Thirteen Thoughts: Perfumer Interview Series – Ellen Covey of Olympic Orchids Perfumes

thirteen-thoughts-v2_800_shadow1Thirteen thoughts from perfumers around the globe. Each perfumer profiled at Perfume Polytechnic has been presented with the same set of thirteen questions that probe into scent memories, imagination, education, history, the creative process and philosophy. How each perfumer answers these questions, and what form the answers take, is up to them. Tune in each week for a new instalment to learn more about the olfactory arts and how perfumers think about smell.

This is the final of five, weekly instalments in Series Two of Thirteen Thoughts. Today’s interview features Ellen Covey of Olympic Orchids Perfumes. As well as being a gifted perfumer, Ellen is also a neuroscientist and a professor at the University of Washington. She also grows orchids commercially and owns the Olympic Orchids nursery near Seattle. Ellen’s beautiful fragrance Woodcut recently won a 2015 Art and Olfaction Award in the Artisan Category.

The intention of Thirteen Thoughts is to let each perfumer speak for themselves about who they are, what drives them, and what they do with fragrance, so without any further ado, let me introduce you to…

Ellen Covey of Olympic Orchids Perfumes

Ellen Covey

Ellen Covey of Olympic Orchids Perfumes

  1. Tell us about a significant olfactory memory from your childhood.

One of my earliest memories is from when I was about 2 years old and we moved to a new house. I remember standing on the bed in the old house the day before we moved, sniffing the windowsill, thinking that I would miss this smell and that the new house would smell different. It made me sad.

  1. What is your “origin story”? When, why and how did you decide to become a perfumer?

Becoming a perfumer wasn’t a “decision” in the sense that I didn’t say to myself “I want to be a perfumer when I grow up” and then tried to make that happen. It happened gradually without my realizing it until it had already happened. I formally acknowledged it when I started my business in 2010.

Why did I become a perfumer? There’s no simple reason. I’ve always been fascinated by scents and perfumes, and have tinkered around with them for a long time. I have grown orchids commercially for about 10 years, and continue to be fascinated by the huge variety of fragrances produced by orchids in nature. My original goal was to try to make some perfumes based on orchid flowers, but it has grown way beyond that. I am happy that I’m able to make unique fragrances that resonate with people, make them happy, make them think, make them feel emotions. For me, perfumery is like any other form of creative work – there’s something internal that needs to be expressed and communicated, and there’s a medium to do it whether it’s words, music, visuals, or perfume.

SMLRed Cattleya for website

A Red Cattleya orchid

  1. Do you have any formal training in perfumery, or are you self-taught? Have there been any mentors or other personal or cultural influences on your work as a perfumer?

I have not taken a formal perfumery class, nor have I worked with a mentor. In that sense, I am self-taught. However, a great deal of information is available online, in books, in forums and professional interest groups, so I have taken from that body of information whatever is relevant and useful for me, and left the rest to follow my own path. Instead of going by the book, I am guided by common sense, knowledge of chemistry and, most importantly, my own aesthetics and sense of smell.

If I have a cultural influence, it is my lifelong dislike of many traditional European-style perfumes and my early preference for Indian and Middle Eastern type perfumes. Over the years I have sampled literally thousands of perfumes of all different vintages and genres, and this has given me a good idea of the limitations and possibilities of the art as it currently exists, as well as inspiration for where it could and should go next.

  1. Who are your favourite perfumers or perfume houses, and what do you like about their work?

This question pops up over and over again, and I always decline to answer it, partly because it is unanswerable and partly because I see it as a conflict of interest. The question is unanswerable because the perfumes that I enjoy do not typically come from a given perfumer or perfume house, but from many different sources, and my preferences vary considerably over time. It is a conflict of interest because if I were to recommend other perfumers who are, in a sense, colleagues, that could be seen as promoting them while neglecting to promote others who may be equally meritorious.

SMLNew bottles together

Some of the Olympic Orchids range

  1. Describe your brand to us: tell us about the kind(s) of perfume that you make, as well as your brand’s philosophy or ethos.

If my brand has a mission statement, it is to provide a wide variety of original and high-quality perfumes at prices that are affordable by anyone. Originality is a given, because I love to experiment and venture into uncharted territory. I always try to use the highest quality materials possible, making sure my sources are reputable, and keeping costs down by buying in bulk. I try to keep overheads low by keeping paid advertising to a minimum, using simple packaging, and offering small sizes and an extensive sampling program.

I experiment with everything from traditional forms such as chypres, colognes, fougères, and florientals to forms that do not fit into any standard genre. Most of my perfumes contain a high percentage of natural materials, and a few are all natural. I have a huge appreciation and respect for the complexity of natural materials, every one of which is like a perfume in and of itself, but I also appreciate the use of synthetics to create new accords that do not exist in nature and/or that enhance certain aspects of natural materials. To me, the judicious addition of synthetics to perfume is analogous to going from playing music on original acoustic instruments to adding electronic amplification, synthesized sounds, and studio production to what is essentially an organically created piece of music. It still has the natural human touch, but has been made more compelling through the use of technology.

  1. How do you come up with the idea for a new perfume? For example, do ideas come to you spontaneously, do you work conceptually, or do you try to fill gaps in your range?

All of the above. On the whole, though, I would say that the majority of ideas come to me spontaneously, but may take the form of a concept that becomes realized through the use of perfume. I have far more ideas than I have time to work on or space for in my line. There are always works in progress in my studio, some of which sit around for years before being finished. I have never really tried to “fill gaps in my range”, although I have felt compelled to try my hand at traditional genres just to see what would evolve within that form, and a few of these experiments have been released.

SMLPerfume Studio 2015-A

Ellen’s perfume studio

  1. What element of your perfume making process do you think readers of this blog would be interested or surprised to learn about?

I really don’t think any part of my process is particularly surprising, because my setup and operation is pretty standard for an established artisan perfume studio. I will say that I love to tincture odd things, from seaweed to fig leaves, dried fruit, hops, and soy sauce, and a few of these tinctures get used in production of my fragrances. Up until now I have done everything myself, from fragrance design and production to filling bottles and sample vials, packing orders, label and website design, publicity, and boring stuff like accounting and paperwork. The bigger the business gets, the less time there is for the fun part of it, so I know that at some point soon I will have to get some help with routine tasks.

  1. What are the current challenges you face as a perfumer, both creatively and in regard to manufacturing, distributing and marketing your perfume?

The challenges right now have to do with managing growth of my business, becoming more efficient and streamlined as I move to bigger production batches, and looking at getting help with mundane tasks in the near future. Another challenge has to do with space. My studio and warehouse area is already a decent size, but I can see that it will need to be larger within the next few years if growth continues at the current rate.

