Osmanthus, Kinmokusei, Fragrant Olive and Its Perfumes

To inspire those of you who will be taking my Osmanthus classes.

Once the weather turns cool in Tokyo, a sweet perfume fills its streets. It escapes from the parks and enclosed gardens and for a few weeks it becomes a familiar presence in a city better known for its skyscrapers, electronics and cuisine than for its flowers. The tiny blossoms that give Tokyo its aroma are easy to miss, but the perfume is so vivid that osmanthus is sometimes called “a ten mile fragrance” tree. In Japanese, it’s known as kinmokusei, and in English it may be referred to as a “fragrant” or “Chinese” olive, hinting at the plant’s origins, but by any name, the aroma of ripe apricots, jasmine petals and leather is irresistible.

Perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena was likewise enchanted by osmanthus, and he chose to pair it with a tea note in his fragrance for Hermès, Osmanthe Yunnan. Although Ellena was inspired by a visit to the Forbidden City in Beijing, his creation captures my memories of Tokyo in autumn. Every element in the perfume is delicately rendered, from the fruity notes that recall the softness of peach skin to the transparent white blossoms soaked in tea. The marriage of tea and osmanthus is a classical one, because both ingredients play up each other’s facets of fruits, woods, sweetness and bitterness. Osmanthe Yunnan is a happy perfume, and whenever I put it on, I feel as if I’ve stepped into a pool of sunlight.

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Hyacinth Perfumes and Spring Flower Notes

Spring is not spring for me unless it has hyacinths. I buy the forced bulbs and leave them around the apartment to wait for the moment when the flowers open up and fill the air with their perfume. The scent of hyacinth is not as delicate as that of many other spring blossoms; it’s rather heady and sweet, with an earthy note. It can be overwhelming, but the contrast is the reason why the fragrance of hyacinths appeals to me—and to other perfumers. Its complexity is an endless source of inspiration.

Hyacinth, like lily of the valley, lilac and gardenia, can’t be processed for essence, so perfumers have to create their own interpretation. Some emphasize the green, succulent facets of hyacinth, like Jean-Paul Guerlain in the legendary Chamade. Guerlain’s hyacinths are framed by the freshness of coriander and violet and the plushness of patchouli. The delicate sweetness of vanilla, an important note in all classics by the house, offsets the earthy darkness of hyacinth without obscuring it completely.  The effect of Chamade is airy, vibrant, and yet enveloping and warm.

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May-June 2024 Online and in-Person Perfume Classes : Registration is Open

Update: the dates for the classes in my Brussels studio are now available. Please take a look below.

It’s been such a pleasure to teach my online classes this year. I’ve enjoyed interacting and smelling with you and every session made me discover something new. And so this spring continues with more new courses. Everyone’s favorites Citrus-Spices-Woods and Rose-Orange Blossom-Iris courses will return and there will also be new offers.

I will teach you the next classical trio of floral notes such as Lily of the Valley, Lilac and Hyacinth. I will explain what makes each of these notes unique and how they are used in perfumery. Since these flowers can’t be extracted by steam or solvents, I will discuss how different perfumers, from Guerlain to Chanel, employed them. I will explain different accords and give you examples of materials that are used to construct these accords, in case you want to try to make your own.

Next, I will devote three seminars to Amber, Vanilla and Tonka Bean, giving you a glimpse into the rich and luscious world of ambers, amber-florals and gourmands. These classes are for students of all levels of interest in perfumery.

To register for the online courses, please go to the Online Perfume Classes page or take a look below:

Perfume Fundamentals: Spices
Location: Online, Zoom
Date: May 11th, Saturday 12:00pm-1:30pm EST/6:00pm-7:30pm CET
Price: €55 Book Now

Perfume Fundamentals: Citrus
Location: Online, Zoom
Date: May 15th, Wednesday 12:00pm-1:30pm EST/6:00pm-7:30pm CET
Price: €55 Book Now

Perfume Fundamentals: Dark Woods
Location: Online, Zoom
Date: May 18th, Saturday 12:00pm-1:30pm EST/6:00pm-7:30pm CET
Price: €55 Book Now

3-Class Package: Spices, Citrus, Woods
Price: €155 Book Now

Perfume Fundamentals: Rose
Location: Online, Zoom
Date: May 19th, Sunday12:00pm-1:30pm EST/6:00pm-7:30pm CET
Price: €55 Book Now

Perfume Fundamentals: Orange Blossom
Location: Online, Zoom
Date: May 25th, Saturday 12:00pm-1:30pm EST/6:00pm-7:30pm CET
Price: €55 Book Now

Perfume Fundamentals: Iris
Location: Online, Zoom
Date: May 26th, Sunday, 12:00pm-1:30pm EST/6:00pm-7:30pm CET
Price: €55 Book Now

3-Class Package: Rose, Orange Blossom, Iris
Price: €155 Book Now

Perfume Fundamentals: Lily of the Valley
Location: Online, Zoom
Date: June 1st, Saturday 12:00pm-1:30pm EST/6:00pm-7:30pm CET
Price: €55 Book Now

Perfume Fundamentals: Lilac
Location: Online, Zoom
Date: June 5th, Wednesday 12:00pm-1:30pm EST/6:00pm-7:30pm CET
Price: €55 Book Now

Perfume Fundamentals: Hyacinth
Location: Online, Zoom
Date: June 8th, Saturday 12:00pm-1:30pm EST/6:00pm-7:30pm CET
Price: €55 Book Now

3-Class Package: : Lily of the Valley, Lilac, Hyacinth
Price: €155 Book Now

Perfume Fundamentals: Amber
Location: Online, Zoom
Date: June 9th, Sunday 12:00pm-1:30pm EST/6:00pm-7:30pm CET
Price: €55 Book Now

