What the heck is fenugreek? (And why is it in my perfume!?)

Fenugreek. Fe-nu-grik. Sounds weird. Smells interesting. Really good in a curry.

The fenugreek plant

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So what the heck is it doing in perfume?

When I ordered my first sample of fenugreek extract, I was intrigued by its description, and was hoping to find something that smelt like burnt sugar or syrup. What I discovered upon opening the bottle of fenugreek C02 was the most intriguing aroma of curry, fresh mown hay, sweat, spices, sugar and fresh dirt. All at once I could smell soup and candy, milk and meat, and it was so interesting. Difficult to know what to do with at the time, I put my bottle of fenugreek away, knowing I’d find the perfect opportunity to experiment with it in the future.

fenugreek seeds

The first time I used it was for a fragrance that I was creating for my husband, which then went on to become our Slow Fire fragrance.

One Seed Slow Fire fragrance

One Seed Slow Fire fragrance

We used fenugreek in this fragrance to impart an earthiness and maple-like sweetness to enhance the aroma of being soaked in the warmth and sweet woodiness of an open fire.

Good Scents describes the odor of fenugreek as having:

“celery like spicyness, a coumarinic balsamic sweetness and an intense, almost sickening and strong, lovage like or opopanax like note of extreme tenacity. ”

It warns perfumers that the diffusive power of the odour of fenugreek is often highly overestimated, and that traces can either ruin a perfume or have a beautiful, unique effect in certain compositions.

As a perfumer, there is often a fine line with extract like fenugreek, where trace amounts can create an amazing effect, but only one drop more can completely ruin a blend, and make it smell like Indian takeaway, or, in the case of cepes, for example, like a Vegemite sandwhich!

Eau de Yeast Extract, anyone?

Eau de Yeast Extract, anyone?

Some interesting facts about fenugreek:

  • In February 2009, the International Frutarom Corporation factory in North Bergen, New Jersey, was found to be the source of a mysterious maple syrup aroma, which had been reported as occasionally drifting over New York City since 2005. The odor was found to be from soloton, an ester in fenugreek seeds
  • Fenugreek is often used to mimic the aroma and taste of maple syrup in maple syrup substitutes
  • Fenugreek seeds, leaves and sprouts are used for culinary purposes, most commonly in Indian cuisines
  • Breastfeeding mothers can take fenugreek to increase their milk production.
  • An interesting side-effect of consuming large amounts of fenugreek that is that it produces a faint odour of maple syrup on the skin and in the sweat and urine

Not surprisingly, there are not many fragrances available which make use of the most interesting extract. But for me, it is fascinating, and there is really nothing else like it in my perfume palette.

So here’s hoping you learned something new today.

So are you intrigued? I hope so!

Liz

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Mission accomplished – tincture o’ rice

You may recall that a few weeks ago, I posted about trying my hand at tincture of basmati rice. Well, today it has been filtered, and is now ready for experimention in our perfumes.

Basmati rice fields - image from jollof-impex.com

Basmati rice fields – image from jollof-impex.com

But before I begin that process, I thought I’d tell you about the steps to make this tincture, and about the final result.

I started out with 500g of the best quality 100% basmati rice I could find (cost around $8 for the bag). I then lined a baking tray with unbleached baking paper, spread out the rice in fine layer, and roasted it at 120 degrees celcius for 15 minutes, stirring partway through to ensure even roasting.

Roasting the basmati rice

Roasting the basmati rice

I was careful not to roast at too high a temperature so as too maintain the fragrance and gentleness of the aroma.

After cooling completely, I half-filled a sterile jar with the roasted basmati rice, then added natural grape ethanol to fill the jar. The jar was left in a cool, dark cupboard for 3 weeks, during which time I shook it gently every few days, and tested the smell for potency.

Rice tincture - week 2

Rice tincture – week 2

Today, I filtered the concoction through a fine filter paper into a sterile dark glass bottle,

Hand-filtering the the tincture

Hand-filtering the the tincture

and here we have our final solution: tincture of basmati rice.

Filtered tincture of basmati rice

Filtered tincture of basmati rice

Although the initial tincture was quite cloudy, the final filtered tincture is lovely and clear, with a creamy aroma of basmati rice, and more than a hint of green coconut juice! (My brain is flowing with ideas….!)

And there you have it 🙂

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2013 – Year of the Ticture

Seems 2013 has started off in a slow “I’m-a-dozy-hippie” kinda way for me. But that’s OK. I think I’m not quite over 2012 yet (or, perhaps it’s not quite over me??).

image from nurhudahalim.blogspot.com.au

image from nurhudahalim.blogspot.com.au

Although my head is not yet in the game, my olfactory senses are off on their own little journey, and I find myself sniffing anything that doesn’t move (and some things that do) just to get a sense of them, and how I might extract their essences. (Tincture o’ fence, anyone??)

