Fragrance Event in Washington D.C. November 13


For those who can get to Washington D.C. on November 13, there will be a fragrance event with a chance to meet perfumers Calice Becker, Christopher Diienno, and Heather Sims. The event is open to the public, but you need to RSVP (I will follow up to ask how they want you to RSVP). The event is being put on by the International Fragrance Association North America; they have been working to educate congress about the fragrance industry and the artistry of perfumery. Sounds like the event could be fun!

Here is the press release I received:

“Ever wondered how classical music, 80’s rock or today’s pop translates into a perfume? Join award-winning perfumers and the International Fragrance Association, North America (IFRA NA) on November 13th from 5-7 on Capitol Hill to experience these fragrances for yourself, enjoy cocktails and meet the perfumers behind some of the world’s most popular scents. Inspired by music, our perfumers are creating new and unique scents especially for this evening of music, scents, and senses.

Perfumer Calice Becker has designed the scent representing classical music. Calice has been the nose behind some of the biggest perfume blockbusters of the past two decades, including Christian Dior’s J’Adore and Tommy Hilfiger’s Tommy Girl. Perfumer Christopher Diienno used Depeche Mode, New Order and The Cure as the inspiration to create a scent representing 1980’s rock and perfumer Heather Sims has created a scent to correspond with Justin Timberlake’s recent Suit and Tie album.

The perfumers and Jennifer Abril, President, International Fragrance Association North America will be available for interviews during and after the event.”

Editing to add an update: This event was covered by Mark at Cafleurebon, who attended.

Brave New World: ingredients synthesized by micro-organisms

Several articles have been published recently about a relatively new technology for creating perfumery ingredients (as well as flavorings and some drugs); yeast, fungi, and bacteria can be genetically altered so that they synthesize perfumery ingredients such as vanillin. Although the yeast is a GMO substance, the ingredient it synthesizes is not GMO and is currently considered to be “natural” in the USA and Europe, though there are some challenges to that claim and we’ll have to see what happens.

One stated advantage to this new technology is potentially lower costs for ingredients and therefore the possibility for better formulas to reach the mass market by making natural ingredients more affordable. Another possible advantage would be saving natural resources like sandalwood by synthesizing them instead of harvesting them from nature. Disadvantages include putting some farmers out of business since it would be difficult to compete with the lower prices offered by biotech ingredients. You also have to wonder whether it is wise to create more GMO organisms given the problems we’ve encountered in the past with them, though these micro-organisms would be used in the lab and not introduced into the world the way GMO crops have been. This is likely to be a thorny hot topic in the future.

For more information, see the NYT article “What’s That Smell? Exotic Scents Made From Re-Engineered Yeast” and also see the article titled “Biotechnology Ushers in a New Era of Innovation for Perfumers and Flavorists” by Carolyn Fritz in the November 2013 issue of Perfumer & Flavorist. The NYT article explains the overall topic in lay terms, and the P&F article explains more of the chemistry and science behind the technology.

At the end of the P&F article, the author writes that typical mass market prestige formulas are restricted to cost limits of around $20 per pound, and that this new biosynthesis technology could lower the cost of ingredients enough to allow better ingredients to be used in prestige scents, vastly improving their character. The author lists things like natural rose, jasmine, osmanthus, violet leaf, sandalwood, and vanilla that would be used if cost-effective versions existed. (I think she is envisioning reconstructions of the natural oils by putting together the appropriate biosynthesized natural isolate aroma chemicals that are found in the natural oils.)

I don’t know enough about this topic to make judgments yet, but I couldn’t help having a gut reaction to the lament about today’s poor mass market formulas. Artisan perfumers have been using expensive natural ingredients for years — we do use rose, jasmine, osmanthus and violet leaf absolutes, natural sandalwood oil, natural vanilla absolute, etc. We put the money into the juice rather than packaging, advertising, and celebrity endorsements. We operate on crazy budgets, doing as much as we can ourselves so that every possible dollar can go into the juice. Maybe the answer to the poor quality of mass market juice is not just to look for ways to lower the cost of ingredients but to also change the emphasis from the packaging and advertising to the juice. Artisan brands may put a larger dent into the market in the future because there are now so many of us. Each artisan can only make so many bottles, but together we create quite a lot. I suppose what we do is not significant compared to the quantity of mass market juice, but one can dream that together we are making a difference by offering more options.

Checking in…

I wanted to check in with a little update. My arm is doing quite a bit better. It’s not up to normal strength, but my flexibility has improved and I’m able to use it for light tasks now. I’d like to get back to some blending this weekend. I’m taking a few orders via email, but I’m still limiting them until I’m fully up and running. I’d like to put the cart up in time for the holidays.

