Natural Perfumery - A Fragrant Evolution for Aromatherapy
by Anya McCoy
Update: The author of this article, Anya McCoy, has begun teaching an online
course in natural perfumery that is found at http://perfumeclasses.com
The term “Natural Perfume” was relatively obscure more than five years ago.
Many people, myself included, say we have been natural perfumers for years. But
really, we were mostly amateurs, happily mixing simple blends, often cribbed from
aromatherapy books, with our own preferences dropped in. Then there was a
change in consciousness, and many decided that they really wanted to learn how
to blend, and they wanted to define themselves as separate from mainstream
perfumery, the stuff of department store choking clouds and allergic reactions. So,
the term Natural Perfumery, like a synchronistic “click” in many scent-lovers
heads, became the way in which we define what we do.
In the 1800’s, before the discovery of synthetics that would change perfumery
forever, natural perfumery did exist; it just wasn’t called that. The perfumers were
just perfumers. The 20th Century saw the growth of Mainstream Perfumery and
the increasing use of synthetic chemicals replacing the natural aromatics. Now, in
the 21st Century, Natural Perfumery is the logical next step along the fragrant path
Natural Perfumery by Anya McCoy 2005 2
for many aromatherapists. It is the road back through history that we are now
finding, and it is wonderful.
Aromatherapists are already used to blending several essential oils to evoke a
mood, or bring about a desired physical change, and so this new trend, the natural
progression of blending perfumes came into being. Aromatherapists, and others,
suffering from chemical overloads, allergies and sensitivity to these synthetics, and
perhaps just a gut reaction to the harsh and fake smells of these synthetics,
moved towards a return to the perfumery of old, Natural Perfumery.
Natural Perfumery existed for centuries before aromatherapy was conceived by
Gattefosse in the early part of the 20th Century, and now many modern
aromatherapists discovering that they want to refine their art and create “real”
perfumes, sometimes, but not always, with a healing goal in mind.
They are delving into the world of sensual pleasure and grand experimentation.
One roadblock: very few of them have training as a perfumer, a requisite for
understanding the complexities of blending the raw materials. One way past that
roadblock? Classes, peer groups, and home study.
Some aromatherapy books contain some basic, rather primitive, perfume blending
tips. Usually using no more than five or six essential oils, these simple perfumes
smelled nice, and performed their aromachology job, but didn’t approach “real”
perfumery. Chrissie Wildwood’s seminal Create Your Own Aromatherapy
Perfumes: Enchanting Blends for Body and Home (Piatkus Press, 1995) is now a
collector’s item, selling for ten times its original price on Internet sites. This is due
perhaps because of the recognition that she was the first aromatherapist to publish
a comprehensive, industry-based book on blending from an aromatherapists’
palette. Still, she limited the choices to essential oils, only. Visit Chrissie’s website:
A few years later, in 2001, Mandy Aftel’s
Essence and Alchemy: A Book of Perfume
(North Point Press) became a bestseller and
bolstered many in their aspirations to become
“real” perfumers, due to the educational and
coaxing nature of the writing. Aftel pushed
the reader through history, dabbling with
exotic aromatics, revealing some secrets of
beginning perfumery studies. There was no
other book that addressed the beginner; no other book carried them along on a
rapturous journey into the world of Natural Perfumery like Essence and Alchemy.
And so the current boom in Natural Perfumery really took root. Visit Mandy’s
Many of the aromatherapists who read Essence decided to explore the new
aromatic world she opened up to them.