Wednesday, December 2, 2009

How Long Should A Men's Cologne Last?

The word is "tenacity." It refers to the duration of a fragrance's smell. A tenacious perfume lasts and lasts, for hours perhaps. A perfume that lacks tenacity may be "unsmellable" after an hour or two. Manama is a good example of a perfume that has wonderful tenacity. From your own experience buying and using perfume you could probably name more than one heavily advertised perfume entirely lacking in tenacity.

Tenacity is not always desirable. In bath products it's nice to enjoy the fragrance released by water in a shower gel. But is that the aroma you want lingering on your body all day?

Even more so for dish washing detergents. It's nice to open the dishwasher and find a fresh, pleasant odor. But do you really want your dishes to be perfumed?

Now what about men's colognes?

When I was developing Blackberry I was concerned that it lacked tenacity. (It does.) Toxic, my "modern art" men's fragrance, shares this quality, or "defect" if you will. I've even had people point this out to me.

Then one day I was talking to a friend about fragrance. He said he had long favored Eau Sauvage (1966) created for Christian Dior by perfumer Edmond Roudnitska. My friend then added, "it doesn't last very long." Roudnitska is considered one of the all time greats in perfumery so this comment got me thinking.

How long do we want a men's cologne to last? Is tenacity always a virtue? Friends who know me know I have an almost anti-fragrance attitude toward men's colognes at times, sometimes because a man has drenched himself with it; sometimes because I hate the overpowering sweet, citrus aroma that can hang so heavily in the air, even in modest use. That hateful aroma can fill a room and make me want to gag and I can only think the man is wearing it because a woman of simple, unsophisticated tastes bought it for him, to make him smell more sophisticated!

Some of the men's colognes I truly hate have lots and lots of tenacity. And they would be far more pleasant if they did not.

So I've been thinking of the "mechanics" of men's cologne and why a man would want to use it in the first place. I think sometimes that men don't think much about fragrance unless the fragrance is from food. Red meat on the barbecue. But men DO like to freshen up in the morning -- the shave ... the shower ... deodorant ... maybe a splash of aftershave. And that, I think, is where men's fragrances of LOW tenacity fit in perfectly.

Of course I'm thinking of my own lifestyle and my own men's fragrances, Toxic and Blackberry, but I suspect that Eau Sauvage fits into the same category, as do the older classics, Mennen's Skin Bracer and Shulton's Old Spice.

The object wasn't to "perfume" a man all day long. It was simply to give him a nice "wake up" jolt in the morning and any lingering fragrance was light and pleasant -- too light to offend. In short, they freshen you up and then disappear, exactly as they were intended.

So having recalibrated my thinking about men's fragrances, I'm no longer embarrassed over the lack of tenacity shown by both Toxic and Blackberry. Do you really want to smell "toxic" all day? Of course not! And Blackberry too, because of its initial intensity. No, you would want only a light, lingering note -- exactly what it delivers.

So now I can go out and sell my stuff without shame, embarrassment or a sense of failure. Now the pitch -- certain to work with those who have NOT ready this article -- is that these fragrances for men work exactly as good men's fragrances SHOULD work. Which is to say they should give the user -- the man -- a jolt of pleasure in the morning WITHOUT offending his co-workers. Even Toxic, for all its ominous sounding name, delivers on that promise.

But here's a "PS" that you may find enlightening. The first men's fragrance that I marketed (quite successfully, although I did not create the formula myself) was wonderfully tenacious. And the men who loved it were men who worked outdoors, doing physical work. THAT fragrance (which I no longer sell) was great for its ability to rise above a modest level of body odor. Desk guys -- artists and executives -- don't have this need.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Try, Try Again

When two knowledgeable friends gave me the thumbs up on "Manama", I felt perhaps I had "arrived," finally reaching the stage where my fragrances were actually admired. This made me want to abandon or rework some of my former efforts, one in particular that for now I'll just call "G".

"G" was a fragrance that I had never felt was really finished. There had been some technical problems. First I thought I had overcome them. Later I realized I had not. But I had reached a point where I had stopped working on "G" and was just going to let it be so I could get started on a fresh project.

Now I began to attack "G" again and soon I had made a dramatic improvement by leaving out about one third of its original ingredients, and swapping around a few others. Now I liked it a whole lot better.

So after giving a bottle to my wife (with no particular urging to use it), I put the "G" project back on the back burner, out of sight, out of mind. Actually I was delighted that she had started using "Manama" -- unprompted -- and I loved the way "Manama" softly lingered on her from morning to afternoon. (Most fragrances you buy at the mall won't do that!) Then last weekend I noticed she was using "G." "G" is now a lighter fragrance, quite contemporary, and yes, I did enjoy standing next to her when she was wearing it.

This went on for two days. My nose was evaluating. It was good but, by Sunday evening, it struck me once again that it still could be better. The fragrance had more clarity now and because of that clarity I could "smell" something that wasn't there. So I had more work to do. It was on the "good" side of mediocre but with additional work, I felt it could be a classic. So today I'm back at the drawing board, not ripping it apart but trying to feel what it needs to take if from "good" to "excellent."

