Monday, 28 March 2011

Let Me Whisper In Your Ear + Orange Star Give-Away

It's been a while since I've written in any meaningful detail about my own perfume making. Paradoxically, this isn't because I haven't been doing any, but because I've actually been fortunate enough to enjoy some progress. Back when I was still learning to distinguish my tangerines from my tonka beans, I felt quite free to go into a fair bit of depth on this blog when describing my endeavours; I didn't think I had anything to lose. But as things have become more serious, I've found myself growing reticent.

I suspect the main reason for this is that I feel an increasing need to be protective of my work. I don't want much to be known about it until I'm ready to start sending it out to trusted friends. I don't wish to influence the way people might respond to it by stating, for instance, that I'm working on a vetivert scent or a sweet floral (which I'm not, by the way). And, if I'm being perfectly honest, I don't want to give away the little quirks and idiosyncrasies which will, I hope, give my perfumes some measure of originality. But I think this attitude's got to change. I think I need to loosen up a little and remind myself that informing my readers that one of my fragrances contains a few drops of... shock horror... geranium oil isn't quite on the same level as revealing the entire formula!

So here goes... (gulp)

The two scents to which I'm currently giving most of my attention are both inspired by India: one of them takes a jasmine note and attempts to present it within a dry, Eastern setting, whereas the other plays with smoke-infused woods and tries to suggest heavier, more nocturnal moods. So far one of the most interesting facets of their personalities is that they refuse to be pinned down as regards gender. On some days, the first one seems indisputably feminine, but on others it's huskier and more overtly testosterone-fuelled. This chameleon-like aspect of perfumery is what makes the work so engrossing: you never know quite what's going to emerge when you've combined all the oils and given the vial a good shake. Most of the time, the result is a disaster, but every now and then, you get something that makes you close your eyes and think, 'Hmm... this has potential...'

So there we are: I've spilt the beans. Well, okay, that's an exaggeration. I've given you one bean on a little saucer. But I'll give you Bean #2 soon...

This confessional spirit brings us to the real subject of today's post: a give-away of a full bottle of perfume made by a man who is always tremendously generous on his blog when it comes to sharing insights into the creation of his scented wonders. You all know who I'm talking about. It is, of course, Andy Tauer, the Zurich-based wizard who, about a decade ago, didn't know his tangerines from his tonka beans either, but now has several breathtaking perfumes to his name.

Last week, he added another feather to his cap by being shortlisted in the Best Niche Perfume category at this year's FiFi UK awards. His achievement is made more commendable by the fact that he's been placed alongside two remarkable fragrances from 2010: Portrait Of A Lady and Absolue Pour Le Soir. To celebrate his achievement, Scent & Sensibility (who stock the entire Tauer range and will soon be selling the first of the Tauer Collectibles) have kindly asked if I would host a give-away for a bottle of the very scent which stands to win a FiFi award: the radiant Orange Star.

To enter the draw, please leave a comment on the subject of secrecy in the world of perfumery. Is there too much of it? Or perhaps you feel there isn't enough. Maybe your view is that our desire to learn about the ins and outs of perfumers' work is taking some of the magic away from what was once a very sheltered milieu. Or maybe you enjoy seeing behind the scenes.

On this occasion, I won't reply to every single comment. As long as you write something on the topic of secrecy, you can consider yourself to be in the draw. However, please read the Terms & Conditions below carefully before you decide to enter.

Please remember that if you're based in the UK, you can vote for the Best Niche Perfume award by clicking here. Both UK and non-UK readers can also use the same link to vote for the Basenotes Awards.

Finally, I'd like to thank Ronny Geller of Scent & Sensibility for providing the prize for this draw.

Competition Terms & Conditions:
i) the competition/draw will be open until 10 pm (UK time) on Sunday 3rd April; ii) the winner will be selected at random and announced on this blog; iii) if the winner has not made contact with me before Sunday 10th April in order to claim his/her prize, an alternative winner will be selected; iv) readers from anywhere in the world are eligible to enter; v) by entering the draw, you indicate that you are willing to pay customs charges (if applicable) and that customs regulations in your country permit you to receive an alcohol-based perfume / perfumery product posted from the UK; vi) if the prize is lost in transit, it will not be possible for a replacement to be sent; vii) the address of the winner will be passed on only to Scent & Sensibility; it will not be kept on record by me; viii) I take no responsibility for the composition of the perfume, as regards potential allergens and/or restricted materials

Good luck!