Victoria posted a review of Spiced Citrus Vetiver on EauMG a couple days ago. Thanks, Victoria! I agree with your comments about the naturals vs synthetics issue. Like you, I enjoy both mixed media and all-natural scents, and I am disappointed when brands intentionally advertise as all-natural when they are not.

Some interesting links this week

Testing for Alzheimer’s by sniffing peanut butter: Researchers have noticed a
correlation between Alzheimer’s disease and deterioration in the ability to smell odors, and now they have documented a difference between the left and right nostrils in Alzheimer’s patients. The patients have much poorer sense of smell in their left nostrils than in their right nostrils, and they had poorer senses of smell than those without Alzheimer’s. Researchers are using peanut butter and a ruler to measure this interesting phenomenon (as shown in the video). They hope to use the sense of smell to develop early detection tests and perhaps allow for early treatment.

Odor of Stress Sweat: Researchers say that sweat produced from stress smells different than sweat that is produced from heat or from exercise, and that stress-induced sweat can result in women being judged as less competent and trustworthy. Interesting that people could detect the difference in the scent of the different types of sweat. (It’s good to keep in mind though that the study was funded and organized by Procter and Gamble, a company that sells deodorants.)

Perfume Marketing Discussion: Perfumeshrine posted an interesting discussion on marketing tactics for selling perfume. I thought the post and the comments were interesting. I agree with most of what was said, though I have not minded having decants of my scents sold through Surrender To Chance. They help get samples out there, and I frequently have customers buy bottles from me after buying samples/decants from them, which seems like a win/win.

Learning Perfumery: Classes & Schools

I am frequently asked what types of classes and schools are available to learn about perfumery. I decided to post about this topic since it seems to be of interest, and now I can refer to this post whenever I’m asked the question in the future. I learned perfumery on my own through self-study and do not have personal experience with classes, but I can provide a list of many of the options. Some of the short courses are appropriate for people who just want to learn more about perfumery, while the longer programs are intended for those who want to make perfumery their life’s work. This information can also help you understand the background of perfumers who list schools in their bio information.

Studying in France to be a Perfumer:

ISIPCA (Institut supérieur international du parfum, de la cosmétique et de l’aromatique alimentaire) in Versailles is one of the most well-known and respected perfumery schools. It was founded in 1970 by Jean-Jacques Guerlain. Only about 20 students are accepted into the intensive program each year, and they must have chemistry degrees to apply. Students learn to recognize perfumery ingredients and study classic formulas before beginning to create their own perfumes. The program lasts two years, and then the students apprentice at a fragrance house for several years. Very few indie perfumers have studied at ISIPCA (the only one I know is Ineke Ruhland of Ineke Perfumes).

The Givaudan Perfumery School, located in the outskirts of Paris, was founded with the guidance of perfumer Jean Carles in 1946 and offers a three-year program. Jean Guichard is the school’s current director. The Givaudan site says, “The school attracts hundreds of applicants for the prized few places available each year.” Givaudan, a Swiss company, is one of the major suppliers of raw ingredients for the fragrance and flavor industries, and they create many of the scents on the market today. You must work for Givaudan to attend their school (that is true for all the schools that are internal to a major fragrance/flavor company — Givaudan, IFF, Mane, etc).

The Grasse Institute of Perfumery was founded in 2002. The student perfumer training program is an intensive nine-month course open to only 12 students each year. They also offer some summer school programs and a seven-month program to become a technical assistant. I know of two indie perfumers who studied at GIP: Jessica September Buchanan of 1000 Flowers and Anne McClain of MCMC Fragrances. Jessica wrote an interesting chronicle of her time at the perfumery school. Clayton Ilolahia gives a great description of his experience attending the GIP two-week intensive summer course on his blog What Men Should Smell Like.

Mane Perfumery School is a two-year program followed by further training while working at Mane, which is another major supplier of fragrance/flavor ingredients and products.

Cinquieme Sens, which means Fifth Sense, was founded in Paris in 1976 and then expanded its program to New York in 2008 and to Amsterdam (their Northern European division) in 2017. Cinquieme Sens offers workshops and training programs at both the introductory and professional level. Programs can also be individually tailored. Gaia wrote about her visit to the Paris location of Cinquieme Sens on her blog The Non-Blonde. Swiss perfumer Vero Kern of Vero Profumo trained at Cinquieme Sens in Paris.

