Viktoria Minya & The World of A “Nose”

A grey afternoon in Paris unexpectedly turned into one of the most fascinating, educational perfume experiences I’ve had in a long, long time. It’s all thanks to Viktoria Minya. She gave me the chance to peek behind the curtain, and to glimpse a small portion of the life of a “nose.” We talked about everything from IFRA/EU restrictions on perfumes, how she studied to become a “nose,” some of the surprising things she deals with in perfume creation, and the very elementary basics of the raw materials that noses use to create fragrances. I hope you enjoy the glimpse behind the perfumed curtain.

Viktoria Minya. Source: Fragrantica.

Viktoria Minya. Source: Fragrantica.

Hedonist. Source: Parfums Viktoria Minya on Facebook.

Hedonist. Source: Parfums Viktoria Minya on Facebook.

Viktoria Minya is a perfume creator who founded Parfums Viktoria Minya, but also an actual, genuine, trained “nose.” Her debut perfume, Hedonist, is a gorgeous, luxurious, elegant, airy, honeyed-floral affair that I really loved. But I also enjoyed the little bit that I got to know of Ms. Minya herself in our email correspondence at the time. Then, a few weeks ago, close to the time of my departure to Paris, and by a complete fluke involving something else, we had a few email exchanges where I happened to mention that I would be in her city. Unfortunately, both our schedules seemed extremely complicated, and it seemed unlikely that we’d be able to meet.

Then, while roaming the streets of Paris one afternoon, and with some incredibly lucky timing that happened out of the blue, everything seemed to fall into place. I somehow found myself in her perfume studio, sitting across from an absolutely beautiful woman with the most unbelievably stunning eyes, and the warmest smile. (Not a single photo that I’ve seen of Ms. Minya actually does her — and her eyes — justice.) Ms. Minya had prepared a lovely selection of things for me to nibble on while we talked and before we went into her actual work area where she has her perfume “organ.” (See photo below.) As I ate some French cheese (yes, I said cheese! And she didn’t even know of my obsession with it!), I tried to focus on the conversation but those absolutely mesmerizing eyes made it a little hard at times. Plus, as usual for this entire trip, I was somewhat in a daze from sleep-deprivation.

As a result, I fear I don’t remember all the details of the technical stuff I learnt, but I thought I would share some aspects that I found really fascinating, from the issue of IFRA (the “International Fragrance Association”), to her studies as a nose, the black market for ingredients, and more. Then, later, I’ll share what it was like in her perfume studio with all the raw materials and the perfume oils. The photos I took suffered from the problem that I mentioned earlier in another post: my camera is dying, so some of the images are blurred and the writing on the bottles isn’t always completely clear. Hopefully, though, it will give you an idea of the sorts of things a “nose” may have in her arsenal, and the feel of that day.

Photo: my own.

Ms. Minya’s perfume “organ.” Photo: my own.

In terms of general discussion, one of the things that came up a few times was the impact of the IFRA and EU restrictions. You and I — consumers and buyers of perfume products — usually think about the impact in terms of its effect on us. We moan about chypres and oakmoss, we talk about reformulations, and we gripe about the sorts of perfumes available to us or the massive changes to perfumery in just the last five years alone. We almost never think of what it must be like for a “nose.” It’s not surprising, after all, because their world is so far away from ours. But it’s not for Ms. Minya.

As an actual, working nose, the IFRA/EU restrictions create a whole different set of problems for Ms. Minya than they do for us. For one thing, I get the impression that she finds that they stifle creativity. (She was too polite to say so, but that was my impression.) For another, the restrictions have an impact on a nose’s actual business dealings with clients. Ms. Minya may have her own brand and perfume line, but she also works as a nose for clients to create scents in accordance with their particular wishes. She gave me one example of a situation where a client requested that she make a perfume with certain ingredients at a certain level. Again and again, she had to say something to the effect of: “No, it’s not possible to that extent,” or “No, that is illegal in the EU.”

Chris Bartlett of Pell Wall Perfumes Blog is a perfumer and consultant who has an absolutely wonderful, useful, eye-opening and completely depressing listing of all the IFRA/EU ingredient limits for Category 4 (fine perfumes in an alcohol-based solution). Though his list is not yet updated to include all the changes from the 47th Amendment of June 2013 (yes, I realise how ludicrous and Kafkaesque that sounds), I still look at it from time to time, usually resulting in complete irritation and annoyance at the EU. I looked again at the listing upon my return from Paris and in light of my meeting with Viktoria Minya — and I saw it in a whole new light from the perspective of a “nose.”

Let me give you some examples from Mr. Bartlett’s list of IFRA’s standards and limitations as of June and before the 47th Amendment took place. Some of the terms may seem like gobbledygook to you, but just pay attention to the percentage numbers at the end of each line (or whether the ingredient is permitted at all in perfume creation), and things will eventually become clearer:

Cumin oil 0.4%

Eugenol* [clove oil] 0.5%

Farnesol* 1.2%
Fig leaf absolute Prohibited
Galbanum ketone (various trade names; 1-(5,5-Dimethyl-1-cyclohexen-1-yl)pent-4-en-1-one) 1.13%
Geraniol* 5.3%  […]

Iso E Super 21.4%  [ME: GOOD GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!]

Jasmine Absolute 0.7%

Jasmine Sambac Absolute 4%
Lemon (expressed) 2%
Lime (expressed) 0.7%

Musk ambrette Prohibited

Oakmoss Absolute 0.1%

Opoponax 0.4%

Peru balsam (crude) Prohibited

Quinoline Prohibited
Rose Ketones 0.02%
Santolina oil Prohibited
Safranal (2,6,6-Trimethylcyclohexa-1,3-dienyl methanal) 0.005%
Safrole, Isosafrole, Dihydrosafrole~ Prohibited (EOs containing these permitted if total below 0.01%)
Savin oil from Juniperus sabina Prohibited
Styrax (from Liquidambar styraciflua macrophyla or Liquidambar orientalis only) 0.6%
Styrax (all other species) Prohibited

Ylang ylang extracts 0.8%

* – the main sources of these chemicals is in natural materials and you need to work out how much is in all the oils that contain them and keep the total in your product below the levels quoted here. These are some of the most complex standards to ensure compliance with.

NB- The limits for Oakmoss and Tree Moss are cumulative (so the combination of both must be below 0.1%)

I tried to include in that list a good number of things with which we common lay-people are familiar, but, also, a portion of the many things marked with a red “Prohibited” notice (even if I have no idea what some of them are). The fact that things like ylang-ylang is limited to 0.8%, lime to 0.7%, and oakmoss at 0.1%, while that bloody, godawful “ISO E Supercrappy” (™ Sultan Pasha) can be as high as 21.4% suddenly clarifies things a bit more to me. It’s not just that some perfumers love that ghastly, cheap, synthetic crap; it’s that they are running out of ingredients to use at any substantial, rich or useful levels! I mean, seriously, some poor flower is at less than 1%, while the laboratory-created, aromatic equivalent of a hospital morgue’s antiseptic is at 21.4%??! Plus, a portion of the ingredients on the list are completely illegal to use?! To me, and from my layman perspective, that doesn’t seem to leave perfume noses with a huge amount of original options or alternatives.

