Monday, 2 August 2010

Smelly ABCs

When people are learning a new skill or craft, you quite often hear them complaining about the fact that they're forced to spend hours mastering the basics. Budding pianists can't bear scales. Young poets don't see the point of rhyme schemes. Student teachers don't understand why they have to trawl through heaps of theory. Of course, sooner or later, most of them come to realise that structures and routines - once fully absorbed - have a liberating effect: you are so intimately acquainted with them that you can clearly see the points at which to depart from their boundaries and enter the realms of true innovation and excellence.

It's a shame, therefore, that no-one has yet produced some sort of 'basic perfumery primer'. Of course, several prestigious perfume schools exist around the world, but they conceal their methods beneath miles of secrecy. There are now quite a few interesting and worthwhile books about the profession, but they don't contain many pointers either, especially when it comes to the nitty gritty, nuts and bolts of creating a serious, workable fragrance. Perhaps this is all well and good: maybe it's best that 'non-mainstream' perfumers are forced to develop their talents entirely on their own. But maybe we'd have an even larger number of talented perfumers out there if someone took it upon themselves to push aside the scented veil and write a serious, detailed 'starter text'.


After the above was written, Michael published this post on his Perfume Patter blog, which of course reminded me that Mandy Aftel's Essence And Alchemy is generally considered a good place for an amateur perfumer to start. I have read the book and I must confess that it didn't inspire me in the way I'd hoped, but perhaps a re-read is in order. Andy Tauer claims it had a tremendous influence on him years ago, at a stage in his life when he was just starting out on the journey that would lead to Lonestar Memories and Orange Star... so if it had that kind of effect on him, maybe I need to give it a second chance...



  1. I must tell you that Mandy's books have each inspired me ... along with her own beautiful creations, to follow a dream of long ago (about 35 years)and create my own laboratory and begin the study of Natural Perfumery this coming October.

  2. Thanks very much for your comment. I think I really will have to re-read Essence & Alchemy, and by the way, good luck with your project. Hope it goes well!


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