they did a few decades ago. “In the beginning, I had
to beg people to supply me. I’d found a supplier who
sent me a catalog, but they’d quoted the wrong prices
for my small half a kilo orders and were almost not
going to sell to me. I had to really plead with them,”
Consumers, perfume enthusiasts and wannabe-perfumers alike now have access to much more
information than before—some of the information
is not accurate, or is not interpreted correctly. There
is still a fair amount of deliberate obfuscation out
As someone who encounters so many industry
hopefuls, John has formed opinions on who really
has the potential to become a perfumer.
“I think you need passion. I think you need to be
in love with the sense of smell and have a certain joy
about smelling things; an excitement. You need to be
excited by and interested in everything—you know,
the type who goes for a walk and stops to smell the
flowers,” said John.
“If you have that love of it first, it gets you through
all the hard work.
“Second, you have to have an eye. The same
way someone might be really interested in fashion
but not have an instinct for what goes well
together—it’s the same with smell. I think the
technical knowledge—you just knuckle down and
learn it. That’s the easiest bit, really, even though it
is, of course, very hard.
“You need to overcome whatever it is that is
holding you back,” said John. “You need to have
obsession and determination.”
Rarely is it as easy to say that someone practices
what they preach.
The life of an artisanal or independent perfumer is quite different to that of a corporate one, though few wear quite as many hats as John does.