So while my head is still on vacation, my nose is writing this article for the love of all things odiferous.

It’s starting out with tincture of roasted basmati rice (I’ll be writing about that journey in specific detail soon), and then I found myself surrounded by giant peppercorn trees with their pink little berries of glory crying out for baptism in alcohol. Then, in our little veggie patch a few days ago, I realised I might be a little bit obsessed with the tomato plants (perhaps why they’re yielding so well this time around), and I think it’s more to do with the scent of the leaves than the fruit itself! (Ohhh…the smell of that green, earthy, bitter, salady, dewinesss…)

But, alas, Google wants to kill my joy with articles about the toxicity of tomato leaf, so that one might be a pipe dream.

And then there’s calendula.

DSC_0498

Like the nerdy little school girl who no-one pays attention to until suddenly one day she takes off her glasses and everyone gasps in shock and wonder, asking “Whoa! When did she become so hot??!” (And she always was BTW).

nerd

Calendula is my ugly duckling. Planted in place of insecticides, it was purely functional. And then I smelt it…And now I must have it in a bottle.

So it would appear that 2013 is going to be the year of the tincture for me. I can’t wait to  see what other goodies join the artisan ranks of mandarin peel & vanilla pod tinctures in my perfume kit …

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Are you a tincturer? Or hoping to become one? What have you successfully tinctured, or got your eye (or nose) on?

Why business is more than business for me

I had the pleasure of spending some time with Norma Osborne of Australia Hope International yesterday. She is in the process of creating a beautiful cafe as part of their fundraising. So committed are they to the cause that every single cent of profit from the cafe (& every other project they’re involved in) goes straight back to Uganda & The Congo.

Norma Osborne

They don’t draw a wage. They don’t have paid staff (everyone on the team is a volunteer). And they rely on donations and support from the general public, churches & fundraising activities to help them with their mission of “Helping Others Possess Empowerment”.

Such is their dedication & vision that they manage to maintain an admin budget of just 3% (meaning that if you donate $100, $97 of it will go directly to the people who need it most).

One Seed was created not as a means to buying myself a bigger house or expensive shoes, or sending my kids to a posh school, but with the bigger vision of doing something that draws attention to the needs of those around us.

My hope is that you will love my fragrances and catch a glimpse of the bigger picture that is woven throughout the brand: that life is beautiful, that every single person is uniquely special and worth our time, that life is about more than being sexy or rich or perfect, and that there are needs out there greater than yours or mine.

Today we launch our first annual “Hope for Hope Day” in which all profits from sales in our Hope range will go directly to Australia Hope International (one of the two amazing causes we support). If you’d like to get involved and do something doubly amazing this Christmas, simply make a purchase of a Hope perfume or Organic Double Cream today, or make a donation directly to Australia Hope International.

Thanks so much for joining with me in this amazing opportunity.

Liz

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Something stinks…perfume for little girls

Making a recent clothing purchase for my daughter, I noticed at the sales desk a sweet little box with a sketch of  a fairy-tale princess on the front. I was very curious and thought it was adorable until I peeked inside the box. It was perfume for little girls.

Gumboots Petals perfume

A lovely concept, to be sure. But, of course, being who I am, I can’t help but read the label (on the back, I mean – that one that actually matters!!), and I was not at all surprised, but oh-so-disappointed to read that is was a cocktail of synthetics.

Many girls grow up wanting to be just like mama, wearing sparkly dresses and high-heeled shoes and lipstick, and smelling as sweet as roses. It’s a fantasy world and a childhood experience they should be a part of.

Image by © Angela Coppola/Solus-Veer/Corbis

But shame on those manufacturers who manipulate this experince with cheap toxic fragrances, and characters children love and have an affinity for.

Hello Kitty perfume

In a recent Washington Toxics Coalition report Something Smells: What Tween Perfume Makers Should Tell You, But Don’t, new testing of many perfumes used by tweens contain undisclosed hormone-disrupting ingredients that should have been reported under state law, yet these companies aren’t complying with the state law that requires them to report the presence of these chemicals to the Department of Ecology and the public.

Nine of 20 children’s fragrance products tested (see the full list here) contained hormone-disrupting chemicals called phthalates.  Of the nine products, seven products contained over 5 ppm of the phthalate commonly called DEP and were made by companies with annual gross sales over 1 billion dollars.

Scientists are concerned about phthalates in personal care products because the products are applied directly to the skin and may be a significant source of exposure. (Phthalates are classified as hormone-disruptors and have been shown to affect reproductive development in children.  They are also linked to asthma and obesity) 

In my online research of children’s fragrances, I discovered that almost all children’s fragrances available for sale online  (Beauty Encounter has 112 for sale) did not even list the ingredients for the product, many of them were linked to much-loved cartoon characters and/ or to popular perfume companies such as Burberry and Bvalgari, and that price (which ranged from $12 to $200 per bottle) was no indicator of the nature of the ingredients. I found only one article relating to the toxicity of commercial children’s fragrances, and no natural perfume for children. Startling.

