Saturday, June 4, 2011

Interview with Tanja of April Aromatics

  "Perfumer to Perfumer"
A series of conversations between the Australian Perfumer, Ambrosia, owner of “Perfume by Nature” and other Indie Scent Artists from around the world

Today I'm interviewing Tanja Bochnig, a delightful German Perfumer who lives in one of my favourite cities, Berlin!
Berlin is a wonderful place for Indies of any kind, it seems to collect interesting people from all over the world, and has always been a hangout for people with alternative ideas. So Tanja's company “April Aromatics” is in a very fitting place! Germany seems to be far more open to the idea of natural cosmetics in general...when I was visiting there a few years ago I actually found a range of different natural perfumes available in stores which truly delighted me....
Tanja herself is a disgustingly beautiful model, who creates very deep and sensual perfumes, and has a refreshingly spiritual approach to her work as a perfumer....(seriously though, those cheekbones, a great nose for scent AND a really sweet person?! There's just no justice sometimes, grin!)
Hello Ambrosia,
It is so nice to connect with you, another natural perfumer. Thank you for your wonderful questions.

Tis' lovely to get to know you and your perfumes hon'! Tell us a bit about did you come to perfumery?

I have always had a very developed sense of smell, even as a little girl. Before I knew about the world of the naturals, I loved and collected perfumes and bottles in all forms and shapes.
I began composing my own little scents on my travels as a model. First it was more on an aromatherapy aspect. The essential oils that I used helped me with little ailments like jetleg and fatigue. Once I discovered that they I also smelled really nice, I began experimenting mixing them together and created some beautiful blends. My friends asked me what scent I was wearing and wanted some of it, this is how I started making products for others.
I started to learn as much as I could about the perfumery world, went to visit several countries where the flowers were grown and distilled, places like India and Turkey and I am still learning and growing every day.
But I find blending perfumes comes to me on a very intuitive level. What I need to learn is to have more structure and to be very precise in keeping my notes and calculations.

Keeping REALLY detailed and exact notes was one of the most important things I learnt after my first few attempts! Nowadays I keep my notebook on the workbench and write things down as I do them so as not to miss anything....
I'm not so sure about structure...there are so many different ways to approach perfume design...I think I've used most methods at one time or another...nowadays I just start with whatever has inspired me and go from there...

Why do you work with natural ingredients?

Working with 100% pure and natural ingredients is the only way I can work as a perfumer. Smelling synthetic substances is impossible for me. My throat hurts; I feel allergic reaction such as headaches and rashes on my skin. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to live without synthetic substances nowadays, since you find them in everything that is surrounding us.
Working with natural ingredients opens my heart and mind to different realms and gives me a feeling of being connected with the world around me. I try to make beautiful scents that not only smell good, but can also help us to benefit from the healing properties that are contained in the essential oils from plants.
For me, using synthetics in my natural creations is like adding MSG to my organic food.
But however someone is choosing to do his or her perfume creations is an entirely personal choice.

I've heard it compared to trying to make gourmet food using artificial flavourings instead of fresh herbs and spices, grin!
Mind you, I can also see why others choose to go for the far broader palette offered by using created scent ingredients....there are many things you simply can't do with natural ingredients and I think it is also more challenging as you are composing with multi-dimensional essential oils and absolutes rather than with simpler individual chemicals.

Which are your favourite ingredients and why?

I like everything that comes from nature. Each extract and oil has a beauty in its own. Whatever state of mind or mood I am in, I choose plants that support me in that moment. That is the beauty of natural perfumes, something that a synthetic perfume can never achieve, because it contains "dead: matter.

When I am smelling an essential oil, I am trying to connect with the core and soul of each plant and I am trying to listen what message it has for us.

My favourites though are the flower extracts, like rose, jasmine, tuberose, narcissus, Osmanthus, they go straight to our heart center. I also love tree oils like sandalwood, red Cedarwood, earthy and "dirty" oils like patchouli, that make me feel grounded and strong. Mixing them together and creating a harmonic symphony is most fun.