  1. First =) I personally enjoy getting inner glimpses of the perfume from the perfumer's perspective. However, it may not work with all perfumers... but then it could just be personal preference. It is difficult though to get really good conversation going without things like marketing for profit etc getting in the way...

  2. On the secrecy of the world of perfume... Well there's quite a lot of areas this covers isn't there ;)

    Secrecy in formulations, secrecy in industry developments, secrecy in costs, secrecy from the noses, secrecy from marketing and secrecy to getting in!

    I have to say though with all this secrecy it can seem like a rather closed world. Like some country that's just opened up it's borders, maybe the fragrance industry is undergoing some awakening too.

    Also, great to read about some of your developments, understandably, you'd want to be a little secretive yourself! I think perfumers or anyone in the industry can give a little away without giving a lot!

  3. I understand your and the industry's need for secrecy, I would probably be the same, but a little teaser now and then keeps up the interest and doesn't really give something away.
    what a great chance to win a Tauer perfume, thank you for hosting this Giveaway! :)

  4. It's a fine balance to tread - enough information to tempt, but not so much that you give away all your mystery (or leave yourself vulnerable to fragrance plagiarism).

    I think that Roxana Villa gets the balance right; she gives enough of a description and main notes to enable you to envisage a fragrance without giving away everything.

    I like the little snippets! Lovely giveaway too.

  5. Persolaise I personally love it when you share a few snippets of your own perfume work and I hope you continue to do so. For me secrecy is probably necessary as there is often millions invested in a new perfume project, but I do love it when a niche perfumer, such as Andy, Anya or Dawn, for example, allows us a more detailed glimpse into their perfume world and share some of the personality that goes into their perfumes. I guess its a case of balance.

  6. I love peeking behind the curtain! When perfumers share information about the creative process, I feel more invested in the perfume... like listening to musicians tune their instruments before the performance---it gives a more complete feeling :)

  7. I understand that mainstream companies need some secrecy in formulations and ideas for new launches, and, however, many perfumes smell the same. Industrial espionage, maybe?

    But I can't deny that I enjoy reading about the making of natural or niche perfumes. I love to know about all the process, the choice of ingredients, the difficulties that the perfumer has to overcome... I'm really interested in this kind of things, even though it uncovers the mistery.

    Thanks for this giveaway! I would love to try an Andy Tauer scent.

  8. Secrets...if everyone knows, it's not a secret! Most of us like to feel like an insider, that we know a secret. Some secrets in perfumery are necessary-proprietary trade secrets, the actual formula. Some information, I think, can easily be shared by the perfumer...his inspiration or concept (not marketing hype, but truth!). We don't need to know proportions, but sometimes it is nice to know about ingredients, something about the process. I'm sure not everyone wants to know more than just how it smells, but some of us would love to be in on a few secrets...We won't tell...promise! :)

  9. I've heard it said that peeking over a perfumer's shoulder takes away the mystique and slight air of 'supernatural', but I see it differently - I see it as a unique insight into a unique creative process that culminates in...a perfume. While I wouldn't want total disclosure - after all, a certain mystery builds anticipation, and how can that be bad? - I like learning more about the architecture behind a favorite art form, because it teaches me more about something I love.

    Oh, Persolaise, you had to do me in with this draw. I adore Andy's perfumes, and I've only sniffed Orange Star precisely once - and never forgot it! So thank you for the opportunity! (And Andy if you read this, thank you for highlighting one of my favorite flowers, too!)

  10. The scientist in me loves knowing how it all works, so the mystery of secrecy doesn't appeal to me as much as knowledge.

    I never thought I'd read about molecular biology after high school, but I was spellbound by the technical nerdspeak in "The Secret of Scent" and felt it enhanced my appreciation of perfumery.

  11. I'd like a little less secrecy from the big houses when it comes to things like reformulation. Wouldn't we all? Just tell us! Niche perfumers can do as they like. :)

    Thanks for another lovely draw!

  12. I believe nowdays there are machines that can anylse the formula of a fragrance which make it very easy if you want to copy a scent. I think it is nice to retain a bit of secrecy and magic in perfumery.

  13. Thanks for all the great comments. You've given me an idea for another post.

    So far, you're all in the draw.

  14. I think there should be less secrecy. I enjoy knowing what's going on behind the scenes. I especially like knowing the name of the actual perfumer responsible for a perfume.