Source: CaFleureBon

Source: CaFleureBon

Which brings us back to Viktoria Minya and her world. She went to school in Grasse, perhaps the heart and soul of the perfume creating world, and attended the Grasse Institute of Perfumery. I asked her about the program which is one-year long, and followed by internships within the perfume world. Within the program, the students take a variety of courses on such subjects as: natural and synthetic raw materials; fine fragrance formulation; legislation courses; evaluation courses; and even functional perfumery courses (how to create fragrances for soaps, shampoos, candles, shower gels, etc).

There was much more, too, but, again, the haze of a particularly grueling travelling schedule means I’ve forgotten some of the details. So, I did some research, and stumbled across a 2009 article called “Smelling like roses… or not” which actually quotes Ms. Minya as a student and which also talks about the way “noses” are trained:

In class, the students flared their nostrils against white tester strips dipped in scented, mostly clear liquid. The exercise tested their olfactory memories as they built on the more than 300 natural and synthetic odors they had memorized since the course began in late January. The task included identifying the scents’ compounds and family. […]

By the end of the yearlong course, which includes a mandatory internship at a fragrance company lasting several months, students will have acquired a lexicon of at least 500 raw materials; the rest of their creative arsenal, which eventually could include thousands of ingredients, will be developed in the field.

As for Viktoria, as that old article makes clear, lessons in building an olfactory memory bank sensitize the nose:

On a recent visit to a horse stable, Viktoria Minya had to hold her breath until she could step outside. And at home recently, the 27-year-old perfumery student has found she needs to take out the trash as often as three times per day. It’s a side effect of her developing olfactory organs: “I smell too much.”

The article also mentioned a few other interesting things:

“A perfume hides a story,” said Laurence Fauvel, a perfumer and one of the teachers at the school, which opened in February 2002. “To create something really new is very difficult.”  […][¶]

An official at the school estimated that about [only] 20 star “noses” exist worldwide.

Mr. Fauvel’s comment reminds me of the common line in many writing classes about how every plot or novel has essentially been written before. It’s true, and I’m sure the same theme applies, broadly speaking, to perfumery as well. But, to bring things full circle to perfume notes, it certainly can’t help when IFRA and the bloody EU restrict your options even further in terms of quantity and type of ingredients. As Ms. Minya told me, there are no longer quite as many avenues for self-expression and artistic creativity.

Vincent Van Gogh, "Irises" (1889). Source: hdwallshub.com

Vincent Van Gogh, “Irises” (1889). Source: hdwallshub.com

She compared the situation to a painter being told that he cannot use certain paint colours on his canvas, while other colours are limited in amount. So, perhaps it’s more apt to talk about “vibrancy” instead of the broader terms of “originality” and “creativity.” If a painter is forbidden from using brown paint, if he can only use blue if it’s 0.7% of his overall creation, and if green is limited to no more than 0.1%, then how do you end up with Van Gogh’s Irises? You can’t. You get a watered down, diluted, much less vibrant composition that may be good — perhaps even very good, in some cases — but it won’t be the masterpiece that is the Irises.

Stephen Weller, IFRA photo, via The Scented Salamander.

Stephen Weller, IFRA photo, via The Scented Salamander.

In the faintest fig leaf to appearing fair, I suppose I should mention IFRA’s side of things. Stephen Weller, IFRA’s Director of Communication, has given a few interviews in France defending his organisation as the supposed savior of certain key ingredients. The blog, The Scented Salamander, states that Mr. Weller:

makes the particularly salient point in this exchange that without IFRA, a number of perfumery ingredients would have altogether disappeared from the palette of the perfumer as they have come under attack from the European Union and before that pressure groups voicing their concerns…

Weller explains in this new interview with Premium Beauty News how his organism permits a more nuanced approach to the dermatological and allergic risks presented by aromatic materials.

You can read more about his claims at the Scented Salamander, but they essentially include the argument that you should thank IFRA for saving oakmoss and other ingredients from complete eradication in perfumery. I can see his point in theory, but I have great difficulties with his attempts to portray IFRA as the purely protective, angelic and benevolent savior of perfumedom! And don’t get me started on the oakmoss. Yes, the EU is driving most of this, now, but, correct me if I’m wrong, I believe early IFRA regulations started all this.

More to the point, and to use a parallel, I don’t see manufacturing associations putting restrictions on factories who produce food items or on chefs in restaurants simply because there are some pressure groups who complain about nut allergies. Some of the EU proposals (like the ludicrous idea of possibly banning Chanel No. 5 that I’ve talked about in another IFRA/EU post) are akin to shutting down the Eiffel Tower simply because 1%-3% of the EU’s 503.5 million population may have vertigo. (It’s been estimated that “1 to 3 percent of the EU population… are allergic or potentially allergic to natural ingredients contained in fine perfumes, according to a report published in July by the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS), an advisory body for the European Commission.” [Emphasis added.])

And IFRA’s substantive actions don’t seem like true championship or defense of the perfume industry to me. For example, why aren’t warning labels enough? They put such warnings on cigarettes, and on pre-packaged food items that may have been prepared in a factory that had some nuts in it. Are perfumes actually more dangerous to people’s health than cigarettes??! Also, why are perfumes to be regulated with such ingredients as the amount of lavender or citrus oils, but massage oils are left alone? Presumably, that minuscule percentage of EU citizens who have allergic reactions — or just the mere potential thereof — might possibly decide to have a massage one day. Why are those oils fine, but the ones in perfumery — which allergic people can simply avoid using — subject to increasingly Orwellian, draconian measures?

I’m sorry, I got sidetracked and derailed in rather irrational rage, so let’s leave the issue of IFRA and get back to the realities of creating a perfume. There, even apart from ingredient limitations, there are other hurdles to originality, too. This time, however, they pertain more to the business tail-end of things for one who is a brand’s creator or founder. Take, for example, the simple, seemingly prosaic issue of a perfume’s name. Now, obviously, you don’t want to use another brand’s exact name for your new creation, but I wasn’t aware of just how tricky the issue might be for French perfumers. According to Ms. Minya, back in the 1980s, many French companies bought up the legal rights to a whole host of names — lots of them being common adjectives or phrases — for future use. Now, when you try to launch your new perfume, there is a good chance that they might sue you for using one of their vast stable of trademarked names.

Hedonist. Source: Parfums Viktoria Minya on Facebook.

Hedonist. Source: Parfums Viktoria Minya on Facebook.

I remember hearing this, blinking and having a light bulb moment when she explained that this old 1980s situation is the reason why so many French perfumes have some generic variation of “Rose de ___” or “Vanille de ____”  as their name. To quote Ms. Minya: “This is why we have more and more names with numbers, botanical or common names of ingredients ( like “orange” ) and geographical names – because these cannot be trademarked by anybody.” I suspect this may be the reason why Neela Vermeire might have had to recently change the name of her upcoming Mohur “Esprit” to just plain “Mohur Extrait,” though I am just guessing. (I have not asked Ms. Vermeire, and I certainly don’t know for sure.)

