Wednesday, 27 July 2011

In the Heat of the Night

Image from Wikimedia Commons, courtesy of Beyond My Ken

One would expect New York in July to be warm, but in a heat wave with temperatures constantly hitting 37C or 38C and the night storage effect of all that concrete it was at times almost unbearable. Having visited the city since 1976 I know parts of it quite well but still benefited enormously from having Amanda Walker as my guide. Apart from a whizz round some of the main perfume shops I also had the opportunity to enjoy her company in an eclectic mix of bars and restaurants.

The purpose of my visit was to teach a couple of perfumery courses, a five-day intensive and a weekend course. As ever attendees came from diverse backgrounds and had different levels of experience from complete beginner to knowledgeable veterans like Andrea Butje.

The extraits (aged single note tinctures in prepared alcohol), which I use for blending, were well received and attracted much interest. Sian and I had spent many nervous days wondering if the courier would get the equipment for the courses over the pond in time. We had several disasters with parcels going astray so we needed to get replacements out fast.

The day before the weekend course began I requested that some parcels were sent back to the UK as I had been assured that I would not receive them in time for the course. This did the trick and they were delivered instead on Saturday to my hotel mid morning.

In my approach the use of extraits is emphasised along with precision measurement and accurate record keeping. Without this discipline repeatability is not possible and without that there can be no learning. Because the extraits have been aged for many months and in some cases years the consequences of blending can be assessed almost immediately. If aromatics are just added to unprepared alcohol it can take several months for some to mature sufficiently to allow them to be evaluated.

People also liked the fact that we can measure awkward absolutes like linden blossom in extrait form in quantities of 100th of 1ml. This means very little wastage and being able to make up finished perfumes in sizes as small as 1ml.

I was pleased to spend time in New York and make some new aromatic friends so thank you to all participants for making this possible and a very big thank to Amanda whose help and support was invaluable.