Ask the Perfumer Sunday Feb. 17, 2013 – A Cautionary Letter to Perfumers

by | Feb 17, 2013 | Anya's Garden Perfumes | 52 comments

There has been a lot of discussion lately in the private Guild Yahoo group, triggered by a member lamenting the fact that their perfumes were found to contain synthetics and the member balked at supplying the names of suppliers of the suspect materials.  We’re trying to protect our art, not penalize members, in fact, quite the opposite, we’re trying to share our decades of experience to help them on the right path. This member is dedicated to natural perfumery, and no subterfuge was evident, but it has been in the past.  The Guild wants to be able to stand between the perfumer and the government, and to do so we will need member’s cooperation.  Between Elise, Chris and myself, we have about 60 years experience, and our noses “know” synths and we weed out submittals that contain them.

GovernmentQuoteThoreau

A perfumer from South Africa, where she is not allowed to call herself a natural perfumer due to strict regulations, posted a letter in support of the Guild’s efforts after this was brought up for discussion in the group.. She realizes the Guild is moving towards self-regulation to try to avoid overweening government interference in our businesses, and to allow us to become the first perfume organization to define what natural perfumery is.  Here is Emily’s letter:

Hello Everyone,

 I am relatively new to the Guild, but I would just like to say a couple of things, in view of recent events.
I know is annoying being told what to do and how to do it but unfortunately regulation in the cosmetics industry seems to be the way the world is moving towards. I think in the USA you have all been sheltered from this to a certain extent as you don’t seem to have to deal with a lot of government regulations?
I believe Anya has all our best interests and the interest of Natural Perfumery at heart and is doing her best in a difficult time. She is also thinking of the whole world, not just the USA.
For example – I have looked into getting certified and it will cost me $4000.00 (US) a year, I will have my perfumery ‘audited’ with on site visits etc. One of the biggest cons of all time I believe as to be certified as natural you do not need a 100% natural perfume. Usually they accept 70% natural. BDIH certification* you only need to be 60% natural. To me this is not ethical, that a fragrance can be 40% synthetic and yet be certified by a third party company as natural. The Guild is going to the other extreme, there is no wiggle room. But surely this is a good thing?
I would much rather be a part of the guild, I love the sense of community and the sharing of knowledge.
Just my thoughts.
Best wishes everyone,
Emily
* Emily is referring here to a Guild perfumer who quit, saying she objected to the Guild’s self-regulation stance.  For over a year, this perfumer has consistently posted long, detailed, seemingly-correct instructions on how to go forward with certification/self-regulation, etc.  She is eloquent, and received several affirmative responses from members with no experience in the regulatory world, but sadly, she was wrong on just about all her suggestions.  The BDIH comment by Emily gently corrected the other perfumer’s post about that BDIH was all we’d need.  She also wrote me that getting certified organic means we’re natural. 100% incorrect, as were all the other agencies and organizations she boosted as meaningful.
Now, for a twist: educate yourselves on IFRA, EU COSMOS, Global Harmonization, Codex Alimentarius, REACH, etc. etc.  You can find lots in my old blog site, and one of my more humorous takes on it all can be found here
BUT
today I’d like you to ask questions about suppliers.  I have 37 years sourcing experience, originally taught by two retired salesmen from the perfume industry, having worked for Aromatics International for decades.  They trained me to be a cynic about raw materials, since they saw all the chicanery first hand, and I remain one to this day.  The herb and spice and aromatics businesses have been fraught with adulteration and fraud for centuries.
Want to share war stories of sourcing?  I’d love to hear from you.
xoxo,
Anya

52 Comments

  1. Eileen Jackson

    Oh I was not aware of the so many regulations. I feel sad of what the goverment defines as natural. $4,000 for an audit is a lot not mentioning other cost of the business. I wish it could be considered as Art and philosophy or non profit which is what really is for small niche business.

    Reply
    • Anya

      Dear Eileen:

      I hate to be the bearer of bad news to those, like yourself, new to the art, and passionate about 100% natural perfumes. I should add it also affects all perfumers, even those who work for the “big houses”. They’ll still have materials, but they’ll be “watered down” materials in both content, e.g., methyl eugenol percentages in rose, or from rose fields outside of the EU, which destroys part of the heritage of perfumery they love also. They are our comrades in perfumery, they just use more materials of a synth nature we don’t use. There is no non-profit status needed, that is only for those who wish to apply for grants, or give grants. Talk about horrid paperwork! Non-profits are a different thing entirely.

