I am the author of Essence and Alchemy: A Natural History of Perfume, which won the 2001 Sense of Smell Institute's Richard B. Solomon Award. It continues to be translated and published around the world and is considered a cornerstone of modern natural perfume. I have developed my own line of liquid and solid perfumes, face, bath, and body products: Aftelier Perfumes. I co-wrote Aroma, a cookbook about using essential oils, and my line of Aftelier Chef’s Essences are used at Michelin-starred restaurants. I was recognized in Perfumer and Flavorist on their “it-list” of perfumers, chosen on Basenotes as one of the 25 most influential people in perfume, and named by Forbes as one of the top seven bespoke perfumers in the world.
Over the last 20 years of teaching hundreds of students, I developed the following format for studying how to create beautiful natural perfume:
Level 1 Workbook: independent-study, doing blending exercises with up to 6 essences in oil, completed before any in-studio classes.
In-Studio Classes: 3-day studio sessions in Berkeley, CA, hands-on blending with at least 9 essences in alcohol. This course of study is geared toward anyone interested in learning how to create beautiful natural perfumes, providing you with three things that you need in order to be a good perfumer:
- a thorough understanding of the perfume essences.
- the right way of thinking about perfume structure.
- the ability to edit and revise your own creations.
Advanced Workbook: Can be used before or between in-studio class sessions, it has exercises covering a very wide range of essences, how to choose specific ones, and the way they can lock with or bury each other.
The initial portion of this learning is done independently, using the Level 1 Workbook to incrementally build your knowledge and skills, working with up to 6 essences blended in oil. After studying the fundamental building blocks on your own, you can come study in person at the small group class I teach in my studio here in Berkeley, where you will start working with 9 essences blended in alcohol. This level of instruction can’t be done remotely – I need to see how you interact with the materials, and spend some time 1-on-1 (the class size is very small). Besides learning about the structure of natural perfume, you will learn the process of “learning to learn.” In the small group environment of the class, you will see many cycles of identifying and fixing design problems in creating perfume formulas, which increases your ability to analyze and improve your fragrances. This is a key step in learning how to critique your perfume formulas. It is very important to understand what contributes to the essences burying or locking with each other; both effects can have either a positive or negative outcome in a perfume blend.
The class fee of $2,000 covers all materials, including the essences used. The topics include:
- filler & accessory notes
- natural isolates
- burying & locking
- using different forms of particular ingredients (absolute, concrete, extra, etc.)
- why top notes are so difficult
- final perfume = total lock
- scaling up your formulas using the Aftelier drop chart
- for returning students, at your second class, you will get the content & format for you to teach a beginning solid perfume class of your own
At the studio classes, I work directly with each student in making liquid perfumes. In the mornings, I lecture about specific essences and their unique capacities in a perfume, and we do some odor studies as a group. In the afternoons, students work on a specific perfume construction, sometimes based on the morning lectures, or sometimes dealing with a specific type of perfume, like a floral-floral, or a chypre. After each student has created a perfume, I constructively criticize the results, pointing to where the flaws are, and as importantly how to fix them. We evaluate the results again after the students have revised and remade the perfumes according. Examining the details of these very specific examples illustrates the broader general concepts, which improves each student’s ability to create beautiful perfumes.
Each student makes at least 5 perfumes to take home, but the goal is not to make great perfumes in class. The goal is for you to learn to critique your own designs, finding and fixing the flaws in your formulas. Every time you create a new perfume, there will always be new design problems. Learning natural perfumery with me is like studying painting at an art studio; my teaching focus is solely on the aesthetics, not on weights, scales, specific gravity, or how to run a business.