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How To Become a Perfumer? (Most Comprehensive Guide)

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Are you fascinated by the world of perfumery and wish to create your own fragrances? Becoming a perfumer is a rewarding and creative path, combining both artistry and scientific precision. 

We will look at two approaches to becoming a perfumer in this complete guide: through classical training and independently.

This blog will provide all the necessary steps and tools to help you launch your career as a perfumer, whether you prefer formal education or self-guided learning.

What is a Perfumer?

A perfumer is a professional who specializes in perfume creation. Perfumers combine both natural and synthetic ingredients to craft fragrances.

They can also be considered artists who work within the scope of our most primal sense – smell – translating abstract ideas and feelings into tangible and olfactory experiences.

While the role of a perfumer was initially connected with the creation of fragrances for perfumes, the definition has expanded to embrace a larger scope in recent history.

Perfumers today operate in different kinds of industries, creating fragrances for a range of consumer products such as candles, toiletries, cosmetics, and even food and beverages. 

A modern perfumer is a master of smell artistry, chemistry, and market trends, rapidly combining creativity and technical understanding with captivating customers’ senses and meeting the fragrance industry’s growing expectations.

When did Perfumery Start?

Perfumery has a history spanning thousands of years to ancient cultures. The word ‘perfume’ stems from the Latin “per fumum,” which means “through smoke,” hinting to the earliest type of fragrance – incense.

Around 2000 BC, the Ancient Egyptians were among the first to adopt perfumery into their lives. Aromatic oils were employed in religion, embalming practices, and personal care. Kyphi, a 16-ingredient blend that included honey, wine, and berries, was a popular Egyptian perfume used in rituals and as a treatment for various diseases.

The art of perfumery traveled to the Greeks and the Romans, who further refined the process. The Greeks highly regarded perfumes and used them in their daily rituals. Around the same time, in China and India, aromatics were very popular, with ingredients that we still so often use, such as agarwood and sandalwood, used in religious ceremonies and traditional medicines. 

Around the first century AD, the Romans became recognized for their extensive use of perfumes in public baths and private use. They pioneered in creating procedures for extracting and conserving aromatic oils, establishing the groundwork for modern distillation techniques.

Perfumery evolved over time, with substantial advances during the Arab Islamic Golden Age (8th to 14th century), when chemists created new extraction and distillation procedures. The focus of perfumery shifted to personal fragrances during the Renaissance, leading to the establishment of the first guild of perfumers in France in the 17th century. 

France then became the European center of perfume and cosmetic manufacturing, a position it maintains today.

FUN FACT: "Eau de Cologne," one of the most famous perfumes in history, was produced in the early 18th century by an Italian perfumer in Cologne, Germany. Its fresh, citrusy scent was an abrupt departure from the heavier, musky scent characteristic at the time, leading to its enormous popularity and the birth of an entirely new fragrance category - the 'Cologne.'

Who were the first perfumers?

  • Priests of ancient Egypt were often perfumers, as they were in charge of creating sacred oils and incense used in religious rituals.
  • Hippocrates, considered as the “Father of Medicine,” wrote about the curative qualities of aromatic plants in ancient Greece, which gives us reason to believe that he was familiar with perfumery.
  • Scholars and chemists made major contributions to scent throughout the Islamic Golden Age. One such person was Al-Kindi, a 9th-century philosopher, mathematician, and musician. He wrote one of the earliest perfumery publications, “Book of the Chemistry of Perfume.”
  • Avicenna (Ibn Sina), a Persian physician and chemist, created the method of extracting oils from flowers through distillation in the 12th century, which is still used today. As a result, he became a crucial character in the history of perfumery.

Where & When Modern Perfumery Started?

Modern perfumery, as we define it today, began to arise in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, particularly in France. During this time, advances in chemistry, such as creating synthetic scent compounds, significantly broadened the perfumer’s palette.

