Saturday, April 27, 2013

Definitions: Could you translate one of these popular themes into a perfume?

* A muddy mountain bike on a foggy trail.

* A web golden retriever with a Frisbee in her mouth.

* A soccer ball in midair as it scores a goal.

    Yes, we can imagine these smells but, to translate them into perfumes? Where do we start? How do we do it? It's not like we are going to start with a bottle of some existing fragrance oil. We have to make that oil, element by element. We have to build our perfume from the appropriate building blocks. We need real life examples to guide us. We need definitions.

    Perfumery involves translating words into smells. We think, for the most part, in words. When we think of a new perfume we want to make, we define it -- in our heads -- in terms of common words and visual images and visual images can be defined in words.

    To make perfume, those words must be translated into smells, defined by smells.

    So what we need is a scent alphabet, a scent vocabulary, and a scent dictionary. Then we can translate an idea for a perfumes into a formula for that perfume -- and notice, without the formula we cannot make the perfume. You can't put a mountain bike (or a golden retriever) into a mixing pot. You have to reduce it (or her) -- the smell you want -- to a formula, and this means you have to define "mountain bike" or "wet golden retriever" in words that specify aroma materials in precise amounts. Once you learn to do this perfume making becomes incredibly exciting because all of the worlds around you -- both the physical and the mental -- become your palate for new perfumes.

You could spend a lifetime learning ... or --

    A professional perfumer spends a lifetime learning  these definitions. That is what makes creativity flow -- ideas become perfumes because the perfumer knows how that which is born in words can be translated into a formula for a fragrance.

    But what about you? Or me? While our interest in perfume creation may be intense, the amount of time we devote to learning the use of hundreds of aroma materials is likely to be limited. Sure, we become quite familiar with the handful that we use most often, but we're not quite ready -- yet -- to create that "wet golden retriever" perfume because, while we think we know what it might smell like, our thoughts are still words and these words are not yet defined by precise combinations of aroma materials.

A table of definitions

    The Perfumer's Workbook includes a table of definitions -- over 450 words and images (given in words) translated into aroma mixtures which you or I can mix -- and smell.

    Think of it. 450 precise mixtures that define 450 words and word images. What an incredible starting point for fragrance creation! Think of what happens by using two words together -- over 20,000 fragrance definitions. Or three words together -- over 91 million definitions! Think how many perfumes -- perhaps now only dreams in your head -- you could make from this simple but precise table of definitions.

    The Perfumer's Workbook serves many functions. Some are quite advanced, others simple. The formulas given in The Perfumer's Workbook table of definitions use only 26 aroma materials -- even for all 91 million 3-word definitions.

    Both The Perfumer's Workbook and the 26 defining aroma materials are part of the PerfumersWorld Foundation Course. It's a pretty strong way to get started developing your own perfumes. It opens up an unlimited world of scents to you.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

It's time to make your own perfume!

    So you want your own perfume? And you want it now? OK, you can have it. It will cost you some money (but not very much) and you'll have to do some work (but not very much) so if you are serious, let's get at it. Here's how.

    There's a fellow who stands ready to make your perfume for you, starting with a sample for your approval. The cost, to you, of getting this sample sent to you in the mail is about what it will cost him for postage.

    But here's the hitch (you knew it was coming!) He can't make a sample for you until you provide him with a formula. Yes, a formula. That's a recipe for a perfume listing the ingredients to be used and the correct quantity of each ingredient.

    If you're a perfumer already, you understand what I'm talking about. You understand that developing a perfume involves developing a formula. It's like a blueprint. It tells the manufacturing company how to make it. So for you, if you have your own formula, perhaps all you would need to get it made by this fellow would be a little standardizing, so that you both are on the same page on precisely what materials should be used and their precise quantities. He can help you with this and you might be quite pleased by what you learn in the process.

    But if you're not a perfumer and all this is completely new to you, what can you do? Don't despair. Let me walk you through it.

    First, since it's your perfume -- your idea -- your creation -- you must have a pretty good idea in mind as to what it should be. Your problem is that you don't know how to put your idea into a formula that the manufacture can work with. But don't despair. He has developed a tool for you, a tool that will translate your perfume idea into a formula that he (or anyone else in the industry) can work with. It's called The Perfumer's Workbook.

    The Perfumer's Workbook is a computer program for fragrance design and formula creation that runs on any desktop, laptop, or tablet computer, Windows or Mac. It prompts you with a number of questions and then queries a database of many hundreds of aroma materials -- even "all naturals" if you desire -- to produce a working formula, a professional perfume formula you can take anywhere to have made for you. But this person I am telling you about is probably the only one who will make a sample of your formula and send it to you all for around the cost of postage. Of course if you like what you have designed and the way it was made for you, he'll be happy if you ask him to make more. But that's up to you.

