Behind the perfume | Daring Light

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Behind the perfume

As a consumer of perfumery, for years it was strange for me to find fragrances where, with great fanfare, I could read their olfactory notes and find a spectacular list and see that this perfume did not reach 20 € and was sold as a “copy” of other well-known perfumes.

Even if it is a perfume that is hidden inside, it is not the same thing.

Or even, on some occasions, much cheaper. And to assault the argument that we were deceived by the big brands of the perfume industry.

My nose has been deeply honed over the last year or so into the guts of perfumery. It started out as a mere interest in getting an inside look at the world of chemistry and perfumery, and I started reading a pair of books that I recommend if you want to delve into it.

The first is a basic but very instructive and necessary one, called El Perfume, los secretos de la elaboración del perfume, written by Agustí Vidal Valls, in which you will be assaulted, as I was, by countless concerns. Mainly related to the representation of the structures of carbon, and its, at first “hieroglyphics” to represent a molecular structure. I found it unnerving to have to move from page to page without being able to fully understand these structures.

This first book is very instructive, in general terms, about the world of perfumery, in all its aspects, but incomplete in my opinion to be able to start creating a perfume.

 To better understand the world of perfumery, nothing better than the following discovery.

A good friend of mine told me that there were copies in “new” condition of La perfumería: práctica y principios, by Robert R. Calkin and J. Stephan Jellinek, an out-of-print book from 1996, which is a compendium of wisdom. Somewhat outdated in some points, but instructive for today. A completely different story. Very complex, even to the point of being thick, and as you progress through its pages, I realised that I needed to pay much more attention on what I was reading. Even so, I finished reading it and that theoretical instruction stayed inside. Or so I think! It is an exceptional reference book.

This second book is highly recommended if you are already in this wonderful world and need to expand your knowledge, but it is really a leap in height, compared to Agustí Vidal Valls’ book, which does not mean that it is not really impressive.

Well, as I was saying and going back to the more economical perfumes and those fragrances that are inspired by others, it is normal to ask, how can it cost ten times less? It is clear that the gas chromatograph did a lot of damage to the industry, destroying legendary formulas, but not entirely.  Imagine a wine that costs €140 a bottle, and I manage to create an inspiration to that same wine, and you might think, it will taste similar or the same. Well, no, there are many factors that always, and I say always, affect the relevance of acquiring the original wine, since it will not be the same grape used, nor the harvest, nor the same wood where it will age, nor the same climate, nor the same passion that the company shows in the creation of its wine.

Inspired Perfume Vs Original Perfume

The same thing happens in perfumery, but it is affected by many more details. There are a multitude of notes, chemical molecules and compounds of a particular origin that turn inspiration into a gross deception. I do not doubt the quality of many of them, but it is not all essential oils, absolutes or extracts in perfumery. There are chemical and synthetic molecular compounds that resemble the smell of the natural distilled compound, and at knock-down prices. And most of the time, these cheaper perfumes are made up of the latter. This leads to a transparency in the perfume, due to these synthetic molecular compounds. Which are not bad in themselves, as I also use them in my creations.

On the other hand, if they use natural essences in the inspirations, they will never have the same provenance or quality. And even if they were, they would never sell for the price they are usually sold for. As an example, 1 ml of Oud, costs about 20 € approximately, Damask Rose, 1 ml about 45 € approximately, etc. …. don’t think that it is enough for a lot. Extrapolate this to a perfume where the protagonist is Oud or Damask Rose, and it will make it impossible for the perfume to be economical if it really incorporates those notes.

And not all the economic cost is in the liquid, but in everything that surrounds that fragrance. There is R&D research, the cost of the bottle itself, the packaging, advertising, and an industry behind it that has to be taken care of.

As a music lover, I always buy my original vinyl and CDs, because that way you take care of the industry, and that industry will come up with more. In the same way, by going to a concert, you fully support the band. I’ve been listening to metal and other styles for more than 30 years now, and there’s not a day in my life without music.

Not everything is so bad, not everything is so good in perfumery.

I don’t mean to demonise inspirations, everyone is sufficiently adult to know how to appreciate things, but for my part, the merit of a perfume belongs to the one who creates it. And I have always preferred to have one real perfume, and wear it out, than to have 50, and fill them up because I won’t be able to wear them out in a lifetime. But that’s a subject for another post. Besides, the “demons” are not only the inspirations, but if we look at designer perfumes, we will find that most of them (a staggering 80%) are created synthetically, to which colourings are added to give a naturalness to the composition. But it is fictitious. And the fact is that, as consumers, what we like, we don’t want to change. And that is why if I create a synthetic composition it will ALWAYS smell the same.

Personally, I prefer niche or signature perfumery, a real alchemy that may vary slightly from one batch to another, but that’s the beauty of craftsmanship.

Strength and health!

Sergio Martínez Anaya

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