My first perfumery internship ended with a month long opportunity as a perfumer’s assistant. I remember weighing formulas right next to the assistant perfumer of Michel Almairac. What impressed me was how quickly his assistant would be done compounding each base or modification. I realized that it was not because his assistant was a fast compounder (she was quick with the pipette) but because his formulas were very short. On my end, I was struggling compounding formulas that were pages long.
I started my training reading Edmond Roudnitska and Jean Claude Ellena’s writings about the mastery of raw materials and elegant formulas of simplicity. Mr. Almairac’s work further reinforced my love for this style. I have since studied many of Mr. Almairac’s fragrances and each time, I was (like other perfumers are) impressed how Mr. Almairac is able to make some of perfumery’s best classics with so few ingredients. He is a true genius in our art.
The idea of simplicity and my experience with it as a student will be written in another post. In this post, I wanted to share an anecdote about a formula that I weighed during my first experience as an assistant. It was a reminder that we should be open to other styles (and that certain situations do not allow us to be simple).
I remember receiving a formula for a soap that was over 100 raw materials long. Looking at the raw materials before weighing it, I saw that this was a low-cost formula. I was used to weighing formulas for fine fragrances using (more expensive) raw materials that smell “good”, but in this case, this formula was filled with (cheaper) raw materials that smelled sharp and functional. Naturally, I assumed that the fragrance would be cheap smelling
When I finished compounding the formula and smelled the result, it was the most beautiful woody rose fragrance that I had ever smelled. I was humbled by the talent that went into the construction of this perfume. I realized that the perfumer did not have the “money” to use natural rose, so instead of using one line (rose absolute or rose essence) or a few to create an accord to give an illusion of a rose, he had to recreate the smell of it using a big handful of ingredients…