Natural Perfumes Herbal Alchemy Apothecary

Herbal Alchemy Apothecary

11/07/13 16:38:26 (5 comments)

by: Olga Ikebanova, Zoran Cerar

Julianne Zaleta is an absolutely amazing soul. Described as someone who knows “where the wild things are,” she just found a new place to teach—the same place where she also creates. Sharing her obsession couldn’t happen in better surroundings, with at least some 500 flasks and bottles in pretty much all the sizes that exist out there: her own apartment in Brooklyn, in a Park Slope brownstone. We were fortunate to be invited to her workshop where she teaches the art of making perfumes.

This is what she says about the early influences that shaped her to become a professional herbalist, aromatherapist and botanical perfumer: “When I was a child my mother had a huge garden and she was very generous with it and let me do whatever I wanted in it. I was always gathering flowers, drying blossoms, conjuring scents and mixing soaps."

Julianne trained with Michael Scholes, Jeanne Rose and Mandy Aftel and she is a certified aromatherapist as well as a licensed massage therapist and meditation teacher.

The introduction to her workshop is dedicated to why she’s committed to only natural (or botanical) ingredients, and why she loves to work with raw materials. One of the reasons is that scientific studies have found that the molecules from perfumes find easily their way into the blood, and that perfumes should not shy away from also having healing properties. Also botanical perfumes work to develop beautifully on your skin, bringing depth and complexity. For years Julianne has been handcrafting artisan, aromatic and therapeutic remedies and elixirs for a wide variety of ailments.

If you like perfumes, you need to go through a creation process to really appreciate the effort. It doesn’t feel like an effort after it's completed, but the navigation through perfume design can be a very steep and unpredictable interplay between the different densities, all carrying entirely different emotions.

Julianne will guide us in great and colorful details through about 60 absolutes, concretes and essential oils that she selected for the workshop and which most of us can easily recognize. They are all natural and at the beginning, we clarify the distinction between a concrete, an absolute and the essential oils. The raw materials are divided in three groups: the base notes, from animal to woody, include sniffs like frankincense, oakmoss, vetiver and labdanum plus over 10 more. The second group is made of heart notes with light, spice, green, rosy,  narcotic, fruity and precious ingredients like geranium and orange flower absolute. And finally we get to choose from the top notes with divisions into green, spicy, flowery, dry and some 10 citrusy notes. One drop at a time, we added altogether some 20 drops of 10 ingredients and were taken over by the process.

Working with perfumes requires understanding emotions. All of that, and much more, we have learned in the workshop by Julianne. Zoran was most excited about the base ingredient cade. Cade absolute was my prime choice to see if that fire from the burned juniper wood is tamable. The scent is too strong to hold the base, so we open it with Vetiver and balance it with Sandalwood. (The Sandalwood oil was from a sustainable Australian farm.) The base is wonderful in dry-down but maybe still a little intense. So in the middle notes we bring music with the lovely cloves and linden, further felt and integrated by lavender and clary sage. All tops need to be bright so we look at some northern lights. Fir and Cedar do it, and elemi is there to hug and keep them. This was our personal journey and we got to create four perfumes. Julianne is such a smooth guide to your personal experience, but her experience will also always be there to keep your expectations real. It’s a wonderful world to swim into and there are many experiences to be had.

Herbal Alchemy natural perfume smells differently on your skin than in the bottle, mixing with your body’s own unique chemistry, responding to mood, environment, weather and your cycle. The artisanal blends include:

"Sol de la Foret"

For this fougère Julianne used a generous amount of rich caramelic tonka bean. To give it a greener note I also added sweet clover, a new favorite of mine. Fossilized amber, a tree resin that is millions of years old, from high in the Himalayan Mountains, is used to add a dry, smoky, leathery quality—as well as great fixation. At the heart of the perfume is a lovely synergy of carnation and lavender absolutes with a touch of clary sage concrete. Neroli and ho wood grace the top with just a drop of blood orange.

"Midnight Garden”

This perfume is a collaboration between Julianne and The Robert Allen Group to commemorate the launch of their newest fabric line, Midnight Garden. The fabric inspired vanilla orchids and oak moss with a heart of jasmine, neroli and honey. Petitgrain, wild sweet orange and coriander invite you into the mysteries and nuances of the garden.


