How I Make a Perfume - Rook Perfumes London | Unique Unisex Fragrance

How I Make a Perfume

Running a small business like Rook Perfumes is... a lot. When you also try to be an emergency doctor at the same time, it leaves you with little time to be creative but I MAKE the time. When I set out to make a new perfume, there is almost always a goal. Right now it is a floral - my nemesis. For those that know my style of perfumery, I hope you will agree that they exist in a realm that smells quite natural to the nose. I have an immense dislike for perfumes that smell too "perfumey" (that's not a word) and I think many florals out there pay little resemblance to the scent of the flower in nature. Jasmine and tuberose are two of the biggest culprits. I find in fragrance these notes tend to howl with an uncouth sweetness when in nature I actually find them quite delightful.

The trick for me is to think of, in this instance, not only the flower but everything going on around it. Is it in a park or somewhere more urban? Is the weather warm or wet or both? Is it growing on a wall or climbing a wooden trellis? What else is growing around it? When you allow this picture to build you almost allow the imagination to fill in the specifics of the floral. When I create a perfume I also like to try and create "space." The notion of expansiveness, rather than a heaviness that can sometimes make florals smell like the inside of a make-up bag. This also arises from ingredients I find overused in fragrance. Specifically from the ionone family - methyl gamma ionone being an ingredient that makes me run for the hills. Once you smell it, you will start to find it in many scents. It has a powdery violet note with woody nuances but this unrelenting sweetness that turns even the darkest patchouli in to the sickly smell of a vintage compact. It has its advantages. It lasts fantastically on the skin but to me that is also a curse. 

Creating a perfume is essentially a game. You play and play and you realise that ingredients you thought you knew very well, you did not know well at all. It is also incredibly heartbreaking when a fragrance feels perfect 30 minutes after you blend it but over night turns in to something horrific, once all the ingredients have had time to show their true colours. This game is a thing of obsession for me. I sometimes lie in bed and an idea comes to me and I HAVE to get out of bed and blend it so it is ready to assess when I wake up. 

The other challenge can be making something different from what came before. Most perfumers have some kind of signature accord or character that defines their fragrant point-of-view. We all have a collection of oils that we love and it can be the case that you make something that smells all too familiar. I find this often happens even when I use a collection of completely different materials. It is like I am able to subconsciously create the same accord in a different way. This can actually be useful with IFRA appearing to limit a new ingredient each month!

Bravery is also key. I have a collection of oils which sit quietly on the shelf, untouched. This is mostly because removing the lid can fill the room with a cloud of unpleasantness. Take sulphurol for instance - it does what it says on the tin but when used in traces I find that it's eggy goodness can provide wonderful support to herbaceous and white floral notes. The same with benzothiazole, that unmistakable rubber plimsol note can bring a modern facet to rose. 

The wonderful thing is that there is no wrong answer - which means there is no right answer. People will love what you hate and hate what you love. Each perfumer speaks a scent language that will connect with some and not with others. The aim isn't a crowdpleaser, instead for the crowd to be divided. 

As always if you're a budding perfumer I am always happy to answer questions. I will keep you updated on my floral journey as it unfolds.