      HTH,
      xoxo,
      Anya

      Reply
  2. Delaney

    Its scary to think of unfair regulations limiting or even closing our businesses, but we have to protect ourselves. I’ll be reading up on more of these topics, for sure! I do like that the Guild has such strict standards. When I buy something as ‘natural’ I don’t want to find out it has even 1% synthetic, let alone 30% which seems to be allowed. I also don’t want government overreach hurting small businesses because we can’t afford inspections and testing.

    I also worry about finding trustworthy suppliers. Without lab testing, I don’t have any other way than my nose to know what is really in an oil. Price is, of course, an indicator. Is there a full list of Guild-trusted suppliers that members use? Can something like that be made if we’re all to disclose our suppliers? I don’t mind sharing where I’m getting my oils. I would welcome more opinions on where to get good supplies, and to get opinions on the suppliers I already use. I know that even if we all have the same oils from the same suppliers, we would each create something unique.

    Reply
    • Anya

      Dear Delaney, thank you for volunteering to read up and educate yourself! Since you’re the first who has responded this way (none in the Guild Yahoo group, sadly, and you know I did encourage them!), I would like to send you a little something special. I have your address and you’ll get a little pure, rare, 100% boronia absolute from the only producer of it in the world, who sells via me to the Guild and other retail sources. It’s precious!

      BTW, your links were fixed 🙂

      We do have Guild suppliers, check out the website http://naturalperfumers.com but by no means am I suggesting they’re the only ethical ones, because there are literally hundreds of good ones. They’re often discussed on the big NP group http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/NaturalPerfumery/ and the private Guild group. You see I had my experience and ethics challenged when I tried repeatedly to counsel a member against buying from Lala in India. I will go forward with warnings, as needed, just ask away.

      xoxo,
      Anya

      Reply
      • Delaney

        Anya,
        Thank you so much for the sample! I’ve only ever heard amazing things about boronia, so I can’t wait to experience it!
        I’ve been reading up, and my, my is there some confusion. Most of the regs seen unfair and downright unnecessary. I see such a push to use synthetics over naturals, like a possible rash is deadly but neurotoxins are okay. Makes me want to follow the money trail. Not only will centuries-old traditions die, but I find too many of these new synthetics are dangerous and untested, not to mention lacking aroma-wise.
        I always try to explain these issues to, not only customers, but pretty much anyone who will listen. Maybe I get a bit carried away, but I’m passionate about using naturals in every area of life, beauty products, cleaners, food, ect.

        Reply
    • Anya

      Hi Delaney:

      Thanks for the vote of confidence on the path the Guild is on!

      About suppliers, I can vouch for Guild suppliers, and I do share any bad experience, honestly, in our group, with careful words as to not inflame others. We do need to keep a dialogue going, and let the suppliers know it.

      You are in the big NP group of 2500, right?

      Anya

      Reply
      • Delaney

        I think I just joined the group, the one via Yahoo. I didn’t realized I was missing out! 😉

        Reply
  3. einsof

    in my sometimes humble opinion, to have total visibility is never a threat.
    it would encourage more suppliers of raw materials to seek real, quality botanicals. this would encourage distillers and farmers to, in turn, only produce real, quality plants and oils.

    we are asking for a closed, safe, profitable loop. this IS the big picture. we all have our valid, sacred and rightful small pictures… but let’s not forget the mosaic we are leaving on the face of planet earth.

    we are defining ourselves, our industry, a profit crop of agriculture, indigenous cultures, and the sustainability of our planet… as well as every nose our art comes in contact with.

    species from worms to the person next to our client on the subway are depending on this- to be glib. 😉

    the truth never needs fear it’s self revealed, nor is it in fear of competition- for the TRUTH is there is such need for this healing art, there is enough room for everyone… who wishes to participate.

    but make no mistake of what is being offered to participate in; soil to soul accountability. not at the expense of the alchemy of art and it’s mystery of form and formula… but the stone and lead must be known to all. for the safety of all. to make more magic the transformation of the mundane into the mystic.

