I know that this isn’t directly part of the Laboratory Series, but I did send you all samples and I know at least a couple of you ended up with bottles. Since I don’t really have a blogging platform elsewhere I figured this was the best spot to tell the whole story.
Dave Kern from American Perfumer asked me to do an artist edition sometime during 2017. I understood he was envisioning a series of limited editions from american perfumers based on a specific place or experience from their lives, but ultimately he wanted the perfumers to work with total creative freedom to create something special. I agreed, saying I would think about some ideas and see if anything clicked. Time passed and and I had a few loose ideas but the vision wasn’t really clear for me. I was also made aware that the first two editions were confirmed to be composed by Dawn Spencer Hurwitz of DSH Perfumes and Maria McElroy of Aroma M - two of the original pioneers of independent artisan perfumery. I knew if I was going to have to follow those two it would be an honor and I better make sure the perfume was really really good.
Then one day in 2018, I got an unexpected package from my father containing a cedarwood oil that he had distilled from the heartwood of an eastern red cedar tree that had gown on our family land in east Texas. This was a total surprise, especially since my dad doesn’t really practice distillations or extractions regularly so as far as I know this jar was a one-off experiment. The oil was extremely dark and viscous, and reminiscent of cade or birch tar, but with a distinctly different woody quality. I then remembered a tincture I had started from some chunks of pine fatwood that I collected when I was visiting my folks. It suddenly became clear that I needed to go back behind the pine curtain and revisit the smells and memories of my childhood, using the two signature materials sourced directly from the landscape where the memories were held.
The idea for this perfume dictated that it be limited since I had only small quantities of the handcrafted materials I wanted to use. In addition to dad’s cedar oil and my pine tincture, I wanted to use an artisan distilled pinyon pine needle oil, and a house made five-year-aged vanilla bean tincture.
I mentioned the idea to Dave and he told me to go for it. I made a few dozen trials over the next few months - I wanted to place the cedar note front and center in attempt to capture a vivid, woody naturalness that I hadn’t smelled in a perfume before. The final result is a supremely rich, dark, cedar perfume that paints a certain rugged yet pastoral terroir, dappled sunlight beaming through the canopy, scattered with sawdust and imbued with woodsmoke. A life hewn from trees behind a pine curtain.
We settled on the name “Bloodline” and a production of fifteen 30ml bottles of parfum (30%) for the edition since I didn’t have enough raw material to make a whole lot more than that. I think there were also a fair number of bottles remaining from the other two American Perfumer editions and Dave and I agreed that a small edition would be better than sitting on extra stock. But then things changed a bit when we found out that Dawn’s American Perfumer edition called “Colorado” was nominated for an Art & Olfaction award. We had originally planned to release Bloodline a few weeks earlier but with knowledge of the award nomination we decided to wait and let Colorado have it’s moment. Colorado ended up winning in the independent category. This big recognition added some rocket fuel to the flames and suddenly the American Perfumer editions become a bit of an olfactory event.
Since everything was already finished, we decided to go ahead with the fifteen bottle edition knowing that with the increased visibility it would probably sell through quickly, especially since some of the early feedback on Bloodline was quite positive. I predicted it would take at least a full day to sell out, but turns out I underestimated that by a lot. The bottles went on sale June 5th at 11am EST and were gone before noon.
I must say that I’m blown away by the enthusiasm towards this release and I am so humbled to be in this position. I’ve gotten a lot of messages from those disappointed they missed out on a bottle of Bloodline, or the Laboratory Series etc. I feel sympathetic because it’s never been my intention to make my work unattainable or super exclusive, at the end of the day I’m just trying to make the best work I can with the modest resources I have. But more often than not this results in a small scale and limited amount of products. I’ve come a long way in the past five years of having a perfume brand - farther than I could have imagined, but there’s still a long way to go and much to improve upon.