Your perfumes certainly show your love of deep floral scents too! They are all very deep and luxurious....

Which ones don't you like, or find challenging?

I find the herbaceous and marine extracts challenging to work with. I rather use them for healing balms and therapeutic oils.

A lot of perfumers seem to find them challenging...I like to use them in men's colognes...but they can certainly be rather tricky....

Also extracts that are very sticky and hard in texture, such as magnolia absolute, which I use in my Lindenblossom perfume, can be challenging to work with, as it needs a lot of preparation to be made liquid. But once they have been dissolved in alcohol, they are a beautiful enhancement to perfumes.

The joys of natural perfumery, grin! My workshop is full of large bottles of dilutions, different things soaking in alcohol and oil etc waiting to be decanted or filtered before they can be used...

Tell me about some of your you have any favourites? Any special stories about how they came about?

Of course I like all of my perfumes...:-)

The creation happens at different times of the year and through different inspirations of people, occasions and moods I am experiencing. For instance certain smells that linger in the air at different seasons. At the moment I am inspired to create a lilac scent, since the lilacs have just been in bloom this spring in Berlin. I created a lilac tincture, which will act as a base for a lilac scent.

Yummy! Lilac is such a beautiful, delicate scent...

Spice Blend is a favourite of mine. I just revamped the formula for the Summer of patchouli LOVE 2011 project and I have been wearing it for the past few days. It contains sandalwood, cedarwood, patchouli in the base notes, some orange and spices in the top notes and April Aromatics own creation of a delicious vanilla accord.

It's dry down is divine....I've got it on my hand at the moment...I liked it from the first moment, but the dry down develops into a deep amber like warmth that is something really special....
Look forward to sniffing what you've done with it for the patchouli project!

I will send you a sample!

Nectar of Love is also another favourite and one of my best sellers. I created it when I was very much in love...and it reflects these feelings in the perfume (As a matter of fact, I can never work on a perfume creation, nor enter my laboratory when I am not feeling well).
Nectar of Love contains the most expensive and precious oils, like tuberose, Jasmine, Rose, Neroli and more. It is sensual and sexy, long lasting and very potent. Perfect for a hot summer night. This is my Midsummer Nights Dream Perfume project, which I participated in along with 15 other perfumers, including YOU!!!

I've entered my “Pan” perfume into that one, grin! More on the physical than the purely emotional side of love, grin!

I really like your “Incense”'s a nice take on frankincense and the magic it creates when you burn it in a room...I've always loved frankincense.....I'll never forget the first time I smelt it as an essential was in Berlin actually, in a funny little store in a backstreet that sold oils in cute little bottles with gold minaret tops...I opened the bottle and was transported back into another world...your perfume reminds me of've softened the sharp top notes in a lovely way and given it a soft deep touch to round it off....

The incense creation has not been released yet. It is a one of a kind perfume and I have been experimenting with it for the past 2 years now. I find that it needs a long time to ripen and it has changed beautifully over time. I will be completing it for the winter season, as it is a perfect scent for this time of year. I am happy that you like it.

Many more new scents will be created, some are already in the back of my scent memory....I just need to find the time for it....(at the moment my 20 months old baby girl is my biggest muse and inspiration. She smells so pure and clean, esp. on top of her head, her crown chakra...maybe I will be able one day to re-create something that comes close to her smell).

Babies do smell amazing don't they! And each one so different....part of what bonds mother and baby is the distinct smells each of us has.....esp. When it isn't covered up with anything else...I remember reading a study that showed that one of the most popular scents amongst women was “baby powder”...the theory being that this scent takes a whole generation back to that time of innocence....pity it's the scent of a perfumed baby product and not of the mother and baby themselves though...maybe your daughter will always love fragrances that remind her of her mothers perfumes instead?

What dreams do you have for the future?
My dream for the future is that more people will find their way back to nature and are able to see the vast beauty and abundance it gives us. I wish that peoples perception will open up to the world of the naturals and that it doesn't matter to them so much that a natural perfume doesn't last as long on their skin as a synthetic one and to rather re-apply it more often throughout the day. (This is one reason why I like to make my perfumes very concentrated.)

