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Monthly Archives: March 2014

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  • capturing the moment and flying out

    Good morning from Zurich. Today's picture: The sun going down in Zurich, as seen from the balcony, unfortunately missing one element: The reasons why I took this picture. I got out onto the balcony and saw the sun going down behind the tree, and in the middle of the tree: A wonderful great and big crow. The perfect picture. I went inside, searched the camera, searched the battery for the camera, got out again, set the focus manually and the lightening and one moment before I pushed the bottom, the crow got bored and flew off.

    Arrgh. So you see: two lessons (at least) or two take home messages to be learned here.

    a) sunsets WITHOUT crows are also nice. This is the "Ah well, who cares, I have photoshop" approach.

    b) get organized and have your camera ready all the time. This is the "Missed! Next time, this won't happen again" approach. Some moments never come back, though.

    I can actually think of a few other take home messages here.

    Anyhow: Today, I will try to make sure catching the moment -not taking pictures of crows, though. Today, it's Creative Friday again! I will have to go to the factory rooms, get some last minute stuff done there, but a few hours will be free today, free to play. Playground: finishing my trial, around Bourbon vanilla, carbon dioxide extracted. Things look bright there.

    Last minute stuff means: I will leave next week, for a week, fly out of Zurich, westwards, and will have a few business meetings. In between these: desert time! It is going to a bit of a densely packed trip, but you have to take what you can get, capturing the moment, right?

    And now comes a first, and I am a bit sorry, but there was no other way, really. I will shut down the website and blog and shop for a few days, too. My IT supporter will  do some maintenance on the various systems running in the back, wordpress and magento. We had couple of issues the other day, on the blog, and needed to urgently update. And, planned since a while with the perspective of getting ready for Sotto la Luna, my IT guru will adjust the main navigation. Usually, I have a backup in Zurich who ships orders when I am not around. This time, it got a bit complicated, there was little time (no time) to pass on the shop, and to instruct the new products in place (Explorer Set) and their shipment. And even if somebody does the shipment, you still get a lot of mails where folks have questions about products and orders.

    This and that and the fact, that the fact that I am a one man show and every mail ends up on  my plate, made me decide to shut down for a few days. You could also say: I just so needed a brake!

    But now that this is decided and around the corner: Feeling guilty....

    Ah well: you can't please everybody, not even yourself, I guess.

  • a mystery story around rose the Kandahar

    a mystery story around rose the Kandahar or "Mr Andy, had the scent is what features?"

    Today's picture: a quick photo of a dried rose that I keep in my room where I compose and draw,  taken from beneath, with flash on, a quick phone photo. The rose has still kept is color, even the leaves kept their green, although they are dead since about 2 months. This rose is one of a bunch of roses that collect dust and will never bloom again. I find them very inspiring: it is  a memento mori. You  know: Remember that there is death and act accordingly. I chose this motive as I am going through sort of a detective story these days and weeks around my rose de Kandahar.

    For those of you who just came in: PHI-une rose de Kandahar, last year's special in the Collectibles range, was a super success, much more than anticipated. It underlined the rule that there is no rule.

    It brought me into troubles, as I had not planned a success and did not have a plan A for my perfume loving friends living in areas where I cannot ship to. And my retailer business partners. I am still feeling sorry for not being able to serve them. whoops! And then, by the time the message got really out and spread (this needs time), then I was  already sold out. Thus, a lot of clients who could not smell it, test it, get it: Everybody in Italy, almost everybody in Europe, Russia, Australia, and and and.

    A word on getting the message out. You know: I am a one man enterprise, 1.5 men to be honest, and my means to spread news and information are rather limited. I have zero communication budget and cannot afford to hire a PR company to tell a story. I have to 1) do it myself and 2) rely on my perfume loving clients and friends to spread the message. And, as I am a one man show, I do all the other communication channels myself, like  Facebook messages.

    Like: this message that I got this morning as direct message in my inbox- out of context: "Mr Andy had the scent is what features?" Another mystery story. But a funny one.