City of Grasse, in particular, became a global center for flower cultivation and perfume creation, garnering it the name “the perfume capital of the world.” The temperature in the Grasse region was ideal for cultivating jasmine, rose, and other flowers used in perfumes.

Who was the originator of modern perfumery?

François Coty (1874-1934) has been credited as the father of present-day fragrance. Coty, a French perfumer, and entrepreneur, revolutionized the scent industry during the early twentieth century. He was among the first to discover that perfume presentation and branding were just as important as the scent itself. This led to his cooperation with René Lalique, a well-known glass artist, to create stunning, unique perfume bottles.

Coty adopted the concept of “scent families,” which classified perfumes into several groups based on their key characteristics. This became industry standard procedure. His inventive marketing strategies, such as giving smaller, more economical perfume bottles and free samples, aided in expanding the usage of perfumes and making them more accessible to a broader audience.

Notably, in 1904 Coty's first major breakthrough was a scent called "La Rose Jacqueminot." The vibrant rose-based fragrance aroma was a huge success, establishing Coty as a leader in the perfume industry.

First School of Perfumery

The Givaudan Perfumery School, founded in 1946, was the first formal perfumery school. Givaudan, a Swiss flavor, fragrance, and active cosmetic ingredient company, realized the need for a systematic education and training program for emerging perfumers.

The school was founded in Geneva, Switzerland, and later relocated to Paris, France, and it is now regarded as one of the world’s most distinguished institutes for perfumery education.

The Institut Supérieur International du Parfum, de la Cosmétique, et de l'Aromatique Alimentaire, or ISIPCA, is also a well-known school that has made major contributions to the world of perfumery.

ISIPCA was founded in 1970 in Versailles, France, by the legendary perfumer Jean-Jacques Guerlain of the renowned Guerlain perfume house. The school was founded to train and educate the future generation of fragrance, cosmetics, and flavor professionals, and it has undoubtedly excelled at that.

Also Read: Can You Bring Perfume on a Plane?

How to Become a Classically Trained Perfumer?

To become a classically trained perfumer, you must possess scientific understanding, specialized training, and an exceptional sense of smell. Here is a step-by-step guide to becoming a perfumer:

#1 Get a Scientific Background

Perfumery is both a science and an art. A degree in chemistry is preferred, although any other science degree is sufficient.

This will help you understand the fundamental chemical processes and the interaction and behavior of many ingredients in perfume production. Obtaining a formal scientific education also provides a significant advantage when applying to perfumery schools.

#2 Go to an External Perfumery School

Perfumery schools provide in-depth training in the industry’s scientific and creative elements. These schools also offer valuable networking opportunities and help instill confidence in potential employers about your capabilities. 

These are some of the best fragrance schools in the world:

ISIPCA (Institut Supérieur International de la Parfumerie, Cosmétique & Aromatique)

This institution is well-known for providing various programs covering several aspects of the perfume, cosmetics, and flavor industries. After successfully finishing their selected programs, ISIPCA graduates are awarded degrees and certifications.

Companies in the perfumery and cosmetics industries recognize these credentials, making ISIPCA alumni highly sought-after professionals in perfumery.

ESP (Ecole Supérieur du Parfum)

This university provides programs that combine scientific understanding, creativity, and business expertise. It is well-known for its holistic approach to the world of perfume.

Grasse Institute of Perfumery

The Grasse Institute of Perfumery, based in Grasse, France, is respected for its quality of perfumery education. Grasse is known as the world’s perfume capital; hence the institute’s location is significant.

The institute provides a Professional Perfumer program, a Technician in Fragrance and Cosmetics program, and various short-term or specialty training courses.

Perfumery Schools FAQ

What Are the Requirements to Get Into a Perfumery School?

Usually, these schools require a bachelor’s degree in science.

How Long Do the Courses Last?

Usually, it takes 2-4 years, but some offer 1-year programs.

Can You Expect a Job Offer After Graduating?

The scope of the degree gained and the level of competitiveness are two aspects that can influence your job chances after graduation from perfumery school. A broader degree may provide more opportunities.

