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DAY 1 – The first day was everything I had hoped it would be. Great conversations about the raw materials used in perfumery with a knowledgeable teacher and a group of like minded students from many different backgrounds and experience, from many places in the world (Hong Kong, Japan, India, Italy, Oslo, England and of course myself from Canada). Although I am the oldest in the class I learn that many of the classes have students of my age, but it just happens that this one does not. I feel like I am back in college, it’s great.

Our instructor Laurence Fauvel, a perfumer herself, leads us into the overview discussion of the course and what to expect in the weeks ahead, the basics of perfumery, extraction methods of obtaining raw materials, dilutions, creating accords, and some general discussion of the industry that is sectioned into three basic departments, Alcohol (perfumery), Cosmetic, and Household.

Following the morning break we begin immediately with evaluating natural raw materials. Laurence hands out individual smelling strips of Indian Sandalwood, Italian Lemon, Tunisian Neroli, Rose and Lavender in 10% dilution. We begin to evaluate what we smell; finding words to describe what we are experiencing, (woody, soft, creamy, sparkling, fresh, green, acidic, floral, etc.). It is always interesting what others smell and how they describe the experience, a little different for everyone, but it is the similarities that we hang onto as the general descriptors of each material.

We discuss cost of the material per kilo, its blending opportunities and characteristics with other materials, some of the most prevalent chemical components and where it has proven to work well and of course whether it is a top, middle or base note. We also discuss what perfume is representative of the individual materials; where an “overdose” has been used that best exemplifies the individual material.

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The discussion continues around natural essential oils and absolutes until we head off in two cars for a wonderful lunch in the centre of the old town of Grasse. (OH!!!… the cream sauce on the fish was amazing).

Returning back to the school with full stomachs, we begin again with more materials and more evaluating; Jasmine Clove, Peppermint, Frankincense, and Cedar wood. We also do some comparison of similar materials, Neroli and Petite grain, Lavender and Lavandin grosso (with its added Spike), Lemon and Bergamot, Rose de Mai Absolute and Rose Turkish Oil, Sandalwood and Cedar wood.

Later in the afternoon Laurence gives us the opportunity to explore a few of the synthetics that occur in the naturals we have just smelled.

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What a fantastic day! I depart with my head spinning and my nose full.

Tomorrow… more of the same…..

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