Fragrance brands

9 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About How Perfume Brands Create Their Scents

Like most people, I have path too many perfume bottles lining the top of my dresser. I vape different scents all the time and revel in my fragrance wardrobe – not really thinking about the amount of work that goes into creating a new scent. Of course, I have a vague knowledge of top notes and base notes. But when it comes to the perfumery process, it’s admittedly hard to imagine how, exactly, companies go about creating all the scents we love.

So to find out more, Bustle spoke to experts like Ann Gottlieb, who is the fragrance aficionado behind fragrance companies like Chopped, to understand how our beloved fragrances were born. “I’ve been working on the brand since its turnaround a number of years ago,” says Gottlieb. “I’m the middleman between the brand people at Ax and the fragrance houses, and I translate any image of a particular new fragrance into a fragrance.”

And that’s the beginning of the process — someone transforms an image into a perfume. It seems that perfumery does not only involve the science of combining perfumes, but also a touch of art and cultural awareness. If this piques your interest, read on to learn more about how perfume brands create their scents..

1. It’s an extremely intuitive process

Perfume manufacturers don’t just pay attention to the smell of their product, but also to the whole sensation that surrounds it. “It’s largely intuitive,” says Gottlieb. “A lot of it takes into account what’s happening in the fine fragrance market. What’s happening in the Ax portfolio. What’s working for him.” All of these factors are considered throughout the creative process.

2. The region is taken into consideration

Did you know that a perfume that sells well in America will not necessarily sell well in Europe? It turns out that the United States isn’t very adventurous when it comes to what we like, so companies tend to look to old standbys. “The United States is a much less experimental market than other places, so we tend to need a bit of security in every scent,” Gottlieb says. Our new fragrances often take notes from older fragrances that people love and can easily recognize.

3. There’s a lot of experimentation going on

When it comes to creating a new fragrance, there is a lot of experimentation going on. “I [look to] perfumes that I have worn over the past twenty years and [study] the notes used to create them,” says Sarah McDaniel Vanover, founder of silent beauty labs. “I love creating and experimenting. At the moment, I’m playing with flowers, breaking away from my usual woody and spicy references.”

4. And an incredible knowledge of notes

Perfumes have top notes (the ones you smell right after spraying), middle notes, and base notes (the ones that linger on your skin for hours). And to create a good perfume, it is essential to know how these notes will interact. “If you don’t know how each individual note plays with each other, you’ll get a soup instead of a fragrance,” Steve Johnson, fragrance sommelier for scented bird, says Bustle. “Each aroma in a perfume has real weight. Light citrus atoms weigh less physically than notes like oakmoss or patchouli, cinnamon or vanilla. So you need to create a perfume that will take advantage of the rate of evaporation of each note according to its weight, so that it is successful and fun.”

5. It’s often a team effort

When Gottlieb is in the process of creating a fragrance, she works with a team of people from the fragrance company to figure out what works. “I do a lot of work and I bring them and they analyze and study everything, they tell me what they like, what they don’t like, [and then we] decide how to fix it,” she says.

6. Dozens of changes are made

That scent you love probably didn’t appear on the first try, or even on the 40th. A recent Ax fragrance called YOU, for example, went through 43 different changes. “We’re going to start, probably, working on a dozen different scents and as the process goes on, we’re weeding them out and weeding them out until we have the scent that we love the most,” says Gottlieb. “And then that is further refined.

7. The process takes longer than you think

From start to finish, a new fragrance often takes four to six months. “And it will scare you how many versions [of each scent there are]”, says Gottlieb. “I would say that between the perfume houses and me, the work that I see, [there are probably] a thousand. It’s a very thorough process.”

8. Music is played for inspiration

Do you remember what I said about creating an image? To inspire the look and feel of this fragrance, perfumers often work in a creative atmosphere. “Our fragrances are created by choosing a mood or a feeling,” says D. Dandie, COO at Skindew All Natural Luxury Skincare. “Music plays a big role, so [we’re always putting] the shuffle playlist and “find the feeling”.

9. Companies typically create two fragrances a year

Small independent perfumers often create new fragrances on their own, and some release quite a few new fragrances per year. But big design companies usually opt for two. “Especially if the new fragrance is what they call a ‘flanker’ – or a fragrance sequel to another famous fragrance,” says Johnson.

So interesting, don’t you think? Who knew so much to create the fragrances we love.

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