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Flowers, perfume and the WPC

Another two weeks gone by just like that. Time is moving so very fast…so many thoughts and reflections- so many new faces, changing moods, changing light, sunshine and thunderstorms with the Mistral winds so intense last weekend that my potted basil, despite being tied down, disappeared from my 3rd story window sill. (look out below!)

I have spent some more time in Italy, and eaten a fantastic ultra-fresh seafood dinner in San Remo, with the Mediterranean pounding in the background thanks to the same wind.  I have driven about 50km into the mountains behind here to see a Fete de Narcisse as well as gorgeous vistas.  I’ve stood at the base of the red carpet opening night of the Cannes Film Festival and walked the docks looking at  the massive pleasure yachts from around the world. All this decorated by the flora that is blooming in ever-changing waves of beauty.  The wisteria finished, followed by the acacia trees, dripping with white fragrant clusters of flowers.  Then the broom, especially up in the mountains, and the bougainvillea, brilliant intense masses of fuscia, red and purple. Of course the roses as well, oh, and the olives bloomed somewhere in between the acacia and the passion flowers. Now, a shrub I find very intruguing, the oleander, is in full bloom, with blossoms of pink, white or red.

School is ongoing- we continue with chemistry, now understanding stereochemistry, optical isometry and the chemical structure of substances particular to perfumery. (ie substances with an olfactory threshold) The main goal of all this is to be able to read gas chromatography charts and mass spectrometry readings to not only verify purity and quality of raw materials, but also be able to analyze existing formulae. For a more detailed explantation of GC, go to

Our teacher is a sweetheart, although her teaching style is very much her own and we have had to learn how to put the pieces together to have any clue what she is talking about. Being dropped into Grade 12/first year college chemistry is a bit shocking to begin with and, like all the teachers, her grasp of English is very limited, so my ‘Frenglish’ continues to improve!  She is a chemist through and through, but she said something the other day that I love.  She said that we really don’t know anything; we can think that we do, but it is very likely that somewhere down the road, what we think of as fact, will be proved wrong. So there is no point being overly attached to anything as truth.  Maybe for now it is, but maybe not tomorrow….

Otherwise, we continue to study formulation with Max and have also begun to study marketing and the perfume genealogy of existing perfumes with a new teacher who is very proficient in English and has been in the marketing side of the industry for about 25 years. We will study by smell many known fragrances and learn to understand their olfactory structure as well as their industry classification.

Perfume genealogy is the study and categorization of fragrances based on specific families of scent (Chypre, Oriental, Floral etc), further distinguished by subfamilies such as fruity, green, amber, and woody etc. Also, we are looking at the correlation between the creation of perfumes and the specific history at the time and how they can be indicators of the psychology of society during each era. It’s essentially a study of art history, although it is the ‘art of perfume’ history. All perfumes, historically, are complicated works of art, always inspired by a muse of some sort, be it by times of war or peace, past myth and legend, or by cultural shifts reflected in certain eras such as the Depression of the ‘30’s or perhaps the counter-culture of the 60’s. Perfumes also reflect the changes in technology, with new materials being sought, found and created constantly, making room for ever more possibilities. In times of peace, the most innovation is seen and in times of war or hardship, the perfumes go back to the known, single note florals because the people need to be comforted by the familiar. It’s a fascinating study and an integral basis of understanding for the creation of any new ideas/products that have any hope of success in the future. Much contemplation must go into the conceptualization of a perfume- including current trends and demands by society- before it is launched. That said, nowadays, new perfumes are flooding the market, with over 2000 new fragrances being released since the year 2000! There are only a few though, that are truly innovative and that will have any lasting effect on future trends. (or in people’s memories)

For an interesting sample chapter about the creation of a famous perfume, from a book that I have just ordered,  go to a PDF file at this link  (this may take a bit to download if you have a dial-up connection)

Next on the agenda is the World Perfumery Congress that will take place in at the Palais des Festivals in Cannes for 5 days next week. This is a huge event, occurring every 3 years, where there will be an exposition showcasing producers of everything from raw material producers to packaging, as well as lectures all day every day. The students of GIP have been drafted to work there in exchange for a free pass! (a ticket is about 900euros) We have no class scheduled so that we can attend the event. I will be working early every morning at the ‘Photo Booth’, although I have no idea what that is! I am very excited about this opportunity, as we will have the chance to meet people from all facets of the industry from around the world from the inside, as staff.  I only work for about 4 hours each day and can attend the lectures the rest of the time. Here is a link to the site so you can have more information… Look under ‘program’ and then scroll down the menu to see the list of lecturers.

Now, I must get to work studying my French…I have improved dramatically since arriving, but I need to seriously persue the study of grammar and conjugation. Voila… bientot mes amis…et bious

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