Monday, February 7, 2022

By Camel or FedEx, aromatics still travel globally

Last Christmas I was involved in some Bible studies that touched on the birth of Jesus and the story of the three kings, or "magi", from the East bringing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. I had a bit of frankincense from Somalia on hand and about two drops of myrrh. When I smelled the myrrh it stuck me that this indeed was the missing ingredient for a perfume I was trying to reformulate. Myrrh became a major ingredient in this fragrance, the new version of Rough Day. Myrrh became the heart.

Two notes about the Bible story. One, myrrh was, at the time of Jesus' birth, rare and expensive. Two, the kings or magi seem to have arrived on the scene several years after Jesus' birth. These points have been ringing bells with me.

First, myrrh is still quite expensive, about $3,000 per kilo of myrrh essential oil from my source. And travel time? Here's what happened when I placed an order of myrrh from the orient.

First I want to note that it was shipped FedEx and not by camel. But the routing made me wonder what route the kings had taken to find Jesus and whether they may have wandered around the Middle East and even parts of Africa before arriving in Bethlehem of Judea.

My shipment of myrrh was delivered to FedEx in Bangkok but it didn't go directly from Bangkok to the U.S. FedEx hub in Memphis. From Bangkok it traveled north in Thailand to the Samutprakarn FedEx World Service Center where it seems to have spent three days before being passed on to the FedEx Asia Pacific hub in Guangzhou, China, where it spent a day before being passed on the FedEx hub in Anchorage, Alaska. Then, by 5 AM the next morning it had bounced backward to the FedEx North Pacific hub at Sennan-shi, Japan. By that evening it was back in Alaska but quickly sent on to Memphis, Tennessee and from there immediately sent to Newburgh, New York and put out for delivery to me in Walden that same morning having traveled through four countries in ten days.

The adventures of the myrrh was a reminder that the fragrance and spice business has always been global. Before the days of sailing ships rare spices and aromatics traveled from Asia by camel. As a young man the Prophet Mohammed got his start in the trade. Later European nations developed nautical trade routes to Asia to bring back spices and aromatics. Today it's FedEx and DHL but the geography remains global. Today the fragrance industry conducts research explorations for new aroma materials all over the world in addition to developing new fragrance molecules in the laboratory.

When I get my new fragrance together I'll make announcements for it via my PGLightyears website which, potentially, will be seen by people all over the world. After all these centuries perfume remains a global business.

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Don't fall into the "essential oil" trap

"Natural" can be good but it can also be dangerous!

It's not about "natural vs. synthetic." It's not about allergic reactions. It's not about animal welfare and unkind treatment to civet cats and musk deer. This is about cost, the cost of certain essential oils.

I've been working on a remake of an existing fragrance (Rough Day). The formula calls for both natural and synthetic materials. Two thirds of the ingredients are essential oils. All but one of them are quite affordable but that one that is not so affordable is essential to the formula. It is the heart of the formula and there is no synthetic substitute for it. An ounce of this fragrance is going to be quite expensive.

I want feedback on this fragrance so I have to produce it. But what format should I select? Could I use it to make a solid perfume? For a solid perfume I would only need a small amount of fragrance oil for each unit produced. Or should I fill a few inexpensive sampler vials? I have some good ones, with sprays, on hand.

One solution not far from my original plan would be to use 1/4 ounce bottles rather than 1-ounce bottles I had planned to use. I can get some nice 1/4 ounce bottles and sprays to match but neither the bottles nor the sprays are available in small quantities. I would have to buy the bottles by the case and then sprays by a much larger quantity than I want. I may just make up a handful of nice 1-ounce bottles and give them to a few people as a gift, to see how they react. If I was plugged into the social media thing I would give them to a few "influencers" and hope for a shout-out. This is something you might consider.

This project has turned into a financially risky proposition and this was not my intention, so here is my warning to you. Study your budget before you start to formulate your fragrance. All the best selling commercial fragrances start with a very strictly fixed budget. Then it is up to the perfumer to meet the requirements of the project and do it within these budgetary constrictions. This means when looking for a scent certain ideas are out. Cost prohibits them. In my case had I started with the budget I never would have gone down the paths I went down. If my nose was leading me in the direction of an expensive essential oil, I would have simply said, "No, that's not a viable solution." As it is I'm pleased with the scent but, due to the costs involved and the way I'll have to price it in whatever format I select, this is not likely to be a money maker. Too bad.