Thursday, July 18, 2013

"Perhaps a separate project"

    I wrote recently about staying on track with your perfume vision and not being put off course by the chance event that you produced a "nice" smell that wasn't the smell you were seeking.

    Don't discard that nice smell! Just separate it out from the project on hand. Perhaps at some time in the future it can become a project of its own.

    The wonder of perfumery is that, as you work, so many doors open. It's a little like doing a Google search where one interesting piece of information leads you to another. How easy it is to become distracted!

    So, as I said in the first article, it is essential to stay focused, to stay on topic, to stay the course of developing the perfume you set out to develop.

    But these other happy smells, set them aside. Let them become part of your "idea" library. At some time on the future you might recall a particular one and, FLASH, realize that it is the perfect starting point for a NEW project.

    And then, if it becomes a new project, give it the same focus and intensity you gave the original project from which it was rejected.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Time ... it takes time.

    Some things take time. If you want to make perfume, yourself, you must understand this and learn to be patient, even when you're in a rush to get on with it.

    It takes time for aroma materials to blend. More time than we want to wait in many cases. Commercial fragrance production plants have ways to speed up the process, but this may not result in the best perfume possible.

    How long does it take materials to blend? To ripen? To change from what they were when you mixed them to what they might ultimately become? In truth the mixture that had already "changed" in an hour might still be "changing" for up to a year or more. Ask yourself why is it that wines and whiskeys are aged. Chemical activity continues to go on and on, in spire of our wanting the job to be finished.

    In blending perfume we learn to be practical without being hasty. We discover that the scent of our blend after 24 hours is not the same as the scent after a week. But how long should we wait before calling the job "done"?

    I've lately been experimenting with fermentation. The demonstration can be dramatic. Start the fermentation process and plug your bottle with a cork. In the morning your cork will be missing -- shot off by the pressure of gas that has been released.

    Do this day after day. In perhaps a MONTH the fermentation will be complete. All the available glucose has been converted to alcohol and carbon dioxide (the gas whose pressure has been blowing the cork out of the bottle.) At this point you can safely cap the bottle and it won't explode. But the chemistry within the bottle will continue. Now it is your decision as to how long you will let it continue to age -- and blend -- before declaring it "finished." The limit you set is likely to be far short of the ultimate limit nature has set.

    Thus it is with perfume. On the one hand patience is required. Bottle your juice too quickly and it will play tricks on you. What you deliver to your customers may be quite different than what you put into the bottle -- for better or for worse.

    So yes, there is a commercial decision to be made. The decision as to how long to let your mixture blend before putting it to use.

    How long must it sit before it is practical to call it finished? That is a decision you must make for yourself, by testing, testing, and testing some more to see how time -- blending time -- is affecting your perfume.

    Only through this repeated testing -- and patience -- can you be reasonably assured that you are delivering, to your customer, the product you intended.



Saturday, July 13, 2013

Testing, Testing and More Testing

    I'm working on a new perfume. It is being developed according to a visual plan -- matching notes to visual themes. There were about eight pieces of visual information but thus far I have only worked on accords for three of them. One was not at all successful but two offered hope. Thus, in an effort to move forward, I made a blend of these two accords to see what might come of it and, after a few tweaks and twiddles, I arrived at a very small vial of what seemed like a nice compound. Liking what I had made, I scaled up a bit. Then, still feeling confident, I mixed my compound with alcohol -- about 10% in 90% alcohol -- and let it sit a bit.

    The first sniffing of a test blotter, after a night or so of sitting, was bland and did not seem at all to represent the visual image that had led to this particular formula. Several days later, another test on a test blotter revealed a great deal more. One note, that originally seemed to me quite suppressed, now dominated. This note was important to my visual image but was not intended to be dominant. (In fact it is a difficult material to work with but exciting when you get it right.)

    Now, because of this repeated testing, I am taking two steps backward. Rather than removing the offending element I will remove, one by one, several of the surrounding elements and then, perhaps, strengthen one or two others, to get it back on theme.

    Now here's the important point. Making perfume can be a random act or it can be deliberate. If you think of perfume making as an art, it can only be deliberate. This means that just creating a nice smell won't do it. This means that testing is essential. You can only test if you have an intention. And if simply making a nice smell is what you are testing for, that's nice. But perfumery can be so much more.

    Testing for the "so much more" means testing each of your mixtures -- your trials -- against your stated, in this case visual, goal.

    So the fact that what I've done so far might be "nice" counts for nothing. The standard is my visual image. And what I've done so far falls short in that -- although it passed successfully through several levels of testing -- it failed as it approached the finish line. The "finished" (and now NOT "finished") perfume.

    It is frustrating to fail when you feel you are so close to the finish line but if you desire to impose some standard upon your work -- to have your work represent YOUR vision (for better or for worse!) -- you must continue to test, test, and test some more -- and be willing to step backward and analyze when your test results show you have taken a wrong turn. Then start up again toward YOUR visual goal.