I have not made an effort to grow my business quickly, but instead have chosen to let it develop in an evolutionary and self-sustaining way, putting profits back into improvement and gradual expansion. When I look back on where I started almost 5 years ago, I am amazed at how much the business has grown, but I really didn’t notice the process as it happened. I think this laissez-faire approach has cut back on the sorts of major challenges and setbacks that business owners experience when they try to do too much too soon, possibly with unrealistic expectations. I have not yet quit my “day job”, but now realize that I may need to do so at some point in the foreseeable future.

SMLWoodcut by Antonia

Award-winning fragrance Woodcut by Olympic Orchids. Photo credit: Antonia Kohl

  1. How has your work as a perfumer affected your perception of everyday smells?

I’ve always been highly aware of everyday smells, so I don’t think my perception of smells has really changed in any fundamental way. What I do find now, when I smell other people’s perfumes in passing on the street, is that I often think things like, “oh, I smell ambroxan”, or “wow that has a lot of ionones in it”, dissecting the scents by ingredients rather than perceiving them as just a pleasant smell. It just shows that we perform olfactory analysis on multiple levels, in multiple modes, depending on what we are familiar with.

  1. Many ingredients that are edible are also used in fragrance (chocolate, vanilla, coffee and rose, to name a few). If you could reverse this process and turn any perfume ingredient into an edible ingredient, what would that be? Which fragrance ingredient do you think would taste nice as a flavour?

Many things that we think of as perfume ingredients work well in food. I cook with all kinds of herbs including lavender, I like candy flavoured with flowers, including rose, orange blossom and violet, and I sometimes flavour my coffee with resins like silver fir, fir balsam, or frankincense. There is candy flavoured with musk, which I’m sure is tasty. Many of the same aroma chemicals used in perfumery are also used in synthetic flavourings for food, so we eat them all the time without realizing it. I love to taste oud by itself. In fact, at some point I taste almost all of my perfume materials. Oddly, I find that sometimes it is easier to detect adulteration when the material is both smelled and tasted.

Art and Olfaction Award Ellen Covey

Ellen Covey accepting her Art and Olfaction Award for Woodcut

  1. If you had a time machine, which historical period in perfumery would you like to go back to and work in as a perfumer?

I’m not sure I would like to go back to a historical period and work as a perfumer because I would be much more limited in terms of materials and distribution opportunities. What I would prefer to do is go into the future and see how perfumery has evolved and what new opportunities have arisen.

  1. If you could invent a new olfactory gadget, tool or technology, what would it be and how would it benefit perfumers and/or society?

I think gadgets and technology are often overrated. My studio is simple but well-equipped, and I don’t see the need for a lot of fancy gadgetry. What I really need is a 3-ml spray sample vial that doesn’t allow the contents to evaporate over time! I would rather help support a person by paying them to make samples or pack boxes than have a robot do it. One could dream of some way to “stream” perfume to customers to sample, but I think that would depersonalize the experience and take some of the fun out of waiting for those little packages to arrive. Something that might benefit people could be a system of perfume lending libraries of “perfumemobiles” that could go to hospitals, retirement homes, prisons, and other places where people lead dreary lives. It would have to be run by people who could educate the users about the perfumes and let them see how perfume can be psychologically therapeutic – aromatherapy, not in the usual sense of attributing medicinal properties to herbs, but in the sense of bringing sensory stimulation, contemplation, and joy to people.

  1. What is the purpose of perfume?

The short and simple answer? Perfume exists to give people pleasure.

Like any other art form, a good perfume is an expression of something within its creator, but will evoke different feelings, thoughts, and associations in each person who experiences it.


I hope you have enjoyed today’s interview with Ellen Covey. I would like to thank Ellen for the time she took to answer the thirteen questions, in amongst her busy life as an academic, orchid grower and perfumer! I particularly love Ellen’s idea of a perfume lending library or “perfumemobiles”; it’s such a wonderful concept. I have recently smelled Ellen’s award-winning fragrance Woodcut, and it’s beautiful. I recommend getting your hands on a sample.

To find out about Ellen’s perfumes and to purchase them, go to the Olympic Orchids Original Perfume Boutique (for the full range, smaller sizes, limited editions and samples) and to the newer Olympic Orchids Perfumes flagship store, for larger bottles and newer packaging.

Olympic Orchids has one of the best and most affordable sample programs out there, with affordable international shipping. If you’re keen to try out Ellen’s perfumes, I highly recommend checking out the range of samples and sample packs available, as well as the discovery sets.

Olympic Orchids Perfumes are also listed on Fragrantica and Basenotes.

Previous & Future Instalments of Thirteen Thoughts

Last week, Shelley Waddington of En Voyage Perfumes was interviewed. You can read her answers to the thirteen questions here.

In week one of this second series of Thirteen Thoughts, Mandy Aftel was interviewed. You can read her answers here.

In week two, JoAnne Bassett of JoAnne Bassett Perfumes answered the thirteen questions. You can read her interview here.

In week three, Andy Tauer was interviewed. Read his interview here.

You can catch up with Series One of Thirteen Thoughts here.

This concludes Series Two of Thirteen Thoughts: Perfumer Interview Series. I hope you have enjoyed these interviews and I would like to once again thank all of the perfumers who have taken part in this very exciting second series! It’s been a real pleasure to meet and get to know all the perfumers involved, and to note the similarities and differences in how each of them has answered the thirteen questions.

Coming Soon…

An interview with the inimitable Angelo Orazio Pregoni of O’Driu perfumes. Angelo and I have a chat about art, perfume, and the ideas behind his work. It’s a revealing and fascinating read. Open your mind and come along for the ride! Follow Perfume Polytechnic if you don’t want to miss it!

Intellectual Property

All interview answers and photographs were provided courtesy of the perfumer. All interviews remain the intellectual property of Perfume Polytechnic and the perfumers. Please do not reproduce interviews or images without permission.

Thirteen Thoughts: Perfumer Interview Series – Shelley Waddington of En Voyage Perfumes

thirteen-thoughts-v2_800_shadow1Thirteen thoughts from perfumers around the globe. Each perfumer profiled at Perfume Polytechnic has been presented with the same set of thirteen questions that probe into scent memories, imagination, education, history, the creative process and philosophy. How each perfumer answers these questions, and what form the answers take, is up to them. Tune in each week for a new instalment to learn more about the olfactory arts and how perfumers think about smell.

Today is the fourth of five, weekly instalments in Series Two of Thirteen Thoughts. Today’s interview features Shelley Waddington of En Voyage Perfumes. Shelley’s fragrances are adored by perfume aficionados and critics alike, and her fragrance Zelda (inspired by Zelda Fitzgerald) has gained a cult following. En Voyage has won multiple international awards, including several prestigious Gold Artisan Fragrance Salon Awards. As well as being a talented perfumer, Shelley is also a musician — she plays keyboard, woodwinds and guitar — and has worked as a music teacher. As a synaesthete, Shelley experiences smells in colours and shapes. I hope to write more about Shelley’s synaesthesia at a later date on this blog, as part of my Smell and Synaesthesia series.