The reason I tell you all this is simple. If you want to grow as a perfumer, you have to strive for excellence. Excellence comes at a high cost. Before you can expect to achieve excellence you have to "just get out there and do it." You have to start making perfume. You have to overcome the fear of putting your creation out there where it will be criticized -- or, still worse, totally ignored. You have to create bench marks that will give you a standard on which to improve.

When I created "Incantation," my first perfume, I thought I was brilliant. I thought others would praise my work, I thought I was on my way to becoming celebrity perfumer. My wife gave it a polite reception but wasn't reaching for it in the morning. Friends who I gave it to were polite in their comments, but I never noticed them wearing it. In time I realized that I still had a long way to go and today, while I still kept a few bottles of "Incantation" around and give it an occasional sniff to remind myself of how crude and inept my first efforts were, today I know the difference.

Yes, when you create something you get very involved with it and it is hard to see it as others would see it. If your goal is to create something others will enjoy you need to be able to see through their eyes.

For me that has meant producing -- for it you don't produce, there is nothing to critique -- and then putting a bit of time between yourself and your creation, time that allows you to see it more how others are seeing it. And time for you to see it through a fresh nose -- to smell without being swayed by what you expect to smell or hope to smell but rather what you really DO smell, just as if this fragrance had nothing to do with you.

To grow as a perfumer you have to keep creating, even if some of what you create it junk. But you also have to develop the ability to stand back and recognize that which is junk and that which has potential -- and then keep working on those themes that have potential until they rise from "good" to "excellent."

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Steps In Making A New Perfume

There is much interest on the internet in making perfume. There are those websites that urge you to "save money" by making your own perfume; there are those websites that encourage you to "mix oils" to make your own perfume, and there may be other encouragements for you to make your own perfume. I have no argument with any of them.

But I will point out that NONE (with the exception of the PerfumersWorld home study course which I sell) will teach you perfumery in the sense of commercial perfumery -- the art of making fragrances such as are found in drugstores, department stores, and at leading mass merchants. High end niche perfumeries too. In fact, many of the "how to make your own perfume" websites on the internet website discount the artistry and skill of perfumers who have spend a lifetime in the industry and whose training has introduced them to, and taught them to use, thousands of aroma materials. In spite of what some may tell you, making a credible perfume is not simple.

Let's face it. If we are making perfume "part time," no matter how creative we may be and no matter how well developed our noses may be, and ignoring the fact that we may succeed in creating a handful of really great fragrances (or perhaps just two or three in a lifetime) we are a long way from possessing the skills -- and noses -- of the masters, the full time professionals. This need not stop us from enjoying what we do, or profiting from it.

The reason for this lengthy introduction is simply this. I get calls and emails from people who want me to create fragrances for them. Sometimes it is an "anything will do because we have a market now" request. Sometimes it is a request for "original" perfume that (closely) matches a well known commercial fragrance. If the person has a realistic budget and a realistic understanding of what is involved, and is contemplating a realistic order, I can render assistance by guiding them to an appropriate private label service.

But more frequently the initial proposed "order" is for 100 or fewer bottles, with the bottles themselves being of an original design. And of course they are needed in just a month or two. I can only say, "Sorry, I can't help."

What frustrates me is that if the person making the request had done their homework, I might have been able to give them some assistance. What doubly frustrates me is that the research they should have done is laid out for them in two books I have written on the subject, explaining what steps must be taken to accomplish the goal of "having your own perfume" and HOW to carry out each of these steps. (Book 1) (Book 2)

In a recent burst of frustration after going round and round with an "assistant to a celebrity," I wrote up a Perfumers Developer's Checklist which simply outlines the steps involved in creating a perfume.

For the person who has never read Book 1 or Book 2, the checklist will seem overwhelming -- too many decisions to make. But the Checklist itself urges you to first read either Book 1 or Book 2. After that, the Checklist becomes simple because you now have a sense of what you can do practically on your budget and what you cannot expect. Thus you avoid the frustrating conclusion that putting out a new perfume is too complicated when, in fact, it is not.

The point of Book 1 and Book 2 is to help you succeed ... on your budget ... without getting bogged down in attempting to achieve that which is neither practical or affordable.

Even as I began to write up the Checklist I sensed that those for whom it was written would probably ignore it. It will probably gather dust on my hard drive. But I can tell you this. When someone comes to me with a serious inquiry about having a fragrance produced for them, if they have not done their homework by reading Book 1 or Book 2, I sure am going to use the Checklist -- to complicate their lives -- unless they start, right up front, by talking budget ... and what part of that budget they've budgeted for me.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

When is a perfume finished?

If you are developing a perfume to sell, at some point you have to stop developing and start selling. Or do you? Can you continue to develop your fragrance AFTER you've started to sell it?

I recently introduced a fragrance I'd been working on since last April. ("Manama", at At this point it was finished. Now, in my mind, the only work to be done is to produce it in a larger quantity (which I am doing now) and sell it. Simple.

But life isn't always so simple, not when you have an open mind and take seriously helpful suggestions from knowledgeable friends whose feedback just MIGHT guide you toward IMPROVING a fragrance you consider quite good, even when these respected "coaches" AGREE that you have put together a really nice fragrance -- perhaps the best you've ever done. (I shared this feeling they had about Manama.)

I've done this before -- with Blackberry ( even AFTER it was finished. I tested some ideas that were given to me and, while I respected them, they were rejected because I liked Blackberry just the way it was -- and I still do.

