Fontaine de Violette

Introducing our new scent

It has been some time in the making, but I am very happy with the results! Fontaine de Violette is our new fragrance, just released in time for autumn. 

The violet is one of my favourite plants. I say 'plant' and not 'flower' because it is the whole kit and caboodle with the violet! Anyone familiar with the way a violet grows will know how it scents the space around it, even when not in flower. The leaves and roots have a deep, earthy green scent, mixed with a hint of its flower's scent and it is this beautiful combination that I have tried to capture with Fontaine de Violette.

The opening notes are tangy, green citrus, on the dry rather than sweet side. The scent of cut grass and crushed leaves is blended with cucumber notes, which provides a velvety pillow for the floral highlights - iris and violet. Violet is sweet by nature, but I don't find this cloying, it's as fresh as a walk in the woods!

Fontaine de Violette will be available to try and buy at Gathered on Saturday, 30 April and Sunday, 1 May, between 10 and 4. Gathered is in the old Queen's Theatre, Playhouse Lane, off Light Square, Adelaide.  Tester cards will be available in the near future.

The lovely label is by Magic Jelly.  I hope you love it as much as I do!

Autumn Revelry

A Weekend of Making and Dreaming

There has been a lot going on at chez Shanghai Lil & The Scarlet Fez in the last month, so it has been a pleasure having a long leisurely weekend, catching up with friends, doing a bit of reading, a bit of gardening and a bit of making.

Autumn is probably my favourite time of year, though by the end of winter, I'm probably saying the same thing about spring. Now the sting of the heat has gone, but there is still warmth in the air and soil, everything seems to rush forth in a last burst of growth before settling down for the winter.

I have been replenishing my stock of perfume this weekend. I'm very happy to say that my perfumes have been quite popular recently and so there is a lot to catch up on. I now have a new batch of Sleepy Lagoon, Nightshade and Arcadia brewing and these will be ready for our next market, Gathered, at the end of April.

Also, I will finally be able to release our new scent - Fontaine de Violette. I have written about this new scent previously, and I am so happy with it! I can't wait to share it. To give you a bit of a mood for Fontaine de Violette, here's something which I used to love to read in my younger days, which reminds me of this time of year, is dreamy and best of all, is a pleasure to read out as it trips along your tongue so smoothly - the whole poem is perfect:

'From the meadow your walks have left so sweet
That whenever a March-wind sighs
He sets the jewel print of your feet
In violets as blue as your eyes,
To the woody hollows in which we meet
And the valleys of Paradise.'

From Come into the Garden, Maud - Alfred Lord Tennyson

I'm also reading Daniel Chamovitz's "What A Plant Knows - a field guide to the senses".  Naturally, it's a fascinating read and I love the chapter on "What a Plant Smells"! If you've ever wondered why an avocado ripens when next to a banana, here is the answer - and it might surprise you! It's an easy read, but one which makes you think.

Well, I hope you're enjoying a lazy long weekend like I am!

King Penguin Books

An Inspiration

We like to collect stuff and more often than not, our collections come from items made or designed between the wars. Our small, incomplete collection of King Penguin books is an example. We can spot one of these beauties across a room full of aggressive bookworms at a book sale! Printed between 1939 and 1959, the series ran to 76 volumes (sigh) covering a diverse range of topics from the natural world to antiques. The text is usually very worthy but the covers are brilliant! What does that say about me! 

The colours and designs are a rich source of inspiration.  I was going through the books and it made me think of autumn and lying in the grass under falling leaves. I know this might sound like a shameless segue, but it did prompt me to make another batch of our woodsy Arcadia eau de cologne.  Such are the links in daydreamy trails of thought.

British Reptiles and Amphibia. Edible Fungi. A Book of Ducks. English Ballet.

British Reptiles and Amphibia. Edible Fungi. A Book of Ducks. English Ballet.

The Scented Gauntlet

A friendly challenge!

