May perfume workshop report

As you know last Saturday I went to Wrocław to participate in a perfume workshop, this time decidated to the smell of rose and jasmine. I had a great time there. I promised you a report – so here it is! I hope that you’ll enjoy my impressions from the meeting.

The workshop started with a lecture given by Ania, a worker of Quality Missala perfume boutique and also a chemical technology graduate. She told us some fascinating things about roses and jasmine. Like the fact that only three species of rose are being used in perfumery: Damascus rose (Rosa damascena), Rose alba and Rosa centifolia, which has 100 petals. She also taught us that in different parts of the world rose oils are used for different perfumes. Did you know that that in the East rose is a masculine perfume ingredient while in the West it’s primarily used in women fragrances. Nowadays these two trends are mixed, we’re citizens of the World, aren’t we?

As she was speaking about all this interesting stuff the essential oils were roaming from hands to hands around the room. To my surprise they smelled quite different. Damascus rose oil had a slightly citrus and green vibe with a lot of freshness. Attar of the same rose had a tea-like aroma and was much lighter to my nose. I couldn’t smell anything at first whiff. The differences probably come from the method of obtaining. Oils, or actually absolutes are obtained using solvent extraction or carbon dioxide extraction. Attars are obtained through simple distillation. To obtain 1 kilogram of rose oil you need 3,5 tons of flowers which are picked by hand and at dawn.

Then it was time for the jasmine. In perfumery two species are used nowadays, these are Jasminum grandifolium (Royal jasmine) and Jasminum Sambac (Sambac jasmine). Again the essential oils started to travel around the room. To my nose the oil from Royal jasmine smelled quite animalic and heavily indolic, Sambac jasmine essence was much more pleasant as it had a fruity-floral scent. Jasmine loves sunlight and temperature varying from 15 to 18*C. Its flowers bloom in the evening and have to be collected early in the morning when their buds are still folded and it’s still cool.

You can’t allow the sun to dry the petals and cause all aroma-chemicals to evaporate. The smell of jasmine is influenced by around 100 compounds. Jasmine flowers give an oil called concrete which can be turned into an absolute. Enfleurage is a historical method of absolute production, it was developed in Grasse. The main idea of enfleurage was to let the flowers transfer all their smell into the fat spread on a glass plate. Infused fat was later dissolved in alcohol and cooled down to -55*C to separate the fat. Nowadays the process is replaced by solvent extraction. To obtain 100 grams of concrete you need 100 kilograms of flowers. From 1 hectare plantation you can produce 3 kilograms of concrete or 0,5 ml of essential oil – that is 12 drops.

At the workshop we tried 20 different perfumes, one half with a dominant rose note and the other half with jasmine as a main player. There were also a couple of fragrances that contained both jasmine and rose accords. I had a great time and am looking forward to another workshop!

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34 thoughts on “May perfume workshop report

  1. jilliecat says:

    Thank you, Lucas, this is so interesting. I have always wondered what the difference is between jasminum grandiflorum and sambac, and now I know – I prefer sambac. All those beautiful perfumes on display make my mouth water, and I wish I could have been there too, as it sounds like my idea of heaven, especially being able to meet like-minded people. And how good it is to see a picture of you – and almost exactly how I imagined you! What a brilliant day.

    • lucasai says:

      It was a great lesson learned during this workshop. I think I prefer jasminum sambac as well. Yes, when I saw Ania collecting all these perfume from the shelves and putting them on the table next to her I got pretty excited. I’m sure you’d have lots of fun with me/us.
      It’s the first time I show myself on the blog, glad you liked the picture and that you’re not disappointed by what you saw.

  2. Jordan River says:

    Lots of learning here for you and for us. Thanks for sharing this.

  3. brie says:

    i am so jealous :D!!! Lucky you…this sounds like a wonderful workshop that I too would have enjoyed attending…and I adore that picture of you…always nice to put a face to a name! Hope that you get to attend more of these workshops in the future and that you report back to us!

  4. poodle says:

    So, out of those 20 perfumes you sniffed were there any that you fell in love with?
    It sounds like it was a really interesting workshop. Thanks for sharing.

    • lucasai says:

      I really liked 3 Fleurs from Parfum d’Empire, which I didn’t try earlier (despite the fact Pd’E is one of my favourite perfume houses)
      There were a few I knew already so I shied away from Seville a l’Aube 😛

  5. That sounds like so much fun. Interesting how the rose is interpreted for use. Now I’m glad that I like my rose perfumes…I feel so international 🙂

  6. Lilybelle says:

    Lucas, that is so interesting! I would dearly love to visit Grasse. Have you been there? There is a brand of rosewater that I enjoy, Alteya, that is made in Bulgaria (Rosa Damascena). Their site tells how the rosewater is obtained. I’ve always found that fascinating. Looks like you enjoyed your workshop. 🙂

  7. Kevin says:

    Great report! Thanks for sharing your experience, I really enjoyed reading it!

  8. rictor07 says:

    That is a lot of scents to take in at once. I guess you probably dont wear perfume to an event like this. Man, there hasnt been a day i havent worn cologne in years! Seems like you had a blast. Hope you got Ania’s phone number while you were there 😉

    • lucasai says:

      Yup, 20 is a lot but it’s not a problem, our noses got trained. I think all perfumistas can smell more perfume one after another than a person that is not into perfume.

