact, it feels slightly stimulating; my heart rate definitely goes up a little after consuming it. it tastes better warm than cold, alas, which makes drinking it right now difficult, since, you know, summer: already hot enough. maybe i'll experiment with adding some citrus. also maybe drink smaller portion more times a day. not like there is any idea of dosage here anyway, *sigh*. why don't they make small, cheap desktop gas chromatographs for amateur chemists? [1]

still, not having the sweaty sock experience with valerian. i can sort of smell why some people seem to experience it that way; the potential is clearly there for me too, but even when freshly compared (because sweaty socks are easily come by in this house), the valerian wins by several root lengths because of the aromatic overtones, which i like.

it could be that this is a feature of my european-bred nose -- i don't have anywhere near the abhorrence of strong body odours that north american peeps seem to have, and hey, i actively like the smell of horse manure (when it's not piled up in a stable and reeking of pure ammonia, that is).

[1] small, as it turns out, is entirely possible. they even make the damn things portable these days. wow. too cool. this site is fun because they let you put together your own. well, there is a gift to put on a wedding registry read by wealthy patrons. i mean, if one were to have a wedding. or wealthy patrons. which i'm not.
piranha: red origami crane (Default)
i've had a hankering to start working with some light mixtures, even though i am mostly just smelling and researching my way through individual fragrances and simple accords.

so today i made "hungary water".
1/2 cup
1/2 cup
1/2 tsp
1/4 tsp
1 tsp
1/8 tsp
12 cm sprig
thinly cut rind of 2
3 small tops
7 small tops
40% vodka (bols)
orange flower water (allitani, lebanon)
glycerin USP
EO of lemon (citrus limonum)
EO of bergamot (citrus bergamia, italy)
EO of rosemary (rosmarinus officinalis erectus, tunisia)
rosemary (rosmarinus officinalis northcott)
mandarins (china)
lime mint (mentha x piperita f citrata)
lemon balm (melissa officinalis)

put solid constituents into sterilised glass jar, pour vodka and orange flower water over them, add everything else, stir. put into dark, dry, cool place to let age and mellow for several weeks, shaking it up often.

if you're here because you found this link on google, be advised that this particular recipe isn't even remotely period, and you should go to jadwiga zajaczkowa's page instead, because she's done the research. i also don't know yet how it'll come out. :)
piranha: toothy open mouth of piranha (pissed)
warning: high rant content.

i didn't have organic chemistry in highschool, and i've never been much interested in potable alcohol from the typical end user's point of view -- i don't like its effects when drunk, neither on myself nor on many other people -- so my recent investigations into perfumery have given me some surprises.

see, i've been trying to find a high-percentage, pure-as-possible (90-95%) ethyl alcohol, in order to experiment with making alcohol-based perfumes -- essential oils dissolve nicely in it, and it's a super preservative. it's what professional perfumers use. i just want a small bottle, like half a litre. do you think that's possible to buy anywhere in this town of 80,000 people? apparently not. drugstores feature isopropyl and rubbing alcohol, and they have a strong smell, totally unsuitable. hardware stores carry methanol and a variety of denatured ethanols, all of which are not stuff i want to have sit on my skin. liquor stores offer at best vodka, which is only 40%, and carries a hefty price tag. i could get it, though i haven't found a canadian online source yet, from a chemical supply house -- but i don't want to buy a 55 gallon drum, for heaven's sakes. getting it from the US is bound to cause all sorts of cross-border trouble, and it's not like the US is any more sensible about alcohol than canada. anything i can get locally is poisonous crap. WTF? we're not talking about weapons-grade plutonium here.

so i do a little more research. and if i understand this correctly, ethanol (ethyl alcohol, grain alcohol) is the "good" alcohol, the safest, least toxic of the lot, the stuff people drink, and what should be used in perfumes. methanol (methyl alcohol, methyl hydrate, wood alcohol), on the other hand, is a "bad" alcohol, it's highly toxic, metabolises into formaldehyde and formic acid, and can have severe degenerative effects on the retina and the central nervous system if drunk; the fumes alone aren't the cat's meow. isopropanol is somewhere in between, not quite as toxic as methanol, but more so than ethanol.

