I was on a trip to the Netherlands in April of last year, after the release of the first perfume from January Scent Project, and I was thinking a great deal about what would come next. An idea had been brewing in my mind for a long while - something that was intensely green. I'd been hoping to see this green scent take shape by the time summer came along last year, and it did - slowly. In fact, extremely slowly. I was working in a rather painstaking manner: I'd come up with a basic concoction, make variations of it in little vials, and then test each of them later. Usually one or 2 would make the cut, and then I'd work from there. But this process can be exhausting, and before you know it, you've made an enormous formula that's grown deeper and deeper in complexity, but also having lost some of its initial power and punch.
I worked through the summer, the autumn, took a break of two months and came back and looked at the endless notes I had from the last version. I decided to start again from the beginning, taking many cues from the process so far, but simplifying as much as possible where I could. No redundancies, no needless repetition of notes that were very similar. A few rounds of tweaking, and then - was this it? Finally, it all came together. Then in rapid succession, the other perfumes worked their way out and within just six weeks, the three perfumes came into being. It was satisfying to see it happen, but I think the long months of trial were needed for gestation, learning, and indeed smelling.
On this journey toward understanding the construction of perfumes, it becomes clearer that creating perfume is an inexact science that relies on some very exact components. This interest flipping back and forth between the known and the unknown is extremely daunting at first, but then becomes fascinating. Here are some specifics that were amazing experiences:
Exercises in Longevity:
Perfume longevity is a goal, a bane, a difficulty, a desire. I've smelled materials that would delight the senses only to find that they evaporate and leave within an hour, and others that persist for days or more. Of course it's usually the deeper base notes that last longer, but in combination with other materials, longevity can be experimented with and expanded upon.
I first thought that one must load up a perfume with the highest concentration of oils possible to achieve solid longevity in a scent, but this isn't always the case. High concentration certainly adds density and intensity, but the air and distribution that alcohol or another carrier adds creates diffusiveness, and that does contribute to the impression of a scent's longevity. In other words, scents which cannot rise off the skin at a steady rate are simply too dense to enjoy steady evaporation. There may be methods by which one can chemically (and mathematically) detect what is the best combination of components to take advantage of evaporation rates, but it can be experienced through sensation as well. Blotting, smelling, waiting, smelling again: I pushed one perfume as high as 35% in its concentration in order to get it to last longer, and it did, but in the process it had become overpowering. Learning to let the components breath and live well with each other is the key to longevity.