The Modern Natural Perfumer

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The modern mainstream perfumer is a component of an international fragrance industry. There are approximately 400 perfumers employed. Most are male. They have a college degree in science, and have completed a rigorous course in perfumery, training for years as “noses” under industry guidelines. Their education is long, arduous, and very demanding. Some work in the perfume industry, others in the “fragrancing” industry, creating scents for dish soap, laundry detergent and similar products.
Short: The Modern Natural Perfumer 04 Februarie 2014

The Natural Perfumer, if the Yahoo group Natural Perfumery with 500+ members is any indication, is mostly female, without formal training. Instead, the Natural Perfumer looks to some aromatherapy books, Mandy Aftel’s Essence and Alchemy, and the sharing of knowledge on the yahoo group as the basics of learning how to blend. They work at creating perfumes; with some branching out to body care products such as body butters and lotions, candles and associated fragrant creations.
 
Natural Perfumery can be found at:
http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/NaturalPerfumery/
 
The group has been in existence since June 14, 2002, the “early days” of Natural Perfumery, as defined for this article.

Interest in the subject grew greatly after Aftel’s book was published in 2001, and “dryout”, top, middle and base notes, tincturing and blending descriptions piqued interest in the art. The history of the perfumes, the romance of the bottles, their liquid contents a source of pleasure and intrigue, helped fuel the Modern Natural Perfumer in going forward to refine their craft.
 
Some teachers began to advertise their courses in Natural Perfumery, and more and more, the study of the art and the craft of formulating blends grew. It is an exacting, demanding world. Exact measurements of weights and volumes must be kept. Notes must be meticulous. Disappointment is high, due to inharmonious blends that may be left to sit for months, to see if they improve, or discarded. Costs are high, much higher than in aromatherapy; some absolutes and attars make rose otto’s price seem paltry in comparison. There is the rigorous demand that perfumers must spend part of every day just sniffing and studying the raw ingredients, constantly testing themselves.
 
In some parts of the world, undenatured alcohol is very hard, if not impossible to obtain, due to government rules. A perfumer restricted in that way may have to consider only making oil-based perfumes, which results in a much different product. Not a bad product, just different, as alcohol allows many ingredients to take on a much more ethereal, diffusive nature.
 
In the Yahoo group, members share tips and offer guidelines on all aspects of Natural Perfumery. Some members are generous with their hard-earned knowledge and offer formulae on how to blend a lilac accord, an amber accord, or how to properly work with a difficult substance, like guiacwood. Much of the information shared there cannot be easily found, if at all, in books.
 
There is a lot of trial and error for the self-trained Natural Perfumer, and this community is probably the only one of its sort in the world for them. Here no question is insignificant. The archives of the group hold Files bursting with knowledge on hydrosols, INCI names, FDA regulations, IFRA guidelines, online sources of classic perfumery books, and, of course, blending tips.
 
A separate section contains links to suppliers, sources of everything from bottles and pipettes to rare and beautiful attars and absolutes. Safety is as big an issue in Natural Perfumery as it is in aromatherapy, and the latest government guidelines, or author’s findings on the subject can be found in the Files or Links section.
 
The list of schools teaching the subject is slowly growing, and it is too early to evaluate the quality of breadth and depth of that learning resource. Some Natural Perfumers travel to France, Grasse, in particular, to learn from the mainstream perfumers, and just leave out the synthetics, taking in the information and hands-on experience with the natural ingredients back to their workshops. This hybrid learning experience is rare, and of the 500 members on the group, perhaps less than a dozen have been able to study in Grasse. The rest are self-taught.
 
Discussion of subjects that impact the Natural Perfumer can be far ranging. Many have stopped using sandalwood, rosewood, spikenard and several other endangered raw materials. The recognition that perfume formulae have to be in compliance with EU and IFRA standards to be sold in Europe is changing the way they conceive and formulate a blend. Many did not realize that use of certain oils, from rose to the citruses, can push a blend into “unsafe” territory regarding either chemical load on the body, or government regulations that oversee such things.

The group exchange can save the perfumer lots of time, money and effort via this information sharing. Creating in a vacuum, such safety and regulatory constraints might not be known; in the group, late-breaking information is immediately shared, and the knowledge base grows.
 
One of the most-referenced manuals on safety is Martin Watt’s Plant Aromatics.
The sole distributor in the US is http://av-at.com, and in Britain http://aromamedical.com. For government regulations and industry guidelines, http://ifraorg.org and http://www.noharm.org/details.cfm?ID=743&type=document

 

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