How do you describe the experience of a lifetime that introduced you to new worlds, theories, sights, and smells? How do you convey the depth of information so generously shared by a master of his art through six intense days (and a pre-course) covering both theory and practical usage? Perhaps one way would be to compare it to an olfactory Star Trek, where Captain AbdesSalaam Attar took many of us through a new frontier where few of us had gone before, through a portal into a new dimension of thought as much as scent and perfume creation.
It may sound silly or hyperbolic, but it really isn’t. AbdesSalaam tried to teach us a completely new way of thinking about scent through concepts that, as you will see in this post and others, are completely untraditional, unconventional, or alien to typical fragrance narratives, let alone the mainstream perfume world. The sheer quantity of information was staggering, and that combined with the unique experiences during the course truly blew my mind. Not just mine, either. When the lunch break was called on the first day, one of my classmates said she felt as though she was having an out-of-body experience at the deluge of information and the intensity of the smells that were pouring over her. Like the essences we explored, the class itself became a form of life undiluted — life at its most essential, fundamental level, concentrated for a burst of raw, thrilling intensity that none of us would ever forget.
It’s extremely difficult to know where to begin in talking about the class and all that we learnt, especially since certain themes and concepts were constant throughout each day’s class, but I shall try to break down the information into several segments. Today, in Part I, I will cover the pre-course and the critical conceptual and philosophical framework that it laid out, making it perhaps the longest section of all. I hope you will bear with me. In Part II, I’ll talk about the process of getting to the location in Coriano where we stayed; the Germano Reale; meeting AbdesSalaam for the first time and what he’s like; and the food and life we enjoyed in Coriano. In Part III, I’ll cover “learning how to smell.” From Part IV to the end of the series (however long that may be), I hope to cover: how to make or blend perfumes; animalics and their individual odor; how you distill raw materials into essential oils; the perfumer’s creed; and whatever else I can fit in from the voluminous, lengthy course material without boring you.
This is the rough plan for the division of topics because, as I mentioned earlier, there was a lot of thematic and philosophical continuity throughout the course, so it’s not always so easy to separate the material from one day to the next. If one post ends up being too long (by even my admittedly verbose, skewed standards), then I may cut things up further and add an additional part instead. (Dear God, let’s hope I can be succinct enough to avoid a Part VI or IX, for your sake and mine!)
At the very least, I hope to give you a general sense and feel of what it was like to take the course from start to finish, especially for those of you who are considering taking it next year. There will be a plethora of photos, but I should warn you that a handful of them may be a wee bit blurry on occasion, since my camera continuously objected to my passion (okay, my obsession) for super close-up, macro shots, and I often didn’t have the time to take the perfect photo while the materials were being passed around.
Exploring The Materials:
In choosing a place to start, the most logical point is the pre-course that began far before we ever set foot on the shores of Italy. A few weeks before the seminar, we each received an Aromatherapy and First Aid kit of natural essences, all in 8 ml glass bottles and sent free as part of our course registration. There were individual materials like Lavender, Geranium, Ginger, Frankincense, Peppermint, Cypress, and Star Anise, but also several aromatherapy blends created by AbdesSalaam Attar. (As a side note, AbdesSalaam let us call him “Salaam,” so I may sometimes do so here, if only for reasons of typing efficiency and speed.) One of the blends was called “Anti-Shark,” another was “Mental Sport,” a third (Artrix) was meant to deal with arthritis and joint issues, among other things (and helped me just yesterday with some bone aches I had from Vitamin D deficiency!), while a fourth was for feminine or hygiene issues.
Unfortunately for me, Salaam loves lavender, and believes it to be the king of all essential oils. Regular readers know of my lavender phobia, and how fragrances centered on that note can send me running, screaming from the hills, pursued by visions of the demonic lavender bushes in the South of France that so traumatized me as a young child. Well, this oil was clearly the highest, purest quality — and far worse than the lavender of my nightmares. It felt like lavender on steroids, concentrated down to its greatest medicinal power (alas), and then amplified by a hundred. Nay, by a thousand. (I’m wincing at the memory as I type this.) While I was rather awed at its quality and its sheer (horrifying) potency, it left me feeling physically nauseated, and actually dizzy at one point. I have no doubt that this was the Rolls-Royce of lavender oils by objective standards, but it was also where I put my foot down, steering as far away from it as I could possibly manage, no matter how incredible or therapeutic it might have been.
