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Smelly Libraries

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Iíve been perfume blogging for 5 years now. I think that makes me either first or at least second generation. Iíve been through all the stages of perfumistahood, and the Jaded Stage was the worst. Would I finally give up my great love, perfume? Did IFRA kill it? Did Sephora? Nah, I went DIY. I went Nerd.

I started a scent library and grew smelly plants, and after that went on for a couple of years, I started to make my own tinctures and perfumes. ACK! I heard that at some sort of professional symposium in Paris last year (Were they snooty? Were they French?), that DIYers were derided as the scum of the perfumed earth. Iím OK with that. Iím having fun.

Whatís a scent library? How do you make one? How can you, dear reader, DIY? Or, confess, are you there already, skulking about the periphery of Perfume World, growing and making fragrant things for your family and friends? (Yeah, and some stinkeroos, too, thatís part of the fun.)

I know thereís someone out there whoís quietly growing a Corpse Flower, Amorphophallus titanum, in their backyardÖ.and itís not me, I swear, but only because I donít have access to a parent plant. Donít you want to tell people at parties that you grow Amorphophalli in your backyard?? I do.

Today Iím going to write about scent libraries. In our world, weíre always talking lists of notes. Top notes, heart notes, base notes. So learning the notes is a bit like increasing your writerís vocabulary. Itís a good idea to know what each note means, and, for the most common, whatís the difference between natural and synthetic versions. How many of us have sniffed a ďpeonyĒ perfume to find it smells nothing at all like a living peony? Ditto real oakmoss and Verymoss. Both delightful, but they wouldnít have much in common if they met for lunch.

Fortunately, it doesnít cost much to set up a good, basic library. There are kits out there, of course, but you can build your own for less-and have more adventures. You can start by dividing your prospective purchases into favorite basenotes, heart notes, and top notes. For example, your first wish list might look like this:
1. Base-benzoin, patchouli, oakmoss
2. Heart- jasmine, rose, frankincense
3. Top- mint, verveine, mandarin

So that is the core of your newly born scent library. I recommend buying at least 1/8 oz. (about 4ml) of each substance so you have enough to play with. For rose, this will cost a bit, but for something like a mint or lemon, you might go ahead and just buy Ĺ oz. or more, as itís cheap and wonít be sold in smaller quantitites.

Donít ignore the synthetics, they are crucial for understanding modern perfumery. Iíd recommend a few white musks, Ebanol or Javanol, some Ambroxan, and Iso E Super. They are ubiquitous. The strong may opt for a few aldehydes, but beware, they can overpower the rest of your library no matter how you seal them!

Here are some sources that Iíve used over the years and can recommend. I donít receive anything free or fun from them for putting them on this list, but I wish I did.
Eden Botanicals (naturals)
Liberty Natural (naturals and raw botanicals)
Perfumerís Apprentice (naturals and sythetics)
White Lotus Aromatics (naturals)
For storage, I like sturdy portability. The cases that Iíve been most happy with are from Butterfly Express, theyíre made in the US, and extremely strong. Again, I get no kickbacks, Iím just a happy customer.

Iíve also seen models where the bottles fit upright into foam slots that fit into boxes, so Iíd encourage you to think through how you store and use the bottles, then find the best storage for your actual usage. Make sure that when stored, you can see the label. Itís always best to alphabetize!



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