The talented, exquisite Victoria Frolova of Bois de Jasmin is my perfume blogging role model. Victoria has been publishing her characteristic lush, poetic perfume reviews since 2005. Bois de Jasmin has won a FiFi for Editorial Excellence and has been mentioned in Vogue and The New York Times. Her perfume writing soon caught the attention of International Flavors and Fragrances (the third largest fragrance firm in the world), where she received her initial perfumery training. Victoria also looks remarkably like Christina Ricci. Some girls have all the luck! It is an utter pleasure to share Victoria’s fascinating insights about her perfumery training with you today.
Why do you write about perfume?
So many reasons! Because smelling something beautiful makes me happy, and I love sharing. Because I believe that being more aware of scents can enrich one’s life tremendously. It is not just about perfume in the bottle, but about perfume in a more general way—being mindful of scents when eating, drinking, walking down the street. The more one is attuned to smells in one’s surroundings, the more one can appreciate simple pleasures. It is fun to taste a cherry and find that it has a clove-like nuance. Or to smell blooming magnolias and find that their fragrance is reminiscent of lemon ice cream.
All in all, I write about perfume for the love of it.
You’ve told us on Bois de Jasmin that you have received perfumery training at IFF (International Flavors & Fragrances). What can you tell us about your perfumery training?
In the past, perfumery training was conducted mostly through apprenticeship. A student would work directly with the master perfumer and learn the tricks of the trade through observation and hands on experience. The older generation of perfumers learned in this manner rather than through formal schooling. Nowadays, perfumers are trained either at schools within the supplier companies (Firmenich, IFF, Givaudan, Symrise, etc. all have perfumery training programs) or at ISIPCA (Institut supérieur international du parfum, de la cosmétique et de l’aromatique alimentaire based in Versailles, France.)
At first, one is required to memorize a palette of odors, 300 to 400 of which require intimate familiarity. Then one begins working on basic accords such as rose, lily of the valley, tuberose and amber. Different schools structure their training differently, but generally duplications of fragrances on the market (classics and trendsetters) form an important part of learning the art of fragrance composition. It is similar to what student painters do when they copy the works of the great masters. Once one understands the basic principles of fragrance construction, one is allowed to create by oneself.
At the same time, because a perfumer today needs to be well-versed in different areas of perfumery, one learns how to make candles, fabric softeners, liquid detergents, how to transform a scent for an alcohol based perfume to a lotion, how to reformulate, how to reduce the cost of an expensive formula. When I first started in the course, I would come home after 8 hours of smelling feeling as if I had spent my day lifting bricks. It got much easier as time went on. Learning about fragrance creation made me realize how incredibly hard it is to come up with an original and distinctive composition. It is a humbling experience.
What are your favorite perfume houses?
I love classical fragrances from Guerlain and Chanel, because they have a rich, voluptuous quality which is not commonly found today. On the other hand, they are not dated, which is not necessarily the case with all fragrances from that era. I feel the same way about Estée Lauder (Private Collection, Aliage, and Knowing are my favorites.) I also enjoy fragrances from Annick Goutal, Serge Lutens, Kenzo and Parfums de Nicolaï.
What is your favorite place to shop for perfume?
Online stores such as Aedes, Luckyscent and The Perfume Court for samples and decants. Otherwise, I love Sephora, the layout of which is great for leisurely sampling, and T.J. Maxx for bargain hunting.
At seven years old, Bois de Jasmin is one of the oldest perfume blogs. How have you managed to maintain your interest in perfume and to keep writing about the same subject for so long?
I find the topic enjoyable and fun, and a beautiful scent makes me as happy and excited today as it did when I first started Bois de Jasmin. Above all, the exchange with the readers and other bloggers is very rewarding because every day I learn something new thanks to them.
What are some of your other interests outside of perfume?
Dancing, cooking, reading, photography, traveling. I am a curious person by nature, so I always have some new quest. Spending time with my family is my number one priority, however, especially since both my husband and I have busy schedules. We share many interests in common, and on weekends we often plan some activities around them.
What perfumes were you hoping to find under the Christmas tree/Menorah branches this year?
I would have loved a bottle of Chanel Coromandel. I used up a few decants of it already, so I know that it is not just a momentary infatuation.