lessons in perfumery #3


It’s the first day of Autumn as I write this (happy Autumn!) and here’s something key I’m learning: very, very, very important to have all raw materials at the same strength! Okay, save the odd ultra diffusive naturals (Galbanum), Nature IDs (Acetic Acid) and synthetics (Safraleine) for example.

When I first started with this adventure I read that the best, well the most useful, dilution is 10%, and while after two years I can’t argue with that because I evaluate best at high dilutions (e.g. 1% – 3%, that’s just my nose) 10% suited me fine.

Until…I had to move to formulating. The thing is when you formulate you dilute down not up, what I mean is, it is assumed your raw materials (other than your absolutes, synthetics and Nature IDs) are at full strength – 20%, 25%, 30%, 100% – whatever you have established as the perfumer. Therefore, I was facing a gap when wanting to make a perfume extrait. Yikes!  What now? Am I going to have to go back and re-jig all my raw materials???

What I didn’t realize is that the 10% dilutions are really only for evaluation and testing purposes but that when you move from trial to formula you are going to use your essential oils at 100% and your absolutes at extrait strength. Lightbulb moment! So when this batch of 10% dilutions finishes I’m going to make sure all of my absolutes are at my chosen extrait strength.

The interesting thing in perfumery is, you won’t get it till you gotta use it!  Said another way: you won’t have it figured out until you establish it as a process. When you can repeat it exactly again and again and again, then it works, then you have your process. Until then everything is pure theory and you can’t make perfumes with theory.

Besides that, we just came back from a two week holiday in Provence where I visited the Perfume Museum in Grasse, so lots to share in the next few weeks.  Hope you had a wonderful summer!


an exercise in patience

Today I diluted 35 essential oils, absolutes and concretes that I had sitting waiting for a new shipment of bottles and alcohol. Phew!

Apart from being surrounded by wave after wave of new olfactive impressions for my brain and riding a roller coaster of images that the scents conjured I was struck by something that I’m sure they would teach you in a face-to-face class room setting but that I had to figure out for myself and that is how very important it is to not be in a hurry when working with raw materials.

While measuring out the grams on the scale the mind wanders…it flits to things still to do on the to do list, things I said to LV over the weekend, my daughter’s life, people I haven’t gotten back to yet, how far I feel I’m behind still in my learning, comparing my progress to other perfumers and on and on.  And as these thoughts raced I noticed so did the drops flowing out of my pipette!  The moment I slowed down my thoughts and breathed into the moment, the more centred I became and relaxed in the exercise of simply measuring out and doing a precise job of it.

I bring it up because to me the energy with which we do anything has an impact on the final outcome, it is important; recognising the energy I was expelling in that moment and then making the necessary modifications to my thoughts and my breathing is as important to the art of perfumery as learning the individual notes.