Where Are the Best Perfumery Schools Located?

France is largely considered the perfume world’s epicenter, and it is home to some of the top perfumery schools.

Do French Perfumery Schools Have English-Language Programs?

Many perfumery schools in France, including those listed previously in our blog, offer courses in English.

#3 Internal Training Program

Even if you have graduated from a perfumery school, you will most likely be required to undergo an internal training program at the fragrance house where you seek employment.

These training sessions teach new perfumers about the company's approach to perfumery and introduce them to their own library of raw materials.

What are the Challenges of Becoming a Classically Trained Perfumer?

A career as a classically trained perfumer is a path filled with passion and dedication. Although this road has the lure of creating wonderful perfumes, it has its own setbacks. 

These barriers are frequently in the form of fierce competition and major financial expenses. Here, we explore what you, as potential perfumers, should expect:

  1.  Handling a highly competitive atmosphere

Perfumery is a highly niche industry with only a handful of opportunities accessible worldwide. Aspiring perfumers frequently face fierce competition, from admittance to perfumery schools through work in the field.

  1.  Financial Constraints

Pursuing a profession in perfumery can be difficult financially. Education can be expensive, especially at highly regarded schools. Necessary materials such as scent compounds for practice and experimentation can add to the overall costs.

  1. Major learning curve

Ambitious perfumers must understand various fragrances, their characteristics, and how they interact. This necessitates a keen sense of smell, meticulous dedication to detail, and substantial training and experience.

  1. Limited Job Opportunities

Because there are so few large-scale perfume houses worldwide, employment opportunities may be limited. Also, since the industry frequently employs from within, it is more difficult for outsiders to enter into the field.

Is Going to a Perfumery School Worth It?

Attending a perfumery school is an investment of time and finances, and its value mostly depends on the one making that investment.

If you are passionate about fragrances and want to create exquisite smells as a vocation, the formal education and hands-on training provided by these institutes can be essential.

Aside from academic and practical training, perfumery schools provide unique networking opportunities, opening doors inside the fragrance industry that would otherwise be closed. 

However, it is difficult because the market is very competitive, and the craft itself is sophisticated and nuanced.

How to Become a Master Perfumer?

More than merely learning the trade, becoming a master perfumer takes ongoing learning, dedication, and deliberate brand-building. In my experience, these measures are the golden rules to becoming a master perfumer:

  1. Lifelong learning

Like in any other profession, perfumers who are masters never stop learning. They are constantly learning about new ingredients, procedures, and industry trends.

  1. Don’t be scared to practice and experiment

Becoming a master isn’t just about mixing scents; it’s about creating sensory experiences that transport people to different times, places, and emotions.

It’s about understanding how a hint of lavender can evoke memories of a beach trip from childhood or how the scent of apple blossoms can create nostalgia for our first kiss. This level of depth and complexity doesn’t come overnight. It takes continuous learning, practice, and a whole lot of passion.

  1. Network, network, network, and… network

In the perfumery sector, networking is essential. Collaboration, opportunity, and advancement can result from connecting with other professionals in your field. 

In the world of perfumery, resilience is key. Cherish the wisdom of mentors, and if one door closes, knock on another. A 'no' today is just a stepping stone for a 'yes' tomorrow. 

This isn’t an industry for the faint-hearted – it’s a place where the strength of your spirit is just as important as your sense of smell.

  1. Build a brand, and stick to it

Professional perfumers tend to possess a specific brand identity that distinguishes them and allows them to interact with their target market on a deeper level.

  1. Stay up to trends

To become a master, you must keep up with industry trends, adjusting and innovating to satisfy changing consumer tastes while preserving your trademark style.

All leaders blend the old with the new, innovating while remaining true to their own style. They keep up with changing customer tastes, ensuring their creations are relevant.

How to Become a Self-Taught Perfumer?

Becoming a self-taught perfumer may be a challenging and isolating path of discovery and inquiry. This choice provides more flexibility in terms of time and resources.