My post introduction experiments with Manama were interesting, educational, and food for thought for future projects. But the Manama formula has stayed the way it was on the day I pronounced it "finished."

It may come as news to some, but long lived, famous fragrances have been tinkered with over the years. this happens for several reasons. The first and most urgent is when a traditional raw material falls under suspicion (rightly or wrongly) and its use becomes restricted (or politically incorrect.) A substitute is now called for that can be used in such a way that the odor impression of the fragrance is unchanged.

A second reason for tinkering with a proven formula would be when one or more ingredients becomes prohibitively costly -- or simply unavailable in the quantity needed. The perfumer turns to the research chemist in the hopes of obtaining a less expensive, more available, synthetic substitute with the result often being the salvation of an endangered species while the product suffers only the slightest quality downgrade, so slight that even the most sensitive noses would be unlikely to notice the difference.

Finally there is the tweaking of a formula to bring it "up to date," to modify it to meet contemporary tastes and trends. This was the reason for the suggestions I received on Manama. A friend, who is enthusiastic about very modern fragrances that use the latest synthetics from research chemistry, suggested a few substitutions that might give Manama more of a state-of-the-art, cutting edge, feeling.

I would have been an arrogant fool NOT to have experimented with these suggestions. I did and I experienced the effect he had described to me. But I didn't make the changes. Not to Manama. I prefer this fragrance just the way it is.

But, going forward, I have already begun to use some of these ideas, and some new raw materials I had not encountered before, in my work to finalize ANOTHER fragrance I'm working on. And, as a result of these ideas and materials, this other fragrance is showing improvement. Very nice improvement.

Finally there is a new fragrance on my drawing board I'm developing to impress a particular person who has a particular market in mind. The suggestions and aroma materials I rejected for Manama will be the STARTING point of this new fragrance.

Yes, you can keep developing a fragrance AFTER you've started to sell it. The results might be a subtle improvement -- or they might be a whole new fragrance.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Do you REALLY want to know how to make perfume?

I started a new perfume in April (2009) and just produced a small batch of the final result last night -- three months later. Some samples of this fragrance in its not quite final form were tossed into my Sample Bag at the end of June. Hopefully I'll have an ad ready for it by mid-August and the first bottles ready to sell in September. I won't tell you the name in case I change it at the last minute but you'll be able to guess my working title if you purchase the Sample Bag. It's the fragrance that has only one sample.

Looking at the finished result (see the photo at the right), I find myself fascinated by the aesthetics of the golden color of the compound -- the "juice" as perfumers would call it. Once I've added the alcohol, it will take on a much lighter coloring but still have a golden tone to it, thanks to the particular materials I used.

This fragrance came together rather quickly in "outline" form. (I sketch my perfume outlines, for the most part, with the 25 aroma bases included in the PerfumersWorld Foundation Course.) Then, after I had my outline, the slow and sometimes painfully frustrating work of making the modifications and decorations began. Those who tell you that 95 percent of the time you spend on a perfume go into the final few adjustments speak the truth.

The purpose of this blog is twofold. First, I want to make you aware of my fragrances which I sell at my Frank Bush online store. But it's more likely you are reading this blog because you have an interest in making perfume yourself and the second purpose of this blog is to encourage you in that interest. Yes, you can learn perfumery and make your own perfumes -- to sell, if that's what you want. And I'd like to help you. But I get frustrated at times (and so I'm venting a bit here) because too many people who ask me how to make perfume seem to think this is knowledge I can reveal to them in an email, or even a tweet.

Learning to make perfume requires study, discipline, materials, and a qualified teacher. It requires a commitment of years (not minutes). It's true that, as a student, you can often produce some gratifying results in a short period of time -- sometimes in just a few days or weeks. But at that point, unless you develop a passion for perfumery -- a desire to explore the world of aromatic substances and how they might be blended together -- you are a bit like the weekend painter hobbyist who struggles to copy the teacher's work, or even paints by the numbers. But at least these would-be artists are working with paint.

The most frustrating cases to me are those who say they want to make perfume but, when you tell them exactly how to get started (with materials and lessons -- lessons that require WORK!) they just ask the same question over again without taking the first step themselves. It's like somebody saying they want to play hockey yet they won't buy a pair of skates.

Last night I started a new perfume project. I have a theme. I want to play around with some aroma materials to see if I can find a favorable starting point. The theme was suggested to me by someone in another country and she will be among the first to receive a sample when it gets close to being finished.

How do I get started on a new fragrance? In this case I have an "idea," I have some "research," and my challenge is to create a fragrance that will please a select group of women who have never heard of me, who have never seen this blog, and who have never been exposed to my ideas on fragrance creation.

I love the challenge. The fragrance I finished yesterday is my new favorite. But the one I started yesterday has me really excited.

If you can feel that excitement over aroma and if you can commit yourself to hours of study and more hours of experimentation and learning, I really do encourage you to take up the study of perfumery yourself. You'll find all the resources you need to get started in the PerfumersWorld Foundation Course. This is what got me started in perfumery and the British perfumer who created this home study course has been a most wonderful mentor.

Monday, June 22, 2009

And then we wait

A well known photographer was asked how he got the light "just right" in his scenics. His answer was, "I wait." Getting your perfume "just right" involves waiting too.

