Celebrating Daily Scents : FiFi Award

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.

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65 Comments

  • cheesegan: Congratulations. April 28, 2012 at 12:41pm Reply

  • Lucy: It’s an under-examined topic and there’s so much to learn about there. I have been finding that I so much enjoy certain products now available more widely for dishwashing and hand soap and cleaning, such as the line by Caldrea, Mandarin Vetiver (countertop cleanser). It’s uplifting.
    Congratulations again on the award! It is so well deserved. We are all indebted to you for your enthusiasm and work. You’ve lead so many people down the perfumed path. April 28, 2012 at 12:41pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much, Lucy! Congratulations on your nomination as well. I always look forward to your take on indie and natural perfumes.
      I haven’t tried Caldrea, but the fragrance sounds wonderful. Andy Tauer did a vetiver scented soap once, if I recall correctly, and it was so good. April 28, 2012 at 4:56pm Reply

  • Austenfan: I am glad you won. And I am especially glad you won for this article as it is one of my favourites on your blog. As a lay(wo)man I really enjoy getting these glimpses inside the fragrance industry.
    So congratulations! April 28, 2012 at 1:00pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you! I used to take all of these daily scents for granted, and even though I don’t like my functional products to be strongly scented, knowing how their perfumes are made is interesting. And it’s even more interesting to learn how to make a functional product to be completely scent-free. That’s an art in itself. April 28, 2012 at 4:59pm Reply

  • marsi: Congratulations! I found your blog only a couple of months ago, but it’s already among my favorite bookmarks. Your commenters are also so kind and nice. I found this to be a friendly community.

    I had no idea at all about the perfumes for the household products. That’s so fascinating to learn about. April 28, 2012 at 1:16pm Reply

    • Victoria: Marsi, welcome! It’s a nice group, isn’t it? And not just here. You can go and comment on any other perfume blog, and you will feel welcomed. April 28, 2012 at 4:48pm Reply

  • Patty: I loved that article, and you absolutely deserved the aware! Congrats, V! xoxo April 28, 2012 at 1:45pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Patty! I very much enjoyed writing that post and researching the topic. April 28, 2012 at 4:46pm Reply

  • Lila Das Gupta: Three Cheers for you !!! April 28, 2012 at 1:54pm Reply

  • Sue: Congratulations! You certainly deserve the award! April 28, 2012 at 1:59pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much, Sue! April 28, 2012 at 4:45pm Reply

  • behemot: Congratulations! It is so well deserved. Hope you will have a nice celebration of your award. April 28, 2012 at 2:23pm Reply

    • Victoria: We had some champagne. Plus, last night I was celebrating my friend’s engagement too, so it was a very nice evening. April 28, 2012 at 4:45pm Reply

      • behemot: Maybe you should buy yourself some nice perfume, i mean, full bottle, as a reward?
        Why not? April 28, 2012 at 6:35pm Reply

        • Victoria: Lately, I’ve been in some Zen state of not wanting any more full bottles and being happy with what I have. But if I think hard enough, some desires resurface. Like a full bottle of Rose Absolue, which I really like. April 29, 2012 at 11:16am Reply

          • behemot: I must try Rose Absolue then. April 29, 2012 at 4:46pm Reply

  • Andy: I’m glad that you won—that article was one of my favorites, so insightful. And I hope you enjoyed your tea (I saw your post earlier on facebook); as luck would have it, I drank the very same thing this morning! April 28, 2012 at 2:30pm Reply

    • Victoria: Andy, thank you for the recipe. It’s beautiful, and even when I first mixed the tea, I could smell it in the whole kitchen. My friend Alyssa mentioned that the idea of including apricot jam was brilliant, because her favorite roses had a touch of apricot to them. And I agree, it makes such a big difference. I want this in a perfume form! April 28, 2012 at 4:42pm Reply

  • Madelyn E: Dear Victoria,
    Congratulations ! You are my favorite Perfume writer as you bring “blogging” to a art form. It is a true pleasure to read your many articles . You inspire your Readers in so Many ways . April 28, 2012 at 2:57pm Reply