While trademark concerns are hardly unique to France, the situation there seems a little more complicated for perfumers than for artisans or artists in other fields. Even if you can get the money to make a perfume, even if you survive the draconian IFRA/EU’s restrictions to make something good, even if you spend all the money for the further compliance minutiae, you still aren’t home scot-free. Now, you can’t even choose your perfume name without the risk of a lawsuit.

Yet, the real issue that I see is something much broader in reach: you need very big pockets to engage in the perfume game, and to survive. I’d like one day to explore the issue of perfume creation primarily from a perfume creator’s perspective, but it’s clear even now that the real bottom line is money and how hard it is for truly “niche” perfumers to flourish in light of so many minefields. Someone like Tom Ford — who is backed and owned by the Estée Lauder multi-national conglomerate — or Kilian Hennessey is obviously going to have a very different time of things than someone like Viktoria Minya, Andy Tauer, or Neela Vermeire.

To me, as a layman and outsider, each of the things discussed here seems to represent a noose tightening around the neck of a truly vibrant, creative, non-homogenous, flourishing perfume world where small voices have as much chance in the marketplace as the big behemoths. It’s a sad parallel to the overall conglomeratization of the world in general, from the media and entertainment industries to banking and the airlines. But the last time I checked, neither the banking nor airline worlds depended on creativity and the freedom of imagination, so it’s substantially worse when artistry is stifled in an industry like perfumery.

IMG_0034_4b

Size makes itself an issue for noses like Ms. Minya in some ways that surprised me. As promised, I’m going to spend a bit of time talking about the raw materials used in the perfume process. When I went into Ms. Minya’s actual perfume studio with its vast, impressive “organ,” I gasped. As far as the eye could see, there were bottles of ingredients. Everywhere! Not just the organ, but filling whole bookcases and even in a fridge. As I was exclaiming about the endless varieties of orange blossom, iris, or rose accords, Ms. Minya mentioned how obtaining some of the ingredients wasn’t easy. Apparently, some companies are extremely unwilling to sell in the sort of small order sizes appropriate to a small, individual perfumer or nose. I didn’t ask if the companies countered things by charging much more for orders that aren’t in bulk, because I never like to talk about money or intrude into someone’s financial matters, but I assume that it’s a frustrating hassle and obstacle at the very least.

So, let’s drop money, and move onto the actual ingredients in question. First, we should probably begin with the basic difference between a perfume oil and an essential oil. Now Smell This has an easy explanation that puts it much more succinctly than I could ever manage:

Essential oils are volatile, fragrant liquids extracted from plant leaves, bark, wood, stems, flowers, seeds, buds, roots, resins and petals, usually through steam distillation. In other words, they are raw materials that can be used to create perfumes. They are highly concentrated […].

Perfume oils are fragrance components, natural or synthetic, in an oily base rather than an alcohol base, and can be used directly on the skin.

Now, here’s a glimpse of some of the things in Ms. Minya’s arsenal:

Perfume oils distilled in 10% alcohol. You can see various types of orange-related oils on the top shelf, rose on the middle, and things like vetiver on the bottom. Remember, this curves all the way around.

Perfume oils distilled in 10% alcohol. You can see various types of orange-related oils on the top shelf, rose on the middle, and things like vetiver on the bottom. Remember, this curves all the way around.

A fridge filled with fragile perfume oils, or oils of the weakest strength and diluted in 1% alcohol.

A fridge filled with fragile perfume oils, or oils of the weakest strength and diluted in 1% alcohol.

As you can see from these photos (which you can click to expand even more), there are two separate categories of ingredients. One are the oils on her curving, circular “organ” which are ingredients diluted in a 10% alcohol base. The other photo shows bottles in a fridge, and that’s where my memory failed me. All I could really remember is that the latter are very expensive and have a very fragile shelf-life, so they are usually kept in a fridge to ensure that they last longer. So I wrote to Ms. Minya to ask for help in clarifying the differences between the various bottles, and this was her response:

what perfumers are working with are what we call “raw materials”, some of them are liquid ( like most essential oils ), some are powders ( like vanillin – molecule present in vanilla, I am using the very expensive Natural version of it), some are resins ( like peru balsam or mimosa absolute). Every perfumer has their different habits, but I like to work with them in a 10% solution form, they are called 10% solution or 10% solution of … ( any given raw materials ). This helps me to directly smell the “end product” after formulation.

Perfume oils like grapefruit or guaiac wood.

Oils like grapefruit and guaiac wood on the top row; magnolia and mandarin on the bottom.

Perfume oils distilled in 10% alcohol. Here, you can see different sorts of orange oils like bigarade to other sorts.

Oils distilled in 10% alcohol. Here, orange bigarade and what Ms. Minya tells me is a “different origins orange oil.”

The raw materials in the fridge are simply weaker, more diluted solutions of some raw materials ( so like 1% or 0.1% solutions ) OR fragile raw materials, like rose oil, the citrus oils like bergamot, mandarine, orange, lemon and lime, or spices like nutmeg and safran, etc. [Emphasis added.]

More of the almost diluted 1% oils in the fridge such as Ylang-Ylang and Osmanthus.

More of the almost diluted 1% oils in the fridge such as Ylang-Ylang, Osmanthus and some sort of Sandalwood.

More of some of the delicate but weakest "finishing" ingredients. You can see Narcissus Absolute is one of the ones in the first row to the left.

More of some of the delicate but weakest “finishing” ingredients. You can see Narcissus Absolute is one of the ones in the first row to the left.

[As a whole and generally,] the raw materials comes from the producers in “pure”. Then we dilute it with alcohol. 10% solution means 1 GR of rose oil -let’s say- and 9 GR of alcohol in a 10 ml bottle ( the ones you saw on my perfume organ ). 1% solution means 0,1GR of rose oil and 9,9GR of alcohol in a 10 ml bottle. The 1% solutions are for “fine-tuning”, sometimes it is to give a small aspect of a certain material, other times the given raw materials are very strong and we like to give just a tiny amount into the creation.

Just like the perfume you get from a boutique is a concentrate of pure mixture of raw materials which then is diluted with alcohol.

So, to simplify things if you’re a dodo like me, a 10% solution in Ms. Minya’s case has really just 1 gram of actual perfume oil, while a 1% solution has a mere 0.1 gram of the raw material.

Speaking of materials, Ms. Minya mentioned something just in passing that made me almost fall off my chair: there is apparently a whole, lurking black market for some ingredients! Guess in what context this issue arose? The thing about which I’m the greatest snob: sandalwood. It seems that my beloved Mysore sandalwood is so rare that some people — not all, but a tiny, unethical few, and primarily in the Far East or the Middle East — resort to the black market to obtain it. I imagine that this is an issue which applies more to some small-time or experimental perfumers who may not have the access to the very few places which still hoard have small quantities of Mysore sandalwood to sell at outrageous prices. It certainly seems related to the issue of how some companies selling raw ingredients are unwilling to fulfill small orders. Again, however, I do not like to discuss money, so I did not ask follow-up questions, but it is certainly something that gives one pause. A black market? Seriously? Who knew that perfumery could involve secret cloak-and-dagger skullduggery of the highest order?!

