natural essences

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".

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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. Collaboration with Canoe

After months of secret preparation, Skive is here! This unisex scent was created for Natalie Davis of Canoe in celebration of craftsmanship and outdoor adventure. The scent will debut at Feliz, a design pop up sale on November 2nd at Austin’s Palm Door. Available on the Canoe website on November 2nd.

Jessica and Natalie in the Canoe studio sniffing samples.

Jessica and Natalie in the Canoe studio sniffing samples.

 It all began when Natalie came for a private blending session in my studio and we quickly realized our admiration for each other’s work. Our perfume collaboration was inevitable. We agreed the scent must honor Natalie’s love for leather, tea, and working with her hands. Skive’s resulting formula has aromatic qualities of fresh turned earth, campfires, old wooden cabinets and dried tea leaves. Skive is named after the process of skiving leather – thinning the backside of a piece of leather with a knife. 

Skive  packaged in a leather roll case made with supple deer tan leather and a simple cord closure.

Skive  packaged in a leather roll case made with supple deer tan leather and a simple cord closure.

 I chose to focus on animalistic aromas like choya, which smells like campfire, ambrette seed that imparts a musky deep dry down, and castorium that has a dirty leather aroma. The earthy notes were brought forth utilizing saffron and vetiver. Natalie also loves the amber notes of clary sage and labdanum as well as incense notes of frankincense and myrrh. As a perfumer, it’s very easy to get bogged down in these heavier essences but this complex aroma masterfully stays uplifted while deeply sensual.

Tea and samples in a leather Canoe tray.

Tea and samples in a leather Canoe tray.

 We couldn’t be more pleased to share this sensory experience with you. You just gotta get a sniff of Skive.

J.Hannah Co. on Turkish Rugs and Hospitality

A year ago I had the great fortune to travel in Turkey. The journey took us hiking through the wilderness, exploring underground cities, tasting local cuisine, riding a balloon  through the Cappadocia valley, trudging through the ancient ruins of Ephesus, and navigating the winding streets of Izmir and Istanbul. 

Rug markets were everywhere, and if you aren't familiar with Turkish rugs, they are the pride of the country. Customers were greeted with warm invitations to enter the little shops, sit, relax, drink a cup of apple tea and enjoy the display. The rug markets were my jam. I wanted to sit for days watching men throw out rug upon rug to exhibit the intricate patterns and craftsmanship. I found myself gasping with pleasure as each new rug rolled out. At one market the Turk unveiling the beauties would spin it in the air as it fell. "Yes, yes more of this!" I wanted to yell and clap as he gave me a knowing wink.

It was a textile dream come true! More over though, I found myself thrilled with this level of  hospitality and care which I felt as a customer, even in all it's tourist trappings. Hospitality is a trait I most enjoy when traveling and what I find myself wanting to adopt in my work.

After a day in Instanbul's Grand Bazaar, this rug came home with us and it now resides in my perfume studio. I adore it's pattern and energy. It sheds warmth on my creative space and adds worldly charm that is only matched by smelling natural essences that have traveled the globe to be in my collection. See my beautiful Turkish rug for yourself at an upcoming in-studio workshop or in a private session.