Friday, September 17, 2010

Overcoming Disappointment

Over the summer I worked on a theme for a men's fragrance. By the end of August I had three samples, all started with the same idea and then varied by the way each was developed.

The purpose of this exercise was to create a new fragrance that would be a delight to WOMEN who would either buy it for their man or prompt their man to buy for himself. This meant that my new fragrance would not be a Toxic or even a Blackberry – two fragrances I personally like very much but get mixed reviews (not all negative!) from women.

Just this once I was setting out to develop a fragrance that was not my style -- my “signature” if you would have it -- but something with “others” in mind.

The “test market” was to be my stepson and his wife – both in their 20's and both with an interest in fragrance. (She buys him pheromone powered body wash!)

Had I not made this promise to myself, to give Mike my three samples, I would have washed all three down the drain. Personally, to me, they were all “wrong” – so wrong that I wouldn't have wanted to take credit for their creation. Nevertheless I went ahead with my test.

On the day I gave Mike these three fragrances he was hanging out with a friend who he promised would also be given a chance to sample my creations. More embarrassment. Then, of course, there was my daughter-in-law who has a critical nose for scent.

The next time we all met, the report was a surprise. He LIKED one of the three. SHE liked it too. And my wife liked it. After a bit of discussion they convinced me that they weren't bluffing. They really did like it.

So how do I proceed? Sure, I'm happy that several people like this new fragrance. But, for all their compliments, I sensed they weren't raving about it. To them it was just another pretty fragrance. Should I consider that to be “good enough?”

In my summer reading I came across the statement by a writer I admire – “Genius is the art of taking pains.” So I'm not ready to release this summer project as it is. I want to perfect it. Make it better. Make it elicit a stronger positive reaction from both women and men.

It's frustrating to have gone through about 50 or more trials and still not have a product I can offer for sale. But I don't have a fancy store or website or name. I don't have a fancy box or bottle. But I can strive to do my best in developing each new fragrance. I want to take pains to “get it right.” All the way.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Technology as a Tool for Learning ... Learning To Make Perfume!

I started the summer with a list of four fragrances I wanted to work on -- two for women, two for men. Two had been started (or "finished") in the past but hadn't been (to me) entirely satisfactory. Two were brand new ideas based on smell memories, one recent; one so old, so from another time in another country that it is only a vague remembrance which, hopefully, some experimentation with raw materials will refresh for me.

So this was the summer plan -- overly ambitious. I thought that I could at least sketch out the bare bones of these fragrances -- discover the critical notes and modifiers I wanted -- but I got sidetracked.

It's a bit of a story (told elsewhere) but, "by popular demand," I was brought back to a fragrance I had done five years ago. I had the formula and I had the materials to make it. But why settle for the original when (by my nose) it could stand some improvement?

I hadn't intended to spend much time on this other fragrance which I liked but felt was imperfect. So I ran it through one of the "wizards" in The Perfumer's Workbook to see what modifications the wizard might suggest. First the wizard was asked to adjust for "greater smoothness." Indeed the original formula had rough edges in its transitions from one note to the next. The wizard's suggestions were good. The new version was smoother -- more "professional" if you will.

Next, I asked the wizard to modify the formula for "depth" -- suggestions for improving the formula by adding really tiny amounts of new materials. The wizard came back with a suggestion that would have tripled the number of materials in the formula -- without changing its personality.

The problem that now arises is one of measurement. When you are working with very small batches -- because you don't have and can't afford the quantity of materials that would be needed to make up larger batches -- adding touches of aroma materials becomes highly unscientific, highly imprecise. I have developed my method for doing this (wetting the tip of a toothpick and using it to stir). Others probably have theirs. A larger company would simply make up a larger batch so there would be no tiny, hard to measure, additions.

No one says you have to follow the "depth wizard" exactly. Personally I find it useful to look over the wizard's suggestions and, if I am not familiar with particular materials that have been suggested, I try to find out more about then and, if something seems "right" for my project, I'll order a small supply to see how it performs.