(On a positive note, I did find several websites on how to make your own perfume for kids using flowers and herbs. Here’s our favourite)

It’s a worrying issue. And one that parents, grandparent, aunts and uncles need to be pro-active on. Yes, it may look sweet and pretty, and even smell like lilacs and rosebuds, but the potential (and I would go so far as to say actual) side-effects of exposure to these aroma-chemicals and other synthetics is simply not worth the risk.

Natural Selection…the story of a failed perfume project

It’s a hard thing to admit when you’ve failed.

I’ve had my mind and heart set on creating a beautiful, uplifting citrus scent for the past 3  months, and, although that is not a long time in terms of perfume development, I thought I could do it. After all, it’s a citrus – how complicated can it be, right?

clementines – image from seeds.sunriseruby.org

For the most part, the fragrances I’ve created are either a 6-month on-and-off project, or a first-shot wonder (sometimes with an an extra little tweak or two). But this jolly citrus scent is evading me. I’ve spend numerous hours trialling, researching, creating and testing samples and I thought I was near the mark. So I got together my posse for a trial night to decide on the winner. And there was none.

Natalie Portman’s disappointed face – reactionface.info

Sure, there were a couple of vials which had some high ratings by the reviewers, but there was no one or even two clear favourites. Most of them ranked about a 6 or 7 overall. Blah. Take it or leave it. Smells nice but wouldn’t buy it. And that to me says I’ve failed on this one.

My review team did a fantastic job of giving me feedback and assessing each modification for its merits and downfalls, picking notes, detecting nuances, and scoring each vial. But, at the end of the day, I want a polarising scent. One that some people absolutely MUST have, and others say, um, no thanks. That would be a winner to me. (I used the same method for choosing our Devotion scent, and it has a huge following (and it’s detesters!) ).

‘Devotion’ by One Seed

 

So what I’ve ended up with is 5 finalists in this beauty pageant that have a pretty good figure, and a cute face, but no personality, and no real attraction. So no winner.

beauty pageant – image from thelasttradition.blogspot.com

But it’s OK. I’m not actually too sad about it. It just means that the scent I was promising to launch in November needs to find a launch date in its own time. I think I need a whole new assessment of the project, and a re-evaluation of what my clients want.

Want to help me? I thought you would. 🙂

What do you look for in a citrusy or fresh fragrance? What notes do you love? Got any favourite citrus-based scents? I want to, no, NEED to, hear all about it….

Liz

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Step into my closet

Today I am opening up for you my mysterious cupboard of essenceswooooooo….sounds spooooky

But it’s not. No ghost could ever handle the smell that emanates from that piece of furniture, or my little studio, in fact (And it’s not the smell of garlic BTW).

It’s a vintage early 1900’s sideboard that holds these little bottles of olfactory joy. I think there is no better way to house such preciousness than a piece of history, don’t you think?

My essence cupboard houses 101 (that’s an actual number, not a cliché!) plant extracts I have used in my fragrances, as well as around sixty others waiting for my inspiration to hit. And the list grows steadily every month!

They comes from far and near, from exotic tropical locations to seashores and forests and everything in between. And all of them are choses for their beauty, tenacity, quality and naturalness.

Yes, I’ve had some duds, but they have long since seen the dark passages beneath the toilet bowl (only good for disinfecting, unfortunately), but I have got some absolute beauties that have literally knocked my knees out from under me, coaxing me to pronounce aloud, “OH MY GOSH!” on first sniff.

my favourite vanilla C02

Today, I received a parcel from the USA containing these goddess-like extracts of Kava Kava, German chamomile, Osmanthus absolute, red grapefruit and Russian clary sage. I mean, these are phenomenal. Yes, Ive smelled most of these from other suppliers before, but these ones are simply a knock-out.

Of course, now I’m just waiting for an excuse to use them!

It’s the little things…

Yesterday was such a glorious day in Adelaide; the first truly spring day in a long time. It was also my Mama’s birthday (happy birthday, Mama!), so I took her for breakfast by the sea, followed by a massage at my favourite, Endota day spa. It was such a beautiful day, so I wandered the shopping strip waiting for my mother, finding my way to my favourite teeny-tiny store, Little Bird.

Little Bird is one of those stores that’s hard to find, but when you find it, you swear you will never leave it. Or at least you will come back often.