The intention of Thirteen Thoughts is to let each perfumer speak for themselves about who they are, what drives them, and what they do with fragrance, so without any further ado, let me introduce you to…

Shelley Waddington of En Voyage Perfumes

Shelley_Cropped

Shelley Waddington of En Voyage Perfumes

  1. Tell us about a significant olfactory memory from your childhood.

My Aunt Bobby was tiny, rich, glamorous, and wore the highest heels I’d ever seen. One day she gave me her bottle of Schiaparelli’s Shocking, right off of her dressing table. The bottle was shaped like a little glass dressmaker’s dummy, and was under a glass dome. My parents were horrified at the idea of their 5-year-old wearing such a fragrance. I thought it was all perfectly wonderful.

  1. What is your “origin story”? When, why and how did you decide to become a perfumer?

My early life in an artist colony was involved with music, textiles, clay, charcoals, paint, jewelry making and sculpture. Eventually I needed more income, so I entered the corporate world. During those corporate years I missed having something to hold up at the end of the day and say, “I made this”. It was like living in a sensory deprivation chamber.

As a diversion I bought a few essential oils. I blended a few little things and put them in pretty bottles. I had some talent and wanted to learn more. So I took a vacation to Paris and Grasse to study, learn, and to find better oils. I gradually collected an extensive reference library, a fully stocked perfumer’s organ, and developed rewarding relationships with other perfumers and helpful suppliers.

My first business, Beau Soleil Perfumes (in 2000), was an all-natural perfume, bath and body outlet. It was the early forerunner of En Voyage Perfumes and remains the parent company.

SMLCarmel

A photo of Shelley in the 7th Grade. Taken at the Sunset School, Carmel-by-the-Sea artists’ colony, Northern California.

  1. Do you have any formal training in perfumery, or are you self-taught? Have there been any mentors or other personal or cultural influences on your work as a perfumer?

My only formal training was in 2001, a small workshop in Grasse where I learned some new things that helped me to progress.

My most significant learning comes from ongoing curiosity, study, practice, and immersion in the arts.

During my early years I frequently corresponded with other perfumers in online study groups.

We didn’t realize at the time that we were to be the Emergent New Perfumers. We learned together, competed against each other. We delivered our version of “Ted Talks” among ourselves before anything like that ever existed. We were the first of the new West Coast indie movement.

SML2010-05-14 Shelley Portrait 083 (2)

Shelley Waddington

  1. Who are your favourite perfumers or perfume houses, and what do you like about their work?

My favorite perfume house is frankly my own. We’re acknowledged as being at the cutting edge of perfumery, as daring to innovate, and to take the risks to make unique, lovely, quality fragrances for wallet-friendly prices. We use all the beautiful essences that the big commercial perfume houses avoid due to cost and unnecessary restrictions. We aren’t beholden to shareholders, investors, or corporate creative directors. We’re one of the few places in perfumery you’re going to find this.

My favorite classic perfumer is Ernest Daltroff who founded Parfums Caron in 1904. He was a young Russian Jew who immigrated penniless to Paris, and then trained himself to make perfume for a living. His assistant, muse and beloved life partner Felicie helped him to escape to America when the Nazis occupied Paris during WWII. His masterpieces include Tabac Blond, Nuit de Noel, and Bellodgia, trendsetters of their day. Today they’re treasured classics that radiate the poignant authenticity of his life. I like his story because he was the real deal who succeeded on his own merit despite not having a wealthy family or a famous mentor.

zelda_high

Zelda by En Voyage Perfumes

  1. Describe your brand to us: tell us about the kind(s) of perfume that you make, as well as your brand’s philosophy or ethos.

Philosophy

My philosophy is simple: artistic independence, honesty, and transparency. That translates into gorgeous materials, quality, and a fair price point.

I am closely connected to my perfumes and to my customers.

It isn’t unusual for me to hear from a customer who feels as if one my perfumes was made especially for them.

Artistic Concept

Each of my perfumes tells a new fragrance story – about a person, a place, an ethos, an element or a legend.

Memorable people whose story I’ve depicted in fragrance include Zelda (Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald) and Makeda (the real name of the Queen of Sheba).

Stories of fragrant places include New York Man, and Fiore di Bellagio (Lake Cuomo, Italy).

Go Ask Alice is the story of Hippie drug days of the 1960’s Summer of Love. Captured in Amber tells of ancient and exotic resins of Persia, Egypt and India. Lorelei tells the tale of the mythical Gallic water siren.

I also explore stories of water, fire, sand, a Japanese peach, and a special wood named Oudh in (respectively) A Study in Water, Chang Chang, Durango, Peche Noir, and L’Hombre.

  1. How do you come up with the idea for a new perfume? For example, do ideas come to you spontaneously, do you work conceptually, or do you try to fill gaps in your range?

I constantly evaluate new ideas. When an idea has a heart, my passion quickly develops and I follow that. It’s always nice when something new fills a gap, but I’m not always that practical.

SML24677_1367000928460_1034787602_31102385_8329967_n

Beautiful petals and leaves collected for extraction into fragrance materials.

  1. What element of your perfume making process do you think readers of this blog would be interested or surprised to learn about?

I’m not sure how interesting or surprising this is, but I’m the author of a well-known perfume textbook, Perfuming With Natural Isolates. I also teach and mentor other perfumers.

Also, I devote blocks of time to evaluating new fragrance materials. I’m always looking for something that speaks to me in a new way.

Lastly, sometimes a fragrance I seek isn’t available commercially. So I make it myself, using resins, woods, leaves, and blossoms. I use traditional methods and also some new techniques I’ve developed myself.

  1. What are the current challenges you face as a perfumer, both creatively and in regard to manufacturing, distributing and marketing your perfume?

Hand-crafted perfume was once the standard, and it’s now experiencing an exciting renaissance. Global demand for quality non-commercial, artisan perfumes continues to grow. My challenges are to create market awareness of my small brand and to find distribution without compromising the quality and price – which are the very soul of my product.

The best part is that fragrance lovers are an incredibly beneficial, well-wishing audience. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t receive encouragement from a person or a company who appreciates my work. My adverting budget is tiny, and having so many kind people spreading the word is a huge help.

alice05_600

Go Ask Alice by En Voyage

  1. How has your work as a perfumer affected your perception of everyday smells?

I sometimes notice smells that aren’t noticed by others. And when I try to describe smells I probably sound a little crazy to non-perfume people.

My language often includes references to fragrance families, such as chypre and soliflore; and sometimes use names of specific fragrance materials like liatrix and hedione and Lavandula augustifolia.