    So there you go: Une rose de Kandahar, the name of my scent created around and inspired by rose essential oil from the Nangarhar region. I decided to name the fragrance de KANDAHAR, though. I have zero stock of this scent and cannot produce more rose de Kandahar, except if I`ll find more rose oil, in good quality, from this region, where a project by the Welthungerhilfe is supporting the rose horticulture in  Afghanistan. For the record: I love the idea of planting roses instead of drugs in Afghanistans valleys, but the rose de Kandahar is not a charity scent.

    Anyhow. Imagine how happy I was when my supplier of this rose oil, a Swiss intermediary doing the quality check and making sure that the thing is the real thing and organic and all, when this supplier told me that the producer in Afghanistan found more of the rose oil, harvest 2013, like 100 gram or more. Buy it! I said within a nanosecond. Get it! Now!

    So I placed the order that complemented a standing order for the 2014 harvest, which happens in May, I think, and needs further work , like reduction of Methyl eugenol. And then: You do not know how much they get and whether I am the last guy getting anything. Ah well. So I placed the order, happily.

    As I run out of green glass flacons for the Collectibles, I was on the edge of reordering more of these, too.

    Happily I waited, a couple of weeks,until I got a call from my supplier, telling me that my 100 gram rose oil had been sold, although the order was placed, got there and my rose oil was almost shipped. Almost.

    But almost is not for real. So there we go: Waiting again....Now, that this part of the rose story is over, I can talk about it. But this whole story was a reminder of not telling stories to early: You never know what might go wrong.

    Rosy greetings from tauerville, where we happily play with Bourbon geranium that is so much easier to get than roses....

  • A facebook post

    Good morning from Zurich!

    Today's picture: I chose to show you a detail from an illustration that I did for the Cologne du Maghreb, last Friday. This cologne is all natural, all botanical fragrance, a traditional cologne, light and not made to last, and what is inside... well, it is more expensive to produce per ml than most of the 200$ scents that you get in niche these days. It comes with a wonderful oriental touch in the base, woody, and amber, a shade of amber gris (no, I do not use natural amber gris from whales, as I wanted the cologne to be all botanical). And NO! Oriental does not mean any oudh in this cologne. The orient is more than just synthetic oudh and cheap metallic damascenone in expensive flacons. Anyhow, I did an illustration, thinking about the cologne, and hoping that it will find its way into a shop or two in the US during summer 2014. It is one of my creations that is flying sort of

    Right now, I do not offer it on my website. I intend to change this by the end of 2014. You remember: The cologne was the holiday special in 2010. Thus, I figured, that it would be great offering it in my line of scents, but only in my pentagonal flacon. Here are a few pictures of the cologne du Maghreb, as I produce it these days for the selected perfumeries presenting it (but without the mandarines and oranges...

    I mention the cologne here, as there is a packaging fair in Zurich that I actually wanted to attend, maybe searching for a simple solution to pack the colognes in the Tauer line, in pentagonal flacons. It is really a margin game there, and tricky. I have only vague ideas, not ideas really, just waves moving forward and backward. But you know what: I am getting so tired of thinking about packaging questions. I had to work on a lot of packaging details the last few months and am looking forward to autumn, to launching finally Sotto la Luna, Gardenia. And -hopefully! - for Une rose de Kandahar. (this rose oil story is another story that unfolds like a detective story in front of my nose. It sure comes with a thrill factor.

    I guess I will talk about it tomorrow)

    But enough is enough: Let's create perfumes! For perfume lovers who do not judge a perfume by its look (or color... don't get me started there!).

    Now, having said that: If you happen to be on Facebook, the lovely site with the ads on the right side and the confusing and ever changing navigation  everywhere: Here's a link for you. It is all in Italian, but by clicking the translate link you will get the picture. Not only is the post interesting, also the comments. As one lady said (correspondingly " ...and I learned in Grasse that all these come from the same people and teams composing, the same labs, with the same ingredients"... with the added reply   "....and if the brief defines the price and demands for sales success then the story is all gone...." and you have the state of this field pinpointed. It is - to be frank- quite disastrous, and self destroying. This post on Facebook by my distributor, Roberto, from Kaon, an expert and a player in the field since many years, successful and with a genuine interest in fragrances, is worth reading.

