AbdesSalaam Perfume Course – Part III: “Learning How to Smell”

Source: World in a Bottle Facebook Page. Creator unknown.

Source: World in a Bottle Facebook Page. Creator unknown.

The scent hit you with the force of a tornado from the moment you pushed open the door. Even at the very threshold of our classroom, you were plunged into a maelstrom of aromas. Sparkling citruses danced a brisk Foxtrot with green herbs; dark spices intertwined in a slithering tango with lush floralcy; ripples of golden warmth ran over a hint of desert dustiness here or a whisper of geranium there — they twisted and turned in the air, alone and together, a multitude of invisible forces spinning out to touch you, to suffuse your body, to stampede up your nose with the force of an invading armada before quickly flittering away. A wave of woods, both spicy and aromatic, vibrated in the air, set at a lower frequency than the rest, but caressing you nevertheless.

The molecules may have been invisible, but they carried as much weight, heft, and impact as anything solid in the classroom. They felt like an introduction to the lesson we’d be learning, a welcoming committee or advance guard that enveloped our senses far before we ever sat at our tables. It’s a testament to the sheer force and intensity of concentrated essential oils that the scent maelstrom had somehow managed to escape from the hundred of closed bottles in that room, transforming the very air around them into a tantalizing promise of things to come.

Photo: twitrheaders.com

Photo: twitrheaders.com

The classroom itself was the ultimate promise and tease. A medium-sized suite, it had a brick fireplace and chimney at one end and a small kitchenette to the side. Boxes and boxes lined the walls in all directions, each filled with additional perfume essences, jars of animalics, chunks of resinoids, incense-burning materials, and further treasures that AbdesSalaam would carefully unveil during the course.

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

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

In the center of the room, five wooden tables were placed at angles to each other, each covered with a portable wooden organ consisting of five rows. The tables held two sets of six, small, brightly coloured plastic clips to hold mouillettes (or paper scent strips), along with 2 large notebooks, scissors, a stapler, a Scotch tape dispenser, labels, a metal container filled with beige wooden strips for perfume sampling, and a booklet of finer, higher-quality, white mouillettes. Each of those was honed into a pointy, triangular end intended to fit inside the small aperture of an essential oil dropper.

Some of the individual scent trips in our little plastic clip stands at my station. Photo: my own.

Some of the individual scent trips in our little plastic clip stands at my station at the end of the 2nd day of classes. Photo: my own.

Jackie's workstation after the 4th or 5th day of class. Photo: my own.

Jackie’s workstation after the 4th or 5th day of class. Photo: my own.

All five rows of the organ. I'm afraid I couldn't fit in the entire thing into a close-up shot. Photo: my own.

All five rows of the organ. I’m afraid I couldn’t fit in the entire thing into a close-up shot. Photo: my own. (Click on it to expand and open in a new window for better viewing.)

It was the organ, however, which commanded attention. There were five rows, their contents organized by type in the way that made the most sense for AbdesSalaam, though he repeatedly emphasized that the method is an individual choice, not a rule set in stone, because each perfumer sorts things in the way that best works for them. In our case, the very top row was for spices. The second row was for flowers, though technically, the floral bottles began at the very far end of the first row with Broom. Most of the core, mainstay florals were there, along with a few unexpected entries like “Violet Leaf,” or the citrusy Neroli in lieu of orange blossom. The end of the second row lead into the Woods, which continued onto the left side of third row, before transitioning into Resins at the right-hand side. The same sort of fluid transition occurred in the fourth row where the rest of the Resins (Peru Balsam and styrax) segued into herbs like Mint, Palmarosa, Clary Sage, and Rosemary. The final, fifth, and bottom row was split between “Specials” on the left (Hay absolute, Coffee, Calamus, Valerian, etc.) before leading into the citruses. If something was missing that you were curious about (like Helichyrsum or Immortelle Absolute, in my case), all you had to do was text AbdesSalaam on WhatsApp, and he would bring it for you the next day.

4 of the 5 levels of the organ. I couldn't fit the 5th row with "Specials" and "Citruses" into the shot and still have some of the names be legible for reading. Photo: my own.

4 of the 5 levels of the organ. I couldn’t fit the 5th row with “Specials” and “Citruses” into the shot and still have some of the names be legible for reading. Photo: my own. (Click on it to expand and open in a new window.)

Part of the resin row, showing both Cistus Absolute and Labdanum Absoute. Many people and sites, like Fragrantica or even myself, call Cistus "Labdanum" but AbdesSalaam finds a difference in aroma. Arctander has pages on the two, noting very technical differences in the type of plant species, geographic location, olfactory forms, and methods of extraction. Photo: my own.

Part of the resin row, showing both Cistus Absolute and Labdanum Absolute. Many people and sites, like Fragrantica and myself, call Cistus “Labdanum” but AbdesSalaam finds a difference in aroma. Arctander has pages on the two, noting very technical differences in the type of plant species, geographic location, olfactory forms, and types of extraction. Photo: my own.

A close-up of part of the "Specials" on Row 5. Photo: my own.

A close-up of part of the “Specials” on Row 5. Photo: my own. Sorry for the light reflection.

AbdesSalaam strongly believes in the value of having a portable organ, and the artistic benefits of mobility. He thinks perfumers should just be able to pick and go, and to take their materials to places for new sources of inspiration. He has a whole blog post on how to make (or have a carpenter make) a portable organ that you can cover, fit into your suitcase, and travel with. (A YouTube video giving more technical details on making an organ is linked or shared within.)

Photo: AbdesSalaam from his blog.

Photo: AbdesSalaam from his blog.

Simplicity is a virtue in his book, and nimbleness goes along with that because, for AbdesSalaam, the whole world is a source of inspiration for a perfumer. Or, rather, it should be. He believes you should have the convenience, agility, and freedom of having your materials wherever you go, free to turn to them to make perfume when inspiration strikes you or, equally important in his book, to be able to share the beauty of natural perfumery with those around you (and to indoctrinate or teach them the love of scent).

Photo: AbdesSalaam from his blog.

Photo: AbdesSalaam from his blog.

AbdesSalaam’s personal organ may be portable and pared down to the “essentials” with about 144 ingredients, but it still left me quite awed when looking at it up close. It was far bigger than our own “mini” ones, so much so that I couldn’t fit even all the rows into a single shot. Here is a small portion of AbdesSalaam’s organ:

AbdesSalaam's organ. Photo: my own. (Click on the image to open in a new window.)

Part of AbdesSalaam’s organ. Photo: my own. (Click on the image to open in a new window.)

The organ beckoned with the lure of a siren, but AbdesSalaam’s lesson that day was on “learning how to smell.” It was not going to be about how to identify specific notes, perhaps because AbdesSalaam believes smell detection is a personal thing, that “you smell with your mind,” and the sum total of your past experiences, and your individual olfactory memories, as well as your cultural and ingrained scent heritage. (See, Part I for AbdesSalaam’s theories and philosophy.) What he wanted us to learn now was a qualitative approach on a technical basis, and the ultimate key to good perfume-making: “The quality of your perfumes depends on the quality of your ingredients.

