November 01, 2017

PERFUMERY LESSON #6: MEMORIZING INGREDEINTS

I can't emphasize this enough: memorizing ingredients is the key to everything that comes next. When you start cooking a meal, first you decide what you're going to make: let's say tonight is risotto! You know immediately what you'll need - arborio rice, butter, salt, pepper, parmesan, let's say mushrooms and parsley. You can conjure in your mind how each ingredient tastes and roughly the amount you will need of each. The same goes with perfume. Until you have an image in your mind of each ingredient and their weight within a fragrance, how they will interact with others, how they will change over time, using anything would be like shooting darts at a board - perhaps you'll land on some great combinations, but why not go for mastery?

Here is how you memorize ingredients. Dilute the ingredient in alcohol at 10% concentration (that's 10% of the pure oil and 90% alcohol). Dip a clean perfume strip into it and wait a moment for the alcohol to dissipate, and smell. Take notes on what it reminds you of. Does star anise essential oil smell exactly like licorice? Great. Does Ionnone Beta remind you of the violet candies your grandmother kept in her purse? What about that precious rose absolute oil from Bulgaria? Is it somehow more sour than you imagined? Now wait and smell again in 15 minutes. Crazy! I can hardly smell that White Grapefruit essential oil I just dipped. But the Cedryl Acetate is smokier than before. Smell again in an hour. Day after day, a little at a time, you'll begin to memorize the ingredients and when you dip a blank strip into a bottle and can tell what is it, then you can finally begin blending.

{top photo of iris rhizome by @saintdici on instagram / bottom photo via @mcmcfragrances}

October 31, 2017

Rose & Ivy

Have you read the beautiful Rose & Ivy Journal yet? This month's issue, available online and in print, features our GARDEN eau de parfum. Also, the recipes look extra delicious!

 

April 27, 2017

kyoto in the spring

It had been five years since our last trip to Japan so Katie and I packed our bags and boarded a plan, this time with my 4 year old son in tow! I'm so nostalgic for our childhood in Japan - evening festivals to celebrate the fireflies, picnics with rice balls and calpico, and riding the bullet train. We timed the trip for cherry blossom season, and even though it was crowded, it renewed my appreciation for flowering trees. They are so beautiful, and it's as if the whole country takes a two week holiday to indulge in the soft pink petals blooming everywhere.

The highlight of our trip was an overnight to the island of Naoshima. Epically sized installations by Tadao Ando, James Turrell, Yayoi Kusama and Walter de Maria dot the laid-back landscape like some kind of art treasure hunt. It's about a three hour trip from Kyoto and a seven hour trip from Tokyo but I can't recommend it enough.

 

March 23, 2017

the lifestyle edit


Naomi from The Lifestyle Edit came over to my home recently to interview me. We talked  about business, life, and the future. I thought it was fun when she asked me the five steps I took to start MCMC Fragrances. I had never really thought of it as a linear sequence before. Click over to the full interview to hear my answer here.

 

January 25, 2017

Perfumery Lesson #5: How do I get started?

One of the questions I'm asked most is how I got into studying perfumery, and how one might find themselves a student of the subject. It's true, finding perfumery classes is hard. It seems like almost every craft has a host of classes in any city you could join, except this. The industry is just such that most perfumes are made at large corporate companies by a handful of fine fragrance perfumers. For those of us out here doing our own thing, we've either followed an untraditional educational path or are self-taught.

For my part, I started my perfumery education by taking natural perfume and aromatherapy classes in NYC. In this way I got to know the essential oils and absolutes of flowers, bark, leaves, and other plant parts. I'll never forget the first time I walked into a natural perfume class. Small glass bottles were lined up along an organ, and as we opened each one and inhaled it was like a whole world was being conjured in my mind. That evening quite literally changed my life. 

Craving a more structured and traditional perfume education, I eventually applied to the Grasse Institute of Perfumery, one of two independently-operated training programs for aspiring perfumers. But not everyone is at a place in their life where they can move to another country for a year or more, so for those of you, I am sharing my advice on how to get started along the path of perfumery, such a magical art and science.

There are three books I recommend:

Chandler Burr's The Perfect Scent illuminates the inner workings of the corporate perfume industry by following the ideation to launch of two big fragrances: Hermes's Un Jardin sur le Nil and Sarah Jessica Parker and Coty's Lovely (which I secretly love).

Mandy Aftel is a San Francisco based natural perfumer. She so lovingly writes about the wonder of natural ingredients in Essence and Alchemy and you get totally swept up in the amazing history of perfume she evokes. I don't know if I read this in her book or not but this is as good a place as any to share. Cleopatra would douse the sails of her ships in perfume so that you could smell them coming along the wind long before you could see them. Queen!

The third book is by Jean Claude Ellena, the former in-house perfumer at Hermes. His minimal approach to perfume and expertise really shine in his book, simply titled Perfume. It's nice to read something by a perfumer, as it helps you realize that perfumers are very much artists.

In addition to reading and taking classes where and when you can, I recommend studying perfumes on the market. I love going to stores and smelling what's new, then coming back and reading reviews. With practice you'll be able to pick out the notes yourself. In a specialty shop, there may be someone there who can give you background on the perfume. It's all about passion. Where there is passion, knowledge will come.

Photos from my time in Grasse, France.

January 04, 2017

nico and nate

Our friend John came over and photographed me at home with my kids for Nico and Nate recently, a sweet site that interviews families with two brothers. I'm so happy to have "real" photos of my family, not just all photos taken with my phone!

 

November 30, 2016

a visit from west elm

West Elm came to our studio for a visit recently and took these photos of us during production, doing our thing. Click over to hear about a typical day in our studio, and what inspires us.

 

November 30, 2016

The Perfect Hostess Gift

Our sweet friend + ceramicist Helen Levi was asked by Vogue recently what her ideal hostess gift would be and she said our Desert Rose Atmosphere Mist. Check out the full piece here to see what other chic women like Padmi Laksmi and photographer Alice Gao are hoping for. 

 

May 24, 2016

Helen

Helen is the co-founder and Creative Director of Fuzzco, the Charleston-based design agency behind many an awesome branding project (think Mailchimp, Bonobos, and Etsy). You'd never guess how hard this lady works being as that she's so nice, humble and chill! We met on vacation in upstate New York and reunited when she asked us to make a pair of signature fragrances: E.d'E. Black and E.d'E. Blue.

Name: Helen Rice
Occupation: Creative Director
Hometown: Charleston, SC
Where do you currently reside: Charleston, SC
Favorite MCMC fragrance: HUNTER
When did you start wearing perfume? What fragrance was it?: I remember sneaking into my parent's bathroom as a kid and getting into my mom's Chanel No. 5. It is the only scent she's ever worn and whenever I smell it I think of her. When I was 16 Iwent to an older friend's house and she had Fendi Theorema which I fell in LOVE with. I bought my own bottle once I'd saved up enough money. I still have it and love it.
If you were a plant, would you be?: I'd be a Socratea exorrhiza or Walking Palm because I need to live in warm climates and I can't sit still.
What's in your refrigerator right now?: A lot of pickles that my husband made and a bunch of wine.
Three words that describe you: Independent, energetic, compassionate
April 19, 2016

sweet meets spicy

One chilly night a couple of months ago, the gorgeous Padma Lakshmi came by our studio to get a crash course in perfume making. Tazo is debuting a new chai tea latte and who better to be their spokeswoman than Padma, who grew up drinking her grandmother's chai every day. We smelled everything from Japanese yuzu citrus to fresh jasmine together, talking about how flavors and scents meld to concoct fragrant recipes. Take a peek at our video above! 

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