Sometimes when I use this software, these computer wizards, I feel like I'm cheating. I feel like, gosh. I should have been able to do this without any help. But the fact is that I learn from the wizard. It expands my knowledge of aroma materials and forces me to work harder, more methodically, and not just by trial and error with my own personal and very limited knowledge.

Five years ago when I wrote the formula in question I was was working with perhaps forty aroma materials. Today I'm working with well over 100. As a result, my formulas have become more refined.

The Perfumer's Workbook
, for me, has been a great learning tool. While it can create a fragrance for your from scratch, I don't use it that way. My own method is to start with a few aroma materials and sketch out my theme. Only when I'm well into a project -- with my ideas -- do I begin to consult the wizard for suggestions. It's like having a senior perfumer looking over your shoulder and giving you a small but incredibly useful helping hand.

One thing more. The suggestions that the wizard gave me for my 5-year-old formula opened my eyes to an aroma material that, as it turns out, is perfect for one of the men's fragrances I'm working on. By circumstances which I won't go into, I had some on hand and found it to be "just right" for one note I was looking for. And it's use was totally new to me.

Having a good teacher can allow us to go faster and farther with our studies. And here, the "teacher" -- a very good teacher -- is nothing more than a computer program!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Importance of Your Notebook

I wrote recently about repeatability -- being able to duplicate your fragrance. It sounds simple but sometimes two problems arise. (1) Formulas are lost; (2) the original aroma materials are no longer available. As you might suspect, these problems usually come to light when one of your forgotten fragrances suddenly rings a bell with someone and a new supply is requested. It happened to me just last week.

Here's the story. I'm vacationing at our house in Canada and (slowly) noticed that my wife was wearing a perfume that I hadn't smelt in a while and I suspected it was one I had made for her and long since forgotten.

I asked and she showed me the bottle. It was one of the ones I use for samplers and, rather than a name, it was marked with a code that referenced the formula and date when I had made it. It was from 2005, five years ago! She mentioned that the bottle was almost empty.

Of course I was curious about the fragrance and wanted to look at the formula to see if I might be able to make up a new batch for her. It was not a fragrance I had ever offered for sale.

Speaking frankly, although I liked the aroma (and obviously she did too) my nose easily recognized the rough edges to the formula. If I wanted to offer it for sale today, I would work to smooth it out so that the notes blended more like a fragrant forest rather than standing out like a few tall trees.

But for the moment my task was to find the formula and, if the formula could be found, to see if the aroma materials I had used were still available with their characteristics unchanged.

I looked to my notebooks. Problem. The oldest formula in my hard cover notebooks was from 2007 -- two years short.

The next step was to go to the computer and see if I might still have it in the archives of my ancient copy of The Perfumer's Workbook. Search .... search ... search ... -- and BINGO! Formula found!

Yes, after all these years the formula was still there -- and all of the required materials were on hand and in good condition. A new batch matched the aroma and lifespan of the old batch. Not only could I now reproduce this perfume, I had a good starting point for an "upgrade" that would (if I wanted to do the work!) smooth out the rough edges.

The point of all this is THE NOTEBOOK. When you are working on a perfume -- or even IDEAS for a perfume -- keeping a notebook is of tremendous importance. For each iteration of a project I record the material used (including supplier and supplier's reference code), the date, and -- initially -- the number of drops or half drops or traces of drops used of each material. If I decide to put a formula "into production," drops will be converted to grams and remeasured to check accuracy.

My notebook also includes my impression of each trial and its aging, both on the test blotter and in the mixing pot, as well as my notes to myself on how the formula might be improved in the next trial -- materials added, materials left out, materials changed in proportion. All of this, both for fragrances that were finished and for fragrances that were discontinued, are captured (or were intended to be captured) in these PERMANENT notes.

And you NEVER discard your notebooks.

