I’m Back: Perfume Classes, Italy, Seeing The Pope & More

The Victor Emmanuel monument in Rome. Photo: my own.

The Victor Emmanuel monument in Rome. Photo: my own.

Hello everyone! I’m back from my trip to Italy, and it was quite an experience. There were some very memorable highlights, like taking AbdesSalaam Attar‘s 6-day perfume course on a mountain-top outside Rimini and, later, in Rome, accidentally stumbling upon a papal event in St. Peter’s Square and seeing Pope Frances less than 2 feet away from me. Florence stood out for its wonderful new artisanal food hall and its graffiti’d, foodie statue of David, while Siena’s UNESCO World Heritage site cathedral made my jaw drop in awe.

The trip as a whole had its highs and lows, and it wasn’t quite the restful vacation that I had anticipated, if I’m to be completely honest. One reason why is that Italy was going through a severe heat wave and was the hottest it had been in more than 30 years. Even Italians complained. And you know it’s terrible when the Vatican sends out several of its firefighters to St. Peter’s Square to hose down the crowds so that they don’t collapse in the sun while waiting for the Pope. No, I’m not joking. I went for a hosing myself, twice, only to become dry within minutes.

Photo: my own.

One of the several firefighters in the square, hosing down the crowds. Photo: my own.

Brutal, blinding heat aside, it was quite an interesting experience to see the Pope. The event in question was an international youth group rally, and “Papa Francesco” went through the crowds twice in his Pope Mobile with surprising accessibility and minimal protection, before participating in a lengthy ceremony along with the Bishop of Rome and various senior Vatican officials.

I stumbled upon the event quite accidentally, and managed to take a short video of the Pope. Frankly, I’m rather amazed any of it came out, let alone in focus, since I couldn’t see a single thing I was filming in the glare of the sun and was simply aiming in the Pope’s direction with the hope that I was capturing him. The video does go a little wonky at the end in terms of angles, so I apologise in advance; I’m not at all proficient in filming videos (I think this was the 2nd one I’ve ever taken), but, if you tilt your head, it should work.

Another fun, completely unexpected thing was seeing a vibrant, passionate group of young Italians performing Brazilian drums in the light of the setting sun at the Colosseum. I’d visiting the iconic structure hours before, then walked through the Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum, before taking the Imperial Forum Way (not its official Italian name) up to the massive, white-marbled Victor Emmanuel monument. I hadn’t planned to walk back down to the metro, but was glad I ended up doing so because I came across this group performing for a large crowd at the base of the Colosseum. Everyone was dancing, happy, and smiling, impacted by the infectious exuberance of the young Italians whose group name is Bekhanda. (Bekhanda has a Facebook page, if you’re interested.) I managed to squeeze my way to the front of the crowd, and take this small video of them:

Florence's graffiti'd version of the famous statue of David. Photo: my own.

Florence’s graffiti’d version of the famous statue of David. Photo: my own.

I took several thousand photos, all in all, from historical sites to food, art, museums, Tuscan landscapes, perfume shops, Santa Maria Novella, and more. Initially, I had planned to share some of them with you in a handful of “Travelogue” posts, the way I did after I came back from my trip to France, with photo galleries and explanations, as well as one post devoted solely to Italy’s amazing food scene. I’d thought of posting it after I shared my series on the Via del Profumo / AbdesSalaam Attar‘s perfume course, but I ended up concluding that a travelogue would probably bore the majority of you and I should stick to perfume.

So, in the days ahead, I will be focusing on writing an in-depth, multi-part report on AbdesSalaam Attar’s seminar, from the subjects we covered, to the many fragrances we each made, the theoretical and concrete approaches to perfumery, the animalic rarities we got to handle (like, a Musk Tonkin deer gland from 20 years ago, now prohibited in perfumery, to an almost 10,000 year-old fossilized piece of Hyraceum/African Stone, musk-rat glands, civet, castoreum, etc.), and more. There will be a lot of photos to accompany each post, but here are a few as an early preview:

Our classroom. Photo: my own.

