Thinking about Perfume

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 »

A tricky distinction: synthetics and natural ingredients in perfume

One of the most controversial subjects in all of chemistry is natural versus synthetic elements. Why is this matter so complex? It comes down to understanding the difference between synthetics and naturals: “Synthetics” are man-made molecules or nature-cloned ones. “We live in a synthetic world, yet many of us strive to use all-natural materials and…Read more »

What drives a young perfumer? A passion for physics, among others…

Max Millies, the owner of Earthgro Fragrances and the creator of the perfumes featured on this website, has been in the perfume business since he was young.  He is an exception in the South African fragrance market, which is dominated by big fashion retailers and niche, organic fragrance houses owned mostly by female entrepreneurs. His…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.