I make perfume in 2 ways.
I usually get an idea from a book, a place, lyric, song, etc. Usually an intriguing word or scenario pops out and I want to find out more about it. Sometimes the research is small and I am able to make a small impression of something (Italian Citrus - a cologne based on the abundance of the coastal citrus in Italy). Other times I fall down a rabbit hole and spend months trying to uncover the connections of a world (our HYLNDS line). When the idea for a scent comes – say a laquered box that once held a ruby ring from Rudolf I, the Holy Roman Emperor - I begin research its world. What woods were boxes made of then and there? The lacquer? Was it a tree resin? What kind? What about Rudolf’s world had an interesting aroma? How do you make an aroma that evokes a ruby? Red , burgundy, vermillion. Roses, Tolu balsam, Benzoin? Then I begin to make accords that represent these things – not unlike the “liet-motifs” Wagner uses to represent characters and objects in his operatic works. Over much time and revision, I try to work the accords into a wearable solution that stays true to the story. This process can take years or never become fully realized. Many revisions are made and only the best become our scents. I have a million hair-brained concepts sitting in boxes at our lab.
The second way I make perfume is to work directly with materials. Through something like improvisation, a certain combination may bring an idea to mind. You take pristine lavender grown at high altitudes in Kashmir and cut into it with Egyptian neroli. Something unfolds in the mind. Perhaps its something I know I’ve wanted to reference or perhaps its entirely new. When I stumbled upon the ivy accord in Boston Ivy, I was brought back to the Boston of my childhood –seaside, green, IRA graffitti. Then I take the accord/s and support them with necessary materials to make it sing on the skin (hopefully). Sometimes it is freeing to not get bogged down in the concept. Perfume is its own language and can be enjoyed free from all association. But I always come back to giving its place within the confines of speech (thus far).
Now I have my recipe for the “compound.” I must then put it into application. Testing the strength, radiance, longevity, etc. This takes into consideration the ageing of the oil, the maceration period in alcohol, and the strength of the final product.