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Monthly Archives: August 2013

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  • looking into yet another formula

    When I write a post here, on my blog, I usually do it in the morning and publish it immediately, and usually, when sitting at the computer, I know what to write. In my next life however, I might  rather write a book, though.  Adventures in space. Or something like that. One fine day, I might do so, but in German, of course, as my English is not  really colorful enough for a space opera. But my typewriting is: I feel like I could compete with every UBS secretary these days. Maybe I am wrong there.

    Anyhow: Here's the next chapter of my rose opera. Rose de Kandahar. After going through many versions type 2.x and 3.x, we ended a while ago with version 5, which is basically version 3.3 but contours cut out sharper, braver in its expressions; the sentence's meaning remains the same, but the words used are stronger and more colorful. Today's picture, taken real quick this morning, on the desk, using a white background card (this is the back side, where I print Air du désert.... right now), shows you the three dilutions, in 2 ml spray vials, labelled and being tested these days: 8%, 12.5 % and 15%.

    We had a lovely guest the other day, and I showed the 15% version. I think I heard a "go for it". So that's nice. The timeline is still fine: An X-mas special...being (hope dies late) available November. Thus, copying what I did yesterday: Here a few words on what's inside, in the concentrate.

    Roses, of course. Two kinds: The rose oil from Kandahar, and some rose absolute from Bulgaria. Think 3%. In the head you find natural apricot oil (2%), cinnamon bark and bitter almond oil (0.4%), bergamot (3%), Bourbon geranium (1.5%), tobacco absolute follows, decolorized, and it comes highly concentrated at 3%, Vetiver oil is there, too (3%), too, and Patchouli is overdosed at 9%. There are lots of synthetics inside, of course, like Ambroxan (thing amber gris, at 3%). Actually, without planning it: The ratio synthetics to naturals is exactly 50%.

    The overall impression: well, I guess, we have to ask our guest. Let's just say it is special.

    The next thing there: Calculating prices and formulas and see whether I have all in stock to mix a larger batch. But first things first: Factory work is filling more air du désert marocain bottles. Lots of them!

  • 6% Vanilla CO2 and you would not believe the mails I get

    Today's picture highlights the yellow label of Noontide Petals; the scent that I will fill into 200 bottles today. And put into boxes, at least some of them. Right now it is filtering which is a treat in comparison to the scent yesterday: Rose vermeille. Filtering Rose vermeille is a nightmare. Sort of. There, in Rose vermeille, I am using a carbon dioxide extract of Vanilla, that is rather waxy. The rose vermeille has 6% of this natural vanilla extract in its formula. I guess you have to walk a long way to find a comparable formula. For good reasons, almost nobody works like that anymore. Ah, and yes, the rose oil concentration in the formula is 1.7 %. Again: Forget to find comparable... Anyhow: The waxy, undissolved resin blocks every filter and you have to use all possible tricks to get it done. It takes for ever to get it filtrated. And often, I end up filtering it twice. But it is worth doing so.

    And if you think you can mail me now and ask me HOW I do it: Forget it.  If I have a good day, I will send you a return mail. If not, then not. The reason: You would not believe how many mails I get on a daily basis where perfume lovers want to make perfumes, want to have other perfumes, want other ingredients, want to discuss toxicity of individual ingredients or complex formula, want information on how I do things. Quite amazing. And quite often in a way like "Hey dude, you make perfumes, congrats. I will try your line soon. But first I have a question. Tell me all you know about... Can't wait for your answer. best,..."

    I created a nice piece of paper a while ago, outlining my "consulting fees". A pdf document that sort of reflects that me  thinking about other's troubles and sending replies is work and actually should be compensated. So far, everybody who got this an email from me with this fee document stopped talking to me. Mission accomplished.

