Composing a natural fragrance is a totally different approach from “writing” a synthetic one.
It is important to understand that a natural perfume is constructed not just with odours by using the nose, but with smells that have a meaning in the olfactory language, following an idea.
The perfumer who uses natural materials is handling olfactory archetypes. Smells are manifestations of the archetypes from which they originate and which they represent. For example pine scent is the olfactory archetype of all trees, rose of flowers and cinnamon of spices. Each of these odours belongs to our lives and has been recorded in our olfactory memory in association to emotions that we have experienced or inherited congenitally from our ancestors.
Natural ingredients are the real archetype, unlike the synthetic surrogates or imitations, they have the maximum emotional impact. In literature, with human archetypes such hugely different works as the Odyssey, The Little Prince or The old man and the sea can be written, but in all cases, it is necessary to build a very simplified structure for the story, which must remain visible from the beginning to the end. It would be like writing the story of a person’s life. The structure of the story is simple “he was born, he lived, he died”. It is always the same story. All the rest are details, 60 years of events, an entire life, are just the context, in which the structure is understood. If we lose sight of the structure, which is the tragedy of life and death, of human greatness and misery, then we shall see only the context and the story will be without meaning , just confused and confusing. In “writing” a natural perfume, where the notes themselves are so much more complex than the single molecules used in synthetic perfumery, and are so laden with evocative power, the first error to avoid absolutely is to drown the main accord in details until they hide the structure.
The worst thing of all would be to start without a clear idea, that is without a main accord and without a structure. The structure of a natural fragrance can be an accord of 2 or 3 essences, or can even be a single one, but it should be understood that the simplest natural fragrance will always consist of a larger number of aromatic molecules than any commercial perfume made with synthetic single molecules.
This complexity inherent to natural materials makes it necessary to pay a major attention to discipline in their composition. The presence of each ingredient must make a sense in the realm of olfactory archetypes because its odour will participate in the story we want to write, in the idea we want to manifest. Otherwise we shall make an incoherent soup, very nutritious certainly, but unattractive except to a very hungry person. Simplification, purification, structuration, not losing sight of the original idea, not cheating truth to please the ignorant, and finally knowing when it is time to stop the perfume. That is when you are satisfied that it is good. This is the method.
Method means discipline and discipline must necessarily preside to the composition of a natural perfume, else inspiration will be misled. In the same way life is like composing a perfume, without inner discipline presiding to one’s life, our aspirations will be misled.