A perfume I loved from a few years ago was described as: “….captures the sights and scents of the Scottish countryside. This charmingly distinctive fragrance combines top notes of meadow grasses and bergamot, with refreshing mid notes of heather, bluebell and violet to recreate the scents of a highland retreat… Base notes of leather and oak add an extra warmth….” It almost reads like a passage out of a Victorian novel. It forces me to believe it! When creating perfume, one could quickly start wondering where to run out and get ‘bluebell’ essential oil absolute or a similarly named aroma-chemical. The problem is, there are none. Bluebell is what is termedfantasy scent.
I figured this would be the theme of my second post, because it is one of the baffling things to discover in perfumery. Reading descriptions of favorite perfumes is like taking a master course in marketing deception. At a time where many perfume companies are trying to make their perfumes cheaper while at the same time dealing with ever increasing, choking IFRA regulations, the more embellished the marketing, the merrier.
In the scent described above, there are no bluebells, heather or leather, but rather massive overdoses of Iso E Super, Bergamot, Hedione, Oakmoss and Patchouli, with a bunch of other things thrown in for good measure. But looking at the description of those aromatic materials one could almost believe the perfume marketing. Iso E Super (also known as patchouli ethanone), is often described as a “Smooth, warm, woody, slightly leathery, amber note. “ So, there’s the ‘oak’ in there and the ‘leather,’ and we could even add ‘Amber’ to the mix.
This is where the fun begins for a perfumer creating a scent. I just created a lovely Rose perfume. It is an ‘Island Rose’ of sorts. Just for kicks, let me describe it as, “The scent of a lovely, seashore rose with hints of delicate apricot, velvety blond woods and summery green winds….” The kicker is, there is no actual Rose oil in it – or green winds, whatever that is! None. And yet, one whiff and the beautiful Roses are right there. Aroma materials like Phenyl Ethyl Alcohol, Citronellol, Geraniol and Nerol, all found in Rose, can easily stand in for the real thing. For seashore, I could add some marine or ozonic aroma-chemicals like Calone or Helional, for outdoor effects some Precyclemone B, blond woods could be Cashmeran, and so on. So, I guess you could say that a Rose By Any Other Name could be called Phenyl Ethyl Alcohol….or anything else, and still smell as sweet.
Recently, a hairdresser I know showed me a new shampoo he was using. He loved that it had ‘Jasmine’ in it. It pained me to burst the bubble, but I had to tell him there was no real Jasmine in it. Jasmine absolute is too expensive and there’s just no way it will end up in a shampoo. A high-end perfume, sure, but not a shampoo. So, I said, “Let’s look at the label,” because I knew the company would have to list some ingredients that might be considered allergenic. Immediately, I noticed several ingredients that constitute a Jasmine fragrance. But when selling a shampoo, ‘Jasmine’ sells, Benzyl Acetate and Hedione do not.
I think this is among the things I love about creating a perfume. The research and work that goes on, way before I even start putting together the aromatic materials I may consider using. This is what in perfumery is considered a Perfumer Brief, which I cover in the Creating A Perfume page on my site. One begins with the idea of the perfume. A Summer Cottage can be a starting point. From there, one can visualize an ivy covered cottage (ivy, greens), rolling hills (summer grasses and new mown hay), flower meadows (white flowers and wild flowers), a pathway through the forest (moss, woods, leaves) and bees buzzing about (beeswax and clover). Just in that short description you can put together at least 20 or more aromatic elements.
This is what I term,’thinking like a perfumer.’ When you see a perfume supposedly composed of things like Blackberry, Peaches, Summer Grasses, Heather and Ocean Breeze, in your mind you quickly translate this as Calone, Hay Absolute, Aldehyde C-14, Elemi, Cassis Base 345B, Beta Damascone… The sky’s the limit.
Perfumery is like music or painting. You begin with an idea and then choose the way to express it. With perfumery, you express emotionally through scent. You tell a story, paint a picture, share memories…all with scent. It is never ending beauty!