perfumery business: 16 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.

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.

“Noble” Materials

It seems that the niche houses, and everyone else in the know, have received a memo advising that the new trendy thing is noble materials. It can be the only explanation for the surfeit of noble verbiage in the press releases that pass my hands. “We are reviving the venerable traditions of the art of perfumery using only noble materials.” “The combination of noble materials and extreme sophistication takes your breath away.” “Our extraordinary fragrances are pure, authentic and use high concentrations of noble materials.” “We use only 100% all-natural noble materials, no water, other toxins or chemicals.” I will stop here before all of us start losing IQ points.

marie-antoinette st denis

So what is this social hierarchy in scent all about? In French, the phrase “matières nobles” generally refers to substances that are not synthetic, but it can also mean anything fine and luxurious, especially in the world of fashion. Even in science, where the “noble metal,” a term dating to the late 14th century, means a metal that doesn’t corrode or oxidize in humid air, different disciplines have their own lists of materials.

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Elie Roger and Estee Lauder Knowing

Who was the perfumer behind Estée Lauder’s Knowing, a chypre of roses tangled up with dark moss? For many years, Lauder, like many other companies, didn’t put the perfumers into the limelight, and this is why Elie Roger’s name is not often linked with Knowing if you search for the information online. Roger worked for the fragrance house of Firmenich, and he signed both Knowing (1988) and Clinique Wrappings (1990). While his portfolio wasn’t as extensive as that of some other perfumers, he had a distinctive style, and both Knowing and Wrappings remain beloved classics.

estee-lauder-knowing

Roger passed away on Nov. 19, 2010, after a long career, which started in 1946 in Grasse, France, his hometown. He worked for 20 years at Firmenich, both in New York and Paris, and he received the American Society of Perfumers’ Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001. Since he crafted two American classics as well as some other interesting fragrances, it’s well-deserved recognition.

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How Many Roses Does it Take to Make a Drop of Essence?

Here is a bit of perfume math: 4 tons of roses = 1 600 000 rose blossoms = 1 kg of rose oil. No wonder rose oil is one of the most expensive essences, and a kilo of golden liquid will fetch around $7000. The cosmetics company Lush uploaded a terrific video about the rose harvest in Senir, a town in the Turkish province of Antalya, and it shows all stages of rose oil production, from handpicking the blossoms to turning them into the essence. The video also helpfully explains the difference between rose oil and rose absolute.

Update 2021: The video is no longer available, but I suggest searching YouTube for other videos of rose harvests in Turkey, Bulgaria, and France.

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