perfume making lesson 6


Perfume making: lesson 6 when you’re done experimenting or formulating for the day, bloody well, stop! Not one more drop, no, not right after this last ingredient, leave your curiosity exactly where it is drop it and leave.  Why? Because if you push the process (experience speaking) what usually ends up happening is a mess. Everyone has their own limits and you, the perfumer, are going to have to find yours.

I typically start at 8:30/9am and go till around 5 or 6pm. But there are times when I’m just so inspired by a new combination and I want to rush off in sorts of olfactive directions and that kind of creative energy (in me at least) needs discipline.

So, the other day when I told myself I’d call it quits and didn’t, “just one more ingredient!” I ended up adding Neroli eo to my Iris accord instead of to the cologne vials where I should have added it!

The next morning I had to reformulate the whole lot from scratch!  And from that moment I have made it a rule that whenever I get the nudge to stop that I stop and don’t push myself beyond my limitations because of impatience.  Tiredness in my case makes me do stupid things and it’s only lately that I recognise it as exhaustion.

It may not seem like much but being in a studio, all day, smelling chemical compounds even if they’re natural and even if you love it, does have an effect on you after a while and that effect needs to be taken into account.  It’s different for every perfumer, some reach it sooner, others have a higher tolerance, and maybe the tolerance level builds after years of being exposed to concentrated smells, but they exist.

So to make sure you keep the love intact and don’t burn out. Set boundaries. Go out and o other stuff completely unrelated to perfumes and live life!





single note evaluations


Part of the fundamental work to be completed for the perfumery course are the weekly single note evaluations that I have to do of each and every one of the perfume ingredients I have.

Now, apart  from training the nose and the brain to create associations and memorize different, single odours, this exercise is also a building block of great importance when it comes to formulating.   This I figured out while trolling the Basenotes DIY Forum and it has to do with timing.

Basically, they explained it thus: let’s say you’ve got a fabulous essential oil but you can’t stand the top note it expresses so you’d like to “hide” it behind another.  What you do is choose another that lasts about as long as the unpleasant top note aspect of your essential oil and by the time the favourable odour ends the more pleasant aspects of your chosen note can then make its entrance.

Cool, huh?  If you’re interested you can find the link to the thread here.

This week I’m going to be evaluating Oakwood concrete, Davana eo, Cognac, white eo, and Elemi eo.  I was in heaven when I saw that Hermitage Oils started carrying Oakwood, I ordered 2 bottles!  Typical.

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.