First of all, I must convey sincere thanks to each and every one of you who took the time to respond to my initial Pyramid Building post. In addition to the comments, I also received several fascinating emails, all of which contained a good deal of food for thought.
The general consensus seems to be that, no, you cannot smell the entirety of a fragrance within just a few seconds. Or, to steal a verb used by one of my emailers, you cannot see into a whole fragrance that easily. I'm not sure where this leaves the experienced perfumer I mentioned in the previous post, but there we are. Perhaps his skills have been honed to such a degree that he genuinely requires mere moments in order to come to a conclusion about the composition of a scent.
I appreciate that, in many ways, the question I've raised is rather simplistic. After all, as another one of my correspondents pointed out, perfumery is bound by the laws of physics. Some substances evaporate faster than others. In order to impose a structure on this phenomenon, we've developed the notion of three different layers of notes. There is no discussion. Bergamot oil evaporates faster than jasmine absolute which evaporates faster than sandalwood oil. What else is there to say?
Well, there's something about the neatness of that explanation that leaves me rather unsatisfied, not least because it's been challenged by several notable figures over the years. Okay, fine, it may be a useful tool when you need a convenient shorthand with which to explain a perfume to someone who's considering spending money on it. But as a means of conveying the complexity of your creation, it seems rather inadequate. Surely we could come up with something better.
Alec Lawless proposes an interesting idea on his site: he has devised a framework which he calls ‘Heart, Nuance and Intrigue’® (a trademark which he has registered to Essentially Me LLP). He writes,
I have evolved another conceptual tool, which I have found very useful. It involves thinking about a fragrance in terms of heart, nuance and intrigue. The heart® is the body of the fragrance, its main theme. Nuance® is provided by complimentary smell groups in order to make the heart more interesting and complex. Finally, intrigue® is provided by unexpected even dissonant notes, which invite curiosity by not being obvious. If you imagine the infra red/ultra violet spectrum of top, middle and base as a vertical axis and if we combine the use of heart, nuance and intrigue® as a horizontal axis we have a three dimensional model to aid conception.
So that's what I'll leave you with today. Have a think about his concept and please let me know your views.