PERFUME GIVEAWAY: The next five people who book readings with me of a $90 value or more will receive a dram (1/6 ounce) of my Summer Solstice perfume!
Some of my friends and clients know that I make natural perfume. I often use the process of blending to resolve thorny inner conflicts, and in that way the perfumer’s art is similar to alchemy as a psychological pursuit.
Blending perfume is also similar to alchemy as a material pursuit because both processes attempt to marry potent chemicals which are fundamentally unlike. In both processes, the failure rate is high and the results, unpredictable.
So while it’s fairly easy to create something that smells pleasant, I’m not particularly captivated by merely pleasant smells. A perfume should conjure up a mood or a memory of a specific time and place; it should also tell a story. I’m way into high-concept perfumes that smell more interesting than pretty: anyone remember the Heely perfume inspired by Tiger Balm? I was all over that one!
In order to resolve a longstanding problem (my disdain for the whole summer season and my persistent failure at developing any meaningful Summer Solstice traditions) I got busy in my laboratory of natural oils and absolutes.
As is typical of me, this girl had so many themes she didn’t know what to do … The concept of SUMMER kept growing in my mind to encapsulate a lifetime’s worth of memories, most of them clustered around the Santa Monica Mountain range of Southern California. So before I tell you what this thing actually smells like, let me enumerate the five themes I was pulling in (yes you read that right, five).
Guess what? This is probably why a person with an extremely sensitive nose hates this whole season. Everybody stinks. I didn’t use high amounts of any of the following but they all pack a big punch. The volume of perfume I was working with grew whenever I overdosed the funk notes and had to add more formula to correct for the body smells.
Beeswax Absolute musky animalic
Carrot Seed EO has a certain earthy sweetness but winds up smelling like the dirt that clings to sweaty skin
Spikenard EO feet
Cumin EO armpits
Cassie Absolute vaginas
How else can one survive LA’s blistering summer temperatures? I wind up drinking more in the summer than I do any other time of year, because it’s vacation dayz ya’ll, and it’s not like I can get any work done in this heat anyway.
Cognac EO distilled from the lees of the high-end French brandy
Juniper EO gin berries, anyone?
Clary Sage EO indispensable in crafting a wine note
Hands down, the best part of summer. Not the candyass synthetic fruit perfumes people splash on for the season, but biting into real, aromatic, juicy produce that drips down your face and arms and hangs around on your fingers to remind you to be grateful for the harvest.
The existing fragrance I had most strongly in mind when working on this concoction was Bois et Fruits by Serge Lutens, a marvelous perfume which is fruity without being sweet. It perfectly captures the overripe smell of fruit that’s been sitting on your kitchen countertop for too long and about to start fermenting in the heat. I’m not saying I achieved a Serge Lutens level of excellence – but there is a whole riot of fruit notes at work in this blend.
Bitter Orange EO a little champagne sparkle with my citrus, please
Lemon EO so exquisitely uplifting, so compellingly sour
Ylang Ylang EO bananas!
Rooibos Absolute berries
The reigning inspiration for my Summer Solstice perfume was the amalgamated memory of 25 years of Southern California summers. Specifically, I was trying to capture the essence of some long slog through the Santa Monica mountains, sweat running down your face while you dream of the hidden creek or waterfall that was advertised in the guidebook, only to arrive at what drought has transformed into a pungent and muddy wash. Also, oak savanna: the real California landscape whose sting gets in your eyes and taste gets in your blood and offers you a glimpse of what life looked like on this scrubby land pre-contact.
Sage EO dry, overpowering herbal sharpness
Angelica Root Absolute the moist and rooty ladyparts of the Earth, sweet rot
Oak Wood Absolute There is a massive amount of this stuff in Summer Solstice. It’s got low odor intensity and is described as being reminiscent of vanilla and whiskey. To me it smells like the rich Jovian wood that it is.
OK I’m not a monster, I did want this perfume to be at least somewhat pretty and wearable! Anyone who creates perfume knows that a scent without floral notes often smells like a wet sack of herbs, and to transform this multi-themed beast I had to dump a lot of expensive flowers into it. My inspiration was the cool cool Virgo I strove to be on so many late-night adventures in Los Angeles who, whaddaya know, is my astro twin, a late-summer early-September baby just like me.
Carnation Absolute The word is POWDER. Sweaty people in LA want to be dry and Carnation evokes this feeling, at least in the nose.
Mimosa Absolute As fresh and girly as you can possibly imagine – it smells like innocence!
Lavender Absolute She’s so cool, she doesn’t care about you, and she will never let you see her sweat.
Auracaria EO Floral wood that smells like sweet cream
Vetiver EO Dream dream dream the hot night away on a bed of this soothing and trance-inducing botanical
Here’s how Summer Solstice actually evolves on the skin:
An opening salvo of Lemon, Juniper, and Sage, with a promising hint of heat-baked Southern California mountains at sunset. Moments later, heart-breakingly beautiful Mimosa tricks you into thinking you’re not in the same perfume with its fresh, soft, and childlike sweetness. Then the Orange note really ramps up and stays for a long time, oozing into the Ylang Ylang and evoking the sun’s rays seducing the scent of overripeness out of bulging fruit trees. That’s just the top.
The heart smells like you’re at a crowded brunch table and someone put the pitcher of sangria right under your nose – well, maybe it’s a hipster restaurant and the sangria has been blended with Lavender simple syrup. While the fruit and wine notes are tangoing with this herbal sweetness, a heavy dose of Oak Wood comes on and reminds you that you started drinking a bit early and should probably go home and take a nap. So you do.
The perfume goes to sleep! It gets very, very quiet for a while and then when it comes back it’s like it’s 6pm and an ocean breeze has wafted into the city over the fig trees and your eyes are dazzled by the byzantine splendor of Los Angeles. You rise and embrace the prospect of being a pretty person at some ultra cool event that eve. It’s difficult to describe the base because here the alchemy was complete: all the disparate elements melded into some unaccountable thing of beauty in which individual notes disappear.
But here’s my best shot: the sweet cream of the Auracaria, the powdery drydown of the Carnation, the elegantly floral Cassie, reminiscient somehow of a grown-up sexy lady casually revealing her breasts in a suit jacket with no bra … all lounging dreamily on a bed of Vetiver which is not quite asleep and not quite awake and just drifting through this party pie-eyed at the fabulous, languid luxury of another lazy summer in LA.
Your questions answered:
Does Summer Solstice smell like something I could buy at a department store perfume counter? Absolutely not.
Is Summer Solstice appropriate for ritual work? Yes, definitely, and it will keep through next summer and beyond.
Is Summer Solstice available for purchase? Not yet. This version has way too many ingredients (and hence, variables) to reproduce. A simplified version may be available for sale in the future.
I'm a traditionalist! Speak my language! OK: