By Françoise Rapp, Certified Natural Perfumer, Aromatherapist and Aromachologist
The term aromachology appeared in the 1980s and it describes the science of the phenomenon that links odors to behavior.
We became aware at that moment of this subtle and profound power and above all, how it affects our daily life in all its aspects, from the intimate to the spiritual and the professional. For almost 26 years, I have been composing natural perfumes taking this dimension into account because it seems to me to be inseparable from the mission of the natural perfumer. My training as a naturopath has meant that I have also worked all these years with patients and therefore have seen what the positive effects of smell on emotions are. When we understand the role that smell plays on inner well-being, we understand the need to compose a natural perfume and its olfactory quality as well because it acts powerfully on the sensory memory.
The olfactory sense is our most reptilian sense, and it is one of the most powerful because it is linked to our survival.
Throughout our lives, we memorize a library of smells that can stay buried for years. The sense of smell is a sense outside the notion of time/space. Therefore, we can have a reaction linked to the very old memory of a person, a place, a situation when we feel a specific scent that reminds us of this. We can even smell so-called “ghost” smells just by reliving this memory. In a fragment of a second we travel in time and in an emotion that we thought had been forgotten.
Smell: a Mental Representation
For a molecule to become an odor, a brain is needed. According to Pierre-Marie Lledo, co-director of the Genes, Synapses and Cognition laboratory, our brain establishes olfactory maps from the combination of receptors activated by such and such a molecule. These cards work like a kind of QR code and allow each chemical stimulus to be associated with a mental representation: the smell. The latter is malleable and evolves according to our experiences and our culture.
The first thing we perceive in a smell is its emotional side
I either like it or I don't like it, before we even ask ourselves any other rational question. And if odors awaken in us such clear and intense emotions and memories, it is because the brain areas they activate are intimately connected with those mobilized by emotions: the hippocampus plays the role in long-term memory term: the hard disk that records our learning from the moment we were in our mother's womb. The amygdala plays a fundamental role in decoding our emotions generated by the different situations of our life. For example, it intervenes in behaviors such as fear, pleasure, or memory. The septal nucleus plays a role in controlling emotions and in feelings of pleasure, it is directly linked to the sense of smell.
Aromachology, a Global Approach to Smell and Feel
This intrinsic link between smells and emotions has been questioned by many scientists who have tested its benefits. Some, like Dr. Aubert, say they know that certain smells can elicit emotional responses capable of transiently increasing the release of certain brain mediators such as serotonin, which promotes a positive mood and builds a state of well-being. Therefore, aromachology and products composed of natural plant essences have great power on the inner well-being of the person. This approach can be broken down into different types of products: from natural perfumes with an alcoholic or non-alcoholic base, to perfumed creams and balms for the body, to home fragrances, candles and even incense, to hygiene products and natural cosmetics. The market clearly shows that for two years during the pandemic period, the new consumer has been looking for sensory experiences in addition to product efficiency. They want an immersion in Nature which brings them benefits for their well-being.
Beyond the Knowledge of Natural Essences
As a creative perfumer, it is essential to acquire knowledge of the aromachological virtues of natural essences on the psyche since their action on the emotions is proven. This dimension adds to our responsibility as creators towards the consumer. Aromachology stands beyond natural perfumery and a simple pleasant scent and even a trained natural perfumer should be aware of it. Here is how natural essences act by simple olfaction. From their liquid state, by chemical reaction in contact with air, they are transformed into etheric gas. Volatile, by their infinitely small and light molecules, they bring to a quantum level a vibratory frequency which, like the photon, carries information. This information is a natural principle or intelligence of nature which has a function, here in this case properties. Therefore, a natural perfume has a dimension far beyond that of simply “smelling good”; it can be balanced and effective or it can be dissonant because certain raw materials will contradict each other. This olfactory dissonance is often unknown to the natural perfumer but not to the aromachologist. When composing the perfume, we set a clear objective on the result or the effect that is desired. From this, stem the selection of each ingredient that will compose it. Aromachological benefits can be substantiated in marketing materials and product claims. Creating natural perfumes, whatever their final form, requires, in my opinion, a knowledge of aromachology.
