Culture: 368 posts

Art, travel, books, history

Do You Want to Be a Perfumer? Things to Consider

I receive many questions about training as a perfumer–how does one go about entering a perfumery school, what the salary is like, how many years the training takes place, etc. I try to respond to each letter, since I know how difficult it is to obtain the information about the industry, but lately I’ve noticed that many people contacting me have no idea what the profession entails. They hold romantic notions about working with beautiful scents and surrounded with other artistic people. It’s all true, but there is a negative side to this profession and it can be a shock to those who enter the industry. In my new video, I explain what the cons of perfumery as a profession is and what qualities a perfumer should have.

Of course, I share my experience working for some of the largest perfume companies in the industry, and my insight is influenced by that. People working for smaller houses or niche outfits would have a much different perspective. On the other hand, many people attempting to enter the industry want to work for the likes of IFF and Givaudan and create fragrances for brands like Dior and Estée Lauder.

My explanation is not meant to discourage anybody, but rather to give a realistic, clear-sighted view. Once you know what to expect, you are prepared. The positive sides of this profession are evident–creativity, passion, and of course, beautiful fragrances.

If you have any questions, please ask me in the comments.

One Week Perfumery Course with the Jean Carles Method

Continuing the Professional Perfumery series, in which I explain how perfumers are trained, how they create fragrances and how you can use their techniques to improve your sense of smell, I will talk about the Jean Carles method. This method is used to learn perfumery raw materials. When I was studying at IFF Perfume Academy, we didn’t use this method, but I applied it to my own practice, and I found it helped me to memorize smells better. It also helped me to learn the nuances of materials, since it’s based on comparing and contrasting them.

Once I finished recording the latest episode, I decided to create a one-week study plan for those who are serious about learning perfumery. I followed the Jean Carles method, but I modified it to the home environment. It means that I reduced the number of materials studied each day. I also selected materials that can be easily obtained as essential oils or can be used in their natural state. It’s appropriate for complete beginners.

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Your Personal Museum of Scents

Last year, I received an email from one of my readers asking me an interesting question–if I could create my personal museum of scents, what would it include? She mentioned a NYT column by Tejal Rao, a restaurant critic in Los Angeles, in which she described smells that were meaningful to her. I immediately thought that Bois de Jasmin in its entirety was indeed my personal smell museum. If I were to limit it to certain themes, then I would mentioned two articles that I have already written, Scent of Kyiv, about the city where I was born, and Where Jasmine Forest Blooms, which describes my grandmother’s garden in Poltava, a place that inspired this page.

Yet, as I reflected further, especially on the last decade of my life, I realized that my personal scent museum at this point encompasses much more than I have previously noted. So, I decided to put down a list of scents that move me, evoke memories or inspire me.

Libraries

“Paradise is a library, not a garden,” Jorge Luis Borges said. Or could it be both? Either way, the scent of books and the scent of libraries is one of the most essential and evocative smells for me.

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Stained Glass and Light : Postcard from Brussels

Among the hidden jewels of Brussels is a tiny Art Deco church called Église du Divin Sauveur. Located in the commune of Schaerbeek, it is decorated with the striking stained glass windows. On the outside it looks plain, but as is the case for most churches in this part of Europe, stepping inside reveals the true magic. As the early morning light streams in, the church is filled with an undulating rainbow of colors that makes the space seem bigger than it is. I walk through a river of sapphire blue and immerse myself into crimson and emerald. 

I’ve seen many stained glass window-adorned churches and mosques, but every new one is a special delight. The play of light never gets old. Every time it’s a thrill, awakening a childhood memory of playing with a kaleidoscope and waiting for the one special–the favorite, the unique–arrangement to fall into a place. A turn of the tube, the sound of glass fragments falling into  place, a new pattern.

These days such calm moments are rare, so I savor and seek them out even more. I especially enjoy when they happen when I least expect them. If I can capture with one sentence the learnings of this year, it would be–take care of yourself. Go for walks, pursue hobbies, enjoy your most extravagant perfumes, daydream, hope, and remember that every moment holds the promise of a wonder.

What takes you to your place of serenity? 

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

The Heavenly Voice of Mohammad Reza Shajarian

I woke up in Tehran on a cold October morning. The city outside of my hotel window looked grey and aloof. I was in a new city. I was alone. Tehran is not a city for the fainthearted. It’s overdeveloped, crowded and downright ugly at times. What I saw out of my window intimidated me. Yet, I made myself leave the hotel and explore. I walked with a purpose as if I knew where to go. I lingered at the curb of a busy road and a taxi stopped in front of me. It was one of those open-door taxis that travel a specific route and pick up passengers until they’re too full. I got in, even though I had no idea where it was going. I had no idea how much I had to pay. When the taxi stopped in the middle of a busy shopping area, another woman got out and I did too. I had no idea where I was. I saw a music store, and I walked in. Before I even had a chance to explain what I wanted—and to be honest, I wasn’t sure what it was, the store clerk handed me a disc of Mohammad Reza Shajarian’s songs. I fell in love.

Eventually I would fall in love with Tehran as well–and then with Yazd, Shiraz and Isfahan. Yet, Tehran, the first Iranian city I’ve explored on my own, evokes the most vivid memories for me. And I always think of the heavenly voice of Mohammad Reza Shajarian as I recall Tehran. To say that he is the most famous singer of Iran is an understatement. He is the voice of Iran. As my friend put it, he is the modern-day Ferdowsi, because just like the author of the Shahnameh epic, he captured the spirit of Iran with his art.

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