Is the perfumer always... the perfumer?

I often get asked the question "Do you actually make the perfumes or does someone do it for you?" In my case the answer is yes I do. I do have a company with bigger blending capacities than I do to compound the ingredients in to 5L gallons for me. I have a small home studio and create each formula which I then send to my compounder for sampling. At each step I make small tweaks to the formula until I decide on the final blend. I then supply any specialist oils they would not normally stock and they then blend the final compound for me. They don't have any input on the creative or biochemical process unless I need some advice re. allergens or available alternatives. 

It is obvious to me and many of you I am sure, that there are people calling themselves "perfumers" who aren't necessarily that depending how you define the word. They may pose for photographs in front of very tidy shelves of minimal ingredients. They frolic in fields of lavender and boast of the exotic location their oud was imported from. The irony being that most fragrances are predominantly made from synthetics and these ingredients are probably the most challenging to get to grips with. Some of these individuals might be more accurately described as "noses" or maybe "fragrance designers?" I say the above with my tongue firmly in my cheek because ultimately, I am not sure it really matters. An architect can design a house but can't necessarily build it. I think what perhaps annoys some people in the industry is the lack of honesty. 

The reality is that there are a lot of noses out there who have excellent taste and can direct a lab to produce the masterpiece they have imagined. My definition of "perfumer" also includes things such as knowing which ingredients contribute to which accord, which musks are transparent enough to let the accord sing through, which ingredient is going to flatten the blend and how can I seamlessly take that top notes in to the heart? A lot of that often feels like wizardry and as more and more ingredients land on your desk, it is down to a lot of trial and error. A beaker of 10 essential oils may smell nice but it is unlikely to result in a complete perfume without someone to build the structure around it.  

I am glad that my journey of learning has given me the ability to do both aspects. I have learned so much in the last 5 years and continue to learn each day. Knowing how to create the complete scent make it much more possible for me to completely express the fragrance I want to express from the top all the way down. 

I have had some very interesting conversations with some highly esteemed perfumers. Naming no names. It is clear who knows their ingredients and who doesn't. To refer back to the architect analogy above, to me this doesn't matter but perhaps the honesty does?

I'd love to know your thoughts on this in the comments. 

1 comment

You fragrances are so unusual and complete artistry! Doesn’t matter the label you give yourself.. x

Lesley Kerrison May 03, 2022

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