The essential oil that I absolutely loved was the Peppermint. This one was utterly glorious! It brought back instant memories of Christmas, sugar canes, and sparkling delights. It tasted delicious, but was never too sweet, thanks to a bracing, peppery bite. It worked well in cooling and relieving aching muscles, and also alleviated mosquito bites. In addition, I was astonished at its rapid efficacity in raising my blood pressure when I felt dizzy one day. I’m someone who has extremely low blood pressure in general, and it frequently drops further when I’m tired or over-exerted; the peppermint raised it faster than anything else I have ever tried. (I plan to buy a giant vat of it on Amazon as soon as I finish AbdesSalaam’s bottle, though I know it won’t be the same, high-end quality.)
The kit was sent practically overnight to us, and was paired with an emailed Word Document detailing at length how to explore the materials in aromatherapy and First Aid. For some ailments, the advice was to dilute 40 drops of a particular essence in olive oil; for others, to use a single drop undiluted under the tongue. To give you an idea of what is involved and what we were meant to explore, let’s take, for example, “Mental Sport,” a blend of lavender, rosemary, peppermint, and grapefruit, whose Word entry reads, in large part, as follows:
Properties: Muscle relaxant, analgesic
Affinity organ: muscular system
Features: Burns, effective in acute gouty arthritis
Symptoms: All that which is swollen
The older the Rosemary plant, the stronger it becomes. In old age it blooms with flowers. The essence strengthens and reinforces the weak parts of our body and our tired mind. Use it to reinforce the knees, articulations with regular applications, and also the hair.
Mental Sport is very tonic on the body and for the mind. Rosemary give it the property to strengthen the body who has been weakened by disease or injury, Peppermint gives it analgesic properties and soothing effect on the muscles. Lavender makes it healing by helping in the repair of damaged tissues.
For these reasons it is the best essence to use for massaging the back, neck, legs, feet, and shoulders. It makes muscles strong by massaging them, and also strengthens articulations when applied over them. [¶] It is balsamic and fresh, it refreshes hot spots of the body which are tired and swollen. Use on the chest as a balsamic oil during the night when someone is coughing or has a cold.
Mental Sport is an excellent topical analgesic for the pain that seems to only respond partially to mint or lavender. In our experience it seems to be ideal for gout pain with immediate and long-lasting effects. Its action as muscle relaxant is also particularly evident when we use it for muscle cramps as well as contractures in general [….]
Burns: apply the pure essence immediately on burns, the pain will disappear in 1 minute and they will heal quickly.
Sports and Gym: apply before and after exercising the areas that will be strained, muscles or articulations. They will have more resistance and no side effects will show up from too much exertion, such as muscle or articulation pain.
INDICATIONS: Tense muscles, hard points, shoulders, contracted muscles, cramps. Strengthens muscles and articulations, headaches, analgesic, swollen ankles and legs, burns, bumps, mental tiredness, helps study.
I used Mental Sport quite a bit on myself after I left the course when walking for hours through the streets of Florence and Rome rendered my feet into swollen, painful lumps of numbed flesh. And it helped quite a bit. I can’t say Mental Sport reduced the extreme, heat-induced swelling (nothing I used worked on that, not even stuff from a pharmacy!), but the relief it provided from muscle aches was quite wonderful.
The Conceptual & Philosophical Framework:
The First Aid Aromatherapy Kit was only one aspect to the pre-course, which also introduced us to the critical olfactory theories and philosophies that we’d explore in far greater detail during the actual classes. The entire conceptual framework for the class was laid out in various texts and blog posts written by Salaam on such issues as:
- a perfumer’s fundamental philosophy, based, in part, on a quote from Guerlain to his own perfume students (a quote that would be quite key in Salaam’s lectures);
- the language of scents based on olfactory archetypes;
- how the original use of perfumery was associated with spiritual and healing matters, thereby rendering knowledge of the healing properties of raw materials and of aromatherapy indispensable to a (natural) perfumer;
- the research of Robert Tisserand on perfume therapy and psycho-aromatherapy;
- Human pheromones, the MHC gene that produces body smells, the impact of glandular secretions from the endocrine system, the specific sources of the human body’s smells, and how we have an innate “genetic olfactory inheritance” when it comes to certain scents;
- And, finally, an interview Salaam gave Basenotes about why we’re drawn to animalic or pheromone-heavy materials in perfumery, how they add a tri-dimensional quality to a scent, and why pheromones are the “Mother of all scents.”