y'all probably knew this already, but i can be naive about things that never popped up on my radar: methanol appears to be a very typical thing industry puts into perfectly good ethanol to create "denatured alcohol" (which means "made unsuitable to drink"), to not have to pay the heavy taxes governments put on drinking alcohol.

i am probably really, really late with my upset, but this is outrageous. i can't get a small amount of clean alcohol to make perfume, instead i have a choice between stuff that's toxified or too thin, because my government thinks anyone who drinks booze ought to pay through the nose for it, and besides, we're apparently not adult enough to handle >40%. i wonder how many people end up in hospital each year drinking those toxified alcohols, and what that costs me, the tax payer, in turn; nevermind the human cost.

you know, that still i was talking about? now i am considering making my own alcohol. wanna bet it's illegal, even for personal use? those fuckers.

i'm clearly bucking the trend: the older i get, the more anarchist i turn, and the less respect i have for the overwheening nannydom of governments.

p.s. yes, i know i can use oils carriers rather than alcohol. but that's a different thing altogether.

piranha: red origami crane (Default)
as usual when i have a new obsession, i do a huge amount of skim-reading to learn things about a field by osmosis. wondering how smell actually works, i came across the name of luca turin who appears to be a maverick biophysicist with the controversial idea that our nose determines smell not by the shape of molecules, but by the vibrations of their electron bonds (if i got this right; i haven't yet read his first-hand writings on this). apparently mr turin is also a "nose" in the world of perfumery, whose nose is very good at detecting whatever it is that noses detect, be it shape or vibration. he can also write, he's witty, and he has a blog, which i think those of you who love writing up BPAL reviews might enjoy:

It [Rive Gauche Pour Homme] is strikingly refined and understated in a field populated by loud and exuberantly hairy-chested fragrances.

Like an old roué who is cantankerous in the morning, fantastic over lunch and then needs a siesta, Cocktail delivers five minutes of damaged topnotes, ten minutes of classic green-chypre beauty before settling down to a creamy marron-glacé base of labdanum very much in the generic Patou style.

I almost liked Eau Bleue for its boldness anyway, but what decided me against it was my daughter spraying the couch with it in a failed bid to empty the bottle. Three days later, it reminds me of the story of the family in Kirkuk who was visited by Saddam Hussein in his heyday, and who cremated the sofa after he left to be rid of the smell of his aftershave.

it's syndicated as [livejournal.com profile] luca_turin. mr turin seems to be a fascinating guy. some of his life is told by chandler burr in the emperor of scent: a story of obsession, perfume, and the last mystery of the senses, which sounds like a rolicking read. he himself has a book coming out next year, in which he explains his theory for the layperson: The Secret of Scent, ISBN 0571215378.
piranha: red origami crane (Default)
i was joking about building a still, and lynn joked along, saying he was surprised i didn't start my exploration into natural perfumery with doing so.

*chuckle*. not that this really required thinking some more, but i did -- and i believe that this process is fairly typical: i get interested in something people are doing, i'll watch them for a while, and then i start several steps back from what they're doing, at a stage where i can understand how things fit together to produce the outcome that has others excited. i really do like to know how things work, and i like to make them work. i don't go all the way back to some semblance of first principles until much later, though, except that i might do a lot of reading on those principles fairly soon.

frex, i see and feel interesting textures and patterns, which leads to learning how to knit/crochet/needlecraft, which in turn leads to spinning/dying, which leads to growing dye plants, and might in the long run lead to me breeding sheep, alpaca, or silk worms (exposure to [livejournal.com profile] oakenking's endeavours in that area is very, very bad for me). :) i usually collect connected aspects of interest while moving backwards along the chain of production -- spinning and dyeing are separate subpaths, and i came to dyeing long before, and am just revisiting it lately, branching out from natural dyes into synthetic ones.

