Odour Note, Pyramid Note and Fragrance Families

I’m writing this as much for myself as for you the beginning perfumer to bring clarity to form within the process of building a scent from the ground up.

I’ve been trying to reconcile in my head the difference between a note and a family of notes. Here’s why: sometimes when I research the two I find much overlapping and this creates confusion especially when perfumers freely interchange them.

But then I came to the conclusion that much of my confusion was caused by my inexperience. In trying to create better links throughout the site that do a better job at informing it’s been necessary to go through the older posts from 3 years ago and either re-write them or eliminate them altogether.

What’s becoming clearer is that a family of notes is quite distinct in having characteristics of its own that have been pre-established for the purpose of marketing the finished product; take Chyphre , Oriental or Fougere for example.

You might already have this figured out and not be struggling with this, if so just ignore this post, but for the purpose of clarity and organisation of the blog and as a way to establish my own process, I felt the need to create these distinctions in a way that I can better understand and faster create in my mind. 

All this to say that from now on I’ve decided to make a change to the order of the information and instead of Note and Family it will read PYRAMID NOTE and ODOUR NOTE simply because I believe that PERFUME FAMILY is a marketing term and, really, I don’t want to be concerned about that at this stage of evaluation as that classification is better left for the finished product. You’ll find all three available in the drop down menu under PERFUME PROCESS.

Of course, one should have a sensitivity for what one is creating all the way through the process and, yes, if you’re following a creative brief, having a solid understanding of these families helps guide you, but as I said, that’s not where I am yet and my focus is more on the notes.

What I have decided to do is write a page on the various families, which you’ll find here; a page on the various odour notes, which you’ll find here and and a page on the pyramid notes with some examples, which you’ll find here.

Please do keep in mind that these are only meant to be guidelines, suggestions, a possible path for you to follow. At the end of the day the responsibility is yours to make it your own and find your own way through the work.

Lessons In Perfumery 9

lessons in perfumery 9

One of the things that I’m learning from developing other skills like drawing and painting, is how important it is to free myself from the need to be perfect to create something, anything, when what really matters is the truth that even a creation that sucks is better than not having created anything at all.  Those other arts help me do that.

It’s imperative to find a way to freedom from perfection because this need to put perfection before presence kills more dreams than any dictator ever has.

Sad really.

Of course I get it, many good perfumery materials are expensive and the typical amateur perfumer has a limited budget and feels a great need to not waste a single drop of juice and create something perfect the first go.


Even if success does happen right away, not an impossibility, what is more important is if we are able to reproduce that success. If we are not we’re screwed. Not only but perfection is in direct opposition to the terms beginner, or perfumer in training, student, apprentice, or amateur. We have effectively built ourselves a great prison of procrastination leaving it impossible to be what we are, absolute beginners. There will never be another time for us to be free to make mistakes as when we are beginners, and yet we hastily want to cash in those chips for perfection. We must be free. We must leave room for serious and frequent mess ups it’s the only way out and forward.

This is why being present is so important. For each one of us it will look like something different. For me it means, sitting down every day – typically in the winter this means starting a fire in a room that is 14° – of every week to do scent evaluations which gets me closer to the insights, the happy coincidences, the intuiting possible accords which in turn gets me closer to a scent that I like, that works, that’s in line with an original vision or plan.

There’s no way around it, plan to be present every day for your scent encounters and it will be like taking your vitamin C and eating lots of fruit during the winter time, it won’t immunise you from a cold or the flu, but it’s good insurance that you’ll get stuff done and move forward in your learning.

Have a wonderful week,


2016 A Year In Review

2016 A Year In Review

Where to begin?

Probably the biggest discovery is that it was the first year in decades that I hadn’t made any goals for myself – neither mentally nor written. Yikes! And as a result I was all over the map last year.

So what really happened in 2016? Here’s the overview in bullet points:

  • Brain Pickings – this has got to be the best site I was led to read. It’s written by the very talented Maria Popova who describes herself as a reader, writer, interestingness hunter-gatherer, and curious mind at large. I have learned so much in the few short months that I’ve subscribed and what she writes moves me to the point where I donate monthly because it is clearly written with love. The post that got me hooked on Brain Pickings is one where she wrote a review of the book How To Love by Thich Nhat Hanh and the quote is “…The most precious inheritance that parents can give their children is their own happiness.” I always feel that every minute reading her posts is time well spent, and that’s a rarity these days online.
  • Which leads me to one of the highlights of the year, that I became a grandmother! This put centre stage for me the importance of curating my own happiness to lighten not only my daughter’s life but that of my granddaughter. Her birth urged me to make my own happiness a serious priority not as a point of selfishness but of love.
  • I allowed things to fallow and go untended on purpose.
  • I moved the blog from a paid WordPress hosting back to the free WordPress platform. Breathing room. Less pressure.
  • I took a hard look at teaching ESL and am convinced this type of setting is not the right one for me but that I do love to teach and share. Doesn’t totally answer all my questions but it does shine some light. Clarity is a wonderful thing.
  • I invested in a load of new raw materials, mainly aroma chemicals, to add to my olfactive library.
  • I didn’t do as much blending as I wanted to do which is a bummer so I gave myself a challenge making it necessary to blend, a lot, faster…
  • I signed myself up for the town’s Christmas market and made my very first fragrances to sell and sold them! More on that in another post.