While I was absorbing this tidbit, Ms. Minya quietly assembled a little surprise for me: a blind testing of some of the concentrated perfume oils. She had actually just returned from Hungary where she’d given a lecture on the issue of perfumery, and had a lot of bottles previously prepared for a similar sort of demonstration. I can’t recall the precise percentage of what she made me sniff on strip after strip of the paper mouiellettes, but I believe it was the 10% stuff.

And it was quite an experience…. A number of notes that I’m very familiar with in actual perfume were wholly unrecognizable to me in essential form. Granted, I’ve never been particularly good at detecting the nuances of things from a mere paper strip and it’s a whole other matter on skin, but still! In a number of cases, I could detect the notes after the paper strips had time to breathe and develop, or, perhaps, to decrease from their concentrated opening moments. In other cases, however, the usually familiar notes smelled quite alien to my nose. Aldehydes? I wouldn’t or couldn’t have guessed correctly if you’d put a gun to my head. (In fact, I’m still finding it hard to believe that that odor was aldehydes!) Incense, one of my favorite notes? Forget it. I was absolutely convinced it was some type of wood, if my hazy memory serves me correctly. (Ms. Minya now tells me it was myrrh, but all it smelled like to me was dry wood.)

To my relief, and to avoid the complete destruction of my ego, some of my guesses at least hit upon the adjacent characteristics of a note. One of the first ingredients that Ms. Minya made me try smelled to me of smoke, amber, leather and wood. Well, all those things are either used with the ingredient, or are subset nuances of the note — which turned out to be….. patchouli. After she told me, it seemed somewhat obvious, but I have to emphasize the “somewhat” part of that statement. In reality, for me, the essence of one of my favorite ingredients really did NOT have the exact same smell as it did when mixed in with other stuff in an actual perfume. And this was the case quite often. (The one exception was the synthetic, Safranal, which smelled precisely as it did in some saffron-oud perfumes, was so strong that a mere drop on a mouiellette completely overwhelmed all the other paper strips, and thereby explained a whole host of overly intense, hotly buttered saffron perfumes that I’ve wondered about….)

On another test, Ms. Minya let me smell a concentrated perfume oil that I thought was a spicy geranium. It turned out a type of rose oil. Well, geranium in essential oil concentration has an odor that is rose-like, so… I was close?? Still, I can’t get over the aldehydes and incense myrrh being completely unrecognizable. (Have I mentioned that none of this was particularly great for the ego?!)

Joking aside, I truly loved every minute of it, and it was pretty hard to drag me away from the lure of those bottles. Each one seemed to contain a whole new world of smells that was different from what I had previously experienced. I’ve had a few cheap oils that I’ve used to add to scented heaters, candles and the like, but nothing quite like the hardcore oils I smelled in her studio! If I lived in Paris, I would definitely avail myself of the opportunity to take one of the classes or workshops that Ms. Minya offers.

Actually, at the time of my visit, I didn’t know that Ms. Minya actually teaches this stuff to dolts like myself! The other day, while doing my research preparation for this post, I noticed a section of the Parfums Minya website listing the services she offers as a nose. For example:

courses range from beginner level to levels tailored to the talents of more advanced candidates. The most popular themes are as follows:

• Main Olfactory Families
• Exclusive Natural Raw Materials
• Basic Formulation / Accords
• Perfume Creation

All course can be easily adapted according to clients’ specific needs. [¶] Price: Starting at 220 EUR ( five session course )

She also offers a cheaper workshop that let’s you create your own perfumed product, be it a fragrance, a candle, or a body product:

For those clients who would like to experience the joyful moment of perfume creation without going through the advanced studies of raw materials and ingredient classification, we propose a facilitated perfume creation workshop where clients will be manipulating fine essential oils and fragrance accords to go home with their own crafts.

The most popular themes are as follows:

• Perfume Creation Workshop
• Scented Candle Creation
• Scented Personal Care Creation (lotions, bath balls, etc. )

Price: 90 EUR for individuals. Starting price for groups: 50 EUR / person.

Hedonist in its handmade wooden box that is "fashioned to capture the sleek look and feel of snakeskin leather."

Hedonist in its handmade wooden box that is “fashioned to capture the sleek look and feel of snakeskin leather.”

Despite some of the issues mentioned up above, things are hardly doom and gloom for Ms. Minya. Her debut perfume creation, Hedonist, sold out in just a few months, and there is already a long list of pre-orders. Apparently, that does not happen very often, especially for one’s first fragrance. In the meantime, Ms. Minya is being kept busy as a nose for clients, but also in travelling to give lectures on perfumery-related issue.

The future looks bright too, with two new perfumes being slated for release in 2014. While they are works in progress and the details were kept secret, they are apparently going to be in the style as Hedonist with the same sort of philosophy of using “the most noble raw materials and giving them an indulging edge.” When pressed for a little hint or two, Ms. Minya merely smiled and said that the perfumes are centered around “the two most expensive flower essences existing in perfumery.”  Aha! Iris! One of them has to be an iris scent! 

Photo: my own.

Photo: my own. It does her beauty absolutely no justice at all!

I have to thank Ms. Minya for many things. One is for being a lovely hostess, but, more importantly for really taking the time to explain the technical and basic details of what is involved in perfume creation. More importantly, however, I want to thank her for pulling aside the curtain and giving us all a peek into a world that is often shrouded in some mystery. You and I, we buy perfumes; few of us know anything about the process of actually making them. Things like the building block steps, the basic procedural tasks of how to dilute the pure oils and in what amounts — those are a foreign world for the vast majority of us. Ms. Minya took the time to explain it to me not only in her studio where she welcomed me with warmth, but also in subsequent follow-up emails where she patiently answered my bewildered questions on what must be the equivalent of the “A, B, C” for her.

Just as importantly, she was open and candid throughout. As she wrote to me, “I think some brands are totally mystifying perfumers on purpose for the public. They say the magic goes away if people find out about the small details of our work, I disagree, I think the magic starts whenever they are let to have a look behind the curtains!!!”

I really hope you saw some magic today. I certainly did when I was in her studio. And, it turns out that the Wizard of Oz actually and truly is a bit of a magician. A very beautiful, incredibly sweet magician with gorgeous eyes and the warmest smile.

Note: Photos of Ms. Minya’s studio are all my own. Other photo credits or sources are as noted within the individual captions.

FURTHER DETAILS:
For additional information on Ms. Minya or Hedonist, you can check out her website, Parfums Viktoria Minya. If you’re curious about Hedonist and how it smells, you can read my extremely positive review here. Hedonist retails for $195 or €130 for 45 ml of eau de parfum. Hedonist can be pre-ordered directly from Viktoria Minya with shipment going out in November. (I assume that means that the new stock will arrive then, and so pre-orders will not be necessary for anyone who reads this post much later in time.) In the U.S., however, the perfume is currently stocked and available for purchase at Luckyscent. Samples are available from Luckyscent or from Surrender to Chance, which sells vials starting at $6.49 for a 1/2 ml vial. I think Ms. Minya has always offered a much better deal on samples, in terms of a cost per size basis: it’s €5 for what is almost 2 ml, if memory serves me correctly and I think there is free shipping.

