September 18, 2012

The birth of a perfume

To make a perfume is to find a harmony of three or four dominant ‘bodies’ that you smell in your mind. You have an inspiration for a mixture of those three or four bodies, not more. And they will release themselves in such a way that when you have composed the ‘corps’ in the proportions by which you have been inspired when you were in a tranquil, happy state of mind, you will not be able to distinguish one odour from the other among your basic raw materials, It is a perfectly balanced mixture which smells as a separate entity from the odour of each of the three or four bodies you have chosen - and in so doing you will have created the ‘woman’. After that, you have to enhance her, make her more beautiful, do her hair, select her dress, her lipstick, her eye liner, her hat, her wrap - and that is a perfume.”

             Perfumer Pierre Dhumez in an interview with William Kaufman
(William Kaufman, Perfume, E.P.Dutton, 1974)

September 16, 2012

Stay summer stay

Speaking of scents and their power to let us travel in time... If you, like I, live in the northern hemisphere you're probably also starting to notice the temperature falling and the days getting shorter. My vacation was more than a month ago and the tan is long gone. I use any possible way to keep the feeling of summer with me, because there are still sunny days sometimes - even if one is in the office!

This is what I do, scent-wise to hold on to the summer feeling for a few more days. Nothing advanced. But it works for me so it might work for you too!

- I drink a lot of infusions made from fresh summer herbs. I love a cup of tea and a blanket in the autumn but the earl grey also gives me a november feeling. So my summer version is to use fresh rosemary or verbena leaves and some honey or cocoa sugar. Not only does it taste great, the smell is fresh and uplifting. But try to find fresh ones, you need the right-now-ness, dried will be like "remembering".

Lemon Verbena
- When I travel I almost always bring a perfume home because it will remind me of that journey and of that summer. Using this fragrance gives you just enough of that still-away-feeling. If you didn't get a new perfume this summer then maybe you used one more than others. Wearing that will bring some of the summer moments closer.

- The summery perfumes... There are a few safe classics that inevitably sing olfactory arias about sand and sandals to your brain... Neroli di Portofino and Bronze Goddess are two of the most well-known. For a more discrete effect I like to use what is left of sun screen lotions from the summer. Somehow there always seems to be an amount enough for 2-3 weeks more left. Using these lotions as moisturizer (which post-summer office-schocked skin really needs!) gives a soft scent of summer that stays close to the skin.  Be careful however when you wear summer/vacation scents at work since that is also the feeling that you will send out to people around you - so don't smell like a day on the beach for important work meetings! It is not a very authoritative or reliable signal. Use your nice medium sillage elegant fragrances for those days. But for more off-stage days, evenings and weekends - indulge in summer scents for a few more weeks!


Scents and memories are lovers that never part. We can be interested in perfumes or not, enjoy or even notice the smells in a kitchen or not - but we can never free ourselves from the psychological effects of scent impressions. Which is such a good reason to embrace that and really indulge in our own private scent stories, adding olfactory details to important experiences etc. This summer I wrote about weddings and scents, how a symbolic scent will add sensual pleasure to such an occasion but also help you return emotionally to it in the future. I know I am not the only one with olfactory childhood memories, like in my case for example this and this one... we all have them, some good and some bad - so if you are a parent think about how you can give your child future treasures in the form of scents that will bring back precious memories to their adult self. If you want some ideas or suggestions on this, you're welcome to contact me. I remember when Swedish newspaper DN featured an article about my blog this spring I received a letter from a woman asking how I thought she could help her daughter develop her scent awareness and what they could do together, like olfactory adventures. I loved that e-mail.

Scent and memories are like the air and the wind, and they clothe the bond between the present and the past of the senses like few other impressions can. Maybe even erase it. The mind reacts to the scent of an absent person's sweater or scarf to a large extent in the same way that it would if the person was there. For someone like me who has an ambiguous feeling towards time as a concept, this is fascinating.

Two weeks ago I was going through my storage. I have a Dad-box. My father died six years ago, exactly six years ago. On the 16th of September, it was a Saturday that year. He died in an accident. Suddenly he was gone. I have lost other people that I loved, like my grandparents, but then their things and worlds also disappeared, much more than in my father's case. I thought it was extremely bizarre and painful the way he was suddenly so very gone but all the things and scents and smells - that I had never previously even been aware of - were left with me. The food in the fridge, the oceans of books, his car, his cigarettes, the laundry that I had to take out of the washing machine. Everywhere that smell of a person who is just not there. At that time it just made me sad, or maybe it made me tired because of the conflict between presence and absence that it created in my senses, and tired and sad were synonymous feelings. For the next years those smells disappeared. And then now, cleaning the storage, finding the Dad-box, I discovered to my great surprise - because I don't remember doing this - that I had kept my father's perfume bottle. Seems only natural now, since my life is so much about scents, but then...I don't remember that I thought about keeping it. I am happy that I did.

That it is even possible for a scent to give you the feeling of someone's presence or of a moment from your past is..., I know the scientific explanations and the logic, but it just is magical. Extra-ordinary. It is not exactly the presence of that person, because they are not present, the dead are gone. It is not that moment back because it is over. It is more like something in your soul gets a little "now"-place to dance in for a moment. Like you are given the opportunity to open a little box, look at it, reconnect with something that is not as close as it used to be, activate a part of yourself that is connected to it - and then get back to business. Scents give us access to feelings. To our own different inner and outer worlds.