Part of our classroom with the perfume organs of essential oils and absolutes. Photo: my own.

Photo: my own.

Photo: my own.

Hyraceum or African Stone, fossilized remains approximately 8,000 to 10,000 years old.

Hyraceum or African Stone, fossilized remains, approximately 8,000 to 10,000 years old.

Musk Rat gland.

Musk-rat gland. It’s a lot smaller than this extreme close-up makes it appear.

Inside a 20-year old Musk Deer gland from Kashmir. Photo: my own.

Inside a 20-year old Musk Deer gland from Kashmir. Photo: my own.

Simple, basic, and portable distillery set-up. Photo: my own.

Simple, basic, and portable distillery set-up. Photo: my own.

Some of the many perfumes I made. Photo: my own.

Some of the many perfumes I made. Photo: my own.

Musk Deer Gland inside a jar. Photo: my own.

Musk Deer gland inside a jar. Photo: my own.

The course may have been only 6 days in length, but it packed in a massive amount of information. As one of my classmates said after just the first night, it “was 2 years of perfumery in one day.” For me, it was a steep learning curve because the raw materials smelt worlds apart from what I deal with normally, and frequently were nothing like their typical counterparts in blended, semi-synthetic, finalized scents. For example, the oakmoss essential oil smelt not one iota the way I normally expect and know “oakmoss” to be in blended, finished perfumery. Even for those students who had prior and extensive experience with essential oils, the superior quality of AbdesSalaam’s materials rendered them just as different. Out of 7 people, only 1 person could identify blindly the oakmoss for what it was, and that was because he’d used it before. This oakmoss was so dark and thick, it was virtually black, sometimes smelt like licorice or tobacco, and I wouldn’t have been able to identify it properly if I’d had a gun to my head. It was the same story with a few other things like, for example, “Violet Leaves.” Some materials were infinitely better in real form, like real, actual vanilla which had a surprising woody undertone and was a vast improvement on the chemical, sugary vanillin found in most fragrances. Some surprised me — like tuberose essential oil which smelt strongly of porcini mushrooms to my nose — while several new animalic essences were a complete revelation, like African Karo Karunde paste or Buchu, an African herb which I loved in the bottle and on a strip of paper, but which I found to be more aggressively animalic than even hyraceum when used in an actual fragrance. (Apparently, it’s so intensely animalic than not even Bertrand Duchaufour who has used Hyraceum in the past has dared to make a fragrance with Buchu.)

One of the many wonderful aspects of the course was the camaraderie between the group, an unexpected closeness and unity akin to the very best days of university. There were seven of us, coming from around the world with different backgrounds, reasons for being there, and levels of experiences. And, yet, we bonded in a really intense way, amazed by the flood of sensations and smells, overwhelmed (in a good way) by the extent of new information, and enjoying the undiluted intensity of life in AbdesSalaam Attar’s remarkable world.

One of several dishes that made up just one course in the 7 courses extravaganza we had at a restaurant in Coriano. Photo: my own.

One of several dishes that made up just one course in the 7 course extravaganza we had at a restaurant in Coriano. Photo: my own.

Some of my favorite, non-perfume parts of each day were the early morning breakfast sessions on the patio of the lovely Germano Reale where we stayed, and the late night chats hanging out in “our living room,” the outdoor area of sofas near some of the rooms. There, we talked about perfume, the classes, our lives, and more, bonding over bruised feet and the heat, and laughing over misadventures, like the time we unintentionally ordered a 7-course feast suitable for 20 people instead of 7 at one restaurant, and drove back with two of us squashed in the tiny trunk of the car. It’s hard to explain how connected we all became, the close chemistry between us, and how we continuously helped or supported each other, both in the classes and beyond. Suffice it to say, I know I’ve made several friends for life, and that is not something I ever anticipated or expected.

