Tuesday, November 17, 2009

designing perfume

Current work: research for French duo, book 2
Listening to: Radiohead
Reading: Jane Jackson, Heart of Stone (enjoying this very much so far – Jane’s books are always a treat and her characterisation is superb – more on this later)

The ‘design your own perfume’ session yesterday was utterly brilliant. Dale Evans was so nice and gave me lots of information that will be very useful in certain scenes. It was an amazing experience.

I had eighteen blends to sniff (via little card sticks dipped into the scents), and the idea was to put them into three piles – ones I really liked, ones I wasn't sure about, and ones I absolutely didn't like.

We started with the middle notes – these give an idea of the type of perfume you’ll eventually end up with, as they’re the notes that last for a few hours. Knowing what kind of perfume I always buy (florientals with a vanilla base), I asked if she’d tell me the numbers rather than the names, so I wouldn’t be biased by the names... But I still ended up with the florals!

Then we did the top notes – these are the ones you smell first and which vanish after an hour or so. I absolutely LOVED the amber. (Was my second-favourite out of the eighteen.)

Then we did the base notes – the one you can still smell on your skin at the end of the day or the next morning. Out of the four, I didn’t like the mossy one at all; I didn’t mind the musk and woody (sandalwood) ones; but one was utterly glorious and made me say, ‘Oooh, yes, I LOVE this one!’ Its official name was ‘balsamic’ - and the major component was gorgeous French vanilla.

The next stage was to do the initial blend. My top note was amber, the base note was balsamic, and we added a couple of the middle notes I’d liked. This time, I had to wave them past my nose really quickly, so that I’d pick up all the scents together. It was a matter of adding in some to bring out the notes in others, and taking out ones that didn’t work for me. And then, when I thought I was happy, tried them outside (where they smelled different again, and I took out the aldehyde because it felt wrong – ummed and ahhed a long while about the sandalwood, too).

So in the end:
  • the base was a double dose of balsamic (vanilla, bergamot, tonka and jasmine), woody (sandalwood) and musk (angelia root and coriander)

  • the middle was ‘floral floral’ (night blooming jasmine, mandarin, violet leaf and blackcurrant - described as ‘narcotic’) and ‘gentle floral’ (bergamot and sage - described as ‘very easygoing and gentle’)

  • the top was citrus (yet more bergamot, with mandarin, lemon and grapefruit – described as ‘easygoing and fresh’) and amber (even more bergamot (!), cardamom, geranium and clary sage – described as ‘warm, sensual and sexy’).

And this is what it looked like once bottled.


The ostrich feather has been spritzed with my perfume and smells gorgeous. (Oh, and the name? I did think about calling it after my heroine, but then had a very narcissistic moment and called it ‘Pamela’. Well, hey. It’s my blend. And it’s quite sophisticated so I thought it deserved the full first name rather than the diminutive everyone uses.)

It was a really enjoyable, fascinating experience and I’d definitely recommend it. A whole hour of me-time. (Actually, it wasn’t strictly me-time – in this case it was work, because it’s all background stuff to the book. But you can see why I love my job. Especially the research side.)

And the verdict of ma famille? Son said it smelled very nice. Daughter tried to waltz off with the feather and then begged a spritz. And the twinkle in DH's eye told me he liked it, too…

16 comments:

Jan Jones said...

"Pamela" - how totally gorgeous!

And who knew how much went into it!

Nell Dixon said...

How lovely. I'd love to do something like that.

Katie said...

The bottle looks great and the class sounds fun. It would be such a cool present to give someone the class! I made my own body lotion recently - that was fun.

susanwilson44 said...

Kate, your course sounds absolutely fascinating, would love to do something similar. Looking forward to see it translated into your book.

Shirley Wells said...

Wow, how fascinating. Sounds a really brilliant thing to do.

And "Pamela" - very sophisticated!

Caroline Storer said...

Sounds like you had a great day out. "Pamela" smells like a real certainty to me - is it going to be in the shops for Christmas?! I love woody (sandalwood) and I *always* have my hero's smelling of sandalwood in my books. Growlllll. Take care. Caroline x

Liz Fielding said...

I am utterly envious, Pam. And "Pamela", well yes, absolutely.

Lacey Devlin said...

How much fun! I had no idea! I was perfume ignorate *gasp*. I love the bottle too. It looks fabulous!

Kate Hardy said...

Jan - it was fascinating. And a lot of fun.

Kate Hardy said...

Nell - there are loads of places that do it. Virgin are very good.

Kate Hardy said...

Katie - definitely, and it's in the back of my head to suggest this as a perfume party for littlest when she's 13. :) The body lotion sounds fun, too.

Kate Hardy said...

Susan, it was brilliant. (And I'm also having fun translating it to the book. One scene in particular... well, once I've ripped up the first three chapters and started again.)

Kate Hardy said...

Shirley, it was brilliant.

And LOL on sophisticated :o)

Kate Hardy said...

Caroline - I had a ball.

Sandalwood, eh?

Tell you who else does interesting blends (from a historical perspective) - Floris. Michelle Styles pointed them out to me, and I'm pretty sure she's done a blog or two on scent.

Kate Hardy said...

Liz - cool research, eh? (I love my job. Even on days when I get savage reviews.)

Kate Hardy said...

Lacey - I only had 18 blends to choose from. In the Grasse perfumeries, apparently there are more like 1,000...