I'm making small batches of 10 new scents - perfumes with depth, individuality and beauty (IMHO). You can have anything from 10ml to a litre, at very reasonable prices for niche perfumes.
I'm Sarah McCartney (no relation to all those famous McCartneys) and I'm an indie perfumer working in London, UK. My perfume company is 4160 Tuesdays (the number of Tuesdays you have if you live until you’re 80). It's a name designed to inspire us to get up off our backsides and not waste a moment of our precious lives.
I get my inspiration from events, memories, stories, other people and entirely randomly. Some mornings I'll wake up knowing I have to try out a blend of black pepper, violets and vanilla...
In 2010 I changed over from writing about perfumes to making them. I couldn't buy exactly what I wanted, and after 14 years learning how it's done, well, I just went and did it.
You can read a bit more about me on Basenotes, and on Josephine Fairley's blog, The Scent Critic. With help from the wonderful Odette Toilette, these lovely people found me in 2012; they really like what I've done and where I'm taking my perfumes, and this has been great.
At the moment one of my scents, Urura's Tokyo Cafe, is on the front page of The Beauty Bible.
Why join in?
Because you can have yourself some gorgeous indie perfumes at high street scent prices.
And you'll smell fab.
Right now I have a batch of new scents bursting to get themselves ready for wearing, and that's why I'm here. I'd like to have some backing - some customers waiting for them - so it's not a complete shot in the dark. That way I can make them in slightly bigger volumes - maybe 5 litres (10 pints) - which is still tiny compared to the big guys who manufacture by the truck load, but big for me.
I'm offering anything from five little bottles to your own personal blend.
As for the 10 Scents Worth themselves, they are already work in progress. At the moment they include:
- Afternoon Tea with Archibald and Arthur - inspired by the founder and chief designer of Liberty of London, working around 1890. It's probably going to be the scent of tea, cakes and pipe tobacco.
- Let's Draw the Raffle Tickets – the scent of the Champs Elysees in Paris when Bradley Wiggins won the Tour de France. Plane trees, coffee, people, racing cycles and excitement.
- The Heart of Old Havana – ripe fruit, Caribbean heat, cigar smoke & dancing
- Shazam! – an oriental fragrance for real Eastern women. Most “oriental” scents were designed by Westerners who’ve never headed further East than France. When perfumers describe an oriental, they usually mean it’s got vanillin and deep resins or balsams in it, a bit like an incense cupcake.
- Invisible Ben – A soft scent for people who think they don’t like perfume. Citrus fruits, followed by woody scents that merge with the skin, so really it just smells like a person drinking fruit juice, while sitting in a garden.
- A Kindness of Roses – A perfume which is mostly roses, but with a dark secret and just a tiny sour note of tart forbidden fruit.
- Chandra’s Magic Carpet – Citrus fruits, spices and woods, the scent of 1001 Arabian Nights.
- Grandfather’s Shed – Apples, wild rose, cedarwood, leather and tobacco.
These could change.
And I’m open to ideas, so at this point, if you’ve got a burning desire to smell of something in particular, let me know. (Not other people’s scents though. I don’t copy.)
What’s different about indie perfumery?
Well for a start, a lot of us do our own blending. And we do it because we love the way the materials react with each other and with our skin. We don't want everyone to smell the same. We're after real beauty, not just sales. The big guys have to sell 10,000 bottles before they consider al perfume launch to be a success. If they fail, they disappear. If I sell 1% of that I've got an indie succes; I can, keep it small and exclusive.
For us the most important thing is the scent, and making people feel wonderful when they wear it. That’s what sets us apart from what you’ll find on the high street, where most of the budget goes on marketing and packaging. Indie perfumers can experiment. We can mix up a tiny batch of 10ml if we want to. We can follow our noses along unexplored pathways. And we’re finding that enough people want to come with us to make it worthwhile.
Maybe you’re one of them.
1. The creative development
I disappear into my perfume lab and spend two weeks developing my blends. They will need four weeks to mature. I'll make more than ten - different versions or each one - then decide which are the 10 best. This is the hard bit, but also the best bit for me as it's the most creative part.
My problem is always time. I spent so much time writing blogs, keeping up with Facebook pages, going out and speaking at events - - that I rarely get into my lab to do serious work for more than a day at a time.
With your funding, I'll have time to complete 10 of the fragrances which are begging me to get going, finish them and set them free. I'll keep you updated on their progress.