We've all had the experience where, for one reason or another, we've been pressured to rush our fragrance into bottles and into the hands of a customer. Some things you can rush. You can work longer hours (up to 24 each day), you can bring people in to help you, you can purchase equipment to automate filling. But you can't rush the chemistry that allows ingredients to blend together and bring the fragrance to perfection. This requires time, and waiting.

Recently I was presented with several examples of this need to wait -- and the client's impatience to receive the finished perfume. In the first example, a person acting as a middleman in a "deal" inquired about getting a private label fragrance. We went over the issues: custom or stock bottle, custom or stock fragrance, time considerations, etc. I thought we had an understanding and passed this person on to a friend who had, at hand, all that was needed.

Then the fun began. Suddenly stock bottles weren't good enough, a custom design would be required. The existing fragrance compound that was immediately available wasn't good enough and a new fragrance would have to be created. And all of this had to be done in ... a couple of weeks! In spite of the coaching, the client had no understanding of what was involved in creating a new perfume. Their planning made no sense.

Less than two weeks later I had a similar experience. This time it was someone else's client. A perfume had been accepted; an order had been placed. But it was needed in a week or two. What was the perfumer to do? The perfumer KNEW that the perfume needed more time to blend to perfection. But, it the perfume wasn't delivered as requested, the order would be lost.

For anyone who hasn't encountered it yet, in the business world being pushy is considered a virtue -- a sign that you care -- that you understand that you can make things happen faster by being outspoken and aggressive. At times this can be effective. At times it can be essential. But when the pushy, client side contact DOES NOT UNDERSTAND the mechanics of making perfume, does not understand of what can be rushed and what cannot, both sides quickly become losers.

Agreeing to give the client less than your best makes you a loser. Your reputation as an artist suffers. Pushing the perfumer to deliver what should not yet be delivered makes the client a loser, for the client is paying the full price for that which is not of full quality.

Proper planning will generally eliminate the problem. There are times when YOU have to take charge and set the schedule yourself and, if it doesn't work for the client, it may be more profitable to you in the long run ... just to walk away.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The costs involved in making your own perfume

The bottle on the right is 2.5 liters of PEA, the bottle next to it is about 10 grams.

Everyone knows that when you buy a bottle of perfume at retail, most of what you are paying goes into advertising expense and profit. The bottle and packaging have SOME costs associated with them but the fragrance itself? Why THAT costs almost nothing! That is, if you are a BIG perfume company.

I recently had the opportunity to discuss costs with a friend and business associate who is also the source of my own perfumery raw materials. I'm going to speak a little in general terms here as some of what I'm writing about is a bit confidential. And also, I don't want to destroy the "mystique" of perfume which is what helps us all make money.

I know from personal experience that it is not easy to find suppliers who will sell the raw materials of perfumery in small quantities to people like myself. For example, if I want Lyral -- a beautiful lily of the valley aroma chemical made by IFF in New Jersey -- I can buy it directly from IFF at a very good price ... if I am willing to take a DRUM.

But Lyral may be only one of 100 raw materials I need. My office doesn't have room for 100 DRUMS of aroma chemicals, nor do I have the MONEY to buy that much, nor would I have the equipment necessary to TRANSFER chemicals out of drums and into smaller containers.

Realistically, when I am working on a new fragrance, I might only want 20 or 30 GRAMS of each aroma material I am using, which would be a "sample" quantity for a company like IFF. The big fragrance companies WILL send samples to customers -- "customers" meaning companies that will ultimately buy by the drum. And -- irony -- speaking to a chemist for a major U.S. household products company, he complained that when his company made a sample request, the fragrance houses sent them a LARGER sample than they really wanted because their need in developing a product wasn't much bigger than my own but, while I hoard any aroma materials I can get my hands on, this giant company DOES NOT keep a "library" of fragrances and has to DISPOSE of what is left over from their experiments using VERY STRICT AND EXPENSIVE techniques to safeguard the environment.

So back to making perfume. In need of smaller quantities of aroma materials, I have a limited choice of sources. And to get what I need, I have to go to a source who buys from ANOTHER source who may buy from a THIRD source who buys it directly from the manufacturer or processor.

Let me do that again, in reverses. The big company like IFF sells a drum to a smaller company like Vigon (in reality Vigon stocks the Givaudan line) who sell by the KILO and (this is speculation on my part) sell to a smaller operation like The Good Scents Company, who will then sell in an every smaller quantity to people like myself.

But lets now consider the costs. When Estee Lauder or Coty makes a fragrance they are buying "direct from the factory" at the lowest cost possible. They probably even negotiate a LOWER than list price based on the size of their order.

But when I buy aroma materials, they go through a series of middlemen before they reach me. At each there are repackaging expenses and profit to be taken out. Thus at each level the cost per kilo ... or per gram ... increases so that when I finally place my very small order (compared to those ordering by the drum!) I am going to pay a good deal more per gram or kilo than a larger company would pay, but this cost, for me, is still "workable."

So the materials I use in my perfumes COST ME MORE than they would cost Estee Lauder or Coty. Fortunately ALCOHOL -- which is cheap compared to the cost of aroma materials -- is the great leveler. Unless I am selling an "extrait" with a low percentage of alcohol, the 70 to 80 percent alcohol used to make the perfume helps bring my overall costs within reason. And what I "lose" on my higher cost for raw materials can be made up in in my lower overhead, advertising, and promotional expenses.