    • Victoria: Madelyn, thank you for such a nice compliment! April 28, 2012 at 4:41pm Reply

  • Victoria N: Dear Victoria,
    I am so happy and proud of you! I’m a relative newcomer to the perfume world (less than one year experience) but since the beginning of my interest I’ve been an avid blog reader. Somehow, someway I missed your blog for almost six months… but when I finally discovered it I was in for a treat! I’m your faithful follower and student :). With all due respect to other distinguished bloggers, I can’t think of anyone more deserving that you. When I read you, I’m not patronized or dismissed for lack of knowledge; instead, you share your vast experience and love for perfume freely and passionately. I really appreciate your seriousness and intelligence. Thank you for your selfless work! Tak derzhat! April 28, 2012 at 3:18pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much! What a nice thing to say! You’ve made me blush. I learn a lot from all of you and from my fellow bloggers who are such a great company. I love hearing your stories and how you see the perfumes. There is no wrong or right way to approach it. It’s just about enjoying something beautiful. April 28, 2012 at 4:40pm Reply

  • Mimi Gardenia: Well done and many congratulations Victoria. I love this blog- it is well deserved. 🙂 April 28, 2012 at 3:23pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you for your kind words! April 28, 2012 at 4:11pm Reply

  • Undina: I’m glad you won – congratulations!!!

    If I could I’d have made most functional products scent-free (not just perfume-free – those “natural” smells are even worse!) with a limited exceptions for soaps and other pesonal bath products. My ideal contribution of smells to life would be just the intentional uses – perfumes, candles, air sprays, etc. April 28, 2012 at 3:29pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you!

      I’m all for that as well. Making functional products totally scent-free requires even more skill than scenting them! Some of the product bases have such awful smells that it’s hard to describe them in polite English. Scent-free products exist, but they tend to be much more expensive, because the bases with subtle scents are pricey and hard to formulate. April 28, 2012 at 4:09pm Reply

  • Judith DM: While I am pretty quiet about commenting, I always read! I think the idea of functional perfumery is really profound when you consider how many products each and every day you use that are scented! Once I decided to use a wash detergent unscented. Mistake. I could not get the smell of fish out of them! I think it has only been in the last few years that the extent of scent used has opened up…now not just Spring Time, Ocean Breeze, etc..we have Lavender and Vanilla and other more sophisticated scents, cost more, with it to me. I applaud you on your award and your blog and wish you continued success in the future! I will be lurking around, reading! April 28, 2012 at 5:01pm Reply

    • Victoria: You’re right–some detergents (or rather the active ingredients) have an inherent fishy smell. But these days there is more choice in terms of unscented products, not to mention the scented ones.

      I like Lavender and Vanilla! April 29, 2012 at 11:14am Reply

  • annemariec: Like Judith, I’ve had bad experiences from unscented laundry detergent so I searched out a scented one that I like, which still environment friendly, and cheap. Found one in Aldi and I use it all the time now. It does leave a scent. My daughter took a pillow slip with her to a Guide Camp and was glad because she told me it smelled like ‘home’. That is the sort of work that functional perfumers do, I now realise.

    Many congratulations on your award! And it’s so nice that it is devoted to this interesting topic. April 28, 2012 at 5:54pm Reply

    • Victoria: I first realized it when I went back to my grandmother’s house. She washes her sheets with the same detergent she’s been using for years and then she dries them in the sun. They have such a lovely scent of “home”! I can completely relate to how your daughter felt.

      Thank you very much! April 29, 2012 at 11:22am Reply

  • Tulip: Fabulous news! I’m so happy for you; expecting great things down the road. April 28, 2012 at 6:01pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you! I look forward to more writing. 🙂 April 29, 2012 at 11:23am Reply

  • rosarita: Congratulations, Victoria! I look forward to reading you daily and have learned so much from Bois de Jasmin. That particular article was fascinating; I’d never thought of that aspect of perfumery. Thanks for all your hard work 🙂 April 28, 2012 at 7:50pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much! 🙂 April 29, 2012 at 11:34am Reply

  • OperaFan: Oh how wonderful! That was a great article and I agree about the importance and the underappreciation of functional perfumery.