Thanks for reading and joining me on this crazy journey,
I put a sample of a new perfume called Bloodline in each of the Laboratory Series packages that went out this past week. It is built around a cedarwood oil distilled by my father from trees grown on our family land in east Texas.
Bloodline was commissioned by American Perfumer and will be sold through their shop and website. They have all the stock in hand and it should be live on their site within the next few days.
I’ll make an official announcement with more detail when it’s available for order.
Golden apple. Pale blue dot. Summer swallowed us whole.
A refreshing, clean citrus perfume to be used with joyous abandon.
Bergamot, red mandarin, neroli, vanilla bean tincture, cedarwood oil, musk complex, ambergris.
30ml Eau de Toilette. Edition of 33.
Recently I had the pleasure of a wide-ranging conversation with Dave from American Perfumer.
We discuss a bit of my history, perfumes, music, photography, trees and a lot more.
The episode should be on the major Podcast apps also under American Perfumer.
I haven’t forgotten about my beloved Laboratory Series though - pictured above is the batch of the third release. Think red mandarin, bergamot and neroli to compliment those summer feelings. I expect to ship during the last week of May.
If you’re in the mood for some tunes here’s a playlist by the same name as this post:
Thank you, Alex. Maybe I should trademark the term “Hendley Musks.”
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Narcis by @hendleyperfumes • I am heartlost to this explosion of xanthous light. @hans.hendley has gone sinuously carnal with Narcis, the second of his 2019 Laboratory Series releases, a gleeful jolt of indolic narcissus, my oh my. Mulchy guaiac smeared with a gimlet-eyed tuberose, breathy, close iris root and a jonquil absolute that radiates like a thousand humming suns in a monastic cell. • Hans has carefully studied this potentially neurotic jonquil and composed a diaphanous chypré accord to soothe and support its journey on our grateful flesh. This lean, green tailored construct melds with warm hivey beeswax and what I now recognise as Hendley Musks, tender bases that hold without pressure and interference. They have a lullaby quality that many houses would do well to consider. Far too many contemporary artisan and small-batch niche lines throw away any achieved beauty in the base-reveal. • Hans is not one of those makers and after the gorgeous mauvedust of Untitled, Narcis is a further proof that he reaches for sun and multitudinous skies each time he creates a scent. He is a contradiction in some ways of studious and dreaming, a gifted perfumer still influenced perhaps by his photographic background, examining materials with a precise framed eye and offering up beauty with quiet and respectful development. I love the suspended pollen waxiness of Narcis that settles on the initial golden crown of narcissus, it pierces me. • ©TSF April 2019 • #perfumereview #thefoxinhales #narcis @hans.hendley @hendleyperfumes #laboratoryseries #americanperfumer #americanperfumery #narcissus #jonquil #yellow #xanthous #narcotic #iamnumb #nárkē
Under plasticine hills, reflected on the lake, I grew numb.
Jonquil absolute, tuberose, iris root, beeswax, guaiac heart, light chypre accord, musk.
15ml Extrait. Edition of 33.
I‘ve filtered and bottled release #2. Now I just need to affix the labels and prepare for shipment. You’ll all be smelling it soon :)
Here are a few behind the scenes photos of blending the second Laboratory Series release which will begin shipping during the last week of March.
The goal was a spring flowers perfume developed around a Daffodil/Narcissus accord I made based on smelling a bouquet of the blooms over time. The result is an intoxicating green floral - perfect for spring. The flowers are dusted in pollen atop of a buttery texture & light chypre references base.
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
and twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
in such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
what wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
”I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud”
Paintings by Charles W Hawthorne
Balsamic Blush. Cordovan Fleece. Gathering Wool.
Spices & incense caramelize with smooth woods.
Cardamom, nutmeg, opoponax absolute, fir balsam, rose, frankincense, benzoin, sandalwood, patchouli heart, musk.
15ml Eau de Parfum with hand-cut felt label. Edition of 33.