    for us all, participant, perfumist, pundit, pariah, passerby, every person- i wish the joy and expansion of natural perfumery- without fear of ambiguity of what that term expresses.

    much light, einsof

    Reply
    • Anya

      Dear einsof

      Poetical, loving and sensitive, as always. I love “soil to soul accountability”!

      much love,
      Anya

      Reply
    • Anya

      What you said, Einsof!

      xoxo
      Anya

      Reply
  4. Suzinn

    Does the guild have a list of trustworthy suppliers? It would also be helpful to know which materials to be skeptical of and perhaps adding members experiences with suppliers and materials (recommendations as well as thing to stay clear of). If they are listed in the Yahoo Group is there a way to locate those comments easily?
    Thanks, Suzinn

    Reply
  5. Suzinn

    Just saw Delaney’s post and your kind reply! Thanks for the link! I agree with the idea of sharing suppliers and that we only gain by being open and honest. Each of us has a unique way of telling our stories in scent.

    Reply
  6. einsof

    OH!

    i almost forgot- i have a tincturing question!!

    we are planning our gardens now… and i am wondering if there’s any point in planting a few huge beds of cistus? does it yield? which variety?

    this seems a common enough question you may have covered it at one time or another… but if you would?

    thanks anya <3

    Reply
    • Anya

      Hi einsof:

      I have never grown it, and I haven’t seen much on the big NP group. I know Andrine in the PNW has tinctured it successfully from plants in her garden. I’m wondering if Companion Plants would have starter plants. They give a full description of scent, etc., or at least they used to on their website.

      HTH
      Anya

      Reply
  7. Suzinn

    Hi again,
    I’m trying to find this topic thread on the yahoo site and wondering if you know which dates or message # to look at? My dyslexic brain goes a bit haywire looking at all those words (I actually feel nauseous right now). I guess that’s why I avoid chat groups… 🙁 xo
    PS: I did read Brian’s Eden review and so appreciated it! Make me want to buy more and I just got an order from them on Friday! I love Eden Botanicals and just sent in 3 reviews for them.

    Reply
    • Anya

      Hi Suzy

      Do you receive the group discussion via individual emails? I always find that’s the best way to keep track.

      HTH,
      Anya

      Reply
      • Suzinn

        Maybe but I hardly ever use yahoo. I wonder if I can have them forwarded to my everyday email address? I spend to much time on the computer…

        Reply
        • Anya

          Hi Suzy:

          You can control your Yahoo mail settings. You go the website, say the big 2500 member group, log in, ‘edit your membership’ and you can receive all the posts as individual emails, a daily digest, or go the special notice route where you have to go to the website to read.

          hth,
          Anya

          Reply
  8. alwyn

    even formerly trusted suppliers screw up from time to time. i had ordered a rose absolute, which i accidentally left outside on a cold night, when i noticed that it didn’t set up or thicken the way a real rose would. I was out the money, can’t sell it as rose, because it’s not, or not all, and can’t use it. When you open the bottle now it smells like something was burned. It has a very smoky flavor. dunno what it is besides a waste of money. oh well. buyer beware, and all that.

    Reply
    • Anya

      Hi Alwyn:

      I’m sorry to hear of that incident. You have every right to write to the supplier and tell them and say that they need to supply GC/MS. That’s a tricky slope, since they can be tricked up, but it will put him on notice. Gently inform him that there is a discussion group of 2500 where such matters are discussed from first-hand knowledge, no second-hand “I heard so and so” chat allowed. Use the group information as an agent of change (hopefully!) not a threat.

      What if others aren’t as savvy as you, and the supplier let one bad batch slip through by accident? It could happen.

      HTH,
      Anya

      Reply
    • Maggie M.

      Rose Absolute does not set up like rose otto.

      Reply
      • alwyn

        my rose absolutes always set up when it is cold. perhaps i notice more because i work renaissance faires, and i’m outside alot, but there are times i have to put my samples under my arm to heat them up so they can be extracted. I’m talking large bottles of rose absolute. they get very gel like. this bottle didn’t, so i didn’t use it. after smelling the smoky part to it, i’m really glad i didn’t.

        Reply
    • Maggie M.

