Cleopatra arrived in Tarsus dressed as Aphrodite, intent on seducing Marc Antony.
Her ship bore purple sails and was lined with gold and decorated with flowers. Flutists announced her arrival with music. And, in case the crowd that gathered along the River Cydnus couldn’t see or hear her arrival, as her vessel pulled ashore, her attendants announced the arrival by waving fans doused in her perfume.
Perfumer Lucy Miller shares the tale because it highlights the role of fragrance throughout history.
“Perfume is so steeped in our culture,” she said.
Its history is practically as old as fire, dating back to antiquity, when people tossed wood into a flame to burn and realized they liked what they smelled. The word, “perfume” literally means, “from smoke,” in Latin.
Miller’s rule when it comes to perfume:
Perfume is an intimate accessory. Your perfume should never arrive before you do.
So does that mean Cleopatra went overboard with the perfume-doused fans?
“No,” Miller says, with a smile. “She was Cleopatra, saying, ‘I’m here!’”
Lucy Miller Pure didn’t debut with a Cleopatra-style arrival.
Miller quietly launched the line of luxury perfumes in August on her website, lucymillerpure.com. In early 2013, she plans to begin selling it at high-end boutiques, targeting New York City, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Tokyo.
The line currently includes three women’s perfume and one men’s perfume. All products are natural and organic.
Miller has nothing against fragrances created in a laboratory.
In fact, one of her favorite fragrances is a synthetic men’s perfume by Serge Lutens that she wears often.
Still, she’s drawn to the vibrancy of natural scents.
Her website describes the scents that surrounded and inspired Miller, a seventh-generation Cortez native, in her childhood: mangoes, oranges, jasmine, magnolias and frangipani, to name a few.
Today, her three favorite scents in the world are the beach, a newborn baby and the smell of her Goldendoodle, Gnarly, a couple of days before he needs a bath.
“There’s something about the oil on a dog’s skin,” she said.
She compares developing an appreciation for natural scents to honing a taste for fine wine.
“You have to develop an olfactory palate for them,” she said. “If you remember your first sip of white wine, it probably tasted sort of bitter.”
Miller was always the type of person who noticed an aroma before anyone else did — even before she learned the art and science of perfume.
In her prior career, she was a nurse anesthetist.
But when she and her husband, David Miller, married 15 years ago, they agreed that she would give up her practice after two years. When she left anesthesiology, she began doing the work for Cannons Marina that she continues today, such as marketing, social media and search-engine optimization. But she needed something for herself.
She began studying aromas, aromatherapy, plants and master gardening. When she went to Japan on Yamaha business for Cannons, she studied with an incense master.
She continued her studies, traveling around the globe to places such as India, France, Italy and California. She learned from top perfumers and graduated from the Aromahead Institute in Ithaca, N.Y.
Miller thinks of natural perfuming as more of an art than a science.
It’s something that comes from within you, she says.
But it’s an art that requires a scientist’s precision.
She specializes in floral perfumes and starts with between one and three essences — i.e., the core scents that make up the fragrances — in developing a perfume. Then, she goes drop-by-drop adding other ingredients as she strives to find the exact blend that enhances the scent without losing the beauty of the flower’s smell.
Miller remembers the first time she thought she had arrived at the perfect scent for her perfume.
“Then I re-blended and I re-blended,” she said.
But Miller isn’t stopping with four types of perfume.
Currently, she is working on a frankincense perfume for men and a lotus perfume for women, although she hasn’t found the perfect blend for either, yet.
But already, by starting the line, she has achieved something that smells like success.
“I’ve done something that I love, something that I’m completely crazy about,” she said, “and I did it.”
Lucy Miller will share her knowledge of all things scented at two upcoming classes.
Miller and Euphemia Haye chef/proprietor Ray Arpke will teach “All Things Wonderful” beginning at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 5, at Euphemia Haye, 5540 Gulf of Mexico Drive, in which they’ll take participants on a scented culinary journey.
The class is currently sold out, but you can add your name to a waiting list at euphemiahaye.com/cooking-classes. Cost is $60.
Miller will also teach a winter workshop called “The Essence of Perfume” from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, at the Longboat Key Education Center, 5370 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Suite 212.
Participants will create two natural perfumes: a solid perfume from beeswax and another made using organic alcohol.
Cost is $90 for members; $100 for non-members. Call 383-8811 or visit lbkeducationcenter.org.
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