Improving your skill as a perfumer requires that you learn from both your successes and your failures. And you can expect that there will be far more failures than successes. Memories are short. What I did five years ago is not on the top of my head today. But by going over my notes -- from five years ago -- I can refresh my memory. I can study what I did then. I can think of how I might rework an ancient formula to make a more finished, more refined, perfume today.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The "why?" of a perfume

A perfume takes birth in the imagination. Only when it is nearly fully conceptualized does the perfumer begin to translate it from the mind into a physical state -- the formula. At this point there are "adjustments" and they can be both in the mental image and in the physical interpretation but, if the conceptualization is sound, the adjustments are more likely to be in the formula -- the tweaks that are now needed to bring the "smell" in line with the communication that was envisioned.

The process of creation in perfumery goes under different names. Personally I think of myself "developing" a new perfume. That's a pretty neutral word. But some write of how they "design" fragrances. To my knowledge, this is a very contemporary (rather than classical) usage, probably inspired by "designer labels" and all that. When I received a sample of a new aroma material from a U.S. distributor they wished me "happy formulating." So yes, the perfumer is a developer, designer, and formulator. But no matter what you call the process, the process amounts to translating a mental image into a physical product -- the perfume.

A very useful intermediate step in this process is pen and paper -- trying to express your mental image in WORDS, before you begin to formulate. Some will cry "foul" over this suggestion. Many great visual artists are clueless when it comes to talking about their art. (In recent years "artists" who understand the sales value of publicity have begun to let their tongues flap more freely.) But in my own experience, when you try to express a mental image in words and encounter difficulty, the difficulty is often due to the mental image being foggy, unclear, or even self-contradictory. Forcing it onto paper helps (me, anyway) clarify my thoughts and expose potential weaknesses in my idea.

The paper plan that precedes a perfume has been very much a part of Stephen V. Dowthwaite's teachings, both in his home study course and in his face-to-face workshops and these have formed much of the basis of my own training. In the world of commercial perfumery, there is the "perfume brief" given to the perfumer by the client to explain, in words, what is desired.

So there is what I would call a "why?" to a perfume -- the reason behind its creation. The perfume itself is a communication of this "why?"

The importance of the "why?"

Ask yourself: why do some works of art endure while others are quickly forgotten? Not all works of art are equal in their influence on the public. Some "connect" and some do not. The "why?" behind the work is of tremendous importance because it is in this "why?" that the work takes on its significance.

If the reason for creating the perfume is simply, say to make use of a particular note that interests the perfumer, it is unlikely that the physical product, however skillfully constructed, will produce a memorable experience for others.

But if in the "why?" of the perfume, the perfumer is thinking that he or she wants to use this particular note because it recalls a certain association -- an association that might be shared by others -- then in thinking of how that associative note might be reinforced by other materials, we're beginning to develop a concept that, if well executed, is far more likely to resonate. And, important from a commercial point of view, the perfume now becomes much easier to advertise and promote because the perfume communicates the story of the "why?" and the "why?" itself is of greater significance to others.

When we start out making perfume we are pleased simply to master enough technology to be able to get a nice smelling fragrance in a bottle. As we rise from apprenticeship to artistry, we find this isn't enough. We find ourselves thinking more about what we are about to do before we do it. We clarify our vision, double check, test it, refine it -- in our minds -- until we are bubbling over with a need to communicate THIS vision in the physical product, the perfume.

Not surprisingly, as this happens, our perfumers get "better" and become easier to "explain" -- because our vision and the perfume we have created become one.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Can you make more of what you just made?

I ask this question for a reason. I've been reading some notes about so-called "natural" perfumes ... attempts to formulate perfumes using only natural materials, with some of these materials being created by the perfumer.

What is being rediscovered is the ancient art of turning natural materials from the environment into aroma materials. And, from what I am reading, tincturing appears to be a favorite current method.

To create a tincture of a natural material, that material is placed in alcohol -- the most odorless alcohol available -- and allowed to sit there for about a month. The plan is for the alcohol to take on some of the aroma of the natural materials being bathed in it.