To put this picture in focus, as you become a smaller and smaller perfumery, your costs for aroma materials get higher and higher per gram or kilo but you're generally delighted if you can simply FIND a supplier for the materials you want to use who will sell to you in the small quantities you want.

To lay it out in dollars and cents, when a major fragrance marketer puts out a GOOD ("fine fragrance") perfume, their cost for the fragrance compound -- the "juice" -- may be around $30 per kilo (fragrance compound is sold by weight.) MY cost for a typical composition is over $200 per kilos and rising (with the cost of oil -- and remember, oil isn't just a source of petro aroma chemicals, it is also the ENERGY source used to process and transport natural aroma materials.)

Anyway, in talking to my supplier friend, I discovered that HE goes through many of the same problems in obtaining aroma materials that I go through, and his company is a lot larger than mine. But if you love perfume and want to keep creating -- and selling -- you do find a way, even if finding the materials you need can be a bit difficult.

And yes, there can be a great deal of profit in perfume, but you can't MAKE perfume without first INVESTING a bit of money.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Quick Way To Test A Perfume Idea

It's almost too simple to mention but it has worked so well for me that I will mention it. A quick technique I use for testing a (very) rough idea for a new scent or accord is to simply drop -- from eyedropper-type bottles -- several (liquid) aroma materials onto a test blotter.

I simply take a "blank" perfume test blotter, select several dropper bottles of aroma materials that I think might produce an interesting accord when blended, and let a drop from each fall on my test blotter.

In doing this you must make sure that the tip of each dropper does not TOUCH the smelling strip, to avoid having it contaminated by the other drops that have already fallen on the test blotter.

The thinner your test blotter is, the faster and better your aroma materials will blend. A cut up coffee filter will work well for this technique. Because the paper is thin and because each aroma material is quickly absorb absorbed into the paper, the aroma materials dropped onto the paper blend more quickly than they would in a mixing pot or test tube.

This is NOT a precise way to create an accord. But if I'm curious as to how a "green" material, a "mossy" material, a "spicy" material and an aldehyde might smell when blended together, this technique gives me an answer in seconds. I don't have to stir and mix; I don't have to wait overnight for the aroma materials to blend properly.

Try this technique as an experiment yourself, if you haven't tried it already.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Getting Started On A New Perfume

Perfume doesn't evolve from a random mixing. Developing a new perfume involves having a plan. The big companies call it a "perfume brief." If, instead of a perfume you were developing a TV commercial, you would call it a storyboard.

This description of your "perfume to be" can involve pictures, video clips, words, maps, foods, even smells and existing perfumes. What you are defining is a goal. What you are avoiding is random mixing -- putting aroma materials together without a plan. Randomness can be fine for experiments; to learn what happens when various aroma materials are combined and to store these impressions and formulas away in your personal memory bank. But when it comes time to develop a perfume, you want to be sure that you have a target -- an aroma goal. You'll be amazed at how much faster you learn perfumery if you direct your work toward well defined goals.

I'm on vacation in Canada and, on this vacation, I wanted to start working on a new perfume. I had some ideas that started coming to me as I worked on advertising concepts for some of my existing fragrances. At present all this planning is still confidential but I will tell you that I sat down with a notebook and pen and started to draw pictures, imagine certain music, focus on a particular geographical area (which I've never visited!) and meditated on what aromas might appeal to a fantasy woman in that (to me) fantasy city. These images suggested to me certain aroma materials to use to get started.

As mentioned, I was on vacation at our house in Canada, traveling light. Today perfumers have access to around 3,000 aroma materials. Top perfumers sometimes limit themselves to about 200 basic aroma materials. My kit consisted of the 25 Fleuressence aroma bases that represent the 25 aroma groups -- not to be confused with perfume types -- used in the PerfumersWorld ABC's of Perfumery teaching method. It is a bit like having a small set of oil paints, yet knowing those paints, mixed in proportions and combinations, can create an infinite range of colors.

So is it too with my kit of 25 Fleuressence bases from the PerfumersWorld Foundation Course in Creative Perfumery.

Now I have my target and I have my materials. Now I am ready to start working on the physical creation. From the years I have worked with these 25 materials I have developed a sense of how to put them together to give me what I want. But I continue to make new discoveries too; to find desirable aromas by blending various of these 25 "paints" in ways I have not blended them before. Each time I work with them, my knowledge is expanded.

The work goes quickly. Four "paints" are blended. One is made dominant. The others modify and decorate. I have achieved my central theme. But there is another theme that must pull against it. I create that separately. Then the work of blending the two themes begins.

Some modifications suppress the central theme. Putting too much into a perfume creates problems. The color becomes muddy. Certain of my "paints" must be cut back or eliminated entirely to clarify the desired theme. This theme must be reinforced rather then blobbed over. Complexity is desirable but extreme moderation is essential. The decorations should draw attention to the melody, not compete with it.

The project comes together. I have my perfume. But... BUT, at this stage, working with my 25 bases, I have only drafted the OUTLINE for the fragrance that is in my head, the fragrance that is suggested by my "perfume brief." It is as far as I will go for now.

