learning perfumery: 6 posts

Learning Scents (or Words) : A Few Tips

Recently I was making a new series of videos on learning languages, and as I was jotting down notes on learning words, I realized that for my studies I use the same memorizing techniques that I had used to learn ingredients in perfumery school. I wonder if my language learning didn’t accelerate during my training. After all, memorizing something intangible like a scent is even harder than memorizing a new word. Either way, I would like to share my tips on retaining smells in your memory, and you can see how you can apply these techniques to memorizing anything else.

If you wish to have a set of oils or spices ready, I recommend starting with no more 3. It might seem like very little, but if you learn to memorize those three scents and learn to pick them out in a blend, you can expand your exercises to a much greater number. Polish your technique with a few scents at a time.

For instance, my recommended smells for learning would be the following three: lemon (you can use the real fruit by scratching the peel), clove (you can use spices that you have at that time), and vanilla (you can use extract). You’re likely to have them already, and they’re used a lot in perfumery. Just because they’re familiar, however, don’t assume that you know all of their facets.

I emphasize the parallels with language studies to help you find your own connections. I’m sure all of you have pursuits that require memorization, so you can rely on the same techniques for learning aromas. Your techniques might differ from mine, but it doesn’t matter as long as they are effective.

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Putting Scents Into Words : Smelling Exercises

Describing aromas can be difficult. We’re used to associating a scent with something concrete–an orange, a rose, a steaming bowl of pasta, so when we encounter even a familiar smell disconnected from its source, we are lost for words. Orange smells like an orange, right? Yet, the more one smells, the more one tries to put scents into words, the easier it becomes. In this post, I would like to put together the videos I’ve recorded of basic smelling exercises that teach how to sharpen one’s sense of smell and to put scents into words. I’d like to have everything in one place for reference and also to add extra notes to each demo.

Why does putting scents into words matter? First, by describing a smell to yourself, you memorize it more easily. This scent memory bank, or olfactory vocabulary, if you will, will help you to recognize scents faster and to recall them at will. Second, any sensory experience is enriched when more than one sense is stimulated, and the ability to describe smells will make your olfactory perceptions richer and will heighten your enjoyment overall, be it the enjoyment that comes from savoring a glass of wine, a piece of cake or from taking a walk in the park. So, let’s start!

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How to Handle Self-Isolation and Not Lose One’s Mind

My daily routine during intense writing periods is almost always the same. During the week, I wake up at 6am, start working at 7am and continue until 5-6pm, with lunch, coffee break and language lessons in between. I’m so preoccupied throughout the day that I don’t see anyone in person other than my husband and the local shop owners during the week. I usually save weekends for friends and other social activities. So, the new quarantine and lockdown rules that are becoming strictly enforced here don’t change my routine dramatically. This is not the case for many others. “How do you manage to work at home and not lose your mind?” my friends ask me.

Create Your Community

While I require solitude when I work, being part of a community is essential to me. Over the years I’ve gravitated to such communities of people. Those of you coming to Bois de Jasmin, for instance, comprise one of those communities. I enjoy the conversations I have with you, whether they’re about scents, books, embroidery or random observations on life in general.

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Scents of the Burgundian Spring : The Perfume Course

Wrapping up yet another perfume course, I want to linger over each moment that we shared together and examine how far we’ve come over three days of intensive studies. Originally, my course took shape as a rigorous training program for perfumery professionals, aimed at educating people who work in the perfume industry (but who haven’t had perfumery training) and to give them an appreciation for perfume history. When I adapted it for fragrance lovers, I discovered that my method worked to help anyone, regardless of their knowledge of fragrance or background, to sharpen their sense of smell, learn how to smell and how to analyze mixtures from the simplest to the most complex.

Even as I teach the subject I’ve spent more than a decade exploring, I discover new facets to familiar scents, new ways of talking about aromas and new ways of connecting different sensory impressions. It’s because of the subject matter itself, which is vast, but also because of the people who come to my classroom–and to Bois de Jasmin–and their willingness to share their experiences. Thank you to all of you!

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The Art of Perfume Course : Workshop

Here is a recap of the three days of our Art of Perfume course: on Day 1 we visited the Edmond Roudnitska garden and explored the International Perfume Museum in Grasse, on Day 2 we learned about perfumes that influenced fragrance history and more, and on Day 3 we applied our newly learned skills to practical exercises.

As I mentioned before, my course was designed with all of the rigor of a professional training program, keeping in mind our time limitations. It takes years to learn how to make a perfume, but one can acquire basic knowledge of raw materials and try simple exercises to see how they interact together. All of this not only helps deepen one’s knowledge of perfumery, but also makes one’s perceptions sharper.

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