26 Dec

Let’s be clear: I never smelled old-world perfume. The thing is once things start making sense, you have a long series of revelations. You start thinking if a and b are true, then c is necessarily so. Everything starts clicking, and you finally begin to understand “perfumery.” It is a complex art. Also, in some cases, you can tell by smelling certain essences; you figure out what goes into your favorite synthetic perfumes. You can use the pyramids which circulate and name names. The hard part is it’s never as simple as using a particular essence to make a given perfume in the style of your favorite. In some cases, you can get close, but it’s best not to try. Mainstream perfume houses use synthetics, fragrance chemicals (many of which are suspected toxins), which can be made to smell like nearly anything. The three bottles pictured on this page are icons of modern perfume, L’Instant pour homme from Guerlain, Sables from Annick Goutal, and Ambre Sultan by Serge Lutens; I used to adore wearing them.

The best I've ever smelled.

I remember when I first started, I was completely daunted. I remember thinking, ‘How does one become a perfumer?” There are no schools for it. This is why I appreciate Mandy Aftel so much: she tells you how. She lets you know anyone, depending on certain characteristics, can become a perfumer. She makes it seem entirely possible that you could go on to become a great perfumer. When the question came up in my life whether to go natural or not, as a long-time worker at stores which carried organic products, at co-ops, at natural-foods stores, it was, as I said in my bio to get on the natual-perfumers email list, entirely natural that I would be all about natural. You have to do a lot of reading, in books, online; you have to talk about the art with other natural perfumers. Over years, you learn vital information. You are a natural perfumer because you want to be; it takes confidence when you start selling your products, and thank goodness for the Natural Perfumers Guild, who grants a title Professional Perfumer upon submission of packaged (and finished), and good, perfumes. I am a Guild Professional Perfumer.

An immortelle perfume. My new perfume Chronos is close.

How do you know when you’re ready to become a professional? You have to have friends and family smell your perfumes; whether or not then can be honest with you is a question. I can automatically tell by a person’s first whiff, but then I’m particularly perceptive and observant. Some natural perfumers, I would say many, most, never go into business. For others of us, at some point your gumption gets the best of you, and before you know it you’ve got a business. You have to be the sort of person who puts products out there, and so, opens yourself up for criticism. I’ve got thick skin on my face, as the  Chinese say; the reaction to my perfumes has always been excellent, from people who were being honest (I could tell). My mother was particularly encouraging; she really liked what became my new perfume Phoebe, also my solid Anthea which is an ode to jasmine. On the road to becoming a great perfumer….



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