     

  • cellophane and vanilla

    Today's picture shows you what I did yesterday: Packing Lonestar Memories. I am getting better at cellophane wrapping, adjusted the settings and especially my technique in order to get a tighter, less fussy seal of the packaging. You see a packed and sealed box to the left. The ones in the back miss the cellophane, yet and to the right is part of the instrument that provides heat and stuff to seal. Made in the Ukraine.

    I am happy that this process goes better and takes less time than initially thought. In a sense, I like doing it. It feels like adding that last little thing, like a cherry on a cupcake.

    What I also did yesterday: Thinking about a few experiments, especially a couple of recent trials of my "vanilla centric" fragrance that keeps me busy and unhappy. Although, there is hope, there always is. Actually, vanilla centric sounds a bit cold and I am also thinking about another name to go with the trial phase. But I can't really come up with something that does not sound like a bad copy of a bad perfume ad. Thus, for the time being: Vanilla centric means "my interpretation, following my ideas and using the stuff that I like". Once I am done with this post, I will actually move into the other room, where the raw material aluminum bottles are waiting for me. I put a couple of things out of the fridge,  and will mix trial 8.1 following a recipe printed out from Excel. 8.1 means iteration number 2 on idea number 8. Number 8 was a simple approach, and needs a few, finer lines added. The excel is full with iterations, and variations and circles that at some point close again. What I am trying with 8.1 is using the core of 8, and moving forward from there. Thus, for instance, I used "sandalore" in 8. Only. I will move towards natural sandalwood in 8.1 to get extra softness, a bit of a lactonic sweetness. I found that sandalore did not do the job properly.  I Maybe the end result will be something like a mix of sandalore and sandalwood in the base. We will see.

    Contrary to what a lot of perfume lovers think: Sandalwood (s. alba, from Mysore) is not THAT expensive. But still, used in the base, and used as relevant compound in maybe 6% concentration: It adds up, but is worth it. It fixes like no other natural and blends into almost every base.

    anyhow: The reference that I have in my head, is hard to describe. I guess I want my vanilla to be soft, not loud, close to the skin, spicy, woody, creamy, flowery. well, maybe I just want to much.

     

  • a newspaper for perfumes

    Every Monday, we get a few pages from the New York Times, some highlights of last week's NY Times features, printed and added to one of our two daily newspapers. I am always looking forward to receiving it, as - quite often- there are little sparklers in there, worth reading. Unfortunately, reading and learning about the news and developments of the world, written by journalists who have done their research and thinking, has been replaced by a facebook-twitter-"Hunk Of The Week "- thing for many. The media is the message; nothing new,  I have written about it many times on this blog.

    The media is the message means: the media influencse the way a message is received. This is true for TV, internet, printed information,...

    Anyhow: I came across this article in the NY TIMES about art, and a visual artist and there, it said, referring to an exhibition of a hip young artist: "....that the exhibition defines our times, a kind of gilded age on steroids, when the past gets repackaged as farce. "

    I couldn't have found  better words to describe the state of works in the field of perfumes, too. I would just add "...and the present is drowned in tackiness without the hope of future melioration."

    Let's face it: farce fits quite well, for most categories that are there. If I talk to perfumer friends, we normally end up within 5 minutes in "this is so unbelievable! Oh my..! How horrible! How can they do that? Oh no, not again!"-territory. What me and some of my friends do: Shake our heads, and move forward. Thus, we say, often "the caravan moves forward, let them sit in the oasis, or is a fata morgana?

    So there we go. This brings me back to the newspaper. I wish there was a newspaper for perfumes, too. Complementing the perfume discourse, where journalists write about perfumes who did their research and facts checking and investigative digging. And, sorry, blogs-facebook-twitter do not count there,  the media is the message. And I guess glossy magazine don't count either, and TV does not, too. I just want investigative down to earth journalism for perfumes.

    Of course, the media is the message is true for this blog, too. I guess that's ironical. And now: a happy start in tauerville. Today's picture: A self portrait, done 2014 03 23, photoshop, pencil, reduced in size for publication here. Unsigned, as I forgot to sign it.

