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.