Monday, May 28, 2007

Book Review: Natural Perfumes by Mindy Green, and Other Natural Perfume Blending Books (Aromatherapy/Essential oil Resources)

I started this entry many months ago before this book went out of print. I mentioned this book in a post several days ago and a couple people asked about it and also aromatherapy perfume blending books, so decided to post this review though this book is hard to find at a decent price. This entry also contains links to books that are still in print or at least inexpensive, as well as links to things that are out of print/hard to find/being sold at ridiculous prices but worth it. Most aromatherapy books will at least contain a couple simple aromatherapy perfume blends.

Since last fall I've been seriously experimenting with crafting all natural perfumes. I first started learning about aromatherapy sometime in 2001, and I've made dozens of simple blends that I've used as perfumes. These blends usually consisted of 2 to 4 different essential oils, which smell absolutely wonderful. But recently I've really wanted to learn more about the art of perfume making, the art of blending, and start crafting more complex combinations.

To my dismay, there aren't that many aromatherapy/essential oil/all natural perfume books out there. Most of them seem to be out of print or just contain general information. Many aromatherapy books will have at least one to a handful of recipes, but I wanted to find a whole book on the subject with recipes. There are basically only a few main books out there that are not out of print: Nancy M. Booth's Perfumes Splashes & Colognes, Mandy Aftel's Essence and Alchemy plus a couple of Aftel's other books. I've only read Booth's book, and part of Aftel's, but they aren't really what I am looking for. Like all Storey books, Booth's book is full of information and has many recipes, however, I was a bit disappointed that she included the use of several synthetic fragrance oils. In some recipes she used synthetic rose, jasmine, and vanilla, instead of the essential oils. Aside from the toxicity and allergic reactions of many synthetic fragrances, they simply do not smell as good as the real thing, or even accurately mimic the smell correctly (vanilla is probably the exception, since it does come really close, but after smelling the real thing, you can definitely tell the difference!). Aftel's book is supposed to be one of the best on perfume history and also contains tips on blending, but there are barely any recipes in the book (literally only a couple. Though I highly recommend getting it for history and blending notes, it's lacking in actual recipes).

It seems like all the books on truly natural perfumes with completely natural recipes are out of print. Noted aromatherapist Chrissie Wildwood's perfume book is also referenced a lot, but it is out of print, and the second edition now sells for anywhere from $65 to well over $100, and the first edition is nearly as pricey (totally off subject but I just got my hands on a copy of the first edition for only $24 so I am a happy camper). Arctander's book (which is supposed to be the best) is very rare and costs (if you can find it) well over $1000. I was nearly about to give up until I came across Mindy Green's Natural Perfumes. Since getting and reading it, this book just became out of print, and is currently (at the time of this writing) being sold at Amazon for $36 to $90. However, many herbal/aromatherapy shops may still be selling it at its original price (though the two I know of are currently sold out), and I got mine last year for its original price. For those that can't find it at a good price, you may be able to request it from your local interlibrary loan or find it at a used book store. Two great blending books are Valerie Worwood's Scents & Scentuality: Essential Oils & Aromatherapy for Romance, Love, and Sex and Chrissie Wildwood's Erotic Aromatherapy: Essential Oils for Lovers (Note # 1: some people may not care for the pictures of the people in Wildwood's erotic aromatherapy book) (Note #2: both are either out of print or simply harder to find than both authors' other books, but used/new copies are being sold on Amazon at very low, great prices. I hopefully will post a review on these books sometime in the future).

I've read Green and Keville's Aromatherapy book, which contained a few heavenly perfume blends (I highly recommend this book as a good all over aromatherapy primer. For your own safety, please read at least three good aromatherapy books before you start using essential oils). So I was happy to get my hands on her perfume book, since Green is both an aromatherapist and an herbalist. Overall, my only real complaint is that this book is too thin! It is only 96 pages, including the bibliography, resource directory, and index, and also its dimensions are small (so smaller pages). However, it is jammed pack with information and has a ton of recipes. Yay! Perfect!

The first chapter is a couple page introduction, and the second chapter (also a few pages) explains our attraction to scent. The third chapter is (another short) chapter on aromatherapy: what essential oils are, how they're made, and natural vs. synthetic scents. The fourth chapter is about a 10 page primer on blending basics: fragrance notes, basic blending equipment, carriers, and proportions. Next is a chapter on forty essential oils, and note type and odor intensity. There's also a chapter on a blending lesson and classification. Finally she lists thirty recipes. Some of them are simple (4 to 5 essential oils), but most are more complex blends.

I think that though the book is a bit thin, Green does a good job of explaining the basic steps of crafting perfumes and understanding scents--better and more thorough than most aromatherapy authors! I've only made a few of them so far, but love the few I've crafted. I can definitely detect the faint notes of essential oils (in recipes that I used only 1-2 drops of an essential oil). A single drop in a blend definitely makes a difference! There is some information on essential oil usage and safety, so it is important to cross reference properties in other books since the profiles are simply short summaries.

My favorite recipes so far are simple delight and angel's whisper, which are both jasmine based perfumes. Green recommends not using vodka, and I only partially agree with her. It's true that essential oils will not dissolve fully in vodka (because of the water content, though some absolutes will dissolve fully in vodka), but if you can't get your hands on a more pure alcohol, it is a good sub since it is practically odorless--though your creations will definitely have to be shaken before use. (You can also use a carrier oil or perfumer's alcohol, but I am not sure of what I think about perfumer's alcohol yet).

Overall, in my opinion this is one of the best blending books out there, if not the best! If you can get your hands on it, then I highly recommend getting this book!


Unknown said...

Hi, nice to have found your blog. If you want to learn more about natural perfumery, why don't you join the 1200+ member group I host on Yahoo? Jeanne Rose, Robert Tisserand and Mandy Aftel are members, as well as many professional perfumers.

Also be aware that Allured Publishing, in response to a request from our group, selected out the Arctander book from the three volume set and you can buy the naturals volume for $349.

Hope this helps!

Solarkat said...

Hi Anya

Thanks for the resources! I've seen you on herbs oils etc. Been meaning to join your perfume group :)

Thanks so much for letting me know about Arctander's book. Still a bit expensive for me (I'm a student) but maybe one day!