65 thoughts on “Viktoria Minya & The World of A “Nose”

  1. Wow – My dear K – fascinating post and chocked full of incredible information. Thanks for opening this hidden world of perfume. Viktoria is a sweetheart for bringing you in and giving you the behind the scenes look. xoxoxoxox Steve

    • I’m really glad you found it interesting, Steve. As for Viktoria, it wasn’t only interesting and informative being around her, but also a lot of fun. She’s genuinely FUN to to be around. Also, she forever endeared herself to me after a comment about Opium. She asked me my favorite perfume and when I responded, “Vintage Opium,” she blinked, looked at me slowly, and then said, “You know, you may be one of the few people who can pull off Opium. Not everyone can.” It was true love after that. *grin*

  2. I thoroughly enjoyed this article, Kafka! (and welcome back- and thanks for eating all that cheese on my behalf..;-))

    Re: the IFRA regulations (which suck of course) : “Also, why are perfumes to be regulated with such ingredients as the amount of lavender or citrus oils, but massage oils are left alone? ” I think the answer to this question might be that in products like massage oils the ingredient list is small so it is easier to just list the essential oils in it and be done with it. However, I am guessing in perfume, the formula is probably proprietary and all the ingredients can’t be listed (or people don’t want to list them or they are too long to be listed) so maybe that’s why warning labels won’t do because it can’t be made completely clear which ingredients that might cause an allergy is actually present. Which is annoying because I’m sure a lot of indie perfumers will be completely ok with listing ingredients and warning labels. In fact when I was pregnant and wanted to order perfume from Dawn (DSH), I asked her which ones are safe for me and she told me which are contraindicated for pregnancy etc. So I am sure there are work arounds to restricting ingredients but it is probably just too much trouble for everybody involved (including law makers, enforcers and the big companies)

    • I don’t agree with you on the labelling issue, I’m afraid, my dear Lavanya. As it stands, perfume boxes list the ingredients (Linalool, Geranoil, Cinnamyl alcohol, etc.). How much more difficult is it to put a warning label on it? No-one needs to know the exact percentage of each note or the proprietary formula. They could simply put a label that says, “Warning: This product contains ingredients that may cause an allergic reaction, including but not limited to: Oakmoss, Clove Oil, and others.” Ingredients that are currently deemed so worrisome that they are below 1% could be the ones chosen on the list. It wouldn’t add extra hassles to the manufacturers who are already having to put ingredients on their box. Just as the length of the list is no reason why massage oils should be exempted. If you’ve looked at your perfume box lately, the list really doesn’t take up much room, especially given the font. Why should massage oils be exempt? 🙂

      Again, the issue of exact quantity of a note is not necessary for a warning of that the item contains potential allergens. And I highly doubt that lowering even further the quantity ceiling on how much of a specific ingredient is permitted in the perfume is going to further protect the handful of individuals who have an issue with oakmoss from having a further problem. A legal warning is sufficient, just as it is in cigarettes where the quantity of nicotine or tar/paper is irrelevant. And I haven’t seen anyone outlawing cigarettes lately. Or putting warning signs on the Eiffel Tower. At some point, common sense and some practical, rational limits are really necessary, in my opinion.

      I hope you won’t take my response the wrong way. I found your points very interesting, and I’m just debating/discussing it. I think a healthy debate on the counterpoints is something that the EU/IFRA could do with more of, and that an actual discussion of practical alternatives could prevent this ridiculous PC Nanny State issue. My peevish tone is with the fact that I see hypocrisy within the EU measures and/or an unwillingness to be practical. Why throw out the baby with the bath water, you know? 🙂

      • haha- ofcourse I didn’t take it the wrong way- I am not wedded to my arguments- in fact I just thought of them while reading your post..:D.
        And now that I think about it more- I think length of ingredient list should be a non issue- you are right, especially because other cosmetics list all the ingredients and as an informed customer I simply don’t pick the ones that contain ingredients I want to avoid. Especially with ingredients that can cause just a skin reaction in a minority of people (as opposed to say, cancer!) the kind of warning you mention makes sense along with a suggestion to do a patch test.
        Ah-but that, I imagine can reduce the magic and allure of perfume..haha (I’m being sarcastic..;-)). So in that case what Ms Minya said -” I think some brands are totally mystifying perfumers on purpose for the public. They say the magic goes away if people find out about the small details of our work”- is that the reason why warnings are not being used as a solution?
        I’m trying to wrap my head around WHY IFRA regulations for perfume are the way they are? Is it all politics?..*wonders*

        • I can’t figure it out, either, Lavanya, and I think that’s part of what makes me so irritable about the whole thing. The other (and related) part is about inconsistency — both in terms of concerns, standards and things to regulate. Logical inconsistency really gets to me. And when I think of nuts triggering anaphylactic shock, or (to take things to a really ludicrous extreme) flowers causing an asthmatic attack, I just don’t get the lack of regulatory concern. Or, more precisely, why perfume ingredients trigger such a regulatory concern, and nuts don’t? Flowers — okay, they’re made in nature — but nuts possibly contaminating a factory production line in the processing of pre-packaged food? No-one is trying to regulate or ban nuts in candy bars, or pre-packaged foods in general. There are warning labels and people use common sense. Period. End of story. But if oakmoss can trigger a *POTENTIAL* rash in 1% of the 500+ million citizens of the EU, then they want to consider banning Chanel No. 5, or banning oakmoss altogether?????

          I.Just.Don’t.Understand.It! I just don’t.

  3. Sounds like you had a real and sincere perfumista to perfumista talk. Could it be that Viktoria is even “hotter” in reality than she’s on the pictures? Is it even possible?

  4. Sadly I believe perfumers all over the world need to resort to black markets. Case in point; the US outlaws not only the sale of ambergris but even possession of it. This galls me
    since I am walwalking distance from a beach. Chances are slim I would find any but boy would I love to at least have the chance to.

    • I would like to think that some perfumers or brands who use ambergris (like Profumum Roma) just pay a lot for it, then pass along the costs to us in terms of more-expensive-than-usual perfume. Perhaps it’s naive, but I’d like to think it’s true. Or perhaps I’m just justifying some high perfume costs. LOL.

          • Good question Kafka, I don’t know if we will ever know. At least the French as far as I know don’t outlaw possessionor purchase of it. Nor do the Brits (a boy found some on a beach there several years ago)

    • Thank you, my dear Jordan. Weren’t the plethora of bottles cool?! It was like a little treasure cave, and I wanted to pick up each one to see what it was. The fridge business fascinated me, too. The whole thing was so, so different from anything I’ve ever seen.

