In setting up Olentium, I do extensive research behind the scenes on fragrances, from the history of scent to history in the making as new fragrance market trends, houses and ‘noses’ emerge. This epic post is a round-up of my favourite and most useful perfume resources and courses for anyone interested in indulging their passion for perfume.
Scent plays a major, sensory role in Olentium, and our name loosely translate from Latin as ‘of scent, odor and smell’. In our range, designed to benefit skin, self and soul, we use natural, nature-identical and near-natural fragrances from essential oils, macerates and tinctures to CO2 extracts, absolutes and concretes; the latter terms are in-house jargon in the perfumery industry for various extraction methods. We also occasionally use some natural-snythetic blends if they prove to be more sustainable options, or less harmful to skin such as oils that are free of the EU’s list of 26 allergens.
I read widely on both natural, near-natural and synthetic scents. Perfume brands, blogs, books and businesses all come on my radar. So, for die-hard perfume lovers out there, I’ve listed my favourite perfume resources and places to hang out with both newbie and pro perfumistas.
For those of you thinking of setting up an artisan skincare or perfumery business yourself, I’ve also added a section with useful, mostly freebie tools to help get your budding business out there whether you’re a perfume or beauty blogger (which as you’ll see from the blog list below, can be a day job too!) or a start-up in skincare. If you’re training your nose, look at the online, self-study perfumery courses and schools; no need to spend a fortune to study in Grasse.
I know just how hard it is to venture into a beauty industry dominated by major brands and heavy weights, so I am happy to share the resources I’ve found super helpful. Let me know of any others you’ve come across that I can add to this list. The list is alphabetical and not in a priority order. Here goes on my long low-down on perfume resource and courses! Feel free to let me know of more ace resources to add.
Update 2021: Of course, with the pandemic, many live courses have paused and some gone online. I will be updating this post to include new, online resources I’ve come across.
Perfume Resources and Courses
Learning about Perfume
Basenotes – a brilliant, independent portal on all things perfume, with a wealth of articles and an active, helpful community. Sign up free to become a member and learn lots! A latest article is worth a look:’ 500 Greatest Modern Perfumes’ which celebrated Basenotes’ 15th birthday. See also the Twitter of its founder: @GrantOsborne .
Fragrantica – my go-to place to learn about any fragrance (especially before I purchase!). Fragrantica is a massive encylopaedia of perfumes and the factual blurb about perfumes is amplified with a masses chain of community comments. A first place to go when you want to have a low-down on a perfume and delve behind the brand advertising. Invaluable! Free sign up to join the melee’ of opinions.
Perfumer’s Corner – a good starter resource section on the perfumery supplier Perfumer’s Apprentice website. The online shop offers start-up and hobbyist perfumers the option to buy very small quantities of oils and fragrances, which is vital if you are on a budget and experimenting.
The Fragrance Foundation – an industry body so expect glitz and big names from the world’s noses and companies. The site has useful ‘intelligence’ (articles & interviews) and a good glossary of perfumery terms. A place to go at least once a month to keep abreast of trends, launches and celebrity perfumes / perfumers.
The Perfume Society – Billed as the word’s first perfume appreciation society, this site has a lot to keep busy. The site was started by heavy weights in the media, beauty and brand sectors Josephine Fairley and Lorna Mackay, who also authored ‘The Perfume Bible’. The Perfume Society is about community, learning, sharing and giving (they do a free ‘Perfume Discovery Box’ if you sign up for VIP membership). There’s much to keep the non member happy, from Fr.ed (Fragrance Editor, which helps you find your next best fragrance) to their extensive section Explore Perfume which runs through houses, noses, ingredients, fragrance families and more. They produce a monthly digi-mag ‘The Scented Letter’ which has a medley of readable and resourceful articles. Something to please most of us. If you can, join in its live events (mostly UK and London environs) but if you’re further afield, The Perfume Society encourages you to start a local perfume appreciation group of your own.
Yahoo Groups – There are several worth joining on perfume making spanning natural perfumery to soap-making and just about every aspect of the beauty, health, natural skincare interests you can imagine. Worth hanging out in even if just to go over the numerous forum queries that prove a treasure chest of resource link and info.
Perfume Retailers (high street & online)
Bloom Perfumery – a delightful outlet or rather two outlets – one just off Covent Garden, the other in Shoreditch – which has excellent, unsnooty service and does a very useful, quick online samples service.
