19 Jan

More about my views on proper natural-perfume construction: notes intended to add only body must not be not very odoriferous. Orris is an example; patchouli is not. Jonquil is an example; jasmine is not. Petitgrain is an example; ginger made from dried roots is not. I’ve found orris etc. are good at adding body without mucking up a perfume. I don’t think of making accords/chords; instead, I think of each perfume as a distinct entity. It’s not the accord which concerns me; it’s the whole formula, bottom to top. And I’m happy thinking that way; that perspective makes for base-heavy compositions. In this way, I’m quite prosaic in my approach to perfume; no snippets, the whole evocative shebang. I aim to make bowl-you-over perfumes, like good prose, affecting you in ways you aren’t quite aware

Patchouli. An extract with a high odor intensity

Of course the ultimate test of a perfumer’s skills is how well he can make custom. I think custom perfume takes a lot of imagination. I believe, from experience, that I have excellent custom imagination. In the end, most of us/all of us have sorely lacking olfactory vocabulary. What a perfumer does with a custom client is usually a fair amount of translation and interpretation. This is another artful part of perfumery: one can feel free to make assumptions; if a person says they don’t like mint, they probably don’t like basil either. My very first custom client, wife of an old, old friend, told me she didn’t like tea-ish or vegetable-y smells. Another artful part of custom perfumery: a perfumer gets to interpret what is said by a custom client. No rules; only experience guides you. It turns out there is actually an olfactory category of green/tea, but I remain uncertain quite what she meant.

Vetiver. Another extract with high odor intensity.

I think imagination is a big part of natural perfumery. If you can imagine your way to a successful formula using only what a client says, you’re half way there. Make an informed guess here, and experiential leap there, and I guarantee you’ve nearly got your formula. One problem you might run into has to with our lack of olfactory education: a client might say woody when she means balsamic. None of us has a very good stock of actual, traditional olfactory terms. Words like balsamic (as in balsam wood not balsamic vinegar), agrestic (rustic, relating to the countryside), and green/tea are useful terms we all should use more. There is a big wheel out there, put out by Mandy Aftel; it’s divided in little sections for each category of scent, earthy, fruity, woody, etc. At the edge of the wheel are the names of various exemplary extracts. For example, at the edge for the category edible/sweet are listed cocoa, vanilla, tonka.


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