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Wednesday 19 September 2018

Sandalore and hair growth

Amazingly it was four years ago that I posted about then new research demonstrating that the sandalwood odourant known as Sandalore (a brand name belonging to Givaudan) could have beneficial effects in wound healing.

Now, the press (among others the Independent, Inverse and the Daily Mail) report that this same material can stimulate hair growth.  The research was originally published in Nature Communications where you’ll find a more sober assessment of the evidence.

Sandalore is a perfume ingredient not a medecine
At Pell Wall we sell Sandalore in small quantities and I suspect many buyers may be tempted to experiment on themselves or others with the material: if you’re not familiar with perfumery ingredients you need to know that this isn’t something you should be rubbing on your head (or anywhere else) in pure form.

All perfumery ingredients need appropriate dilution before they are safe for that kind of use and a typical cosmetic product scented with sandalwood will contain only a very small amount of perfume - perhaps 1% - 5% - and only a small proportion of that would be Sandalore.

So if you do plan to self-medicate with an ingredient like this, please proceed with caution and be aware that you do so entirely at your own risk: Pell Wall does not sell this or any material as a medicine or for any use other than as an ingredient in a perfume blended and diluted by a competent person.

Saturday 11 June 2016

The Old Man

It’s been a while since I posted and I thought it was high time I did.  As this weekend is World Gin Day and, is a week before, Father’s Day; it seemed right to create a cocktail using gin and call it The Old Man.  So I did.

I might also subtitle this one A Tale of Two Gins because it requires two very different gins to get the effect.  [Writing that reminds me that earlier in the year, around the time the latest 007 movie was released, there was an excellent article entitled How to Make The Perfect Martini published in the Guardian.  I enjoyed the article, but, as a frequent martini drinker and all round gin-fan, I was stunned by the Dog that Didn’t Bark* in this particular article: at no point does the author discuss which gin - and as gin is by far the majority ingredient in any proper martini that seemed like quite an omission to me.]

Anyway, back to The Old Man:
Shake over ice, pour into a frozen cocktail glass and garnish with the fresh elderflower - pink in this case to go with the theme - it comes from the purple leaved cultivar but the ordinary kind will give you the same lovely musky aroma over the drink.

Drink, enjoy and remember your Dad.

A reference to the scene in the Sherlock Holmes story Silver Blase by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in which this exchange takes place:
Gregory (Scotland Yard detective): "Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"
Holmes: "To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."
Gregory: "The dog did nothing in the night-time."
Holmes: "That was the curious incident."
In this context, used to indicate something important for its absence.

Wednesday 2 March 2016

Perfume Making Workshops 30th April 1st May 2016 - London

Two workshops are planned:

How to Make Perfume & How to Make Better Perfume:

Advanced Skills for Perfumers:

Full details are on the Eventbrite Pages, but if you want to attend both please get in touch with me directly using as I can offer a discounted price for both.

Tuesday 5 January 2016

A WondAroma Podcast

Happy New Year!

Episode 10 of the WondAroma podcast features the Pell Wall perfumer Chris Bartlett talking to Christine Daley of Perfumer Supply House about:

The audio quality starts off rather poor but gets markedly better from about 14 minutes in and continues to improve throughout.

Here are some other links to things we talk about that you might find handy: The British Society of Perfumers - American Society of Perfumers - Chandler Burr's book about Jean Claude Ellena (perfumer at Hermes)

Monday 5 October 2015

Anjin Reviews

Anjin by Pell Wall
I’ve been a subscriber to Le Mouchoir Parfumé for some time: the incisive, informed and most importantly short, reviews are just my cup of tea.  They are by no means always positive and don’t pull any punches however, so it was with a certain amount of trepidation that I opened the email that popped into my inbox on Sunday morning titled Anjin Review: have a look for yourself though and you’ll see why finished up smiling.

An earlier review from another blogger I enjoy, I Scent You a Day, made me smile too and it’s fascinating to see how differently the two reviewers reacted to the same fragrance - both finding things in it that I hadn’t considered myself.

Many thanks to both reviewers for their thoughts and the smiles :-)

Wednesday 15 April 2015

Vanilla: the universal ingredient

Prosecco upgraded with Vanilla Cognac
Pell Wall style
Vanilla is one of the most useful ingredients in cooking, cocktails and perfumery.  Its story is quite well known, so I’m only going to touch on some of the less well-known aspects here.  My main purpose is to give details of a fine drink and a tincture that are easy to make at home.

So, first up, the drink: once upon a time, when I had more money and less sense I conducted a research project into the Champagne Cocktail - a hedonist’s research project rather than an academic one - I tried variations on the Champagne cocktail in every bar I could find that served one to try out the differences.  Much was learned and more was drunk ... including me from time to time.

Vanilla Cognac

Filtering the cognac
(while drinking coffee)
One of the things I discovered was a variation called the Vanilla Classic - sadly now both the bar where I found it and the key ingredient are gone.  That ingredient was Navan - a fantastic vanilla Cognac made by the same people who produce Grand Marnier.