Traditionally in perfumery this method was used to extract aroma from "difficult" materials such as hard-as-a-rock resins and lumps of ambergris. Flower smells would have been achieved through distillation or solvent extraction, the commercial successor to enfleurage, an older method employing fats to extract aroma and which always left a bit of a fatty smell along with the desired aroma.

These traditional methods, used commercially today, require equipment and precise quality control. Quality control is important because the perfumer, having established a successful formula, wants to be able to scale it up to larger batches and thus profit from his or her creation. If the quality of the materials being used is erratic -- the characteristics of a subsequent batch of an aroma material is not a match for those of the original batch, the success of the formula is destroyed.

So, for any commercial perfumer -- any perfumer who wishes to develop formulas which can be properly duplicated, year after year -- consistency from batch to batch in the characteristics of the aroma materials being purchased is very important. This is also why a large perfumery will not buy from a small supplier, no matter how high quality the materials may be. The small supplier simply cannot provide the volume that the larger perfumery needs and hence the large perfumery might be forced to discontinue successful fragrances.

Now personally I have great admiration for those who are experimenting with natural materials possibly grown in their own back yards. Certainly transforming your own garden's bounty into aroma materials is exciting. But what happens when commerce raises its ugly head?

From a commercial point of view, repeatability is essential. If you have made a perfume that people like -- and are buying -- you certainly want to be able to make more of it. If your new batch doesn't match the successful fragrance, you're in trouble. And the more people and stores that have placed orders with you, the bigger your troubles will be.

It is for this reason that commercially inclined perfumers vet their sources for continuity of consistency of supplies. For a large perfumery, in an "emergency" a skillful perfumer may be able to rejigger the formula to achieve the same smell with different materials. Most of us are not so skilled.

From my own experience I can think of several instances where I used a particular material to develop a formula only to find, within a mater of months, it was no longer available and my formula had to be either reworked or abandoned.

It would be nice to think that, when we find a material that we like and want to make great use of, all we need do it stock up on it.

Unfortunately with many natural materials and even some synthetics, there is a shelf life even under the best storage conditions, so that the excess we have squirreled away might very well be worthless when we finally go to use it.

The hard lesson is that we must think twice about our sources and continuity of supply before we make a big commitment to a new formula.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Do you need face-to-face training to become a perfumer?

Being trained in perfumery, face-to-face, by a knowledgeable, professional perfumer is a very big plus. But finding a qualified perfumer-trainer who can devote time you you -- at times that are convenient for you -- is not an easy matter. Ask yourself, "how many hours might this project take?" The truth is it will take more hours -- more days -- more weeks -- than is practical unless you are devoting your life FULL TIME to becoming a perfumer.

I have now completed three 5-Day Perfumery Workshops with Steve Dowthwaite of PerfumersWorld. At each workshop, while I learned some new material, the most valuable moments in these 90 plus hours of instruction and exercises were the verbal reinforcements of lessons I had previously been exposed to but whose importance I had not fully grasped.

In other words, many of the most powerful moments were a repetitions of facts and concepts I had already been exposed to but now -- sitting in front of someone who was TELLING me they were important -- these points became more firmly fixed in my head and I would pay more attention to them in my future work.

But ...

My training in perfumery did not start with face-to-face instruction.

Actually, when I first became interested in learning how commercial fragrances were developed and how I could make original perfumes of my own, I was not aware of ANY place where I could get ANY training until I stumbled across the home study PerfumersWorld Foundation Course.

At this time the internet had not yet developed into what it is today. Blogs didn't exist. Facebook didn't exist. Very few companies that sold perfumery materials -- synthetic or natural -- had websites. Online shopping was still in a primitive stage. Paypal was still a struggling start up.

I had spent money on books (many hundreds of dollars worth) and I had purchased a few aroma materials (without much of a clue as to how they "worked") but I needed HELP in understanding something that seemed as if it should be quite simple. I wanted to know how a commercial, big time perfume was made and I wanted to make perfumes myself.