I also use other words that aren’t always a part of everyday language, such as agresic, hesperidic, indolic. I sometimes say something like, “This smells blue”, and I use descriptive similes, such as, “This smell reminds me of dawn light shining yellow through a blooming pussy willow.” I also speak comparatively on the basis of other perfumes, such as, “This smells like the rustic coumarin note in Aramis, if it was mixed with the new-mown hay note in Ralph Lauren Polo Sport”.

  1. Many ingredients that are edible are also used in fragrance (chocolate, vanilla, coffee and rose, to name a few). If you could reverse this process and turn any perfume ingredient into an edible ingredient, what would that be? Which fragrance ingredient do you think would taste nice as a flavour?

Ambergris is the ultimate in elegant flavor. It was once a custom of Marie Antoinette and the French Royals to flavor their creamy hot chocolate with ambergris. In fact, that is the fragrance I depict in my perfume Café Cacao.

And once I combined ambergris, patchouli and musk into my homemade almond Roca and brought it to a party of perfume colleagues. Lots of perfumers wanted the recipe.

z5

Shelley’s studio

  1. If you had a time machine, which historical period in perfumery would you like to go back to and work in as a perfumer?

Each era is so terribly romantic! And each one influences and inspires me by their materials, styles and innovations.

I feel very privileged to have access to the work and information of those who went before me. I learn so much from them. Using that knowledge as a point of departure for new ideas and interpretations is the Ultimate Artistic Freedom.

  1. If you could invent a new olfactory gadget, tool or technology, what would it be and how would it benefit perfumers and/or society?

That’s a hard question. Olfactory gadgets for marketing are interesting and fun, such as fragrance booths that have scent piped in. But my own interest is focused more on making perfume. I’m less interested in bacon-scented alarm clocks, olfactory smartphones or smell-o-vision.

I have invented a couple proprietary things for my own use, mostly to improve efficiency. Many perfume houses do this. It sometimes has the side-effect of contributing to identifiable brand characteristics. People often comment that my brand is recognizable, that they can smell something and tell that it’s a “Shelley”. Part of that comes from technique.

  1. What is the purpose of perfume?

For me, the overarching purpose is to deliver unexpected beauty that moves someone deeply.


I hope you have enjoyed today’s interview with Shelley Waddington. I would like to thank Shelley for the time and care she took to answer the thirteen questions. I enjoyed the email communication we had in the process of conducting this interview; Shelley has been such a lovely, warm and friendly person to deal with. I will also be reviewing some En Voyage fragrances on Perfume Polytechnic in the near future – follow the blog to stay in touch!

Shelley is also an author and perfume educator: she penned the textbook Perfuming with Natural Isolates and runs an online course on the topic.

SONY DSC

Perfuming With Natural Isolates by Shelley Waddington

Perfuming With Natural Isolates is available to purchase at Amazon. You can find out more about Shelley’s online course here.

To find out more about Shelley and her En Voyage perfumes (and to purchase them), visit En Voyage Perfumes. If you’re in the US, you can also purchase En Voyage fragrances from Tigerlily Perfumes in San Francisco and at the Indigo Perfumery in Lakewood, Ohio.

En Voyage Perfumes are also listed on Fragrantica and Basenotes.

Shelley enjoys connecting with the fragrance community through social media. Here are some links to her Facebook pages:

Previous & Future Instalments of Thirteen Thoughts

Last week, Andy Tauer of Tauer Perfumes was interviewed. You can read his answers to the thirteen questions here.

In week one of this second series of Thirteen Thoughts, Mandy Aftel was interviewed. You can read her answers here.

In week two, JoAnne Bassett of JoAnne Bassett Perfumes answered the thirteen questions. You can read her interview here.

You can catch up with Series One of Thirteen Thoughts here.

Next Week

Visit Perfume Polytechnic next week to find out how Ellen Covey of Olympic Orchids Perfumes answers the thirteen questions in Thirteen Thoughts, a Perfumer Interview Series. Sign up to follow this blog so you don’t miss an episode of this series with fabulous perfumers from around the globe.

Intellectual Property

All interview answers and photographs were provided courtesy of the perfumer. All interviews remain the intellectual property of Perfume Polytechnic and the perfumers. Please do not reproduce interviews or images without permission.

Thirteen Thoughts: Perfumer Interview Series – Andy Tauer of Tauer Perfumes

thirteen-thoughts-v2_800_shadow1Thirteen thoughts from perfumers around the globe. Each perfumer profiled at Perfume Polytechnic has been presented with the same set of thirteen questions that probe into scent memories, imagination, education, history, the creative process and philosophy. How each perfumer answers these questions, and what form the answers take, is up to them. Tune in each week for a new instalment to learn more about the olfactory arts and how perfumers think about smell.

Today is the third of five, weekly instalments in Series Two of Thirteen Thoughts. Today’s interview features Andy Tauer of Tauer Perfumes. Andy is an independent perfumer based in Zürich, Switzerland. He has a PhD in chemistry and worked as a molecular biologist before launching Tauer perfumes ten years ago. Andy’s perfumes have a cult following amongst perfume lovers and are renowned for containing high-quality ingredients. Andy is a talented painter as well as a perfumer, and prints of his works (currently on silk scarves) are sold at his Tauerville website,  which serves as a creative space – separate to the Tauer Perfumes label – for Andy to sell perfumes and other artistic wares. Andy says: “Tauerville is a playground for innovative ideas presented in a down to earth approach” (quoted from Tauerville website).

The intention of Thirteen Thoughts is to let each perfumer speak for themselves about who they are, what drives them, and what they do with fragrance, so without any further ado, let me introduce you to…

Andy Tauer of Tauer Perfumes

Andy Tauer

Andy Tauer of Tauer Perfumes

  1. Tell us about a significant olfactory memory from your childhood.

Well, I get this question a lot. To be honest: I have little memories, olfactory memories, from my childhood. A safe guess would be the smell of my mother: I can remember it, but this memory is so deeply imprinted that I cannot say to which age it goes back. I guess it is just part of what formed my earliest olfactive memories. Another olfactive memory going back to the days when I was a boy: The pigs, outside in the fields of our neighborhood farmer. Nice!

  1. What is your “origin story”? When, why and how did you decide to become a perfumer?

I never decided to become a perfumer. I just started playing with scents about 14 years ago, kick-started by the idea of using all naturals to create something that goes beyond the sum of its ingredients. Actually, it all started with Mandy Aftel‘s book “Essence and Alchemy“. Mandy has such a wonderful way of describing scents and scented matters. It was a blessing to have bought this book. I think it is about 5 or 6 years from now that I first used the occupation “perfumer”, on an Egyptian immigration form. I learned a lesson back then: It can help to call oneself a “perfumer”. The immigration officer was all happy to finally meet a perfumer and basically just waved me through customs. You know: I think it is a good question to ask what a perfumer really is. These days, there is a lot of confusion and many brand owners who never trained their nose (which is perfectly ok) are called perfumers (which is not ok). Becoming a perfumer is not really a binary thing. You are not a perfumer from one day to the other. Is playing with scents for a year enough to call oneself a perfumer? I do not know. What I know is: I am still learning. Every day. And these days I tend to say: I am a creator of perfumes, playing with scented matter.