    I remember that even at 11-12 years of age, opening and sniffing every bottle of shampoo in the supermarket just to choose the one I wanted to use. Even today, I rarely buy any scented product without stopping to compare smells and, when most things being equal, I end up choosing the one that smells best. I’m also willing to pay more for something that smells better.

    I’m glad you spotlighted the topic and even happier that it was recognized for its quality and value.

    Cheers!

    a:) April 28, 2012 at 9:15pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you!

      I learned recently that when creating scents of shampoos and shower gels, the perfumers need to be aware of the “headspace.” In other words, many of us buy shower gels or other products by opening the bottle and sniffing the scented air. If the product base has a strange odor that accumulates, it can skew the perception, so it’s important to formulate the perfume to take this into account. It can get so complicated. April 29, 2012 at 11:47am Reply

  • Suzanna: I sent you an e-mail with congrats, but will add to the happy voices here: Brava! A job well done. I agree with the award; your piece stands out in my mind as the most interesting fragrance topic I read in that calendar year. Indeed, we are all touched by functional perfumery, a subject about which I’d love to see additional coverage. So many questions, but this comment is all about your success! xxx April 28, 2012 at 10:43pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much, Suzanna! And please feel free to ask any question. I would be very happy to share what I know (or if I don’t, it would be a nice incentive to learn and do some research). April 29, 2012 at 11:51am Reply

  • Amy: Congratulations, Victoria! I’ve only recently gotten into perfume, but your site has been such a great resource. I really appreciate your perspective, and I think your article is really insightful. One thing I’ve gotten out of my adventures into the world of fragrance is just how much scent there is in the world, things that I would never have otherwise noticed––including functional products! So thank you for expanding my horizons, and again, congratulations! April 28, 2012 at 11:53pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much, Amy! I’m so happy that you found it interesting. Like I mentioned in my post, it’s sometimes hard to convince an editor that such “non-glamorous” topics are interesting, but at least we have other venues where we can talk about them. April 29, 2012 at 11:54am Reply

  • Naheed: I am very pleased to discover your blog. I first came to know about you through your winning article and am absolutely happy to read your work. I love the flow and fluency in your words which makes the reader more interested to read it whole.

    It’s been a year now since I stepped into fragrance writing and as a *non-speaker*, I sometimes find my self short of the right word, there I try my best to be simple and more understandable.

    I learn at every step and your work is absolutely wonderful. April 29, 2012 at 2:08am Reply

    • Victoria: Naheed, thank you for such a nice compliment and welcome! The trouble of capturing scents in the words is something that all of us discover in one way or another. Maybe, it’s also a blessing in disguise, because we are forced to draw connections to other things we experience–food, images, textures, and it makes for a fun, vibrant discussion. April 29, 2012 at 11:57am Reply

  • iodine: Congratulations! (and I appreciate you put a picture of yourself, it’s like getting to know you a bit more!). I’ll keep on reading your beautiful website. April 29, 2012 at 7:01am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you! I’ve noticed that all of you have these nice, fun avatars; the pictures make it easier to get to know each other–I can’t agree more. April 29, 2012 at 11:58am Reply

  • Barbara Mclane: I am somewhat new to your blog, but I can say in the last few months, I have learned so much from you about fragrance! I truly enjoy reading your articles and wanted to extend my congratulations for your FIFI award! April 29, 2012 at 11:27am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much, Barbara! So glad that you enjoy it here. 🙂 April 29, 2012 at 12:00pm Reply

  • Tamara: Congratulations! I read your blog daily. I also want to thank you for directing me to NST and some other blogs when I first wrote to you for help a few months ago. I was so confused and had no idea where to start learning about fragrance. I discovered a whole community of other passionate readers and writers as well. Again, congrats! I’m so happy for you. April 29, 2012 at 5:25pm Reply