As a side note, Salaam had apparently intended for us to also have an Animalic Essences Kit to go along with some of these texts and to introduce us to pheromones in a hands-on way before class began, but there hadn’t been enough time for that. We certainly got to explore them in-depth during the seminar itself, so that didn’t end up being an issue.
If you’re looking at all those links and thinking that there seems to be a lot of work involved in this pre-course, let me reassure you on one level. Most of the texts are very short, about 1 to 2 pages in length, perhaps 3 at the very most. But there was a serious point to having us read all this ahead of time. The goal was not only to provide us with a complete conceptual framework ahead of time so that we could better understand his class lectures, but also to give us the time to absorb it instead of hearing it all for the first time during the actual seminar. As you will see, the texts involve a unconventional perspective on scent and perfumery, so you have to recalibrate your thinking to see the world in that way, even the actual page numbers are short. By getting the theoretical out of the way first, AbdesSalaam thought he would free up more time during the classes for the concrete, the actual perfume creation. And he was right. With these general ideas and new perspective under our belt, we could dive right into the specifics much faster, and we started with perfume blending as early as the afternoon of the first day.
I encourage any of you who are interested in AbdesSalaam’s work and approach to read the short texts for yourself, because they make clear how different he is from other perfumers, even within the natural perfumery field, in my opinion. The texts underscore just how much of a primordial, instinctual, spiritual, and historical approach he takes to olfaction. He goes back further in time than the alchemists who began distillation, further back than the ancients who used frankincense to heal. He goes all the way back to our primordial, innate nature. Even to the animals, at times, and their instinctual approach to the life, world, and scents around them. He grounds some of his perfume creation in the original responses that we, as Man, had to smells, as well as its physiological impact on us on a biological, evolutionary level.
Take, for example, his four-part Pheromones series on his site and, in specific, Part 3 which pertains to Sexual Pheromones. In it, he talks about our “genetic patrimony through smell,” and the evolutionary role played by pheromones. He points to various laboratory experiments involving rats to demonstrate his point, as well as to the existence of a DNA sequence in mammals called MHC (Major Histocompatibility Complex). I’m trying to be succinct with all this information, so I’ll leave you to read the details via the link if you’re interested, but the bottom line is that AbdesSalaam believes that we have an evolutionary-derived, genetic scent lineage, particularly when it comes to pheromones, and that we are therefore genetically programmed to respond to them on an instinctual level. That is a significant point for someone who wants to be a perfumer, but also for those of you who want to better understand why you may like animalic scents to begin with.
So, what are some of this pheromones? Well, one of them is Hyraceum (or African Stone) which you can find in Bogue‘s MAAI, the scent that I (and other sites, like Basenotes) chose as the #1 Best New Release of 2014. Given that MAAI also contains civet and castoreum, two other important pheromones, I now wonder if I was instinctually drawn to the scent for reasons that I didn’t realise at the time. It’s worth noting that Masque Milano‘s highly praised Montecristo also has hyraceum, while civet (and castoreum, to my nose) are at the core of Bal à Versailles in its legendary vintage form. Malle‘s cult-hit, Musc Ravageur, also has a very civet-like aroma, or it did in pre-reformulated form, but I suspect most of it is a synthetic version. Still, it’s yet another example of a hugely popular, animalic scent. Finally, since this is a blog that skews heavily towards the orientals and ambers, and since many of my readers tend to have similar tastes, I’m happy to say that Salaam classifies ambergris as a pheromone. (Not labdanum, only ambergris.) The point is, all of you who have been gravitating constantly and intently towards amber scents were probably drawn by their pheromonal qualities, even if you didn’t know it and even if you were experiencing a synthetic (and thereby diluted) version.
Salaam may derive a few of his perfume philosophies from an evolutionary, almost primordial, and scientific context, but he also believes in the power of individually acquired memories. He talks about some of that in the text linked above on the language of scent based on olfactory archetypes, along with the role of culturally acquired memories. Again, I have taken the liberty of formatting several single-sentence paragraphs into one combined paragraph for more succinct and convenient reading:
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.
Whenever smelled again, the odors will reawake the emotions associated to them in our memory so that we can identify the meaning that they bear for us in absolute terms of being good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant. From each individual, his experience of life will make some smells awaken positive or negative emotions. These are the olfactory memories individually acquired.
This explains also why some smells entirely disgusting to Americans are lovely to Chinese. Or why French cheese stinks to all others than French preople. They have been memorized as “good” since childhood because they accompanied positive emotional situations. These are called olfactory memories acquired through a culture, mostly a culinary one. They are olfactory memories culturally acquired. [Emphasis in the original by AbdesSalaam.]
