Friday, 3 December 2010

Mystery Draw Reminder + Quality Control

Making your own blotter strips can be quite a contemplative experience. Last night, whilst the snow steadily covered the skylights at Maison Persolaise and the temperature plunged below 'you can't be serious', I sat down to work with my pads of paper and my mini guillotine. As I ran the blade back and forth across the pages, my mind wandered to the increasingly complicated problem of purchasing raw materials. Until recently, it's been possible for me to make do with pretty small quantities of essential oils and aromachemicals. 10 ml has usually been more than enough; even 5 ml has been adequate in some cases. However, now that things are beginning to get more serious, I need to think ahead and try to identify a few suppliers who a) stock high quality stuff, b) are willing to sell it in amounts that would be substantial to me, but would still be considered tiny by a multi-national perfume chain and c) aren't based so far away from the UK as to make postage (and potential tax) costs prohibitive.

It's a tricky little conundrum with no immediately obvious solution. Anyone who's ever typed 'essential oils' into Google will know that there are many UK-based firms selling all sorts of interesting-sounding potions - including a few CO2 extracts - at reasonable prices. However, their quality is, shall we say, variable... which basically means that it isn't good enough for use on a larger scale. Several highly reputable US companies sell materials in niche-friendly amounts, but buying from them would raise the aforementioned issue of costs. Then there's all the business of trying to buy a suitable solvent. In the UK, mere mortals aren't allowed to purchase ethanol unless they obtain a special licence and can guarantee that they're able to store the stuff safely. If I wanted to apply for such permission, I would have to build a nuclear bunker in my back garden. As far as requirements go, this one isn't unfair - after all, the juice with which we so love to spray our necks and wrists has the potential to cause tremendous destruction - but it is entirely unrealistic and impractical. What to do?

Like I said: there is no obvious answer. But I'll have to give the question more thought, and I expect I'll address it again on this blog before too long.

As we head into the weekend, here's one final reminder about tomorrow's giveaway draw. You'll kick yourself if you miss it!



  1. Perfumer's alcohol is a big problem for me, too, here in Germany. When I'm in the States on home leave, I buy up the max allowed on airplanes and take it with me, then I have to ration it for a year and a half, no easy feat! In our chemist shops, they sell special 90% pure alcohol by the half-liter so people can make their own herbal tinctures. It's expensive, but works fairly well (there's a very slight odor). Do you have a similar product in the UK that you can buy in bulk? I know others have switched to oil-based perfumes (fractionated coconut and jojoba), but that limits the materials one can use. It's weird you can buy as much vodka as you wish and store it in any crazy manner you like, but perfumer's alcohol, oh heavens!! Unfair.

  2. Hi Marla. No, there isn't really anything you can easily buy in Britain that would do the trick, and yes, the situation with how much vodka and spirits you're allowed to buy is silly. And as for oil-based perfumes... I'd rather not go down that route.

    There are a few other avenues I could explore, but it makes the whole situation rather complicated.

  3. I'm fortunate in that I only make perfumes and aromatherapy tinctures for myself and friends, I don't sell anything, so I don't have to conform to any complicated legal webs! I hope you find something that will work out. Have you tried a silicone-derived base? I've been experimenting with those. Mixed results, but promising.

  4. How about looking to florame ( for 50ml bottles of organic essential oils? Just a thought and, no, I don't work for them (if only!).

    As an example of their attention to the range of essential oils, they supply different kinds of organic lavender; the one I've tried is heavenly and astonishingly potent. I've had only good experiences as their customer, and they list everything carefully in their full descriptions of their products.

    Sighs - now I'm coveting more of their things ... see how selfless I am, putting myself at risk to assist you? ;-)

    cheerio, Anna in Edinburgh

  5. May I ask what time you'll be doing the draw tomorrow? I have to account for the time difference (I'm six hours earlier than you, I believe). Don't want to miss out!

  6. Marla, no, I wasn't even aware of silicone bases. Sounds intriguing...

  7. Anna, I'm extremely grateful for you selflessness ;-) As it happens, I haven't ever heard of them, so I'll definitely check out their site some time soon.

  8. Carrie, I'm really pleased that you're excited about the draw, but don't worry: it's going to run for slightly longer than 24 hours, just to give everyone around the world a chance to enter.

    Having said that... umm... don't tell anyone, but you might like to come back to in two hours...

  9. ciao Persolaise,
    i m following your blog from a while and i alwais find it full of interesting thoughts. this time i was catched by your sayings about raw materials that is something that interest me expecially for the question of quality.
    do you know luckyscent or abbey essentials (UK) for naturals and Hekserij(nl) for synthetics?i would appreciate if you can recommend me others.

  10. sorry no luckyscent but Luminescents...

  11. R P Dario, thanks very much for writing and I'm really pleased that you're enjoying my blog.

    I was already aware of Luminescents and Hekserij. The latter have been absolutely fine so far (although I can't say I've ordered much from them). The former have a wide range of oils and absolutes from which I have made a few purchases, but the quality has been... well, to use the same word I used in the original post: variable.

    Thanks for the other recommendation; I'll be sure to check it out soon.


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