perfume making lesson 5


Perfume making: lesson 5 – document how you formulate your perfumes – and always use the same approach to establish a standard of production.

From the beginning it’s important to carefully observe how you move through the process of formulating (the steps of going from a test to a production) and methodically taking note of your system either by hand with pencil and a printed spreadsheet or automate the entire phase in Excel.

I don’t know about you but sometimes, it’s the smallest thing that can throw me off my game. As I’m learning perfumery I realise it’s the math – yes, I’ve said it before, I know.  But I needed a way to avoid stalling needlessly during the creation phase.  The answer for me was to develop a way to formulate, to take a formula from trial to production, and get it down cold – should I use the drops to volume or drops to mass method, what dilution should I use, should I wett my alcohol before or after? These questions and more needed to be answered in the process of production.  Each perfumer will approach these questions in a different way which will then become their personal method.

Grey areas, uncertainty about the motions, when I’m learning something are just a pain in the ass for me, and so I try to eliminate as many of them as I possibly can by establishing a personal process early on. Of course I’m fully aware and prepared for alterations as I deepen my learning and become more sure about my actions.

One can either choose to use the hand-written approach and convert the drops to either volume or mass by hand using a calculator or there is the option of using an excel spreadsheet with the calculations built in which automates the process. For the moment, even though I know I could use the spreadsheet, I like to know that I have a firm understanding of the mechanics behind the automation and so doing it by hand is a welcome exercise that gives me confidence in my newbie abilities.

Trouble is, or rather the confusion arises, when I catch on that there are different mathematical routes one can take to arrive at the same perfumed end result! I had to choose how to set about working through it, a way that would be my way: was I going to choose a volumes (liquid or ml) approach or the drops or the mass(weight or grams) approach? Whichever route I chose I would need to convert the drops to a larger scale.

Until I get a real handle on the technical aspects of formulating, my approach or interaction with the process and the materials will always be tentative. This will take time. The math, the calculations used need to be exact and work every time, not because I’m a perfectionist (well, I am, sort of) but so I can forget about it.  This simple act frees me from doubt and worry so I can redirect my energies toward creating which is where the fun is!

This perfume making lesson is about knowing your formulation process cold so you can forget about it and get on with creating and having fun!