    So anyhow: Today, it is Noontide Petals day. And here a few details on this one: 8 % Sandalwood , double distilled, s. spicatum. 1% tuberose absolute, the same amount of jasmine abs., 1.5% geranium Bourbon, 2% rose absolute. The later are the "petals" in Noontide Petals. Ah, I forgot Ylang: 1%. And rose oil (0.5%).  A word on these ingredients, though. Do not expect to really smell the tuberose absolue when spritzing Noontide. Picking these natural ingredients out of a formula is super difficult and you need to actually smell the fragrance next to individual ingredients to pick them out with your nose. Together, they form a different, larger petal. Abstraction and conversion is the name of the game here.

    Ah, and yes: I forgot....8 % Patchouli, around 3% Boswellia serrata,  4% Irone alpha, but the later is totally synthetic, yet super yummy and expensive. It adds and supports much of the vibrancy and woody undertones.

  • a lot of steps until a scent is on the shelf

    Today's picture:  A wrapped, sealed, boxed fragrance, freshly poured and polished and labelled, ready to go into shipment boxes or onto shelves. Yesterday was like super busy. Today, it will be the same and then we hope for a gradual slowing down towards the end of the week. It takes quite a few steps until a scent gets onto a shelf, and -to some extend- every step comes with the potential distress of blocking the production for instance because we are running out of stock of whatever.

    It starts with the production of the scent and ends with the packing boxes for larger shipments. In between, there are other objects like labels or top caps : no stock and a production comes to a halt. Just getting more stock might be an option but this blocks too much cash (provided you have the cash to start with).

    Since I am doing this, packing fragrances, I learned a couple of lessons and switched a lot of suppliers. I have developed zero tolerance there: I rather get a different colored bottle, for instance, or completely different cap, or labels or whatever, than running into troubles with production. And I learned that a lot of pieces are better produced and customized by myself than eternal suppliers, because I am more reliable than some of my suppliers were in the past. Of course, being a small fish, you end up at the bottom end of a supplier's to do list.  Over the years, I have a hand-full of suppliers and business partners who have passed the test, and I happily work with them. Sometimes, it is also a decision against a particular design idea or concept: Often, when designing things, you are branching out, bringing in new bottles, decorations, labels, concepts, and when producing things you want to limit the variety, have as little as possible items to order and keep as few as possible inventory alarm levels in the back of your head (or excel). Again, there too: I learned a few lessons.  But then, every day brings new ideas and you add more "things".

    It is like a circle, repeating itself: You reach out, diversify, complicate things, add complexity, and then you go back again, you try to reduce complexity, and simplify. And while doing so you come up with new ideas or you are forced by whatever power to adjust and raise complexity again.

    Today, I am meeting someone from Fedex. Fedex, is one of my service suppliers, I really like to work with. So we will have a look at an idea or two, bringing in indeed some complexity. But, having learned my lesson, I might rather do some tests, first.  (to be followed...)

     

     

     

  • at tauerville, clattering into autumn

    Here, right now at tauerville's office works space, printers run and clatter and pop out labels for Une Rose Chyprée. I love this fragrance, with its 50-ies touch, dark and resinous, and in my opinion very wearable for men. Anyhow. I mentioned it a couple of times, that I do the cards for the new packaging myself. The cards are replacing labels by fitting neatly into the metal box's back, and I print them using a dedicated printer that was sort expensive when it was launched years ago, but I got it as hardly-ever used second hand model. So I am preparing all the stuff I need for another day in the factory, working on orders from retailers and distributors. Maybe, just on the side, a word on the difference between distributor and retailers: Distributors sell to perfumeries. Retailers are selling to the clients directly.

    There are regions where you need a distributor, as the market is too closed or too complex or too regulated in order to export perfumes directly. Like Italy. There I am in a distribution model, with all the factors that rule the game, like margins and numbers. That is one of the reasons, why you find my fragrances all over the country. From North to South. The number of shops selling my products is larger than in the rest of the entire world.

    A good reasons, I guess, to visit Pitti Fragrance, 2013, in Florence, September 13-15. Although, to be honest, I am a super small fish there, in a pond where there are lot of bigger fish, getting bigger every year, or at least there are more bigger fish every year. And "experts" and "round tables" and all the stuff that you actually do not really need, pointing to the fact that when getting bigger there is always the danger of getting less "niche". On all levels.