SMLTauer-242

Andy Tauer

  1. Do you have any formal training in perfumery, or are you self-taught? Have there been any mentors or other personal or cultural influences on your work as a perfumer?

I never attended any kind of formal training. I am therefore, in the best and worst sense of the term, “self-trained”. In the best sense: I never had to go through the funnel of a school where everybody learns the same. In the worst sense: I had to possibly fall into every trap there is and make all the mistakes that one can make. But I am convinced that by failing we learn the most. I am often asked by people who want to become perfumers how to start. I always answer by saying that I will not give any advice or support: You have to find your way yourself. If you search for help you have already lost.

  1. Who are your favourite perfumers or perfume houses, and what do you like about their work?

I have a couple of houses and brands that I follow and that I admire. Vero Profumo, founded by Vero Kern, a Swiss perfumer, a dear friend who does wonders with scents. Her style is unique, classy and I can identify her perfumes as her creations immediately. Her “handwriting” is one of a kind, and trust me: In the perfume industry, be it niche be it industry, this is rare. Very rare. I admire the old classical Guerlain perfumes, and I follow Patricia de Nicolai, who’s “more Guerlain” these days than Guerlain, in my opinion. And then there are many “niche” brands, like Yosh, Ineke, Kerosene and others that I follow.

L'Air du Desert Marocain

L’Air du Désert Marocain by Tauer Perfumes

  1. Describe your brand to us: tell us about the kind(s) of perfume that you make, as well as your brand’s philosophy or ethos.

Thank you for this question. It is an easy one and a difficult one at the same time. I guess you have to smell my creations to get an idea what I do, why and how, and what is important. In a nutshell: I am operating in total freedom. My money is in the brand, no investor’s or bank’s money. I am a one man show, mostly, and have no marketing department, no design department nor a communication department telling me what to do. Thus, freedom in creating is key to my work. No compromises when it comes to perfumes. I want to offer perfumes to the market that are worth every penny.

Another aspect: No fuss, no marketing blur, no fancy rings and pearls and gold and other stuff that might help sell but have nothing to do what I care about: The perfume.

And maybe: I want – as good as it gets – to remain approachable. I talk to perfume lovers and have an open ear.

To be honest: I have never written down any company philosophy or charter of what is important for Tauer perfumes. It simply is the way it is. Smell it and you’ll get it!

  1. How do you come up with the idea for a new perfume? For example, do ideas come to you spontaneously, do you work conceptually, or do you try to fill gaps in your range?

Again: Good question! I was travelling a while ago in Russia, with my Russian distributor, meeting a lot of press and I always got the same question: “What is your inspiration?” It really seems to interest the press. Myself and a perfume friend who I was travelling with got tired of answering this question again and again and in the end, we offered the answer: “The pink elephant that sits on our shoulder. The pink elephant gives us ideas of what to create and is our inspiration source.” Of course, this answer was not appreciated…

But there is a grain of truth there: Sometimes, it is hard to say how the creative process works. I always call it a fluid process where you have to let go and go with the stream wherever it might bring you. Sometimes, it is a spark, a precious moment in time, while jogging, while taking a bath, while waking up when the mind is not fully under control, that you see an idea. What follows next is: Giving yourself to the fluidity of the creative process, trying to stick to the inspiration, the idea (that might also come from sniffing a new raw material), but never stick too hard, making sure that the flow can always carry you on.

Sometimes, an idea is a scented picture, too. A scene, a moment in life of somebody (me?) that I try to paint in scents. You know, in the end it all boils down to: Never try too hard to find out where your ideas come from. Once you find the source, it may dry up.

  1. What element of your perfume making process do you think readers of this blog would be interested or surprised to learn about?

When I talk about perfume creation on my blog, I learned that quite often readers are fascinated by raw materials, like rose absolute. This is something we can all connect to. Rose absolute, one of the natural extracts of roses, paints pictures of rose fields in our minds, rose petals, and it carries with it a romantic idea of perfumery. But the reality is often: Sweat, pain, frustration, failure, again and again.

I think perfume lovers would be amazed how difficult it is to create a fragrance that is more than just a nice smelling something that lasts for a while.

SMLroseflash1l

Painting by Andy Tauer – “Rose Flash”

  1. What are the current challenges you face as a perfumer, both creatively and in regard to manufacturing, distributing and marketing your perfume?

When I started offering my creations 10 years ago, it was a completely different world in “niche” (or low volume, high-end perfumery, artisanal perfumery): These days we live in an era of perfume exuberance. There is too much of everything and the market is flooded with new brands, and new perfumes. Lucky us: There are a couple of exciting new artisanal brands out there, too. It is utterly fascinating to see these new faces and scented stories appear on the US West coast (becoming a real hotspot for exciting artisanal niche). But most of the new offerings are actually less exciting, produced by some companies in France, inspired by some memories of brand owners, and totally exchangeable. My Italian distributor often talks about fragrances that are not necessary. And I think that fits perfectly. These days, provided you’ve got some cash, it has become a commodity to launch your perfume brand and everybody seems to do so. I do not mind competition but I see that clients are getting totally confused and reject new offerings. How does this affect me? It is basically my motivation to do better and proof that you can still bring perfumes to the market that are necessary. It helps me, in the end, as I am different and produce different scents. But in a sense, it complicates the communication about fragrances. These days, in order to be heard, you have to be louder and more out there, compared to 10 years ago. Another factor that gets harder and harder: Regulations, especially EU regulations. But this is an endless story and I want to spare you with details…

SML20150203l

Andy Tauer – self-portrait

  1. How has your work as a perfumer affected your perception of everyday smells?

Here’s the irony: I got really more sensitive and more tired of the intense, and omnipresent pollution of our daily life by scent. I am not talking about fragrances here: I am thinking of stores being scented, consumer products being scented. Some fabric softeners impregnate clothes to a level that is hard to believe, especially in the US. But maybe this is conditioning, too. Maybe I am simply not conditioned enough to the US fabric softeners 🙂

And, another irony: By working daily with scents I do not like to perfume myself, during the day. Mostly, I only use perfume in the evening.

  1. Many ingredients that are edible are also used in fragrance (chocolate, vanilla, coffee and rose, to name a few). If you could reverse this process and turn any perfume ingredient into an edible ingredient, what would that be? Which fragrance ingredient do you think would taste nice as a flavour?