      Rose absolutes also have a different odor profile from a rose otto that tends to be sweeter. You need to dilute an absolute down to at least 10% to evaluate. Did you do that? Another factor is the rose variety. Some rose absolutes are muskier than others. It doesn’t mean you have a poor quality or adulterated extraction.

      Reply
      • Anya

        Hi Maggie:

        I just re-read Alwyn’s post, and I totally missed she was asking about absolute, not otto. Rose absolute doesn’t go cloudy, they’re free of waxes because they were distilled. It’s the ottos that go cloudy because they still have a lot of wax in them, ditto any CO2s.

        xoxo,
        Anya

        Reply
      • alwyn

        i’ve been using rose absolute long enough that i don’t need to dilute it to evalute. my nose knows. been making natural perfumes since 1992, doncha know…and i know trash when i smell it, fer sure. i don’t know if this one was burned during the extraction process or diluted with something weird, but it was not the real deal.

        Reply
    • Maggie M.

      Finally, with my ottos and absolutes (actually all of my expensive extractions) I always keep a sample on file for comparison, especially if I purchase from the same supplier knowing that rose can vary from season to season. Before I purchase a new extraction I always obtain a sample. Even though the sample on file can degrade, it nevertheless is a benchmark for comparison.
      HTH!

      Reply
    • Anya

      Alwyn!

      I just re-read your post. It’s rose otto that gets cloudy, not the absolute! Smelling like something burned is a different matter. Bad extraction process? Can you share what genus/species and country?

      HTH,
      Anya

      Reply
      • alwyn

        it was liberty, a centifolia from egypt. it quite put me off from ordering from them.

        Reply
  9. Anna Lybecker

    I have been buying from DoTerra for therapeutic oils, essenti
    Oils in Portland Oregon and Nemat international for fragrance oils. I do like the quality these companies offer
    But am not certain that they are 100% natural.
    Any thoughts, comments?

    Reply
    • Suzinn

      OK, I know I may get some backlash for saying this but I find DoTerra too expensive and I don’t like their tiered marketing. I just want to order when I need something and not have to jump into a game of becoming a wholesaler and getting friends to order, etc. Also, I don’t think it’s always safe to use oils neat on the skin and they seem to push that. I also question the whole therapeutic grade thing. There is a small company I buy from called Samara Botane in Washington, they have high quality oils for aromatherapy and the owner questions DoTerra’s use of the phrase. I’ve gotten some lovely oils from Samara Botane and they don’t have minimums to meet. Their prices seem a tad high but you get a discount when you order on the web.
      I also LOVE Eden, no minimum and their products seem very good to my nose. Their Wild Orange is great too. Liberty is good for some things, usually their more expensive oils but you never know. I also like White Lotus but they have a $100 minimum so not always the best option if you are out of just one oil. They do offer a nice sample program and the 2ml samples are large enough that you can make a nice dilution out of a sample too. Please don’t get mad at me for giving an opinion, I’m not feeling well :I

      Reply
      • Anna Lybecker

        No problem on opinions. I agree about the pricing and teird buying/selling scheme. I will look onto the other suppliers mentioned as I’m always looking for good quality and good pricing. I did get some rather nice white pine oil locally from essential oils and their prices are much better than DoTerra’s. I do like. Their cold steam diffuser. It is very nice and doesn’t add heat and degrade the more delicate oils.
        Thanks for the great info!
        Anna

        Reply
        • Suzinn

          Thanks Anna. Do you mean The Essential Oil Company on SE 7th in Portland? I’ve taken a distilling class there and I do believe they do a good job on sourcing and even distill some oils on site. Also, a perfumer friend of mine is also a distiller and she harvests conifers and lavender off her family’s land near Portland (Green Ring Farm). She sells her products at the Herb Shoppe on Hawthorne and at Peoples Coop and they are lovely!

          Reply
          • Anna Lybecker

            Yes, or is the supplier on SE 7th in the Selwood neighborhood in Portland,Oregon. Thank you for the good news Anya!

          • Anya

            Dear Suzy:

            The EO Company is peerless! Robert Seidel and his wife run two of the most-admired EO/Health companies. She’s the head of a teaching school focusing on aromatherapy. He distills a lot of PNW materials. I suppose the second is Jess Ring? I haven’t smelled her stuff, she’s pretty low profile.

