Composing a perfume is much the same as composing music or composing a painting. The skill lies in what to put together and how to combine them.
When composing a perfume there are no set rules to prevent making errors; there are only principles. Among the principles which are useful, is that in olfactory composition each component is not necessarily significant by itself, that often it only becomes significant by way of its relationships with the other components and particularly with the integral formula.
For instance, the scent of violet is often used in perfumes. If you know what you are doing, then it is all right. However, violets get their scent from ionone, an extremely sweet scent that many people describe as also being “powdery” – like talcum powder. Another word people use for the scent of violets is “ethereal,” or “ephemeral.” After stimulating the scent receptors in your nose, ionone binds to them and temporarily shuts them off completely. This substance cannot be smelled for more than a few moments at a time. After that, people go anosmic to it – you stop smelling it. Moreover, some people say too much violet smells “dirty”, or of something earthy like fertilizer.
It appears obvious that if the composition of original perfumes is to be built upon solid foundations, it is essential to have an in-depth knowledge of a great number of materials and a correct appreciation of the proportions in which they can be harmoniously blended.
“There is nothing new in the natural world, creativity comes through new combinations of existing elements. In perfume, one has to have a balance of selected elements: male/female; chemical/organic; old/ modern scents. The key is the contrast and balance of the opposing elements. A perfume cannot be all feminine and flowery – it needs a contrasting element to balance it.” – Max Millies, Earthgro Fragrances