        • A more important question is this: why does the phrase “perfume organ” sound so damn dirty??! 😉 😛

          And, yes, I loved the Esprit name too. It was perfect for the scent. 😦

          • Aaah, Esprit clothing. I had totally forgotten about that. I suppose I just read the old title as “Mohur Esprit,” so I didn’t make the associations. Or perhaps I would just like to forget the days when Esprit dominated the fashion scene… 😉 😛

  5. really enjoyed this post. viktoria’s perfume organ is just beautiful! her fragrance sounds very intriguing as well. i love the idea of a fizzy, peach-honey fragrance. and i am a sucker for osmanthus.

    regarding the IFRA/EU regulations, i agree that they are quite ridiculous and the double standards are beyond irritating! also, i had no idea that certain oils/absolutes were only allowed in such ridiculously minute quantities. this was very enlightening.

    barely tangentially related, but i’ve only recently been coming to understand how weird this perfume hobby seems to “regular” people, even in what i consider a perfume-friendly country like italy. when i told a new acquaintance about my perfume hobby, she looked at me as though i’d grown another head. “what does that entail? like… sitting around sniffing your perfumes?” it seems like there is almost a stigma against wearing or using perfume… and with all the restrictions in place (and upcoming restrictions) it feels like the EU/IFRA are continuing to cater to the needs of the perfume hater, even though at the same time, niche perfumeries are coming into their own and the market is exponentially growing…

    sorry i’m not too coherent, it’s the jetlag! i also wanted to ask what you think of parfum de nicolai fragrances, do you have some favorites? i have been thinking of blind buying a few 30ml bottles because there is nowhere to test them here…

    • Julia, you’re totally coherent! And quite funny to boot with the whole “other head” reaction from your acquaintance. Do you live in Italy? I’m surprised to hear that there seems a stigma against wearing perfumes there. Perhaps it’s just amongst the general public — much as there is for a big segment of the American general population — because I’ve seen Italians be quite a presence on the various perfume sites like Basenotes or Fragrantica. If there is a stigma in Italy, I think it’s a damn shame because Italy seems to be really coming into its own in terms of perfume houses and increasing numbers of niche ones. A few bloggers recently met up in Rome, and seemed to have a great time at various parfumeries there.

      You know, if your acquaintance doesn’t get it, I think you should consider it your duty to send her down the rabbit-hole and corrupt her into obsession….. *grin*

      As for Hedonist, if you like the notes you mentioned, you really MUST get a sample of it. Really! It’s a beautiful scent, and don’t even get me started on the bottle with its glowing, jewel-like crystals!

  6. I love your in depth look behind the scenes of perfume creation! Thanks to you and Viktoria for sharing. She has always seemed to be an interesting sole since I read on another blog how she enjoys belly dancing. I also really thought it was nice how she (or her team) followed up with the sample I bought to see how I liked it. I wish the EU regulations (not just IFRA) would make it a little easier for the little guys to be successful parfumers. With everything down to shipping regulations for perfumes being regulated, I do not see how anyone can be successful in this business without a giant legal team behind them. Hats off to people like Viktoria (and Andy and Neela) for keeping this whole perfume thing a personal art form and not just billion dollar business venture.

    • I’m glad you liked it, my dear. I was terrified that the length was going to put everyone off reading it. I’d actually gotten myself into quite a knot over that, but I simply couldn’t cut it. I simply couldn’t.

      You would LOVE hanging out with Viktoria. She’s so damn cool and hip, but also really down to earth and funny. Most of all, she’s so unbelievably sweet. The belly-dancing is cool, isn’t it? Have you seen the Facebook photos of her at her organ with her legs up and in yellow-and-blue flippers? Cracks me up.

      Regarding the EU regulations…. well, don’t get me started all over again. It took me 3 hours to calm down from this morning’s peevishness. But yes, thank God for the independents who keep things going by following their own vision and passion, no matter how tough.

  7. This was a long article, even for you! But I enjoyed every minute spent reading it. Ms. Minya really is beautiful (gorgeously stunning, more like it)! And like you, I’m a fan of her debut fragrance, which I concur with you really is an ‘elegant, airy honeyed-floral affair’. I had a good laugh, but then also a shudder, when you mentioned the concentration of Iso E Super that is allowed. Would dousing ourselves in more of it turn us into Superman and Superwoman? But distractions aside, as you put it, the highlight for me was being up-close (through your photographs) with the perfumer’s organ. How do I put this subtly…? ‘I WANT ONE!’ screams every fibre of my being, in the same way you might imagine a baby throwing a tantrum would scream. I was imagining smells to each ingredient you brought up. Maybe one day I’ll have my experience with a perfumer’s organ.

    Thank you so so so so much for sharing this, I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and I’m really glad to have you back from your travels.

    • Haha, it *was* insanely long, even by my crazy standards, wasn’t it? I swear, I thought I’d drive people off in droves once they saw how long it was, or that they’d quit my blog altogether. But I really had to be true to my own beliefs and standards, and to keep everything that I thought was genuinely important, interesting, or educationally useful. So I’m incredibly grateful you read it all, and found it interesting. Thank you for the reassurance, my dear Vagabond! 🙂

      Also, thank you for quite a few big laughs as I read your comment. The shudder at the ISO E Super amounts… honestly, can you believe it? More than 21%??! You should have seen the almost Tourettes-like stream of rudeness I let loose when I saw that number, after the stream of zero-point-something numbers before it! I’m so glad I’m not the only one who was utterly aghast at that. Bloody ISO E.

      As for your scream of longing at the organ, I completely understand. Now I wish more than ever that I could have magically transported all of you to her studio to see it for yourselves. That room with bookcase after bookcase of bottles, a fridge of bottles, and then the organ…. it’s almost too much for one’s mind to take it all in. So many bottles offering sooooooooooooo many hidden mysteries!!!

      You know, you’re in London…. You can always take a train ride to Paris for a private lesson and session with the super hot Viktoria. She’s a fantastic teacher, and you could see all those bottles for yourself….. 😉 😀

  8. Wow, what a nice peek “behind the curtain”. Excellent stuff!

    I totally agree with you on IFRA; a warning label here and there would solve most of the issues. Common sense seems to be in short supply.

    I guess this is another reason (to follow up on our Arabian Oud discussion the other day) to peek a bit behind – the Arabic curtain. 🙂

    • I’m really glad you liked it, Bruno. And relieved that I didn’t freak out another reader with the length. (It was a big worry last night, even as I was finalizing things on the article.) LOL! As for common sense, it seems to be in short supply in far too many different arenas in today’s society, alas.

      With regard to the Arabic curtain, if I could, I most definitely would. 😀 I wish I could just take off to Dubai, Riyadh or Oman to see things for myself in terms of all the many Arab perfumers that are out there. If it’s worth anything, I’ve actually reached out to Arabian Oud to see if I can buy some samples off them so that I can explore the line properly. Hopefully, I’ll get a reply. I don’t suppose you want to be a roaming reporter for me, and hop on a plane? 😉

      • 🙂 Would love to. Imagine having a “buyer” job like that! (Never been there myself.) I am quite surprised houses like Arabian Oud do not offer some sample/discovery sets, at least to those ignorant Westerners. Especially since their online scent “descriptions” usually come down to something as generic as “an amazing scent, very popular with our customers”. Wha?

        (My common-sense-sentence was originally written (more or less) the way you responded. Indeed, in far too many areas. So keep on writing and keep on writing long – and interesting – pieces, definitely. The world – meaning all of us – is getting lazier and more ignorant by the minute, forgetting how enriching and vital reading and writing is.)

        • I’m really touched, Bruno. Thank you. I think I needed that last bit of encouragement today, of all days. So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.

          As for the Middle East, I’m familiar with it, and with traditional Middle Eastern perfumery as an overall style, but it’s certainly been a while since I was there and I certainly never went with the express intention of exploring their perfume world. Can you imagine how gloriously rich, historical and different it must be, both in terms of their traditions and their range of perfumes that differ so widely from those in the West? It must be glorious. I keep hearing how even simple, basic, almost Bazaar-available fragrances are incredibly deep, rich, smooth, and potent with their sillage and duration being commonly quite enormous. It really makes me want to get on a plane and visit!!

