Alcohol-based perfumery is more of a modern French- or British-style of perfumery compounding, where the fragrance is in an alcohol base, and then atomized onto the skin. In the world of perfumery…this is actually a rather modern convention.
Historically, fragrances were oil-based. Materials were extracted into both vegetal oils or animal fats.
There is an old distillation style predominant in India where materials are distilled into Sandalwood oil – better known as Attar-style distillation.
In Muslim cultures, where alcohol is not used – there is a style of perfumery compounding that is alcohol-free, and composed entirely of oil extracts, or that use Sandal or Oud oil as a base (rather than alcohol or carrier oil). These oils are generally referred to as Attar or Mukhallats. It is this style of perfumery that I am most drawn to.
Historically – this is actually the most accurate form of perfumery for the better part of the past 5000 years.
Personally, I use Sandalwood oil as my base medium, into which other materials are compounded to create a fragrance. Although I do make alcohol-based products in the more familiar 50mL or 100mL bottles – most of my products are only 3mL. Sounds like a small amount – but their concentrated nature allows for a more sound and sustainable use of rare materials, and due to the potency – only a small drop is needed for an all-day wear. They are incredibly economical, and richly decadent.
I find this Attar-style to be the most luxurious way to wear a fragrance, and it enables me to use the most premium ingredients in a financially feasible manner. The greatest gifts come in small bottles, right? " said JK Delapp, Certified Natural Perfumer in an interview.
How did you start? What was the first scent that made you decide to become a perfumer? When was that?
I got started initially in the kitchen cooking at a young age. This grew to compounding various simple fragrances on the top of a dresser of mine, in my bedroom. This eventually grew to making larger batches of things in the kitchen – and later to grow into a larger business with global reach.
You are a natural perfumer, so when did you make the choice to become a natural perfumer instead of following the majority of the brands making synthetic perfumes. What led you to make this choice?
At a pretty young age, I had started making a number of my own products in an effort to “cut out the crap” – unnecessary synthetics and other additives that I felt weren’t going to be good for my health. This started in the kitchen for me, learning how to cook and make things from scratch - and over the years, I began to take control in other aspects of my life by creating the level of quality products I wanted. I still use and sell animal musk but I am in the process of changing to become 100% animal cruelty free. Follow me !
Fast forward many years – I had entered a Chinese Medical School at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine to become a physician of a more naturally minded medical model. During our many years of training, we had to memorize every imaginable detail about several hundred herbal and medical substances. Every detail from the individual and combined medical functions, how materials behaved when combined with other materials, various preparation methods, even the Chinese Pin Yin / Common English and Latin/Scientific Names of the materials.
It was the names that began to connect the dots for me. It didn’t take me long to figure out that the innumerable materials I was becoming intimately familiar with – were the very same materials that formed the backbone of multiple global industries – namely those of the Pharmaceutical, Nutraceutical, Fragrance and Flavor, the Incense industry (a massive and often overlooked industry) – even our culinary industry (imagine what food would taste like without the Spice Trade!?). Several global gazillion dollar industries – all built on the back of something not many give two seconds of thought to…herbs.
School trains us to be physicians – however, I recognized that my education was in many ways like the background of pharmacists and chemists. Ever had a Coca Cola? Know who invented it – or why? The original Coca Cola was invented by a pharmacist and made from various herbal extracts as a treatment for Morphine Addictions, which were very common after the American Civil War (1861-1865).
How about Toothpaste, or Shampoo? Both modern versions of formulations taken straight out of the Ayurvedic medical tradition. How about Baby Powder? Or Indian Attars (primarily used in India as Medicine and Flavor additives to everything from Tobacco to Ice Cream)?
I started to see herbs and their various extracted forms as building blocks to something much, much larger than what I was being trained for.
It was in Chinese Medical School that I came to this realization – nearly our entire world is built on the back of herbs. Didn’t take me long to figure out that an Essential Oil or an Absolute was just another form of an herbal extract. This realization helped me take the leap from making some of my own simple fragrances and products – to wanting to make a much more complex natural perfume.
The Rising Phoenix was (re)born in 2011 with the goal of entering the various global industries built upon the simplicity of herbal extracts.
What does Rising Phoenix mean?
When I first started the company – my brother helped get it up and running. His Chinese Astrological Sign is that of a Dragon. Mine is that of a Rooster (a Phoenix). In Chinese Astrology – Dragons and Phoenixes are the best business partners.
The Phoenix is also the age-old symbol of the Alchemist – for it is through Fire that all things are Reborn. As a Chinese Medical Pharmacist – I consider myself more of an Alchemist than as a Chemist, as I deal more with the relationships between whole substances, rather than through chemical isolates.
The Phoenix is also the symbol of the Incense Tradition – for it is “through smoke” that we communicate with the Divine. Ironically – Perfume is Latin for “per fumum” – an homage to the link between incense and modern day fragrance, as Incense compounding is believed to have come before the modern version of compounding fragrant extracts. I happen to draw quite a bit of my inspiration from the old incensory compounding traditions – which in many Asian cultures have both medical and spiritual applications, as well as the simple pleasure of enjoying fragrance.
Lastly – I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia – a city that was burned to the ground during the American Civil War (1861-1865). Atlanta has grown to be a hugely influential global city, “arising” from it’s own ashes.
As luck would have it…the Symbol for the City of Atlanta – is the Phoenix!
Where can we find your perfumes? Are you distributed worldwide?
Currently – there are 3 places you can purchase Rising Phoenix products:
From our soon-to-be-finished new website: www.RisingPhoenixPerfumery.com
From our Etsy shop – “Rising Phoenix Perfume”:
We also have some fragrances offered through The World in Scents (TWIS):
Can you give us an idea what type of person buys your product? From which country are most of them from? Do you have many European clients?
That’s a great question!
Different clients come to us for different reasons, and we aim to satisfy both of the prototypical customers that eventually come calling for our unique take on fragrance.
To some – buying Rising Phoenix products is about buying “clean and green” products.
To others – we produce some damn fine fragrances unlike anything to be found on the market. Even Luca Turin has said that our Phoenix Fougere is the nicest Fougere since the beginning of Fougeres… (You can read that full review, here)
I don’t just make perfume, either. Rising Phoenix also operates in the incense world – supplying rare materials, as well as hand-compounded Arabic and Japanese-style compositions. Some come to us for our custom extracted Oud oils, others for our hand-compounded Attars – and others for our exquisite incense-oriented products.
In terms of our clients – we are sending packages all around the world. Many of them head to Europe – others all over the Gulf region, as well as throughout Asia. In fact, just before I sat to respond this interview – I was posting packages to Australia, New Zealand, the UK, France, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia – in addition to customers here in the US.
Thank you JK, this is an encouraging story for everyone willing to enter this market. The Art of Natural Perfumery is like the Phoenix, it will be raising again and again ...