Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Little About Education

Much has been written lately about natural and botanical perfumery education. It seems you can't throw a stick these days without hitting an expert in the blending and creation of natural and botanical perfumes. Five years ago your education options were limited -- extremely limited -- to about two or three of those 'experts'. Today -- well, throw that stick.

For a beginning student of natural and botanical perfume, the options can seem mind-boggling, and they can range from one-week crash courses at French schools to one-day workshops at the local adult education facility, or in someone's backyard. The prices of some of these courses can be just as diverse -- from a few thousand dollars to less than a hundred.

So how does a beginning student of n&bp sort it all out? Being patient helps. Knowing that as a student you're not going to know all there is to know about n&bp just because you took a class or read a few books, or that you'll be proficient as a perfumer once you've plunked down those few thousand dollars to learn it. In fact, your entire life can be spent learning this art form, and still you will not have learned nor mastered it all.

Becoming spectacular at anything requires more than the sum of an education. It requires that magical element, that thing which make one of two people with the exact same educational background a star.

Begin at the beginning, so they say, and for a student the beginning is reading. Read everything that pertains to perfumery that you can get your hands on. If you live in a large city with a good public library system, this educational route will cost you in time and gas, a packet of pens and a notebook. If you prefer to own your books, there are plenty of really great books to start with ~ William Kaufman's 'Perfume' published in 1974 as a coffee table book offers gorgeous photography with a lot of great perfumery information; 'The Book of Perfumes' by Eugene Rimmel published in 1865 and reprinted by Adamant Media Corp. is another great book to have in your library, so are 'Perfumes, Cosmetics and Soaps' by Poucher, if you can find the full 3-volume set, 'The Science and Art of Perfumery' by Edward Sagarin, 'Perfume Album' by Jill Jessee, 'Cosmetics, Flavors and Fragrances: Their Formulation and Preparation' by Louis Appell, again, if you can find one, and then there is the natural and botanical perfumer's costly bible, 'Perfume and Flavor Materials of Natural Origin' by Steffen Arctander, which I personally wouldn't recommend until you've been in the n&bp trenches for at least two years.

There are also great, free, online resources that will gently guide you through the actual hands-on process of perfume creation. Perfumer's Apprentice in Santa Cruz, CA has an extensive educational database online that anybody with a computer and internet service can tap into.

Some of my favorite hands-on reference pages at the PA are here, here and, here.

So begin.


  1. I so agree on Arctander. This is one to look at and admire at the local library (public, or university), initially. Straight away? It is overwhelming.

    One of my favorite things to do when I'm researching something is to look up relatively 'current' books on the topic, and photocopy the bibiography or end notes, and then concentrate on finding those source materials at the library. When you're educating yourself, you cannot afford to take one compiler's word for it. It's valuable to read where they got their thoughts and opinions from, just to be able to decide for yourself whether you agree with 'em or not.

  2. The bibliography and end notes are the best resources, I agree. I've been directed to some of the better old perfume books in this way.



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