          Hmm, I know 3-4 people in Dubai, come to think of it, and one in Tunis…. 😉 (No, jokes aside, I don’t dare go on another trip any time soon because the Hairy German would completely disown me if I did! lol)

          • Exactly: I’ve had people come back from, say, Istanbul, with amazing oils they bought in the most common of markets. No labels, no descriptions. Do you like this? Yes. Here’s 3ml for you. What about this? Yes? Excellent. 3ml more. And you come back home with unrepeatable loot.

            So yes, it is unimaginable how much that part of the world knows and still has to offer. Many times, stumbling upon and ending up following some attar thread, with the – I assume – Arabic “attaristas” discussing, I end up being impressed by their passion and their detailed knowledge (this Taif rose and that Taif rose, oud this old and that old, all the nuances – a whole another world). Simply amazing.

            PS. You are welcome. 🙂 Keep on doing what you’re doing. And we will keep on reading.

  9. Dearest Kafka
    A truly enthralling read.
    Not wishing to open up the whole discourse around IFRA and the EU again, but one does wonder whether the faddish pressure groups who campaigned for these controls in the first place really meant for the outcome to be that natural oils are banned or their use massively curtailed while abstract synthetics borne only of the laboratory are given free reign.
    Another interesting point is the role of the regulated… one of the reasons why the drinks, food and tobacco industries have been able to avoid similarly aggressive regulation is because of their massive lobbying and campaigning to prevent such controls. Yet many of the large perfume companies have been strangely silent when it comes to defending the use of traditional (and often expensive) ingredients. One wonders why…
    On a final a more cheering note, how lovely to hear Chris and Pell Wall Perfumes get a mention. Not only is he a font of great knowledge on such things but rather a fine artisan himself, I adore his 1953 and Green Carnation in particular. Both scents that hark back to grander and more adventurous times.
    Thank you for such a splendid piece.
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy
    Yours ever

    • I loved this bit in your comment: “one does wonder whether the faddish pressure groups who campaigned for these controls in the first place really meant for the outcome to be that natural oils are banned or their use massively curtailed while abstract synthetics borne only of the laboratory are given free reign.” So damn true! I doubt it was their intention, which just makes it deliciously ironic, though depressing as well.

      As for the lobbying issue, I very much agree with you that more needs to be done. But LVMH and Chanel are lobbying. (See, my Dec. piece on the EU regulations, the issue of Chanel No. 5, and the list of perfume maker’s secret reformulations pre-IFRA regs and going back to the 1970s: https://akafkaesquelife.wordpress.com/2013/01/01/perfume-news-2013-the-eu-reformulations-perfume-makers-secrets/) BUT… and this is the interesting part, other companies are silent, especially L’Oreal, that giant that took over YSL, destroyed Opium, and seems to love synthetics for the profit-making/cost of production value. Wonder why Chanel is lobbying for protection for its No. 5 and LVMH for things like Guerlain, but L’Oreal is staying quiet as a mouse? No? I didn’t think so. lol.

      How nice to hear that Chris Bartlett’s perfumes are evocative of the grand, old classics and the great perfume tradition. That says a lot coming from you, a man who knows his classics! I wish I could try a few. The UK Postal service though, and its perfume mania….. ugh.

      • Dearest Kafka
        Very true regarding Guerlain and Chanel, it was mainly l’Oreal, Coty and the other conglomerates that I had my eye on.
        The havoc that has been wrought not only to YSL’s back catalogue but the commendable 90s scents of Gucci is unspeakable. Then there is the curious case of Dior (related to Guerlain, but strangely quiet).
        As to our postal service and its insane perfume aversion… perhaps it has IFRA members on its board.
        Yours ever
        The Perfumed Dandy

        • “As to our postal service and its insane perfume aversion… perhaps it has IFRA members on its board.”

          -I actually and quite truly just choked on my hot chocolate. No, I really did. BEST LINE EVER! I can’t stop laughing over that.

  10. What a fabulous post! And she is really beautiful! I loved finding out some of the behind the scenes stuff of perfume making. It gets my feathers ruffled when I read about the restrictions though. I really hate when people start over-regulating things. I’m a big girl, if I get a rash from something I think I’m smart enough to know I shouldn’t use it again. I don’t need a government agency to look after my well being. I’ve been having a similar fight this week over the damn flu vaccine. I had a bad reaction to it a few years back and will not get another. In trying to find out what I may have reacted to in it I found out some of the crap that’s in those things and I’m glad I can’t get them anymore. My boss is pushing for me to get it but I’m getting an exemption note from my doctor. Anyway, there’s all sort of minute amounts of toxic things in them. It makes me laugh when I read that I can’t have too much oak moss in my perfume, but it’s okay and even encouraged to inject myself with this other stuff. Wow, sorry about that little rant there. Anyway, back to the lovely Viktoria….I’m so glad you were able to meet up with her and share it with us in your blog. How much fun would it be to have all those bottles to play with?

    • I’m hardly one to object to a rant, my dear Poodle… 😉 😀 That sucks about your employer pushing you on such a personal matter. I hope you get it worked out with a minimum of hassle and conflict. Why they can’t respect an adult’s informed decision on their own health matters? Nanny State…. bah. I’m just waiting for someone to try to regulate my Diet Coke consumption. You will hear a war cry the likes of which you’ve never ever seen before….

  11. Great article Kafka, and very nice review of this talented nose, she seems like a really nice person 🙂 . I really didn´t notice that this article was longer than normal though, it just seems like the regular length you write. Too bad that this ISO E super thing is so loved, but the natural ingredients like essential oils, get banned. I guess we should destroy all the flower gardens since people might be allergic to them, lets burn them, and lets shave all cats and dogs completely bald, some people are allergic to their fur. I guess there must be some really big money involved to make synthetics the norm, since they are cheaper and you can still charge a lot of money for a perfume simply because it carries a well known label, and then you can make a much larger profit 😦 . On another note Kafka, I´m still curious to know what else you did in your trip, 😛 where else did you go?

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it, Vicky. She’s incredibly talented, and I think you personally would die over her Hedonist perfume. It’s really a fantastic, stunning beautiful, elegant scent. As for the EU regulations, I laughed at your examples because I’ve used the flower and pet allergy ones myself in the past.

      With regard to my trip, it was just to the Camargue region for 4 days, then Paris for 11. Even 11 days wasn’t really enough for all that Paris has to offer!

      • I know and I´m afraid that it is not enough for Paris and I also only have 11 days 😦 , possibly 10 actually since one day I will be going to Versailles, which I consider a great opportunity, at this point of the year because November is low season and there won´t be many tourist around so it will be easier to enjoy Versailles at this point of time 🙂 . When it comes to the weather wish me luck, I know it´s going to be cold since the 3 to seven degrees Celsius that Paris has on average in November is the same weather we have here in January! But at least I hope it doesn´t rain. I have always considered that Paris is a place that needs at least 20 days to be well seen considering all it has to offer, from history, to food, to perfumes, to fashion, to monuments, a place that is one of a kind 🙂 .