            Glad you found them1

            xoxo,
            Anya

          • Anna Lybecker

            Yes, it’s the Essential oil co on 7th. Very nice oils and distling equipment as well as classes are available. Thank you all for the great information. I am a complete novice who is addicted to fragrance and experimenting with different combinations is quite fascinating for me! Plus, I love learning new info.
            Care to all!
            Anna

          • Suzinn

            Hi again, Yes it’s Jessica Ring. She and I have become friends and we live close to each other so I’ve been grateful to get together with her to compare our perfume progress as well as share/split orders and materials. She’s gearing up for her full on distilling season and she hopes to be able to offer oils to perfumers (not retail) sometime in the future when she gets higher yields.

      • Anna Lybecker

        And you neve need to apologize for giving your views. That’s what I love about the net!!!

        Reply
    • Anya

      Hi Anna:

      I’ve never purchased from either, and I do believe they’ve been discussed a bit on the big NP group. Of course, you can ask there, too.

      HTH,
      Anya

      Reply
  10. Renee/Efrat McCleary

    I have been buying many absolutes from Liberty Natural because of their good prices but after sampling the same materials from Eden Botanicals I noticed a huge difference. For example the Cocoa absolute from Eden is sooooo much better than the one from Liberty. I have many other examples so I was wandering if anyone had some thoughts about this company. Are some of their oils adulterated or just bad quality ?

    They also have some good quality oils like Tuberose and Hay absolutes but still a lot of bad quality ones.

    Reply
    • Kristie

      I really love Eden Botanicals, White Lotus is
      nice however you need a minimum order of
      $100.00. These are the only suppliers I use.

      Reply
    • Anya

      Dear Renee:

      I have never perceived their oils to be adulterated. You *have* to sample before buying. They have quite an extensive stock, and some real gems there.

      HTH,
      Anya

      Reply
  11. Anya

    Hi Everyone:

    I’ve been in meetings all day, and I’m going to make dinner now – homemade foccacia with basil pesto on one side, fresh tomatoes, onions and cheese on the other!
    I’ll check in soon after dinner and get to all your questions and thanks for your comments, too,

    xoxo,
    Anya

    Reply
    • Suzinn

      Sounds delicious! Bon Appetite’!

      Reply
  12. Suzy Larsen

    Has anyone any opinions on New Directions Aromatics?

    For myself, I have my “top three” suppliers which are Liberty Naturals, Eden Botanicals and White Lotus Aromatics.

    When I was just practicing Aromatherapy, I was not aware of the “top three” and I used a few Canadian suppliers such as Green Valley Aromatherapy, Ashbury’s Aromatherapy and Ray Dunphe Aromatics. They are all very reputable.

    I have heard great things about Samara Botane so thanks for the reminder.
    Sincerely,
    Suzy

    Reply
    • Anya

      Hi Suzy:

      There have been discussions about New Directions on the big NP group in the past, you can search the archives. I’ve never purchased anything from them, so I can’t comment.

      HTH,
      Anya

      Reply
  13. Priya

    Hi Anya, I’m so glad you’re going to be writing/blogging more about the threats to natural perfumery. I think the first time I commented on your blog was after I first learned about and was shocked by IFRA’s requirements. (I didn’t know at the time that noncompliance was an possibility, so I was horrified… still am horrified that people who should know better would want to outlaw these well-known, familiar, and gorgeous ingredients.)

    I know you’ve blogged about these issues in the past, but I find that when I look back in the archives, I’m never sure which issues are resolved (and in what way) and what’s still on the table. I admit that I haven’t fully availed myself of the Guilds and the NP group’s files, so maybe my request is redundant… But I was wondering if it might make sense to create a single place – a single blog post, or a single perfumery file – in which you discuss regulatory matters on the horizon as well as changes to them + updates. This way one could get an overview of the state of things without having to sift through the entire contents of a blog via a search. At the moment I know the situation is dire, or potentially dire, but I couldn’t tell you why, because I don’t know details. I am really, really interested in these issues, and I plan to take action by calling my representatives, Facebooking, etc. – but I don’t feel very well-informed at the moment. Again, I want to emphasize that it’s entirely possible that what I’m suggesting already exists and that I haven’t looked hard enough – but it’s an important enough topic that it should be easy to find. I am very grateful for your advocacy on behalf of this industry. It’s horrifying to think it may vanish from beneath our feet.