    Tasks this week: getting ready for next week! Next week sees me travelling and shutting down the shop and website for a few days for maintenance.

  • clouds and orange amberland

    Today's picture: A quick peek at some Orange Star flacons, in the "factory", after they got their labels on, and before they get the top cover, and end up in boxes on the shelf. I took it the day before yesterday, when filling another 200 bottles of this sappy citrus zest orange blossom amber gris loaded fragrance.

    Orange amberland!

    Not every fragrance is a true joy when filling it into bottles/flacons. Even when working really clean, with gloves, and dispensing 53-55 ml fragrance into pentagonal flacons (I am always filling my flacons with a bit more than I need to) using a 10 liter dispensing tool: You are exposed the fragrance. All the time. And as much as I love my lily of the valley: There is a point where these innocent white little bells just ring too loud.

    Orange Star, for me, never enters this loud territory. Thus, happy bottle filling there. The labels, mirrored on the flacon, were the reason why I took this picture. When taking it, I wanted to tell you that they come on sheets, some 50 per sheet, digitally printed, with an extra layer of lamination. The perfect lamination after search for quite a while...Having switched supplier about 3 years, I got a much better protective lamination, a better price, without the need to get thousands of these. And a reliable service.

    But when syncing the picture from my Nokia windows phone onto skydrive, optimizing it a bit in photoshop, syncing it into adobe cloud, to put it on facebook later and insert it into this post in low res, I realized that this picture might end up being synced into my Mozy cloud backup, too, and if I feel like it, I could put it onto a  few other cloud spaces I have access to and use these days. The time's over when I was searching for my data and pictures on various flash cards. I put them up now into the various clouds and here's the thing: Although everything's changed, things are the same. I forget about the pictures, and can't find them anymore if I need them, after a while.

    But then: I have never "produced" so many photos in my life like now. With every photo that I take additionally, they all become less important, in a sense. Data trash, synced with double redundancy.

    This is the difference to painting: Every painting added makes the sum of paintings more interesting.

    I guess, perfumes are like paintings there.

  • Unidentified Fragrant Objects

    Good morning to you all! The other day, I did what I rarely do: I was reading a perfume lover's description/rating of one of my scents on one of my retailers website. Actually, I was looking for a particular information there. And then, you know how it happens, you end up reading this and that, without really knowing why.

    I try to avoid reading what perfume lovers say about products, mine and other brand's products. It can be a depressing, distracting, or a narcissistic ego-pampering experience and does not really help, on a daily basis. But still, I ended up there and read a short fragrant review/rating that said "it's not what it says it's supposed to be". There you go. We continue yesterday's topic. How on earth do you say what a fragrance is supposed to be?

    ... a moment of thinking.

    There are fragrance categories, that you might want to use, like "chypre". But, unfortunately, we live in a world where a "chypre fragrance" does not really mean much anymore. Chypres are gone. For good.

    You might refer to ingredients, but the more complex and elaborate a perfume is, the less this is helpful. If you create and present a mono theme scent like vetiver, consisting of vetiver and not much more: Fine. Otherwise, confusion ahead!

    You might say it is supposed to be like xyz. With xyz being classics, well known scents like a designer maltol bomb. But what do you do if you do not tend to follow tracks and copy/paste existing scents?

    And, if you happen to have an own style, and a technique that is somewhat different, how do you say what it is supposed to be? Tricky.

    But there is hope: Looking at things from a larger perspective, this is part of the fun of smelling perfumes. Again and again.

    But wait, there's more. Even when you think you know your scents: Suddenly, one day, revisiting a well know fragrance in your collection, might turn out not to smell the same anymore. It is not anymore what it was supposed to be, because something's changed. You. The scent. The world.

    I finish this post with the following mail that I got the other day. It is another approach by perfume lovers  in search of scents that are perfect. I was asked ..."can you make me the l'air du désert marocain without the incense? I will pay for it". That was a refreshing email. Unfortunately, I had to say no.

