How is a new perfume created?

How is a painting painted, a symphony composed? What is certain is that perfumers use their materials in much the same way as painters use their colours, musicians their notes.

In an interview with William Kaufman, the perfumer Pierre Dhumez expressed it this way:

“To make a perfume is to find a harmony of three or four dominant ‘bodies’ that you smell in your mind. You have an inspiration for a mixture of those three or four bodies, not more.

"And they will release themselves in such a way that when you have composed the ‘corps’ in the proportions by which you have been inspired when you were in a tranquil, happy state of mind, you will not be able to distinguish one odour from the other among your basic raw materials, it is a perfectly balanced mixture which smells as a separate entity from the odour of each of the three or four bodies you have chosen - and in so doing you will have created the ‘woman’.

"After that, you have to enhance her, make her more beautiful, do her hair, select her dress, her lipstick, her eye liner, her hat, her wrap - and that is a perfume.”(William Kaufman, Perfume, E.P.Dutton, 1974)

A perfumer is rarely a soloist. The conductor of the orchestra, the head of a perfume house, plays a critical role. Like a great symphony, a truly great perfume evolves with a sensory message so emotional, it moves the hearts of women and stirs the senses of men.

“Aliage ... was sporty,” wrote Estée Lauder. “I’d picked up a green leaf in Palm Beach one day, deeply inhaled its scent with wonder, and knew I had to re-create that smell.

"The active woman needed a scent all her own: when she went to a gym in her tennis shoes, she didn’t want to conjure up a whole symphony orchestra.

"I could never find a scent that would be right on the tennis court, so I had to invent it.” (Estée Lauder, Estée, A Success Story, Random House, 1985)

Fragrance Family classifications © Copyright Michael Edwards 2012