    Today's picture: a spray vial with 08-Une Rose Chypree, in a discovery set. I took this picture while assembling a discovery set the other day, here at tauerville, and I include it here because of the rose chyprée, and as it kind of symbolizes the other side of tauerville, where I try to be as close as possible to my perfume loving fans. There is a danger when working in a distribution chain: getting far away, from clients, from wishes, from their smiles when they smell your scent.

  • packs of 24 and 6 plus 1 and

    Today's post is again kind of production related. It shows you a box being packed for later transport. Actually, this particular box is inside a larger box and will be picked up in a few hours by our friendly fedex man. If possible, I pack the wrapped and sealed perfume in boxes holding 24 pieces each. I do not really know why this is, but the standard for orders is usually multiples of 6. Like 6, or 12 or 24, or 48. I have no idea why this is. And another standard is: Perfumeries order 6 pieces and get one tester for free. (ever wondered why perfumeries do not like to make samples on their own and give them away for free? ....This is one of the reasons)

    Sometimes, as producer of scents, you get orders that are like "2 perfumes bought, 1 free tester", which of course does not make sense. Often, when discussing with new perfumeries, this is kind of a test. How serious are you really? I have learned to say no, and did so many times, if I get proposals like 2+1.  A few years ago,  you would not get such a proposal. These days I get them and they make me wonder...there are a lot of perfumeries out there, in big troubles, sitting on huge stock, in desperate search for uniqueness and the special product.

    One reason, for their large stock, on a side note, is: Distribution chains, be it "niche" or not niche demand that a perfumery takes a complete set of brands in order to get the one brand they are interested in. It is about shelf space and pushing distributed brands in and others out. A simple game. Ever wondered why you find a couple of brands always together, and seemingly everywhere where there is "niche"? This is the reason.

    Thus, this is what you might hear from your friendly sales rep representing "industrial" niche to your perfumery: "So, you want brand x? You need to invest into y,z, and w, too. And your minimal order is (think really big), and we expect to see so and so much turnover per year otherwise you loose the brand again".... No wonder, perfumery owners try to get different brands on their shelf, and for the most minimal investment possible. Brands that are not distributed are like gems. Or the other way round.

    Of course, there are distributors and there are distributors. Some are different.

    And now, off we go: More boxes of 24 waiting to be filled.

  • on dogs and bitrex

    Today's picture comes with quite some "jöhh!"-factor. A dog seen in France, at an auberge where I stayed for two nights. The dog belongs to the "Auberge Ferme" where I sketched the front place, published on Evelyn Avenue the other day. It is just a nice photo of a hungry dog watching for what happens inside. Otherwise, to be honest, there is not much exciting to tell you. Except maybe that I got my alcohol delivered. Another piece in an seemingly endless logistics chain. And it is always a pleasant moment, as the Alcosuisse service is super reliable and more than fast. It is like supre sonic fast. Ah, and yes: The quality of alcohol, ethanol, that I am using for my scents is Bitrex denatured ethanol. Bitrex is a molecule that tastes bitter but comes with zero smell. No phtalates in my fragrances. I think that's kind of important. And no artificial color. Not that -as regular gummy bear eater- I would mind artificially colored up goodies, but I think they way I create my scents, it does not really make sense. And in blue bottles you do not see any pink or yellow or green or violet or red color anyhow. Furthermore, if you are using rose absolute, for instance, in significant amount, you will always get a nice color. But that is another story. Right now, I am printing the labels that I will use, as soon as they are printed, in the factory and the rest of the day will see me there. Interrupted from time to time by the perfect distraction that there is: Facebook, with many similar pictures of dogs and cats and other animals, the cuter, the more photoshopped...

     

  • an illustration on Evelyn Avenue, and a word on labels

    yesterday, I was sort of proud, as I sort of managed to get all all done and more. The one larger pack with scents for the US is ready. I boxed all scents and packed them ready for shipment.  Thus, I can get the "shipper's declaration" for dangerous goods (looks like this, pdf) done by an external expert. I need this to ship with Fedex. I could do it myself, provided I did a three day training etc. But I rather get it done by an expert. Next (today) will be the shipment papers, including detailed lists of what is inside the pack, who did it, etc.  I did TSCA (Toxic Substance Control Act, html) form for the US customs and normally, with all the papers put on the packaging, the large parcels to the US go through customs smoothly. Praised be the US customs, in comparison to EU levels of logjam.

