Fragrant Questions



Tonight The Scented Salon is discussing questions from Anna. You can join the conversation in the comments section below.

Guest post by Anna from The Creative Flux

A little over a month ago, I met The Fragrant Man via the blogosphere. The world of scents is such a mystery to me, and always has been. I find reading the thoughts and insights of those immersed in the perfume industry to be both intriguing and educational – mostly because their expertise is in a subject to which I have intuitive, spontaneous reactions, yet know so very little about.

My questions are many;

What is it about perfumes that make some people adore what others abhor?

Why do they smell radically different on different users? How is it that your olfactory senses can send you reeling with the powerful memories they provoke?

And, why do I find it so damn difficult to find a fragrance that truly is trued to my senses, body chemistry, and preferences?

Why do I even have those preferences in the first place?

While I still don’t know the answers to those questions – if there even are any answers shorter than a dissertation – I have made a some vital discoveries in the process. The realities of niche perfumists mirror those of artisans and sustenance purists the world over. For their rare and exotic ingredients, they battle everything from climate change, species extinctions and the subsequent shortages of materials, to corporate giants strong-arming the competition and pushing often harmful chemical substitutes over naturally harvested essential oils, and then lobbying for legislation that conceals any cause for liability. The despicable tactics of the mono-corporatist giants echo those of Monsanto v/s the smaller, individual organic family farms and co-ops, and the political stranglehold they and many others have on our health, environment.


I find it endlessly intriguing and encouraging that there are those around the world, who will make it their life’s mission to grow, and sustainably harvest, Mysore Sandalwood trees from root cuttings in a climate zone, North Australia, comparable to that of its origin – India – where the few trees left are now protected. And I’m inspired by the Afghan farmer who recognizes the value of growing and producing roses for top quality rose oil, as opposed to poppies for heroin. The quest for quality and sustainability reigns supreme, and those who value it know it is worth every penny.


Further Reading
Ecological Conscience – Perfumery
Philosophy of Perfume – Part 1 – by Abdes Salaam Attar
The End of Oud – sustainable cultivation
Mysore Sandalwood – sustainable cultivation
Making Perfume not War – growing roses instead of opium poppies
Afghan Woman – Orange Blossom Harvest
60 year old Agarwood tree – Single Tree Harvest Alert


Ecological Conscience – Bees and Trees and More
Bees – Let them Bee
Wood Preservation – from shou-sugi-ban to acetylated wood
Green Roofs – Part One
Green Roofs – Part Two
Paneling made from agricultural waste – From Field to Finishes
Ipé is not really sustainable – It’s not easy being green
Three houses out of just one tree – How cool is this German magic?
The Creek – Living on 600 acres of Australian Bush

Previous Posts by Anna

Lilies Anna Kullgren

Photos: Anna Kullgren

Fragrant Distractions – Part One

Faded Fading Lily Anna Kullgren

Photo: Anna Kullgren

Fragrant Distractions – Part Two

Rose Thorns Anna Kullgren

Photo: Anna Kullgren

The Magical Mystery Rose
Anna previously wrote The Magical Mystery Rose in response to the Mohur review.

9 responses to “Fragrant Questions

  1. great article, but i would like to add that not “all natural” is “all good” and that “niche” is better than “commercial fragrances” containing wonderful fragrance molecules…In fact, there are many natural essential oils containing quite a few “irritants”. ALL fragrance ingredients are extensively tested for safety before application (and NGO’s are keeping a watchful eye..).

    • Hello BWP, and thanks for wafting in to the Scented Salon! I agree with you that it is often best to avoid sweeping generalizations, but they do provide a good starting point for discussion. From the perspective of a human, what you say that the “all natural” is not always “all good”, some things are irritants, etc. may be true. I would argue that viewed overall, anything from the natural world has a place in an elaborate ecosystem. If it is an irritant, it is not performing in its right place. I would also maintain that anything having to be tested before use, poses a lot of questions;

      What exactly does “tested extensively” mean?

      How long is it tested, and on whom? By whom?

      If it is only tested on certain species like rats and humans – how do we know the ramifications of exposing the chemical to the rest of the living world?

      Who decides when it has been tested long enough? A year? Ten years? In the case of the neonicotinoid pesticides, they clearly weren’t tested long enough to see the damage they would do to the world of beneficial pollinators. By now, the EU has banned them, and their bee populations are climbing back up. My point is, living creatures don’t adapt and evolve as rapidly as we produce, test, and market new chemicals – far from it. At the same time, the emergence of chemicals has made human lives much easier in so many ways. So my real quest here is to learn whether there is a balance, and if so, where that balance is. What kind of risks are we willing to live with? I look forward to hearing more insights…

    • Excellent discussion with two important points of view. We will discuss these issues further with some more posts. Thank you Brands with Purpose and Anna for your thoughts.

  2. Sorry, guys, but I’m not sure what exactly you’re trying to discuss. What do all the questions posed in the beginning have to do with the corporate greed or sustainability?

    • Undina – I think you’re right. They probably should have been split up into two different posts. With me being a newbie to fragrances, the questions stemmed from my ramblings. It went from how little I know about the mysteries of scent, and then spilled over into the part that IS familiar to me and my background – which are the garden and building industries. It seems those and the perfume industry face many of the same issues. Sorry for the confusion – I totally see your point.

    • That was me over embellishing Anna’s post with Further Reading links for those interested. Anna, the answers to our questions will be revealed as your Fragrant Journey continues. Undina, yes, the topics would have been better split. Thank you for your comment though: next time we will have crystilline clarity!

        • Haha – well it’s true that I am a sustainability hound, but I’m not totally granola. I once worked on a Living Building Challenge, and it took every ounce of creativity I had. Today, at least in the US building industry, we’re so well weaned off almost any opportunity to even be able to build toxin free. You have to dig deep for those materials, and when you find them, you’ll run into the next hurdle; Not many are willing to work with them because they are afraid of getting sued! I could go on, but to bring it back to fragrances and scents – many of our buildings emit and off-gas nasty stuff as indoor air pollution for years, as a result of this. We all inhale and absorb, but can’t distinguish it. It’s too bad ‘sustanability’ has become a despised buzzword, as it is really what it comes down to. I’m grateful to Jordan for including my posts on his blog, even if they might have been a bit of a diversion from the original questions. On a basic level, it is all connected, and all of this stuff will one day be more important (and hopefully less green-washed) than it is today. As for discussion – please don’t be deterred! I hope you can see past me standing on my soap box, and just pick the topic that interests you most. It’s all interesting to me – some of it almost on a metaphysical level.

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