  • Musk, conditioning, code and collecting words

    Yesterday, well, yesterday, the blog was down for quite a while. A technical glitch, nothing serious, but my IT guru told me to wait writing and doing anything on the blog before all is set to normal again. So there we went: No post yesterday. Another glitch: I got a lot of birthday wishes for a birthday that wasn't really my birthday. But the article, where this bd was mentioned (in Italian, click here) was super lovely. It won't open right now, as -I think-  extrait.it has a technical glitch these days, too.

    And then there was a great review up on Fragrantica, featuring l'eau d'épices (click here), and I say thank you for featuring this great, unique and special baby of mine.

    And then there was my newsletter going out Monday morning, telling those who registered for my newsletter that Eau d'épices is shipping again. By the end of last year, I switched to Mailchimp for my newsletter , and manage subscribers and newsletters there, for a reasonable price, and an easy to use (web based) interface and a reliable sending mechanism behind the scene, and a great reporting that I use only partly. As I mention the newsletter here: of the roughly 50% of all recipients opening the newsletter 47.5% are from the US (these are not clicks, but every recipient opening the newsletter counts just once, independent of how often they open it) . The second largest location by opened newsletters: Switzerland. (which I find amazing, as Switzerland is super, super small, but still: It is my home base). Third is the UK, followed by Germany and Australia on the same level. Don't ask me whether I make use of the numbers... I just look at them, Alice in wonderland -like. I guess a marketing professional could do wonders with them.

    So you see: An exciting day, yesterday! Today's going to be another exciting (spring) day here: The sun shines like crazy, temperatures feel great for mid March, and I gave my gardenia plant a new larger pot, hoping that I can soon put the plant out, as the living room is ok, but not perfect for Ms. gardenia. I hope that the replanting will do her good, and won't be harmful. While replanting it, I did a picture with the Nokia camera phone that comes now with a new app, allowing me to set aperture and exposition and ISO. I chose a high ISO of 3200, in order to get a high granularity, as I wanted to have a picture of a gardenia blossom that is a bit like a newspaper photo, black and white.

    Most of you know it already: Gardenia will be the first scent of a line within the line, Sotto la luna, and will launch September 2014. That's in about 5-6 months. That's like around the corner, and I am slowly but surely getting into a first excited state here. My goal: Production of all (scent, filled bottles, labels) finished by end of April/May. Text and pictures ready by end of May. When I say text, I mean two things: Text that describes the perfume, what is inside, notes, ingredients. And text that describes Sotto la luna. Why a new line, what makes it different, what path did I choose to march there.

    How I do this? It is actually trickier than you'd think. I already got some comments here and there, telling me what sotto la luna is. Which is odd. Anyhow: One "false" note or ingredient, like cumin, and you lost 50% of all perfume lovers, independent of what cumin does there. It is "CODE" we, perfumers and communicators, provide. Ronny from Scents and Sensibility , one of my two UK stockists, was talking on Facebook about musks and how musks actually shouldn't/can't be "CLEAN". She is right there. I mean the pour musk deer had to give away his glands not to make perfume lovers smell clean, but to conjure hints of toilette, unwashed body odor, savory hair, animalic flowers, uncertainty and twistedness into perfumes ( a long time ago....). These days, with the overall use of musks in cleaning products, since decennials , especially washing related products, the modern consumer got conditioned to think "clean" when he/she smells musks.

    How cool's that? So, you see: It is all about code, and conditioning.  Can you change this conditioning and reset the code? Not really, not fast for sure. There is no hope there.

    Anyhow: This is how I work on text. I don't text really. I hope for ideas appearing out of the blue. And I collect words, pictures, that should help me there. Like "infinity".

    Again... don't ask me where this will bring me. After a while we will see, I hope. And if not: In the end- and that's the nice part- it does not matter that much. The scent matters. And the fragrance will, like, blow your mind . Sort of, I think.

  • ads on facebook, sponsored refreshment, and a word on animal testing

    Good morning to you all and a lovely Friday! Here it is 7.30 am and I am done with my morning ritual of drinking coffee and bending over facebook's messages for me.

