WHO IS A PERFUMER?
A perfumer, also commonly referred to as a fumer, is an artist who relies on olfactory talents and their refinement to identify and distinguish traditional and unique fragrance ingredients. A perfumer is instrumental in the development and production of perfumes and colognes. These talents are also in high demand in the production of food and non-food items that rely on appealing scents to attract and retain customers. They are sometimes referred to as a Nose, due to his fine sense of smell and skill in producing olfactory compositions.
'Perfumery' is a term used in the perfume business to describe the business of producing and selling perfumes, or to the art of creating perfumes. Perfumers are chemists who focus on fragrance production. A perfumer must have a keen knowledge of a large variety of fragrance ingredients and their smells, and be able to distinguish each of the fragrance ingredients whether alone or in combination with other fragrances. An understanding of chemistry is important to decipher the properties and reactivity of ingredients when making a fragrance. But the actual creation of perfumes goes beyond science.
Perfumers usually work for a fragrance house and their job focuses on coming up with aroma formulas for all sorts of products. They develop formulas to produce different smells not only in perfumes, they also add fragrance to everything from automobile air fresheners to antiperspirants, cleaning, laundry & personal-care products etc. Commonly-used ingredients in perfumery include fruits, flowers, oils, woods, resins, and plants. Among flowers, Rose is one of the most common ingredients used in perfumery.
Perfumers are also known as Cosmetic Scientists, are responsible for conducting chemical testing in order to assist in the qualitative and quantitative analysis of materials used to develop new cosmetic products, such as shampoos, soaps, creams, other toiletries and perfumes. Perfumers are also responsible for developing or improving production processes in order to ensure they are efficient and conform to environmental and quality control standards and regulations.
WHAT DOES A PERFUMER DO?
• Evaluate odours of aromatic chemicals
• Set production standards and ensure workers are adhering to them
• Review batch sheets prepared for distillation department in order to ensure that they comply with formulas devised in the laboratory
• Determine quality of prepared materials by visiting compounding and distillation areas
• Smell all my trials from the previous days
• Assign priority levels based on the type of project and the given deadlines
• Adjust formulas of samples needing improvement
• Meet with product evaluators; discuss which samples are ready and which need more work
• Approve batches for finishing
• Reject batches that do not meet criteria
• Evaluate fragrances for specific characteristics, such as odor, body, harmony, strength, and permanence
WHAT IS THE WORK ENVIRONMENT AND SCHEDULE OF A PERFUMER LIKE?
Perfumers are typically hired on a permanent or contractual basis as laboratory employees or contractors for organizations that develop fragrances for consumer products. They may also work in other departments within these organizations, such as Sales & Marketing or Administration. Perfumers may also have jobs in government and academia.
KNOWLEDGE AREAS THAT NEED TO BE ACQUIRED
● Chemistry — Knowledge of the chemical composition, structure, and properties of substances and of the chemical processes and transformations that they undergo. This includes uses of chemicals and their interactions, danger signs, production techniques, and disposal methods.
● Mathematics — Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.
● Production and Processing — Knowledge of raw materials, production processes, quality control, costs, and other techniques for maximizing the effective manufacture and distribution of goods.
● English Language — Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
● Customer and Personal Service — Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
● Engineering and Technology — Knowledge of the practical application of engineering science and technology. This includes applying principles, techniques, procedures, and equipment to the design and production of various goods and services.
● Biology — Knowledge of plant and animal organisms, their tissues, cells, functions, interdependencies, and interactions with each other and the environment.
● Physics — Knowledge and prediction of physical principles, laws, their interrelationships, and applications to understanding fluid, material, and atmospheric dynamics, and mechanical, electrical, atomic and sub- atomic structures and processes.
● Strong knowledge of a large variety of fragrance ingredients
● Knowledge of combining smells in an attractive manner
● Good nose for scent
● Excellent Laboratory skills
● Time management skills
● Team work skills
● Good communication skills
● Good memory will be a plus point
● Healthy knowledge of chemistry and cosmetic science
● Patience and persistence
● Able to work through trial and error
● Able to endure more failure than success with regards to work objectives
● Ability to complete work within established deadlines
● An inquiring mind
● Able to work independently for long periods of time
● Able to closely follow protocol without cutting corners
● Good Interpersonal Skills
● Good Managerial Skills
● Good Knowledge of Research Data, Statistics, and 3D Modeling Software
● Passion for creation and eagerness to experience new smells.
● Perfumers must also have knowledge of human and psychological behavior specifically in the area of smells that can trigger moods, memories or emotions.
EDUCATION AND TRAINING
There are many ways to acquire the skills — you can either go for formal courses, or you can work your way to become a master perfumer. In the West, the emphasis is less on chemistry, as perfumery schools exist there and students learn the chemistry part on-the-job. But, in India, no quality schools exist and that is why the emphasis is on specializing in chemistry.
In India, there are only a few schools to train in the field of perfumery. The perfumery course may teach you about the fragrance genealogy, chemistry of fragrance, to recognize smells of hundreds of essential oils & enhance your olfactory sense, how departments work in a global perfume company etc. To enter the field of perfumery, one needs to have at least a degree in chemistry and then learn on the job. Those interested in high-ranking fragrance industry careers may want to consider an advanced degree like a master's or doctorate, as this can increase job opportunities. The training process to become a perfumer is intense and rigorous and takes many years. Some work as apprentices to established perfumists and learn the basics of perfume-making to become independent. This is a field where one keeps on learning and experimenting.
S.N Kelkar, Mumbai, is one of the largest flavours and fragrance houses in India. Kelkar Education Trust’s VG Vaze College of Arts, Science and Commerce, Mumbai, offers postgraduate diploma in perfumery and cosmetics management course. This is the only college in India that offers a full-fledged course in all aspects of perfumery, cosmetics and management.