So I ordered and received the PerfumersWorld Foundation Course. Ten blocks of online lessons; a box with materials to work with. Reading was required. Study was required. Carrying out student exercises was required. Passing exams was required. But there was no pressure. No teacher looking over my shoulder. It was all up to me.

Home Study vs. Classroom

It's harder to do a home study course successfully than it is to take a graded classroom course. (Grades and exams are important either way.) Correspondence course companies learned many years ago that a large percentage -- perhaps as many as 80 percent -- of their students would never complete more than the first few lessons. Why? Because learning involves hard work. (A former teach of mine once wrote a book, "Study is Hard Work.")

But the virtue of home study is that it opens the door for people who could not attend a school full time or even part time. Or, in the case of perfumery, for would-be perfumers who simply cannot find a source of face-to-face instruction through which they can fully learn the skills necessary to engage in this art.

Even the 5-Day Perfumery Workshops I have mentioned are only the beginning of someone's training in perfumery. You have to go on with your followup and keep working with your own materials and doing your own exercises and experiments.

So no matter how you slice it, unless you are planning a full time career in perfumery and have the good fortune to be accepted into one of the very few face-to-face schools of perfumery that exist, to learn to make perfume you MUST be willing and able to work on your own. And you must be MOTIVATED enough to take each lesson seriously and to continuously work at developing your skills -- with real perfumery materials. Motivation is the key.

But what can you learn on your own? How far can you go? Can you really learn to make fragrances that (if you had the marketing clout) could go head-to head with the very best offerings of the very biggest perfume companies? The answer is that, "yes," you can go to the top, but the farther you want to go, the more you must put into it.

It is at the beginning that you really discover how motivated you are and how far you are likely to go. With a home study perfumery course, I'd guess that most people -- yes, perhaps 80 percent -- do not get farther than the first few lessons. Why? Because once you have the lessons and the materials in your hands, you suddenly discover that leaning to become a perfumer involves work -- lots of work.

For those who love it, the work is nothing. They are happy to put in the many, many hours it takes to go from being a novice to becoming a competent perfumer.

For most of us who are interested in perfuming -- really interested -- working on our own with whatever authentic study materials we can find is essential. So, "no," you don't need face-to-face training to become a perfumer. All you really need is a course of instruction and the self discipline to harness and direct your ambition. But when the opportunity arises to work under the guidance of someone who knows more than you do, don't pass it up!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

A rare opportunity to make perfume

Do you want to become a perfumer -- a creator of fine fragrances? Did you know that there are very few opportunities -- worldwide -- to get trained in perfumery? In fact, if you don't have a father, mother, brother, sister, aunt or uncle who is already a perfumer, you will find it incredibly difficult to get connected with the "basic training" -- the apprenticeship -- you need to begin learning this incredibly special art.

"Perfumery" is not a course you can take in college. Worldwide, only one or two colleges even offer professional level training in fragrance creation and for the fortunate few who are admitted (it is very competitive!), the cost is high and a multi-year commitment is required.

Very few working, professional perfumers teach perfumery. In most cases, their "apprentices" have already been working alongside them in industry. It's not a position you can apply for simply because you think you might like to create fine fragrances for a living.

Steve Dowthwaite is an exception to the rule that professional perfumers don't teach perfumery to "just anyone." For more than ten years, Steve has offered training in "The Art & Technology of Perfumery" to anyone willing to sign up for his online home study Foundation Course, one of his 5-Day Perfumery Workshops, or for a series of more advanced private and semi-private lessons.

Even more radical is Steve's philosophy of low student fees for his instruction, in spite of the time and considerable personal effort required on his part.

Planet Earth is a big place and one perfumer can hardly be expected to cover the whole globe. So Steve's perfumery training is given, for the most part, in Bangkok, Thailand, where he resides and conducts a brisk business in the Asian market.

