Over the past two years I’ve worked on several perfume projects that had shorter turnaround times than I’d like. Some of the rush was because I was given very little time (by my standards) to work on a project and some was due to the fact that I tend to juggle multiple tasks and procrastinate on whatever is not extremely urgent. Of course, the result of procrastination is also a short deadline. I don’t think the end products of the work that was done quickly are inferior in any way to those that have taken longer. In fact, one of my favorite fragrances was produced on a short deadline. What I can say, though, is that the end products might have been different if I’d had more time to think about them and tweak them, and I might have savored the creative process more.
I don’t like being rushed by externally imposed deadlines. Just as I enjoy waking up slowly in the morning with my laptop and coffee and just as I enjoy eating things that would be categorized as belonging to the “slow food” movement, I’m a believer in “slow perfume”. I like to take my time and savor every stage of formulation, tweaking subtly as I go, and thinking about it as I sniff over the course of days, weeks, months, and sometimes even years. It’s happened more than once that a formula just didn’t quite smell the way I wanted it to, so I put it aside. Later, I discovered a new material that was exactly what I needed to finish it up. Working on a strict deadline, I would have settled for something that was not my original vision.
I’ve thought about the concept of slow perfume as I’ve worked on Blackbird, going through a 6-month process that mostly involved thinking about it and testing materials. For me, perfume-making is like writing – most of the work is done consciously or subconsciously in my head before I put fingers to keyboard or do any mixing of materials. Perfume materials need time to blend, so smelling has to be done after they have time to settle in together. The blending may also be a multi-stage process, with each stage taking time to mature before it’s combined with other components.
I don’t know how other perfumers work, but I do know that for most endeavors, having time to think and reflect is important. Good wine, cheese, and some perfume materials are better when aged. Bees painstakingly select the best nectar and collect it to make real honey, not a high-fructose corn syrup imitation. Creative concepts also need time to develop. Products made with love and thought must somehow reflect that slow process.
[Photos all from Wikimedia]