Recognizing good and bad quality in your materials can teach you the differences in scent, its layers, and its nuances but, really, how do you recognize quality to begin with? The way that AbdesSalaam showed us was to compare grades of the same distilled material, thereby teaching us to recognize the very best quality or type around. Some of you may be asking what exactly is distillation to start with? Well, basically, you take a massive quantity of some raw material, say, a ton of flowers, and force a small amount of essential oil out of it, either by way of steam or water. I’ll go more into that if I cover the class Distillation day, but here is a photo of a chart in Julia Lawless‘ book (see Part I of the blog series) on the various methods of extracting different sorts of aromatic products, followed by one diagram I found online that breaks down the distillation process in an easy manner:

Chart by Julia Lawless in her book. Photo: my own.

Chart by Julia Lawless in her book. Photo: my own.

Photo & Source: rainshadowlabs.com

Photo & Source: rainshadowlabs.com

Within each distillation, there are grades. Steffen Arctander, the author of the ultimate bible on perfume materials, Perfume and Flavor Materials of Natural Origin, explains a bit further:

Distillation is carried out in rather small stills since the flower material would suffer considerably by the weight and pressure of a heavy charge of flowers. The distillation of the oil (or, the collection of condensate) is usually interrupted, the first distillate being collected separately, and then a second distillate being collected over a longer period. Finally, a third distillate is collected over a period of 24 hours or evermore.

The first batch (or First Distillate) refers to the immediate output of essential oil that is released or put out in the first hour, while Second Distillation is the yield later on, when the drip has slowed down. The First Distillate yields the most concentrated burst of oil. I may have my figures off by a percentage or two, but I think it’s something like a 40% output. Subsequent batches would have a lesser amount of collected “condensate” or oil, and therefore be weaker in nature.

Ylang-ylang via thewildpapaya.com

Ylang-ylang. Source: thewildpapaya.com

At this point, AbdesSalaam brought out a stack of those finely honed, needle-tipped paper strips or mouillettes that I had mentioned earlier, and carefully tucked the ends of the stack into a bottle. He let only a small amount of oil cover the paper, the length of a long hyphen (–) at the very most. The oil spread slowly, seeping upward, but not a lot is needed. AbdesSalaam handed each of us a strip, and told us to write “Ylang #1” on it. Then, he repeated the process with another stock of strips and another bottle. He told us to label this strip “Ylang #2.”

If the oil covers as much as 1/4 of an inch, that is too much. It should be less, probably about 1/8th. Photo: my own.

If the oil covers as much as 1/4 of an inch, that is too much. It should be less, probably about 1/8th. Photo: my own.

Throughout this time, AbdesSalaam continuously emphasized that one must ensure that the amounts on all mouillettes that we use for comparative purposes are equal. This is critical in maintaining a sort of scientific consistency and baseline, because how can you compare how something that smells if one strip has three times more material than the other? If one has a speck of oil comparable to a long hyphen in length, while the other has enough to span even a quarter of an inch (which Salaam says is far, far too much), then the smaller amount will obviously seem different, possibly inferior or weaker.

Once the two grades of ylang-ylang had been handed out, AbdesSalaam asked us to sniff each in turn, and also told us how to sniff. He said that one should not put the strip right up to one’s nose, touching the nostrils, and thereby possibly leaving traces of the oil on them or on the skin. Instead, he said we should hold the strip about 1.5 to 2 inches away, sometimes running it horizontally across in the air, and occasionally twirling the strip away from the nose (as if to briefly clear the senses) before bringing it back for another sniff. He wanted us to do this with each strip (which he suggested taping or stapling together at 120 degree angles to form a very wide “V” shape for ease in twirling and sniffing), then to give our impressions.

Ylang #1 was SPECTACULAR! Granted, I’ve always liked ylang-ylang to begin with, but, from the very first sniff, Ylang #1 was practically the definition of “heady” and, for me, “intoxicating” as well. Its scent was heavy, deep, and thick with bold, utterly narcotic floralcy. It oozed rich, buttery custard and sweetness, laced with spiciness and, later on, with that tell-tale banana undertone that I think all good ylang-ylang has.

Ylang #2 felt like a pale shadow in comparison. The same aromas were there, but they were weaker, thinner, less complex, and less deep. The custardy and buttery qualities were the faintest dabs in the far background. However, AbdesSalaam said that, over time, the differences between the two would not be so noticeable but, to me, there was consistently a huge gap between the two and I always preferred Ylang #1.

Source: hdlatestwallpaper.com

Source: hdlatestwallpaper.com

I mentioned something to that effect a while later to AbdesSalaam who merely smiled, walked over to a table in the corner of the room, and then returned to spray me from a mysterious bottle. I took a sniff, and reeled back in amazed delight. Holy Mother of God, what was this amazing perfume?! A quick burst of cognac booziness was immediately followed by waves of lush, sensuous, and heavy ylang-ylang, rapturously heady in its golden richness. Floral sweetness vied with balsamic spiciness and custardy smoothness, while vanilla ran through its base like a thick river, underscoring the ylang-ylang’s innate custardy aromas. For a brief moment, the black tang of very indolic jasmine danced at the edges next to something vaguely woody, but both disappeared quickly. My reaction and the look on my face must have been a little like the infamous Meg Ryan diner scene in “When Harry Met Sally” (you know which one!) because my classmate and table partner, Manuel, took one look at me and turned to Salaam. “I’d like to try some, please!” One sniff later, he closed his eyes raptly to murmur “Ohhhhh!” before opening them wide to say, “Fabulous!

Tasneem or Tasnim. Photo: AbdesSalaam via his website.

Tasneem or Tasnim. Photo: AbdesSalaam via his website.

It was Tasneem (also known as “Tasnim“), a ylang-ylang soliflore that has rapidly become one of my favorite AbdesSalaam creations. It’s far from being a complicated scent, but soliflores almost never are. Their very definition involves the showcasing of one central note, using everything else as a background chosen to subtly amplify, accentuate, and further glorify the star element. And this ylang soliflore may be the best one I have ever smelt, to the point that is slowly pushing aside the glorious, more complex Tawaf out of first place as my favorite AbdesSalaam scent. It is very much like a floral equivalent of a “comfort scent,” those simple, easy, frequently sweet (and for most people, usually gourmand) fragrances that feel like your favorite cashmere sweater. (In comparison, I think Tawaf would very much be your hottest, sexiest, or slinkiest outfit for a night out or for a date.)

I may review Tasneem in far greater detail once this blog series is over, along with five other AbdesSalaam fragrances that caught my attention during the class, but I have to say this now: if you are a fan of hardcore ylang-ylang fragrances, especially those with some sweetness and vanilla in them, then you should order a sample immediately. Tasneem is like falling into a bath of golden, buttery, spicy, floral custard that oozes narcotic indolence and snuggly, sweet comfort through every pore. I find it so addictive! (For full details on pricing, sample options, and nutshell blurbs on the other 5 fragrances that intrigued me, see the end of this post.)

