how to become a master perfumer


In contemplating how to become a master perfumer, what makes one a master perfumer, I’ve been turning over the quotable often in my mind since coming on this path: “The master has failed more times than the beginner has ever tried.” by Stephen McCranie. This quote peeps at me from a post-it that is permanently plastered on my Mac.

Lately I’ve been giving much thought to these words because I’m heading into building and rebuilding accords and mixing them together as I work toward my final perfume project for next year.

Like most people when learning something new, criticism tends to become the breakfast du jour, the judgments abound and they’re rarely positive while my creations get the harsh, eagle-eye as I unconsciously compare them to the life work of perfume masters like Edmond Roudnistka or Germaine Cellier.

Think of a master potter or a master painter, storyteller, weaver or whatever and in our heads we think of perfect creatures, beings not of this world, high above us who never have to learn or fail at anything anymore because they’re masters. But the truth is to become a master and to continue to remain a master of anything means that at one time failure was par for the course. What happens is that as the beginner grows in ability they fail less and less at the same thing, at least that’s the understanding I’m slowly coming to.

Failing means we picked up the clay threw it on the wheel and made something, even if it was crap, we made something. It means having told many a story where more people fell asleep or walked away than were mesmerised, enthralled or motivated. It means writing many a blog post that get forgotten or ignored rather than shared, loved or pondered…at least in the beginning.  But does that mean we stop?

Becoming a master means continuing, unceasingly, to do whatever it is you want to master.

For me, becoming a master perfumer means going into the studio every, single day and evaluating at least one perfume ingredient.  Being a beginner perfumer means becoming really comfortable screwing up a whole composition that has matured for months with one single drop too many. Again. And again. And again. Every. Single. Day. I face that possibility as my pipette hovers uncertainly over the beaker. Being a beginner perfumer means still mistaking Peppermint for Spearmint in a blind test…damnit!…and still wanting to do it again the next day fully aware that I am nowhere near another master perfumer’s ability, but, that I am closing my personal gap between being a beginner and being a master.

And that can only be achieved if I pick up the smelling strip every single day and make the necessary connections in my brain by challenging it to build new olfactive roads between it and my nose.

Today, whatever it is you’re committing yourself to I applaud your courage, dedication and spirit. Every. Single. Day.



Watercolour credit: I’m not sure who the artist is so if it’s yours, send me an email and I’ll add credit here.