as regards the perfumery, i'd normally be some months from thinking of making my own extracts. but i am talking about the still already because i've basically been growing plants for fragrance for a long time since, and think that steam extraction of some of them ought to be fairly easy and give good yields (say, for lavender), and guess what time it is? right, harvest time for the first flush.

there is still a wee bit of neroli smell left on the paperstrip. alas, i have neither easy access to mass quantities of bitter orange blossoms, nor will simple steam extraction do the job.
piranha: red origami crane (Default)
eucalyptus citriodora should be pretty much the last vial you open for the day, since after one drop of it hits the blotting paper, that's it for all other smells for a couple hours.

citronella, citronella, some more citronella, and not really campherous. i can think of worse scents surrounded by which to fall asleep. wow, what a room deodoriser. i should put some in my shoes tomorrow (i can see the paramour nod appreciatively).

is it very bad of me to want to build a still for herbs?
piranha: red origami crane (Default)
i looked in the phone book for local aromatherapy dealers, since, aside from the new-agey stuff of high vital energy with a strong life force, they're the most likely to have essential oils around for the sniffing. i also like to give my business to local folks, especially if i can find those who behave well towards the environment.

the first one, "essential aura aromatherapy" turned out to be much harder to find in concretespace than on the web where they have a lovely presence complete with retail and wholesale store. i drove past the building twice until i finally decided it had to be there somewhere based on the street numbers. and it was. hidden in the back. turns out they give walk-in customers a 15% discount because they are so hard to find, *little snicker*.

they were really nice people, asked me what i was there for, and gave me their price list, and then left me alone to sniff. and sniff i did. they had little fragrance sticks all handy, which was excellent, cause i could dip, smell, let them sit for 10-15 minutes, smell again and compare to the fresh scent.

i checked out atlas cedarwood, black pepper (from costa rica), cardamom, coriander, ginger, mandarin, neroli, niaouli, palmarosa, petitgrain, roman chamomile, sweet fennel, turmeric, and vetiver.

the first cut is the deepest. well, maybe not. but i might be boring you. )
piranha: red origami crane (Default)
so i've almost got suckered in to the BPAL craze, because how can anyone resist people who write incredibly purple prose to accompany their scents, such as:

BLOOD COUNTESS
In order to preserve her youth and loveliness, the brutal and incomparably savage countess captured, tortured and slaughtered innumerable young women and bathed in their blood as part of her beauty regimen. Ah, vanity. Corrupted black plum, smoky opium and crumbling dead roses covered by a deceptive veil of Hungarian lilac, white gardenia and wild berry.


i've never been interested in perfume, since i've felt most that i've come in contact with (in the average office environment) reeks, and makes me want to invest in nose plugs. however, i've always liked certain natural smells, and a part of my garden is by design planted with fragrant herbs and flowers. and i've really been enjoying the BPAL reviews by some people, notably [livejournal.com profile] misia, [livejournal.com profile] matociquala and [livejournal.com profile] elisem who have (big surprise there) a way with words. and i noticed that i, well, don't. not for scents. my vocabulary is sadly bereft of scent-related terminology. i didn't even know what "top, middle, and base notes" were, nevermind "drydown".

so i spent the last couple of days researching the making of, and the jargon of natural perfumery. and today i have little strips of filter paper laying next to me, carefully labelled with the names of essential oils, emitting lovely odours.

because, naturally, reading about other people making stuff always results in me wanting to learn how to make it myself. ergo, i am not buying BPAL samples. i'm gonna mix my own. [livejournal.com profile] firecat can stop laughing now!

p.s. i now know what frankincense and myrrh smell like. and patchouli is not actually disgusting if one encounters a good oil instead of a bad incense.

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renaissance poisson

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