If you were serious about wanting to get into the field of fragrance creation, a trip to Bangkok for one of Steve's workshops would be your logical starting point. Yes, it would be expensive. But alternatives -- real perfumery training sessions open to "just anyone" -- don't exist elsewhere. So you would have to pay the price.

If you had a strong desire to learn fragrance creation but could not afford the travel expense of air fare, course fees, and a week in Bangkok, you would go for the home study Foundation Course (my own starting point in perfumery) -- which offers an excellent window of opportunity to perfumery. Yet you would still aspire to face-to-face training with Steve in Bangkok.

This year (2010) Steve will be making a (brief) trip to the U.S. to conduct a 5-Day Perfumery Workshop in southern New Jersey. He'll be coming -- with workshop supplies and equipment -- a distance of over 8,000 miles to share his knowledge and insights into perfumery with a handful of people -- professionals and non-professionals -- who are hungry to receive this practical training.

The course is "open enrollment" but the intensity of these five days, filled with hands on exercises using real perfumery raw materials, precludes attendance by all but those with a high level of motivation to learn.

It is, for those highly motivated few, an opportunity which may never again be available in the U.S. (there are no plans for a 2011 U.S. workshop). Perfumery training by Steve and PerfumersWorld in Bangkok, and the home study Foundation Course, will continue to be available.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

How hard is it to make a decent perfume of your own? How long would it take you to learn?

Talk to someone who has spent a lifetime with perfumers and you might hear that it takes seven years or longer before the "beginner" starts to create credible perfumes with any regularity. And it has been said that no one has ever created a really good perfume in their first year of training. I would not want to question these views of experts.

But I would like to state for the record that people with no experience in perfumery can be trained to begin to create workable fragrances of their own in a matter of days. I've seen it done.

Steve Dowthwaite runs 5-Day Perfumery Workshops, mostly in Bangkok, Thailand, where he lives with his wife and daughter, but also, since 2008, in the US. To date, Britisher Dowthwaite, through his various courses, has trained over 6,000 students in perfumery, including one member of the royal family. Of course not all of these students have the desire or the imagination to create artistically successfully fragrances. But some, in a matter of just five days, have already outlined a potential winner.

Steve's teaching methods in his 5-Day Workshops are identical to those in his home study PerfumersWorld Foundation Course. The two resources feed upon and reinforce each other. But having a face-to-face session with a professional perfumers who can give you personal guidance and encouragement is an experience not to be missed.

The USA is a big country and the logistics of setting up a 5-Day Workshop are far more intense than most people realize. As I've been the on site "facilitator" for 2008 and 2009, the workshops have been held in the New York - New Jersey area. That makes it a bit of a trip for someone in the Midwest or West Coast but a sprinkling of attendees have come from other countries -- France, Canada, Mexico, Chile, and Columbia -- usually because they (or their employer) knew about Dowthwaite's perfumery training sessions and understood that it was a whole lot less expensive to send people to the USA than for them to set up their own training programs at home.

If you have a serious interest in making your own perfume -- or in learning the technology of how modern perfumes are conceptualized and developed -- try one of Dowthwaite's 5-Day Perfumery Workshops for yourself. I am willing to bet that you will surprise yourself when you discover that you can create your own fragrances, "hands on," even though for you, this is the absolute beginning.

Warning: We run only ONE U.S. Workshop each year so if you are interested doing this perfumery training, clear your calendar and make you reservation.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Understanding A Classic Perfume :: L'Air du Temps

L'Air de Temps (1948, by Roure perfumer Francais Fabron for Nina Ricci) is a perfume out of the past. You won't generally run into it at the mall, at least not in an older version that uses all those wonderful aroma materials that are restricted or banned or just too expensive to use in a perfume today.

A few years ago I had the good fortune to come across an older, unopened, bottle which I purchased and gave to my wife. Spending a DAY with her when she was wearing it was a great experience. That fragrance had both beauty and tenacity.