As I’ll explain in my series, the course exposed us to much that was new, different, or unique — with constant guidance and encouragement from our teacher, who ended up being the very best, most awe-inspiring thing of all. All of it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that either challenged me on an intellectual, sensory, and olfactory level, or was just plain fascinating.

Our distillation of cypress essential oil, gathering at the top of the tube. Photo: my own.

Our distillation of cypress essential oil, gathering at the top of the tube. Photo: my own.

There was so much that filled each day that I don’t really know where to begin in describing it. The merest tip of the iceberg included such varied things as: olfactory and marketing psychology; learning about perfume archetypes, olfactory language, ethics, aromatherapy, and the important role of pheromones; creating perfumes from a client’s brief (like, in one instance, how to combine seaweed, cocoa, and hay as the main notes in a perfume, along with coffee, mimosa, and lavender, all in a way that smelt remotely decent), while also creating a variety of scents for ourselves, including our “signature scent;” tincturing a huge chunk of real ambergris, in addition to distilling fresh cypress; learning how to smell the quality differences between different grades of distilled oils; learning the supply basics and practical realities in starting one’s own perfume business; and exploring rare animalics, including eating 7-year old civet paste which, as one person put it, “smells like rancid yak butter.” (It really does, and so much worse, though the actual taste on the tongue wasn’t quite so bad as the smell in the jar. And neither of them reeked as horribly as the musk-rat gland!)

In short, it was incredible, from start to finish. Grueling at times, but truly an experience that I will never forget. I fear I won’t be able to describe it all properly or to do it justice, but, in the days to come, I shall do my best.

[UPDATE: here are Part I, Part II, and Part III on the AbdesSalaam Attar perfume course. Part II includes a lot of food photos for those of you who asked!]

46 thoughts on “I’m Back: Perfume Classes, Italy, Seeing The Pope & More

    • Thank you, Walter. Very sweet of you. I hope you’ve been well, and had a good few, final weeks of summer with your lovely family.

  1. Welcome back Kafka!! Sounds like a fascinating trip. I would not be bored by a travelogue either – especially a food-related one!!

    The perfumery class sounds pretty amazing. I can’t wait to hear more!!
    And yes – I have found that to be often true – that a lot of natural absolutes and essential do not actually smell like their ‘notes’ in perfumes nor always like the plant or flower they came from. Tuberose for me is one such example – I vastly prefer the flower to the absolute and concrete (not sure how the essential oil smells). On the other hand, rose absolute was my gateway to rose perfume, more so than roses themselves. which is weird..:-). I remember smelling some oak moss that I had on hand, before a blog post on chypres that I was trying to write, but it smelled nothing like what we/I identify as ‘that oak moss quality’ in perfume so I know exactly what you meant there.

    I am sure the natural materials you smelled in the class were of a very high quality and I can’t wait for your detailed report!

    • I’m so glad someone can relate to the complete divergence between natural essences and the way they’re presented in mixed, semi-synthetic, blended perfumes, especially oakmoss. That one was quite a shock to me. Funnily enough, I was like you in not liking the tuberose essential oil as much as the actual flower, and that was something else I didn’t expect, particularly as tuberose is my favorite flower. Mimosa was also a surprise and unexpected divergence. Civet in paste form — both 1 yr old and 7 year old — smelled only fractionally (if at all) like the civet that I’m accustomed to in vintage fragrances, and was quite a shock to the system as well. Truly, I don’t think I have the words to convey the sheer, pure degree of SKANK. (And don’t get me started on something like musk rat. I have no words. Really, none. LOL 😀 )

      As for the Rose Absolute, again, like you, I was surprised to be quite entranced by it, even though I don’t particularly like rose in perfumery. Actually, I’m not a fan of rose in perfumes AT ALL, but this stuff was amazing. The Rose Essential Oil wasn’t as magnetic or entrancing, but even learning about those sorts of olfactory differences in type was an education. I think you would have LOVED the course, Lavanya. I hope you can take it one day, perhaps next year if he offers it again.

