Yesterday, I posted Part I of an interview with Liz Moores of Papillon Perfumery that covered the methodology of making a fragrance, the process that a self-taught perfumer undergoes to learn about notes and perfume composition, and the various aspects of working with both natural and aromachemical materials. In Part II, we will focus on the technical and logistical side of having a small, independent perfume house, from obtaining the quantity of supplies required for large-scale production, to the steps necessary to launch a new fragrance, the impact of EU perfume regulations, and more.
How do perfumers actually make their fragrances? How did they learn the methodology, process, and chemistry-related aspects of perfume creation, particularly if they are self-taught? How do they feel about various materials? Are some trickier to use than others, and is there a difference in the process of handling naturals versus aromachemicals? What are some of the logistics involved in wide-scale production and starting a perfume house, as well as taking a finalised product and releasing it?
Those are some of the questions that I asked Liz Moores of Papillon Perfumery. It is in the first in a series of interviews that I hope to post over the next few weeks, as the various perfumers’ schedules permit. Several of the interviews have sections that intentionally cover the same subject-matter, focusing on the process of learning notes and creating fragrances, as well as each perfumer’s methodology. Many of the perfumers are self-taught, so I think seeing differences in how they answer the same or similar questions will be revealing. We all start some place, even perfumers who have received acclaim for their creations or who are the best in their particular field. So, I’m interested in their educational journey, but I’m also curious about other things, like the precise logistics that are entailed in launching a fragrance, particularly for those perfumers who are subject to the rather exhausting list of EU regulations. We all know about the oakmoss issue, but what are some of the more unexpected side-effects or obstacles that a perfumer may have encountered?
Liz Moores answers all those questions and more. If you’re unfamiliar with the name, she is the founder and nose of Papillon, a British artisanal brand that launched last year to great acclaim with three debut fragrances. I fell hard for Anubis, an incredibly complex fragrance with so many facets that summarizing it as a “smoky, leathered, ambered oriental” simply doesn’t do it full justice. I thought Anubis was the second best new release of 2014, but its siblings, Angélique and Tobacco Rose, were very well done as well.
Her answers to my interview questions are truly revelatory, in my opinion. I mean it quite sincerely and honestly when I say that my jaw was almost on the ground as I read her wonderfully detailed, thorough, straight-forward but incredibly informative explanations that are unlike anything I’ve encountered thus far in showing not only how someone learns about perfume creation, but how the process works. She also, and very generously, shares an astonishing amount of information on such rarely discussed technical matters as: “Mods” (basically, the industry term for the modification stages a perfume undergoes in the development process); the impact of aromachemicals in the balance of notes; EU compliance procedures, MSDS sheets, and the unexpected obstacles that EU regulations sometimes create; how a perfumer who is just starting out obtains supplies for large-scale production; and the logistics of how a small perfume house functions.
I was utterly riveted, and I think you will be, too. So here is Part I of what will be a two-part interview. Part II will focus on the more logistical side of producing and releasing a new fragrance, as well as further discussing the impact of EU regulations. I’ll update this post with the relevant link at that time.
My list of favorite fragrances that I’ve tried this year is quite different from yesterday’s list of the best new releases of 2014. The latter centered largely on scents that I thought were good, very elegant or interesting representations of their genre, regardless of whether they were my personal cup of tea, and they were only things that debuted in 2014. Today’s list is purely about what I really enjoyed and does not consider the date in release at all. So, this time around, there are very few qualifications and caveats, and the vast majority of these fragrances are things that I bought for myself, am thinking about buying, or would love to buy were their price not a consideration.
You will notice that a good number of the fragrances are not complex masterpieces at all, but quite simple in nature. One reason for that is that I love cozy, comfort scents, and they are generally not very nuanced or multifaceted to begin with. Plus, mindlessly simple but really well-done fragrances that combine richness with soothing warmth are, in all honesty, a huge relief to me after a long day where I do nothing but analyse every nuance and change in a scent for hours (upon hours) on end.
A few other points. As always, I have to repeat my mantra regarding the subjective, personal nature of reviewing in general, and how a list like this is even doubly so. With regard to the rankings, it’s always an utter nightmare, but the Top Ten chosen here are generally quite firm in order. There is a bit more leeway with the next 10 names, as a tiny handful could go up or down one to two places of where they are at the present time. I’m most undecided about the placement of the last 10 which are the most subject to fluctuations in order. One reason why is because perfumistas are a fickle bunch who can change their mind from one month to the next, and I’m no exception. The other reason is that I’ve gone back and forth on a few scents, switching their places repeatedly until I just gave up in the end. So, for now, this is where things are, for the most part. Finally, you will notice that some of my summary descriptions are verbatim from my list of best, new releases of 2014 or from my mid-2014 best or favorites list. My apologies in advance. Covering almost 60 fragrances in two days is rather an exhausting process, so I hope you will forgive me.
This has been a good year for perfume releases. For all that I sometimes grumble about the generic nature of fragrances put out these days, 2014 actually had a number of scents that really impressed me. Last year, I could not find a full 10 new releases for my list, and refused to simply include things for the sake of round numbers. This year, I have 15 scents that I actually think are good representations of their genre and were done very well, along with a few Honourable Mentions.
As I always emphasize, perfume reviewing is subjective and personal by its very nature, so winnowing fragrances down to some favorites is even more so. My criteria for selection varied. A number of the fragrances were not really for me, personally, for various reasons (a particular note or genre that I struggle with, discreet sillage, or something else), but were chosen nevertheless because something about the particular scent was either interesting, luxurious, evocative, complex and/or, as noted above, an extremely good example of its genre that also happened to be done in a very elegant manner. A handful of perfumes are on the list for the most subjective reason of all: I either bought full bottles for myself, plan to get them, or would love to do so if their price were not a consideration.
Ranking things is an utter nightmare, but the Top Five are firmly placed in accordance with my feelings. The remainder of the scents are ranked within one to three slots, plus or minus, of where they are in my estimation at the present time, though keep in mind that perfumistas are a fickle bunch who can change their mind from one month to the next, and I’m no exception. All of these fragrances were released in 2014. The problem is that some of the names that I would love to have on this list (like SHL 777‘s O Hira and Black Gemstone) technically debuted in very limited fashion in 2013, before being released globally this year. As a result, what I’ve decided to do is to write a separate list of my 30 personal favorites of 2014, things that I’ve covered this year but without regard to their official launch date. I’ll update this post with a link when I do. There is some overlap between the two lists, but not a lot.