I figured I could either waste time flogging myself for time “wasted”, stagnant stats and traction lost (is anything ever lost?) or I could get back to writing about making scents and making sense of scents, my way. I opted for the latter.

If nothing else I learned that I am allowed to be human, make mistakes, not have all the answers and yes, bugger things up a bit every now and then.

I hope you join me Monday as I start off the week with an evaluation of Frankincense essential oil.

Cheers and love!


A Vineyard Lies Fallow

A vineyard lies fallow


Fallow: adjective

The definition of fallow is inactive.

A piece of land that is normally used for farming but that is left with no crops on it for a season in order to let it recover its fertility is an example of land that would be described as fallow.

from yourdictionary.com

Back in the fall I passed by a family owned vineyard that had been left unattended all year. During our walks both my husband and I wondered what was going on. Then one day I saw them cutting the vines waaaay back! Of course I asked them why, and with deep sadness they shared that circumstances were making it impossible for them to take care of everything in their lives and the vineyard too so they had to let it go fallow not knowing when, if ever, they would have the opportunity to cultivate it again. And so there it remains, waiting. Not dead, or wounded, just waiting for the right time, the right mix of circumstances or people to bring it back to life. Such has been my personal journey in 2016 which of course included the blog.

It was a mistake for me to stop writing the blog for a year, man was I wrong about that. But life is full of mistakes. The question remained: now that I had the courage to admit I screwed up, what next?

It was the thinking of the doing that kept tripping me up!

There was endless hand-wringing, soul-struggling and fighing with myself in these past twelve months trying to decide first whether to kill the blog, then when I finally did, whether to start it up again, and once deciding, the agony was what to write, and what would my readers think of me, how would I be judged. That was probably the biggest obstacle I had to overcome before writing even one word on paper. This endless dialogue of course kept up the procrastination game. It felt necessary at first to offer a thousand apologies but in the end all I have to offer is myself and this me needed the time away to reflect on many things. In hindsight, sure it would have been better (read: less humiliating, fearful, embarasing, humbling) not to have declared I was ending the blog but there are never any clearly defined pathways to becoming our best self and so it seems I needed this “mistake” to kick me into a year of fallow which has allowed my vision to become clearer and new projects to become more fertile and the old ones I no longer needed to weaken and fall away.

So here I am. Back. Again. Perhaps even a bit wiser and kinder, especially to myself. I’ve discovered I’m allowed.

You’ll notice that the new image format is simpler. This affords me more time to focus on writing than spending untold hours in Photoshop and Illustrator. It was important to streamline the process if I was to keep the blog going. Beyond that I’ve kept things the same with the target of three posts a week, mostly focused on olfactive evaluations of my growing scent library of aroma chemicals, naturals and tinctures.

There are some exciting, new projects on the horizon to help you and me on our journey to becoming a perfumer, but I’ll share those in the right time. How could I not have new things to share as we are all in an ever expanding journey of self-discovery.

Not everything is perfect with the blog, I’m at odds with this last paragraph, for instance; the main images aren’t exactly on point but I kinda like them, this image for instance is not what I would have wanted, but at the end of the day these aren’t the important things. What is important is that I got this post out and have started back again. Yeah to that!

Thank you for sticking around it means a lot 🙂


Coming Home


Well, I’m finally back and thought it only fair to let you know what the heck’s been going on around here.

Part of my silence has been due to me trying to figure out what, if anything all, to do with this blog. But more honestly it’s been about deciding if I wanted to share anything in writing at all. Because, let’s be honest, we don’t always feel like sharing. But it was about more than that.

When I first started out on the path to perfume making three years ago it was with a dream to turn my hobby into a business in some way shape or form. In time after a harsh reality check came the acceptance of the enormous cost of that dream be that logistical, bureaucratic, or financial living here in Italy. It became painfully clear that perfumery was not going to become a career path for me and I really struggled with that truth.

But, making perfumes has been, and still is, important to me.