Short Classes in France Open to the Public:

Galimard is a perfumery in Grasse that offers 2-5 hour workshops designed for the lay person to learn about the art of perfumery. Perfumers lead classes with small groups of people and each person has access to an organ with over a hundred ingredients. You learn notes and then compose your own scent. You get a 100 ml bottle of your creation and a diploma for completing the several hour class. It’s meant to be a quick introduction to perfumery, and anyone can pay to take the class with no admission requirements. These types of short classes are offered at some other fragrance houses too (Fragonard and Molinard), and are targeted to the tourist market. They can be a fun though and might spark an interest in some people to study perfumery. Here are some reviews.

Studying in the USA to be a Perfumer:

IFF (International Flavors & Fragrances, Inc), like Givaudan, is one of the major suppliers of fragrance and flavor ingredients as well as creator of many of today’s fragrances. They have an internal perfumery school (you must work for IFF in order to attend the school) in New York headed by Ron Winnegrad. It is very competitive to be admitted to one of the few spots each year. Victoria Frolova of the Bois de Jasmin blog has studied perfumery at the prestigious IFF school.

Cinquieme Sens, offers training programs at the professional level both in Paris and in New York (see entry above).

Many USA indie perfumers offer classes or internships for those who want to learn perfumery. Many more natural perfumers seem to offer these courses than perfumers who use combinations of naturals and synthetics. I can’t give a complete list here, but classes are given by natural perfumers Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes and Ayala Moriel of Ayala Moriel Parfums. Anne McClain of MCMC is a mixed media perfumer who offers perfumery workshops. Anya McCoy of Anya’s Garden and the Natural Perfumery Institute offers a home study course and textbook in natural perfumery and leads an online Yahoo Natural Perfumery Group. Charna Ethier of Providence Perfumes and Jeanne Rose, esteemed aromatherapist and author, also teach natural perfumery classes. Roxana Villa of Roxana Illuminated Perfume teaches classes in person and also offers an online program for learning natural perfumery. Eliza Douglas, a GIP trained perfumer, offers classes in Brooklyn, NY; she is a mixed media perfumer so you would have the opportunity to learn about both naturals and synthetics. (Even if you choose not to use synthetics in your blends, sniffing a full range of available synthetics and naturals helps educate your nose. You can also sniff natural isolates for aroma chemicals that are available in natural versions.) Many other indie perfumers offer classes, books, or internships, and you can find information on their websites.

Short Classes in the USA Open to the Public:

The Los Angeles Institute For Art And Olfaction has introduced workshops, talks, and once-a-week drop-in sessions open to anyone who wants to learn. For upcoming events, check their schedule page. Update on 7/14/2015: The IAO is starting a resource page with a listing of perfumery classes around the world, many of which are given by indie perfumers.

Cinquieme Sens, offers workshops and training programs that are open to the public in its New York location. See also the entries for Cinquieme Sens above.

Scenterprises is a New York company that offers one day workshops in which you can learn about perfumery and make your own scent.

The Perfumer’s Apprentice offers an introductory course in perfume creation at their Scotts Valley, CA location that is open to the public for a $30-$35 fee.

Perfumer’s World, based in Thailand, now offers workshops in Los Angeles (as well as in other locations around the world).

Long Distance Classes:

The ICATS (International Centre for Aroma Trades Studies)program leads to an IFEAT (International Federation of Essential Oils and Aroma Trades) diploma. The course is associated with Plymouth University in the UK, and the director is Dr. Tony Curtis. Part of the course description reads, “In distance learning the normal university approach of lectures, tutorials and workshops are replaced with reading and activities. The approach has proved its worth over 30 years. All the necessary materials are included in the learning pack (ICATS module workbooks on CDs, textbooks, monographs, aroma reference standards, smelling strips and IFEAT expert papers). There is a lot of flexibility. There is no fixed exam at the end of the academic year or fixed hand in dates for assignments. Students can work through the material at their own pace.”

Other Classes Outside The USA:

The Perfumer’s World, located in Thailand, offers classes on location in Thailand and in other countries and also offers correspondence courses. Karen Gilbert has written a review of a three-week Perfumer’s World course that she took on location in Thailand.

Karen Gilbert now offers her own classes in the UK. She also has an online course. She has also written several books that you can find on her website.

Other fragrance and flavor companies have internal schools, such as the Symrise Perfumery School, which has locations in Germany and India.

As mentioned, Cinquieme Sens offers training programs in Amsterdam through their Northern European division. (They are based in Paris and also have programs in New York.)

Another program in the UK is called The Perfumery Art School; it offers both in-person classes and long-distance study. You can check their website for more information, and if you look down in the comments below you can find a comment by the founder with some helpful links to blog reviews of the program.

