Ask the Perfumer: A New Resource for Perfumistas on Anya's Garden Perfumes Blog

Answering questions about perfumery is second nature to me. I've hosted the huge Natural Perfumery group on Yahoo for almost seven years, I instruct perfumers, I consult with perfumers about their businesses, and I just live my life immersed in the art.

Sometimes I feel questions I answer on the Yahoo group are just stuck in a bit of a hidden-away area of the Internet. I have read *every one* of the 39960 messages there. Yes, we're going to hit 40,000 soon! That's a lot of perfume talk. Whew. The mind almost boggles, but the spirit says take the show on the road, like our well-appointed apothecarian-perfumer in the image above.

So, I'm going to open up my blog every Sunday for questions. I know a lot, but there's a lot I don't know, so please forgive me if I can't answer your question. I'll let you know when I can't, and I'll try to send you on a path to find the answer. Oh, math will stump me. A bit. I can't answer math questions on the fly.

Some ground rules to keep it moving:

1. Just one question at a time. I often get paragraphs of ten questions within. One at a time, please.

2. Only ask on Sundays. I am in Miami, EST USA time, and I'll sign off around 10PM my time on Sundays. If you ask other times, I'll have to ignore it.

3. I'll open up the blog for questions with a post - like this one - titled "Ask the Perfumer". That is the post you'll need to reply to for your query.

Sound good? Let's get going.

PS. I know nothing about synths - aromachemicals.


  1. Anya, this is so generous of you! I hope the time commitment doesn't burn you out. If you're already open for questions, I have one. The cherry blossoms are just starting to bloom here in CT. Do you think it's worth trying to tincture them, or would that likely be a waste of good alcohol and blossoms?

    Laura (UrbanEden)

  2. Good, timely Spring question, Laura.

    I don't have any experience with cherry blossoms, but I know their scent can be extracted with tincturing. Do you have 190 proof alcohol? That's the best.

    Jeanne Rose wrote a great article on capturing the delicate and elusive scent of lilacs, and I believe her method would apply to apple blossoms: Since the apple blossoms are so pale, I'd skip her bit about when they lose color and just change them every day.

  3. I'm interested in knowing how you begin to conceptualize a fragrance that you might want to create. Do you "start from scratch" or do you have a sense of what the supporting notes will be, and so you are just thinking about the major notes? Or in some other way? Thanks.

  4. Hi Monty:

    The main method I use is to build a perfume around a beautiful accord. The accord starts with a gorgeous aromatic and then your understanding of how to create accords comes into play.

    Then you find the structure and express it with supporting aromatics.

    Some perfumers work from a Muse, and I have done that a few times, but the danger there is putting in too much just because it fits a theme. Often you have to edit them down like crazy, which can bring you back to the one gorgeous aromatic you need to build it around.

    Goodness, I found myself smiling when I wrote that last part. Experience ;-)

  5. I guess I was thinking in technical terms when I asked the last question, so I'll try to be more precise. Let's say I wanted to create a fragrance that featured a prominent leather and chocolate accord. Would you work on getting that right first? And if that's the case, after you got it the way you wanted it, how would you decide on the rest of the fragrance? Would you think, "I don't want it to be too harsh, so I better put at least a little bit of an amber note to soften it up," and things like that, to create a "complete" fragrance?
    Thanks again.

  6. Yes, Monty, the first part is to perfect an accord, something you totally love and that conveys the fragrance heart you wish to build around. Then you accessorize it with essences you know compliment the chord aromatics. If you have an intimate knowledge, through experimentation, of them, it will be easier. You will create a lot of "mods" - modifications. Perfume requires a lot of experimentation to reach your goal.

    And you do need to decide if you want it drier, softer, sweeter, perhaps a floral touch, etc. At this point you want to be sure you have a fragrance family in mind. That will help keep you on the path to completing the perfume, because the name will dictate the essence of the perfume so you don't wind up with a muddy mess.

  7. Thanks so much, Anya, for your advice on the cherry blossoms! I have some organic grape alcohol (my first gallon!) so I'll work with that. So glad to know it's possible.

  8. Good luck with the cherry blossoms! Even if you don't get the strength tincture you're dreaming of, it will still be usable as a "tint" to perfumes.

  9. Hello, much appreciation for your generosity to field questions.
    My query relates to the use of coniferous notes in scents. If I may squeeze in two related issues... such notes are rare, and are usually a minor element (rarely the star attraction). Yet people love the smells of Xmas trees and pine forests. Further, these scent notes are usually fleeting. I understand that wood essence molecules are relatively large, and yet they don't have the longevity of other wood notes such as cedar or sandalwood.
    Can you comment on these issues?

  10. This is very generous of you Anya.

    I love scent and want to make my venture into perfumery a natural one. I obtained a "beginners' kit" recently and my nose doesn't like the synthetics in that kit... so when I devote my hobby to scent, it will likely be natural! (though I understand that the perfume industry as it is today is going more and more toward synthetics, for both economic and perhaps ethical (in some instances, some not) reasons. I look forward to following your blog!

  11. odysseusm , I'm answering your question in this week's column, April 25th.

  12. Kathleen, thanks for your comment and good luck with your endeavors.

  13. Comments are closed for this blog post. Please check back next Sunday to post your question in the *new* blog.


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