  15. The perfume world holds so many contradictions!
    I fully understand your point when you say you don't want to give too much information on your creations in order to have a «fresh» reaction to them.
    I experience the same thing very often with my husband who has a great nose but no perfume notions. I would have him smell one of my little mixtures (let's say a wet leaves accord trial) and he comes up with the most unexpected remarks that make me discover facets of the smell that were there all the time but that I did not notice because I was looking for (or aiming at) something else.
    The perfume marketing prose works in a similar way, building a set of expectations that lead us to smell (or to search for) what they suggest.
    It often is difficult for me to keep a «fresh» approach, to forget about the names, the notes, the critics I read and just let my heart and my nose explore a new scent.

  16. We love knowing the details of a scent in the making, but unless you are the perfumer, there is no way a reader can threaten a perfume house`s copyrights. So bring on the tidbits!! This keeps us dedicated perfumistas from starving while the scent is perfected!! :-)

  17. Thank you for hosting a giveaway! A bottle of Orange Star sounds fantastic.

    On a subject of secrecy, there is a difference between a secrecy of an individual and a large company. In a latter case, large sums of money and tough rules of business are involved. In a former case, something perhaps less tangible but very important is at the stake: an individual's signature, a voice, if you will. While one is searching for one's own voice, a secret and protected place can be important. Once one had found one's own voice, the work becomes instantly recognizable, it bears a stamp of an individual on it, and no one can take it and run with it. It would be just about as doable or feasible (and perhaps in some cases as desirable) as to run away with someone else's lipprints.

    On the other side, secrecy and disclosure only matter to those who are well informed already. Give me a formula of a perfume at this point... and I won't know what to do with it!

  18. What a fantastic giveaway! I've yet to try Orange Star but would love to. Winning a full bottle of it would be the ultimate.

    I have thought about the subject of secrecy vs. transparency in perfumery quite a bit, and my feelings are mixed. I feel it is the right of the perfumer to be as secretive as he or she desires, it only makes sense to want to protect your art. When the mystery is gone, you can never get it back, especially in the digital age we're living in. However, I really like the transparency that Le Labo has, for example. You can watch them mix up your bottle of perfume and then they personalize the label for you. They choose to remove many of the stigmas associated with niche perfume, and as a customer, that has been refreshing for me. Their practices don't make me wish that everyone did it, though. I want each perfumer or company to thrive in the manner that suits them best. When it comes down to it, this is the only thing I know for certain: if your juice is good, the people will come.

  19. Persolaise, secrecy in the perfume industry is something I have been thinking about recently. The most coherent thoughts I've come up with are these:

    Perfume is an art. I believe the artist has a right to be identified as the creator of a piece (if he wishes). The fairly recent "outing" of perfumers is progress, in my opinion, and can only help the industry grow. People like to feel like they "know" who made something: celebrity chefs, "friending" the famous on Facebook and Twitter are examples of this need to connect.

    As for perfumers sharing their process, well that can get sticky. I would see it as with any other art - speaking in general terms, using generalities and theories, those make sense. To be so detailed as to share formulas, well for an artist that's like being naked on stage!

    I think the Letters to a Fellow Perfumer series between Mandy Aftel and Andy Tauer had a great balance. I think back to interviews I've read with painters - they discuss inspiration, process, rationale and even technique, but never explain how the whole painting comes together. Secrecy is limiting, but so can be complete disclosure. A little mystery and magic is completely necessary in art!

  20. First of all, I have to thank Andy for this generous giveaway. Missed out on the advent, so probably better luck this time!

    Right, back to secrecy in perfumery. In some ways, I do respect that the making of perfume should be kept secret to some extent, for commercial reasons, whatever. One example would be Thierry Mugler's secret ingredient 'S'. But I find it unsupportable when companies deny to tell us the basic info, namely the top, middle and base notes. No surprise that I'm pointing at Nasomatto. They are quality fragrance don't get me wrong but in a customer perspective, these are the minimal information that we expect to get.

  21. I'm really enjoying reading all your thoughts and insights. I would say 'Keep them coming' but you're only allowed to enter once :-)

  22. The only factual information I wish was required to be disclosed is any change in a perfume formulation and preferably before the fact. Companies might do all the necessary dances explaining why they had/wanted to make those changes but I think that consumers have a right to know that they are buying a "fake". If with this type of information I understand why companies do not want us to know it, I do not understand why not to inform customers about the upcoming discontinuation? What will be their risk? A premature sell-out of remnants?
    As to any other information, from brands/perfumers I'm interested in I will take as much or as little as they are prepared to share. I will be trying their creations regardless of how much time they spent on PR (and I use this term without a negative connotation).