Perfume Fundamentals: Vanilla
Location: Online, Zoom
Date: June 15th, Saturday 12:00pm-1:30pm EST/6:00pm-7:30pm CET
Price: €55 Book Now

Perfume Fundamentals: Tonka Bean
Location: Online, Zoom
Date: June 16th, Sunday 12:00pm-1:30pm EST/6:00pm-7:30pm CET
Price: €55 Book Now

3-Class Package: Amber, Vanilla, Tonka Bean
Price: €155 Book Now

“Create Your Own” 6-Class Package 
Location: Online, Zoom
Date: May 11th, Saturday 12:00pm-1:30pm EST/6:00pm-7:30pm CET
Price: €295 Book Now

The class size is small to ensure that everyone gets attention and a chance to interact. The class is run as a lecture interspersed with guided smelling exercises. My style of teaching is personal and interactive. You will have a chance to ask question throughout the class and there will also be an allotted time at the end for your questions on any fragrance-related topics.

Besides the online classes, I would like to invite you to my Brussels studio to take an in-person class.

Brussels Studio Class: Perfumes That Influenced Fragrance History

This seminar will give you a rare chance to smell legendary perfumes in their original formulations. You will have access to my perfume collection and try iconic fragrances from Caron, Guerlain, Coty and Chanel. You will also explore some of the best materials used by fragrance industry professionals and discover why your nose is more sensitive than the most sophisticated machine.

We will step back in time, smell some of the iconic fragrance or examples of interesting genres from the past and also talk about people who made perfumes. Although contemporary perfume marketing focuses on perfume as a luxury item (or a tool for seduction), scents are more complex than this. A bottle of perfume contains an artistic message. It tells you something about the aesthetics of its time. Tastes of its contemporaries. Advances in science and trends in art and fashion had a big impact on the development of perfumery and on how perfumers were able to translate words and visions into scents. Together we will learn the evolution of perfume history by studying some of the most iconic examples of the perfumery art in their original formulations. You will also perform exercises to sharpen their sense of smell.

Class location: Brussels
Class duration: 2.5 hours
200€/per person   (50€ to be paid as a reservation deposit, the rest is payable in person on the day of the class)

Date: May 19th, Sunday, 12-2:30pm Reserve Now 

Date: June 23rd, Sunday, 12-2:30pm Reserve Now

Date: July 8th, Monday, 10-12:30pm Reserve Now (only one spot remains)

To request another date, please  email me.

Brussels Studio Class: Perfume Composition

The professional-level class is based on the classical perfumery training that teaches the fundamentals of perfumery construction. The key element of training features learning to build accords from different fragrance types and families. Each session focuses on a specific accord. I will explain each material and how it is used in perfumery. I will demonstrate iconic fragrances using this particular accord and share their history. Then I will give you simple exercises to learn creating their own accord.

At the end of your course, you will learn the key materials, their combinations and several accords that form the foundation of perfume structure. You will have a finished accord that you can use in shower gel, soap or bath salts.

All of the materials and tools will be provided. At the end of the course, you will take home all of the samples you made.

Cologne (Citrus) Accord

Class location: Brussels
Class duration: 2.5 hours
170€/per person (50€ to be paid as a reservation deposit, the rest is payable in person on the day of the class)

Date: May 26th, Sunday, 12-2:30pm Reserve Now

Amber Accord

Class location: Brussels
Class duration: 2.5 hours
170€/per person (50€ to be paid as a reservation deposit, the rest is payable in person on the day of the class)

Date: June 2nd, Sunday, 12-2:30pm Reserve Now

Chypre Accord

Class location: Brussels
Class duration: 2.5 hours
170€/per person (50€ to be paid as a reservation deposit, the rest is payable in person on the day of the class)

Date: June 16th, Sunday, 12-2:30pm Reserve Now

To request another date, please  email me.

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How To Preserve Sakura Blossoms and Leaves : The Scent of Almonds

It’s almost the sakura season here in Brussels. While sakura blossoms don’t have much fragrance, their petals and leaves contain coumarin, which smells wonderfully of toasted almonds. When the leaves or petals are lightly crushed, you can smell this delicate scent, but it becomes much more pronounced once the flowers and leaves are salted. Drying concentrates the coumarin content and makes its aroma more prominent.

In Japan, salted sakura blossoms are used for various desserts, but I especially like them in tea. The leaves can be used when steaming or roasting fish to lend it an almond scent and I also use them in marinated cucumber salads. You can find great ideas on using salted sakura via Just One Cookbook, a great source for Japanese recipes.

Most Japanese stores, in brick and mortar and online, carry salted sakura flowers and leaves all year round, but if you have a sakura or a sour cherry tree, you can make them yourself. In Japan, Oshimazakura is preferred for its leaves, while Yaezakura for flowers, which are full and have many petals. However, you can experiment with any cherry variety you have in your garden.

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Recommend Me a Perfume March 2024

Our “Recommend Me a Perfume” thread is open this week. You can use this space to find perfume recommendations, to share your discoveries and favorite scents, and to ask any questions about scents, aromas and flavors. Or you can just tell us what perfume you are wearing.

How does it work: 1. Please post your requests or questions as comments here. You can also use this space to ask any fragrance related questions. To receive recommendations that are better tailored to your tastes, you can include details on what you like and don’t like, your signature perfumes, and your budget. And please let us know what you end up sampling. 2. Then please check the thread to see if there are other requests you can answer. Your responses are really valuable for navigating the big and sometimes confusing world of perfume, so let’s help each other!

To make this thread easier to read, when you reply to someone, please click on the blue “reply” link under their comment.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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