“Perfume is a language whose speech is worth learning and unpacking as one would a poem, book, or film. Scent is a path to getting closer to our senses, to instinct, and to our bodies and the earth at a time when those attachments are threatened.”
“The study of smell requires one to exit the realm of the beautiful to descend into what German philosophers used to call the Sublime, and come face to face with the enduring strangeness of raw sensation.” —Luca Turin, The Secret of Scent
Last year I took a natural perfume blending intensive class with Jessica Hannah at The Institute for Art and Olfaction. At the end of the introductory night, we made our own formula. I told Jessica, “I’m so into these 5 materials, but I don’t think they’ll ~go together~” and she said, “Let’s do it! Go for it, mix ‘em and see how it goes!” The result was this surprisingly lovely mix of benzoin and vetiver, lavender absolute and jasmine grandiflorum, and pink grapefruit.
I’ve learned a lot about blending perfumes since then and I have a lifetime of learning ahead of me, but I still put this on every once in a while as a kind of perfume “palate cleanser” and as a reminder to go for it, to mix things up and see how it goes!
Have you ever tried to sit with a smell when you don’t know what it is, and describe it without first trying to find out what it is or how someone else describes it? It almost feels like you have your hands tied behind your back, and you just can’t “reach” it. It makes you realize how limited our language for scent is! But if you let yourself stay in that space for a few minutes to observe the scent, observe your response, and observe the thoughts the smell evokes, you can arrive at some interesting ideas you otherwise wouldn’t have.