The kicker was a surprise: Tasneem is made with Ylang #2! Not the spectacular Ylang #1, but the one I had curled my lip at with disdain a short while before. I almost felt like apologising to poor Ylang #2 for my criticism (though I still wonder obsessively about what Tasneem would be like with the #1). Still, the lesson that Tasneem represented was, in part, that the differences between the very top grades of a distilled oil really aren’t so enormous at the end if the quality is there. That issue of quality is linked, in turn, to the suppliers that you use to obtain your materials. (On the last day, Salaam had us compare different grades of materials from suppliers to further underscore this lesson on quality.) According to Salaam, some suppliers try to cheat you, claiming their oil is of a better quality or grade than it actually is, so he thinks it’s essential to try the very top grade and highest quality in order to teach your nose to spot inferior products. Otherwise, your products will suffer because, again, “the quality of your perfumes depends on the quality of your ingredients.”

In general, the age of an essential oil makes a difference to its scent. That is particularly true for woods. For example, a 5-year-old sandalwood will be better than an oil that was only distilled 2 years before. Like wine, the oil deepens, recomposing over time to reflect more facets and layers. However, there is an exception to the “older is better” rule: citruses. They are bolder, richer, and deeper initially, then fade over time or turn. They simply don’t keep.

Source: cooking.lovetoknow.com and iStock.

Source: cooking.lovetoknow.com and iStock.

We learnt this lesson for ourselves firsthand when AbdesSalaam did another two-strip comparative test, this time for lemon. Regular readers know that I’m not particularly enamoured of citrus notes or fragrances, but AbdesSalaam’s Lemon #1 was simply amazing. I actually wrote that word in all-caps in my notes, followed by two exclamation marks — and I think that says something coming from someone like me. It was a brilliant and sparkling bomb of zingy, zesty lemon that made me think of an explosively intense lemon sherbet, only the concentrated depths of this “sherbet” had a surprising lift to it. In contrast, Lemon #2 was practically flat and pale. It was not only a shadow of Lemon #1, but almost translucent in both feel and body, comparatively speaking. As it turns out, Lemon #1 was 6 months old, distilled just this February, while Lemon #2 was 6 years old. Bottom line, for citruses, younger is definitely better.

Omani frankincense being burned. Photo: my own.

Omani frankincense being burned. Photo: my own.

After this, AbdesSalaam moved onto incense to teach us the difference between the Omani and Somali varieties. He said that, in general, Somali frankincense turns into a liquid when burned, then evaporates completely leaving nothing left behind. It initially smells good but then turns black and smells “bad.” In contrast, Omani frankincense never turns into a liquid, always remains solid, and never takes on a harshly burnt odor when burned. The only thing that changes is its colour, its milky paleness turning first yellow, then brown, then black, but it never smells charred or unpleasant.

Source: orthodoxbridge.com

Source: orthodoxbridge.com

AbdesSalaam did the two-strip comparison test again, and I have to say that I recoiled at the Somali frankincense essential oil. It was harsh, excessively soapy, with all the woody, musty, and dusty church aromas that I usually find with myrrh in blended, semi-synthetic, finished perfumery. This Somali incense oil was pure Catholic High Mass, liturgical, Avignon-style incense, under a cover of soap and a blanket of dustiness, then concentrated to the umpteenth degree. Anyone who’s read this blog for any amount of time knows my loathing for soapiness and my unease with Avignon-style, High Church scents. So, I grimaced with every whiff of Strip #1, and did so whenever I smelt the paper for the next three days because this damn thing simply would not die. It just went on and on, oozing Vatican liturgies, but growing harsher by the day.

I know a huge chunk of my regular readers are hardcore incense fans, adoring every dusty atom that is exuded, so I humbly ask you to forgive me for my barbarism and Neanderthal lack of appreciation. Mea Culpa. You would have loved this part of the course and, in fact, I thought of about seven of you in particular because your eyes would have rolled back in ecstasy at Strip #2 with its high-grade, Omani frankincense oil. It would have been your own Meg Ryan/Sally moment.

Strip #2 was very different, and the best way I can describe it is: Cate Blanchett in a grey Armani Privé haute couture dress (versus a Hell’s Angel biker wearing leather and Doc Martens boots that he uses to stomp you with). No wonder Amouage used to stick to Omani incense, choosing the “Silver” variety for some of their most famous creations and attars. (Now, the incense notes in some of their scents definitely feel synthetic.) Here, AbdesSalaam’s Omani oil was fluid and smooth, with a momentary touch of sweetness at the opening, instead of being abrasively pungent and aggressive. Strip #2 felt like a refined, quieter, and gentler take on High Mass where the altar boys are clad in streamlined soft grey, not blindingly soapy white. The degree of dust was much less, while the musty ancientness was milder. After a few minutes, the Omani strip bloomed in strength, and started to reflect additional facets. It took on a strongly lemony top, followed by aromatic cypress, green, and resinously woody layers. There were hardly any facets like that in the Somali incense. Instead, it began to manifest a profoundly tarry quality, in addition to a surprising medicinal touch. However, it had enormous longevity, lasting for days in ever harsher form on the strip. The scent of the Omani oil, in contrast, disappeared from the strip by the next morning.

Photo: AbdesSalaam Attar.

Photo: AbdesSalaam Attar.

To me, the most fascinating thing about Omani incense is the trees it comes from, namely those in Salalah in the Dhofar region of Oman. Salalah is considered to have the best incense of all, and its trees have a really surprising “skin” that covers their branches in flaps. AbdesSalaam showed us photos from a two-part Basenotes report he made after taking a trip to Oman with Trygve, the owner of Enfleurage, an essential oil boutique in New York. Trygve apparently specializes in high-end incense, and spends a lot of time in Oman. She showed AbdesSalaam around in 2011 or so, and you can read his report on Basenotes. (Part One and Part Two.) There are some lovely photos in Part One, and AbdesSalaam kindly sent all the ones of the trees for me to share with you, plus one or two extras not shown on Basenotes. (Click on each photo to open in a new window in full size.)

Photo: AbdesSalaam Attar.

Photo: AbdesSalaam Attar.

Photo: AbdesSalaam Attar.

Photo: AbdesSalaam Attar.

Photo: AbdesSalaam Attar.

Photo: AbdesSalaam Attar.

Showing some of the sap resin or "liquid treasure" that turns into Omani incense. Photo: AbdesSalaam Attar.

Photo: AbdesSalaam Attar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Showing the sap resin or "liquid treasure" that turns into Omani incense. Photo: AbdesSalaam Attar.

Showing the sap resin or “liquid treasure” dripping from carefully placed cuts to the trunk. This liquid hardens into what we call Omani incense. Photo: AbdesSalaam Attar.

After the incense, AbdesSalaam turned his attention to the issue of descriptions. He said that it is easy to determine whether you like or dislike something, but when trying to describe what it actually smells like, we are often driven by memories and a sense of location in our attempts to give words to a scent. He then had us smell a few essences and asked us to describe them. Often, he gave his own description at the end. Here are a few examples of what we tried, and how we tried to describe their aroma:

Valerian root and leaves. Source: indiamart.com

Valerian root and leaves. Source: indiamart.com

Valerian: God, I thought this one was hideous, and I didn’t enjoy it one bit, even though I was the one to choose it. It opened with piney and eucalyptus-like notes that quickly turned goaty, leathery, fecal, and musky (as well as musky, unwashed goat hair). After that, I found it heavily redolent of a barnyard filled with goat droppings and stinky, aged, fermented cheese. I can handle true, authentic Middle Eastern oud (especially the Indian Soufy kind) which often manifests some cheesy and barnyard aromas, and I love smelly French cheese as well, but I recoiled from the Valerian more and more as it developed. (I think it was the goaty aspect.) AbdesSalaam’s description: “dirty, old socks.” Like the sort of stinky socks that have sat untouched at the bottom of a gym bag for too long.

