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» Listings for March 2013

  1. The story of Says Alice

    At Karen’s course (See The Great Randello story) one thing that she and I played with – quietly in the corner while the others were getting the hang of things - was a base that’s rumoured to be at the centre of a lot of high street perfumes.

    (When we talk about a base, that doesn’t mean a base note, it means a blend that makes a recognisable accord, which you keep as a standard tool in your perfumery toolbox and use in different creations. It saves starting from scratch every time. I often like to start from scratch but most professional perfumers working to a client’s brief don’t always have time for that so their bases come in really handy. You build up your own library of them, and I added this one to mine.)

    Karen hadn’t put it into practise before, so we mixed it up, then I added a few fruity features and a flower or two and Lo! - we had a scent that could have fitted nicely into a couple of well known ranges.

    The base is kind of an industry open secret, made with three well known synthetics plus one natural material, but I’ll not be the one to give it away. Besides, my version is very probably different from the original. You could wear it by itself, and I’m sure some people do. I named my version Mr Fixer.

    Then Nick’s cousin came to stay, and he was looking for a scent for his sister Alice’s 21st birthday. I took my base, then added some fruits and an accord I’d been working on. This is the part that makes it different from the high street stuff. It’s rose absolute, jasmine absolute, honey absolute and sandalwood essential oil – the seriously costly stuff all in the same bottle. I can’t stand jasmine by itself, or jasmine soliflore perfumes, but I do like to use it at strengths that make a difference to a scent but don’t dominate it.

    For me, the natural materials give a scent a soul. Synthetics can smell lovely but they just don’t do anything apart from smell. The naturals make you feel different; that’s why it’s such a shame that they are being restricted and gradually driven out of perfumery. But that’s another story.

    The name, Says Alice, is borrowed from A.A. Milne’s poem about Christopher Robin’s nanny.

    The materials

    On top of Mr Fixer, we have grapefruit, peach, rose, sandalwood, raspberry, mango, honey and jasmine.

    1. The Great Randello

    The story


    Not long ago, when I was about to give it up all and turn to watercolours, or something else that isn’t regulated to the point of strangulation by the EU, I was spending another evening attempting to get to grips with the multilevel database bespoke software I use to check that my scents are legal and produce all the paperwork.

    I said to Nick Randell (AKA Randello), “Do you think I should just pack it in?” and he said, “If you were going to give up, you’d have given up long before now,” so I kept going, and a couple of sessions later I cracked it: legal labelling and a nice list of EU allergens for the three scents I was about to deliver to Les Senteurs. (Compared to the regulations, making perfumes is a doddle.)

    So I thought he deserved a scent. The Great Randello was a Welsh magician, probably related to Nick as that’s where the London Randells came from some generations ago.

    In 2012 I went on one of Karen Gilbert’s five day courses, which was wonderful. I needed to work with more synthetic materials - just getting access to them is hard for little perfumers – and this gave me a good crack at sniffing and using a load of things I’d heard of but not experienced.

    One of the scents I made there I called my Friday Afternoon Chypre, a dark woody mossy fruity concoction, and I was pretty happy with it but wanted to do a bit more work. I decided to adapt it for Nick, taking out the blackcurrant base I’d used (because I couldn’t find out exactly what was in it) and adding a load of strawberry-toffee scent instead. The technical term is an ‘overdose’; what this really means is that you accidentally shake the measure a bit too hard and drop in three times what you meant to use.

    The Great Randello turned out to be a deep dark chypre inside a sweetshop.

    The materials

    The depth comes from oakmoss, opoponax, patchouli and vetivert. In the middle there are clary sage, sandalwood, bergamot, synthetic musk and ambergris. The fruity intensity comes from raspberry leaf absolute – which is darned tricky to work with but I love it – raspberry ketone and a synthetic which has an amazing fruity cinder toffee scent. Then on top there’s a citrus blend I made up which includes lemon myrtle, lavender and tangerine.

  2. 10 Scents’ Worth: The stories

     I never make a scent without a story, and with my crowdfunding project, they came from near and far.

     So in order of how close my inspiration was…

     XHM2 – Extraordinarily High Maintenance

    The scent story

    I made this one for myself originally. I had this idea about using all my favourite materials, the ones I love most – all natural ones – just to see what would happen. This is not the best way to make a scent. Imagine what it would be like if you wanted to cook a meal with masses of expensive foods and nothing to lighten it. The same kind of thing happens.

     It was dense and flat and not much fun, but I kept it to see if it would improve over time. Well, yes. But it just became dense, flat and smooth.

    I decided to open it up with some airiness and lightness. To do this, you bung in some synthetic molecules that stop in sinking like a lead balloon. It’s a bit like remembering to put the sodium bicarbonate in your cupcakes. That’s baking soda, for everyone who fell asleep in chemistry. With the synthetic chemicals they taste great; without them – flat, dense and sticky. It’s the same with scent. So it became XHM2. One half posh and heavy, one half light and lovely but a little airheaded. Put them together and leave it long enough and they blend to form something halfway decent, IMHO.

    The perfumery materials

    It’s got cedrat, coriander, cardamom, pink peppercorn, pink grapefruit, raspberry leaf absolute, oakmoss, opoponax, vanilla, rose geranium, rose absolute, davana, hyacinth and vanilla.

    To open it up, I added cedramber and bergamot plus a dash of gamma undecalactone, the peachy one.