      Don’t have her number but we’re in the email contact

  9. Undina says:

    Lucas, you need to take some courses from Kafka on how to write longer reports! 🙂 This one was interesting but felt too short.

    Did you do anything other than listening to the lecture and smelling oils and perfumes? Were there any discussions/comparisons/etc.? Which perfumes were in each group? Did you know which type of rose or jasmine was used in each and could you smell the difference? Did you have only perfumes featuring real rose or artificial substitutions? The same for jasmine.

    I can come up with more questions but I think you’ve got the idea 😉

    • lucasai says:

      Haha! I feel weird when a longer post shall be written, I’m always afraid that it will turn out so detailed that it will be boring. But I’ll note that and write at least one more paragraph next time.

      We only smelled the perfumes and oils. The time was limited as Ania and the Missala ownders had to return to Warsaw from Wrocław at a reasonable hour. Next time I will list the perfume we tried (few of then can be deciphered from the picture with strips)

    • Kafkaesque says:

      I just CHOKED at the “courses from Kafka on how to write longer reports!” And my coffee went everywhere. Hahahaha, my God, I think that would probably horrify and alarm most of his regular readers. *grin* I think they’re all probably thankful that his posts are not like a treatise. Heheheh.

      That said, I agree, I wanted more, more, more! What a truly fascinating account.

      • lucasai says:

        Oh no, your coffee went everywhere again, it’s even on my keyboard ;P
        They would be very surprised to read a post by me which would have a lenght of your writing pieces.

        Will write more at the occasion of next perfume workshop.

        • Kafkaesque says:

          Let’s have a Part II instead! I’m sure there are some details that you didn’t get to cover in this session. Perhaps something on the issue of how roses and jasmine interact together, what they do to make sure that the power of the rose note doesn’t overwhelm that of the jasmine, or fragrances that you tried and loved that had both? 🙂

          • lucasai says:

            Unfortunately we didn’t discuss such details as how to harmonize jasmine and rose in one perfume. The only thing that is actually left are the lists of perfume we tried and eventual likes and dislikes among them.

      • Undina says:

        Dear, you don’t think that you can teach anybody to repeat your heroism of citing ten different sources and gathering all pedigree on each aspect of the matter? 😉 But I thought that getting some guidelines from you might brush off on Lucas’s laconic style.

        • lucasai says:

          I’m always amazed when Kafka lists all the sources (all over the world) where to get a sample or a bottle of a fragrance she reviewed.
          I’m used to writing in laconic style, Polish schools don’t like pupils writing fairytales, they prefer the essence

  10. Kafkaesque says:

    I loved every bit of this and would gladly have read something double its length. (I hope you’ll consider perhaps doing a Part II on this one.) You have a very unique gift of making technical details seem very approachable, understandable and easy. How fascinating all the differences between the various types of rose or jasmine notes. I always thought that Jasmine Sambac smelled muskier and deeper than regular jasmine, not quite as fresh, sparkling and fruity — so now I am obsessed with smelling the type of Jasmine (the Royal) which makes the *Sambac* seem fruity in comparison!! Wow, I bet it’s glorious.

    I’ve been to Grasse and it is indeed a glorious, glorious place. The part about the enfleurage made me think of Suskind’s fantastic book, Perfume (though obviously, the process has been established for ages before he ever wrote it). I hope that, one day, you get the chance to go there. I think Grasse would be like Mecca for you.

    As for the rest of the workshop, as it sounds like a hugely fun day. And the photo of you with Ania is great; she’s adorable and as cute as a button.

    • lucasai says:

      I’m happy to hear that. There will be probably no part II this time (don’t have more photos to show). Thank you. I just try to explain everything in easy way so that everyone understands it. These are just my perception of Royal and Sambac Jasmine, impressions of others might be quite different, it’s all in your nose (and head).

      I’m jealous for your trip to Grasse. I’m sore you’re right about the Mecca thing. Anyplace tightly close to perfumery is a perfect place for me to visit. A student doesn’t travel much, but there’s plenty of time to go there in the future.

      Yeah, the day was entertaining and full of laughing. Glad you liked the photo. I’ve been a little bit *stressed* showing myself for the 1st time on the blog.

  11. lorraine says:

    Great pictures – I wish there were more! It sounds like it was a fascinating day.

    • lucasai says:

      I didn’t take much pictures as the day was rainy and the lightening was poor, so most of the pictures I took very blurry, even with a flash.

  12. laniersmith says:

    This is just an amazing report. I learned so much from your post and I am thankful for it. I am just floored by the huge amount of Jasmine you need to get those 12 drops!

  13. hajusuuri says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience, dear Lucas…and I loved the pictures too! I am glad you posted one with you in it…it’s nice to associate a name with a face, says yours truly who insists on “hajusuuri” publicly 😉

    I know different species of roses yield different rose aromas but I never knew only 3 species are used in perfumery!

    • lucasai says:

      Thank you! Glad you liked the pictures, including the one of me. No problem, I understand why you want to be a “Hajusuuri” online 😉
      I think more species of roses are used, but these are the 3 most popular ones

  14. What an interesting workshop! Thank you, dear Lucas, for sharing what you learned. Always so interesting to know more about the building blocks of perfumery, so to speak.

    Also nice to finally put a name to the face 🙂

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