Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Finding The Tipping Point - Vexingly Various Viscosities And Why It Sprays But It Never Pours

As a frequent decanter, I must say that I can't be doing with washing funnels. I own four metal ones and a handful of plastic funnels of varying dimensions, which I try not to use, precisely because they are only suitable for one-time use - or multiple uses involving the same scent. I do in fact have a bag of plastic funnels dedicated to different scents, but rarely find a need to redeploy them. Oh, I have just spotted in the photo the one for Michel Comté's Shared Water! That's ironic, given that the whole point of the funnel is to prevent that very phenomenon...

So for the most part, I decant using metal funnels and wash them in the kitchen sink. That is one of the few perks of my going away as often as I do on work trips, according to Mr Bonkers. When he does the dishes he doesn't catch his hand on an assortment of metal objects lurking like submarines at the bottom of the washing up bowl, along with the obligatory teaspoon or two. For it is an infallible law of nature that there is always at least one teaspoon in the dirty water when you go to empty the bowl...

Yes, I wash and soak and sometimes re-wash and re-soak the funnels - I squirt neat Fairy Liquid in and swoosh it around with my finger, before putting the funnel back in to soak. Overnight, often. Or whole days if the coast is clear. Yet certain scents resist the most determined detergents and retain a trace of the decanted fragrance for a long time afterwards.

Given the palaver involved in funnel care, it is hardly surprising that when I set about consolidating my various bits and bobs of samples of the same scent the other day, I decided to go commando and just tip from receptacle A to receptacle B wherever possible. I was mostly trying to transfer 1ml and 2ml glass vial samples - together with the remnants of minis and small splash bottle decants - into 3ml and 5ml atomisers, with a view to taking some of these scents on my next trip.

Upending a 1ml sample vial and tipping it into the wider mouth of an atomiser is usually straightforward, assuming you have a half-steady hand. The procedure becomes very tricky, however, if you are emptying one of those glass vials with a lip, like the ones you get from Les Senteurs. Tip the sample upside down till you are blue in the face, tap it against the side of the receiving atomiser as hard as you like, but not a drop will come out. Or not until about 10 minutes of concerted shaking and tapping have elapsed will the vial grudgingly yield its contents.

This all seems counter-intuitive though, because at the end of the day, it is still A HOLE, and you would think the laws of gravity would apply. Well, a "lay decanter" like me would think that, anyway. I have the same problem with two of my funnels, which have a markedly smaller diameter of the funnelly bit. You spray a goodly squirt of your chosen perfume and wait for a moment, but the darn liquid won't go down! Again, I repeat - a hole is a hole - or should be. But there again, maybe not. It may be all about the meniscus. Menisci moving in mysterious ways.

So aperture is one thing, but even when I was tipping samples from and to identical vials, I noticed marked differences in the pourability of some scents. I should have been paying more attention at the time, but I recall that Jo Malone White Jasmine & Mint was a very compliant pourer, while Tom Ford Neroli Portofino was like recalcitrant magma! Which I wouldn't have expected from what I perceive as a light, "get up and go" scent. I would have placed scents like Ormonde Jayne Tolu or Patou Joy or Micallef Hiver at the magma end of the bell curve - you know, plush and overtly perfumey scents with the sluggish gait of motor oil.

I tried to google "perfume viscosity" and its relationship to decanting and pouring, and came up with surprisingly few citations of note. Though I did find this nugget on the "pour point":

"Pour point: The temperature at which a viscous liquid becomes pourable is called the pour point."

Temperature is also involved? Perhaps it is standard though across all perfume, but actual motor oil may have a different pour point, say. Or maple syrup, for argument's sake. Or sake, for that matter... : - )

The nugget continues:

"If diluents are present in the supplied viscous liquid then the pour point is reduced."

As in the temperature?? Does Jo Malone contain diluents? I am sure those nice people at Estée Lauder wouldn't thank me for speculating on the matter. For that way lies orange squash...

"Pour points are generally not very accurate as they vary with every consignment noticeable in resinoids."

I don't doubt it! So could my perfume collection be construed as "a consignment noticeable in resinoids", I wonder? Very likely - for I fancy a resinoid has got to be just some gunkier version of oil, and my slowest pourers must surely have a bit of those in them?

Still, I can't help thinking that this pour point and temperature lark may be a red herring. I would like to know what else affects pourability, and is it in any way a marker of quality, or not? You know, the double cream principle...

Has anyone else experienced problems relating to narrow apertures and/or variable viscosities? (There I go again, uncharacteristically asking a question!) And was it with the same style of vial? And can you recall which scents poured with glacial torpor? Tip me the wink about what goes on in your sink... ; - )

Photo of woman pouring perfume from, photo of Les Senteurs sample from, photo of frog pouring perfume from, other photos my own


Unknown said...

Vanessa, where do you get your supplies from? I'm looking for some new vials, funnels, etc.

Vanessa said...

Hi kjanicki,

Accessories for Fragrance for the most part still, because they are one of the few stateside suppliers who are prepared to flex on the thorny issue of customs labelling... I have bought some larger shipments from Madina online, which are cheap as chips but you do have to order a gross of the things, the quality is inferior to Accessories for Fragrance, and you can't avoid customs charges. That may or may not apply to you in Canada ordering from the USA, I am not sure. It is all North America, at least.

There is a gap in the market for a European equivalent to Accessories for Fragrance or Pilot Vials, the other good company, but at least you are the right side of the Atlantic for the best sources. I have also dabbled in Ebay stockists, and if I knew more about China I am sure that is the place for the serious bargains, especially for quality brushed metal atomisers. Unfortunately I am not adventurous enough to dip my toe in that water, but anyone who takes the plunge and can afford to buy in bulk will surely make a killing.

