It seems like eons since I’ve shared anything here about anything creative going on in the studio. Not that I share everything that I do in my little tiny lab; but honestly, there was nothing to share. I have been avoiding my organ since the summer, except for when replenishing batches of perfumes that sold out. Which was fun, of course, but not interesting enough to write about here.
To be perfectly honest, I’ve been going through what could seem from the outside a “dry spell”. But really was a result of me being over worked and over stressed and intentionally avoiding creativity in my life. I had so much to process and take in, and I had to keep everything in the business as smooth as possible during the busiest season in the year (I literally had no time off for 6 weeks at certain point – unless you count a few hours here and there).
Creating new scents requires a certain degree of tranquility, not to mention concentration and focus. I really find it best to avoid creating anything new. It may seem strange, because in other art forms (music, dance, painting…) the act of creating art is calming and centering on its own. And I usually find that is the case with perfumery as well (to demonstrate this: I can’t even count how many times I had a headache and it disappeared only few minutes after I started working with the oils).
But this time it was different, and I really prefer to create with a clear mind. When traumatic and painful stuff happens in life, associating it with a fragrance will make it forever engrained in one’s olfactory memory. And frankly, I think I can do without that extra reinforcement of memory right now. Some things are best forgotten, or at least left to chance for imprinting their memories on our soulds. At times like that, I think it’s best to stick to fragrances that are comforting and familiar. And that’s pretty much what I was doing.
So back to my lab I am and with gradually increasing thrill, excitement and curiosity. And interestingly enough, my first material to delve deeper into is aquilaria agalocha, aka agarwood, eaglewood, audh, oud, oudh or for simplicity’s sake, in this post I’m going to call it aud.
Aud has such a profound impact on the mind when it’s burned as an incense. It really brings something otherworldly into the room where it is burned. Perhaps there was a reason why I was drawn to it at this point in time. It has an intensity and grace like no other oil.
In this perfume I created just a few days ago, and am wearing on my wrists today, I tried to go all the way with aud, to its most aggressive extremes. As noble as the scent may be, it develops in the wood only after it has been infected with a parasitic fungus. Agarwood collections look like scattered ancestral bones. The wood has hardly any scent on its own in room temperature, but once burned becomes something completely different. A similar effect is created by steam distillation or CO2 extraction. Which goes to show that great things can come out of morbid death and decay…
So, to take agarwood into the extreme, in this first experiment I decided to make it more animalic, a little smoky and as heavy and smoldering as I could possibly can. Agarwood CO2 is the most animalic one I have at the moment, very dark, resinous, almost yeasty, and at the same time a little berry-sweet underneath it all. It’s a sweet wood, instead of a dry wood (cedarwood, for example, takes it all when it comes to dryness). To intensify the animalic aspect, I added costus root absolute, African stone tincture and honey absolue. And to express the incensey, resinous, smoldering characteristics, I used some fossilized amber resin (steam distilled twice from the dust of the amber that is used in jewelry) and labdanum, and also an Indian amber-aud attar. It begins intensely aud with some smoky ambery notes creeping in from benath, and remains that way for a while. The amber and honey take over after a while though and leave a veil of sweetness behind.