22 Dec

I realized several years ago that if I aim to continue a Professional natural perfumer, collecting a library of materials is essential. That some are more important than others is without question; I’ve been collecting materials which I deem to be absolutely vital. There is a bunch: benzoin, labdanum, ambrette, rose, jasmine, lavender, rosewood, neroli, pepper, etc. I think of rose and jasmine, ambrette too, as “perfume blood;” it can’t be a sublime composition if there aren’t certain notes. Now, I’ve learned to make complex, intricate perfumes. That’s my own personal take on natural perfume. In Perfume by Suskind, Grenouille implies that the more notes in a perfume, the richer it is; you want to build a dense cloud of scent. You have to train yourself first; you have to make lots of mistakes, sussing out what materials to do what with, which materials have just-the-right effect (or a terrible effect), or make the perfume sublime.

Hibiscus brings ambrette seeds.

The first professional-quantity substance, 32 ounces, I got was pine-needle absolute. I purchased it from White Lotus Aromatics. The thing is, you have PRE-order it. I remember the day I realized this was probably the case, I emailed Christopher McMahon, describing exactly what I was looking for. This stuff is like a solid–you can pour it but takes many hours, and then you have to make sure you have 190-proof alcohol to you can stir it around and make a dilution. To me, this is an important material because it smells like amber out of the bottle. I have a feeling it’s also a good fixative. The thing is, it’s essential to make a dilution. Working with it as it comes from the bottle would be nightmarish, if you could even get it to loosen up. Not easy stuff to work with, but it’s absolutely worth it. Anything which smells like powdery amber is certainly worth any pains you might make to utilize it.

Perfumery is a waiting game; you’re waiting for the transcendent to show through. If you’re not patient, this art is not for you. I have certain rules, that I stick fast too, that I have developed over the past seven years or so. First thing is not to use too much styrax or costus; a little touch is all that is needed (otherwise you’ll end with a stanky perfume). Secondly, no matter how great lavender smells, it will ruin a perfume except in the smallest concentrations (I use lavender in one out of 12 perfumes, Ares). I think lavender is best suited to eau de cologne–believe me, I tried. The third, on the top end, is tagetes (marigold) is good to use when the top has a lot of citrus. That rule I picked from traditional French perfumery; I must admit, that while tagetes does not itself smell nice, it tends to “balance out” citrus notes. I tried and it does succeed.


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