French Broom via Wikipedia

French Broom via Wikipedia

Broom: Everyone in the group loved this one. It opened with sweetness and honey, followed by nuances of hay and chamomile flowers. After a while, it developed a sort of green touch to its floralcy that made me think of walking through a canyon with wild flowers and wild herbs. There was even a whisper of a sage-like note to me, but AbdesSalaam thought it smelled “buttery” after 10 minutes, while Matthew detected osmanthus and Manuel thought it resembled apricots.

Blackcurrant: I thought the oil opened with tart tanginess, similar to cassis and passionfruit, with a touch of berry-like sweetness. Zenobie, however, thought that it smelt like licorice. After 3 or 4 minutes, the bouquet shifted dramatically, turning sharp, then sour, before ending up as urinous. I thought it smelled like cat pee, to be precise. Salaam’s description: “mouse urine.”

One thing I should note is that — just as with blended, semi-synthetic, finalized scents — the materials smell very different depending on how and when you’re sniffing them. I found the same essential oil could have quite a different profile when sniffed from the top of the bottle versus on a paper strip or on the skin. And how something smells on a scent strip after a minute will obviously not be the same as after 10 minutes, 2 hours, or longer.

"Evernia Prunastri" or lichen moss. Source: via supermoss.com

Lichen moss or “Evernia Prunastri.” Source: via supermoss.com

The quality of the oil adds yet another wrinkle to the situation. Take the oakmoss that I mentioned in my initial overview post upon my return. The oil truly confused and astounded me because, as I noted, I normally never deal with essential oils and this aroma was worlds away from the “oakmoss” that I’ve known my whole life in blended, diluted form, whether in the (now vintage) classics that I grew up with or in more modern manifestations. There was none of that vibrant greenness that is occasionally mineralised and dusty, frequently a touch earthy, but almost always plush and… well, mossy. The note in famous scents like vintage Mitsouko, Bandit, Femme, Champagne, or even modern (pre-reformulation) Jubilation 25 from Amouage and MDCI‘s Chypre Palatin — that is the “oakmoss” I know. But the aroma in Salaam’s vial visually verged on the black, and smelt like black licorice with a leather undertone that was almost tarry. I still can’t get over it. As I said, out of 7 people, several of whom were accustomed to both essential oils and oakmoss essential oil, only 1 person recognized the scent blindly.

What I didn’t mention earlier but found interesting was how the oil’s aroma changed, not only on paper but over time. On the scent strip, it grew even more leathery and tarry as it developed, taking on a quality almost like raw tobacco. Then, after a while, someone, possibly AbdesSalaam, said the scent smelled like seaweed, and they were absolutely right! The black saltiness of licorice had turned into something distinctly evocative of kelp. Astonishing. Now I understand why Marc-Antoine Corticchiato of Parfums d’Empire suggested using seaweed or algae as a way to counter the EU/IFRA oakmoss restrictions and likely upcoming total ban. (Technically, it would be on two molecules in oakmoss, as my post linked right above discusses, but the widespread effect would be the same.)

Back to the oakmoss in the class, our widespread confusion undoubtedly had to do with quality, one of the themes of this post. AbdesSalaam exposed us to the highest quality, richest ingredients as a way of teaching us. Upon my return home, I dug up a small jar of oakmoss sent to me by a friend. It was an extracted solid, I think (or it had turned so thick as to become almost a solid over time). It had an intensely dark green colour and some of the qualities of AbdesSalaam’s oil, but the leathery earthiness and licorice-y blackness were enormously weakened, so much so that it might have been diaphanous in comparison. This one actually did smell vaguely of green mossiness. Not hugely, but just enough such that it could possibly be identifiable with a bit of thought and focus.

Obviously, the oakmoss aroma will smell differently once blended and diffused through alcohol in a finalized scent, but the larger point is that that finalized product will have a different level of mossy richness, complexity, nuance, or boldness, depending on the underlying oil’s quality. In that way, the differences in the concentrated oil relates to one of AbdesSalaam’s central points in his perfumer’s creed, as taken from the Guerlain quote that I talked about in Part I: “never cheat on the quality,” because your perfumes will only suffer if you do. So your first job as a perfumer-to-be (or simply as a perfume lover who wants to better their nose) is to know your materials, and you can only start to do that if you know them in their purest, truest, and best form.

I haven’t addressed the rest of the subjects on the first day of class nor our afternoon introduction to perfume blending, but I will end this post here because I know there is a lot of information to process. Plus, I don’t want to make this post longer than it already is. In general, I’m afraid I completely under-estimated how long it would take me to cover the seminar’s core parts, even with the plan of discussing only the most important or interesting segments. My original goal was to have five parts to this series, but that will now be impossible unless each subsequent post were basically quadruple the length of this one — and that won’t happen!! (The last three have all been far too long as it is.) I am trying to be as concise as someone with my OCD can be while still explaining technical terms — like First Distillate or even distillation, for that matter — for those unfamiliar with them. Unfortunately, even if I were the succinct sort, the sheer quantity of information is staggering, and little of it can be referenced in passing without an explanation.

There are a few solutions. One option is to have more than 5 parts, but also to skip the theoretical discussions, whether they were briefly covered in Part I or not. So, things like ethics, archetypes and olfactory language, the language of perfume, AbdesSalaam’s six points to give you “the brain of a perfumer,” and psycho-aromatherapy would all go. [Update To Clarify: Don’t worry that you’d be missing out, because everything on that list except for the Six Points is covered in the texts discussed in Part I. You can either read that summation of the concepts/theories, or read the linked texts in full. Most of them are about 2 pages in length at most. The only thing I would be doing is skipping Salaam’s detailed elaboration of his theories in class, and the Six Points which is mostly another philosophy. At its core, it’s primarily about sharing and spreading the love of natural scent, as well as making scent a constant part of your daily life. He simply explained ways that could or should be done. Again, almost everything else has been discussed in Part I, with source links provided for you to read Salaam’s own words.] Another series option would be more drastic and would involve cutting everything but the animalics and the methods of perfume blending/perfume creation, in large part because each of those subjects is large enough categories to warrant two posts apiece.

I shall muddle through it and find what works best for me, my endurance levels, and my time constraints. In the meantime, thank you for reading. I hope you found “Smelling with Salaam” (my alternative title for this post) to be informative. And aren’t the incense trees in Salalah astonishingly beautiful and cool?! How many of you now want to go to Oman (after you visit AbdesSalaam in Coriano)? I certainly do.

Next time, in Part IV, I’ll talk about how to blend and make perfumes, while Part V will be about the language of perfume and the secret messages sent by its archetypes, as well as olfactory marketing and bespoke perfumery. Part VI will cover the animalics and what they smelt like. Part VII will conclude the series with a look at perfume psycho-aromatherapy, distillation, final thoughts, and information on the next perfume seminar.

