Studio Wafts

Hello Subscribers!

To accompany Studio Series 2, I thought it would be informative and helpful to focus on one of the projects more incisively, in order to outline some of the early thoughts influencing a perfume’s evolution. For this, I will also introduce two perfumery concepts key to successful composition. Finally, the Vetiver Project is perfect to accomplish this, so I’d love to tell you more about the generative concepts driving its progression. Skip around as you please!

General Thought on Proximity
Fixation & Tenacity
Vetiver Project Concepts

General Thought on Proximity

First, a general thought: Keep in mind that with the Studio Series you are sampling works in-progress — they accordingly have rough edges or obtuse moments alongside freshly polished parts of structure and finally congealing foundations.

In that vein, consider that nature has evolved perfume as something that comes to us in order to then draw us to its source. Our first inclination with perfume vials is often to bring them to our nose and sniff, and this makes sense because we are creatures who crave intimacy. However, I recommend avoiding this habit, instead opening the vial near your solar plexus, pausing, and experiencing how the perfume reaches up toward you.

Like with any new being, you might disagree and find the meeting unwelcome. The fume could be too aggressive or just not your vibe. Starting the introduction at your nostrils just exacerbates any unfortunate recoil, not to mention potentiates anosmia from the alcohol or any high-impact chemicals. So relax and enjoy the handshake before moving in for a French kiss.

Fixation & Tenacity

As I have discussed in my studio update emails, vetiver and orris are two foundational perfumery elements. They both can have a home in almost any perfume composition due to their beauty and catalytic tendencies, specifically they are both fixative and tenacious — a key combo for a good perfume composition.

Fixative elements help a whole composition stay on the skin: they are often of heavy molecular weights, thus they slow evaporation rates; or they chemically bind with other elements in the composition as well as the surface of human skin, acting as a magnet or a glue; or they give an impression of fixation, namely facets of the fixative’s odor profile resemble facets of other perfume elements, so your nose mistakes harmony for strength when used together. Many perfumers actually don’t consider this last example as true fixation, per se.

Tenacious elements simply last long; their use is often the difference between a perfume which unfurls in two hours or over two days. Like fixative elements, tenacious ones can similarly bind or mimic other elements, extending the perceptibility of each other.

Yet, a perfume ingredient that is fixative isn’t necessarily tenacious, and vice versa. Some fixative ingredients exhibit scant odor and some tenacious ingredients can be so dominant that their use actually nullifies, rather than supports, more delicate notes, which is a big goal of fixation. Though true fixation of other elements might occur in actuality, perceptually one wouldn’t be able to tell. This is the joy of perfume calculus, the often-crazy heap of trial and error just to discover functionalities and dominance.

Vetiver is a tenacious element consisting of several key chemicals with high molecular weights and exhibits fixative properties upon woody elements, among others, because of odor similarities.

Orris is a fixative element which contains significant percentages of a chemical family called irones. In particular, alpha irone acts to harmonize a whole composition as it contributes a gorgeous violet odor. Moreover, orris contain other chemicals which on their own faintly smell of powder, slate, or violets, but in a composition act upon other elements as a glue to skin.

High-quality vetiver and orris both have facets of greenness, woodiness, vegetality and florality, so given their functional handshakes and odor congruence, you should now understand how these two darlings can make out.

Vetiver Project Concept

My concept for the Vetiver Project has been loosely about dryness and self-indulgence. I always craft with my own wearability in mind because if a composition is awful on my skin, it’s likely awful on others’, too. That’s not to say my skin is the skin — body chemistry can change a perfume greatly — but trash is trash anywhere.

But after several years of working on perfume projects and leading to corners that were more about ideas-of-thing or ideas-of-experiences, the Vetiver Project has largely been an effort of self-portraiture. Is self-portraiture via perfume self-indulgent? I actually think it’s an analysis of vulnerability, because dryness as an affect is a way to deflect being publicly vulnerable.

Running up to this project, I found myself often pondering how perfume acts as a shield and a deterrent. There is an effect that we experience when we wear perfume, one that marketers love to push, a certain exudation of confidence. When we find a perfume that we love and smells good on our skin, we derive a confidence that this object will help attract others to us as well as repel those rejections we assign to malodorous things.

When we think of shields, heavy-iron Gothic fantasies arise, but the earliest shields were made of animal skins and wood. So a shield is truly a wresting of earthen materials to cull protection or a belief in one’s comportment.

Vetiver 1 and 2 demonstrate the earliest moments of this project, simply a mining for and wresting of the end-results’s most foundational parts. My working goal has been to craft a dry, slatey, woody scent that eschews sweetness without being uptight.

Vetiver 1 contains 93% hydro-distilled vetiver and vetiver derivatives, supported by other distilled woods and woody elements which help fix the sharp dryness of heavy vetiver and encourage its diffusion. Basically, it is the representation of a vetiver base accord.

Vetiver 2 generously reduces that percentage to make room for an equally generous portion of orris, and also includes some other catalytic aroma chemicals in micro-quantities that aim to retain, reduce, or modify the odor facets of the vetiver and orris which unavoidably morph when they meet. By enjoying your dilution of Orris Resinoid, you can experience its own unique odor profile and see how certain vegetal elements might need paring, while the more drier aspect, for example cocoa, might need a lift.

As I assess Vetiver 2 for its next modification, I find it initially very obtuse — something sticks out sorely for me, like a wallflower weakly trying to avoid a gathering. It feels harsh rather than austere or effortless. It’s a toddler in the terrible twos. But it will grow. It is, certainly, a shield in need of more forging before it is ready for the battle. And lately the battles seem terrible, too.