the season of the roses

The end of a long week……whew!  I had a big exam on Thursday, the most serious so far. We were tested on 20 raw materials that were chosen randomly from the 150 or so synthetics that we have learned.  Obviously this meant that we had to know all the materials intimately. I did well, although found it hard to have missed a few.  Like I have said before, the sense of smell is very fickle and what we can smell and identify one day, is completely elusive to the memory and the olfactory system the next.   I continue to be fascinated with the development of my capabilities.  I smelled pure grapefruit oil the other day (we normally only work with 10% dilutions to protect the nose and to access a greater profile of the material) and it was so deeply complex and rich like no other pamplemousse I have ever smelled, that I could not identify it at first. What I could do was pick out individual components of the oil, like nootkatone and terpenes.  I am having to relearn each material regularly because my sense of smell continues to heighten. The real difficulty now is having my memory keep up with my nose!

We are now delving more deeply in to the realm of formulation and accords.  This is really what I came here for.  Accords form the basis of perfumery construction.  There are two schools of thought actually.  One that sees the perfume being created with individual components/single raw materials and the other, using blocks of scent to form a solid and interesting structure.  These blocks are called accords.   Creating accords, or harmonic chords of scent, if you will, is very difficult and requires many many trials to find the magical combination where the materials lose their separate identity and become one. The alchemical aspect of this is fantastic.  These combinations can be as simple as two ingredients or they can be composed of many.  Max encourages us to create with no more than 3-5 materials. The accords such as a green accord, or a floral accord, or a citrus accord are then used as individual ingredients in the formulation of the perfume.

This week we were given a formula for a basic lily of the valley accord. Max also showed us how this accord could be changed slightly and a few more materials added to create a lilac accord.  He said that all flowers hold a bit of each other in themselves, so you can make any flower out of almost the same ingredients, just in different proportions.  Rose, jasmine and neroli can form the basic building blocks for every other flower because they are so incredibly complex in their composition.  We will gain a much greater understanding of the raw materials using them in formulation. 

Monday, 13th of May

Another week!  How time is flying by!  We continue our work with Max; today learning carnation and hyacinth accords.  I spoke with him during the break and he confided that the most important foundation for a perfumer to build upon is an intimate knowledge of the naturals.  To create accords with only these perfect, raw, perfumes-unto-themselves materials is to be proficient in this amazing art.  He said, ‘Look, I have been very successful as a perfumer, (Prada etc), and I come from Grasse, so I know the naturals and it is because of this that I can do what I do’.   The Grasse societies pride themselves on their roots that are based not only on fine perfumery, but fine perfumery using rose and jasmine, mimosa and broom, etc. -the materials that have been grown in the area for many many years.     The jasmine that is grown here is of the utmost beauty.  It is fine and buttery and honey sweet.  As well, the Centifolia rose- exquisite!  Actually, this weekend is the annual Rose festival.  The theme this year is the soul of Russia, with events happening all weekend.  The same weekend is the Fete du Narcisse, and enroute through the mountains to get there, is some sort of Chevre festival with goat races!  I cannot miss that!

In the meantime, this Wednesday, we are going to tour the Chanel rose fields, where Rose oil and absolute are produced exclusively for the house of Chanel perfumes.  Very romantic…!

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