      • ha- Tuberose is my favorite flower too! 😀 And I am not drawn to rose either unless ‘dirtied’ or ‘woodied’ or ‘patchoulied’ or dragged through a vat of incense’..LOL. And there are now quite a few of those ..:).My first ‘rose raw material encounter’ was a bulgarian rose concrete – lovely, slightly tart and jammy.

        We have even more in common than I thought!!

        • Haha, I always say that I like my rose in perfumery to be beaten, squashed, and smothered into silence by a whole horde of other materials, and it seems you are the same. I will have to look for Bulgarian Rose Concrete if I can, because now I’m intrigued. You make it sound wonderful!

          You know what you would have loved, Lavanya? Experiencing the different kinds of incenses in resin and resinoid form. For example, Somali versus Omani frankincense. I have to say, I have a whole different view of frankincense now. In all honesty, I’m not so sure that I like the actual “real” stuff, as compared to the synthetic sort that I’m used to in perfumery. It skews very soapy to my nose and even more High Church/Catholic High Mass than I always thought myrrh did in blended, semi-synthetic stuff, but the Omani silver sort is rather impressively smooth. Exploring how their scent differed over time was another fascinating thing, along with how they smelt when actually burnt on a piece of coal.

  2. Natural perfume raw materials exalt and humble at the same time. I feel so privileged to have access to such complexity, beauty and rarity on a daily basis. It is this love and reverence that helps me persevere through the trials of blending. Eagerly awaiting your posts!

    • It really is another world entirely, and one whose differences will be hard to convey in terms of the raw beauty, intensity, concentrated nature, and sheer purity. I hope I can manage, but I don’t think it’s possible to fully understand or know the sheer extent to which all of this differs from mixed, semi-synthetic perfumes in malls or even niche perfume shops until one has experienced it. It truly blew my mind, and the minds of most of us, in fact.

  3. Welcome home, dear Kafka! I have no doubt you will do your subjects justice! I’m so happy that you had the opportunity to take the class, and while I love food and truly admire the current Pope, I’m really excited to hear from you about what you learned. Your pics would only enhance what you write – bring ’em on!

    • Heh, re. the food and the Pope taking a backseat to perfume. A true perfumista to your fingertips, my dear. Thank you for the warm, wonderful welcome back, and I promise to do my best to convey the full depth of the course. I wish you could have been there to hold some of the really rare materials in your hand, to sniff others, or just feel the incredible creative promise of having a large, in-depth perfume organ to create at will.

      Learning how to do the step-by-step basics of actual perfume blending/creation, editing things, then finalizing things at the end with a sealed, crimped, completed bottle… there was such a wild exhilaration and sense of achievement, as well as partial disbelief at what I’d done, that it’s hard to describe.

      That said, I don’t think I have an innate ability to make good perfumes regardless of how complicated or challenging the mix of notes. I can do an okay to decent job *if* the notes are up my alley, but not if they diverge widely from my comfort zone. For example, nothing I ever did managed to fix (or hide) the stinky intensity of the merest drop of seaweed concentrate in a blend, let alone when mixed with coffee, hay, and cocoa. LOL In contrast, some of the others have true, genuine talent and can make any number of complicated note accords smell good, no matter how challenging the composition. Really, several of my classmates were hugely talented. That said, I did make a spicy oriental based on ambergris that was rather mind-blowing, even if I do say so myself. 😀

  4. Wow.. it appears you had an amazing experience. I can’t wait to hear more about what you learned as a budding perfumer! The gland pics not so pretty.. I can almost smell them through the computer. Welcome back… you were greatly missed!

    • The gland photos are definitely a far cry from what one imagines, but so was the ambergris, actually. That one was a lot more of a hardened, fossilized looking rock than I had anticipated. What I think you would have loved was playing with the floral essences, particularly the rose and jasmine, and even the distillation process.

