Another perfumed year: 2020 retrospective

This one is a bit counterintuitive, because if not for numbers on a calendar, we would be in a continuum and not a clear divide between what we want to leave behind and what we want to embrace. However, it is what it is, and all things considered, I have a lot for which to be grateful, and I am.

My “perfumed resolution” for 2020 was to learn some perfume chemistry, and as I didn’t specify how much, I could say I accomplished it. I read and took notes on (somewhat outdated) textbooks that detailed chemical reactions and some inner workings of the perfume industry, and must admit it was much easier to comprehend the latter. I don’t think I learned enough “to be dangerous”—instead, I take great comfort in what Christophe Laudamiel said early on (around the 10-minute mark) in an interview with Jo Fairley from The Perfume Society this year:

To become a perfumer, you don’t have to be a chemist. So let’s put that one… to rest. [If] you’re a musician, you don’t have to know electronics or physics… you don’t have to be a sound engineer to be a musician. But if you’re also a sound engineer, you can start doing some other effects, okay, or you can have some different kinds of collaborations. If you know nothing about electronics, then you do other kinds of collaborations. At the end, if you do things, the point is to do things. So it’s exactly the same in perfumery.

No sniffing tours to report on, obviously, but I was glad to be able to visit the Twisted Lily boutique in Brooklyn for the first and last time in January before it closed. The online store is still open.

I read several books this year by respected (and very engaging!) voices in perfumery: Mandy Aftel, Neil Chapman, Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez, and Jean-Claude Ellena (translated from French), and look forward to more next year—such as this Perfume Directory co-authored by Sarah McCartney and Samantha Scriven!

Not to mention savoring countless blog posts that opened my eyes to perfumes and brands I would not otherwise have known about. It has been a joy to start not only reading and writing posts but also being able to chat with and get to know, via this medium, many wonderful people who are both knowledgeable and generous in spirit.

I think I’ve gotten to know some aroma materials better, too, and gotten better at gauging how much of each should go into a blend. These improvements have come from practice and consulting the materials’ data sheets and/or databases, rather than from any knowledge of carbon rings and alcohol groups.

Now that the learning curve has become less steep, the next year should be about refining.

May we all find more peace and stability in 2021.

It’s been a long December and there’s reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last

—Counting Crows, “A Long December” (1996)

2 thoughts on “Another perfumed year: 2020 retrospective

  1. These are strange times indeed. The mark (my phone spellcheck insisted on a capital M, which is strange since I don’t know a single person by that name, so there’s no address book entry, and I haven’t used it in text messages; but I digress) on the calendar has passed, and we’re back to our, less and less likely temporarily, “new normal.” As well I can embrace it.

    Reading about others’ accomplishments strangely motivates me recently. If I ever go back to reading not work-related books, I should read some of the perfume-centric books. I’ll leave perfume chemistry and experimenting to you, but I promise I’ll be reading about them if you write (though, I might be catching up a week or so later 🙂 ).

    I understand that you didn’t want to include non-perfume stuff into this post, but I’m curious: are you still playing your instrument?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Same here—reading about what others have achieved reminds me to get out of my own rut sometimes! As for the ukulele, I kind of forgot about it for a while when things got busier, but would like to pick it back up again.


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