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Monday, 28 May 2012

An insight into the practice of perfumery

I thought this video presentation from Yann Vasnier was a fascinating insight into the way one perfumer came to join this odd industry and also gives a very clear idea of what it is to create a new fragrance.

I hope you find it as interesting as I did.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

The First Rose of Summer

The weather has been glorious for the last few days and the late Spring flowers are busy scenting the garden.  But it was this first rose that was the surprise and makes it feel even more like summer has come early to the Pell Wall garden.

It won’t be long before I’ll be able to start making some more of my pink-tinted tincture from the petals of the roses, as an ingredient for  Pretty in Pink and Jacinth, enhancing both the scent and the colour of these feminine fragrances.  Just as well as last year’s batch is almost gone: if you want to know how it’s made you can read about it after the jump.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Pell Wall Perfumes has visitors

I’m very lucky in my working environment.  The perfumery itself has a large patio door overlooking the front garden, which in turn overlooks the quiet lane and fields beyond.  Occasionally that results in some interesting visitors and last week as I sat at the Perfumer’s Organ working on a commission for a client, up pops this chap:

Hello, what goes on in here then?
I got up to get a closer look:

Got any perfumes for birds?
He didn’t seem much bothered by me taking pictures, so I watched what he’d do next.

This pot is a perfect match for my plumage.
I think I’ll just stand here and look gorgeous for a bit . . . 
It wasn’t long though before his Mrs turned up to look for him:

Well? Did you get me a nice perfume then?
She soon had him concentrating on more important matters and I got this last picture through the kitchen window as they settled in under the bird feeding station to clear up the seeds dropped by the goldfinches eating above them.

Jolly good nosh at this perfumery.
Could have called it the Pell Wall Pheasant Cafe really couldn’t they?

Monday, 14 May 2012

A new view of the way the sense of smell works.

This article from Red Orbit discusses some new research that suggests odour detection in the olfactory bulb and brain may work in a different way from that previously thought.

From an evolutionary point of view this new theory seems to make good sense - it will be interesting to see whether further research supports it.

If you’re up for a slightly more detailed examination of the science this version in Neuroscience News adds a bit more.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Choosing and classifying fragrances

For those interested in wearing and using fragrances, rather than making them, and curious to know more about the industry and how to get the best out of it I would recommend Michael Edwards’ ‘Top 100 Perfume Questions' as a great place to start.

Michael himself is charming as well as highly knowledgeable about all things fragrance.
The Perfume Wheel, designed by Michael Edwards

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Weight or Volume?

Perfumery involves the blending of very large numbers of ingredients - a fine fragrance might contain hundreds of individual elements by the time it’s finished.

Pell Wall Blending Bench
Pell Wall Blending Bench
Many amateurs coming to DIY perfumery start by counting drops of oils as they blend and working everything out in terms of the volume of the materials.  This isn’t a bad way to start, not least because it keeps the entry cost down to the minimum.  It does restrict you to working with materials that are mobile liquids though - you can’t count drops of a solid or a sticky gum - and accuracy is limited by the fact that two drops will not always be the same size as each-other.

The industry as a whole tends to work by weight, so if you buy pre-diluted materials they will most likely be diluted on a weight for weight (w/w) basis.  Also all the IFRA regulations that you will need to comply with if you wish to sell your fragrances are expressed in terms of w/w proportions.

Pell Wall Manufacturing Bench
Pell Wall Manufacturing Bench
So if you are serious about making your own perfume, sooner or later you’ll need to work in weight.  That of course means you're going to need an accurate balance to do the weighing out and choosing which to buy isn’t straightforward, so I thought I’d set out here the main things to consider:

1) Buy the most accurate scale you can afford. The cost is driven mainly by the accuracy, less by the capacity and for perfumery work you really need to get down to 0.001g accuracy, 0.01g will do if necessary but I really wouldn’t compromise further - better to save up a bit longer.

2) Many scales have an auto-correct function designed to prevent drafts, dust and so on from disturbing the reading. The trouble with these is that in perfumery you are often trying to deal with very tiny additions and the autocorrect software will often wipe them out altogether. So look for a scale that has a minimal autocorrect: these will often come with draft shields.

3) A repeatable tare function is essential.

4) Perfume making often takes a long time and I find that the phone rings or the doorbell goes in the middle of making a blend nearly every time I start! So battery operated scales that automatically switch themselves off to save power are a very bad idea: get scales with a mains option that don’t auto-off when plugged in.

The type we use at Pell Wall for blending is from Radwag, and we use one from Ohaus for manufacturing, plus a big Adam Warrior for weighing large drums of material, but there are plenty of other good manufacturers.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Business Cards by Moo

I thought these new Luxe business cards by Moo were so impressive I had to include a picture in the blog:
Each card has a picture of some of my products on the back and my details on the other side, with a clever line of colour visible in the cut edge as well.  As you can see the batch includes lots of different pictures making them much more interesting than ordinary business cards.

The arrive beautifully packaged as well (you can just see the box at the top of the picture).

A collectors item for when I’m famous perhaps? ;-)

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Hyacinth Flower Scent

What’s actually in the scent of a flower?

It’s probably not a question most people ask, but if you’re interested in the answer I’m presenting here a discussion of the components of the scent of hyacinth flowers.
Hyacinths in flower in the Pell Wall garden

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Interview with Richard Axel on the nature of smell

This remarkable half hour interview with Nobel Prize winning scientist Richard Axel, starts with a discussion of the nature of smell and wanders on into gene splicing, the discovery of the mechanism by which the AIDS/HIV infection works, touching on the sex-life of snails and opera.  Along the way we get a wonderful insight into the way original science is done and conclude with a philosophical understanding of the nature of scientific knowledge.

Link to Charlie Rose's Interview with Richard Axel

Starter Kit for DIY Perfume Making

One of those questions I get asked quite often by people planning to start making their own perfumes is what to buy to get started.  To help answer that I’ve put together some lists of both natural and synthetic materials that I think are good to start with.
Pell Wall Perfumes Blending Bench

My own collection runs to hundreds of materials, but you need something a bit more manageable to start with - you can always add more as you get familiar with these.  Naturals are widely available in small quantities but synthetics much less so, so I'm now offering a kit, based on these recommendations, for sale.