  12. Wow, I’m even more in love with Ms. Minya after reading your article! It was very informative and I loved how you’ve managed to make it sound…conversational. The perfume organ was something to behold, the one I saw at Fragonard was puny, perhaps half the size in width and height. (Oh no, did this come out kinda dirty?).

    • The organ was FABULOUS! And, yes, every possible mention of the word “perfume organ” sounds completely filthy and perverted….. *grin* Or, perhaps that’s just our minds. 😉 😛

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the interview. Ms. Minya has such talent, but is also a really good teacher, so all the credit really goes to her!

    • Hedonist is glorious. I have said it before and I’ll say it again: it will be on many “Best Of” lists for 2013, and most deservedly so! I really hope you order a sample, Little Red.

  13. Never worry about the length of your posts, you cram so much information into them it’s worth every word. And this was one was particularly excellent. I wasn’t planning on trying Hedonist, as my frugal self sometimes gets up in arms about the rapidly rising costs of niche perfumery, but you’ve changed my mind. I’ll give it a whirl.

    • Oh, thank you, Dionne. I really appreciate it and your kind reassurance. It means a lot to me, because I worry (often) about the length of my posts.

      As for the rapidly rising prices of niche (and general, commercial) perfumes, I definitely share your views and irritation. But, hopefully, as this piece showed, it’s a little different for small, independent, truly and genuinely niche perfumers than for, say, Tom Ford. I find most of his stuff is ridiculously priced for what they are, but Hedonist is actually worth the money, in my opinion. You get what you pay for, both in terms of quality and ingredients, as well as the luxurious opulence of the bottle/packaging. I really hope you give Hedonist a sniff, if only to see what it’s like, Ms. Minya’s talent, and the use of some genuinely high-quality, luxurious ingredients. 🙂 xoxoxo

  14. I loved reading your post, it has so much information and emotions – loved it! But I disagree with you on one aspect: I don’t think your rage against IFRA was irrational 😉 And I completely agree with all your arguments – I keep repeating them in each discussion on the topic.

    I’m not surprised notes aren’t recognizable in the concentrated form: it’s not the way you normally smell them. It’s like paint: it looks different in a can and on the wall.

    • Hee! IFRA/EU rage. I think that — for most people in the outside world — the degree to which we have meltdowns over the actions of a transnational regulatory body and government group may seem a little irrational. I seem to be a little heated, in particular, on this issue. LOL.

      As for the unrecognizable nature of the notes, I like your interpretation of it! But whenever I think about Ms. Minya’s comments about how the perfume oils are diluted and in a weak form, my ego takes a dive yet again. I think I’ll stick to your theory on the subject. 😉 😀

  15. What a wonderful post and how enlightening and entertaining while also being, hushed tones, ‘educational’! 🙂 Your interview with Viktoria Minya is exquisite, a curtain lifted showing the artist behind the production. Once past the mental tilt at the term ‘scent organ’, the extraordinary similarities the arrangement of her scent vials has with the stops of a musical organ reinforces the linkage between the arts of music and of perfume. I wonder if noses have a type of synesthesia where they see smells as colors much in the same way that Baudelaire, Kandinsky, and Messiaen experienced their art? Scent poets and painters and musicians.

    Given the protection of world heritage sites as cultural treasures, one has to wonder why other arts, not just architectural aren’t better protected? I would think that the great perfumes are as much a cultural and historical legacy of civilization as are buildings, perhaps more so because of their ephemeral yet highly evocative nature. Warning signs in architecture (beware of loose stonework etc.) should equate to warning signs in perfume, not outright banning of compositional ingredients.

    A particularly good exposition, dear Kafka, adding yet another facet to understanding the pleasure that perfume gives.

    • You’re so sweet, and very kind, my dear Two2ahorse. And I fully agree with you on having some sort of protected status for the perfume greats like Chanel No. 5, Shalimar, Mitsouko, and the like. I’ve actually mentioned that specific thing in the past myself. The only problem I see is the difficulty in drawing the line. Okay, so we have 3 right there, but what if Thierry Mugler’s Angel wants to join the list? Or a Tom Ford scent? Who decides and by what criteria? What a subjective hot mess that debate would be, and what a firestorm about the definitional standards or choices. I can’t see it being done easily, in practical terms, at all. But SOMETHING has to be done, that much is clear.

      The easiest thing really would be labels. Your comment about warning signs in architecture is particularly apt and on point. You see those signs on all sorts of World Heritage sites, and, really, how hard would it be to put on a box of perfume?! The lack of basic common sense and practicality in all this is really infuriating, not to mention completely bewildering.

  16. Impeccable reporting, Kafka. You blow my mind, and I think a big magazine ought to hire you and pay you big bucks to write articles like this.

    I’m more in love with you and more in love with Viktoria Minya. And I’m thrilled to own a bottle of Hedonist. It’s certainly one of the best perfumes to have come out in recent years, and considering the limitations that IFRA puts on perfumers, I realize in smelling Hedonist just how amazing a perfumer Viktoria is.

    • Awww, thank you, sweetpea. I’m very touched, and your comments mean the world to me. It really does. (I fretted a lot about this piece and its ridiculous length, as well as about portions therein.)

      Do you actually own a bottle of Hedonist??!! You lucky devil, you! Wow, wow, WOW! It’s such a stunner, and to see it in person, gleaming like a jewel in the light was something else. It was Ms. Minya’s very, very last one (given the sold out issue) and her absolute own bottle; and it was gorgeous. There was a strong whiff of it in the air and, instinctively, without realising, I actually stretched out — just as I had mentioned in my review at the time — like a cat in the sun. Such a beautiful scent. To create THAT, with all the nightmarish obstacles created by the IFRA/EU and other obstacles mentioned here…. well, it’s really a testament to her talent. Some people just have it, and she’s one of them!

  17. What a phenomenal read! And what good fortune to have had that opportunity! So, I read your Jovoy post prior to this one and wrote about how an experience like Jovoy would be really overwhelming for someone like me. But when you mentioned Viktoria’s courses — that would be something I’d really love! Having the chance to learn from an expert would be invaluable, or at least very interesting to me. Or maybe I could just have her go to Jovoy with me. Or you, for that matter! Anyway, I really thought this was a neat perspective. She seems so likable and interesting, and it definitely makes me want to try Hedonist even more than I wanted to before. Sounds like she has an extremely bright future ahead of her! Thank you for sharing this account with us!

    • I think you’d love Viktoria’s courses, because it is the sort of thing that naturally appeals to your inquisitive, curious nature *and* because she’s a very good teacher. She’s also very warm and supportive, so she doesn’t make you feel like a fool. My God, going to Jovoy with her would be a blast. And I think you really have to try Hedonist if you get the chance!

  18. Pingback: A Beginner’s Guide To Perfume: How to Train Your Nose, Learn Your Perfume Profile, & More | Kafkaesque

  19. Dear Kafkaesque,
    It’s a great article and all your writings are worth to read.
    What I can say it’s delightful.
    Thanks for all vast information and perfumery mystiques 🙂

  20. Pingback: The EU Proposes to Act on Perfume | Kafkaesque

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