perfume making with a process


Process and perfume making go hand in hand.

The other day I was listening to a video clip on YouTube with Christopher Sheldrake, perfumer for Chanel, and he used the apt metaphor of an ink jet printer to illustrate the vast possibilities of perfume creation available to the perfumer.

He reminded me that the ink jet printer has only four cartridges of colour and yet from those cartridges we can get a range of up to 16 million colours!  When I consider that my current perfume palette has over 300 raw materials the creative possibilities can be mind boggling.  Think of all the variations we can create with just four materials let alone 300! So how do I as a perfumer choose? How do I narrow the field?

Focus and a process.

For this reason I found I needed a process, as I’m sure other perfumers have their own, some way to go from inspiration to trial to production with a fair amount of continuity, precision and repeatability. Part of that process, and it’s something I am still working on, is how to narrow the field among materials, how to create and maintain focus throughout the composition.  Sometimes I realise it will be the brief or the vision that will act as a natural selector and eliminator.  Sometimes the natural restriction or boundary of creation is the limit of my palette; other times it is the chemical composition of the raw materials that will create the intuitive path forward.  And other times it will be an olfactive memory that strikes an imaginative spark which will lead to the first choice of materials, which as a result will both guide and limit me to any successive choices.

However it is that our process develops as perfumers, it all starts with the most intimate relationship and profound knowledge of the odour profile of each and every one of the raw materials at our disposal.  Nothing, I am learning, is a substitute for that relationship, it can not be rushed.  This then, is the work out of which creations will be born.

Have a happy day!