I’ve been occupied with finishing up Laboratory Series #1. Filtration, bottling, cutting labels - all done by hand. There are still few more things to take care of but I’ll be finishing everything up in the next couple of days and packages will ship within the coming week. Stay tuned!
Pictured is the batch of Laboratory Series #1. I think it’s important to let perfumes sit for a while before bottling them. A perfume formula can contain many hundreds of molecules that have suddenly all been mixed together. It simply takes time for them to sort themselves out and learn to live together; to somehow become one thing rather than many things. All kinds of little chemical reactions likely happening along the way. Sharp edges will soften and many materials will balance themselves, kind of like finishing the seams. The more complex the formula, the more it will probably benefit from some time to sit. Maturation is about nuances to me as I’ve found it uncommon for changes to be drastic. In other words, If something doesn’t smell good when freshly blended it’s probably not going to magically become great after sitting for six weeks. However, sometimes materials can become more pronounced in a blend over time too (hello oakmoss!). This can really slow down the process of developing a perfume since I have to wait a little while to fully evaluate the work.
My typical process for aging a new batch has two steps:
1 - Fully blend the perfume concentrate (this means all of the pure, undiluted materials) and allow to sit for two weeks (often much longer if I have the time). The more complex the formula, the more it will benefit from maturation.
2 - Add perfumers alcohol to the matured perfume compound to bring it to desired concentration and mix well. Then the fully diluted perfume sits for another ~two weeks (or longer) to allow it to blend with the addition of alcohol before filtration and bottling.
The first Laboratory Series perfume is now fully blended and maturing. I’m very happy with how this one has come along, it smells great and should only get better with age. There was not a name or rigid concept chosen beforehand for this one so I’m brainstorming for the naming, presentation, official note list etc. Above are some color associations I get from this cozy and rich perfume (tap or click to scroll).
I listen to a lot of music while working in the lab. The Phantom Thread soundtrack has been a favorite recently. It even has a track named Sandalwood. Just gorgeous.
Over the past week I’ve been working intensely on finishing up the formula for the first perfume in the 2019 series. I wanted to do something kind of warm and cozy for January/February.
I started the perfume a few weeks ago by playing with a couple of spice oils that I hadn’t used much before - nutmeg and cardamom. I love the creamy, smooth woods dryout of nutmeg. Blending these was enough to get the wheels turning and I began pulling other materials that I thought would work to compliment and contrast. The fragrance I was imagining featured the nose tickling spices up top then a resinous, spiced fruit, slightly syrupy chai/mulled wine type of effect going into the body, and finally a smooth, warm dry down of woods and incense. I made a few sketches of the various accords and let them sit and macerate for about 10 days before evaluating, then last week I got everything back out and starting modifying and refining, trying to fuse the parts together nicely.
The workbench always gets a little chaotic when I’m working like this as you’ll see in the photos above. These days are my favorite part of the process, when time seems to glide. I tend to go a little too far with a formula before taking a step back into the sweet spot, but I’m pleased with how this one is turning out.
As of now the formula contains orange, opoponax, frankincense, sandalwood, cedarwood, fir balsam, tobacco, rose, benzoin & patchouli along with the nutmeg, cardamom and numerous aromachemicals.
Welcome to the Laboratory Series, this will be my journal where I’ll be documenting parts of my process for those who wish to follow along. This is a space where I can have more freedom creatively, improve as a perfume maker and have more direct dialogue with my clients.
The purpose of creating a separate area of my perfume practice through something like this series is to have an outlet where I can keep ideas flowing, work quickly when I’m inspired, and make a lot more perfumes than could reasonably be released and marketed at scale.
I’ve often stopped myself from making batches because I didn’t have a place for them. Releasing a new perfume every couple of months doesn’t really fit my main brand and I don’t think my customers would enjoy being constantly hit over the head with the marketing that would be required.
These factors are what led me to doing this series, where the expectations are set a bit differently.
I hope you’ll enjoy following and smelling along with me over the coming year. Your support allows me to continue.