    Good news today: No direct message where someone asks me for help on how to create perfume, find bottles, boxes or alike.  Phew! My email inbox is more worrying, though. The obligatory "are your perfumes tested on animals" question of the week, a musk question, and another "I need your help, buddy"  email.  Therefore, using the opportunity:

    NO, my scents are not tested on animals. Of course not. But let's face it, as horrible as it is: Almost everything that goes into a perfume, natural, synthetics, was tested at some point on animals. Starting with vanillin, and ethanol, ending with lavender essential oil. You have a hard time believing: Do a google search for -for instance - lavender and use the term LD50 with your search. LD50 = lethal dose where 50% of test animals (rats) die. LD50 for lavender spike oil for rats is 3.8 gr per kilogram weight.

    I have a hard time imagining why on earth you need an LD50 for lavender essential oil. But there we go...Here's an example of a google search.

    Sometimes, when on Facebook, I check what I get in "sponsored" content = ads. I find this super interesting for a couple of reasons. First, it tells me something about what facebook thinks about me and what might be my wishes, needs and interests. So there we go: FB is failing there, tragically, mostly, with one exception. The exception is: Facebook has learned that I am interested in perfume. How cool's that? Some billion of engineering hours later: artificial intelligence got it.  Tauer is interested in fragrances and hence he gets to see fragrance ads every day. "Free shipping in Europe."

    On the worrying side: Facebook thinks that I want to get rid of body fat, love handles and wherever you can have too much fat. It also thinks that I am in desperate dating need. And it wants to sell me a credit, and a couple of things more that I will never buy.

    Second, knowing by self experience about the price for a perfume shop ad on facebook, and its inefficiency in various terms, I find it interesting to learn which perfume house actually pays to be seen there, on FB.

    And third, well, third it always starts me thinking about the price of shares, facebook's shares, and how much I would pay for these and whether this whole big data thing pays off. I have my doubts. But maybe it is just me who is getting completely immune for sponsored content on FB. Do you click on what you see there, in the facebook's sponsored ads section?

    I don't ... although: Maybe I should.

    Creative Friday ahead! And sun.

     

  • Taucherli

    Today's painting (digital, done with ps) shows you what we call "Taucherli". Swiss German often uses diminutives for a lot from dog (= Hund, Swiss German Hündli) to house (Haus, Huus=>Huesli) and well, "Taucherli" from the verb tauchen= dive. Little black water birds that dive for food. They crossed my way, sort of, when I was  riding home with the bike after a factory afternoon. Every day, I pass over the river Limmat and as the sun was going down, the houses reflected in wonderful colors in the river and the Taucherli were  right in the middle between the reflections from the river's banks in gold and the greyish-blueish water.

    A wonderful moment that I tried to capture with the phone (did not work really) and captured in digital paint this morning.

    Of course, as it is spring, we have two Taucherli there. These days, ducks et al are super busy defending their territory and trying to find a mate. What an effort for a short moment of joy...

    When painting, less is often more and one -I think- should try to leave things out, like the undefined right bottom corner in the illustration; stop before you plastered it all with colors and lines.  On the other hand, towards the "end" -whatever this means in painting- every line added more sometimes helps to provide depth and contrast and brings out the scene or picture.

    A contradiction, right?

    In perfumery: Same thing. When to stop?

    Like: Place a brave dark line with cistus. And let it sit there, not covering up, not fading it out, not rendering. Just have this line in the base and leave "white fragrant space around it". And then, contradictory, to what you just did: Work on other central lines by adding more, finest hints, like traces of aldehydes, a whiff spices, a hint of this and a dash of that. They all add up, like fine lines on a painting, and might make all the difference.

    This came to my mind this morning, remembering me checking the Vetiver Dance formula yesterday, as I need another batch, in some time. I haven't checked the formula for quite a while. The head of this scent is amazingly complex. A lot! of fine lines. Don't ask me whether they are all needed, and whether I might do Vetiver Dance the same way today. I think not. I feel that I tend to leave a little bit more room in my scents these days.

    Having said that: No progress on a couple of trials (vanilla scentric) so far. ... when to stop, that's the question. But there is time. Have a great day!

     

     

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