PERFUME DETAILS:
Tasneem/Tasnim is exclusive to AbdesSalaam Attar, and its price starts at €38 for a 15.5 ml bottle. There is also a Mignon Discovery Coffret which is available for any five fragrances, each in a glass 5.5 ml bottle. The price depends on which perfumes you pick, as the choice is up to you. The 5.5 ml bottle of Tasneem is €15. For American readers, Surrender to Chance sells Tasneem starting at $6.99 for a 1 ml vial. Obviously, the Mignon pricing of €15 is a better deal, especially at the Euro’s rate these days. As a side note, I will be reviewing Amber Rose, Amber Chocolate, Oasis, Acqua di Angelica, and Grezzo (d’Eleganza) after my series ends, probably in a compilation review post. They all caught my attention and nose for one reason or another during the course, especially the ambers, so if you’re interested in any of those, you may want to wait for the proper breakdown before you order the Mignon Set. However, if you’re in a rush, the following is an extremely limited description. Chocolate lovers should definitely consider Amber Chocolate which I think is deliciously cozy. It’s a comfort scent that I love to wear to bed. Non-Gourmand amber lovers should consider Amber Rose, though I should warn rose lovers that the flower is not front-and-center at all on my skin, and that there is far more of a leathery undertone from castoreum than rose on me. Oasis may appeal to those who love lemony, very green, fresh, white florals. What struck me with this one was the way the fragrance rang out with the crisp clarity of a bell. The complex Angelica is very well-named because it opens with an angelic lightness that feels extremely spiritual. The silvery start has a green herbal sweetness that is almost romantically floral. That is layered with cypressy woodiness and a hint of lemony incense, before eventually turning into cool, contemplative Church incense with woods and some powderiness. (The drydown was not for me, but incense lovers will love it.) I haven’t re-tested Grezzo, but recall it from a passing, quick wearing as an incense and herbal twist on the classic cologne style. Dry, somewhat austere, and cool, it crossed the traditional cologne category through a hint of a dusty rose, along with a drop of possibly vanillic sweetness. Out of those 6, my personal full bottle choices would be Tasneem and Amber Chocolate in large sizes, followed by Amber Rose in a small size. For all of these, the sillage is generally soft to intimate, especially after a few hours, but that is typical for natural fragrances. Longevity varies. You may have to bring your nose right to the skin to detect some of them after a few hours but, if you do, you may be surprised by the lifespan of several of them. For more specifics and details, you’ll have to wait for the proper review in about 10 days to 2 weeks after I’ve tested them thoroughly. As a side note, the Tasneem, Oasis, Angelica and Grezzia 5.5 ml Mignon minis are listed on the Mignon page linked above, but you will find the Amber Chocolate and Amber Rose minis listed on The Private Collection page because they are not part of the “Scents of the Soul” line. They cost €15 and €18, respectively.

56 thoughts on “AbdesSalaam Perfume Course – Part III: “Learning How to Smell”

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

  2. Pingback: AbdesSalaam Perfume Course - Part II: Getting There, The Germano Reale, Meeting Salaam & Coriano Food - Kafkaesque

  3. Pingback: I'm Back: Perfume Classes, Italy, Seeing The Pope & More - Kafkaesque

  4. Wow, this is amazing stuff. I have to try these Abdes Salaam perfumes now. The course sounds way over my head but perfect for someone with your knowledge. I could almost smell the ylang in your description and the incense. Love churchy incense mmmmm.

    I hope you aren’t going to leave out this part: “So, things like ethics, archetypes and olfactory language, the language of perfume, AbdesSalaam’s six points to give you “the brain of a perfumer,” and psycho-aromatherapy would all go.” I want to know what the brain of a perfumer is like and the terms. But of course it’s up to you and what you want to write about 🙂

    • Dear Ricky, AbdesSalaam’s texts that I linked to and discussed in Part I go into detail on every point in that paragraph you quoted, except for the 6 Points. The texts in each link are quite short, generally 2 small pages at most, so you can read them to get information beyond what I talked about in Part I. He simply elaborated on them in further detail during the course, which would be the part I’d be skipping since I already discussed everything in Part I its mostt basic form. Read Part I and/or the actual texts that I’ve linked, and you won’t be missing out. 🙂

      I’ll see about the 6 Points. If it fits thematically into the subject of the upcoming parts, I’ll try to discuss it, but I don’t think it will mesh naturally and normally with things like animalics or how to actually make scents. I’ll see how it goes and what I can do.

  5. Dear Kafka, I am so enjoying this series, and wouldn’t mind at all if there will be more than you planned. Your description is almost photographic, in a very good sense, like you describe scents, and it is almost as if I could smell the classroom.
    I think I described to you how the incense souq smelled in Muscat, and how the hotel lobby was incensed throughout the day, didn’t I? Incense is so much part of daily life, as is scent (did I describe the men wear a white garment/dress, with a small brushlike accessory which is perfumed with attars?).
    I am thinking in what way I could attend one of the courses next year, it may be easier to do it alone (so my husband can look after her Highness and the business), and the posts help in that process. I was glad to read bribery restored good relations!

    • You definitely described the way incense was such a big part of your experiences in Muscat, Oman, my dear, including the hotel lobby. That is why you were one of the people I thought about when smelling the Omani incense in class. 🙂 You would have loved it so, Hamamelis!

      I think taking the class by yourself would make good business and practical sense unless your husband is as into fragrance (and incense) as you are. If he is, well, I think your Oman trip was about 2 weeks in total (??), so perhaps you two could manage 1 week with someone you trust taking care of Her Highness? Obviously, you should see and do what works best for all of you, and if your husband isn’t quite so scent oriented as you, a solo trip would be more practical.

      As a completely irrelevant side note, there were a lot of dogs at the Germano Reale, though they were usually small ones. They were all off-leash, too!!! The Germano Reale has absolutely no problems with guests bringing their pets with them, but they do request that the dogs be kept with their owners at all times, including when the owners leave the room. I really don’t think you could bring Her Highness to the perfume class — because who knows if one of the attendees has dog issues, a fear of dogs, or bad allergies — but I thought you might find the fact dogs were running around all over the property interesting. If only you could bring Angela Merkel to class! That could solve everything. Plus, imagine how her nose would react to really aged civet paste! 😀 😀

  6. More wonderfulness and fantastically useful information! Thank you again for sharing this with us. I’d be interested to know, did he touch on various and different skin/body chemical types and any changes that might prompt? I’m on lots O’ meds, and honest to god, things I think will be fantastic, end up chaning and morphing into god know what scent!

    • PS… I’m making a hard copy of this adventure narrative, complete with the link info printed so I can pour thru it at a more leisurely pace. Hope that’s ok. I promise not to share!

    • My dearest Mr. Java, he did not talk about body chemical types, the impact of medications, or skin reactions to medications. (Will you forgive me if I say I don’t know what O Meds are, but they don’t sound good at all.) What I *STRONGLY* urge you to do is to write to him directly. Don’t think you’d be a nuisance or be considered as a weirdo. You wouldn’t be! From everything I know of Salaam, I promise you that he would be touched you wrote and would be eager to answer your questions. You don’t even have to mention your interest in his course. His whole philosophy is about sharing his knowledge, and the healing power of naturals. He might even be more passionate about the impact of essences on the body, mind, system and spirit (and in teaching others about that impact) than he is about actual perfumery. So, please, WRITE TO HIM!!! Email: profumo -at sign- profumo.it or salaamattar -at sign- gmail.com. (I’ve written it out like that so that he isn’t deluged with spam by the spambots programs who look for email addresses online, but you should obviously use the “@” instead.) Go write to him now, my dear!!

