It’s my pleasure to share with you that Bois de Jasmin won the 2011 FiFi Award for Editorial Excellence. The winning article was my exploration of functional perfumery, Luxury vs Function. I’m happy that this particular article won (my other two nominations were Red Lipstick Glamour and Building Perfume Wardrobe); although I talk on a regular basis about fine fragrance, I haven’t always recognized the art of functional perfumery. When I was first training in perfumery, I scoffed at making scents for laundry detergents, soaps and candles. You have a tiny budget, a handful of allowed materials and hardly any room for creativity. Where was the art in that?
I was inexperienced and didn’t know any better. The more I learned, the more I realized what a tremendous task it is to make a beautiful perfume for a common household product. One of my first lessons was to make a vanilla scented soap that had to be pure white. I can’t tell you how many brown lumps I turned out before I was able to produce something more or less acceptable. For an experienced perfumer this would be something she could do with her eyes closed, but this technical expertise takes years to acquire through constant experimentation and trial and error.
Once I realized how challenging functional perfumery can be, I started thinking differently about day-to-day scents. Moreover, while only a handful of people can afford an expensive designer fragrance, functional scents—in fabric softeners, shower gels, shampoos—touch a great number of people. This is especially the case for developing countries, where women most often experience commercial scents through their soaps. There are also important environmental implications to functional scents, another reason why this area of perfumery deserves more attention.
Unfortunately, it’s often hard to convince an editor outside a trade publication that this topic deserves any attention. It doesn’t have the glitz and glamour of designer brand fragrances. The perfumers making fragrances for Dior and Lauder at least get a passing mention, but it’s rare to read about a perfumer who specializes exclusively in household products. Yet, they are the masters of their craft, and their work should be celebrated. So I’m glad that blogging makes it possible to highlight such topics. I hope that you enjoy the piece, and I would be happy to write more on the subject. I’m far from an expert on functional perfumery, of course, but I’m only glad to learn more and to share my discoveries here.
Finally, I want to say thank you to all of you—my readers, my commenters, my fellow bloggers. I’ve received so many nice emails and notes via Facebook and Twitter that I feel touched and moved. You’re the reason I’ve continued blogging over these past seven years, and I learn from you every day. That’s the best prize of all. Thank you! Also, congratulations to the other nominees (you can see the list here).
Image: the only flowers I have around right now are the red azaleas. They have a delicate scent of green apricots and wet leaves, but their bright, dazzling color more than makes up for the lack of a dramatic perfume. Photo by Bois de Jasmin.