Fragrance and Flavour Development Centre, Kannauj, UP, offers courses ranging from three days to one year in this field.
The one-year course called ‘Technology Development Programme in Aroma and its Management’ is open to students from both chemistry and non-chemistry backgrounds. FFDC also offers courses in partnership with the Forest Research Institute, Dehradun, called PG in Aroma Technology.
Abroad, many universities offer courses in perfumery & one of the most reputed courses is offered by EFCM (European Fragrance and Cosmetics Master’s degree) run by The Institute superieur International du Parfum (ISIPCA) at the university of Versailles, France in partnership with the university of Padua in Italy. Most of the major perfume companies abroad have their own perfumery schools.
Other courses that can be taken by perfumers
To qualify for a job or at the university one is given a basic odour test, also known as an olfactory test. With a foundation course in chemistry, candidates are put through in-house training where they gain specific knowledge. Once the candidate has the specific knowledge s/he can expect a better salary.
A fresher in this field working at the application and evaluation department, can expect anything between Rs 20,000 and Rs 30,000. A candidate with a business degree in perfumery can expect a higher salary of around Rs 35,000 to start with and a whopping Rs 70,000 as they begin to gain some experience.
JOB OUTLOOK AND PROSPECTS
There are only a thousand or so perfumists in the country, so there is a good chance for a lucrative career. The job of the perfumer is very similar to that of food flavourists, who compose smells and flavourings for many commercial food products. A perfumer’s nature of work is similar to that of a researcher who spent most of the time experimenting with different types of scents. As a tester, you have to smell the fragrance, recommend changes, and analyze whether it will work with the buyers. Perfumers or Fragrance chemists may work in various areas within the fragrance industry. They may specialize in cleaning products, bath products or body scents.
Big Perfume houses or companies mainly have a creative, application and evaluation department. Those in creation are involved in the process of developing new fragrances. Application is to check the fragrance compound in the product. Besides having a solid knowledge of Analytical chemistry, those who work in the application department should study the product to understand its performance, constancy and legal compliances in terms of environmental pollutants and toxicity. Last one is evaluation or testing, where one analyses and evaluates performance of the product in actual use condition and recommends changes needed if any.
Most perfumers are employed by major fragrance producers or perfume houses, with a small number working exclusively for small independent perfume manufacturers who make customized perfumes. Today, a larger number work for other industries such as the food and beverages industry that require regular testing of product smells and odors.
In India, the perfumery industry is in its blooming stage. SN Kelkar. Most of the major industries are in France where there is more scope for perfumers. The major perfume companies are IFF (International Flavors & Fragrances Inc) from New York, Givaudan and Firmenich from Switzerland, Symrise, Fragrance Resources and Drom Fragrances from Germany, Mane and Robertet from France, Ungerer & Company from Chester, UK; and Tagasako from Japan. Of them Givaudan, International Flavors & Fragrances Inc., Symrise, Robertet and Takasago have their offices in India. Perfumists can also find opportunities in the tea, wine industry as well as in the field of Aromatherapy.
Indians have a lot of scope to work with these fragrance houses. Givaudan, located on the outskirts of Karnataka, hires candidates for their evaluation department who are then sent to France to train for two-and-a-half months. They visit the factory for hands-on learning. Another growing breed of professionals includes ‘artisan perfumers’ and France has many of them. These are modest boutique owners who make customised fragrances. This trend is likely to grow in India too.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
What is some good advice for Students pursuing perfumery?
● Learn to work in a team. Fragrance chemists will likely work with a team of researchers, and it is important for students to work on becoming team players. Students can hone these skills by working in groups for class assignments or participating in group-oriented extracurricular activities.
● Build communication skills. Fragrance chemists will likely have to explain their ideas and data to coworkers without a background in science. It is important for them to build their written and verbal communications skills to convey complicated information. Students can do so by taking writing and speech courses.
● Improve managerial skills. As scientists move up the corporate ladder, it is more likely that they will supervise staff. Fragrance chemists can prepare for supervisory roles by practicing problem-solving skills, respecting coworkers and displaying confidence.
What is it like being a Perfumer?
This is a creative field which one can opt for as a hobby or as a career, but it is not an easy field to get into. Career as a Perfumer or Fragrance chemist is one of the most challenging professions in the Flavours and Fragrances industry. Those who become perfumers must have a ‘good nose’, a natural aptitude in science and an education in chemistry or cosmetic science. In addition to the scientific knowledge, which is needed to create new products, perfumers must have an insight into the nature of consumers and how the cosmetics industry works.
Are Perfumers happy?
The data related to this is widely controversial. Happiness varies and is biased by individual factors. Most of the perfumers claimed to be satisfied with their jobs and were paid well. Although they are not quite satisfied with growth opportunities in the field and have limited job options.
Should I become a Perfumer?
If you are a perfume lover who dreams of spending your days sniffing nuanced fragrances, or you have a superlative sense of smell and an ability to identify scents with precision and you have developed an assortment of great ideas for intoxicating perfumes that are yet to be “discovered” then becoming a professional ‘smell tester’ at a perfume company can be your calling. In addition, you'll need both patience and persistence, as the work of a perfumer is largely based in trial and error; it can often take up to 500 trials to find the perfect note for a fragrance. A career as a perfumer is not for those who expect immediate gratification from work activities; rather it is for those that savour victory after enduring a long battle. You must also be comfortable working in a laboratory setting, and communicating your findings and opinions to others. You must also have the manual dexterity necessary to use specialized laboratory equipment.