Last week I was reviewing the ten blocks of online lessons that are part of the PerfumersWorld Foundation Course In Creative Perfumery in order to write a new ad for the course. Of course I had studied all of these lessons before as it was this course that launched my own efforts in creative perfumery but to write about the course I needed to study the lessons again. This time when I came across the lesson on L'Air du Temps it had new meaning for me.

L'Air du Temps is regarded as the "classic" CARNATION perfume. The course discusses both the use of the accord that gave it it's special character (a blending of Benzyl Salicylate, Eugenol, and Musk Ketone) and it's overall structure. Two separate "sample" formulas are given to demonstrate how this TYPE of fragrance -- classic carnation -- is constructed.

These formulas are not given to help you create knockoffs and they are not intended to be "true" formulas for L'Air du Temps. They appear in this lesson as student learning exercises, to show you HOW various aroma materials, which DO NOT smell of carnation, come together in a beautiful carnation fragrance.

While one of the formulas in the lesson requires the use of aroma materials the beginning student is NOT likely to have on hand, the other uses ONLY materials supplied with the course and can immediately be mixed by anyone taking the course. (All this is in lesson block #10 so a bit of patience is needed to get to it.)

Now I've mixed the simple version of the formula on several occasions and I can tell you that it certainly DOES give you a taste of the experience you would get with the "real" L'Air du Temps. And, laying the simple formula side by side with the more advanced formula, you get an idea of WHAT aroma materials have what effect on the composition.

For example, in the more advanced formula, "Spice" Fleuressence (the "S" in the ABC's of Perfumery) is replaced by a blending of three aroma materials: Eugenol, iso-Eugenol, and Clove Bud Oil. So now, looking at the two formulas side by side, you begin to understand that "Spice" Fleuressence characterizes an odor group and that Eugenol, iso-Eugenol, and Clove Bud Oil fall into this grouping.

If you are curious about the odors involved, you can simply purchase small amounts of Eugenol, iso-Eugenol and Clove Bud Oil and, using your nose, make your own comparison. Likewise you can go through the other 12 materials in the simple version of the formula and explore their more "sophisticated" counterparts.

So this lesson has a double importance. In the first place you learn about the structure of a classic perfume and how materials that are not at all similar in aroma are blended into a distinctive and beautiful perfume.

Then in this lesson, the student is given a TRANSLATOR ... two formulas, side by side, that create perfumes with very similar aromas so that you can SEE how the aroma materials that you have on hand (from the K26 materials kit which is part of the Foundation Course) "translate" into combinations of the single chemical aroma materials that a professional perfumer would use.

Lessons like this are valuable when you are struggling to learn perfumery. Best of all, along the way, as student exercises, you get to make up some simple but really beautiful fragrances which can immediately be put to use.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

5-Day Perfumery Course
May 3-7, 2010
New York City Area

This year, once again, my company -- Lightyears, Inc. -- is sponsoring a 5-Day Perfumery Course and Workshop in the New York City area in association with Stephen V. Dowthwaite and PerfumersWorld, Ltd.

Dowthwaite has been conducting these workshops for the last ten years in and around his home base -- Bangkok, Thailand -- and many hundreds of participants have passed through them. But, until 2008, he had never brought the workshop to the United States. In 2008 we teamed up to bring a workshop to New York City and we were gratified by the quality of those who attended -- a significant number of industry professionals, small business owners, independent perfumers and aromatherapists, plus people just interested in learning how a perfume is developed -- and possibly learning how to develop perfumes of their own.

A friend from Grasse who has spent a lifetime in the perfume business told me that he was skeptical that anyone could be turned into a perfumer in just five days. I have no argument with that. Perfumery is a lifetime calling. But what CAN happen in just five days is that much of the mystery can be taken out of perfumery -- mysteries surrounding the techniques and "professional" materials used -- and participants CAN begin to create their own perfumes ... their first perfumes perhaps ... and CAN be given the tools and set in a direction that, in time, will allow them to achieve some very satisfying (and in some cases remarkable) results.