How do you find people in Germany and specifically in Berlin are reacting to the idea of natural perfumery? Do you find people understand the difference between conventional perfumes and yours?

The German people are very big on synthetic perfumes. They want it to last long and for a scent to be strong.
Though the people are generally open for natural products and a natural, healthy, organic life style, but the education towards natural perfumes is still missing and is in the early stages.

It's all about education isn't it....thankfully think more and more people are looking for natural scents though...if anything I find many of my customers now request their scents to be lighter....I tend to make mainly eau de toilette or at most eau de parfum strength perfumes

Many companies sell "natural perfumes" in health food stores here and aren't natural at all. Even companies like Ecocert and BDIH, which certify organic products accept perfumes that contain synthetics, I don't understand why?
(Maybe it’s a money issue and they are being paid big bucks for it?).

It's one of my pet hates. I despise dishonesty and it infuriates me to see companies try to cash in on the natural movement this way. I have no problem with other perfumers making perfumes from created or artificial ingredients, in fact I even own a few mixed media scents...but it makes me angry that people are being lied to. Natural Perfumery is a specialised art form deserves to be recognised for the complicated work and effort that goes into it. We also can't compete money wise with the far cheaper artificial scent ingredients that go into conventional shouldn't get me started, grin!

I agree with you Ambrosia, each to their own….but honesty is important.
Alfredo Dupetit from Bioscent is stressing the INCI issue big time. He is a pioneer in what he does and totally sticks to being 100% natural, regardless. It is wonderful for me to know that he is out here in Germany, following the same goal.

Yeah he's a good lad! We're working on an International Standard for Natural Perfumes together at the moment, something that is sorely needed!

Thank you for all that time and effort you are putting into it. I have been following your posts and interactions on it.
When I lived in the US, it was much easier for me to sell my perfumes and to be received and understood as a natural perfumer, hence a lot of my customers are still from the US. Here in Germany, I feel like a pioneer and there is work to be done. (I have always been a pioneer in my life, being born on 1.April, with the numerology of a 1 throughout, doing things mostly alone and first....).
Most people do not understand the difference and their awareness is not fine-tuned enough to feel the difference. I guess it has to do with the rest of ones life style. If you take care of yourself in all areas of your life in an organic sway, your energy becomes more sensitive and it is natural not to want to use synthetic smells on your body.

Though it is truly also a matter of taste....some people do like intense and “interesting” scents which is far easier to achieve with artificial's like any art form, some people like realistic watercolours...others prefer neon pop-art. There is room for both!
I think one of the biggest areas of growth in perfume is Indie Perfumers, both natural and mixed media...the perfume industry has become so dominated by large companies that stifle any real creativity....

Believe me, sometimes I wish I could use synths, eps. when it gets hard and a blend isn't doing what I want it to do....but there is just no way.
The good thing is, that everyone buying my perfumes, always comes back for their favourite scent.
I believe that it is a matter of time, like it has taken time for the organic wave to spread itself; it will take time for people to be open for natural perfumes...

I agree, and I also often find that once people have smelt a really good natural perfume, they become real fans, but people who normally “don't like perfume” and those who “Love Perfume, but don't like that aromatherapy stuff!”

It is wonderful that there are more and more natural perfumers out there and that we support each other through groups and guilds.


My personal dream is to find a piece of land, somewhere where it is warm, near the ocean, where I can live with my family and loved ones and where we can grow our own organic food and plants and from whom I can extract and distil my own oils for my perfumes.

Whew, that's a big dream! I've had my own land and built my own house....grew most of my own some ways it was a relief to get back to suburbia....mind you, if I had enough money to employ staff to help me run the distillery....

That is wonderful Ambrosia. Congratulations!
The plants and flowers help me in seeing my dreams and they keep showing me their magic every day. For that I am grateful.

That's really beautiful Tanja! Thank you so much for sharing your perfumed world with us!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Ambrosia.
    Wonderful to spread the word about natures wonder.