I know, at this point, that I want to make certain substitutions. There are effects I want to achieve that I personally do not know how to achieve with my 25 "colors."

When I return home, when I return to my many, many little bottles, I will select certain "colors" and use them as substitutions because I believe some will be more precise. I know already most of the substitutions I want to make. I will try a few experiments too, to see if some "colors" with which I am less familiar might be suitable to help me achieve the final result that I want.

It will be these final steps, these final substitutions and adjustments, that will determine whether my final result will amount to anything great or not.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

My Next Perfume

New fragrances start in the head; they start with an idea, an inspiration, a riddle, a vision -- something that PROVOKES you into developing that new fragrance, going through all that work, worrying about how -- or whether -- you'll be able to sell it. But, if you are a perfumer, that inspiration gets you out of bed, off your duff, and into the lab to start working on that idea.

A recent article in Perfumer & Flavorist (April, 2009) jogged me. It was about the beauty of the drydown, that scent that is last to evaporate -- the basenote. The two perfumers being interviewed described themselves as "drydown junkies." They could not get hooked on a perfume that did not have a beautiful drydown.

Now the sad fact is, many of today's fragrances have a no discernible drydown. Marketers have learned that consumers, at the perfume counter, go for the top note -- the instant gratification -- the quick hit. Try spraying a few blotters, walk around for an hour, and then smell them -- if there's anything left on the blotter to smell!

It's funny how we've come full circle. Early 19th century fragrances required constant application. How many bottles of cologne did Napoleon carry on his person when he went into battle? He had to keep dousing himself because, in the early 19th century, those fragrances just didn't last -- like so many of the fragrances being sold today.

Tucked away in my travel bag I have a really old plastic bottle of an early Ralph Lauren "Polo" fragrance, made when Ralph Lauren fragrances were still under the Warner (as in "Time-Warner") label.

I'm not sure whether the fragrance in my bottle has changed a bit over time, traveling thousands of miles and to various countries, but it sure is tenacious. Use a little in the morning and you can still smell it on your body the next day! You have to wash it off. It doesn't just go away. The drydown is super powered, even if you don't fall in love with the scent.

Here's a second example. We have a house in Canada and go there in the summer. one summer I was working on some tests with Oakmoss, inspired by the writings of the great perfumer-teacher, Jean Carles. I had dipped a bunch of test blotters which, by chance, were left in the house over the winter. The following year when we returned, they still had a beautiful aroma! That's a powerful drydown!

So my current inspiration is to take an idea I've been toying with for a woman's fragrance and see, first, what kind of a drydown I can achieve, without worrying too much (initially) about the top note. To keep this all simple, I'm "going back to my roots" and will start with the less volatile bases that come with the PerfumersWorld Foundation Course in Creative Perfumery. I'll work with the U-Animal, V-Vanilla, W-Wood, X-Musk, and Y-Mossy Fleuressence bases.

Will it work? Will my drydown be not only tenacious but also beautiful? I can tell you this. In the small book that comes with the Foundation Course there are a number of formulas. Some make use of as few as five of the 25 Fleuressence bases in the kit. Those "sample" formulas produce some really inspiring drydowns. So this will be my starting point.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Disasters Happen

OK. Here's the deal. I created a gardenia fragrance -- a very nice fragrance -- and because I had a stock of pink spray bulbs and bottles to fit, I decided to make the perfume pink and call it "pink gardenia." Yes, I know, gardenias are really white, but what's a perfume without a little fantasy?

I made up a few bottles. I even gave away a few bottles to friends as samples. And I was busy working on a graphic theme for Pink Gardenia ... and drawing a big blank which, perhaps, was lucky. Here's why.

In order to coordinate my gardenia fragrance with my pink spray bulbs, I used a food coloring to give it a pinkish color. This worked fine. Then I came across an even pinker coloring, one that was intended for use with soaps. It gave my perfume an even pinker look, just as I wanted.

Unfortunately this new coloring also gave clothing that came into contact with the fragrance a pink coloring. Disaster! Sure, it would wash off (or dry clean off) easily enough (but not as easily as the food coloring) but ... I didn't want to be the one to give someone that grief.

So, except for the few bottles that have already been prepared, the pink is out. Now I'm thinking this fragrance needs a new name. It's the same fragrance -- a gardenia accord that just keeps evolving from one beautiful "petal" to another. But it needs an image. A concept. A photograph. Some music. I'd like to send you a sample to get your ideas. But right now I'm not sure how best to do it. My on hand supply of the non-pink Pink Gardenia is probably too small.

So disasters happen. But maybe this disaster will inspire some amazing new "gardenia" marketing breakthrough for me. As usual, I'm optimistic.

Friday, March 27, 2009

FREE OFFER: The Perfumer's Workbook

One component of the PerfumersWorld Foundation Course in creative perfumery is The Perfumer's Workbook. This is a computer program, on a CD, that guides you through the creation of a new -- original -- fragrance from YOUR odor descriptions. (The "big" -- professional -- version of this program sells for $5,000 but most of us will never need it!)

Some people, including it's developer Stephen V. Dowthwaite, look at it as a shortcut to becoming a perfumer. Personally I would add the warning that, even with The Perfumer's Workbook, your first efforts may fall a bit short of the mark but in time -- a short time if you give it the effort -- you WILL be able to achieve quite satisfactory results. In fact your results could be quite brilliant.

