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Viewing single post of blog Perfume as Practice

Last week I made a bespoke perfume based on coffee. Yes. coffee. Now, I know what you’re thinking – ‘Michael! last month you were making perfumes about planets, and this week, out of nowhere, you’ve made a perfume about coffee?! Why?! I don’t even know you anymore!’

Well, fear not (and maybe calm down a little!) for there is method to my madness. I will explain everything later. First though, let’s have a look at the perfume itself:

‘This is Coffee 50ml EDT’ – to give it it’s full title – is the most overt showcasing of perfume as an art form I have yet made in my position as a fine art perfumer. For one, it’s visual livery is bespoke and of a higher standard than usual; it playfully impersonates a high-end supermarket coffee brand – utilising watercolour, paper and gold leaf to feign the appearance of a luxurious yet affordable product.

The scent itself, though, is at odds with such visual embellishments. As a fine art perfumer, I seek to develop ways of using scent to instigate social, political and environmental comment. As such it is not only the aroma of coffee that takes precedence within the fragrance composition. This fragrance comprises 3 other fragrance notes that allude to the various social, economic and environmental factors associated with coffee and coffee production: Brazilian Rosewood oil, while ethically sourced, is nevertheless from a tree loaded with implications of sustainability that run parallel to coffee production. The Orange oil also derives from Brazil, and as such references the rich history Brazil has with coffee production. Hazelnut is also present, which references the versatility coffee has both as a product and ingredient.

Furthermore and from the context of perfumery, the scent of coffee beans is said to cleanse the nose in preparation for assessing aromatic compounds; it is a tool that allows a perfumer to devise scent combinations with more accuracy. ‘This is Coffee’ shuns the established, clinical use of coffee beans within perfumery and instead places coffee at the very heart of the fragrance composition. Again this removes perfumery from it’s conventions and seeks to place it in a subversive, contemporary art platform.

Phew! So, that was ‘This is Coffee’. Now, what does this mean for my wider creative output? Well, simply put, this is to act as a template for the three planet-based perfumes I am going to produce for Athens next month. ‘This is Coffee’ is a piece of preliminary work that establishes the fact that simply making a bespoke perfume with a meaningful artistic fragrance composition and competent visual livery makes for an engaging scented experience. I feel over recent months I have been thinking a little too hard about how the ‘scented experience’ should act upon the viewer. Stripping my practice down the essentials of bespoke perfume, in a box and embellished accordingly, highlights with precision how the craft of perfume can accommodate meaning beyond it’s preconceptions.

I’m looking forward to bottling Uranus, Jupiter and Saturn in a similar manner over the coming weeks.


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