“That Ecstatic Moment” in the life of a perfumery student

by | Mar 8, 2013 | natural perfume, Natural Perfumery Institute, raw materials of perfumery, study perfumery | 4 comments

One of my students posted this recently in the private student forum for the Natural Perfumery Institute.  Once enrolled, students enjoy lifetime membership in the forum, which is where they can interact with other students to build up their network and friendships, ask questions of myself and the adjunct faculty, and receive updates. This lovely note can be inspiring to all perfumery students, no matter where you are studying, because it is that universal “A-ha” moment, aka the “Eureka!” moment when it all starts to come together.

Ecstasy by Ana Bikic

Ecstasy by Ana Bikic

Here are Nuala_fae’s words (used with permission):

That ecstatic moment when you realise you have found the modification, after months of work, the only one which will become a perfume, the one you went diving for.

I haven’t posted much before, but I really had to share this with people who can truly understand my joy.

Learning horizontal accords was exhilarating, intuitive, a huge boost to my confidence.

Learning vertical accords nearly stripped all that away. If my ego had been swelling dangerously, this task certainly cut me down to size. I felt completely out of my depth. It took me a while to regain my composure. But I’m glad, now. It taught me the importance of giving due respect and focus to my work. This was going to take time.

Putting the two intersecting layers of movement together was like trying to walk up stairs through a crosstide. I wrote myself a strong and clear brief. I found myself spending whole bus rides, visualising what I wanted to create. And I still had to refer back to it constantly. Almost everything smelled quite nice, like it could work, like people would want to wear it. I thought this one might be it, but that one there was very similar. I felt as if I maybe didn’t have what it took. That there was something wrong with me. The weeks of waiting, and the confusion when all of my feelings towards them changed after they’d matured, frayed my nerves close to breaking point. I think Anya mentioned that the learning curve would be steep. But I wasn’t prepared for this, I really had no conception of the depth and subtlety and intricacy and mystery I was stepping into. My ambition waned. I became despondent, and hope dwindled. I approached my blending desk with apprehension, even shame. I felt like a silly fraud.

Tonight, I began a fresh series of aerations. I worked backwards, from the most recent, perhaps expecting them to be closer to the ideal. I experienced the same dull confusion I was now familiar with. Until, I reached Mod 7. As soon as I smelled it, I knew there was something different about this one. There was a vividness, as if it were alive. It seemed to sing to me. I couldn’t stop smelling it, and like watching a vast wave rolling in towards me, I began to understand, and as it broke over me the realization swept me away with a speed and a force that for a dizzying moment left me almost without the sense of proprioception. It felt like the time when as a child I almost drowned, and in the crush and roar of the white water I didn’t know where the sky was.

I knew I had found the one.

And I now know it is possible for me to compose a perfume. I don’t have to settle for something doubtful. The moment can and will come, when I know for certain I have what I set out to make.

And it is so, so beautiful.

I’m no longer brash enough to imagine that finessing it will be easy. But I’m not giving up on this now, there’s no danger of that.

I hope this might inspire any of you who are experiencing a similar struggle with your modifications, and lend a reflected glow of joy to you others who know what I’m feeling. I feel so blessed to be a part of this small global community of artists. Nobody can understand it like you do. – Nuala-fae


New students are enrolling all the time, and we welcomed two just this week.  If you would like the most professional, college-level course in natural perfumery, please join us at the Natural Perfumery Institute.

The Natural Perfumery Institute logo

The Natural Perfumery Institute logo


  1. Susan Bang

    Bravo! What a beautiful paen to the art and process of creating perfume.

  2. einsof


  3. DebRa

    So beautifully stated. Yes, like sweet poetry. I know that feeling. I too feel so lucky to participate or even be connected at all with such unique and creative, “free” people in Anya’s group. Sometimes I’m a lurker, I cannot put together words so elegantly (though I love to read them) – so my only hope is to put together perfumes that speak volumes. Thank you for sharing. Just gorgeous! I want to take Anya’s course next year after I get settled in my new home. You have inspired me.

  4. Nuala

    Thank you so much, Anya, for featuring my words on your blog; it’s an honour. DebRa: I really can’t recommend the course highly enough. It’s changed my life!


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