  5. Woo hoo! You’re back! I’m so glad you had a good time. I can’t wait to read all about it. It’s great that the people in the class were all so nice. You never know what you’ll get with those things.
    It must have been so much fun to make your own perfumes.
    Sorry about the oppressive heat. I’m glad the fun you were having was able to distract you from it a bit. Please tell us more about the food. I’m all set with the civet paste. I’m not sure I would have had the stomach to try that.
    Has the Hairy German been giving you the cold shoulder or was he quick to forgive?

    • The Hairy German had rather a mixed response. Initially, in the early moments, he seemed over the moon with joy. BUT… almost instantly, he seemed to stop himself and retreat, clearly intent on making me pay for my absence. Funnily enough, he always kept me in sight, from a distance, and followed me if I left the room, as if to make sure I wasn’t leaving again, but it was always from a distance. He finally got over it the next day. Well, mostly. He’s not as affectionate as before and doesn’t stick to me like glue as he used to, not by a long shot.

      My solution to all this: bribery. I ordered a box of new toys from him from Amazon, extra tough so they won’t disintegrate within minutes, and they should be arriving today. We’ll see if that gets me out of the dog house…. 😉

  6. Italy sounds like it was a wonderful experience; it’s one of the places I most want to visit someday. I’m so excited to read about the perfume class and count myself among those who would absolutely love to see pictures and hear about the food! Welcome back!

    • Thank you for the warm welcome back! And thank you also for letting me know that you, too, would be interested in a post on food. If enough people seem up for it, I’ll probably do it, so I appreciate the feedback a lot. As for Italy, it DEFINITELY is a must-visit place but, please, dear Lord, whatever you do, do not go in late July or early August!!! lol

    • I’m so glad. On a separate note, it’s lovely to see you here, Leathermountain. Twice now, in fact. I remember you from Perfume of Life. I hope you will continue to pop in whenever the mood strikes you. 🙂

  7. Welcome home! Your voice has been missed but I’m happy to know that there is an upcoming post or several about your trip. I’m extremely envious of your class experience, although it would probably be a waste for me to try my hand at blending – my nose isn’t that great. Still, if I won the lottery I would sign myself up in a heartbeat.

    • Truly, this is not a course where you need expert advance knowledge or an expert nose. My post today, Part I of the course series, actually addresses that point, in part because of your concern. As you will see in later parts, two of the attendees considered themselves the merest novices regarding scent. One knew what he liked as basic notes and the sort of style of perfume that he gravitated towards, but not a huge amount beyond that or beyond a few niche names. The other probably knew even less, and was there for wholly intellectual, philosophical reasons. I can guarantee you that you have a more educated nose about notes and fragrances than he does.

      But in ALL cases, it doesn’t matter at all. AbdesSalaam’s goal is, in part, to teach you from scratch and his philosophy is “making perfumes is easy.” He believes that to his core, just as he believes everyone can do it (or, at least, once they’ve got the basic philosophy down). So, bottom line, if you ever had the means, opportunity, and time to go, you should do so without worrying one bit about your nose!

  8. Good to have you back and glad to see you had fun! That’s the important thing! Now, waiting for the juicy details and the photos!!!!

    • Thank you, sweetie. It’s good to be back! (It’s even better to have my arctic air-conditioning back. lol)

  9. Really looking forward to reading about the course and am off to google some of these ingredients. You did make me giggle about the ‘several thousand’ photos 🙂

    • HA, you’ve seen me in action, taking photos, and it’s quite clear you’ll never forget the memory! 😉 😀

  10. Welcome home Kafka! How did his Highness fare with your parents? Could he hide how pleased he was to see you 😉 ?
    You will probably be very tired from all impressions, travelling, jetlag, and there seems to be a lot to process. I hope writing about it here helps you to keep some of what you learned in those fascinating classes. I think we are all just very happy to have you back in one piece (with all those blessings and holy water from the hose you were fairly covered I suppose!). Hugs and more hugs for your man.

    • I have to say, I laughed so much at your comment regarding the “blessings and holy water from the hose.” I never ONCE thought about the hosing as holy water and blessing, but it’s so symbolically accurate! How did I not see that? Yes, the Vatican had me “blessed” by their firefighters. 😀 So funny, I’m going to be grinning about this for a while, and I fully plan to steal your metaphor to tell my sister. heh.

