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At Home with Beverly Alkire: Custom Botanical Scents for Hip Tastes, Sensual Wormwood, More
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I dropped in on talented botanical perfumer Beverly Alkire at her Inner Sunset flat to discuss blends for my upcoming Hip Tastes event (details going up 10.11). Beverly has a great eye for color and interiors and I was looking forward to the visit as much for the chance to check out her cool abode as for the work we set out to do there!

I'm working with Beverly to come up with three custom unisex scents for Mix It Up! Blending In Three Acts Featuring Earth, Wine & Scent (Nov. 19 @ Sutton Cellars). The event is a chance to explore the art of the blend across different mediums, including - naturally - wine. And while I know that guests will love learning a bit about how wine blends are created, I suspect they'll be as excited to learn about how perfumes (and more!) come to be. Guests are invited to meet Beverly at her perfume bar on Nov. 19 to learn more about these three scents. Then, because we're cool like that, you'll be able to take a generous sample of your favorite scent home with you!

>>More on blends, juniper & wormwood, Bev's method & how learning scents isn't that different from leaning wine...


Here's more on the blends:

Beverly was keen to tie in booze-themed ingredients to the Hip Tastes scents - and I was obviously thrilled at this prospect. Right away she suggested juniper, as I'd mentioned the event will also feature a vermouth component tasting bar highlighting the makings and musings of the illustrious (and sometimes Mad Scientist-like, in a very good way) Carl Sutton, who owns the venue. If you're not a booze hound, you might not know that juniper is a key herb used in making vermouth. Beverly quickly segued to another hot beverage herb we can use: WORMWOOD. As in, the infamous and - for a long time - illegal key ingredient used in Absinthe. Um, YES. Let's do that. So you can look forward to "experiencing" wormwood as an ingredient in one of the three Hip Tastes scents!

We also dished on base ingredients for the scents. We'll be using three different "bases," as they're known, and we decided that these will be: 1) fractionated coconut, 2) grape alcohol (woot!) and...wait for it...3) vodka. Though the second two tie in seamlessly to the beverage theme, the first will be fun as well in that the coconut creates a lovely filmy texture that is really appealing. We're getting together again mid-October to determine the final blends of the three scents. At the event you'll be able to smell components alongside the final scents as you determine which you'd like to take home.

More On Bev
In addition to her perfume work, Beverly runs a busy green consulting practice. She's found a way to integrate her perfume wizardry into her practice by offering - in addition to the standard consulting fare - team building workshops around scent-building (e.g. she produced a perfume "bar" for a Dreamworks event). I love LOVE working with Beverly because she is clearly passionate about what she does, even geeking out fairly hard core on an artisanal distiller in her apartment. I mean, who has a vintage perfume pot still in her home???

I'll leave you with Beverly's responses to a series of Q's I put to her - and stay tuned for the 411 on event tickets asap!

Q How long have you been working with scents?
A I took my first class in 2001, so 10 years.

Q What kind of a class?
A I worked with Mandy Aftel, the foremost botanical perfumer in the world.

Q What are a few fav scents to work with?
A Tube rose. Others have changed over time, kind of how your taste for wine evolves. As you work with scents, you get acclimated e.g. to lavender as you might come to know Chardonnay very well. Then you move on to something more exotic...vetiver is one of my new favorites. Some classics you always love: jasmine, bergamot, sandalwood.

Q What exactly is a botanical perfume?
A It's something derived from nature, extracted in a way that's minimally processed. Nothing is synthesized; it's as close to raw material as you can get - except for picking it off the plant.

Q Do you customize scents for people?
A Yes. [To do so] you take them on a 'scent journey;' I interview them about types of scents like: flowers, herbs, trees. Then from there I start pulling out particular scents and it develops organically as you work with them. I typically profile 1-3 scents that are going to be the focus of the perfume - a scent profile. Then I build on experience to hone in on which [blends] highlight those.

Q What are your favorite wines?
A I love Pinot Noir. I'm just back from South Africa and I fell in love with their Pinotage. I had something called "Chocolate Pinotage"...when it's fermenting they add oak slabs that taste like chocolate. Chocolate and [Pinot Noir-like wine] is my idea of heaven.

Q What are you most looking forward to about the Hip Tastes event Nov 19?
A Being part of a complete sensory theme with other like-minded people, and meeting like-minded people. I think it's going to be an interesting event that draws an interesting crowd of other sensualists like myself.

CC Thanks, Bev.

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