      As for the print-out, I’m touched. No worries at all. If you end up going to Coriano in 2016, make sure you email me before you take any trains (or before ordering any seafood platters)… 😉

  7. Darling K, I think what I’m going to do is wait for the end of this series and print them all out and take them to bed. It’s not the same reading them on a device as grasping bits of paper and savouring your story. I really want to smell this Ylang Ylang flower too. And this ‘violet leaf’. What a course this must have been. I know nothing about scents and this has captured my interest. This chap sounds fascinating too.

    • “Violet Leaf” smells absolutely nothing like violets, which is what I had thought they may resemble in small part. If you’re used to Violet as the way you might have encountered it in all the classic Guerlains or in other fragrances, you’d probably be as shocked as I was at smelling this time. As one classmate put it, it’s “curiously nasty.” I hope to get into the specific scent of Violet Leaf and a few other things later in the series, if I can manage to fit it in. (I really should have stuck it in this section here, but I was too wiped out by the end and not really thinking straight to realise what would be more thematically consistent or coherent to put here.) But I would definitely like to discuss Violet Leaf later as an example of just how unexpected some things smell in concentrated essence form, as opposed to what one may have expected based on prior experience with that note from blended, finalised scents with alcohol.

  8. More, more, more please, Kafka. Your posts are bringing joy and lightness to a rough patch my family and I are going through right now. Meanwhile I’m glad I’m not the only one who gets loo odors on smelling Blackberry but it’s fecal to my nose, not urinic. Did anyone else in the class get that specific smell? I get it the minute I sniff any fragrance with blackberry in it and it’s a deal breaker for me.

  9. Another reader chiming in with “More please!!” I’d SO much like to hear about “things like ethics, archetypes and olfactory language, the language of perfume, AbdesSalaam’s six points to give you “the brain of a perfumer,” and psycho-aromatherapy. . .!!!!!” (Please note the five exclamation points, hint hint)

    Thank you thank you thank you for sharing this experience with us!!

    • Welcome to the blog, Anne. You’re right, it’s not easy at all, so I greatly appreciate you noticing the amount of work involved in covering the wealth of information. Thank you for your kind comment, and I’m glad you enjoyed the post. 🙂

  10. Amber Rose was one of the perfumes I had clicked on the other night, and even though rose may not be upfront, I think the leather – castoreum would appeal to me. I’ve discovered that I really, really love animalic skank mixed in the brew. You mentioned Valerian/goat/wet socks: I remember Valerian supplements reeking like nasty socks and if I didn’t drink enough water, I felt as if I had somehow swallowed a gym rat’s old sock. Sorry I digressed there….

    I read this [part 3] twice to absorb everything. I could visualize being there; I am seriously thinking that I do want to go see Salaam! Yes, Oman would be someplace I’ve never thought of visiting yet I would go now after reading about the incense.
    I also want a perfume organ
    lol

    I almost forgot to tell you my book from Amazon arrived today. I browsed through it and can see how useful it is.

    Awesome read Kafka! Thank you. 😀

  11. The organ: woods and resins. I died a little with the picture of the resins, K. I love the idea of having your organ with you at all times in case inspiration assaults you and you need to create a scent, right there and then. I believe too you smell with your memory but also with your creativity, at all points making metaphorical connections.
    I love how you were almost anointed with tasneem. I myself need some Omani frankincense just to see if I can fly! I don’t know if I have ever shared this with you K but some incense makes me cry with a mix of profound sadness and ecstasy. I have no real explanation for it though. And of course this was informative K but not only that. It is intoxicating and moving and generous and I am so happy.

  12. I’m swooning over the Omani and the Somali. Just the thought of all that incense makes me sigh….oh joy, oh rapturousness (I just made up that word). I’ve generally stayed away from gourmand fragrances, but I’m willing to give Amber Chocolate a try. Wonderful review. I feel as though I was right there with you. What a simply marvelous experience. I’m so excited by this series. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this and by all means, stretch it out. I’m sure all of us will love it. I know I will.
    Surrender to Chance only has Angelica Water to sample of the ones you mentioned. I do so wish it were possible to put together 1 ml samples. Amber Rose and Amber Chocolate aren’t even on his sampling site. Any suggestions?

    • Give me the night, and I’ll get back to you, my dear. I’ve written to AbdesSalaam to ask how much Amber Rose and Amber Chocolate might be in the Mignons, since I’m sure he’d sell them in that size if people wanted them. I’ve also asked him what suggestions he may have from his catalog for someone who wants a scent with incense, incense, incense, and more incense. Lol 😉 I know you’ve already tried Hindu Kush but want something more hardcore.

      Does STC really not have Oasis? Hm, that’s so strange. The Amber are part of his new Amber series, not the Scents of the Soul, but Oasis is part of that line and STC has or had all of them, I had thought. Unfortunately, I can’t think of a way for you to try things in a 1 ml size if STC doesn’t have all his scents. I only have the Mignon sizes myself for the 5 perfumes I mentioned, and I need them for my upcoming in-depth testing or I would gladly send you 1 ml from my own stash.

      In any event, check back later or tomorrow for the answer I get on the possibility and pricing for Mignons in the scents you mentioned.

      • Thank you so much. I’m eagerly waiting. Hardcore? Maybe, but it shouldn’t be totally dry . High church probably explains it best with hints of sweetness such as amber, I think. Anyway, thanks for your help.

    • As you’ve probably already gotten an email response from him on the incense issue, this next part is really for anyone else who may have had the same difficulty that you did in locating the Amber Rose and Amber Chocolate Mignon minis: they’re located on The Private Collection page (because they’re not part of the Scents of the Soul line like the others). The Private Collection link with the mini pricing for Amber Rose and Amber Chocolate is: http://www.profumo.it/perfume/outsiders.asp

      I searched Surrender to Chance’s website, and they do carry the other fragrances, including the two Ambers. You just have to do a name search or look outside of the Scents of the Soul category that includes Tasneem and the rest, because the ambers are part of the Amber Line in The Private Collection. STC’s pricing on the ambers is high for the amount, imo, especially when compared to the fact that AbdesSalaam basically gives you 5 times the quantity for roughly twice more. Still, if you want to order from STC, here are the links:

      Amber Rose starts at about $8 ($7.99) for a 1 ml vial: http://surrendertochance.com/abdessalaam-attar-profumo-it-private-collection-scent-amber-rose-from-the-amber-series/

      Amber Chocolate starts at $8 for a 1 ml vial: http://surrendertochance.com/abdessalaam-attar-profumo-it-the-scents-of-the-soul-amber-chocolate-from-the-amber-series/

      Oasis starts at $9 for a 1 ml vial: http://surrendertochance.com/abdessalaam-attar-profumo-it-the-scents-of-the-soul-oasis/

      Grezzo starts at $7.29 for a 1 ml vial: http://surrendertochance.com/abdessalaam-attar-profumo-it-the-scents-of-the-soul-grezzo-brut-deleganza/

      As noted and linked in the end section of the review, Tasneem is also at STC. Pricing starts at $6.99 for a 1 ml vial: http://surrendertochance.com/abdessalaam-attar-profumo-it-the-scents-of-the-soul-tasneem/

      I hope that helps, Ellen.

