There is a clear parallel between music and perfumery, between olfactory and musical melodies, and we shall use this likeness in order to understand better the “why” and the “how” of olfactory education.
Just like music, perfumery is an art and even a major art, being entirely dedicated to one of our senses of perception, the sense of smell.
Why is perfumery not taught at school just like music or drawing?
Is perchance our sense of smell a minor sense of little importance?
Do we perhaps love perfumes less than other civilizations?
School programs offer to all the basis of musical education, teaching the seven notes of our musical scale.
Olfactory education is no less important and to be able to name the scents of lavender and rose is no less important than to be able to name the blue and the red of the color spectrum.
The program that we deisigned is very simple and can be reassumed in one phrase: "how to become a perfumer in 4 moves".
1 The Ability to Name Odors
In fact the basis of olfactory education is to be able to name the odors by their names, which is not as easy as it seems.
Our primordial sense of smell situated in our "reptilian brain" has little connection with the more evolved centers of language in our brain.
It is really surprising how often people, while smelling the absolute of coffee or the essence of lemon, smile over the bottle, recognizing only the happy memories associated with these familiar smells, without being able to give their names.
The basis and the first step of olfactory education consists in being able to name the scents that surround. With a special diffuser, we send perfumed wind to the students and teach them to recognize the names of simple smells like lavender, pine, lemon ecc…
2 Distinguishing the Components of a Perfume
The second step is to be able to distinguish the different components of a culinary creation or of the essences that compose simple blends such as orange cinnamon, rose lavender hay, ecc…
For this course we use the perfumed wind organ, which allows us to combine 10 different essences in all possible combinations.
3 Scent and Emotion Experiential Exercise
The third step of olfactory education is to develop the capacity to “listen to the soul” while smelling a fragrance, and to become aware of the emotions it produces and of the memories it awakens. The exercise of describing them by words sums up the method, because by wording one conceptualizes, and by conceptualizing one intellectually appropriates the experiences. For this course we use the diffuser “Cube” and familiar essences (lemon, mandarin, clove…) as well as totally new smells from other countries (vetyver, ylang ylang, patchouli…)
In this course one learns the basis of the very special language of perfumers, which permits the description of fragrances just as landscapes or scenes are described.
If you never heard the worlds “round” or “fresh” or “deep” while smelling such characteristic fragrances, how could you ever describe a perfume or any odor.
The didactical path of these first three steps of olfactory education is directly inspired from the Japanese Kodo, “the way of scent”, the Zen of olfaction.
4 Team Composition of a Perfume
In the fourth step the students are given a simple and practical perfumer’s kit for children, and they are teamed by two. Everyone will make a perfume for his companion, with the same method that we use in our perfumery courses.
At the end of this course every student will keep the bottle of his perfume.
A civilization produces musicians and musical culture only after its sons and daughters have received a musical education in their childhood.
Today, while the scents of nature essential to our psychological equilibrium are disappearing from our modern environment, chemical perfumes are omnipresent in our daily life, ice creams, soaps, cosmetics etc.
This has created a confusion in the later generations because their olfactory models of reference are those that industrial marketing have provided for their consumption, the cheapest petrochemical mass products.
Only an olfactory education can provide them with the knowledge necessary to apply criterions to the smells that surround them in order to judge their quality or to appreciate fully their beauty.