Sunday, February 12, 2012


by David Lincoln Brooks

Many of those interested in perfumery will get their start perhaps by blending together natural essential oils they found at a health food store--   sandalwood,  patchouli,  bergamot,  lavender--    or perhaps experiment with the synthetic oils they found at a head shop--    you know the ones:  musk,   cherry,   strawberry,   etc.     It's a good, rough introduction to blending perhaps,    although the results are often liable to be muddy, goopy or cloying if we do not as yet understand traditional olfactive families,   or do not adhere to time-tested cologne or potpourri combinations.

Why don't our head shop blends smell nuanced...   sophisticated...   like the store-bought perfumes we've loved?    It's time for the aspiring perfumer to discover the next step:   blending chemicals which have been isolated from various natural scent sources.    This is where Shelley Waddington's new book PERFUMING WITH NATURAL ISOLATES:  THE COMPLETE REFERENCE MANUAL becomes so valuable.   

Ms. Waddington,     who has been teaching perfumery in her beautiful Northern California studios for years now has offered a course giving students a hands-on introduction to natural isolates...    natural aromachemicals derived from natural sources.    Her new book is the very handbook her own students are issued.

PERFUMING WITH NATURAL ISOLATES is a rich yet concise introduction to 24 key isolates widely used in fine perfumery.   Each isolate is presented individually,    with a glyph of its chemical construction,   a work of art lovingly chosen to illustrate that isolate,    smell notes associated with that isolate,   its evaporative lasting power on a mouillette,    its derivation, strength and shelf life.    Each isolate is further illuminated by Waddington's expert notes about the discovery of each isolate,      its traditional role in various successful perfumes of the past.    Often provided also are simple perfumer's recipes which feature that isolate in a complex perfume with other notes.   Waddington also provides us with fascinating historical and scientific trivia about each isolate.  

A generous, informed and straight-talking Q&A section is featured in the back,    answering many questions novice perfumers ask,    and a generous glossary of perfumer's terms is offered as well.     Ms. Waddington also provides quite a few mail sources where aspiring perfumers can purchase these natural isolates (along with other aromachemicals popular in perfumery).

PERFUMING WITH NATURAL ISOLATES is a valuable, attractive, succinct,   lovingly and thoughtfully written baedeker which will guide anyone towards the goal of composing sophisticated and fascinating perfumes and scented cosmetics of their own.    Its clarity, understandability and lack of pretense will make it a refreshing,   accessible read for anyone.   Highly recommended.    143 pages,   softcover.    Available at the following sources:  EnVoyage Perfumes 

David Lincoln Brooks, Author
Image:  Fragrantica