The text goes on to talk more about archetypes, how certain scents achieve that status, and about AbdesSalaam’s personal philosophy that there is a congenitally acquired olfactory memory within each of us. That last part on a genetic component to scent memories would seem to be supported by such recent discoveries as the “Adam gene” that I talked about in my last monthly Grab Bag, where researchers have found that we once had a critical gene that permitted us to recognise and detect sex pheromones. Evolution essentially removed our instinctive responses to certain scents in order to create a monogamous and harmonious family unit. (See, e.g., The Guardian, “Smell, Evolution and the Sex Brain: Why We’re Monogamous and Use Perfume” discussing the ideas in Michael Stoddart’s “Adam’s Nose.”) Yet, much of Salaam’s perfume philosophy maintains that we still have an instinctual, conditioned response to animalic scents. Regardless of whether we’re either repelled or attracted to them, we’re always reacting on a deep, sometimes subconscious, and primordial level to what was once so innate to our world.
He also firmly believes that we need animal scents of some sort or another in our lives. In the Basenotes interview that was one of our required reading texts, he talks about how we bring nature (plants/flowers) and animals (pets) into our lives because “their presence is necessary to our psychological and emotional balance.” He then talks about animals, and ties all of together in terms of how to make the most complete, tri-dimensional, satisfying fragrance:
The presence of animals around us is as necessary to our equilibrium as is the presence of plants. Whoever of us can afford it, does keep a pet at home, be it a dog, a cat, a bird, a mouse, a snake, a fish or a tortoise… watching animals, touching them and speaking to them is a need for us. Mankind has lived with domestic animals since its origins. The need for this relation is in our genes. […][¶]
Just as with trees and flowers, the scents of animals can be a substitute for their presence even when we do not live among them, as most of us, in our modern, urban environment, do not. We have constructed lives cut off from the natural world; perfume is a way to restore the harmony we’re missing. […][¶]
A fragrance made entirely of ingredients from plants meets only a part of our soul’s needs. Animal smells are the other, equally important part of our genetic olfactory memories. They are archetypes of considerable importance in the language of odors. A perfumer is but a story teller who writes with smells: imagine how few tales or fables could be written without the presence of animals.
This is why I call a perfume that contains both botanical and animal ingredients a three-dimensional perfume; for while there are only two images, they combine, just as the pictures in the stereoscope do, to create an extra emotional dimension. Without them both, the picture may be flat, the story may be too simplistic.
Not all of AbdesSalaam’s philosophy is rooted in the instinctual or genetic world of the distant past, and some of his most frequently discussed, fundamental lessons to us are rooted in the words of two modern perfumers. Well, the first one is relatively modern, comparatively speaking. It is Guerlain’s founding father, Pierre-Francois-Pascal Guerlain (1798-1864), whom Salaam referenced repeatedly during the seminar:
Guerlain is reported to have said to perfumery students: ‘Have simple ideas, work them scrupulously, never cheat on the quality and make good products‘.
In looking up which Guerlain said the quote, I found out that Guerlain itself has it on its website, in the section on the company’s Creators and Heritage, “Four Generations Went Before Him [Thierry Wasser].” They think the quote has such significance for the Guerlain ethos and philosophy that they have it as almost the very first thing of note about Pierre-Francois-Pascal, right after a brief line on how he founded the company. However, they word it a little differently in terms of order: “Make good products, never compromise on quality. For the rest, have simple ideas and apply them scrupulously.” Still, the point is the same, and the meaning is clear in both cases. For AbdesSalaam, as you will see later, that quote and the corollaries which he has derived from it are both fundamental and critical, not only to perfume ethics but also to the very way a perfumer thinks, acts, and creates — to his very being, in short. (If only LVMH-owned Guerlain continued to follow that philosophy, particularly the part about not compromising on quality….)
The other person whom Salaam quoted again and again in our seminars is a modern perfume legend: Guy Robert. In addition to the six texts above, Salaam emailed us a short speech given by Guy Robert to his colleagues at the British Society of Perfumers in 1998. Guy Robert — the man behind such famous scents as Madame Rochas, Equipage, Caleche, Dioressence, Gucci Parfum, and Amouage Gold — was speaking about “The Biogenesis of a Perfume,” but he revealed some surprising opinions about the profession, starting with the confession that making perfumes was actually “easy.” To him, it wasn’t deeply complicated magic that should be hidden behind marketing or industry obfuscation; rather, it was a rather simple, straight-forward thing to do. Making perfumes is easy. Salaam believes that the industry doesn’t want you to know that, and that Guy Robert confessed it because he was speaking to his peers, so there was no need to hide what they all knew.
