my occasional musings on life, love, art, perfume ... what else is there?

7.24.2005

Perfumery

In case you were thinking you'd dash out to your natural food store this afternoon, pick up some inexpensive oils and whip up a lovely perfume to wear tonight ... think again.

It's a fantasy among some perfumistas that "I, Too, Can Create A Perfume." Really, it's not likely. Two scentists with whom I correspond have disabused me of the notion that it's easy -- or inexpensive.

For instance, I currently am wearing two rose chypre perfumes, one on each hand ...

[A definition of chypre from perfumersworld: Chypre represents a perfume structure where fresh notes, (principally citrus) are combined with oakmoss and usually the rich woody-animalic characters of labdanum and patchouli. In modern chypres the fresh notes may be modified or even replaced with fruity or green combinations. Frequently chypres display a leather character and many men's fragrances are based on the basic chypre structure. The archetype of this comes from Chypre by Coty (almost 100 years ago) and modern examples are Miss Dior and Aramis.]

It's astonishing to me that each of these two versions of rose chypre comprise seventeen different oils (including the wildly expensive rose absolute). The only difference is that one utilizes a synthetic element among its other oils, the other not. It's also incredible how vastly different these fragrances are, just from the use of one synthetic in one, and not the other.

The non-synthetic version has an initial blast of citrus ... while, oddly to me, the version utilizing a synthetic is much softer, with the moss more predominant initially.

Description will vary between noses: C, the perfume's creator, agrees that the non-synthetic's initial scent is bitter citrus, while she feels the synthetic has sweet rather than the soft green topnotes I perceive.

I know from yesterday's test that each of the perfumes will reverse their sweetness in midnote and dry down to a soft, spicy rose. The one differing element seems not to matter as much the longer the scent is on the skin.

All this is interesting to me, but most interesting is how much time and work has gone into these two small vials I have in front of me. Before I received these to test, C had gone through at least five, maybe ten other blend versions -- all rejected for various reasons.

And scent isn't the only consideration. There's the time the fragrance lasts -- and whether it remains true to definition through its evolution on the skin.

And this is before base oils are mixed with alcohol to make an actual parfum. Once this happens, the parfum begins a journey into sometimes maniacal change for the next three to four weeks ... and will this still be the happy result anticipated by the perfumer?

So much work. So I'm pretty respectful of these two small vials and the person who created what's in them. Pretty sure I couldn't do it. And glad that C can, and did.

Today's fragrance: Clearing's Rose Chypre, two versions. Opening with bitter citrus softening to sweet green; drydown is spicy rose. Yes, these are surprising transitions ... but they are a lot smoother than words convey. You get the sense that all players are present from the beginning, and that they're playing well, and quietly, together. First a not-acidic unconventional citrus (not orange) slowing moving into green soft moss and just as slowly and softly moving into a spiciness with an (now this IS surprising) element of rose. The blend works, even if I can't adequately describe it.

10 Comments:

Anonymous Laura said...

M, you and inadequate description are/is an oxymoron. Or something. You know what I mean.
xoxo,
L

1:37 PM

 
Blogger Bela said...

I've known for a long time it's not possible to do: since I mixed some oils, back in the 70s. LOL!

There are lots of things one should let others do for us - perfume blending is one of them. xxx

2:38 PM

 
Blogger Trina said...

It absolutely IS difficult! That's why I threw in the towel and sent all my EOs away. There are so many stunning fragrances already out there, and I was tired of my inferior results :P

3:00 PM

 
Blogger ParisLondres said...

I leave blending to professional perfumers. There are too many good perfumes out there for me to get started - but hey I never say never!!
:))

((((((M))))))) hope you are feeling better.

xoxoxo

1:30 AM

 
Blogger cjblue said...

M, you do a fantastic job of describing them, and now it's *my* turn to be jealous. I have figured out, through much trial and error, that the chypre family of scents is my biggest love. Possibly the oakmoss, really I don't know. But when a fragrance truly moves me, I mean reaches me on a deeper level, invariably it is a chypre. Your two sound gorgeous.

XOXO

6:03 AM

 
Blogger Kyahgirl said...

Our C is a woman of prodigious talent!! I'm glad that you, who loves all things rose, can enjoy the fruits of her labours!
xo

7:46 AM

 
Blogger katiedid said...

How neat she let you try them out... that sounds wonderful.

10:08 AM

 
Anonymous Victoria said...

I try it once in a while, since I have a lot of essential oils which I use for skincare and aromatherapy. I also like to know what oils and absolutes smell like on their own. I discovered that I am crazy for labdanum, that rock rose resin that has a unique leathery, balsamic accord shot through with dark green punctuations.

However, I agree that DIY perfumery is hardly a cost-effective feat for most of us. Moreover, the results are often very poor. Yet, there is a certain pleasure when my SO comes home and says, "Oh, I like this fragrance you are wearing," and me telling him than I made it myself. I am learning to appreciate the hard work of perfumers even more doing my own blending. My hat's off to clearing, a woman of many talents!

2:10 PM

 
Anonymous Loretta said...

Thanks, M, for your insights. Your blog was a good read.

////That we amateurs can only make fun perfumes, but rarely/never make excellent perfumes//// -- is a premise that explains why one should best leave to professional artists the job of concocting the fine perfumes for special occasions. You have it right on!

I've been recently into DIY perfuming (Am guilty as charged!), mostly because I wanted to learn what it's like.

Perfuming, worthy of the name, is an art, not far unlike gourmet cooking or fine winery or statuary.

My hand-blended perfumes don't hold a candle to the professionally blended stuff, I know, because mine usually have no more than ten ingredients a piece. Mine are soda-pop/finger-painting compared to their fine cognac/Mona-Lisas.

The more I try to blend my own, the more I appreciate the more sophisticated blends made by experienced professional perfumers. I might make some fun stuff; but the pros make the truly good stuff.

Perhaps that's why I might wear my own stuff (hopefully, not worn too strong!) on ordinary days, and save the good stuff (in my case, all of the good stuff is professionally blended) for special occasions.

Thus I see no contradiction between being a do-it-yourself-er and being a let-the-professionals-do-it-for-you. On the weekdays, I use my own fun stuff (hopefully not too heavy), but on special occasions, use the good (professional) stuff.

My favorites? Several! Rose (probably all of them), orange (both sinensis/common and Mandarin), a lot of florals, spice, wood, the cinnamon family, vanilla, musk, sandalwood, and perhaps some patchouli (rebellious) and/or cedarwood (unconventional). I also like vetiver. Is there somewhere an Oriental/rosy/orangey/woodsyspicy chypre that I might be able to try? Much appreciation to the perfumers who accomplish such a specialized perfume.

Loretta

4:07 PM

 
Anonymous Loretta said...

My apologies for having written such a long reply yesterday; this is the first time that I had responded directly to a blog. (Am more used to message boards.)

As for my request about what you might know about a hypothetical chypre that is rosey, orangey, Oriental/semi-oriental, and woodsy-spicy (all at once): it could well be that some designers have already made several of such unusual perfumes; but I'll need to web-search the subject.

The only really fine perfume that I own is Tuscany Per Donna. All the rest are either impostors or knock-offs or essential oils; might experiment with them, but not with the TuscanyPD, as the Tuscany is too precious.

As for this blog, I need to read more of it, and hope that you're having a very good day.

Loretta

11:35 AM

 

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