When I first began my natural perfumery journey a few years ago I had no gauge by which to judge my creations, other than my own dismay that they smelt like, well, you know, essential oil blends. Pleasant, but not what you would want in a perfume. I continued getting to “know” my botanicals, driven by my desire to create something that I would go “wow” to.
There came a point when I had said “wow” a few times but I still had no yardstick by which to measure my efforts in the natural perfume world. I myself had never tried a natural perfume. It was at this point that I knew I had to part with some money and sample other natural perfumers’ work. Postage from the USA to Australia is annoyingly high but I bit the bullet and went straight to the “mother” of natural perfumery, Mandy Aftel. I have to say that her samples have possibly given me the most exciting purchase experience of my life. I waited with great anticipation (as well as fear) for the arrival of this liquid gold. This gauge was going to reveal whether I was on track or completely off course.
The package arrived and I wanted to delve straight in. However, I exercised great restraint. I took some photos, smelt each from the bottle before deciding on which to try first and then proceeded to try the perfumes one at a time. It was a glorious process and I will, in coming posts, write some humble words about the ones that I absolutely love.
What came out of this exercise was an increased enthusiasm and passion for natural perfumery. Sampling other perfumers’ work gave me a barometer by which to judge my own creations. Practical questions seemed especially important: are my creations sweeter, dryer, stronger, weaker etc? All importantly, how did mine compare for longevity? Thankfully my worst fear that I was completely off track did not eventuate. In fact, I felt more confident than ever before in my life, to back myself, and invest in a business.
What has been very interesting is learning how each perfumer has a unique style, almost a fingerprint to their fragrances. They can have widely differing fragrances in their collection and yet a unique idiom can be discerned. This is quite fascinating. You would think that natural perfumers, because they use a restricted natural palette without the vast number of synthetic/aroma-chemicals, would all be producing similar fragrances. But no, this is not the case. The natural perfumers whose works I have sampled so far, each have their own individual style. A perfumer’s idiom is such an ineffable thing that it would be folly to attempt to quantify it precisely. It is definitely well worth experiencing samples of a range of natural perfumers work if you can. In my book, natural perfumery is more than a craft. It sits beside music, painting and sculpture as a genuine art form.