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.