Sunday, April 11, 2010

Conducting Evaluations

Utilizing a fan set on the lowest setting to circulate the air, and leaving open a window in the room in which you are conducting the studies is sufficient for ventilation. Never work in a closed up room. You may find after a few evaluations that you are unable to distinguish between the scents you are evaluating, and you may even become dizzy or nauseated, as often happens. Take breaks.

Temporary loss of smell is a common condition when performing evaluations or other perfumery work.

As a Natural Botanical Perfumer, your nose is one of your most valuable tools, so keeping it healthy is important. If you are prone to sinus problems or live in a very dry environment, a Neti pot is a wonderful home health aid to help keep your sinuses clear and properly moisturized. Neti pots can be purchased inexpensively at drug stores (in the cold/sinus medication section) or online. Mountain Rose Herbs in the US sells a very nice ceramic Neti Pot for $12 USD. Do not use any nasal products which contain zinc gluconate as some consumer reports have shown a close association between zinc gluconate nasal gels and swaps as a contributing factor to permanent anosmia.

Don’t wear clothes which are heavily scented with laundry products while conducting evaluations, and, obviously, don‘t wear perfume. Or, you could do your evaluations naked. Maybe wear a necklace for propriety's sake. No scented beads, please. And call me. I'll come over to your house. With a camera. I need evaluation photos for the next edition of my workbook.

There are many ways to evaluate an essence, but the most effective way, if you’re using alcohol dilutions, is to drop a few drops onto your skin and allow the alcohol to burn off a bit, about 3 to 5 seconds, before sniffing the essence. If you’re using oil dilutions, allow the essence to warm and diffuse into the air around your skin then begin sniffing the essence. You will also use scent strips to evaluate essence, but it must be noted that you will not get a completely accurate profile of how a scent will diffuse and evaporate off the skin unless you conduct your evaluations on the skin at some point. You should also keep in mind that each person’s skin chemistry is different, and what you perceive from an evaluation on your skin may be entirely different on someone else's skin, so for a complete profile of the essence, it’s best if you use a combination of skin and strip tests to evaluate. Use only diluted materials for these evaluations, especially on skin evals as you can cause a chemical sensitization using whole raw materials. There was an uproar in the class when I presented this -- sensitization! sensitization! I had to remind them they were making perfume, y'know, the stuff you put on your skin? So, yeah, use your brain here -- dilute, and don't put anything on your skin you already know you're allergic to.

To use scent strips or squares for evaluation, drop a few drops of the diluted essence onto the strip, allow the alcohol to evaporate, about 5 seconds or so, and then sniff the strip by placing it as close to your nostrils as you can without touching your nose, and gently sniff it while slightly waving it under your nose. Immediately begin writing down your impressions. Compare them to the skin evals.

Because you will be using your skin as an evaluation medium, and many natural essences do not easily wash off, even with soapy water, you will have to restrict your evaluations to about five or six per day, so as not to mix the essences on your skin and contaminate the evaluation results. The top of your knuckle, just below your fingernail is a good place to drop the essence as you have five potential places on each hand from which to evaluate. Just don't overload. It's really easy to get the essences mixed up.

Remember to sniff gently. Don’t suck up the air like a vacuum, instead slowly and gently wave your scented hand or scent strip or bottle under your nose. I got a dressing down by a famous aromatherapist/perfumer when I huffed her bottle of aged benzoin ~ "waft, don't draft!" she said. Good advice, that.

The evaluation exercises will help you to remember an essence when you smell it again. It is a good idea to evaluate each essence at different dilutions ~ 1%, 10% and 20% ~ to get a better understanding of how dilution ratios can affect a finished perfume. Thanks, Lisa, for recommending that a few years back. Invaluable. Really.


  1. The Nose is in!

    What a great primer on evaluating.

  2. You think so? I thought so. Nothing terribly complicated here -- just a little common sense and a whole lotta fun.

    Thank you :)

  3. Anonymous8:32 PM

    "I had to remind them they were making perfume, y'know, the stuff you put on your skin? So, yeah, use your brain here -- dilute, and don't put anything on your skin you already know you're allergic to."

    ROFL!!! I love the Saggie Humour =) I got a HUGE guffaw out of this. THe children wanted to know "what was so funny, MOM?" THey didn't find it nearly as amusing as I do, poor things. =)



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