      For anyone else who wants a incense scent, the first one in AbdesSalaam’s collection that he recommends is Acqua di Santa/Holy Water, followed by Sea Wood, Mecca Balsam, Hindu Kush, and Persona. I’ve got reviews for Hindu Kush and Mecca Balsam on the blog if you want to know more. Holy Water is indeed an incense fragrance. Light but very churchy.

  13. Dear Kafka,

    thank you!
    this is extraordinary!
    Your words show the intensity of the course,
    and how deeply you were and are involved.
    I am very happy for you!
    And for us readers…you make us wanting to have this experience also.
    Your description gives such a lively picture.
    Thank you for the time you spend writing.
    (and besides writing the blog, also answering to all the comments…how many hours did you sit a t the computer today? – at least you can go back to your essences from time to time and leave the mundane plane, to get soaked in happiness and happy memories)
    …..

    when i read something you mentioned above:
    “…the materials smell very different depending on how and when you’re sniffing them….”
    something came to my mind:

    When i was in India, many years ago, to visit indian friends in Calcutta,
    i experienced a peculiar phenomenon.
    The smells, especially the bad smells were so strong and intense, and multiple,
    but,
    it did not matter a lot.
    All the rotten things on the streets in the strong heat, fecals, dead animals, garbage….it was the worst, but..it did not have the strong impact, as it would have here, at home.
    Somehow, the intense heat did not take away the smell, but made me feel it less annoying. After some time, bad smells did not cause any reaction in my mind.

    Now, when the weather here in Germany was so hot, 35 to 40 degrees celsius
    (95 to 104 degrees fahrenheit),
    i tried several ouds, that i have as testers. Among them, the best oil, i could get here in Berlin in an arabian shop, “Dehn al oudh hindi”,
    “Oud caravan” by abdes salaam, Zafar by xerjoff.
    Even if they have the goat, or rather cowshed (or cheesy, as you called it) part
    in smoother temperatures,
    in the hot climate they loose this quality very quickly and reveal something wonderful, almost heavenly, more like a feeling, not like a smell.
    The high temperature seems to be a condition for my mind, to perceive them as great.

    All the best to you, Dear!
    Waiting for more to read!
    Bernd

    • Hi Bernd,
      would you mind telling me the name and address of the arabian shop in Berlin, I would love to try the Indian oil and the oud caravan. If this is ok for you, Kafka, of course?
      Thanks & have a nice day (it’s so good that temeratures are rather low here today…)

      • No problem on my end at ALL if you two share details. I’d actually prefer it if more of my readers chatted with each other and got to know each other better because I think it makes things more fun, and talking about perfume should be like a really fun cocktail party where people share their thoughts or reactions. I think it’s especially wonderful when those living in the same city, like you two here, get to know each other. I hope you end up as perfume buddies. So chat away!

      • Hallo Anka,

        der Laden heißt “Oriental-Style” und befindet sich in der
        Sonnenallee 34, 12045 Berlin.

        Sie haben verschiedene Arten Parfüm, am besten, Du schaust auf die website.

        Ich habe mehrere Öle gekauft. “Dehn al oudh hindi” ist die höchste Qualität der Abfüllungen – kann sein, dass es auch unter dem Namen “Dehn al oudh cambodi” angeboten wird.
        Frag einfach nach dem besten Oudh, und lass Dir 1 oder 2 ml abfüllen.

        Oud Caravan No3 habe ich bei Abdes Salaam direkt bestell. Es gibt bei Ihm sogenannte “Mignons”, kleine Abfüllungen zum ausprobieren. Da ist es dann auch bezahlbar.

        (Oder sonst musst Du eben irgendwann einmal in den Prenzlauer Berg kommen, auf einen Kaffee oder Tee, und die Proben bei mir ausprobieren, falls es Dir nicht unheimlich ist, Dich mit einem Unbekannten zu treffen.)

        Hier der Link zu “Oriental Style”.
        Es ist ein typischer arabischer Laden in Neukölln, aber lass Dich nicht abschrecken, die Parfümölauswahl ist unglaublich!

        http://www.oriental-style.de/de/parfuem/

        Grüße!
        Bernd

        • Hi Bernd, Sie werden wahrschein lich nicht verstehen , was ich schreibe, da mein Deutsch ist abscheulich, in Wort und schrifte. Ich lernte von meiner Oma die kein English gelernt haben, bis sie ungefahr 8 Jahre alt war. Hopefully this was somewhat understandable. 🙂 Don
          P.S. K sagt sie hat nichts dagegen wenn ihre Leser mit ihnen unterhalten einander.

          • Hello Don,
            thank you for writing to me!
            We can communicate in English, if you wish….!
            Best regards!
            Bernd

        • Hallo Bernd,

          wow, das ist ja ein richtiger Geheimtipp, vielen Dank!
          Nächste Woche werde ich da gleich mal vorbeischauen und, wenn Du magst, Dir berichten.
          Hast Du vielleicht eine E-Mail-Adresse (Wegwerfadresse heißen die, glaube ich), die man hier posten kann?

          Herzliche Grüße

          • Hallo Anka,

            ich weiß nicht, ob Du Erfahrung mit echtem Oud hast? Es ist in der Tat speziell, und hat, je nach Sorte wirklich etwas Kuhstallartiges, das aber meist nach einer Weile, und auch in großer Hitze vergeht.
            Auch in Oud Caravan No3 ist dieses Element, daher würde ich es unbedingt erst mal mit einer Probengöße versuchen, falls Du gedenkst, Dir ein Fläschchen zuzulegen.

            Gerne würde ich von Deinen Erfahrungen hören!
            Ich will aber nicht gerne meine email hier posten, da ich keine “Wegwerfadresse” besitze.
            Wenn Du auf Facebook bist, findest Du mich unter Bernd Sandner. Blaues Hemd mit blauer Krawatte. Das siehst Du gleich.

            Liebe Grüße!
            Bernd

        • Hallo Bernd,

          ja, diesen leicht kuhstallartigen Dunst kenne ich, und Oud ist auch nicht gerade einer meiner liebsten Duftnoten… eine kleine Abfüllung werde ich mir bestimmt dennoch kaufen, allein schon, um mich von Zeit zu Zeit in andere Welten zu phantasieren.

          Und nein, bei facebook bin ich nicht, aber dank der unendlichen Weiten des „www“ habe ich Deine E-Mail-Adresse gefunden und werde Dir dann schreiben, sobald ich in dem Laden war!

          Bis dann & liebe Grüße
          Anka

          • Hallo Anka,

            ja, ich würde mich freuen,
            Deine Meinung zu hören!
            Melde Dich!

