The art of perfumery has long been shrouded in mystery. We have all heard the fantastic stories about the painstaking collection of rare ingredients and precious essences from the farthest corners of the world. In films and documentaries, we have witnessed the slow and miraculous transformation of these essences into oils as workers tend to large copper stills in rustic labs deep in the bucolic French countryside. This romantic view of the perfume industry reflects a world that has long since disappeared and yet perfume houses perpetuate this idyllic worldview leading to an increasing disconnect between customer expectations and reality.
The truth is that the modern fragrance industry is sophisticated, complex and cosmopolitan. The birth of moder perfume industry dates back to the late 1800s, the direct result of the isolation and discovery of a class of aromatic materials that we now refer to as synthetics. The history of the fragrance industry is inexorably tied to developments in fragrance chemistry with each new discovery driving the engine of progress. Synthetics provide structure and shape to fragrances while naturals provide the depth and texture. The importance of these components has been understood by perfumers for over a century with Ernest Beaux, the creator of Chanel Nº 5, remarking that, "The future of perfumery is in the hands of chemists."
In order to fully understand the fragrances we love, we must understand the materials that make their existence possible. Our NOTES series focuses on the raw materials used in perfumery. Join us on the evening of Tuesday, January 24 for the third event in our NOTES series as we explore woods in a group led by Nicole Amzallag-Divine.
Dependable and flexible, woody aromas are a staple of modern perfumery. Their use is widespread owing to their excellent fixative properties and their indispensable ability to reinforce other elements of a composition. The scent profile of woody notes varies wildly from the smoky, phenolic aroma of guaïac wood to the creamy, warm aroma of sandalwood. Some of these materials are obtained from the heartwood of trees, others from leaves and still others from roots. What binds them together is the woody aroma that all these materials share.
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