Thursday, July 8, 2010

How very southern

I think we can all agree that the New York Times is a pretty sophisticated newspaper. So I was beyond excited when I read that you can make your own perfume using a mason jar, some fragrant flowers and a splash of Everclear. After all, if the NYT is going to give detailed instructions for do-it-yourself tinctures, it's gonna work. Right?
Picture from NYT article

So, it all happened like this. I was on a Beechcraft airplane (I really was. Amazing.) and someone had thoughtfully put an array of the day's newspapers on the seats. On the front page of the Home section of the NYT was an article called "A Fragrant Harvest: Summer's Pleasures, to Inhale Anytime." As coincidence would have it, I had just seen an exhibition at Longwood Gardens about perfumes and scented flowers. Fate!

The article was well-written and witty, profiling natural perfumers from across the United States. It talked about the process of making botanical perfumes and the scents these people were creating. Very Etsy of them.

So, anyway, on page eight of that section, they had a side bar with instructions on how to make perfumed tinctures. Using a mason jar and pure grain alcohol. I was hooked.

Armed with this new information and a sister up for an adventure, I asked for the keys to my dad's convertible and told him that we were off for the liquor store over in Walnut Grove. When asked why I plainly stated that I was going to make perfume. After receiving the obligatory rolling of eyes from my parents, Kelley and I set off for a bottle of 190-proof with the top down.

It was about the hottest day of the year (I think this fact my my story all the more southern) and by the time we got to the store, my wind-whipped hair was the texture of garden twine. We did a once-over and couldn't find the Everclear, so I was forced to talk to the lady behind the counter.

Me: "Do you sell Everclear?"
Lady: "Yes, we keep it behind the counter."
Me: "I would like some, please."
Lady: "You want Golden Grain instead? It's a dollar cheaper and it's the same thing. You makin' Hunch Punch?"
Me: "No, I'm makin' perfume. The cheaper one'll work."
[Note: It was around $9.00 for 750 ml bottle.]

At this point, all was quiet in the store and the lady gave me a look like I was out of my mind. I'm sure as soon as I left she said, "Now that's just country."

Kelley and I laughed all the way back to my parents' house in Jersey. We took the long way home.

I won't bore you with the details of the perfume experiment. I tried Magnolia root (as per Jenks Farmer's suggestion), Rosemary and Gardenia. Kelley tried Lemon peel. And it all smelled like "Possession of Alcohol by a Minor." That's what I've decided to name it.
As it turns out, when you mix Golden Grain with anything, it sucks. And I don't know if this is just further proof that I'm getting old, but after seeing the warning label on front of the bottle, I don't know that it should be legal for consumption.This stuff is so toxic, it's illegal in 14 states.

Well, that's the story of how I tried to make perfume. Although it didn't yield the results I had imagined, it was a lot of fun to do. Here's the link to the New York Times article from June 10, 2010: Making Flowers into Perfume. I'm sure that I just didn't take the time to do it right- one of y'all should try it and let me know. My guess is that I should have splurged for the Everclear! Next time.

P.S. Etsy is a really great website that sells handcrafted things. It's worth a look.


  1. It did smell like a "minor in possession of alcohol"... I should have labled it so before dumping it down the kitchen sink. Maybe next time we should just make hunch punch instead.

  2. I think it is funny you went out and embarrassed yourself and bought it. Shows gumption, my favorite thing in a person besides kindness, Gina



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