One of our loyal customers visited us last weekend at our Red Umbrella market stall and laid down the scented gauntlet.  We often have chats about a range of things, and one subject we talk about a lot, naturally, is scent.  Our friend brought in a gift for us; a sachet of dried herbs and flowers. 

Our friend explained that every year she dries a selection of herbs and flowers, in this case lemon verbena, deep red rose, mock orange and mint and she has generously given away a portion of her precious stash to us. But it has come with a challenge - to create a scent reminiscent of this dried blend.

Now, I should point out that I'm usually quite quiet and modest as a person, but the need to speak out sometimes unexpectedly drives me to levels of bravado seen only in the foolhardy!  I accepted the challenge almost dismissively - 'why yes, of course I can make that' and so on. A grotesque sight, I'm sure!

But we spent a little time discussing possible essential oils to use - it seems straightforward, but our loyal customer may be trying to catch me out with a scented wildcard - and so I will make a blend, a cologne perhaps, based on our lovely gift and see if it meets with approval.

The blend itself is very aromatic. The sweetness of the lemon verbena with a touch of rose is countered with the fresh green herbal notes of the mint. The mint itself is, as they say on those never-ending cooking shows, the star, and is a lot more subtle than you might think (I wonder whether minted peas have poisoned people's minds against mint generally...).  It is green and soft, not hot and cold like peppermint, a lovely accompaniment to the floral notes.  Overall, it has a fizzing, sherberty type of scent, which I love.  I may have created a rod for my own back with this, but I can't lose face, I will make something wonderful!  Oh, no, the bravado's back...

A Glorious Day

Guess what I'm doing?

Well, I'm doing a few things, but this is one of them:

Otherwise, on this wonderfully sunny and springy public holiday, I'm making a new soap, a new perfume and listening to bossa nova while catching up with some reading.  Perfect, yes?!  I hope your day is as relaxing!

A Side Project - Perfume

When making cold process soap, there are some essential oils that just won't work.  They either disappear and you can't smell them at all, they do strange curdly things to the soap or they just cost a million dollars to use.  Experimenting with soap has led to a collection of essential oils that I know I won't use in soapmaking.  

So, I thought about making a perfume.  I respect the perfumer's art and so I knew that it would be no easy task creating something that might be wearable.  I have, in fact, created some horrors.  It can be very dispiriting to use your precious essential oils on a batch of perfume that, no matter how much you believe it should be otherwise, just smells like fermenting fruit. 

But I have had some luck.  I have made a wonderful uplifting floral, very simple but, I think, wearable.  Tenacity (the lack of) is probably an issue with natural perfumes, but frankly, I think the issue really is the tenacity (the abundance of) in commercial perfumes.  Some people wear perfume in a manner that reminds me of those young kids who drive through the city with their music doof doofing.  But, each to their own.

It is also nice to have simple combinations, like bay and lemongrass, made into a light spritz.  It's not heady, it doesn't invade the environment around you, and it's a refreshing pick-me-up.  So, I'm happy with some of my creations so far.

Last week, I made a batch in which I wanted to feature violet leaf oil.  I started with a spicy warm base, added the violet leaf and a couple of other florals, including honeysuckle.  I added carrot seed oil to bring it down to earth a bit and finished with clementine.  Perhaps I overdid the carrot seed oil - it's a lot stronger than I gave it credit for, but I'm ok with that.  

Trying it out now, it is, as you might expect, a spicy floral.  It's very boozy at the moment, but time will settle that.  What I find surprising is how long the floral notes stick around.  I think I have a base that has worked well and has anchored the florals.  I think I need to work on the top notes.   I thought top notes would be easy - they're all the fun oils, the citrus and herbs that are so uplifting but don't hang around for long.  But, as I said before, it's hard to avoid the fermenting fruit thing.  Ugh. 

I don't know where this will take me.  I enjoy the process and I enjoy giving away my experiments, which, I'll have you know, have so far been received well!  It did cross my mind that I'm the equivalent of the relative who gives giant macrame owl wall hangings to you for Christmas, but I feel safe that my selected recipients wouldn't let me get away with that!