Thinking about Perfume

Memories of summer days and roses blooming in the garden – Sa majesté la rose

Serge Lutens – Sa majesté la rose (Her Majesty, The Rose) “The king is dead, long live the queen! Author Marcel Proust based his [character] ‘Madame de Guermantes’* on three society women of his day. Like Proust, I went in search of the lost land of childhood. On a quest for my rose, I charmed three royals,…Read more »

Breakdown of “vinyl accord”: metal, plastic, blood, and mushrooms

How can metals smell of something? Imagine the smell of silk, chalk or plastic. You could attach attributes to these notes – usually by association, but bear in mind that these scents would be synthetic reformulations of naturally-occurring organic and inorganic compounds. Mineral notes, for instance, includes Asphalt, Asphalt accord, Black ink, Black kyanite [Kyanite…Read more »

Oxygen, flaming rock and washing on the line – whatever next?

Synthetic elements in perfume “Synthetics in perfume is a difficult subject, since there is a general misunderstanding and misconception of what is organic, natural, synthetic, and nature identical. However, what is definitely synthetic can be the origin of the substances of which the perfume consists – these can be replicated or recreated in the laboratory, whether…Read more »

Perfume – The Art and Science of Bottling Memories

“When we reflect on the origin of creativity, in whatever field of endeavour, our thoughts turn first to the imagination…And the imaginative person, gifted with taste, will naturally be drawn in the direction of artistic creation.” – Edmond Roudnitska

The creation of perfume is both an art and a science; the ancient art of composing and creating a substance that will evoke specific memories and emotions in the person who uses it, combined with the science of organic chemistry.

A perfume that has been specially created is like an abstract painting. Its meaning for the wearer lies in the personal associations they experience when they smell it – a hot summer’s day, their mother’s scent, the skin of a loved one, walking through damp cedar woods, or standing on a beach, breathing in the sea scent. Each person will interpret a perfume differently, and for each, a perfume will reveal its top, middle and bottom notes as subtly different as each person’s own chemical makeup. Magically (though it is actually mainly science!) the perfume creator combines different extracts of carbon-based compounds, found in plants, in a systematic and intentional way to layer different smells to recreate memories for the user. One sniff – and you are somewhere else.

The word perfume is used today to describe scented mixtures and is derived from the Latin word, “per fumus,” meaning “through smoke”. And that is exactly what wearing perfume is like – the fragrance reveals itself like fragrant, invisible wisps of smoke – first the top notes, then, after a while, the middle notes, and lastly, lingeringly, the base notes. The words we use to describe these notes in a perfume are generally understood, but like describing a piece of art, or a wine, or a piece of music, the words and imagery are merely approximations. To truly experience a perfume, you have to smell it.

For most people, a perfume is the closest they will ever come to owning a piece of art, or a poem or piece of music dedicated to them. But today, owning your own piece of perfume art is more attainable than ever before.