Carol said...

I absolutely adore you!!

Cymbaline said...

OMG, I could totally relate to this subject! ( I always feel weird writing sentences like that-I'm no teenager).

Anyway, yesterday I was trying to pour out of one of those vials with the lip on them and no freakin' way was it coming out. I tapped and twirled, jiggled and actually banged-grrr! Finally I decided to try wicking the darn stuff, I think it was that meniscus problem you wrote about. I'm sure this was quite a sight, my left pinky holding the empty vial with middle-finger steadying the funnel, thumb and forefinger maneuvering a toothpick tip into the opening of the up-ended full vial held in my right hand. (Jeepers, was that as hard to read as it was to write?).

I also use Accessories for Fragrance.

Referring to your last post: I sprayed on my sample of L'eau de L'Hermine and loved
it and yes, I need a bottle. I know Anthropologie in downtown Seattle carries it, so you know where I'll be on my next trip into town : )

Vanessa said...

Hi Bloody Frida,

What can I say other than shucks?! Also, I do love the ever changing kaleidoscope of your avatar pics... : - )

Vanessa said...

Hi Cymbaline,

Am pleased that my post struck a chord with you, though sorry that you too have "fat lip" issues with that style of vial. I haven't tried the toothpick trick, but would be worried about Archimedes' Principle(?) kicking in and the perfume shooting everywhere because it has been displaced by a pointy object. That has happened to me whilst trying to pull off a similar stunt with a pipette. They suffer from the opposite problem of not being narrow enough to fit in the tiny aperture!

And I am so happy you had a parallel l'eau de l'Hermine epiphany! Should you have any trouble getting a bottle in L'Anthropologie, I could always do you a split of this. Goodness knows there is enough to swim in, as Marina wanted to do!

Anonymous said...

On the meniscus issue - ScentScelf swears by coffee stirrers, the hollow ones. They are usually narrow enough to get into even the smallest aperture. You stick in the coffee stirrer, put your finger over the top, move the stirrer to the desired place, and remove your finger so that the liquid falls into the new container. It seems to work pretty well, and luckily the stirrers are not too hard to find.

I use and reuse metal funnels as well - and you're right, the other scents never completely go away. I have just explained it to myself as not being a big enough issue to fret over. (Sometimes it helps to tilt the funnel so that what's already in there can run down into the container.)

Suzanne said...

Vanessa, I know what you're talking about and have had the same problem. In addition, I use sterile pipettes to transfer certain perfumes to decants, and one day I was making decants of two Serge Lutens perfumes, both stored in the same cool, dry cupboard, and discovered their viscosities were quite different. Though I'd decanted it many times before in this manner, my SL Chergui refused to stay in the pipette and kept draining out no matter what; I even threw out the first pipette and started again with a new one (I eventually had to put the atomizer back on the bottle and spray it into the decant), while the Arabie I was decanting had no problem being transferred. I'd love to know the reason for the difference.

Also, wanted to let you know that I use metal funnels too, and before I wash them, I let them soak in a container filled with apple cider vinegar (which is fairly cheap to purchase). As you know, vinegar and oil don't mix, so this pre-soak helps to remove some of the perfume oils, and then I wash the funnels in very hot soapy water. Sometimes I still have to wash my funnels twice, but not usually. (And there is no residue of vinegar that remains on the funnels after I wash them.)

I used to pre-soak in alcohol, but that was too expensive and not as effective as the apple cider vinegar. If you try this, be sure to get the brown vinegar (not the white distilled vinegar), as it's stronger.

Vanessa said...

Hi Muse,

Thanks for the tip about coffee stirrers - you mean those hollow plastic strawlike things, I take it? It sounds as though you two have got them working as pipettes - sucking up the liquid when you put your finger over the top? Can you tell I didn't study chemistry beyond the age of 12?

Oh, and I do also do the funnel tilting thing - and slight tapping too. It can help a bit but I have been known to spill it over the rim through excessive vibration!

Vanessa said...

Hi Suzanne,

Thanks for that most interesting tale of differential SL viscosities! I have not yet encountered the problem of a perfume failing to stay in a pipette when using that as my transfer method, but it may only be a question of time... I have a few bits of Chergui knocking about, though from your experience it sounds as though they would be compliant tippers. : - )

I must try that apple cider vinegar as a pre-wash. If it doesn't impregnate the funnels with its own scent as you say, it would be just the ticket.

Marie said...

I had the lip problem with a sample vial of Iris Y.... the unspellable Hermessences scent sweetly provided by Birgit. Would not pour into an atomizer. Would not. But as I prefer spraying over dabbing, I have not given up. I briefly entertained the idea of removing the lip of the sample vial in one swift blow - like they do with champagne bottles, but knowing my lacking motor skills, the maneuvre will probably result in a visit to the emergency room - and still no perfume transferred to atomizer.

Vanessa said...

Hi Marie,

I know the Hermes you mean - those 4ml vials are tricky customers - it is the reason I never share them around! That's a bold idea of yours to karate chop the lip but I agree that the manoeuvre is high risk. : - )

Undina said...

Ok... After reading the post and all the comments I feel like I'm not paying enough for decants :)

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

Haha - you may be right at that! A bit also gets lost in overspray with certain wayward bottles, ie a type of "shrinkage" which bottle owners don't tend to bother accounting for when splitting / swapping.