Monday, 20 September 2010
Pyramid Building - 1
Allow me to explain what I mean. A well-respected and successful perfumer I know once stated that you can tell precisely what's wrong with a scent within moments of applying it onto a blotter or your skin. According to him, all it takes is a few seconds to determine if an ingredient has been overused or if the overall composition lacks something.
You may not be surprised to read that I was a little taken aback by his words. "So does that mean," I asked, "that you don't really believe in top, heart and base notes?"
"Not at all," he answered, "I think the idea of the three layers of notes is extremely useful."
"But then... how can you smell an entire fragrance in just a few moments without waiting for the heart and the base to emerge?"
"You don't need to wait for the whole development. You can smell all three levels pretty much straight away."
Having considered his statement very seriously, I'm not sure I entirely agree with him, but I'm aware that he's far more experienced in these matters than I am and, in some ways, I can see what he means. After all, if you spray Chanel No. 5, it takes no more than about thirty seconds for its distinctive identity to appear and linger - essentially unchanged - for hours. If Madame Persolaise sprays Nahema in the morning before going to work, the scent she leaves in her wake is basically the same as the one I detect when we have lunch together at midday. And yet it can't be denied that a well-structured perfume also changes with the passage of time, shedding some aspects of its personality whilst making room for others to grow more prominent.
Where are all these thoughts heading? Well, over the next few weeks, I would like to engage you in a discussion about the validity of the traditional top-heart-base pyramid. Do you think it serves a useful purpose or do you believe that it doesn't properly reflect the way a scent functions? Do you think that it works just fine or does it need tweaking? Is it more helpful to those who wear perfume or those who sell it?
I will, of course, publish my views and ideas here, but I also hope some of you will consider contributing your own opinions, if not in the form of a 'public' comment, then by sending an email to persolaise at gmail dot com.
So finally, just to bring things full circle, let me repeat my initial question: how long do you think it takes to smell a whole perfume?