But somehow I forgot it was there until yesterday…

It’s not a big store –  in fact, it’s teeny-tiny – and somehow it’s not even cluttered. They just know how to find exactly the right things for their customers, and display them in such a way that inspires (and makes me salivate). From teeny tiny treasures, like seeds in the tiniest amber bottle, to pencils with inspiring reminders, notebooks, candles, hand-woven baskets , cushions and much more.

I don’t know about you, but I am really over department store/mall shopping; nothing inspires me. It’s all the same, with no story, no heart, and no service.

For me, it’s the little things that count these days. Yes, I’m talking about the sales person really engaging and enjoying your company, but it’s mostly the heart of the product that speaks to me. Why else would I pay $4 for a single lead pencil, when I can buy a pack of ten for the same price?

This is why I chose a hand-woven seagrass basket for my daughter’s teddies, and why I would happily wait and save up for an Armadillo rug, than have one right now for $99. It’s the attention to detail, the patience of the artisan, the creativity, the history, and, yes it’s cliche, but the love, darn it. And, if you’re really lucky, the product you choose may even help to change someone’s life.

What little things make the difference to you? What have you found or bought lately because of the little things?

The GFC isn’t over

Something has definitely changed in the world of retail. I’ve just read a 4th email from one of our wonderful stockists who has decided to close their doors.

In Australia, they’ve been telling us that we somehow managed to avoid the global financial crisis that took so many other countries down. Phew. Crisis averted….? I think not.

If you are a retailer or a merchant of any description, you would know how hard it is to run a business in the current financial climate, let alone profit from it. The GFC has sadly shredded so many wonderful small businesses all over the world. In Australia, it has hit us hardest this year, and I’ve seen countless shops, online stores, cafes and restaurants close over the past 12 months. One of our busiest Adelaide shopping strips, where there used to be a waiting list for shops to lease, now has eleven vacant shops, with no-one lined up to grab them. It seems that for us, the GFC has just begun.

So what is causing the demise of small business? Is it the fall of the banks and lenders, stock market crashes, bad governments, or is the cause more insidious than that?

Fifteen years ago, I was studying Social Science at university, and we were warned in a lecture one day that online shopping would take over shopping malls. Of course, we laughed, and I called out, “women will always want to go shopping!”. At that time, we were just beginning to use the internet to find references for our research, and I was still handwriting my assignments!

source: wayfaring.info

Fast forward fifteen years, and not only has online shopping become part and parcel of our shopping experience, but we actually compare our other shopping with what goes on online; comparing prices, researching what we want before we snap it up at the lowest possible price, and often holding bricks-and-mortar stores to ransom over a price we can pay for the item in an online store. And malls have even now taken their entire business online, so you can visit the mall without venturing out of your house!

Image by © Matthias Kulka/Corbis

Don’t get me wrong, I do it myself, but it’s just a very different world we’re living in, and  the face of retail has changed so rapidly most of us can barely keep up.

Small business has been tested more in the past ten years that ever before; the rise of internet shopping, big business taking out small competitors all over the place, cheap imports from dodgy overseas suppliers, financial pressure on consumers, and more competition every day.

This is not an easy time to be in small business. But what has become glaringly obvious is that if you want to survive,  you have to roll with the punches and change with the times. If you can whether this storm and be prepared to reinvent your business as often as your customers and competition demands, the sun will shine again.

source: lewistaxation.com.au

As for the GFC, we won’t let it win.

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What trials and triumphs has your business faced lately? How are you dealing with it?

Why I love Bowerbird

If you know me at all, you will know I love all things artisan. It’s the uniqueness, the handcrafted-ness, the love poured in to each item, and the story that goes with every piece.

Hence, my love for the Bowerbird Bazaar.

Bowerbird is Adelaide’s best design market (and I should know – I go to all of them!!), and it only happens twice or three times a year. It’s the best of everything on show for one weekend; where you can bring your girlfriends and spend up big on handmade fashion, jewellery, art or homewares, or just find a little treasure to take home, or a beautiful bunch of flowers from (my most favourite florist ever) Fleurs de Nadia, or just enjoy the buzz with a coffee and Adelaide’s best baked goods from Red Door Bakery . (You know, I’m hyperventilating just writing about it!!). There is even live music and  art demonstrations, where you can watch some of the artists working their magic.

I just love everything about these markets, can you tell?! And I feel so privileged that One Seed is getting the chance to be part of it all this weekend.

We will be joining the 90 other artisans and showing off our wares, mingling with other craftspeople, and getting to know our customers better. I just can’t wait!

And we’ve saved the launch of our new soy candle range and latest fragrance, Slow Fire, for this very special weekend.

If you’re in Adelaide (or anywhere close by) this weekend (July 20-22), please make your way to the Wayville Showgrounds, and I promise you wont be disappointed. And drop in for a chat! I’d love to meet you there!

 

Liz

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