The Greek goddess, Artemis, who represents the new moon, is portrayed in this fragrance by the addition of wormwood (an artemesia) in the top note, supported by bergamot and petitgrain. Luminous jasmine forms the basis of the heart along with honey and rose, and sandalwood and frankincense form the base chord.


This is a new venture, a duet between Julianne Zaleta and Rachelle Garniez based on the song "Tourmaline" by Rachelle on her C, Melusine Years. It is rich yet subtle, complicated yet refreshing, with notes of tobacco, bitter orange, honey and fern.


In Greek mythology, the Elysian Fields were the gateway to Heaven. Rose, vanilla and orange peel scent this pathway to Nirvana. Elysium is a maceration, meaning that the roses were picked fresh and added to alcohol with freshly grated orange peel and vanilla pods. The mixture is allowed to age for a period of time and then strained off and filtered.


Aloft is a blend of cocoa, orris (derived from the iris root) and sustainable Australian sandalwood, which uses a method of extracting the oil that does not sacrifice whole, mature trees. This combination provides a warm, supportive bottom note to the fragrance. Gorgeous and exuberant middle notes of Indian jasmine concrete, essential oils of Tunisian neroli and coffee flower burst, then give way to the more subtle top notes of bergamot and black pepper.

“Garden Walk #1”

Earthy notes such as orris root, ambrette and hay represent the fertile soil of Brooklyn Gardens. Floral middle notes such as tuberose and neroli round it out and it ends with top notes of petitgrain and elemi. Even the bees are represented in this formula with the addition of honey absolute. The effect is warm, inspired and peaceful.

“Eau Contraire”

Vanilla, tobacco and honey swirl in softness and mingle in counterpoint.

“Amber Perfume Oil”

After extensively researching amber, Julianne used a pine tree from India that exudes a sap that a lot of it starts from, but then many processes occur and a proprietary blend of oils and macerations were added to create amber in many forms. That’s how Julianne came up with a blend for this perfume.

“Carmelite Water”

This is an ancient formula conjured by Carmelite nuns at the Abbaye St. Juste for King Charles V of France in 1375. It is warm and spicy, infused with lemon, cinnamon and cloves.

In a step-by-step process, learn how to blend a selection of scents into your own personal perfume. Choose from over one hundred essential oils, absolutes and concretes, some rare and exotic, to create a fragrance that is uniquely yours. This fun, sometimes surprising and sometimes revealing journey into scent memories and preferences will result in a perfume that is yours and yours alone, one that works with your individual body chemistry and reflects your personality and interests.

More information at

Photo from the event by Olga & Zoran

Zoran Cerar - Hieronimuss loves delicate and natural fragrances since his childhood. He is also an incurable astrology addict since 1984.

With his astrological insight, he helped many restless souls with advice related to personal growth, relationships, and career choices. He holds a PhD in German Literature and teaches at a few colleges in New York. His web site is a portal for sharing astrological experiences and knowledge, and here he offers his astrological readings and reports.

Olga Ivanova (Ikebanova) has Master's Degrees in Horticulture and Biology. She is a floral designer and a passionate believer in the Power of Nature. She loves natural perfumes, sustainable and holistic living, aromatherapy, photography and dancing. Olga works as a childbirth educator, breastfeeding counselor and postpartum doula in New York.

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A great write up on this house. The scents sound wonderful. Excited to try them.

Drift Perfume
Drift Perfume

Lovely, indeed! Julianne is an inspiration, and I love that she is described as one who knows “where the wild things are.” Thanks for sharing, and fragrant wishes to Herbal Alchemy :)


Thank you Olga and Zoran for bringing your infectious enthusiasm to my workshop! It was lovely to have you there and you made gorgeous perfumes. Thanks for this wonderful review!


Lovely write up! I am very interested in Natural Perfumery and would love to be able to attend a workshop like that. Thank you for sharing!


Olga and Zoran: What an amazing experience this must have been, and so different, too, when compared with the typical consumer experience of going to buy a masstige designer fragrance from a department store. We are so lucky to have such a wide variety of perfume experiences (and perfumes!) available to us today. Thank you for sharing it with us and best wishes to Julianne and Herbal Alchemy!


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