Friday, April 21, 2017

Cleaning up a sour note

    I was almost finished with the new fragrance. I had my formula worked out, ready to go into some final testing.  But there was a problem. For one split second -- for less than a split second -- when I dipped a test blotter and smelled it, there was a momentary disconnect, a non-harmonious moment, before the fragrance settled down ("evolved") into what I intended it to be.

    This non-harmonious moment was very short. Perhaps a split second. But it was jarring to my nose and put me on notice that something wasn't right. Should I ignore it (since it smoothed out so quickly!) or should I obsess with trying to discover what was causing that little problem and, hopefully, fix it?

    If a perfumer tried to hand a perfume with this "problem" to Estee Lauder or Coty, he or she would be fired. Professional, full time perfumers know how to fix these issues before anyone calls the problem to their attention. I'm not that good. Still, I wanted very badly to fix this problem. Everything else about the fragrance had come together very nicely.

    For me, correcting this problem, which just barely needed correction, meant trying to find exactly what was causing the problem and then making a small change that would leave everything else alone.

    In this case I'm happy to say that I overcame that bad spot, that single sour note that was bothering me more than it might have bothered a person wearing this fragrance. It was an issue of balance. Too much of something (two somethings in this case) that had to be toned down to blend more perfectly with all the "something elses." While I may continue with a few small trials that will help me better understand what role each ingredient is playing in the formula, as for the "commercial" version, it's done.

    So what comes next? The answer: some mathematics. I have to decided how much I want to produce -- perhaps no more than 12 bottles -- and then how much of each ingredient I'll need for that production.

    Working backwards now, if I'm bottling just 12 bottles which each will take one ounce of fragrance (I already have bottles on hand), that's just 12 ounces of finished fragrance I'll need; the fragrance mixed with alcohol which, itself will be mixed with water.

    Twelve ounces of finished fragrance is a pretty small amount so, as a practical matter, I'll make up a somewhat larger batch of the fragrance oil. That amount will still be small. But I want to go through the step that will allow me, should I decide to do this later, to "scale up" and produce any size batch I want, and even be able to have a professional lab create that larger batch for me, from my formula. Here are the details on how I will do this.

Friday, April 7, 2017

12 to 60: A good perfume comes from the mind

    I've been writing a series of articles on making a profit and starting your own perfume business by producing just 12 bottles of perfume. I've covered bottles, pumps, labels, water, and alcohol. Next we need fragrance. Today's message is about fragrance but it is an interlude -- a message about the art of fragrance creation.

    A good perfume comes from the mind. Where else could it come from? It doesn't matter whether you are buying it ready made, commissioning it, or formulating it yourself. The starting point is in your head, your vision of what this perfume should be.

    Mental visions, visions that lead to a new perfume, can be of many varieties. You might have a name that seems important to you. Then you think of what that name means and create a fragrance that translates that name into a scent that brings that name to life.

    You might be starting with a name that you've derived from a visual image of something you've seen: fully, partially, or only in your imagination. This can make the development of your fragrance easier (or more difficult!) as now your formulating efforts are guided by and must match both the name and visual image.

    You can also add music to guide you. Can you imagine what tones might go with your perfume name and visual image? Sit down at a keyboard or pick up a guitar and play a few notes. Can you find notes, then chords, then perhaps a melody that reinforces your perfume's name and visual image?

    While you are not yet creating the perfume itself you are putting together a road map by which the perfume can be created. This road map will help determine what smells should go into your perfume and what smells should be left out.

    Let me give you some specifics. I was riding on a train, going through New Jersey swampland, and a certain scene caught my eye. The scene, which I only glimpsed in passing, suggested a name which was not at all what I would consider a good name for a perfume, but it was a name which captured my mental impression of the scene which had passed by so quickly.

    The combination of my mental-visual image and the name I had attached to it gave me the means to sketch out a new fragrance. To replicate that name and image in a perfume I knew I would need certain notes and would have to avoid others.

    I started with a handful of materials that I believed would work as the skeleton of my fragrance. I mixed them, smelled, and decided what needed more and what needs less, and what did not belong at all. When my skeleton started to come together, I begin to lay on the "flesh." Here it gets more complex. With one or two or three more aroma materials my design comes closer to my mental image. Gradually the skeleton is fleshed out.

    At this point, while my fragrance fit the visual image and name, and while, in a sense, it is complete, it had no personality. The trick is to create this "personality," this distinction that is recognizable, but unconsciously rather than screaming out at your face. The elements of the "personality" must blend with the flesh and skeleton but gently, and they must add something on their own. The trick to pulling off this personality is in finding just the right extra ingredient or ingredients and adding it or them in just the right amounts. This is the point I've arrived at for this project of mine.

    And even then, I still won't be finished.

    My next test is to see whether I really need all the ingredients I've used.

    This now is the tedious process of subtraction, eliminating one ingredient at a time to see whether its absence makes any noticeable difference and whether its absence might even clarify the theme of the fragrance. This step takes a lot of work.

    And still I will not be finished.

    Are the ingredients balanced? Is there too much of something? Too little of something else? You might not go through all your ingredients here but certainly you'll want to go through your major aroma components. Strip out everything you can strip out without destroying the flesh or the personality.
    Now back to your project.

    If all goes well, if the mental-visual image and name you started with were strong guides, you should be able to produce a perfume that harmonized with its name and image. And now, thanks to your visual image, a graphic image, and perhaps a few notes of music you wrote to go with it, not only do you have a "good" perfume, you have the start of what could be a strong promotion to sell it.