The Scent of a Lady, pt 2

Greetings, colleagues!  As promised, today I give you Part 2 of the tale of Miss Alyssa Rynne’s osmanthus perfume.  As you recall last week, we read all about her collaboration with Miss LaDuke to cultivate the osmathus flowers and extract the oils.  I also hinted about a little collaboration of my own, so here’s the story!

Along with Miss LaDuke’s letter, I found a gorgeous bottle (more on that next week!) containing the merest few drops of Miss Alyssa’s perfume.  Colleagues, you cannot imaging the glorious scent that issued forth from that well-sealed bottle, preserved these many years.  Now, just as I have been re-creating the amazing knitted items from the Ladies, I knew I must re-create that fragrance!  I immediately got in touch with my good friend, perfumer Sweet Anthem, to see what she could deduce about the scent, and here’s what she found…

Alyssa’s Perfume Recipe:

Head Notes:
• Bergamot
• Cardamom c02 extract
• White Grapefruit
• Ylang Ylang

Heart Notes:
• Petitgrain Sur Fleur Osmanthus*
• Osmanthus Fruit**
• Jamsine Sambac

Base Notes:
• African Sandalwood
• Violet Leaf Absolute
• Clove Bud Absolute
• Immortelle

Notes from the Perfumer:

“This is fundamentally a classic unisex chypre, which is a blend of woods and citrus.”

As you can see, the osmanthus is strongly featured, and makes for a truly outstanding fragrance: woods and citrus, right on the nose (pun intended).  Just thinking about all those lovely scents evokes such a strong image of who our Lady Alyssa must have been.  Perhaps you might be able to experience it for yourself in the near future (hint hint – I’m so full of them these days!)  And, as mentioned earlier, stay tuned for Part 3 coming next week!

Smell ya later (sorry),

~The Archivist


The Scent of a Lady, pt 1

Good morning colleagues!  It’s the first of a multi-part treat for you today!  Segueing quite nicely, if I do say so myself, from Miss Alyssa Rynne’s letter last week, I’m very excited to present the first in a series of correspondence between her and our Amazonian Exploress Theodosia LaDuke.  Let’s see what happens when you put those two minds together!


        I hope this package finds you well. After the arrival of your Osmanthus seedlings last spring I am happy to send you these wonderful oils, which I have extracted from not just the stems and leaves as you suggested, but also the fruit. I do believe this to be the first time anyone has used a press to extract Osmanthus oil and I will be sending my report on to the institute for publication on the matter. These oils are simply astounding, as I’m sure you well know; the oil from the fruit is sweet and earthy, as if it were a cross between a fig and an olive. I am sure these will make a most wondrous perfume.


Once I was able to have my torch and glass rods airdropped in, going about setting up a distillation laboratory was surprisingly simple. Here in the Amazon, the natives have never seen such advanced technology and were more than happy to learn. I now have a full staff of laboratory technologists! (I should write to Dr. Erma and see if she can recommend a good seamstress for appropriate laboratory attire.) This of course does not even take into account the lovely garden I have erected outside my hut. The soil composition and tropical air are perfect for growing most any fruit or flower I desire.

        I have also sent along a couple more native oils for you to try out. I am sure the blend of Osmanthus with these oils will produce a spicy/indolic floral scent, though the osmanthus brings out the earthy side, with a musky/sweet blend of woods and spice. Please do be sure to send me a bottle when you have blended it. I will not be able to wear it here in the tropics but would love to have it on hand for my next journey to London.

With much love and affection,

Theodosia LaDuke


Mmmm… I’m sure any perfume Miss Alyssa wore was absolutely divine.  Having botanical experts and scientists as friends certainly has its perks!  And it’s so nice to read what a pleasant time Miss LaDuke was having in the Amazon, all settled in with a nice hut and garden, and see more of her beautiful sketches as well.  As I mentioned before, I have more on this subject to bring you next week (Hint: I have friends who know about perfume too.)  You won’t want to miss it!

Foreign Affairs

Greetings to you, my colleagues!  We’re nearing the end of a wonderful sunny day in my Top Secret location, and the mood is just right for this next update.  After many months of searching, I’ve found a letter from the mysterious Miss Alyssa Rynne.  We’d had hints of her more, shall we say, exotic pastimes.  But now I truly see why she makes such an excellent pen pal.


Shanghai, Sept the 26th 1885

My dearest Miss Theo,

Thank you so much for sending the lovely flowers from your latest travels to the Amazon. I sent a sketch and description to Dex and she assured me they are quite safe to use to enhance the fragrance of my beloved face scrub. Your gift arrived with the Italian ship. It was quite fortunate; I was nearly out of my olive oil and was getting a bit desperate. I even asked Nai-nai if the peanut oil she uses in the kitchen would work, but thought better of it in the long run. Thankfully the Italian ship with its hold full of olive oil and prosecco arrived in time.

With it came the new Italian ambassador as well.  I spent a lovely evening bidding his predecessor farewell. I shall miss him, but this new one looks just as promising. I’ve also been working my charms on the Japanese ambassador but he is a bit more reticent. I’m using all my training from Kyoto but getting nowhere. Ah well, you know I like a challenge, and once I get his attention I should also be able to get some useful information from him as well. As always I promise to pass it along to the rest of the Ladies when I finally get something we need.

Oh yes—the face scrub I use? I cut local lemons in quarters and pack them in salt and olive oil in jars and set them in a sunny window for a month. The local lemons are quite sweet and have very thin skins. When you take them out the peels make the most delightful garnish and the olive oil is a slightly gritty and infused with lemon. Nai-nai puts it on greens when I want a light supper, but I always a sneak a bottle into my dressing room to use one my face. I rub it in carefully with my fingertips and rinse it off with steaming hot water and a soft cloth. It leaves my skin feeling so soft and luscious.

I’m glad to hear all is well in your travels. I do wish I could see your adorable sheep. Your descriptions of them sound delightful. Alas, I’m afraid it will be quite a long time before I can return home again.


And who needs daytime soaps when you have letters like that arriving in the mail!  Ahhh, it’s such a decadent change from our usual adventures and explosions.  Though I love a good airship adventure as much as the next Victorian Women’s Historian, it’s nice to know all our Ladies weren’t crashing through the jungle or up to their elbows in engine grease.  Hopefully the others got to pay Miss Alyssa a visit in Shanghai and get pampered (and visit with some ambassadors!) now and again.  No wonder the Ladies were always ahead of the game with connections like that.  Oh, and I’m sure you noticed the “LTFK” insignia – it’s been popping up a few places lately, and I’ll definitely start questing for clues as to what it might stand for.

But perhaps that will have to wait, as I suddenly feel the urge to climb into a luxurious bubble bath and soak for a few hours.   Maybe work in a little home spa face scrubbing, something bubbly… I hope you all enjoy a pleasant evening too!

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