Immediate answer: Orange blossom. And you can actually use it in your cuisine! It is wonderful in crème brulée. A side note: There are tons of perfumes out there that contain “edible” notes. And let’s not forget the fruity florals. I guess one reason why they are so immensely popular is the fact that we all can connect to these notes. They are part of a very deeply rooted olfactive fabric, going back to earliest childhood days, or even embryo days. When it comes to perfumes, our memories, the way we are conditioned to scents, plays a big role. Whether I like it or not: My olfactive fabric goes back to the sixties. I was conditioned back then. It was a different world and part of what I like and dislike goes back there, completely out of my control, hard to overcome as it all happens subconsciously.

Andy Tauer watercolour

Painting by Andy Tauer – citrus blossom

  1. If you had a time machine, which historical period in perfumery would you like to go back to and work in as a perfumer?

The 1920s-30s was an exciting time for perfumery. But let’s face it: Back then a guy like me would have faced serious troubles in establishing a perfume brand out of nothing. Actually, I think our times are exciting, too. With lots of opportunities. There is no reason for me to want to go back in time.

  1. If you could invent a new olfactory gadget, tool or technology, what would it be and how would it benefit perfumers and/or society?

Sometimes, I wish it was equally easy to sell and buy perfume like you sell and buy digital music these days. I often listen to lounge-radio.com. If I like a piece, I click on iTunes and buy it. Within seconds. Imagine, if the same was possible for perfume! But technology is not there yet, and we all still have to go for samples or visit a perfumery. And, in a certain sense, this is good.

  1. What is the purpose of perfume?

Perfume is here to bring us joy, fleeting moments of deep and rich sensual experiences.


I hope you have enjoyed today’s interview with Andy Tauer. I would like to thank Andy for taking the time out of his very busy schedule to answer these questions and to share some of his thoughts with us on making perfume. Andy has been incredibly friendly, approachable and a real gentleman, and it’s an absolute pleasure to feature him on Perfume Polytechnic.

To find out more about Andy and his perfumes (and to purchase them), visit Tauer Perfumes and Tauerville. Andy also writes a fabulous blog about his creative work and life in general, and you can keep up-to-date with that here. Andy has also created a series of perfumes in collaboration with filmmaker Brian Pera, under the Tableau de Parfums label. You can read more about the collaboration and the fragrances here.

Andy’s perfumes are also listed on Fragrantica and Basenotes.

Previous & Future Instalments of Thirteen Thoughts

Last week JoAnne Bassett of JoAnne Bassett Perfumes answered the thirteen questions. You can read her interview here.

In week one of this second series of Thirteen Thoughts, Mandy Aftel was interviewed. You can read her answers to the thirteen questions here.

Coming guests in Series Two of Thirteen Thoughts include Shelley Waddington and Ellen Covey.

You can catch up with Series One of Thirteen Thoughts here.

Next Week:

Visit Perfume Polytechnic next week to find out how the very lovely and talented Shelley Waddington of En Voyage Perfumes answers the thirteen questions in Thirteen Thoughts, a Perfumer Interview Series. Sign up to follow this blog so you don’t miss an episode of this series with fabulous perfumers from around the globe.

Intellectual Property:

All interview answers and photographs were provided courtesy of the perfumer. All interviews remain the intellectual property of Perfume Polytechnic and the perfumers. Please do not reproduce interviews or images without permission.

Thirteen Thoughts: Perfumer Interview Series – JoAnne Bassett of JoAnne Bassett Perfumes

thirteen-thoughts-v2_800_shadow1Thirteen thoughts from perfumers around the globe. Each perfumer profiled at Perfume Polytechnic has been presented with the same set of thirteen questions that probe into scent memories, imagination, education, history, the creative process and philosophy. How each perfumer answers these questions, and what form the answers take, is up to them. Tune in each week for a new instalment to learn more about the olfactory arts and how perfumers think about smell.

Today is the second of five, weekly instalments in Series Two of Thirteen Thoughts. Today’s interview features JoAnne Bassett of JoAnne Bassett Perfumes, who is based in Southern California. JoAnne is a certified aromatherapist, Royal Alchemist, natural perfumer, and teaches scent appreciation classes and “Create Your Own Perfume” workshops. JoAnne’s perfume company is a green company, using sustainable materials, some of which she grows and extracts herself. She is the author of Sacred Scents.

Last week Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes answered the thirteen questions. You can read her interview here. Coming guests in Series Two of Thirteen Thoughts include Andy Tauer, Ellen Covey and Shelley Waddington.

You can catch up with Series One of Thirteen Thoughts here.

The intention of Thirteen Thoughts is to let each perfumer speak for themselves about who they are, what drives them, and what they do with fragrance, so without any further ado, let me introduce you to…

JoAnne Bassett of JoAnne Bassett Perfumes

JoAnne Bassett

JoAnne Bassett

  1. Tell us about a significant olfactory memory from your childhood.

I grew up on a farm in Minnesota. We had huge lilac bushes that were more like trees. Every Spring we would have large vases in our house. I remember every room filled with this sweet yet tangy smell. I will never forget that.

  1. What is your “origin story”? When, why and how did you decide to become a perfumer?

In 1993 I became a Certified Aromatherapist. From the beginning I would make aromatherapy synergies for stores, resorts and salons. These were often commercial fragrancing projects using a diffuser I imported and private label lines. The owner or manager would always want me to make them a natural fragrance. So I started making perfume potions and then I created eau de parfums. It really just happened all by itself.

  1. Do you have any formal training in perfumery, or are you self-taught? Have there been any mentors or other personal or cultural influences on your work as a perfumer?

I took a blending class for my aromatherapy business but I am self-taught as a natural perfumer. I did not have a perfume mentor.

  1. Who are your favourite perfumers or perfume houses, and what do you like about their work?

I love the style of the French perfume houses like Guerlain. Beautiful and elegant bottles and packaging. A modern-day perfumer I admire is Roja Dove. He has class and some of his perfumes I tried in his store in Harrods in London I enjoyed as well as the bottles and packages. My style of perfumery is classic and I admire perfumers and perfume houses that still honor that style.

SMLall-new

JoAnne Bassett Perfumes in hand-blown glass bottles

  1. Describe your brand to us: tell us about the kind(s) of perfume that you make, as well as your brand’s philosophy or ethos.

When I was five I started wearing fragrance so by the time I was in my late 30’s I became chemically sensitized and could no longer wear my Joy or Chanel 5. So for me to wear perfume I had to create it from essential oils and absolutes. My indie, artisan and niche brand is based on 100% natural perfumes using only essential oils, absolutes, tinctures and macerations that I make from my own plants, and flowers. I use organic and wild crafted oils when I can find them and really like supporting the small distillers and farms.

My favorite material I like to work with is rose otto and have a good collection of them including Bulgarian vintage white rose. It is the “flower of light”. I love working with the vintage oils I have and use them mainly in my Custom Bespoke Perfumes.