Yet, at the same time, Guy Robert admitted that there was also some mystery involved:
Our art is so mysterious, most of the perfumers cannot explain the proceedings they use to build a perfume. [¶] Our method could be compared to the Art of Cooking, a sort of “rule of thumb” (empiricism), and I agree this is not looking very serious!
I am convinced that a few rules comparable to what is called in music : “harmony” or “counterpoint”, should actually exist in perfumery, but nobody [has] succeeded in defining them.
There were other points in Roberts’ speech that Salaam highlighted — like the ludicrousness of “fixatives” (ie, certain aromachemicals) to create super longevity in a scent — but the main point that we were to take away from the speech was how even a famous perfumer admits that making a perfume is actually rather easy. For the sake of clarity, I should note that AbdesSalaam would later occasionally add a caveat to this firmly believed principle: it was easy to make natural perfumes, since you clearly had to be a master in order to manage to meld together several hundred chemical materials in order to get a harmonious result that didn’t stink. That feat — one performed by the likes of Jean-Claude Ellena who speaks often and loudly about his love for aromachemicals — is not an easy task at all, in Salaam’s view.
The Essential Oils Encyclopedia:
At the same time as we were exploring essential oils at home and learning about olfactory theories, we were also asked to order a perfume book and bring it with us: “The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils: The Complete Guide to the Use of Aromatic Oils in Aromatherapy, Herbalism, Health and Well Being,” by Julia Lawless. I admit, I didn’t originally see much value in the book beyond having an essential oil reference guide, and I was a little grumpy about adding any “unnecessary” weight to my suitcase. (If you knew how I pack and traveled, you’d understand my perpetual worry about suitcase weight!)
Yet, once the class began, I suddenly understood why the book was so invaluable, not just for perfume creation, but also for blogging. Here, for once, at my fingertips, was the provenance, characteristics, odor, uses, and benefits of seemingly every possible ingredient under the sun. No more need for me to Google unusual perfume ingredients like Dittany of Crete (for Slumberhouse, for example) or to find out what exactly Litsea Cubeba smells like other than the basic “lemony, almost like lemongrass” aroma. No more need for Fragrantica searches for obscure things, only to come up with the most cursory definition. No, for once it was all here, in concise detail. There was actually an even more amazing book which Salaam used during the course, a legendary, very expensive rarity by Arctander that I’ve heard a number of natural perfumers mention, like Mandy Aftel and Ayala Moriel, but that one is basically the Bible on every possible raw material that ever existed, and it’s too expensive to boot.
For a newbie’s purposes or someone in my shoes, the more basic, less academic Lawless book is perfect. Plus, it’s not hugely expensive or hard to find, either, so I really encourage anyone with an interest in the raw materials of perfumery (or just a simple thirst for knowledge on olfaction) to look it up. It’s sold on Amazon US, Canada, UK, France, and Germany for roughly about US$13, CDN$16, £10, €19, and €22, respectively, with cheaper Kindle versions sometimes offered as well. (Amazon Australia only has the Kindle version.)
For AbdesSalaam, the book served another purpose. It was a tool and means by which we could follow one of his cardinal rules for perfumers, the one derived in part from the Guerlain quote discussed above. To “work scrupulously,” as Guerlain advised, you have to understand your materials, their properties, their healing capacities, and their history. Take, for example, the Lawless text on Vetiver, shown in my photo (which you should hopefully be able to expand into another window). Lawless talks about the plant’s: family, synonymous names, general description, geographic distribution, herbal and folk tradition history, method(s) of extraction or sourcing, odor characteristics, aromatherapy or home use, and molecular components. Some of the areas in which vetiver works on the body on a glandular, physical, or systemic level are the following:
Skin Care: Acne, cuts, oily skin, wounds.
Circulation muscles and joins: Arthritis, muscular aches and pains, rheumatism, sprains, stiffness.
Nervous System: Debility, depression, insomnia, nervous tension – ‘Vetiver is deeply relaxing, so valuable in massage and baths for anybody experiencing stress.’ [citation omitted.]
