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.

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