My perfumes awaken the beauty within™.

  1. How do you come up with the idea for a new perfume? For example, do ideas come to you spontaneously, do you work conceptually, or do you try to fill gaps in your range?

My perfume collections have come to me as a result of my travels. The places, and the memories they evoke make it easy for me to be transported back and to create my experience and put it in a bottle. If I discover a new essential oil I may create a collection around that like my Royal Alchemy Collection has sacred frankincense from Oman and I named them Sacred Frankincense 1-6. Often a name or an idea comes to me and I just create the perfume from there. It is very easy for me to do.

levoyage

Le Voyage by JoAnne Bassett

  1. What element of your perfume making process do you think readers of this blog would be interested or surprised to learn about?

Being a Royal Alchemist I perform alchemy on the fragrances I create. They are filled with energy and intention. They are much more than perfume.

I am a Couture Custom Perfumer and I create custom perfumes that transform people’s lives using my gifts of clairvoyance and more. In my 22 years of creating one-of-a kind bespoke perfumes, I have seen miraculous transformations in my clients’ lives. My gift of working with Divine energies enables me to combine precious oils to support clients and miraculous changes come quickly and effortlessly. Both my male and female clients have experienced miraculous changes in their relationships, finances, jobs and where and how they live.

  1. What are the current challenges you face as a perfumer, both creatively and in regard to manufacturing, distributing and marketing your perfume?

In the US we have not had the compliance issues that the IFRA (International Fragrance Association) regulations of Europe have caused. I feel it is a matter of time before we will have to comply also and can no longer use oakmoss and some of the ingredients they suggest. It affects our distribution as we have to follow their guidelines to sell to the countries being regulated.

There are also many new artisan and indie brands coming to market; both natural and synthetic brands. The market is full of new perfumes and the niche brands are saturated. Finding a way to be different and to be found is key. My quality of ingredients sets me apart and you can smell the difference.

Some of the JoAnne Bassett range of eau de parfums

  1. How has your work as a perfumer affected your perception of everyday smells?

My nose has always been very sensitive. So nothing is different there. I continue to be curious about any smell I do not recognize.

  1. Many ingredients that are edible are also used in fragrance (chocolate, vanilla, coffee and rose, to name a few). If you could reverse this process and turn any perfume ingredient into an edible ingredient, what would that be? Which fragrance ingredient do you think would taste nice as a flavour?

Tuberose would be my choice. It is so sensual.

  1. If you had a time machine, which historical period in perfumery would you like to go back to and work in as a perfumer?

The Belle Epoque (“Beautiful Age”) in France.

  1. If you could invent a new olfactory gadget, tool or technology, what would it be and how would it benefit perfumers and/or society?

The ability to extract raw materials like lilac or violets easily and effortlessly would be a dream. Now we have to tincture or enfleurage raw materials and it is a lengthy process.

  1. What is the purpose of perfume?

In general to make you feel good. My purpose is to Uplift Humanity’s Consciousness Through Botanical Fragrances™.


I hope you have enjoyed today’s interview with JoAnne Bassett. I would like to extend sincere thanks to JoAnne for taking the time to answer these questions and to share some of her thoughts and philosophies with us. I really enjoyed finding out about JoAnne’s interesting work with alchemy and clairvoyance: such an interesting way to create perfume, infused with healing energies. If you want to find out more about how JoAnne became a perfumer and her journey into scent, her book, Sacred Scents, delves into these topics more deeply.

Sacred Scents Book cover

Sacred Scents by JoAnne Bassett

To find out more about JoAnne Bassett’s perfumes (and to purchase them) and her classes, visit her website here. Joanne’s perfumes are also listed on Fragrantica and Basenotes.

Next Week:

Visit Perfume Polytechnic next week to find out how the marvellous Andy Tauer answers the thirteen questions in Thirteen Thoughts, a Perfumer Interview Series. Sign up to follow this blog so you don’t miss an episode of this series with fabulous perfumers from around the globe.

Intellectual Property:

All interview answers and photographs were provided courtesy of the perfumer, and remain their intellectual property. All interview questions remain the intellectual property of Perfume Polytechnic. Please do not reproduce interviews or images without permission.

Thirteen Thoughts: Perfumer Interview Series – Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes

thirteen-thoughts-v2_800_shadow1Thirteen thoughts from perfumers around the globe. Each perfumer profiled at Perfume Polytechnic has been presented with the same set of thirteen questions that probe into scent memories, imagination, education, history, the creative process and philosophy. How each perfumer answers these questions, and what form the answers take, is up to them. Tune in each week for a new instalment to learn more about the olfactory arts and how perfumers think about smell.

Today marks the launch of Series Two of Thirteen Thoughts, a Perfumer Interview Series. There will be five, weekly instalments in the new series, featuring perfumers Mandy Aftel, JoAnne Bassett, Andy Tauer, Ellen Covey and Shelley Waddington.

You can catch up with Series One of Thirteen Thoughts here.

Today, Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes answers the thirteen questions. As Mandy is such an iconic figure in the perfume world, I hardly need to say very much about her. As many of you will already know, Mandy makes the most wonderful natural perfumes and scented wares, as well as the Chef’s Essences range of food flavourings, and organic teas. Mandy is also a perfume educator, and is the author of several key, influential texts about perfumery and the sense of smell, including Essence and Alchemy, Aroma: The Magic of Essential Oils in Food & Fragrance (co-written with chef Daniel Patterson), and Fragrant: The Secret Life of Scent.

The intention of Thirteen Thoughts is to let each perfumer speak for themselves about who they are, what drives them, and what they do with fragrance, so without any further ado, let me introduce you to…

Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes

MandyHeadShot

Mandy Aftel

  1. Tell us about a significant olfactory memory from your childhood.

I remember being struck by, and very interested in, the impolite smells of my own body… I liked them, and found it fascinating that they were made by me.

  1. What is your “origin story”? When, why and how did you decide to become a perfumer?

More than 20 years ago I wanted to write a novel, and for no particular reason decided the protagonist should be a perfumer. I imagined a character with some mysterious, sexy allure, but knew next to nothing about the profession, so I began to research it in my usual obsessive way. Besides collecting over 200 antique books about perfumery, I took a solid perfume class at the local aromatherapy studio. I was completely smitten by the absolutely gorgeous natural essences, they spoke to me in a way, and I made such a wonderful perfume in class that a friend who took the class with me said we should start a perfume company. We founded Grandiflorum Perfumes and started selling in Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman’s. So I actually fell into it quite by accident, and never did write the novel.

AntiquePerfumeBooks

Some of Mandy’s antique perfume books

  1. Do you have any formal training in perfumery, or are you self-taught? Have there been any mentors or other personal or cultural influences on your work as a perfumer?

