Saturday, September 5, 2009

Dosing Ingredients: Some Advice for DIY perfumers

(photo of Mathilde Laurent evaluating scent strips)

I have learned that one of the most negative things you can do to the state of your psychology is to begin to create and behave with rituals. That is to mean that you create patterns in what you do that make you feel safe and secure. Although it may seem a bit abstract to apply this to perfumery, the way that I feel it applies most is in the dosing of ingredients. As students of perfumery when we begin to learn and more about the raw materials of the perfumers palette we find ourselves assigning relative strength associations to these materials. As a less experienced DIY'er we might become prone to be very careful with materials like vetiver and mace which we feel have a tendency to take over our blends completely. We may also even get so discouraged by "chemicals" like Maltol, IsoBQ and CIS Hex that don't seem to co-operate with us no matter how low of a dosage we use...

For the DIY'er out there who is trying to learn perfume the autodidact way I have some advice... Do not stick to your rules about dosage! For instance, tonight I have been trying to copy a man's scent from the 80's and my current dosage of coumarin is very far under 1%, however while copying Lagerfeld's Floriental I found myself dosing it somewhere around 3-5% (Caveat - I am not sure anymore the exact as I cannot find my formula, I am horrible with losing them! Another piece of advice - Don't lose your formulas!). Another example of an ingredient which I commonly use to underdose is patchouli - while it seems to have a tendency to dominate blends and therefore cause dosage paranoia, I have actually found myself dosing it somewhere around 10% tonight! Don't be afraid to experiment and always trust your nose not your heuristics!

Now, the second part of my advice on dosing comes in the arena of the dilution of your chemicals. Perfumery is an expensive hobby, so spend your money wisely. Do not buy as many raw materials as you can until your money runs out because believe me, you will lose more money this way than building your organ slowly and smartly. The smartest thing to do is to keep enouhg money aside to purchase DPG and dropper vials to create enough dilutions of your materials that you can always work with the fewest amount of drops possible. This is to mean that it is often wise to have not only the 100% dropper, but also a 10% and a 1%, or for chemicals that we know are really strong we can do 5% and 1% 0.1% and even 0.01%. I have some chemicals in dilutions such as 0.25% 0.1% 0.01% etc.. do whatever feels best for you. Also, if you are unsure of how fat to dilute your chemical, my experience says to dilute until you can evaluate the true facet of the material as many strong materials smell uncharacteristic of themselves at high concentrations.

Above all, do not scour the internet for formulas thinking they will "teach you a basic skeleton" - it doesn't really work that way. Be brave and challenge yourself, take your favourite perfume and try to remake it. You will probably not succeed the first time but if you get 50% of the way there pat yourself on the back - try to get to 80% within 5 trials :)

Tom Ford Grey Vetiver : Review

I was reading an article lately in Plastique magazine while waiting for my haircut. One particular interview stuck in my mind and I am not sure who I am quoting/paraphrasing anymore but they said something along that lines that we cannot expect many original artistic ideas in the coming years, and that we can expect to see more and more recycling - but unfortunately not the eco-friendly kind! I thought this was really cute...

A few days later I pick up a bottle of Tom Ford's Grey Vetiver, low and behold - I run into some of this exact recycling! Evaporating into my nose were the carefully aligned molecules of Eau Sauvage with plastic surgery to make it fit better in a 2009 outfit. They did not even really try to diguise it so much as Bois 1920 and their blatant ripoffs! I love Eau Sauvage, I know it inside and out. I have spent countless hours perfecting a copy of it... so if this is not a twist on the Eau Sauvage formula then I do not deserve to write this blog! I am sure this makes great business sense and in the end we know it is all about the bottom line, but I am not impressed!! Sorry that this is not much of a review but what else can I say?

PS. I love Tom Ford so this is nothing personal, I will continue to support his brand! This review is similar to my reaction to Dsquared's fragrance - they are one of my absolute favourite designers but I reviewed He Wood negatively, as I believe it deserved!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

How world politics killed a perfume: Arsenal

Back in the late 1990's when I was still a teenager and not so interested in perfumes, I ran across a spray sample of Gilles Cantuel's Arsenal (Red and Blue) for men. I was so taken aback by this incredibly sweet and mesmerizing fragrance duo; they were very unique, both sweet and sour at the same time - delicious! However, at this innocent age I did not yet wear any fragrance as I considered wearing cologne to be a "macho" thing to do - I didn't dream to wear any out of fear someone might think I was "trying too hard".

A few years later when I began to wear fragrance more regularly I would spend a lot of my free time shopping around my local stores trying to find a fragrance that was distinctly "me". Some of my early favourites included Eau Sauvage and Arrogance - but I knew they weren't truly reflective of my personality at that age. I was a fresh, young, innovative, trendy kinda guy, with an appreciation for sweet and tart flavours. I also lived off the most vile synthetic candy and 7-11 slushies during those summers. This is when I happened to run into those samplers again; digging through some old belongings and found the red vial with just enough left for a few sprays... Upon application I screamed holy *(*#$! - I must have this!

I drove to the nearest Scentiments only to find out that they were unable to stock this particular perfume after the (then recent) events of 9/11. This was due to the fact that absolutley no air shipper would touch this perfume; Its bottle shape and packaging (see above) were just too dangerous and controversial. Rather than change the iconic grenade bottle of this heavily brand/image reliant product Cantuel simply pulled it from distribution entirely in North America. I am not sure of the full story, in terms of how it met its end in Europe - but somehow it has now become a discontinued perfume and I kick myself to this day for not picking some up when I had the chance. Then again I don't think I could have afforded it with my allowance in those days anyways...

another parfum "disparu" I suppose :)