    • Victoria: Tamara, I agree, Robin’s blog is wonderful and has so much to offer. I’m glad that you found a helpful group to guide you. I know that it can be a bit overwhelming when one is starting out–there is so much information, so many perfumes, and we want to try everything! 🙂 April 29, 2012 at 5:48pm Reply

  • Bilanxa: Congratulations on your Fifi award! I have followed you since the days of your posting on MUA and am a regular reader (not poster) on this blog. You have entertained, educated and enriched my appreciation of fragrance. As a side note, I always imagined you to be a BLONDE! LOL! My surprise at you being a brunette, in addition to offering congratulations, propted me to finally post. By the way, you are very beautiful. April 29, 2012 at 6:32pm Reply

    • Victoria: 🙂 I’ve been blonde once, and it felt so wrong and odd to catch glimpses of myself in the mirror with light hair that I went back to salon a week later and asked for a color change. The funny thing is that half of my family is blonde and blue eyed and half–dark haired. My brother got the blond genes, and I ended up as a brunette.

      Thank you for your nice words and for posting–I miss those early MUA days, I met so many great people there. April 29, 2012 at 10:16pm Reply

  • Саша: Позравляю! April 30, 2012 at 5:54am Reply

    • Victoria: Спасибо, Саша! April 30, 2012 at 9:48am Reply

  • Maureen: Congratulations on your well deserved award. I really liked that article. I never thought about the scent in products until I purchased a night cream and absolutely hated the smell. I would never buy it again. I don’t care how good a product is for your skin…I don’t want to smell something bad as I drift off to sleep. April 30, 2012 at 9:05am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Maureen.
      I know what you mean. My husband bought a new brand of laundry detergent a couple of weeks ago, and suddenly both of us noticed that all of our clothes and bed sheets have this strange, ozonic scent. It seems like such a little thing, but it was unsettling, so we went back to the one we usually use. April 30, 2012 at 9:48am Reply

  • Parfymerad: Congratulations on a *very* well deserved win!! I’ve been reading your blog for three years now, and your writing has been unfailingly engaging, informative and inspiring!

    Re. functional perfumery, it always amuses me that my sister, who says perfume gives her an allergic reaction, has the strongest-smelling laundry detergent ever. It’s a very nice and cuddly smell, though, so I’m just keeping quite and hoping she won’t twig 😉 I had no idea, though, that the raw products were so vile-smelling! April 30, 2012 at 9:54am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much. I love meeting other perfume lovers here and on other blogs and forums.
      Oh, I’ve met those people as well. The hair products can also smell very strong. For instance, I use hair spray very rarely, because I’m yet to find a brand that has a subtle scent or the one that vanishes quickly. If anyone has any suggestions, I would love to hear them. April 30, 2012 at 10:22am Reply

  • nancyG: Just read your prize winning article – very informative and I especially liked learning that parfumeurs use the scents of the raw materials as building blocks for their functional scents, rather than covering them up.
    And there are some functional products whose scents I really love and might actually wear as perfumes were they developed into them. I loved the scent of a Prescriptives (RIP) anti-blemish product… April 30, 2012 at 12:51pm Reply

    • Victoria: I love the scent of Nivea handcream! I always wanted that in a perfume form. I’ve never smelled RIP. What does it smell like? April 30, 2012 at 3:00pm Reply

  • Dionne: I will join everyone in giving you kudos for an excellent article. Whenever I talk to friends or SA’s who want to know more, your blog is the address I always give as a gateway into this world. May 1, 2012 at 11:07am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much, Dionne! May 1, 2012 at 12:15pm Reply

  • Bela: Please, please, please forgive me for the delay (I had a deadline on 30 April).

    Congratulations!!!! You absolutely deserved to win. 🙂 May 9, 2012 at 7:59pm Reply

    • Victoria: There’s no need to apologize, dear J! Thank you so much for your kind words! May 9, 2012 at 8:30pm Reply

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