            Liebe Grüße!
            Bernd

  14. This is a course I wanted to do this summer, but could not leave my dairy farm in VT for the time it would take me to make the voyage to Rimini (and what a voyage it was, as you have so aptly described) Your documentation of the details is amazing, and we all appreciate every word. I could smell the aromas when you described walking into the studio. It is transporting and magical. Thank you for the time you have put into describing your journey. Please keep going and describe the philosophy of blending–I find this the ultimate challenge of perfume making–you might be able to buy the best oils, but the blending is true art. How is this easy? Please enlighten!

    • First, welcome to the blog, Diane. 🙂 Second, yes, it can be a bit of a trip from North America, but it’s most definitely worth it, so I hope you can find the opportunity to go next year if business and work permit. Blending will be the topic of the next post, but you’re right in noting that it has its challenges. At least, I thought so for the one approach and formula that we used initially. As you will see, I think some of blending challenges depend on one’s personality type (LOL) which may be why AbdesSalaam came up with a second approach with a different method or formula afterwards for people like me, and that one worked really well. Hopefully, all of that will be clearer when Part IV is posted. In the meantime, thank you so much for stopping by, and I hope you will feel free to pop in again and share your thoughts. 🙂

  15. i would like to chime in and comment for the first time.please write as much as you feel comfortable writing.it is such a pleasure to read detail orientated info and about such an interesting topic.i was wondering if he gave you any tips about smelling similar smells at the same time and getting an accurate perception of them.i was also wondering what he feels about CO2 extraction verses steam distilled oils.thanks again for all your time,effort and especially your detail : )

    • First, welcome to the blog, Flowergirlbee. 🙂 Second, I’m afraid he didn’t talk about any of those things that I recall. I would have been interested in his thoughts on them too. I suspect one reason why he focused primarily on the sort of distillation that he did and not on something like CO2 extraction or even other methods of extraction (ie, enfleurage) is that we had a very basic distillation of our own on the last day. Very basic, but enough to give one a sense of how it works. Plus, it’s the sort that he does for himself very often. The amazing Lemon #1 that we smelt was his own.

  16. It’s wonderful to read an account that is so exquisitely detailed!

    I especially enjoyed your introduction to materials and the importance of training your nose to discern differences in quality and types of extractions. Ylang is a perfect example and the types you described (Ylang I, Ylang II, etc.) also have to do with fractional distillation which yields extracts with different odor profiles. Ylang Ylang releases different constituents depending on the length of time it has been distilled. Eden Botanicals has a great description of this process. Personally, I love Ylang Absolute because its drydown is so mobile and complex, containing all of the volatile components.

    Can’t wait to read more!

    • Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing all that, Maggie. And I’m very happy that you’re enjoying the series.

  17. I, personally, can’t get enough from your “reports” – please, carry on. I sooo enjoy the descriptions of pure oils, still not blended into perfumes, that always fascinated me

  18. I read Parts I-III downloaded to a word doc on the Edinburgh-Beirut flight. I agree with Mr Java about a hard copy. Except, perhaps, in collaboration with AbdelSalaam a whole, published hard copy. A book. Of lived experience, philosophy, ethics, and knowledge. I am absolutely not minimizing the format of a blog at all, but to have this all, bound, with texture and images within hands, would be my request. That might solve the ‘how many parts’ business and satisfy all of us, even if it meant we had to wait…
    And bits in response: I can’t live without whatsapp with an internationally spread family
    Ambergris: yes yes yes. Might we have a review en bref of the scent you made for yourself?!
    On olfactory memories and suggested books: I tripped over and picked up a book of short stories from a competition that Guerlain had about the experience of scent.
    http://www.guerlain.com/fr/fr-fr/les-laureats-des-abeilles-de-guerlain-2015

    How’s Zola doing now that you’ve been back home together properly?
    Scotland was fabulous.the weather was a magnificent 15-18Celsius everyday with blue skies and fresh winds. I Returned with Penhaligons Ostara which evolved on me exactly as you described. I happen to like green, as you know, so the middle worked for me as much as the open and close. I also discovered Miller Harris’ Noix de Tubereuse and La Fumee while searching for Fleurs de Sel. Neither is a singular scent, but both were, to my nose, well made, lovely, with the kind of present yet close sillage that I tend to prefer. I also found a Dior Eau Sauvage at a ridiculously good price in Edinburgh airport and grabbed it in memory of my grandfather (the Dior mascara however was 10$ more expensive than anywhere else). And of major interest: Ataturk airport in Istanbul has the greatest collection of duty fee perfumes I have ever seen. They had every collection privée/exclusive: Givenchy, Lancôme, Dior, Chanel as well as harder to find scents like Xerjoff and discontinued scents. Every line had the whole collection out (all of Annick Goutal?!). It went for a mile of shelving. I sniffed the new Givenchy Immortelle Tribale (bitter chocolate with a tad of orange?). And finally finally grabbed Ambre Nuit for 90euros less than in Paris. Perhaps those planning Italy next year for the course could perhaps buy a ticket via Turkey? Lol
    Finally, perhaps, as this series continues, if you wouldn’t mind (or others here as well) posting where we might purchase online these good quality oils and building blocks (for the eventual organ we might consider getting made!). I know Aftelier sells them, and I wonder about other good sources for me to eventually get to experience how ‘easy’ it is to make my own scents in anticipation of the next post on blending. I think making perfumes is like other kinds of practical expertise. It is so much beyond the cognitive in embodied /experiential knowing that finding words for this either veer towards the philosophical (like quoting Aristotle or Polanyi on tacit knowing e.g. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/episteme-techne/) or making a top down list of principles or ‘to do’ which don’t work for everyone (as I note happened with you in blending requiring a different approach-looking forward to reading about that). Sometimes the ineffable and the aesthetic have no words for how they emerge in a time and place between people and elements. And yet, you’re doing such an amazing job of making that come to life. That’s my catchup and hello to you and the whole community. I hope it’s clear how much I too appreciate this body of work you continue to create and deepen and the multilingual dialogue that is cultivated and shared amongst all of us.

  19. I remember reading about Salaam’s portable perfume organ on his blog, and I love that you mention it here. It’s like the olfactory equivalent of the “field kit” of paints (I have a watercolor field kit) that artists take with them, and it’s rather cool to imagine Salaam making perfumes in this same spontaneous manner, whenever and wherever the inspiration strikes!

    This installment in your series is as splendid as the first two, Kafkaesque. Will look forward to reading this series to its conclusion, however many installments you choose to do.

  20. Pingback: BOIS 1920 La Vaniglia Rapturous Labdanum, Le Voluttuose part 2 |

  21. I am really enjoying your series and you taking your time to describe it all in such detail, Kafka ! Amazing and all THE information in THE comments. Will need Some to Digest it all. Talking about digesting, my oh my I loved your food photographs in part 2, especially THE cuddlefish and chickpeas and pizza’s. What an amazing trip !

  22. Pingback: AbdesSalaam Perfume Course - Part IV: How To Make Perfume - Kafkaesque

  23. Pingback: AbdesSalaam Perfume Course - Part VII: Final Topics & Thoughts - Kafkaesque

  24. Pingback: La Via Del Profumo: Ambers, Incense, Woods & Florals - Kafkaesque

Leave a reply. Discussion and respectful debate are encouraged. Polite disagreement is fine, but personal attacks will be subject to deletion.