Last year I was able to squeeze myself in as a participant in the workshop rather than simply a host. I had witnessed the workshop in 2008 and had started my work in perfumery with Steve Dowthwaite's Foundation Course but being part of a group was a different experience. For each class project (there were several each day) not only do you share your insights with others in the class, you get the wonderful, eye opening experience of seeing how others deal with the same perfume creation assignment.

As for Steve's guidance, it was always a kindly, helpful hand and words of encouragement. If you want to make perfume and if you aren't, at the moment, totally satisfied with your results and your technique, the course should prove most enlightening for you. You may feel like you are finally getting inside perfume -- and inside the industry -- in a very, very meaningful and intimate way that will open up, for you, a broad perfumery creation future.

The drive and the imagination must come from within but now you are armed with knowledge and technical skills and pointed in a positive direction.

So, to the pitch. As of this writing (January 14, 2010) we have set a general location for our 2010 5-Day Workshop -- the New York City area -- and a price $900 for the five days. This year meals and hotel reservations will be up to you. We hope to be able to announce our exact location by the end of this month but it will be within easy daily commuting distance from Manhattan and we have begun to fill the 50 openings that are available. The announcements for these workshops reach an international audience. Are you ready for a 5-Day Perfumery Workshop? You can register here!


Monday, January 4, 2010

Learning to use Patchwood (from PFW Aroma Chemicals)

I'm working on a new perfume using a new aroma chemical called "Patchwood." Patchwood was developed by PFW Aroma Chemicals and they are trying to promote its use through a contest and, yes, I'm taking a shot at it myself.

Patchwood has two qualities that might seem like opposites. Patchwood has a high impact, it hits you like a ton of bricks (rush and open the window, please!) and you quickly find yourself searching for ways to tone it down, to control it, to dilute it. It's got a nice woody aroma and can even serve as a top note in a fragrance but it can quickly overwhelm you, even in small doses.

But unlike high impact aroma chemicals which tend to be highly volatile and thus have short odor lives, Patchwood has a LONG odor life and, moreover, it gives long life to the elements that surround it. None of this business of disappearing from a smelling strip in 15 minutes. Here we're talking about DAYS!

As to my own project with Patchwood, I'm rushing to get it together so -- initially - my fragrance will be simple and, I'll admit, a bit crude. I've laid a foundation for my fragrance -- which has now lasted for more than 72 hours on a smelling strip, and still retains some top and middle notes. Now I've just got some blending to do, to smooth out the transitions between aroma materials, and then a few "decorations," to add a bit of originality. Then I'm done.

Now to you, all this may seem pretty routine. It's the way perfume is made. But what excites me is that I can look back to the starting point of my career in perfumery (not all that long ago!) and to the training that got me started, the PerfumersWorld Foundation Course.

If you know anything about the PerfumersWorld Foundation Course you know that the only perfumery materials you work with in the beginning are 25 aroma "bases" that demonstrated the 25 aroma groups that are part of the PerfumersWorld teaching method. These bases ("Fleuressence" is the PerfumersWorld trade name for them) are neither essential oils nor single molecule aroma chemicals. They are traditional perfumery bases that give you a simple way to begin crafting perfumes like a professional and, if you have any nose for it at all or any intellectual or artistic curiosity, you'll soon find yourself adding additional aroma materials to your "library" of small bottles, to get more subtle touches to your perfumes and more nose-precise results.

The fellow who created the PerfumersWorld Foundation Course believes that there are a great number of people who COULD become successful perfumers, if only they had some training. The Foundation Course his is way of offering them just that. From my own personal experience, I believe that he is correct. Personally, from the moment I started working with his 25 "Fleuressence" bases, I knew that even greater excitement lay ahead.

My current efforts to develop a perfume using Patchwood -- this brand new aroma chemical -- tells me that the excitement in perfumery that lies ahead for me will be even greater than that which I have enjoyed on my perfumery path to this point.