A lot has come out of letting that desired outcome go, a much more important awareness in my opinion, the discovery of simply making things, exploring simply for the joy of exploration, to create in as many forms and mediums as one is attracted to and can afford. And that’s a lot when you think of what can be done with the humble pen and paper! Calligraphy, photography, watercolour, drawing. These are the things that are calling to me to come out and play.

So, what about perfumery then? What about the evaluations, where do they fit in? And that’s what’s been bothering me. Well more like bothered, impatient and curious at the same time. Has life really led me on this wonderful olfactive journey that has cost a small fortune only to abandon it just because it doesn’t have business potential? Give it up? Give away all my olfactive treasures that I have so lovingly diluted and aged for three years? No. I couldn’t accept that as the end.

Sometimes it’s hard to let a dream go or allow it to morph into something better, more well suited to who you are now.

And it was clear that I had to let the dream go of turning this into a career. With that came the understanding that I didn’t have to let go of the art form; it could still be a very important part of my creative life.

Being someone who needs an objective and having grown up and lived in North America for most of my life I assumed without question that a financial objective was the only or the most important objective to aspire to when choosing to do something, anything. I was wrong.

There is a delicious satisfaction that bubbles up from deep within when I make my mark either as words, as scribbles on a page, or as an olfactive signature. Whether that mark is the perfect S that my eye, hand and nib have formed in perfect harmony on the page or my first blind contour drawing or being outside, shy, tentative afraid even to make a mark with my watercolours, brush and blank paper because painting plein air is so intimidating! That is until I catch a whiff of Larch resin on the crisp autumn breeze from somewhere in the distance. Then another deep breath as I fill my lungs with its chemistry, its magic and mystery and so my courage begins to expand equally and I make a stroke with the brush. This sort of exploration and discovery of self has its own rewards, in unexpected, and often immeasurable ways.

Yes, the evaluations do take a lot of time to do it right, but I’ve decided to continue doing them, I’m not even sure why, I trust the answer will reveal itself in time.

I entertained the idea of doing workshops of putting together a course on YouTube or something like that, but honestly, I don’t feel that to be my contribution. I’d like to continue giving through these posts, with my particular brand of evaluating that hopefully stirs you to even greater discoveries.

Perhaps, when it comes to perfume making, doing the evaluations and sharing my own particular insights with you is what I’m meant to give and share with the world and not a finished perfume. And perhaps what’s important about perfumery in my life is that it’s a vital connection between my brain and the world around me and that it makes me happy.

I have never been comfortable with ambiguity but in the last few months I’ve had to come to terms with it through perfumery and deciding if and how it would continue to be a part of my life. I still don’t know for sure what the answer is and after months of soul searching I’ve come to the conclusion that that’s okay.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for your patience during the silence and on Monday I will be back with a new evaluation.

Wishing you a wonderful day!





Too Hot!


It’s too hot and I can’t think! Here in the Alps temperatures are hitting the 40s! Really?!

I do not do my best work when it’s hot. I drag my feet, I procrastinate, it’s really not a pretty sight. So I’m learning to just flow with it, it’s my down time and things work better when I respect this rhythm.  I am at my best, more energetic, most productive when it’s raining — go figure — and there’s none of that in sight for at least a week!

Today I’m working on the introduction to the aroma chemistry series and it’s taking a lot of energy just to gather my thoughts into some semblance of order to produce what I want, so I’m taking it slower than I usually would and as a result the intro just isn’t ready yet. Sometime next week is my goal.

Wishing you all a marvellous, hot weekend!





Hope you’ve all been well, have taken care of yourselves and those you love and that you have a smile on your face today :).

It’s a holiday here, Republic Day, in Italy and I’ve been itching to get my fingers on the keyboard but the kitchen was a nightmare — I could almost hear it screaming for my attention “!em naelc”. And that is how I spent yesterday and today.

Gotta be honest…I’ve done little to no evaluations these past months, so in some regards I feel like I’m starting from scratch. There’s a lot of ground to cover as I still have two modules of the course to complete as well as finish my final product by October AND there will be my daughter’s wedding in the middle there as well as friends and family flying in from all over the place. Phew!

The first post will be out tomorrow but I thought I’d let you know that I am back with a very brief overview of what I’ve got planned for June. What I’m mainly going to do is alternate between naturals and synthetics; I need some more time to get back on track with the tinctures because honestly I have to re-acquaint myself with what I’ve got brewing in the cupboard! We’ll get to that later.

Here’s a bit of what to expect  this month:

Ledon (Florihana), Sweet Gale (Hermitage), Cis Jasmone 10% (Hermitage), Nerol 10% (Hermitage), Cypress (from the herbal shop in town), Nookta Tree (Florihana), HydroxycitronellOL (Hermitage), Nerol 2% (Hermitage)

Now…to get back to working on the post for tomorrow. Have a fantastic day!