    The Perfumer's Workbook is not free but the cost, considering the language gap it will bridge for you, is very, very affordable. You can obtain it as an instant digital download. That means you could be ordering your first perfume sample just two hours from now.

    P.S. -- If you are already a serious perfume developer, The Perfumer's Workbook can help you in many ways. Read more about its other features here.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Reducing it to a formula

    A formula is what allows you to make more of what you liked the first time and avoid repeating mistakes.

    A formula is a recipe but it is different than a cookbook recipe in one fundamental. A perfume formula can be used to project the COST of the formula. In perfume production, cost is important.

    To write a formula from which costs can be projected, you need to reduce all ingredients in the formula to the same unit of measurement. For example, in a current project with four ingredients, one is sold by the gallon, one by the pound, and two are labeled in both grams and ounces. Each is priced by the container in which it is sold. This leaves us first with the decision one what unit to go with and then with the mathematics needed to reduce each ingredient to a common unit for both mixing and pricing.

    Here I've gone for grams so I must now do the following calculations --

    ** For the two ingredients with contents listed in grams I have to calculate the PRICE PER GRAM for each. I'm making only a small batch of my product and one of the ingredients is very inexpensive so pricing in grams is appropriate. If I was producing larger quantity I probably would have gone with kilos as my weight/cost standard.

    ** For the ingredient sold by the pound, it was necessary to first convert pounds to grams and then do the math to calculate the price per gram. This was quite straight forward.

    ** Finally there was the task of converting gallons -- a liquid measure -- to grams, a measurement of weight. You do this by weighing out a sample of the liquid to get the gram weight for the volume you weighed. Then you calculate the grams per gallon. If your equipment allowed you to weigh a full gallon at one time you wouldn't need to make the second calculation. With gallons converted to grams, you can calculate the price of the liquid per gram.

    ** Once you have done your "price per gram" calculations, you can write your formula in grams AND project the materials cost for any quantity you chose to make. If your cost/gram for certain materials is reduced by bulk purchases you'll have to make the necessary adjustments.

    ** A cookbook recipe details not only the ingredients but the process of blending them. Perfume formulas don't usually require these extended instructions. My four-ingredient product involved flavoring (it was a beverage) and thus, as an aside, I had to write out how an herb was blended with spring water, the length of time the water was boiled, and the filtering out of the herbal residue. This was a bit like detailing the production process of a particular batch of an essential oil.

    At the completion of the project, after a month or so of aging, the product will be filtered again to remove another residue. Then additional aging will take place.

    The project itself involved making mead, an ancient, alcoholic beverage. The ingredients are honey and water. A bit of yeast thrown in gets the honey fermenting. The herb was used for additional flavoring (what will be my "secret" recipe.)

    Note that the flavor and fragrance industries have long been one. Some prominent F&F houses got their start in the 19th century by developing flavorings for beer and candy. Fine fragrances came later.

    The mead project was suggested by a beekeeper friend who converts some of his honey to mead. He also flavors his mead with various herbs and spices and, upon tasting a sample, I felt compelled to try making mead -- plus flavoring -- on my own.

    My first small (400 ml) batch, fermenting and aging now, cost about $4.50 to produce. All ingredients were purchased at the local supermarket. Some say baker's yeast is a poor choice for making wine or mead but it is so easily available and inexpensive that it seemed like a good starting point.

    Spring water, well water, or distilled water should be used. Tap water may contain chlorine and fluoride. These are undesirable for mead making.

    I used a local, "all natural" honey. In other words, pure honey with no additives. And note, ALL honey is "organic." That's the only kind of honey bees know how to make!

    Proportions? About one part honey to four parts water -- by volume -- not weight. So here we go "converting" our formula into another unit of measurement.

    P.S. -- When you're making perfume or cologne, you always run into this issue. The fragrance oil and its ingredients are generally sold by weight -- kilos or pounds. But the alcohol, water, and fragrance oil you use to mix your finished perfume is measured in volume -- liters or gallons.

    Learning how to make conversions is part of learning perfumery.

    For conversion assistance you can use the conversion tool at

    To write your formula AND get the cost for any quantity, use The Perfumer's Workbook.

    A warning note: fermentation produces gas. If you're making a fermented beverage, don't seal the container. In a day or two the pressure from the gas will easily blow a cork off the top of a bottle. If you use a screw on closure, the pressure can break the bottle. I've been using a bit of plastic wrap with a small hole punched in it to let the gas out.