Therefore, it seems to me necessary that knowing the olfactory and aromachological qualities of natural essences is essential for a natural perfumer
It is obvious that they must master the sensory dimension and the virtues that their perfume will have on the emotions of the consumer.
You can now learn and deepen your knowledge in the new aromachology course which starts on January 9th. It will be taught every first Monday of every month.
Register for the course
Access to the Aromachology Level 1 Masterclass
Sri Kudaravalli's Interview by Françoise Rapp
What inspired you to become a perfumer?
The joy of delightful smells and a good nose. To express myself in a different language. Speaking through perfumes as perfumes can replace words. When created from love with intention, attention and the right ingredients, perfumes have the power to impact a person in a positive way.
How did you start? What courses have you followed?
I started reading first - books, online. Then I talked to some Indian perfumers and gained more knowledge. Later I came across the Natural Perfumery Teacher’s Academy online courses for French style natural perfumery. I really like how the curriculum is structured. It is obvious that a lot of thought went into designing the courses. It’s a full spectrum curriculum that includes - gardening, oil extraction, perfumery, aromatherapy, perfume history, olfaction to marketing adhering to IPF’s New Luxury Code. They pack a lot of punch in the short format courses and the information is very practical and actionable. The courses broadened my horizons and I picked up a lot of knowledge in a short period of time and was able to design products and create my brand. For anyone wanting to learn natural perfumery, the ancillary information and is environmentally conscious, it's a good place to start. The faculty is friendly, kind, and knowledgeable.
What made you decide to create your brand?
Several factors. As you know, we all went through a very difficult pandemic, the past two years, and many people are still experiencing a deep sense of isolation, fear and uncertainty. I asked myself what would be the role of a perfumer? How can I contribute? How can one help restore some sense of well-being?
In this context, I would like to quote an ancient perfumer from India - Gangadhara, 1500 years ago, said:
“The final goal of perfumery is to infuse semi-divinity within us and elevate our mind by freeing it from the mundane worries of the world."
So, I feel as perfumers we have a certain responsibility to help people cope with everyday post-pandemic life, and it was in that spirit, Xila Apothic, was created.
To me a brand is not just about selling products. It's about what you stand for.
Xila Apothic is not just about perfumes - it introduces people to a way of life. Brand is a unique expression of you - your values, belief system, culture, a community of people with shared interests and rituals. It is a way of self-expression.
What made you participate in the New Luxury Awards competition?
I wanted to challenge myself. I think taking action is key to success. Entering a competition forces you think through things and paves way for smart and hard work. It stretches you and nudges you out of your comfort zone. In the process, you discover new facets of yourself and your strengths.
What was your feeling when you came to Paris and received the New Luxury Award?
It was very gratifying. A validation that belief in one-self and focused hard work pay off. I would like to thank Creezy Courtoy, IPF Chair, for creating this platform to showcase our talent and for encouraging natural perfumers. I would also like to thank the faculty at the Natural Perfumery Teacher's Academy for their guidance.
What has happened to you since this?
New opportunities are knocking on my doors, including investors and clients.
We are launching a new product line for the upcoming festive holiday season starting from September 2022, besides what is already available.
Social Media: @XilaApothic
by Pr Françoise RAPP, IPF Chair France
and French Natural Perfumery and Natural Aromatherapy Expert
Perfume has always had a sacred meaning connecting man with the divine, but did you know that it had other more "therapeutic" roles such as protecting or even preserving the good health of the body?
The oldest knew it and they used essences, resins in various forms for this action. Fumigations, anointing, and also accessories for carrying perfume were used as early as ancient Egypt. This way of proceeding was then taken up again during ancient Rome and then came to Europe through the Crusades.
This accessory diffused the scent of aromatics, animal raw materials and various resins thanks to the body heat. It is said then that he helped protect himself from the Black Death and other miasmas of the time. Far from being a tool or means of seduction, this perfume had above all a medicinal function above all.
It was most often of an almost solid pasty texture. Its powerful and purifying fragrance emanated from an accessory called sweet apple.