      Re. His Imperial Highness, I hope you’ll forgive me if I copy & paste what I wrote to Poodle above, since it’s 3:45 a.m., and I’m starting to fade: The Hairy German had rather a mixed response to my return. Initially, in the early moments, he seemed over the moon with joy. BUT… almost instantly, he seemed to stop himself and retreat, clearly intent on making me pay for my absence. Funnily enough, he always kept me in sight, from a distance, and followed me if I left the room, as if to make sure I wasn’t leaving again, but it was always from a distance. He finally got over it the next day. Well, mostly. He’s not as affectionate as before and doesn’t stick to me like glue as he used to, not by a long shot.

      My solution to all this: bribery! I ordered a box of new toys from him from Amazon, extra tough so they won’t disintegrate within minutes, and they should be arriving today. We’ll see if that gets me out of the dog house…. 😉

      • I think he is hiding how happy he is, making all that effort to appear cool just shows how much he loves you.

  11. Welcome back! I’ve also participated at this wonderful perfume course in Rimini earlier this summer. Love to hear more about your experiences! Best, Franziska

    • First, welcome to the blog, Franziska. Second, thank you for your kind words. I recall your name from some Facebook posts on AbdesSalaam’s June class, and it seemed you had a wonderful experience there, too. I think our group differed a little in what we did from yours because we never made a perfume for a client’s brief in quite the way you did. At least, we never got to meet and see our client, and have feedback there and then. However, we made fragrances from two written briefs, one of which was eventually sent to the client. And we also got to make our Fantasy scent, which was one of my favorite parts. For a number of us, that Fantasy Scent ended up being much closer to our Signature Scent than the actual Signature scent itself. I’m sure there were other differences between the two groups, too.

      Regardless, Salaam talked glowingly, proudly, and often about your group. He thought you were all wonderful. Sometimes, we weren’t sure we would measure up to all of you. 😉 lol

  12. What a wonderful trip, Seeing THE pope and learning an enjoying THE perfume course. Incredible to see the pope going so near and travelling in an open car, I can’t see you video at the moment but Will at another moment. Loved to read about your perfume course, I could smell all those RAW materials, you must have learned a lot ! It sounds like modern alchemy. I wonder how it Will be now when you continue to smell fragrances with not so Naturals ingredients. You had me smiling referring to your group bonding and college. Truly amazing to have such an experience again. Really glad for you. Hope Kaiser Zola is doing ok, he must have missed you. Do hope you Will post more about your perfume classes, trip and Italian food ! Very glad you are back and look forward to your Posts, as I have missed them !

    • It truly was a memorable trip! As for what I will do now in terms of smelling fragrances with synthetics, I have always struggled (and written about my struggles) with fragrances that have too, TOO high a percentage of synthetics, or that smell too chemical. I think it’s either going to be the same now, or worse. Probably worse. LOL.

      I know one of my classmates had a TERRIBLE time when he went to Roja Dove’s Perfumerie in Harrods and smelt all the brands with heavy aromachemicals in their scents. For me, what was bad was smelling all the hideous Acqua di Gio that filled the streets of Florence. God, there was no escape from it, or its calone, white musk, hedione, and other synthetics.

      Anyway, as you will see, I plan a Five Part series on the perfume course, and may post after that about all the incredible food in Italy. I probably have 10 amazing gelato photos alone. Oh the gelato, the gelato…… MY GOD, it was incredible! And don’t get me started on the Black Truffles stand in Florence’s mind-blowing, unbelievable foodie paradise, their new artisinal food court in the Mercato Centrale. Esperanza, I know what a foodie you are, and I’m telling you, the next time you go to Florence, you HAVE to go there!!!

  13. Yes! How amazing and exciting to take a class with AbdesSalaam! I am fantasizing about the possibilities of doing so myself once, at least. Welcome back my sweet K. The internet world is not the same without your presence. That musk deer gland!!!

