all natural

J.Hannah Co. Tincturing Ambergris

One of the most fascinating aspects of natural perfume are the animal essences. They are beautiful and mysterious. When dosed properly, they can add magic to a perfume. One of the most intriguing gems is Ambergris.

Ambergris is whale excrement and considering one of the most valuable and precious essences in natural perfume history. It is thought to come from squid beaks that lodge in the intestinal track, causing irritation and then expelled from the whale. After floating for a long time the substance gets more firm and is found in the ocean or on the shore. The lucky folks that discover ambergris are rewarded handsomely. Many a sailor dreamed of retiring after finding a chunk of "floating gold".


Today I am tincturing my ambergris through a very simple process. First I will grind the semi-soft stone then place it in a high proof perfume alcohol. It is warmed for a few hours in a double boiler, then left to steep for months.

What does it smell like? Every piece is a bit different, but to me the common aroma is a cross between amber, marine, and sweet powder. 

My first whiff of ambergris was years ago when studying with Mandy Aftel, and it's intoxicated me ever since. To learn more about ambergris, I highly recommend Mandy's magnificent new book, Fragrant.

Ground Ambergris

Ground Ambergris

J.Hannah Co. Botanical Friday: Nutmeg

When a natural perfume lacks roundness then spices might be a good addition to the formula, including the gorgeous nutmeg absolute. It adds a warm, sweet, spicy note to the blend unlike anything else. Nutmeg absolute is a darker orange color whereas the essential oil is a golden color. Nutmeg has a very long history in the spice trade. 18th century gentlemen were known to carry monogrammed pocket graters to sniff the stuff because the dry spice can actually give you a high. 

Nutmeg absolute (dark oil), nutmeg essential oil (light oil), nutmeg whole and grated. 

Nutmeg absolute (dark oil), nutmeg essential oil (light oil), nutmeg whole and grated. 

In cooking, freshly grating whole nutmeg is much more aromatic than the pre-grated spice. My family hosted a German foreign exchange student and she loved brussels sprouts with nutmeg and butter. I can't smell it without having a fond memory of Doreen. It's often used in cooking and I highly recommend grating it over your cheese pastas. I get my whole nutmeg at Penzeys Spices

At July's in-studio workshop we will be highlighting nutmeg absolute. Come smell it for yourself!

PS...Like the tray? It's been an awesome addition to my workspace! Check out the other geometric shapes at Nannie Inez