Aromatherapy benefits such as relaxation are precisely the sort of thing that Salaam thinks is useful in terms of perfume psychotherapy, in addition to crafting scents that will appeal to people on an instinctual level and indirectly serve to heal them as well. One of the texts that was our required reading and was linked above concerned the healing powers of natural materials, while another was about perfume psychoaromatherapy. For Salaam, not only are essential oils “medicines from the pharmacy of nature,” but “[y]our nose is your doctor,” because you are often subconsciously drawn to what your body needs most.
It may sound hokey but, as I’ll explain in Part III, there turned out to be a lot to the theory, more than I had ever suspected in my initial hesitancy. I discovered that almost every single one of my favorite notes actually helps some condition that I have, like insomnia, low blood pressure, or “stress-related conditions.” I was quite astonished. So, in the end, I became quite a fan of the Lawless book, because it either taught me more about various fragrance materials (and myself), or was a source of interesting factoids. (Did you know that, in Chinese medicine, one of the uses of sandalwood is to treat gonorrhea, the sexually transmitted disease? Or that the Ayurvedic tradition uses it for chronic diarrhea and urinary infections?) Bottom line, if you’re interested in the core building blocks of perfumery or in honing your nose to better identify materials by their odor characteristics, you might want to consider getting the book.
Finally, we were encouraged to download the WhatsApp program on our smartphones. There, Salaam had set up a private group for the new classmates to get to know each other, share experiences using the materials, chat, and ask questions. Whether it was by email, WhatsApp, or even phone call, Salaam was on hand day and night — even at the wee hours of the morning his time, to my surprise — to answer any questions, no matter how small, and to guide us. His help went far beyond the course work, too. He offered me hotel and travel advice when I had been thinking of going to Venice, while he gave others suggestions on the best train station to meet at when joining up to carpool to Rimini.
I’m not an app-addicted person, but I thought the WhatsApp feature was very useful for several reasons. First, it let us share mutual experiences as we learnt how to use the Aromatherapy Kit, and to get pointers from those in the class who had more experience with essential oils. Second, and perhaps more importantly, it was a very helpful way of getting to know individual members of the group ahead of time, thereby easing any potential awkwardness once we all met in Coriano, the mountaintop area outside Rimini where the class was held. Third, it really facilitated communication once we were all there, with minimal to no expense. WhatsApp can operate via WiFi, thereby saving exorbitant cellphone roaming charges, and we used the program constantly to stay in touch. For example, when someone drove into Rimini to book return train tickets and got lost for ages on the way back, we used WhatsApp in an attempt to guide them back (with support from the great hotel staff). Or, we used it for something as simple as figuring out what each person wanted to eat for dinner when doing take-out. If you end up doing the course, you’ll end up relying on WhatsApp, too. Like everything else that AbdesSalaam had us do in the pre-course, there was a definite purpose to it.
Finally (Yes, finally! The end is in sight!):
WhatsApp’s uses brings me to my final point: every part of this program seems to have been meticulously planned and thought out to ensure that we maximized both our time and what we learnt — in the smoothest, most efficient, and/or most convenient way possible. Whether it was WhatsApp or the texts we were given ahead of time, each one had multiple purposes and benefits. AbdesSalaam is clearly very aware that people are flying in from all over the world, spending a chunk of money, and taking a week from their busy lives to be there, so he scrupulously organised everything down to the smallest detail to ensure that it’s worth it for you, and as manageable as possible.
His goal really is to teach you from scratch, to give you everything you could possibly need, and to be continuously on hand to guide you if you stumbled. As a result, it didn’t matter if you were an expert in perfumery beforehand or a novice. One reader wrote in a comment to my Overview post yesterday that she would love to take the course, but her nose was not good enough for it. Well, rest assured, you don’t need a good nose or in-depth knowledge to take the course! As you will learn in the other parts of this series, both AbdesSalaam and the actual seminar stray from the typical, conventional path as much as possible, so the expectations or requirements are very different as well. As AbdesSalaam loves to say, “making perfume is easy.” If you follow his teachings, it very well might be.
Next time, in Part II, I’ll talk about: what it took to get to Coriano; what AbdesSalaam is like, and more. [Update: Part III, “Learning How to Smell,” has been posted. In Part IV, I’ll talk about how to blend and make perfumes, while Part V is about the language of perfume and the secret messages sent by its archetypes, as well as olfactory marketing and bespoke perfumery. Part VI covers the animalics and what they smelt like. Part VII concludes the series with a look at perfume psycho-aromatherapy, distillation, final thoughts, and information on the next perfume seminar.]