Les Senteurs – this is London’s oldest independent perfumery, est. 1984. It offers an intriguing list of new niche brands and also has a very useful and unique Senteursystem which groups fragrances by their type and family. This helps you to find another scent based on what you have previously enjoyed. The website therefore does more than just retail; it’s a good way to help you learn the families and thanks to its reliable online samples service you can trial out what you’ve selected. Les Senteurs, just off Marylebone, also hosts events and courses, such as those by perfumery trainer and industry specialist Karen Gilbert.
Floris – a perfumer with a veritable heritage having started life in 1730. I love the historical references and style of the site. Only Floris perfumes but a real treat if you happen to be in Jermyn Street with time to browse. This is a retailer with royal connections going back centuries.
Ormonde Jayne is in Bond Street’s Royal Arcade and is all severe, classy black and gold. Its design belies quite humble and ‘by chance’ origins as founder perfumer Linda started out in her career in scent selling flowers outside her parents’ Cheshire home. Travel and a constant love of all things fragrant saw her go from scented candles to Bond Street over 14 years. Ormande Jayne now boasts a long list of weird and wonderful capitals around the world on its stockists’ list.
Roullier White – UK’s largest stockist of rare breed fine fragrances. Online store and from their shop tucked away in south-east London. They sell only niche and artisan brands.
Bond Nr 9 – Bleeker Street, NYC – I can’t believe I walked past this gem of a perfumery three times while in NY earlier this year! I put it down to being with my men and needing to find a famous pizzeria on the same street. I also think the sales assistant thrusting Bond’s cupcake style candle (or soap?) into our faces as we marched past tended to put me off going inside. But sales tactics aside, Bond Nr 9 is an iconic, niche perfumery dedicated to its home city NYC. I will now have to wait five years most likely to darken its doors and hopefully without my men in tow so I can linger and lap up its delicious range of eponymous Bond Nr 9 scents. Ah well, one reason to go back to the Big Apple!
Twisted Lilly – another perfumista haunt, this time on Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn and the place to while away a Saturday morning if you’re on the subway’s M line. Twisted Lilly, unlike Bond Nr9, offers numerous brands and is more a gem perfumery in which to browse, test and trial in, hassle free. It does international shipping and its samples postage rates seem reasonable. Sadly, no shipping to Malta so another reason to head back to NYC sometime soon I think!
Artisan, Niche Perfume Brands
Papillon Perfumery – Set up by animal lover and aromatherapist Liz Moores in deep in the UK’s New Forest, Papillon is making waves in the perfumery world only after around 15 months on the scene. Their newest launch, Salome’, has had some rave reviews as a ‘filthy’ (as some describe it) seductive scent. What I love about Liz (from reading about her), is her no-nonsense approach, hard work (she was working for years making home-brew perfumes before hitting it big), and her insights into how to make and market niche perfumes. See her long interview behind the scenes of her brand at another perfume blog I love here.
Tauer Perfumes – I mentioned Andy Tauer’s blog already, but Andy has to come in this list too. He’s a man who’s inspired many a start-up perfumer and deservedly so. Unlike Liz, Andy did have a chemistry background, but his rise to leading niche perfumer is all his own making and no without its trials.
See also some fabulous all-natural brands like:
Perfumery Kits & Supplies
Neal’s Yard Remedies – beloved retailer of aromatherapists for several decades now, Neal’s Yard Remedies is a household name and certainly a high street one in the UK. It has long pioneered natural and organic ingredients and retails online a wide range of essential oils, kits and apparatus ideal for the perfumer. Neal’s Yard offers courses; mainly at locations in the UK, events in its stores and also some online courses at foundation / beginner level.
Perfumers Apprentice – a US supplier that is as an ideal starting point for the start-up and experimental newcomer to perfumery as to those buying larger quantities of serious natural and synthetic fragrances or essential oils. It ships efficiently and in small amounts – micro amounts even – so has plenty to offer the newbie perfumer. The description of fragrances, the various ways it categorises them and its helpful resource area are invaluable.
Perfumers World – run by a chemist and British expat in Thailand, Perfumers World has a good range of perfumery kits for the novice and more advanced formulator. It also offers single fragrances and other equipment to get you started. The Students Raw Material kits is $873.59 but you can get started with the ABC kit from as little as $229.95. The site also offers courses online and at locations, mainly but not exclusively in Thailand.