2. Choosing the top 10
With each scent, I usually work on at least three variations, sometimes a lot more, before I'm happy that it's finished. If I were starting from scratch right now, I'd have to give myself a year to complete The 10 Scents Worth, but over the last couple of years I've assembled a drawer full of ideas to develop further.
So I'll blend and blend until I'm happy, then I have to leave them to macerate. Perfume develops after blending. The big heavier materials that last longer - like vanilla and sandalwood - stick to the light flighty ones - like lemon and rosemary - so that the finished scents feel more rounded and whole. If you let them out too soon, you don't get a sense of the complete fragrance. It still changes over time when you wear it, but gently, not in bursts. Does that make sense? I hope so. The point is that they need to hang around quietly, like wine or whisky.
I expect to have around 30 to choose from after my two weeks lab work, which will need four to six weeks’ maceration to mature. Then I can pick the ten.
After that I can make up larger batches; these will be ready to bottle in February or March; that's why I shan't be posting out any samples until then. I do the bottling at my own place here in London.
If we're oversubsribed, that'll be wonderful. I'll get my perfume friends to help. But I've set limits just in case, because I want to be able to do it all here in the time I've set. So it's scalable, as the consultants say, up to the limits I've set myself.
3. While the batches mature
During the time that the scents are maturing, I'll be preparing my Safety Data Sheets, getting each perfume to the right formula and strength to pass the EU's devastatingly stringent safety regulations (which are threatening to ruin the industry, but that's another story) and the IFRA regulations for the US.
If we all put together a big enough order and smash through the target, I'll be able to have Pochet screen print the 30, 50 & 100 ml bottles with the 4160Tuesdays logo. If not, maybe next time. After all, it's the scent that counts and they look pretty good with their silver labels, but having our own printed bottles would be an extra bonus. They'd be ready in time for bottling.
4. Posting out Samples Sets and Pocket Packs
So then I take a few trips to the Post Office, and get everything on its way to you.
If you're waiting to choose your big bottle of scent, you'll get your Sample Set or Pocket Pack first.
5. The bigger bottles
If you've chosen to get yourslf a bigger bottle, after you've tried out your smaller samples you get in touch again to tell me which one you like best, then I'll post it to you.
And that's that. I'll keep the formulae, and plan to put five of them on my website. Five will probably stay exclusive to this little project.
I've made another film, five minutes on How I Make Scents, which you can watch here, if you like.
Get in touch if you'd like to know more, or have a look at my site. It would be lovely to have you along.
One more thing - the science: natural and synthetic perfumery materials
One of those myths in perfumery is that top quality perfumes are made with 100% natural materials. They aren't, but the sales people are afraid to admit that they use synthetics in case people walk away. Why? Because people actually do walk away saying things like, "I won't have any chemicals in my perfumes."
Less than one in 1000 people get a rash from some perfumes, but it's usually natural spices or citrus fruits that cause it, not the synthetics. (By the way, all perfumery materials whether they are natural or synthetic, are made of chemicals, as are human bodies, water, salt, sugar...)
First, let's just say that pretty much all commercial perfumery has had synthetic indredients since the 1860s, when William Perkin synthesised coumarin in Greenford, Middlessex. It's got a kind of almond, green grass scent and used to be very rare, taken from tonka beans by hand. He also invented the colour purple, no kidding. After that came violets (or alpha ionone as it's known in the business).
Chaneil No 5 is famous for having a sparkling feeling to its scent that comes from using synthetic aldeyhydes. Of course Chanel use jasmine and rose and lovely naturals too, but it was the aldehydes that make it different. Guerlain's Shalimar was a huge hit because of the whacking dose of vanillin - synthetic vanilla - that Monsieur Guerlain blended into it.
Well, it's a bit like cupcakes. If you asked a baker, "Do you add chemicals to your cakes?", the answer would probably be No! But without baking powder, cupcakes would just be flat stodgy things. Baking powers is bicarbonate of soda, sodium bicarbonate, a synthetic chemical. Just like cupcakes, if you try to make perfume without the synthetics that give them lightness and lift, they come out dense and dull. So I'll be using both, to the levels that the strangulatorily* stringent EU regulations allow.
* I probably made that word up.
Thanks everyone for joining in, especially those of you who have never met me or smelled my current range. There's still time to get in touch with your own idea of the scent you've always fancied wearing. I can put it on the list.
Last week I spoke at a event organised by Memory Network, about Proust and his Madeleine moment. One if the scents I shared with the guests was a slightly gentle version of The Dirty Heart of Old Havana. It went down a storm, but with a request to make it even more dirty. So I'll definitely be including that one.