Self-Study Resources:

Many indie perfumers are self taught, and there are even some very famous self-taught perfumers such as the much-loved and prolific Bertrand Duchaufour, the 2006 Prix Francois Coty award winner Lorenzo Villoresi, and one of the first very successful indies Any Tauer. Most small indie perfumers learn from a variety of sources — reading books, researching online, experimenting with ingredients, and joining online groups to interact with others who are also learning. Three online groups with lots of links to books/formulas/suppliers are the Yahoo perfumemaking group (for both mixed media and natural perfumers), the Yahoo Natural Perfumery Group, and the Basenotes DIY group. The Yahoo perfumery group is no longer very active but it has moved to a Facebook group called Perfumemaking (from the Yahoo group). I joined the Yahoo perfumemaking group very shortly after its inception. I was one of the few members of that original Yahoo group who was already in business when the group began, but it was nice to meet online with others who were learning about perfumery with the intention of starting businesses. We made friendships there that allowed us to buy kilos of ingredients together and split them before our businesses were large enough to need whole kilos. Today the Facebook version of that group is a place where you can post questions and receive feedback from other indies. An indispensable online reference for ingredient information is The Good Scents Company. Small quantities of ingredients (including synthetics) can be ordered from The Good Scents Company, The Perfumer’s Apprentice, Perfumer’s Supply House, and Creating Perfume.

Hope that list is helpful, though I know it is not all inclusive.

Mention in October P&F Magazine

Sonoma Scent Studio had a mention in the October issue of Perfumer & Flavorist Magazine in an article by Amy Marks-McGee titled “Forward Thinking: Crafting Beauty With Nature’s Resources.” The article discusses the trend toward using more naturals in fine fragrance and skincare, with a surge in indie brands that place an emphasis on naturals. Amy mentioned some newer indie brands that focus entirely on naturals and brands like mine that recently dedicated a separate line to all-natural formulas. Amy had authored a previous article several years ago that mentioned this trend (“Forward Thinking: Au Natural,” in the October 2011 issue of Perfumer & Flavorist), and the trend continues to pick up steam. Amy has a website for those who want more information about her business.

Tincturing Ambergris


Since I have time on my break, I decided to start a little tincturing project with New Zealand beach-collected ambergris. I bought a couple of pieces, two grams each, and I purchased an automatic stirrer to run a few hours each day. It will take quite a few months (2-6) before I’ll know if I like the result. I bought one type called White Gold (pictured above) and another type called Antique. The Antique smells softer and less animalic; it is subtly sweet with a dusty incense note. The White Gold seems a bit stronger and has a noticeable animalic note. I’m trying 10% tinctures, which is indulgent for such an expensive ingredient, but I want them to be strong. I’ve smelled 1% and 3% tinctures for sale that seemed weaker than I want.

The magnetic stir machines are ingenious. You put a little stir rod into your bottle (the rod looks like a medicine capsule), and then you turn on the base unit that looks like a hot plate and the bar inside your bottle starts to twirl. Some of the units combine a hot plate with the magnetic stirring, and others just have the stir option. They’re useful for tinctures that benefit from hours of gentle stirring.

We’ll see how these turn out! If one is good I could buy more ambergris. I wouldn’t use it in many formulas, but it can add a beautiful effect to a special offering.

Checking in, and some links of interest

I wanted to check in — I’ve been taking time off while healing my arm, but I’m here if you need to email me. I’m looking forward to getting back to blending as soon as I can.

The Purple Paper Planes blog just started a special series today on perceptions about beauty; various people in the perfume world are answering seven questions about how we define and experience beauty. It will be interesting to see the range of answers. Today one of my favorite bloggers, Suzanne of Suzanne’s Perfume Journal, gave her responses to the questions. I was asked to participate in the series and will let you know when my answers are posted (I already turned them in). I wonder how you would answer the questions!

I thought this was an interesting story: Elle, Cosmo, and Marie Claire will distribute two vial samples of liquid perfume in the November issues (not in the magazines on newsstands, but just the magazines mailed to subscribers). They say it’s the first time vials have gone out with magazines instead of just paper strip samples. The samples will be Marc Jacobs Daisy and Daisy Eau So Fresh, which seems like an odd choice, especially for November. I’m guessing they’ll need to send the mags ORM-D surface mail because of the alcohol. I’ll be curious to see if they deem this experiment to be successful. Maybe they’ll become more adventurous with their sample choices over time; I’d think that new releases might be included in this type of campaign.