LYFE chats with Md Abdullah Al Roman, an NPA qualified professional perfumer, to learn all about perfumery.
When When you meet someone for the first time, what is the first thing you notice about them? The way they talk, the way they dress, do they have an accent, or the way they smell? People have been using perfume since ancient times, and our culture associates fragrances with piety, religion, and even uses them for medicinal purposes.
The idea of Covid hangs over our heads like a forgotten enemy as we go through the endemic phase. I experienced a nightmare of fear that I would permanently lose my sense of smell after a positive test result. Luckily, my nose is now on the road to recovery (I’m about 75% right now).
My latest passion was the world of perfumery, so I decided to find a perfumer to ask him some questions.
The Perfume Lab and Academy (PLA) is located in the UKM-MTDC Technology Center in Bangui, in a quiet and secluded area surrounded by greenery.
There are reportedly more astronauts than perfumers in the world, and Abdullah Al Roman, an NPA Certified Professional Natural Perfumer, is one of them.
Just as different people are attracted to different styles, foods, and people, so are scents. We usually forget most of the visual information that bombards us day in and day out, but our memory and our sense of smell are intertwined due to the anatomy of our brain, which is why smells can trigger vivid memories.
Even before the baby is born, fetuses have already learned about their mother’s preferences and even emotions through the amniotic fluid, because the olfactory (olfactory) center of the brain is formed very early in fetal development.
Abdulla’s path into perfumery was accidental. Coming from a family that owned an oud distillery, he always paid attention to raw materials and it was the perfect environment to develop his love of perfumery.
He said: “Before PLA was founded, I was in Malaysia trying to find raw materials and understand the industry here, when I realized that most raw materials sellers in Malaysia don’t know much about the industry. I knew a lot of them were interested in learning more, so when I saw the need for perfumery education, I decided to start PLA with [co-founder Charmaine Lai].
“Although most of the raw materials for the perfume industry actually come from ASEAN countries, in these countries (including Malaysia) the industry has not grown due to a lack of knowledge. Before PLA was created, you had to travel all the way to Bangkok just to learn about perfume.
“To become a perfumer, you will need to familiarize yourself with thousands of natural oils and aromatic molecules. In total, this can amount to up to 4000-something raw materials, which are combined into 100-300 fragrances.
“Usually a bottle of luxury perfume is a combination of hundreds of ingredients, which explains their high price.”
Perfumes are created from natural oils, aromatic molecules, and animal-derived materials, and it takes two months to a year to perfect the formula. Depending on the season in which raw materials are harvested, or where they come from, extracting their scent can vary greatly.
When the raw materials come together, they create a perfume accord that is a balanced mixture of notes that lose their individual identity, creating a completely new, unified scent experience.
Abdullah always starts his creations with emotions or feelings as our sense of smell is deeply connected to our emotions.
PLA has perfume classes for people who want to learn more about creating fragrances. Most of the people who join their academy are amateurs and they currently run courses such as Introduction to Perfume Making and the 8 Days of Perfume Making basic class.
Abdullah and Charmaine Lai discovered during the class that much of the knowledge their self-taught students had learned from the Internet was wrong. Thanks to the academy, curious minds can now get the right platform to explore perfumery.
According to Lai, one of the problems with the Malaysian perfume industry is that Malaysia is dominated by “perfume-inspired spirit”. Perfume Inspired is a fragrance similar to a designer fragrance, but at a lower price.
Even though perfumes are not patentable under 35 USC 101, there isn’t much room for creativity for people if they simply follow the trend of creating inspired fragrances.
Aside from the ethical issue of copying fragrances, Lai also warns that since the perfume industry in Malaysia is unregulated, we should be aware of the dangers of counterfeit petroleum-based synthetic fragrances that are hitting the market. In these types of fakes, the chemicals they contain can include phthalates, which are endocrine disruptors, as well as benzophenone and styrene, which are carcinogens.
As for your signature scent, Abdullah advises you to try the scent on your skin rather than sniffing it on paper. Depending on our individual skin and body, fragrances smell differently from person to person, so you can’t judge a perfume just because it smelled good on someone else.
In addition, the smell also changes over time after it dries on your skin, and this is by design, since the perfumer creates fragrances based on their relative evaporation rate, and the changing nature of perfumes is due to different volatility. odor molecules.
When you spray or apply a fragrance, the first thing you feel is the combined effect of all the fragrances in the product. Then, as some of these odor molecules evaporate and others remain, the scent begins to change. In the end, you are left with the most persistent or least volatile of the scent molecules included in your perfume, and this final step is called drying.
This is where the idea of top, middle, and base notes in perfumery comes in. To be precise, the scent of a perfume is revealed in the following way: the top notes are what you feel when you first apply the perfume, and it is the result of mixing all the ingredients of the fragrance, which lasts only a few minutes.
Then, as the most volatile molecules of the fragrance evaporate, the middle notes emerge. This fragrance is considered the heart of the fragrance and lasts up to an hour. When the middle notes dissipate, the base notes come into play and this final fragrance is said to reveal the body of the perfume – its true fragrance.
However, the goal is not only to find it. Abdullah explains that, as a rule, perfume lovers choose fragrances depending on the time of day, mood or occasion. Perfume is like an accessory. Just like we have a closet full of clothes, we can wear different scents depending on how we feel and what emotions we are trying to evoke or how we want to present ourselves.
Some are fleeting, some are heavy, some remind you of someone, and some can be so overwhelming that they make you sick, but smells are all around us and are one of our most underrated senses. Now that we’ve been introduced to what perfume is, I hope this has given you more insight into our sense of smell and perhaps encouraged you to sniff deeper.