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Wednesday, 13 August 2014

How To Make Perfume

The spread at the beginning of the article
as it appeared in print on 3rd August 2014
If you want to make perfume yourself and are looking for help to get you started, this is the place. Here are links to methods, sources of ingredients, recommended equipment and advice: everything I wished I could find when I started out myself!

On the 3rd of August the Independent on Sunday ran an article, which featured on the front page of the magazine, on the theme of how difficult it is to get started in perfumery whether you intend it as a hobby or, as I did, want to make a living at it.  I was interviewed for that article along with several other independent and amateur perfumers.

The article is by Rhodri Marsden and the accompanying photography by Dan Burn-Forti.  Dan has kindly supplied me with pictures from the photo-shoot we did for the piece and I’m featuring some of the ones that were not used in the article in this post.

I don’t propose to repeat any of what was said in the article here - it stands on it’s own - what I do want to do is to provide here some links and tips that may be helpful to those starting out or struggling with some of the problems the article highlights.

Part of the ingredients store
at Pell Wall by Dan Burn-Forti
So, first up if you’re looking for ingredients and don’t have the budget or space for an array such as we have at Pell Wall, where can you go to get supplies in smaller amounts?
  • Pell Wall sell one of the largest ranges of perfumery materials available online in quantities from 10ml / 10g upwards, and can also offer a comprehensive range of starter kits.
  • De Hekserij in the Netherlands have a good range and now also an English language website which makes ordering much easier for those of us who don’t speak Dutch
  • Perfumer’s Supply House in the USA have a growing range including some very unusual ingredients
  • Perfumer’s Apprentice in the USA have a large range including most of the basics you’ll need.
Chris in the Lab at Pell Wall
 by Dan Burn-Forti
All the above are reliable suppliers I’m comfortable recommending.  Those in Europe should keep in mind that ordering from the US will mean you’ll need to pay both VAT and Duty on import - exactly how that works depends on the courier the supplier uses - talk to them first so you know what to expect - however the reverse case isn’t so bad as the US does not charge duty on import for most perfumery materials.  Shipping is also a significant factor when ordering from abroad, so I recommend looking at suppliers as close to your own location as possible first.

For help with learning the art itself I’m going to point to other more detailed posts offering help:
More ingredients than you can shake a stick
(or a smelling strip) at by Dan Burn-Forti
Places you can go to get some training or practice in the UK include:
  • My own workshops in London or Shropshire - advertised on this blog as they come up
  • The Cotswold Perfumery where perfumer John Stephen runs regular courses and, once you’ve attended one, will also sell you ingredients and equipment.
  • Karen Gilbert runs courses online and in London covering making perfume and skincare
  • Plush Folly run courses in perfumery and cosmetics

Some detailed posts about particular ingredients:
If all that didn’t answer your questions, you’ll need somewhere else to turn: I’m adding things to this blog all the time, so do please keep a watch here.  I’m also one of many people, including some other fully qualified perfumers, who answer questions, collaborate with one another and generally exchange information about this fascinating art and science in two main forums:
Join up on either or both and add your voice to the conversation.
Chris and Jungle (one of the Pell Wall Pack) in one of the
ingredients stores at Pell Wall by Dan Burn-Forti

Finally, let me just add that if you’re looking for specific advice or assistance with any perfumery problem and, for whatever reason, you don’t want to post about it on those public forums I’m willing to help - for a small fee - check the consultation section of the website for details.

Happy perfume making!

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Sandalwood found to have wound healing effects

The implications of a fascinating piece of new research could be widespread: 

Researchers at the Ruhr-Universit├Ąt Bochum in Germany have found that not only are there olfactory receptors in the top layer of human skin, but have shown that a particular sandalwood odourant can trigger those receptors resulting in increased growth and migration in the surrounding cells.


As this is such new research, there is every chance that other odourants will, in the future, be found to have similar or perhaps quite different effects on the skin with obvious implications for their use in perfumery as well as for medical and other applications.

This research, led by Dr Daniela Busse and Prof Dr Dr Dr med habil Hanns Hatt from the Department for Cellphysiology published their report in the "Journal of Investigative Dermatology”.  


There are many synthetic sandalwood
odourants of which this is one
Reporting of the findings appears in Time but they don’t mention there, the answer to the question that will be uppermost in the minds of perfume-makers: which specific odourant has this effect?

The answer is it was Sandalore (a brand name owned by Givaudan) or 3-methyl-5-(2,2,3-trimethyl-1-cyclopent-3-enyl)pentan-2-ol, if you prefer the chemical designation.

Monday, 4 August 2014

100 years ago today

What was to become known as the First World War started 100 years ago today and while most people are commemorating the anniversary with the now conventional poppies I have something slightly different to offer:

A 1st World War Daffodil
Here is a picture of a humble pressed daffodil in remembrance of my dear grandfather who - in a moment of wild romance - picked it in the midst of battle and sent it home.

I’ll reproduce here the story in memory of one of the heroes who came home, no less to be remembered than those who died in the conflict, no less heroic, but as he described himself in one of his last letters home a “lucky blighter”.  You can read more about him on the website I created in his memory.

I first heard the story of how the daffodil came to be collected and preserved from Poppa (Cyril Bartlett) when I was a young boy. I can remember him clearly telling the story with a great deal of drama and I recall at the time being impressed by it, but not really understanding. 

Years later I would hear the same story in a very different context from Nanny (Jessica Bartlett) – I’ll come to that, what matters for now is that it was the same story. Here it is, as accurately as I can render it: 


One damp spring day, while fighting in the trenches in France, Cyril noticed, out in the distance, in the no-mans-land between his and his enemies’ trenches, a daffodil just coming into flower. He resolved then, that if it were still there that night he would have it to send home. As evening fell, the flower was still there, by now fully open; so Cyril crawled out into no-mans-land [I can see him now making crawling motions with his elbows and giving dramatic emphasis to the need to keep his head right down in case he should be spotted by an enemy sniper]. He reached the flower, picked it, held the stem carefully in his mouth and turned, crawling with equal care back to his own trench. There the flower was carefully pressed and sent home.
The first time I heard this tale; it was a thrilling story of daring from a world of danger that appeared exciting and remote. The second time I heard it (or at least the second that I can remember clearly – I suspect Poppa told us grandchildren the story more than once) it was in the late summer of 1979. I had spent the summer holiday that year helping to nurse Poppa through his final illness and after the funeral I returned to Gayfield to help Nanny sort through his things: it was a difficult time for both of us. The daffodil was stored at that time between the leaves of a book – I had long since forgotten all about it until Nanny showed it to me and re-told the story I’ve related above, though without the dramatic embellishments. By now I was old enough to understand it as a story of deep love and the mad, romantic gesture of commitment and longing that it really was.
Stored with the daffodil, with all the other papers, is a pressed fuchsia, which I believe Jessie sent back to Cyril in a return letter and he retained and brought home from the war. The note you can see in the scan here is written in Cyril's own hand some years after he came home, and after he saw his own sons go off to fight in the Second World War. 

For me those brown and tattered, flattened flowers have always been the most potent symbol of the love between my grandparents that was the backdrop to my childhood.
In remembrance of all those caught up in the terrible tragedy of the Great War whether they came home or not.
A daffodil.