    And besides a few other things, I did the last adjustment round for the labels of the scents that I plan to present Saudi Arabia later this year. The labels  inside and outside of packed perfumes are sometimes different, depending on where the scent goes to. Thus, for some markets at least, my packing scents is more or less just in time. I just try to make sure that I have filled bottles. This has the advantage that I can easily provide correct labels for regions with very specific labeling standards. Like Saudi Arabia, where I have to put on Arabic warning messages, and an adjusted list of ingredients. My designer super guru provided me with Adobe Illustrator templates that I can adjust myself with Illustrator and print them later, myself again, giving me the flexibility to ship one boxed bottle to Saudi Arabia, if I wished to do so. This is, basically, also how I will be able to ship "une rose de Kandahar" (if ever the scent is ready): by producing a few dozens of labels for it. Think: super flexible.

    Anyhow, the labels for Saudi Arabia are now with an agency, located in France, that will register my products and if all goes well, I will be allowed to ship to Saudi Arabia, after the packed perfumes have been inspected here, in Zurich, by yet another representative of this agency.

    So you see: creating a scent is one thing; producing it is another dimension, and shipping it and making sure it gets beyond the borders is another challenge.

    But I do not want to bore you with shipment logistics any longer. Here is a link to an article that I wrote for my column on Evelyn Avenue, on code, painting and beyond. And you will find the illustration there, on Evelyn Avenue, from my digital sketchbook, that I did in France. Enjoy this read and please leave a comment there, if you wish.

    And yes, talking about Evelyn Avenue: The next label related task. I have to start working on the labels for the next scent in the series: Ingrid!

     

     

  • engage

    Welcome back to another week in the factory. This week will see me bottling, packing and working on labels. I should have done the label work over the weekend, actually. But it was just too nice up there in the Alps and I felt like I needed a treat, so I went for a hike. Nothing particularly strenuous: The guide said you need 5.5 hours, I did it in 4.5, break included, 600 meters up and the same down again on the other side of the mountain.
    It was indeed great up there, some summer flowers still blooming and it was amazingly quiet for a Sunday.
    In order to safe my reputation here: I took some work with me, writing mails and text (this post included). And I guess thinking about perfumery and perfumes while hiking kind of counts, too. Right?
    Hiking is zen; meditative and inspiring. I love to think about ideas and developments, about people and things while hiking. With every step forward, your mind gets clearer. At least for a while. Thus, towards the end of the hike, after walking for about 2 hours over pastures without trees, high on 2300 meters above sea level, I ended up in a wonderful, old forest. It was in the afternoon, around 2, and the large twisted trees`shadow fell on soft, dark green, mossy ground. The air was filled with the scent of fir resin, Swiss Alpine fir, larch, forest incense, on a mossy undertone, but dry, very dry and almost gourmand. Wonderful.
    One fine day, one fine day, I will need to create a perfume that is inspired by a hike in the Alps.

    But first things first: I have smelled the latest take of the rose de Kandahar again, and again, and again; the latest trial where I tried to bring out the characteristic notes a bit better, be a touch braver on the notes, notes that I find fit the rose oil, and tell the/a story. I discussed it with friends, too. I got cheers there.
    So yes, I am a bit more optimistic and feeel/think I am getting there. You know... the same old story: when is a scent ready , when not.
    Another task this week: Fool around with different dilutions of this particular last trial and see how the scent behaves. This is going to be thrilling. You can expect another post on this rose, soon, on the notes, and maybe a few words about how I ended up there where I ended up.

    And now: Let`s kick start this week and engage. Today's picture: Larch, seen yesterday, dramatically enhanced by going black and white. Enjoy!