Two days ago (May 23rd, 2009) PerfumersWorld offered me the right to distribute FREE copies of the newest version of The Perfumer's Workbook (Version 9.025) as an incentive to get people to look at a web page announcing our 2009 5-Day Perfumery Course and Workshop at Warwick, New York (May 4-8).

There is no real "catch" or downside to this offer. The software is functional and you can use it for as long as you want. The only limit this unregistered version has is that you won't be able to add new aroma materials to the database or edit the existing odor descriptions of the installed database.

In short, the unregistered version of The Perfumer's Workbook functions, in part, as a catalog for the aroma materials sold by PerfumersWorld, including their own specialty "Fleuressence"® bases. But this isn't such a great limitation as their product catalog is extensive and covers most all major fragrance categories.

But, if you want to unlock the aroma materials database so that you can add your own aroma materials, or edit the descriptions of the ones already installed, you'll have to register for the 2009 5-Day Workshop and make your payment in full.

As you may guess, after May 4th, 2009, this offer will no longer be available.

You can download Version 9.025 of The Perfumer's Workbook here.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

How I Think About Creating A New Men's Fragrance

I did not grow up using cologne. My mother, as best I can remember, made little or no use of perfume. So I come to perfume late in life -- perfume for women and, oh yes, perfume for men which we call "cologne" to make the men feel more comfortable about using it.

My first male fragrances were, as I recall, Halston's Z-14 (given to me by the beauty who is now my wife), Xeryus Rouge (Givenchy), Grey Flannel (Geoffrey Beene), Giorgio Red (Giorgio), and a really old Ralph Lauren Polo which I still use from time to time. Oh, and a Guy Laroche Horizon. Of these, today, my preference would be the Grey Flannel and the Horizon. That should give you some idea of my taste, or lack of it.

In fact, I'm not overwhelmed by most men's fragrances. I like Sean John's Unforgivable. OK for Usher. Ocean Rain left me cold, which was a surprise to me as I loved Roudnitska's Femme. Maybe I just got a bad bottle.

When I work on a fragrance for women, my primary goal is to create ("produce"?) something my wife will enjoy wearing without being prompted and which I will enjoy when she wears it.

It would be logical to think that I might want to create a men's fragrance that she would enjoy when I wear it, but I just can't wrap my mind around that concept.

When I work on a men's fragrance -- which here I'll call perfume -- I think only of my own selfish desires. (Some women might say that this makes me a typical male.)

When I was first told by a knowledgeable critic that my Toxic smelled like burning rubber and my Blackberry like smoked ham, I worried that I had really gone off the deep end.

When I was first told that my men's fragrance, Toxic, smelled like burning rubber, I was willing to admit that it was a bit edgy. When I was first told that my men's fragrance, Blackberry, had a bit (only a bit) of the smell of smoked ham, I did some trails on that one ingredient (cedarwood) to see what Blackberry would be like with less cedarwood, or perhaps no cedarwood at all as it could be replaced by a less demonstrative substitute.

After two months of testing I put ALL of the cedarwood back into Blackberry because that was the way I liked it!

These two experiences (I personally enjoy both Toxic and Blackberry) convinced me that neither my taste nor my goals were mainstream -- but I was now discovering a unity in the work I was doing, a unity I wanted to pursue rather than abandon for I suspect I am not alone in my tastes.

The other day I noticed a cologne a man was wearing. I noticed it because (1) it was too strong (he had used far too much!) and (2) because it said all over it, "I am a safe, typical cologne for men and nobody will fault you for wearing me." I wanted to puke.

Toxic doesn't have that effect on me.

Blackberry doesn't have that effect on me.

So the next men's fragrance I create will probably be in for some sharp criticism too.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Learning to match fragrances

Creating a new perfume is about having a vision. But to recognize your vision, skills are required. So if you want to create the fragrance of your dreams, you first need to learn how to "match" a fragrance -- creating a physical representation of your mental or nasal vision.

Matching has long been part of the perfumer's training. After learning how to recognize the smell of basic perfumery raw materials, the perfumer trainee begins to put them together. Trying to recreate a classic fragrance by this matching process is a standard training event. For example, you have a bottle of real Chanel No.5 and you have, in front of you, a row of bottles of aroma materials that are not Chanel No.5. Your challenge is to construct "your" version of No.5 using these aroma materials.

Young perfumers have been doing this for generations. The purpose is not to reinvent Chanel No.5 but rather to (1) learn something about the structure of classic fragrances and (2) to develop your technical skills at transforming a mental or sensual "image" into a physical product -- your own new perfume.

When I first started working with the PerfumersWorld Foundation Course I don't believe I had ever heard of Edmond Roudnitska. When I mixed the simple formulas presented by the PerfumersWorld course, "muguet haute couture" or "classic muguet" didn't mean any more to me than the experience of taking five of the 25 bottles in front of me and mixing 25 drops of this with 10 drops of that, etc. After stirring them for a minute or so, they were left overnight. In the morning I was treated to the wonderful fragrance of "classic muguet."