  23. I am more interested in secrets from the Nose than secrets in the bottle.

  24. secrecy in the world of perfumery intrigues me.
    I think most of the secrets entail the formula, its ingredients, and the development (time, cost, technique).
    All of this is rightly secret because they want to protect their brand image (= $).
    This makes one ask, when does secrecy start, if it is possible, to hurt the consumer?

  25. As long as what is revealed is truthful, I don't mind that other aspects are kept secret.

  26. We need to keep some secrets in our life and i think everybody has secret.
    but sometimes we could give some of our secrets out if we want, as long as that don't hurt ourself. if in industry someone give their some of their secrets to public (but you can't say it a secret anymore) it can be make the crowd interested on the products. Andy Tauer is one of those man that "give his secret out" but not all (i think it's fascinating to know how a perfumer do their job)

  27. I'm just 'checking in' to say that all the new 'commenters' are in the draw too.

    I'm DEFINITELY going to have to write a separate post about secrecy.

  28. I think there's definitely too much secrecy in the world of perfumery, and I think it's unwarranted. A beautiful perfume would manage to enchant us regardless of whether we know how it's made/what's in it or not. I think the primary downside to all this "secrecy" is the peddling of vacant copy by marketers. I believe the perfume industry needs not only more transparency, but also more criticism. It is disheartening that Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez abandoned further updates of their Guide, and that Chandler Burr is no longer critiquing perfumes for the NY Times. I hope this is only a temporary void that'll be quickly filled. Till then, we have blogs such as this for that!

  29. Some secrecy is just part of the business, but I suspect most readers aren't as interested in the mechanics of fragrance making as in the thought process. Where do ideas come from? What makes a scent interesting to you, the perfumer? Have you been inspired by something recently or seen a new aspect of something old?

    These are things others can't really copy, things that make your creations unique to you.

    BTW, I came here through Andy Tauer's blog -- Ive enjoyed looking through your writings and have bookmarked this. Thanks!

  30. Ashraf, thanks very much indeed for suggesting that my blog can fill the gap left by the absence of any current writing from Sanchez and Turin, and EileenS, any reader of Andy's is more than welcome here.

    You're both in the draw.

  31. I'm a bit nerdy, so I like facts about just about anything, so I think it's fun to read about the making of this or that fragrance - or some historical facts. The magic will always be there when I get a whiff of one of my favorite fragrances during my otherwise busy days - it lifts me out of the hum drum of it all for a moment.

  32. I can understand why there's such a dilemma about secrecy in perfumery, and in my opinion this issue can never be fully resolved, but that's what makes perfume fun!

    Having some modicum of secrecy would be beneficial both to consumer and producer (why am I speaking in Economics?). For those of us who love and appreciate perfumes, it's always fun trying to figure out what a perfume's story is. Wouldn't the process of appreciating and enjoying perfume be more exciting if we didn't know what would be happening? Imagine if there were a chemical scale by which all notes could be classified and this was made known to everyone? We'd be describing perfume as having a top note of maroon rose with vibrational speed of 295nm/s interacting with an iris with vibrational speed of 303nm/s interacting with... you get the picture. Now that would be boring! On the part of the producer some amount of secrecy would allow the perfumer to revel in his/her creation knowing that he/she has created something novel and unique, and being assured of the fact that his/her work would not just be stolen and packaged differently would serve as an incentive to keep creating new and exciting perfumes.

    That said, perfume appreciation is similar to other art forms (let's just use the basic analogy of a painting) and some level of technical knowledge is required before perfume-lovers can actually say something beyond "that smells nice". It'd would be nice, too, if we knew what the inspiration behind a perfumer's work was, but not too much to the extent where the perfumer's descriptions overwhelm and leave no room for our own interpretations of a perfume. As much as I'd like to know what a perfume means to its original creator, I'd like to have some space to assign my own memories and feelings to each perfume! That would make perfume-loving a special and personal passion of mine!

  33. I'm all for openness in ingredients. I also believe in sharing methods / techniques, but I can understand why you'd be hesitant to reveal trade secrets. Still, when dealing with natural products at least, there is enough variation that even using the same techniques is not enough to guarantee accurate reproduction of a fragrance. Just like a recipe for lasagna will depend on the quality of tomatoes, basil, noodles, etc.

    Second time I've entered an Orange Star giveaway; I have my fingers crossed.

  34. *** THE DRAW IS NOW CLOSED ***

    Thanks to all of you for your entries.

    The winner will be announced on on Tuesday.

  35. *** The winner of the draw has just been announced on this blog's home page. ***


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