How does it work, the perfume creation process?

So I got this question on Facebook (about perfume creation): "How does that work anyway? What's your process? Like do you just experiment, or have something in mind or what?

And I figured: Time to tell, in a short post, as these days things get very confusing in (niche) perfumery. See today's picture: A photo of an email that I got, one of many that reach me more or less daily. Chinese perfume production services, one stop "get it all" from one party, with production and all. More and more perfume production goes there, to China.

The way I work is somewhat different. Usually - in order to answer the question above- I start with an idea that is pretty abstract or an idea that can best be described by a picture or I start with a central ingredient theme, feeling inspired by a particular ingredient.

Let's have a closer look: These days I am working on some sort of an attar. The idea was just "Hey! I want to have an attar! (An attar originally being a over Sandalwood co-destilled natural extract, for instance of roses). Here's a wikipedia article about it:

What I like about attars: They are - although 100% scent (no ethanol dilution)- close to the skin, gentle and soft, yet long lasting. Anyhow: I want an attar was the idea and my starting point. Without any second thoughts about whether this could ever be sold or for what price.

What follows then is a journey that can take for months or years. Starting with simple compositions, testing various ideas to reach the goal, going into more detailed elaborations, writing them all first down in my excel sheet and then mixing them in little glass vials of 30 ml. These have to sit for days or weeks to mature, before I can evaluate them. In this process I usually go towards higher complexity. Very often, at the end, when I have a formula that works and smells the way I want it

-and fulfills other criteria such as:
It is elegant, lasting, has balance and is unique-

I do another simplification step again, optimizing the formula and getting rid of ingredients that are not really needed and do not add anything in particular.

Then, when I feel I really want to offer this as a product and share it with the world: Then the production process starts. In Switzerland. I need quotes, production prices for the mixture and might have to fight with availability problems of some ingredients, I have to sit together with my design guru to come up with labels, need a packaging concept, have to come up with a price, an idea how to talk about it and in the end produce the scent, label bottles, pack them, ship them.

And at the very end, I have to add another Teflon layer in order to deal with critics who bash it after having smelled it for 5 minutes. But there I am getting better, and my Teflon layer is pretty tight these days.

5 thoughts on “How does it work, the perfume creation process?”

  • That Chinese letter is hilarious - it could not be farther from your process and product. As for your last two statements, I always feel bad when I read rude comments about an indie perfumer's work. It's one thing to criticize a big conglomerate like Louis Vuitton or Dior, but there is a real individual person who put their heart and soul into an artisan scent with human feelings. I wish people would take that into consideration, but it is so easy sitting anonymously behind a computer screen to say things you would never say to someone's face.

    • Hi Tara, yes, it was a funny letter and it was the first of three that I got that particular day, informing in all possible details about how to launch and grow my perfume business. Anyhow: I think that indie perfumer's work (or any indie work) may be criticized, and some of the standards like autheticity or quality might even be higher than for the mass market products, but comparing 1 to 1 industry and indie is not ok. And it is not ok to criticize without understanding how things are done.

      • I agree that criticism is okay, what I meant to say was that rude scathing comments are uncalled for, to me. It is always possible to express a sincere criticism in a respectful and considerate way.

  • Good golly I have empathy for perfume composers who only get a few moments before rash judgment whether people huff immediately out of a bottle or allured or repulsed by top notes on the skin. Folks seem far removed and impatient regarding natural essences. Natural perfumes are alive and have Spirit -not so linear as their alien synthetic cousins. I applaud your quality of olfactory materials.

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