I am entirely self-taught, inspired by the magic of the natural essences — and old books about perfumery. I am heavily influenced by Bob Dylan; the whole way he’s done his art and life are a complete inspiration. I love that he’s so gifted with words, but goes after a particular kind of sound that’s in his head. I can feel that from his music, all the different ways that’s been manifested. It informs my own efforts to express — through scent — things that are locked inside my head.

  1. Who are your favourite perfumers or perfume houses, and what do you like about their work?

The only perfumes I really follow are the ones that are made by my students, and I especially enjoy watching both them and their perfumes develop over the years.

EauDeParfums2

Aftelier Perfumes fragrances

  1. Describe your brand to us: tell us about the kind(s) of perfume that you make, as well as your brand’s philosophy or ethos.

The first company Grandiflorum Perfumes came to a bad business end. Now I love being able to combine my love of research, writing, and flavors & aromas into creating perfumes for my own line, Aftelier Perfumes. I find my creative inspiration in the natural perfume materials — I totally enjoy the hunt for the best versions from around the world (I actually enjoy everything about my business!).

I think of my perfume line as a whole work in itself, almost like a book to be edited and fit together chapter by chapter. I consider the relationship between my fragrances, trying to complement and diversify the emotional experience that people can have with my perfumes. Sometimes I myself get bored with some part of my line and look for the experience that is missing or can be done better.

AtMyPerfumersOrgan

Mandy Aftel at her Perfumer’s Organ

  1. How do you come up with the idea for a new perfume? For example, do ideas come to you spontaneously, do you work conceptually, or do you try to fill gaps in your range?

My main goal is to capture a memory or experience I’ve had and share that through scent – like a poet would do with words. My perfumes start as a conversation between two ingredients; that wouldn’t be obvious when you smell the finished perfume at the end, but that’s the way it starts in my head. I’m always trying to solve some aesthetic problem that’s just beyond my comfort zone, so I’m always learning something new on everything I make, which I enjoy.

AntiqueOilBottles

Antique oil bottles

  1. What element of your perfume making process do you think readers of this blog would be interested or surprised to learn about?

I’m pretty ruthless about my work, I don’t pay attention to what people think or what’s fashionable. I don’t think about the past or the history of perfumery — maybe because I use a natural palette and there’s so little history to go on, or maybe it’s just my nature.

I am inspired by food, color, and good writing — also by the quirky beauty of the past, I need some of what I consider beautiful every day. I cannot believe my good fortune in working every day with materials that are so gorgeous, diverse, and historical.

PalimpsestQuarterOunce

Palimpsest by Aftelier Perfumes

  1. What are the current challenges you face as a perfumer, both creatively and in regard to manufacturing, distributing and marketing your perfume?

Every new perfume presents a creative challenge – that just comes with the territory as part of it, not something new or special. I relish the hunt for the materials – both completely new essences and better versions of ones that I already have. Over the years I have bought an astounding amount of stuff that turns out not to be any good, and I have to throw it out, but that’s part of the challenge that I love. I get bowled over by my good fortune at making perfumes that speak to me and please me, and that miraculously have found an audience with other people; it’s quite gratifying to do something that other people believe in. I love creating a handmade product, so I’m actually not facing any challenges about growing or increasing my production or distribution. I’m not interested in being in stores; I love the personal connection of selling directly to the customer. If it weren’t for the internet, I couldn’t do it this way.

  1. How has your work as a perfumer affected your perception of everyday smells?

Well, I like the funk, in the perfume and period. Having such a wide palette of natural aromas to work with has increased my awareness of the smells from doing gardening, or just being out walking – I’m aware of how vibrant they feel to me because it’s my métier. Smells are very personal to me, not so much about identifying things individually, but to learn the subtle differences and variations between smells. There is such a glorious panoply of fragrances in the real world.

  1. Many ingredients that are edible are also used in fragrance (chocolate, vanilla, coffee and rose, to name a few). If you could reverse this process and turn any perfume ingredient into an edible ingredient, what would that be? Which fragrance ingredient do you think would taste nice as a flavour?

Because I like odd things… I think frankincense would be interesting to cook with (I already use it in my perfumed tea). Or finding some way to cook with patchouli would intrigue me.

Frankincense

Frankincense resin

  1. If you had a time machine, which historical period in perfumery would you like to go back to and work in as a perfumer?

I’d love to see the turn of the 19th century, when most of the natural perfume materials were in play. It was just on the cusp of thinking of perfume as an art form, and before it became so dominated by the synthetics. But honestly, I’m very thrilled to be working in this period, it’s a wonderful time where I can choose from a wealth of very high-quality natural materials, create a perfume that expresses my personal aesthetics, and have a direct relationship with my customers.

AntiqueCasesSolidPerfume

Mandy Aftel’s solid perfumes, housed in beautiful antique cases.

  1. If you could invent a new olfactory gadget, tool or technology, what would it be and how would it benefit perfumers and/or society?

Well, this isn’t very complicated, but what I want most right now are some really really beautiful — like sculpturally beautiful — perfume blotter holders, to keep the scent strips organized while creating a perfume. I like every part of the perfume-making process to be beautiful (I’ve already invested in letter-press printed, all-cotton heavyweight perfume blotters).

  1. What is the purpose of perfume?

I make perfume, and people wear it, as a vacation from reality. It is a place — an ideal place — that you can visit without traveling. It is restorative and it makes you feel good. It has no practical purpose whatsoever; we wear it as a personal adornment like jewelry. It simply allows us to inhale bliss and however briefly, stop time.


I hope you’ve enjoyed the first instalment of this second series of Thirteen Thoughts with Mandy Aftel.

I want to thank Mandy for taking time out of her very busy schedule creating and travelling to answer my questions. Mandy has been a delight to communicate with throughout this process, and so friendly and approachable! I really enjoyed reading her very personal and considered responses.

I will be writing a feature article on Mandy’s Chef’s Essences flavour sprays in the coming weeks. Stay tuned, or follow Perfume Polytechnic so you don’t miss reading about these fabulous food flavours and how you can use them in your cooking.

If you’d like to find out more about Mandy and her fragrant wares (and buy them), visit the Aftelier Perfumes website. You can also find Aftelier fragrances listed on Fragrantica and Basenotes.

For those of you who want to learn more about perfumery, the sense of smell, the history of perfume and/or how to use essential oils in cooking, you can read more about and purchase some of Mandy’s books on these topics at the Aftelier website.

Next week:

Stay tuned to see how perfumer JoAnne Bassett answers the thirteen questions in Thirteen Thoughts, a Perfumer Interview Series.

Intellectual Property:

All interview answers and photographs were provided courtesy of the perfumer, and remain their intellectual property. All interview questions remain the intellectual property of Perfume Polytechnic. Please do not reproduce interviews or images without permission.