In time I learned that the concept of "classic muguet" derived largely from perfumer Edmond Roudnitska's Diorissimo (created for Christian Dior) and itself inspired in part by Henri Robert's Muguet de Bois (created for Coty). In time I was able to obtain an older bottle of Diorissimo. This gave me an opportunity to compare the "classic muguet" that I had mixed with the "real" classic muguet -- Roudnitska's Diorissimo. The initial impression was certainly that of a good match!

Don't get me wrong . What I had mixed was certainly no substitute for Roudnitska's creation, one of the most beautiful fragrances ever. In the first place, Roudnitska's CONCEPT was original; my mixture was simply a crude copy of that concept. Roudnitska's materials were richer, more costly; mine were more simple, more affordable, more synthetic. Roudnitska's perfume has all those wonderful qualities of a great perfume -- radiance, tenacity, subtlety, depth. Mine mixture achieved the outline, not the substance. But for me this was an excellent training exercise (even though the formula had been given to me!)

The "classic muguet" formula in the PerfumersWorld Foundation Course was not my creation. I use if only as an example of fragrance matching -- a skill at which I am still just a beginner.

But the road to learning how to actualize your fragrance visions begins with working with perfumery materials -- conducting directed experiments rather than just random mixing. The more you try your hand at matching either an existing perfume or a perfume that exists only in your imagination, the more skilled you become at working with perfumery materials, and the more you begin to appreciate subtle differences between one fragrance or aroma material and another.

Success in perfumery requires discipline and working at matching, over and over again, first to get the right materials and then to get the right balance of those materials.

The more you work at it, the better you become. And, as you become better and better at it, those dreams of a great perfume you have imagined become better and better realized in your own compositions.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Try creating your own "Joy" perfume!

"Almost no perfume is complete without
a little Jasmine in one form or another"

-- The ABC's of Perfumery

Jean Patou's response to the Wall Street crash of 1929 was the creation of Joy perfume as a gift for clients who -- quite suddenly -- could no longer afford his pricey frocks. Advertised as "the world's most expensive perfume," Joy led the way for Patou's perfumes to carve out a successful business of their own during the dark Depression days, a business which continues today.

Joy, in its original, super-expensive version, is a bit heavy, a bit old fashioned, a bit too rich, to opulent for today's tastes. And a bit too expensive. Yet for the student of perfumery, Joy is one of those "must match" fragrances, a perfume that every student perfumer must make an attempt to recreate by nose alone, without access to the formula.

Loaded with costly jasmin, Joy was created for Patou by his long time perfumer, Henri Almeras who, so the legend goes, was appalled at the excess of expensive ingredients insisted on by Patou. In the history of perfumery, Joy is not considered to be a breakthrough perfume, it is not innovative nor is the theme original. But it is considered a legendary fragrance because of its history, because of Patou's daring to insist on excess, bright lights and joy at a time when others could see only darkness and gloom.

How hard is it to reconstruct Joy? Certainly not a job for the faint hearted. To work with the perfumery materials used for the original would be prohibitively expensive. And today the use of some of Joy's original aroma materials would be restricted or banned (safety, environmentalism, animal rights, etc.) Yet the student perfume can get a taste of the structure and aroma of Joy by simply following the highly simplified formula offered in The ABC's of Perfumery or Unit 5 of the PerfumersWorld Foundation Course.

If you were studying perfumery within one of the handful of giant fragrance creation houses, you would not be "given" a simplified formula like this, you would have to "discover" it yourself through your knowledge of raw materials and by using the power of your nose to match, with your aroma materials, the fragrance of Joy. This is certainly an ideal way to learn perfumery.

But for those of us who have other responsibilities, for those of us who are unable to devote all 24 hours of the day to perfumery, for those of us who do not have the good fortune of having been taken in by a major fragrance house to learn perfumery under the daily, personal tutelage of a master perfumer, the PerfumersWorld solution offers strong advantages.

While you might say that giving students a simplified Joy formula first -- before they have become familiar with the raw materials, before they have trained their noses to match materials, and in many cases before they have ever smelled the original -- is the wrong approach to teaching perfumery, I would argue the opposite.

By starting with a hands on project, with a series of small dropper bottles, mixing pots, and toothpicks to stir, the student quickly comes to appreciate (1) the structure of the perfume in terms of top notes, middle notes and base notes, and (2) the concept that a fine fragrance involves blending two or more raw materials together to produce a result which is more artistically beautiful than any of these materials taken alone.

Creating beautiful aromas is an art -- the perfumers art -- and by mixing formulas that are given to you in the beginning, you begin to appreciate the nature of the aroma materials themselves. Some have beautiful fragrances by themselves, others -- which are critical in fine fragrance creation -- you might at first think to flush down the toilet. Still others have little impact at all by themselves but play a vital role when combined with other aroma materials.

Some people say it takes seven years to become a perfumer. Some perfumers would say it takes a lifetime. Steve Dowthwaite has said it takes a single day -- the day you decide to become a perfumer.

But to create perfume you need aroma materials, and some instruction in perfumery basics to get you started. That's why Steve created the PerfumersWorld Foundation Course -- a home study course which provides all the tools needed to start the motivated perfumer-to-be on the path to becoming a mature perfumer.

Here's a footnote. The PerfumersWorld Foundation Course which comes with aroma materials, mixing pots, book, software, and lessons costs less than a half ounce bottle of "Jean Patou Joy Parfum Deluxe" at Bloomingdales.