Pyramids, lies and mythos of Modern Perfumery

From my house in Lefke.

If you believe that olfactory pyramids published by the industry are meant to give you information about the ingredients or about the smell of a perfume you are really naive.

Pyramids are but a marketing tool used to persuade you into buying frags.

If you believe that the ingredients listed in the pyramids are in the fragrances you just missed the point. Pyramids are to make you dream of a wonderful world where perfumes are made with real musk, real amber, and real rose…

If it is written “Lavender”, it does is not meant the extract of lavender flowers, it means “lavender note” such as the one you find in dish wash soap. It smells nothing like lavender but it is, let us say, “legal lavender” because if it is not written “Lavender essential oil”, it is a “legal lye”. Read more

Philosophy of perfume (part 2): The language of scents


How natural raw materials are different? Part one of three 

1). There is a language of scents based on olfactory archetypes. A basic, instinctive, deep and compelling language in which meanings are emotions.

How do smells get associated with emotions? Through our olfactory memory. It memorize them through the emotions that were experienced in its presence.
This is the part that we share with animals, we identifies smells as being simply good or bad in function of the emotional context in which they are perceived. Often with basic emotions such as fear, hunger, anger, joy, satisfaction, love…

This is why we may love some smells that other people hate, because we lived opposite experiences with that scent. Read more

Perfume notes, mystery of the sense of smell


In perfumery, a mixture that smells different from its components is called an accord.
However the nose retains its capacity to analyse the accord in order to detect each component.
This is very strange, because the new smell is different from the original ingredients. It is a smell on its own. This  is done through the olfactory memories.

Let us notethat the accord will be perceived as a smell of its own by everybody, but only the persons who know the ingredients will be able to analyse the accord.
Analysis of smell requires the help of the evolved part of  the brain, particularly the orbitofrontal cortex and the language center.

I have met people who are able to detect the presence in a perfume of the smallest part of an essence that they abhor. Rose or Frankincense for instance.
Their nose does not detect these smells inside the perfume, it is not possible,  there was too little of them in the fragrance to be detected. I know it well enough, having composed the perfume myself.

What they detect is the emotion that these smells awaken in them, because of their olfactory memories.

These persons did hate rose or Frankincense due to a past trauma. They had been exposed to them in a situation of stress and distress and had memorized these smells associating them with the negative emotions lived during that situation.
Their nose acted as a detector, it detected the presence of the essence associated with distress and notified the danger they represented (according to their personal experience) by reproducing the record of the emotion.

These reflections teach us three things about our nose and olfaction:

The nose has a synthetic perception of scents, thousands of aromatic molecules are identified as a single odour.

The nose has an analytic perception of scents, and can be used as an instrument by the brain in order to split an odour in each of its components by name.

The nose can act as a gas chromatography instrument, informing us about the presence of some components in a scent that are of particular relevance to us.

The conclusion is that human olfaction is no less than the one of animals, it is just different. We can smell with our brain in a way no animal can. Human beings, consciously or not, smell more with their brain than with their nose.

Mechanism of olfactory memory

psychoaromatherapyPsycho-Aromatherapy chart of Robert Tisserand


The perfumer invites people to smell perfumes, this can be a daily routine. sometimes it is a customer who smells the raw materials for his fragrance. I can let the barman the barman next to my office try a new fragrance,  or his customer. I diffuse scents during my didactic conferences. My pockets are always full of perfumes. I do not miss an occasion to put them on other people’s hands, I leave behind me a sillage that stuns people who do not know me.
A perfumer never has to ask to someone what he thinks of the perfume: it is enough for him to observe and read the faces. Facial expressions are infinite, liking, repulsion, it appeals to me but I wouldn’t wear it, doubtful, skeptical, intrigued, reminds me of something long ago but I do not know what, reminds me of something that I don’t like. Everything can be red from the face.

At the end the expressions are only of two categories: smiling and negative. If the person smiles it means “good”, if the person does not smile she will never buy a scent that will not make her happy, unless she wants to rid of the scent and make a gift to someone.

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