    • Awwww, thank you, love. *smooch* I thought of you actually while I was in Italy. First with regard to incense and church smells, second with regard to ambers, ambergris, and animalic notes, and finally when seeing some of the actual churches themselves.

      As for that musk deer gland, it may look funky as hell but you’ve never quite experienced animalics until you’ve smelt and TASTED “rancid yak butter,” aka aged civet paste. Musk rat is actually worse, but in an odder, fermented, leather and wine way (mixed with the smell of stale vomit). Whatever animalic notes may smell like in blended, semi-synthetic scents is absolutely NOTHING like dealing with the hardcore, real thing in concentrated form. Egads!

  14. Hi Kafka and welcome back!
    Your adventures sound amazing, one day I’ll have to do this perfume course, too! It’s so interesting what you wrote about the oakmoss and I can imagine that your spicy-oriental composition smells stunnig. The portabel distillery set-up looks like something I could make on my balcony with that pans and plastic bottles, haha. It’s nice that you have been in such good company with the other participants. I am really looking forward to your next posts, pictures and anecdotes.

    Btw, here, in Berlin we are still in the middle of this crazy heatwave. Yesterday, I put on some rubj (your nemesis, I know) and together with these high temperatures I got the most delicious cumin scent I’ve ever smelled.

    • Gosh, you lot in Berlin are still suffering??! You poor, poor things. I know another reader was telling me how bad it was before I left, but I had hoped things had improved for all of you by now.

      As for Rubj in the middle of a heat wave, I think the solution is quite clear: you need to go to AbdesSalaam’s place and smell his skanky stuff! You’d probably be in heaven. lol. I certainly think you’d like some of the amber scents he has, not to mention the whole perfume course. It would appeal to your intellectual side quite a bit, I think.

  15. Hi Kafk and welcome, Yes, this summer in Italy it was very hard for high temperatures. the Best month to visit Italy is May : July and August,very very hot, particularly this year.

    Very good your experience at the perfume’s seminar, we expect your news!
    I’m agree with you, natural perfumes are wonderful. A good absolute of Madagascar Vanilla is fantastic. A good oil/absolute/extract of rose or oudh wood are a dream, oakmoss is a juice of misterious nature, davana oil is a trip,ecc.ecc.

    • Nice to see you again, Geco, and thank you for your kind words. 🙂 You are right, July and August are the worst months to visit Italy, which is why I think AbdesSalaam will skip a July class next year and choose a different month to hold it. In terms of Oud, he let us smell a rare, aged Cambodian essential oil (I think it was Cambodian), and that was magnificent!! He also has a very good Bulgarian rose absolute that most people went nuts for. I’m not a rose person (at all), but even I was drawn in by this one. Really lovely.

      What interested me more, though, were materials that are less commonly used in perfumery. They were new to me, so more interesting. Things like Valerian was so… strange. Buchu I loved, except when it got put in a perfume. LOL. One of my favorites was Peru Balsam which is a note I always loved before, but it was ten times better and more addictive in essential oil form. Fantastic!!

  16. Welcome back, my friend. Sorry you had to endure that terrible heat. It was probably just as hot where you are. Thank you for sharing so many stories and pictures with us. I am so envious (in a good way) of your adventures with Salaam in Rimini. Can hardly wait to hear more about it. I can’t help but wonder why anyone would think to eat aged civet paste.

    I’m sure you are thrilled to be reunited with the pup. Now, back to work!

  17. As I read your post, your readers’ replies & your answers, I became more and more amazed at how powerfully fragrances, odors, resins, etc can affect, stimulate, and exalt the senses. I’ll bet that ambergris perfume you made smells incredible! Did you ensure that it has good sillage, longevity and projection? 🙂

    I’m THINK I could bring myself to taste the civet paste!

    Now that you’ve had such an amazing olfactory experience, will it change the way you review new perfumes? I think if I had taken that class and smelled those wonderful fragrances, any new perfume I smell, niche or otherwise, would have to be really special to please me.