  • transformations of flowers into compost

    The best thing I heard yesterday was like "I have skin that transforms the most beautiful flowers into compost within 5 seconds". So there we go: Hurray, I am not the only one! As perfumer, I have the privilege to transform the most splendid flowers into a whimsy pile of rotten petals, inside a trial flacon, awaiting salvation by being thrown away as litter and find eternal peace in the ether. Living in Zurich means that all trash that we leave ends up being burned. So, ultimately, into the fire go the shabby flower petals.

    Sometimes, after thinking a long time and mixing milligram after milligram on the balance, sometimes when doing the clean up, you realize that the pipette washing fluid smells better than what you have just mixed. This left over ethanol is also called "mille fleurs" (thousand flowers) and is like a liquid palimpsest of what you have written in fragrant notes over the last days and weeks.

    This awkward moment when you realize that the pipette washing fluid smells better than your mixture.

    But there is hope and light on the horizon. Always.

    Today is creative Friday and I will try not to hop into the factory. I will do so, however, on Saturday and Sunday, as the work waiting there for me cannot wait until next week, really.

    Creative Friday this Friday actually means working in Illustrator and adjusting labels "à gogo". And a few other not really creative tasks.

    But I have high hopes that I might find time to do one sketch, and write one or more pages. There's hope. Always.

    Enjoy your Friday!

    Picture today: A quick sunset shot, Zurich, yesterday, on my way downtown.

  • on things that work and others that don't

    Creating scents, fragrances, is sometimes not easy. Especially if you do not want to follow the highway route to success: Bases, combined with "standard" molecules that you find in every scent these days, like cashmeran. Nothing against cashmeran. It is a fine molecule. It is just a bit "overused". But maybe this is slippery territory. Let's stick to the "bases", pre-formulated mixtures that smell great, but unfortunately they smell the same, if perfumer X is using them or perfumer Y, every day, every year, independent of weather before the harvest, especially if combined with nothingness, bases are very tricky, I think. And, when using a base from a company, you become dependent from this particular company and their base, and availability and itsquality. Not that you would not be dependent from -as example- rose absolute when using the real thing, but still.... there is a difference. One difference is, of course, complexity. A rose absolue is, if you want, a base, but far more complex than industry's bases

    Anyhow: Let's say we are all being dependent on all the various raw materials. But sticking to pre-formulated building blocks may be limiting your creativity, increasing the danger of walking into "smells all the same" territory. And you know: it is not so often that you read this ("smells all the same") in the blogosphere, but when visiting perfumeries with friends you hear it on a constant basis. "Smells all the same". Of course, it doesn't really smell the same, but ...it seems all very similar, and familiar.

    So yes: It's the bases, stupid!

    So, yes, I don't use bases from industry.

    But actually, I wanted to get to another point: Creating scents is sometimes not easy. And sometimes, it is. Don't ask me why. I cannot really tell you why the vetiver trial turned out great, swiftly without much hassle of formulating forth and back. I mentioned it a while ago; I wanted to combine my Vetiver MD (hmmmmm, so elegant, so gentle, so not dirty, together with a great Petitgrain Combava (that's a special petitgrain), and a few other things... And yes, it turned out quite lovely. The rose trials (rose de Kandahar) on the other hand. I did so many trials already and.... well, I don't know, I don't know.

    But the vetiver is nice. Maybe it is due to the great quality of the vetiver oil used in high concentration. Maybe it is just because the time for vetiver is right and not for the rose. Maybe I am easier pleased by vetiver. Vetiver MD is like a polished vetiver in itself. I love it. Talking polished: I really wonder about the trend of dirt related scents. But that's another post, I guess. Here just this: Me thinks, that perfumes should not really play conceptionally with body fluids, dirt and other bähh! stuff. Of course, a lot of wonderful perfumes have this hidden chord of rotten fruits, stinky cheese, animalic lines, a trace of "dirt", hiding, performing an almost magic act,  and rendering the fragrance-skin interplay more interesting and fascinating.

    But it is not about dirt. The perfume market becomes "Stark vulgarisiert", as you might say in German. Strongly vulgarized. It is something that worries me deeply. It is like a mold, eating what we love from within.

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