So why am I telling you about a drink you can’t buy? Well, it inspired me to have a go at my own and I’d like to share the process with you:

Take one bottle of good (XO ideally) supermarket cognac and put in two pods of Ugandan Vanilla - leave it where you'll remember to shake it now and then for about four months.  Take out the pods, filter the cognac but reserve the pods (you’ll see why in a bit).

Almost done
Your Cognac should now be a beautiful mahogany colour and filled with complex vanilla flavours as well as all the richness of the fine brandy itself.  You can drink it just as it is, add sugar to make something that more closely resembles Navan but I think it works fantastically used to upgrade a glass of Prosecco - which has enough sweetness of its own to sustain the extra alcohol - drink and enjoy!

Vanilla Tincture

Don’t waste the beans after you’ve
made the vanilla cognac
Now back to those pods: it seems a shame to let them go to waste and one of the lesser-known facts about vanilla is that in perfumery the absolute (see this post for a definition of absolutes and other extracts) is normally used but it isn’t easy to work with, so for the small-scale perfumer a tincture is an alternative.

Here’s my technique for a tincture that’s a bit out of the ordinary:
Let the pods from your cognac-making dry out then chop them up, along with another fresh pod or two, weigh them all together and put the whole lot into nine times the weight of perfumers alcohol (so as to create a 10% Tincture), adding a shot or two of the cognac to the blend (I used about 50g).  Just as with the cognac, wait for at least four months shaking whenever you think of it but at least every few days.

Result: vanilla cognac you can drink plus a vanilla tincture that you can use in perfume making at about 7 times the quantity you would the pure absolute.  The cognac in the tincture gives it an extra complexity and also encourages more flavour out of the pods due to the water content - unlike many materials vanilla tinctures better in a lower strength alcohol 

Resist the temptation to drink the tincture though ...

Saturday 14 March 2015

Tolu Balsam

Tolu Balsam is a very useful natural fixative as well as a lovely base-note in its own right, but it isn’t the easiest of materials to handle.  It comes from the South American tree Myroxylon balsamum.  

It is used to fix materials such as juniper, petitgrain, spices and florals of many kinds and frequently forms a key component of oriental and chypre styles of perfume.
Rock-likc pure Tolu Balsam

Arctander describes it as: "a brown, orange-brown or dark yellowish brown mass, brittle when cold, and the fracture is glasslike or flintlike. Its odor is sweet-balsamic, cinnamic in type, faintly floral and with an undertone of vanillin.” and at normal UK temperatures it’s certainly rock-hard and behaves rather like a chunk of Brighton Rock when it’s broken.

Tolu and TEC form a strange, alien landscape
So to make it practical to handle it needs to be diluted in a suitable solvent - it’s often sold already diluted in this way though the dilution isn’t always declared nor the solvent named - I bought a pure Kg recently and diluted it ready for use in TEC (tri-ethyl citrate) in a process that turned out to be both quite involved and to produce some fun images, so I thought I’d write it up here.

Is that a creature emerging?
The first job was to get the Kg of rock-like Tolu Balsam soft enough to pour out of its container, which I did by sitting the container in a bain-marie and boiling the water beneath it: this took a few hours before the material was fully liquid.  Meanwhile a pre-weighed out amount of TEC was heated on my heater-stirrer with a stirring bar already in the bottom of it (if you don’t heat the solvent as well the tolu will go hard again as soon as it hits the cool liquid and takes much longer to go into solution).

The next step is to pour the hot, liquid tolu into the pre-warmed solvent (insulated gloves are called for for this step of course).  At this point we realised that there was a photo opportunity as the resulting non-yet-mixture looked like an alien landscape.  The tolu settled to the bottom of the solvent and the application of glass rods was necessary to get it to start dissolving as it was much too sticky for the automatic stirrer at that stage: as those went in it started to look like one of those scenes from the Alien series where the creatures start unfolding from the cave walls . . .

  This is all being done in a three litre glass beaker and as you can see in the later pictures the manual stirring took some time before we could leave the automatic stirrer to get on with the job on its own and the balsam tended to dry on the glass very quickly too.

The cling film you can see was to minimise loss of aromatic quality as this was all being done hot, although with such a high-boiling material and high-boiling solvent that isn’t a big concern.

A stirring start
Gloopy-looking stuff

Pasta possibly?
Eventually it reached the stage where it was liquid enough for the automatic stirrer to do its stuff and with the stirrer on a low setting it was left overnight to complete the mixing, kept at a constant 60 degrees centigrade by the integral heater.  By morning it was fully mixed to form a dark brown, consistent, mobile liquid and here you can see me concentrating hard as I pour it into a (slightly pre-warmed) 3Kg glass reagent bottle. The bottle is on the scale so that I can check the amount that’s gone into it for stock control purposes.
Perfect for Perfume: Tolu Balsam at 30% in TEC

We even captured a little video of that part of the process, which gives you a clear idea of the consistency once it’s finished:

A few chips and flakes were left over from the mixing process and these were put into a plastic jar  - the picture at the top of this post is of those, a few weeks later by which time they have merged together to form a single solid but uneven lump, much like that with which the whole process started.