Yesterday was the first day of Sniffapalooza, the three day perfume safari weekend this Fall, and it began with Professor Virginia Bonofiglio of FIT in NYC, in collaboration with the Fragrance Foundation, speaking on the basic components and processes of fragrance creation. The best part for me was that she shared their extensive collection of very fine quality materials throughout the lecture, by passing out scent strips freshly dipped in essences of each of the classic notes. She shared knowledge of their particular qualities and relationships, and the producers in Grasse and elsewhere in the world who are their sources. Also interesting for me was to get a clear explanation of Head Space Technology, the method by which if something extraordinary or new is found in nature, such as in a remote rain forest or an especially fragrant crop of blooming flowers on a hillside somewhere, that cannot be harvested without destroying the quality of the fragrance, the actual "still on the vine" quality is captured. It is the technique of encapulating the fragrant subject with a glass bowl, with a odor absorbing pad inside, which is then taken to the lab for extracton and analysis by gas chromotography, to enable exact replication of the scent with synthetic and raw materials by perfumers. Moreover, she maintained that everyone has the innate ability to develop their sense of smell to the level of being able to memorize and recognize definitively thousands of scents, at least the four thousand that are necessary to know for perfume creation, and that most people do not develop this capacity simply because they rely so heavily on the other senses such as sight and hearing. Learning to develop that olifactory capacity obviously expands the experience and appreciation of the natural world and develops new pathways in the brain that are simply lying fallow, just waiting to be awakened... As everyone knows, scent is a great aid to memory.
Demeter is for now the most well known company that has introduced a fragrance library of single and multiple note experiences based on this concept (rain, snow, your grandmother's house, fresh dirt, chewing gum, etc., see their statement here). There is also an interesting collaboration between Quest and the British horticultural community (see article here) to put back the smell into flowers which have been bred for looks and have lost their fragrance, for one example, putting the scent back into carnations (I have always loved the deep clove scent of the old fashioned simple carnation, entirely gone from the double carnation commonly found for sale as a cut flower).
Above, Redoute's Carnations.