    Reply
    • Anya

      Hi Priya:

      That’s a good suggestion, I’ll get on it. I usually send folks to my old blogsite, and at one point I stopped writing about the issues there, as it was wearing me down! So, that’s when I started working more with others and we don’t update our findings online because they’re always in a state of flux. For instance, Global Harmonization is revived every year or so, the Safe Cosmetics act ditto, and it can get so confusing for the reader. I’ll have to think of a format first.

      PS: here’s a link to one of my old posts that lists a lot of other posts. You can see how passionate I am to work on the side of common sense and help bring down these ridiculous laws!
      Hi Priya: That’s a good suggestion, I’ll get on it. I usually send folks to my old blogsite, and at one point I stopped writing about the issues there, as it was wearing me down! So, that’s when I started working more with others and we don’t update our findings online because they’re always in a state of flux. For instance, Global Harmonization is revived every year or so, the Safe Cosmetics act ditto, and it can get so confusing for the reader. I’ll have to think of a format first. PS: here’s a link to one of my old posts that lists a lot of other posts. You can see how passionate I am to work on the side of common sense and help bring down these ridiculous laws! For some reason, the link isn’t showing up! Let’s see if this works http://anyasgarden.blogspot.com/2008/12/pass-me-oakmoss-and-crooked-banana-im.html

      xoxo
      Anya

      Reply
  14. Mark

    Hi Anya,
    While you are discussing suppliers, I wonder if you could check over the ones that I currently have included in the Botanic Ingredients Search on the Perfumer’s Search Page http://www.perfumersearch.com ?
    If you remember, this is a custom search that provides a central location that Guild members can use to look up ingredients from trusted suppliers. I periodically ask you to check the list and let me know if any sites need to be removed or added as I like to keep it up to date.
    Just click on the Botanic Ingredients Supplier Search link on the left and then the Domains Used sub link to get to the list of sites.
    Thanks!

    Mark Evans
    evocativeperfumes.com
    perfumersearch.com

    Reply
    • Anya

      Hi Mark
      The two essentiallyme sites and aqua-oleum can be removed, owner died.
      You can add jeannerose.net and anyasgarden.com

      Thanks,
      Anya

      Reply
      • Mark

        OK, the site’s been updated now.
        Thanks for that.

        Reply
  15. Debbi

    Anya,
    I applaud the efforts you are making regarding self regulation. Years ago Donna Maria spoke urgently about the need for self regulation in the field of aromatherapy. Gabriel Mojay through the International Federation was on hand and spoke of the need for conformity amongst all of us. To date, we have not been abe to do so with groups splintering etc…
    Your work gives me confidence that self regulation can become reality in the field of natural perfumery.
    Also Anya, I wish to thank you for the wonderful gift of oils you sent after the near destruction of my business. Certain oils have always brought me strength, but this time I became fearless. There is truly a sense of freedom in losing everything you own. And though my personal life is still up in the air, I have started teaching again & plan to re-open the site in March.
    Much love,
    Debbi

    Reply
  16. Bea

    I have purchased from Liberty, Eden and White Lotus. I find Liberty oils to be all over the map when it comes to quality. Too many of their oils have the same kind of sour note to them. I don’t know why.
    For example, their cocoa absolute smells like it’s been cut with something sour, where as Eden’s Cocoa is gorgeous, straight up sweet, sweet Cocoa. Liberty’s Osmanthus smells aweful of sour cow patty. I’m being serious. Anyone who has grown up near or on a cow farm, knows that smell.
    Eden’s is much cleaner, fresher.
    Liberty’s Jasmine seems musky, as if it’s not just Jasmine, where as Eden and White Lotus Jasmines are purely fresh clear flower.
    Liberty does have some nice lavenders, though according to someone I read on a forum, no one has true lavender anymore….but, that’s not really the case. There are even local growers who express the oil.

    Liberty does have some great oils and some awesome choices and you can get good deals. I bought Coffee flower from them that is to die for.
    Of course White Lotus has oils you can’t find anywhere else too. The costs are higher and the minimum higher but so far, it’s been worth it to me.
    Overall though, I do like Eden just because I can make a small order if need be.
    Bea

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

BECOME A NATURAL PERFUMER

ENROLL TODAY

error: Copyright Content