Monday, October 15, 2012

Making "A Curious Perfume"

I have wanted to try this recipe for A Curious Perfume for a long time. I love perfumes and I felt very excited to finally be able to make an 18th century one.

Updated recipe
700 ml Rose Water
15 gram Benzoin resin
2 Cloves
1 gram Labdanum
1 gram Calamus root
A little Lemon peel
A few drops Storax essence

The photo is really bad, I’m sorry to say- my cell phone isn’t the best to take pictures it, but the batteries on my camera died on me.
Benzoin resin, Cloves, Calamus root, Labdanum, Lemon peel

I put the Benzoin, Cloves, Labdanum, Calamus and Lemon peel in a little fabric bag (i.e. wrapped them in a piece of old linen and sew it shut) along with the Rose water in a pan and boiled it all under a lid for 30 minutes. Then I strained it through a coffee filter. When cooled I added the Storax and poured it into a bottle.

My thoughts
The Storax in the original recipe was probably the resin, so I took a liberty in using essence. The result, not surprising, smells quite heavily of roses, but the other ingredients give the perfume a spicy, woody depth that makes it more interesting than just plain Rose water. It also has a hint of bee’s wax, which is odd as there is none in the recipe. The perfume looks a bit cloudy and there is some residue settling on the bottom of the bottle. I think a good shake is in order before use.

A word of warning though. The Benzoin and Labdanum melted into a sticky goo that is not water soluble. So even if most of it stayed in the fabric bag a residue was left in the pan and believe me, it’s hard to get rid off! So if you try this recipe, use a pan that you don’t care for…

Will I do it again?
Perhaps. It would be interesting to make it with Storax resin instead and see what happens. I also think the perfume would be better if left to boil a bit longer. As this perfume is without alcohol I think it has a limited shelf life, so if you don't plan to use a lot of it, make a small batch. However, I don’t much like wearing rose-based perfumes and this one if just a bit too much of that. If you do like the scent though, then I think you have an 18th century winner here!

Monday, October 01, 2012

An economical rouge

The recipe
Fine Carmine, pulverized and prepared for for this purpose [rouge], is without doubt the best of all Paints, and which the Ladies ought to adopt. In order to use it in an agreeable and frugal manner, procure some fine pomatum, without scent, made with the fat of pork and white wax; take about the bigness of a pea of this pomatum, and lay it upon a piece of white paper; then with the end of a tooth-pick add to it about the bigness of a pin's head of Carmine— mix it gently with your finger, and when you have produced the tone you wish, rub in it a little compressed cotton, and pass it on the face, till the Paint is quite spread and it no longer feels greasy.
Ladies have nothing to fear from this economical Rouge—it neither injures the health or skin, and imitates perfectly the natural colour. (Constant de Massoul, Treatise on the Art of Painting and the Composition of Colours, p 198, 1797)
Portrait of a Young Girl by Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Lebrun, 1775

Breaking down the recipe
Pomatum A cream made of water, fat and very often beeswax. There are several recipes around from the 18th century. Cold cream of today is quite similar, so if you don’t want to make your own pomade you could substitute with that.

Carmine A bright red pigment derived from cochineal scale. Common as food colourant and in makeup today. Can also be called Crimson Lake, Natural Red 4, C.I. 75470 and E120

My thoughts
This is a very easy recipe- if you have pomatum in the house, that is. I have, but I don’t have any Carmine. I do, however, have cochineal scale, so I plan to try to make Carmine on my own. Then I’ll have to try this recipe!