Behind the scenes of perfume making: part one | Experimental Perfume Club

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Behind the scenes of perfume making: part one

Do you know how is a fragrance created? Who is behind the creation of a perfume? How is the perfume trade is organised? Here is the first post of a series of blogs where we take you behind the scenes of how perfume is created…

One in a Million Perfumers

It’s said that there are less perfumers in the world than astronauts! I don’t know if this is true, but one thing is for sure, if you meet a perfumer one day, this is a rare find (so you have every right to ask this person an autograph).

Perfumers (or commonly known as a ‘nose’) are the people behind the creation of your fragrance (or the fragrance of any scented product). They are something between a chemist, an artisan and an artist. Let’s not forget that they are also here to sell their creations!

Like other craft disciplines, such as potters or chefs, it requires years of training to master it. While perfumers often train in a laboratory, they spend most of their career creating fragrances at a desk in front of a computer. And this is where the magic of mastering perfumery occurs because perfumers don’t necessarily have to smell their creation to know what it will smell like (similar to how Beethoven could compose music when deaf).

Well, let’s not get too excited on this idea, because most of the time, perfumers do have to evaluate their creations and have desks covered in bottles of their trials.

Have perfumers got supernatural powers?

The book The Perfume by Patrick Suskind largely contributes to the myth that you have to have a superpower to become a perfumer. Well, you don’t have to be born with an extraordinary sense of smell (or big nose) to become a perfumer, but you definitely have to be passionate about your nose and the world of smells.

Nowadays, perfumers work between a few months to a few years to develop a fragrance. They will make hundreds and hundreds of trials to obtain the perfect blend, working in partnership with the creative teams around them. This is a far cry from the days when perfumers would only have to make few trials to obtain their finished composition (the reason why Chanel 5 is called Number 5 is because it was the fifth trial made by perfumer Ernest Beau).

Perfumers are often specialised in a category of the perfumery trade – either in fine fragrance or in functional perfumery, such as toiletries products and detergents.

Nowadays, most perfumers are employees of what we call “fragrance compositions houses” or fragrance manufacturers, which are not well-known by the general public. These companies – such as IFF, Firmenich and Mane – specialise in producing natural and synthetic perfumery raw materials. Only a few luxury brands have an in-house perfumer, like the superstar nose of Hermes, Jean Claude Ellena and Chanel’s noses Jacques Polge & son Olivier Polge. Others are independent perfumers commissioned by brands to work on specific projects.

Want to feel like a perfumer for few hours and unlock the world of perfumery? Join one of the Experimental Perfume Club Masterclass where you can learn about the art and logic of creating a fragrance. Hope to see you there!

— Emmanuelle

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