This object has evolved greatly over the course of history to be worn like a jewel on the belt or around the neck. The Renaissance saw sweet apples as a fashion accessory with multiple functions, including those of covering bad body odor and protecting against epidemics decimating the population. It must be remembered that bodily hygiene was understood as something almost erotic by the Church. The sweet apple was then very practical to use and this accessory was declined like a real jewel even demonstrating a level of richness by the object and by the raw materials used because these were expensive.
What is a sweet apple and how does it work?
Sweet apples, "pommanders" or "pomanders" are either openwork or made up of airtight "quarters". These objects are almost exclusively precious jewels. Common people and poor people cannot afford these rare and expensive perfumes. Pomanders are usually spherical in shape and open in two parts and then into several quarters, like an orange. In each of these quarters are placed the herbs. In contact with the heat of the body, the aromatics exhaled their perfumes, delicious perfumes offered to God "per fumum". Perhaps this original oblation helped to obtain a divine favor: that of living a long life or curing an illness in addition to emanating powerfully purifying and protective aromatic scents. Medieval sweet apples were continually worn by their owner. As a necklace, a ring or held at the end of a velvet ribbon or a precious metal chain, they accompanied the body and remained as close as possible to it.
What raw materials for perfume were then used?
These objects allow you to carry the scent of musk, ambergris or civet with you (materials all secreted by wild animals with a ... pronounced smell)
The Song of Songs also regularly refers to spices. In its different versions (Greek, Latin or Hebrew), it always ends by evoking "the mountain of spices". The aromatics therefore legitimately find their place in the culture of the Middle Ages. They are the luxurious ingredients warmly recommended by the Church to guard against epidemics and especially the Black Death.
In 1174, the ancestor of perfume diffusers arrived in Europe. On this date, Baudoin IV (1161-1185), King of Jerusalem, offered Emperor Frederick Barbarossa (1122 - 1190) several golden apples (precious sweet apples) filled with musk. Chronologically, musk and amber are the most popular scents. Nevertheless, from the middle of the 14th century, the Paris medical faculty added no less than 29 odorous substances suitable for taking place in these cases. Thus make their appearance nutmeg, aloe wood, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, camphor, sandalwood or cinnamon. These herbs come from the Eastern Perfume Roads crossing countries as far as they are fascinating.
Recipe for making pomander included in The Treasury of Commodious Conceits, and Hidden Secrets by John Partridge (London, 1586)
"Benzoin resin, calamus, labdanum, and storax balm were ground into a powder, dissolved in rose water, and placed in a saucepan over a fire to cook together. The cooked mixture was then removed from the heat, rolled into an apple shape and coated with a powdered mixture of cinnamon, soft sanders and cloves. After that, a concoction was made from three grains each of ambergris, deer musk and civet musk. Ambergris was dissolved first, and deer and civet musk were mixed later. The "apple" ball was rolled through the musk concoction to blend into these ingredients, then kneaded to combine and molded into an apple shape."
Michel de Nostredame had a similar method and formula but a rather different procedure. The "rose tablets" were made by soaking a pound of roses without the flower heads in deer musk water overnight. The water was then carefully wrung out and the roses crushed with seven ounces of benzoin, a quarter of ambergris and another of civet musk. This mixture was made into tablets, which were each sandwiched between rose petals and dried in a cool, dark place. To form the final pomander, two ounces of the purest labdanum, one ounce each of styrax and benzoin resin, half an ounce of rose tablets, one ounce of violet powder, and half a dram each of ambergris and musk were ground into powder and kneaded with rose water from the manufacture of rose tablets. This produced "an aromatic ball of the most sublime and long-lasting scent that could be made anywhere in the world" it seems.
If you were to create a pomander today with existing raw materials, what would the formula be?
Become a natural perfumer and discover how to formulate natural fragrances; discover the program and register quickly before November 8th. The French Natural perfumery program opens its doors for 8 exciting weeks!
And if you want to learn more about the history of pomanders don’t miss Creezy Courtoy’s World Perfume History MasterClass starting on December 6.