learning perfumery: 9 posts

Perfume Industry, Diversity, and Becoming a Perfumer

I continue the topic of perfume industry professions. I receive many questions and most of them are similar, so I decided to record a follow-up video. This episode addresses questions from people interested to become perfumers but worried about diversity and not being able to fit in. I’ll explain based on my own experiences and offer several practical suggestions.

This topic is certainly vast, but I hope to touch upon a few key issues. The main idea I would like to reinforce is that the fragrance industry is open to anyone who is passionate, curious, and motivated. I don’t come from a perfumery background. I don’t even come from a country where perfumery is a viable profession. I had no connections to the industry. Yet, I managed to enter it, learn, and create my own niche in it.

If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments. I also recommend taking a look at Things to Consider if You Want to Become a Perfumer.

What are Perfume Accords and Bases?

Today I will continue the technical series on perfumery that many of you have enjoyed, and I will cover the topic of accords and bases. What are these concepts? How are they used in perfumery?

In my video, I explain the differences and nuances and will give some ideas to the perfumers-in-training.

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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.

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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