    Thank you for sharing the pictures and the journey!

    • Interestingly enough, your first point is one of AbdesSalaam’s core philosophies, that natural odors affect, stimulate, and move us powerfully. His belief is that we are genetically programmed to respond to certain things like pheromones (animalic scents), while other things impact us because of individually or culturally acquired memories. You’ll read more about that in Part I was that was posted today.

      You asked a really good question about how all of this will impact or change the way I review new perfumes. In one way, it won’t because the perfumes I deal with are worlds apart from the scents I smelled there in their natural form. In another way, however, it cannot help but impact and change me, particularly when dealing with heavily aromachemical scents. I always hated them before and reviewed them very critically before. Lord only knows what it will be like now. I will have to work to keep things in check, I think. I do know that white musk is going to be sharper to my nose than ever before, because I could smell it all over the streets of Florence in most of the perfumes worn there. Then again, the vast majority of fragrance in the air there seemed to be Acqua di Gio (perhaps from tourists), and that is a hateful fragrance in a (horrible) class all by itself. lol.

  18. Pingback: AbdesSalaam Perfume Course - Part I: The Pre-Course, Theories & Philosophy - Kafkaesque

  19. Dear Kafka,

    good, your have returned home safely!
    Hopefully your German companion received you with a warm welcome!
    Time passes so quickly,
    but, what is meaningful will stay.

    I also have returned to Berlin last weekend.
    I spent a good time with my parents, just being with them, enjoying daily life,
    working in the garden, enjoying the mountains and the warm weather.

    Your words reveal the very strong impact of the impressions of your journey on yourself.
    I am happy for you!
    As you know, i would have liked to be part of the perfume class too!
    Maybe i will have another chance.

    I believe, the most important thing is to discover the importance of being true to oneself.
    Not only to follow the words and ideas with which we have been programmed,
    or have programmed ourselves.
    In buddhism one of the main objectives is, to free oneself from all notions and thoughts. Or, in other words, to discover, that all notions are limitation, and not the real thing.
    But obviously we do not always realize at once, what is means to be true to ourself.
    (I am thinking about my experience with ambra mediterranea by profumi del forte)
    It is a great chance, to meet with living beings, like Salaam, who follow their heart only!
    Even if our own path might turn out different in the end.

    …Dear….just now i discovered your new post of part 1 of the perfume course. I want to read and also look into the links in detail…i will comment more after!

    Thank you very much for sharing your experiences with us! All the best!

    • You are very welcome, dear Bernd. I’m glad you had a lovely time with your parents in Bavaria, though I did think of you in Florence. As for the perfume course, I know how much you wanted to go this year, so I hope my posts encourage you to go in 2016. It’s definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience and one that I think you’d LOVE!

  20. Dear Kafka, it does not surprise me at all that you packed so much into your trip (I can’t really imagine you taking a relaxing vacation, 😀 — and I say that with admiration!), and it also doesn’t surprise me that wonderful, serendipitous surprises, like finding yourself 2-ft from the Pope(!!), found you during your time away. I think the more curious and energetic a person is, the more likely they are to stumble upon rare and unique opportunities. All of which is to say, Welcome back – I’m glad you had such a great time!! I also read your Part I report of taking AbdesSalaam’s class, which was fascinating. I truly admire him and envy you that opportunity.

    • Heh, I had rather hoped for a vacation that — after I finished the perfume course and was doing other things — would be moderately restful but, you’re right, I am not quite the type to opt for a sedentary lifestyle, lounging in bed or by the pool when I’m finally away from everyday life. Still, there were moments when clambering up some hill in Tuscany in triple-digit heat, or when going through Room 97 of yet another museum filled with even MORE religious, Renaissance art of tortured saints, when I wondered “Why on earth am I doing this to myself??!” The museums definitely are better suited to someone who is passionate about that era of art. If I never see another painting of St. John the Baptist or Pope Leo-the-something, I will be happy. lol

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