From a young age I made a point of collecting as many perfumes as possible for birthdays and Christmas. I became so obsessed with perfumery that I could identify what strangers were wearing as they walked past me in the street (when there were significantly less on the market than there are now)! And so started the obsession with scent.
Recently I ran an interesting experiment with some clay pomander stones sold to me by a lady from France. I had noticed smelling their scented pomanders, that some of the scents were very mild and almost faint with hardly any depth. In sharp contrast to some of their stones that were almost acrid in nature – one of which was Cedarwood, which is usually a sweet, woody almost syrupy scent. How peculiar that these clay stones had almost completely absorbed the lovely gentle characteristics of this essential oil, and all that remained was a quite sharp and not particularly nice after scent.
I tried applying our proprietary scent blends of pure essential oils, which we use to perfume our luxury Bath & Body collections, and the same happened. Some blends, such as the Sandalwood and Neroli, faded in to the stone only leaving a very mild scent, others such as the Rose Geranium absorbed the pleasant scent properties and left compounds that did not sit well on their own. Needless to say, we did not use any of these stones to demonstrate our scents to customers!
Patrick Suskind has to be one of my favourite authors. He evokes, through description of scent and smell a whole world of macabre interest of an unusual child and later man. ‘Perfume’ takes one through a journey of what it means to smell and be smelt. It reminds us how intrinsically joined we are to memory, desire and mood through scent.
As children we lived in a villa on an Italian Island. The basement had a very particular smell. It was almost musty, and perhaps even slightly mouldy. But over time, that basement and the scent that emanated from it in to the rest of the villa, became the true welcome home on returning from school in England. That smell encapsulates the meaning of ‘home’ to this day.
On a recent trip to Antigua, the smell was noticeable and immediately that place also became home.
And so indelible becomes the connection between scent and memory and therefore mood.
Our olifacory senses are incredibly important. Not only do they form memories for us, but they tell us what we need, and what we most certainly don’t!
This is where blending of scent, either using fragrance, a mix of fragrance and essential oils or pure essential oils comes in. When making a scent to complement a Hand and Body lotion there are a number of factors to bear in mind. Who is the Lotion intended for? Is it a man or woman, young or old, sensitive or a poor sense of smell?
Perfumery and blending is complex, and is an art learnt over time. There are the basic Base, Middle and Top notes. The base forms the anchor of the blend. It will most likely also act as a good fixative, meaning it ties parts of the middle and top notes to it, prolonging their scent. The Middle notes form the body, the core and the essential character of the scent. Depending on how it is anchored, it stays well beyond any of the top notes.
The top notes are the surprise on the first spray of a perfume, the scent that hits you first. Occasionally, depending on the effectiveness of the fixative, elements of this more fleeting scent character may stay.
Perfumery remains one of our obsessions. We are constantly blending new and exciting recipes and are fascinated at the number of different blends available on the market. What we have yet to find however, is a good completely natural perfume. Perhaps that should be next on our list?!