It’s a process that requires curiosity, patience, and a willingness to try things that are unfamiliar. Here are some steps and resources to get you started:

  1. Start with the basics

To begin, learn the fundamentals of perfumery. Understand the fragrance pyramid (top, middle, and base notes) and become acquainted with common components and their properties.

  1. Experiment

Purchase an essential oil starter kit and begin producing your own blends.

  1. Learn from the Masters

Look for established perfumers’ interviews, seminars, and books. Their perspectives can provide useful counsel and inspiration.

  1. Online Resources

There are numerous wonderful internet resources that can provide detailed information and learning possibilities:

  • The Experimental Perfume Club provides perfume workshops and masterclasses on perfume production and materials. If you’re new to perfumery or want to expand your knowledge, here is a great place to start.
  • Fragrantica: This is the number one fragrance resource blog, featuring a massive catalog of perfumes to explore, as well as thorough information on essential fragrance compounds. It’s an excellent resource for keeping up with current trends and studying specific fragrances or ingredients.
  • Grasse Institute of Perfumery: This prominent perfumery school offers an online education that allows you to learn from their knowledge regardless of where you are.

What Do You Need to Start Making Perfumes?

You’ll need a range of substances and tools to get started in the world of perfumery. Here’s a comprehensive guide to assembling your very own perfumer’s toolkit:

1. Perfumer’s Alcohol: This is your base, specifically 200 proof SDA 40-B Ethanol, used to dilute and carry the scent.

2. Essential Must-Haves: Certain components, like Iso E super, Galaxolide, and Hedione, are the backbone of many perfume compositions.

3. Musky Notes: Try Exaltolide Total for a classic musk scent.

4. Woody Elements: Cedarwood EO, Agarwood (oud) – Black Agar Givco, Sandalwood (Sandalore/Sandela), Pine, Juniper Berry EO, and Patchouli EO (Clearwood) provide a grounded, earthy base.

5. Floral Accents: Ingredients like Rose Givco, Jasmine (Jasmatone), Iris/violet/orris (ionone alpha or Methyl Ionone Gamma), Lavender EO, and Orange Blossom (pre-made accord) add a fragrant bouquet to perfumes.

6. Citrus Touches: Bergamot Givco, Lemon EO, Orange (Sweet) EO, and Grapefruit (Pink) EO give a fresh, zesty kick.

7. Fruity Additions: Nectarine/peach (Nectaryl), Apple (Fructone and/or Manzanate), and Pineapple (pre-made accord) can contribute a sweet, juicy dimension.

8. Spicy Undertones: For an exotic touch, consider Cardamom EO, Nutmeg EO, AllSpice, Cinnamon (Cinnamic Aldehyde), Pink pepper EO, Frankincense EO (also called Olibanum), and Tobacco Absolute (5%).

9. Ambery Notes: Cetalox or Ambroxan and Amber (pre-made accord) can add warmth and depth to your composition.

10. Aldehydes: Ingredients like C12 MNA (warm ambery), C12 Lauric (soapy fresh), C10 Decanal (orange peel), and C16 Strawberry add complexity and character.

11. Ozonic Elements: Calone and Floralozone give a fresh, airy feel to your perfume.

12. Mossy/Earthy/Animalic Components: Oakmoss Givco and Leather (Suederal) can give your perfume a natural, earthy base.

13. Sweet/Gourmand Ingredients: Ethyl Maltol, Ethyl Vanillin, and Tonka Bean (absolute or premade accord) can add a sweet, gourmand quality to your fragrance.

14. Green Notes: Violet leaf (green leaf accord, Stemone) and Hexenol-3-Cis (fresh grass) can lend a fresh, verdant touch.

15. Balsamic Elements: Benzoin Ollifac 63 adds a deep, resinous note to a composition.


How Much Do Perfumers Earn?

Salaries range from $40,000 into the six figures, based on experience and region.

Can Anyone Become a Perfumer?

Yes, anyone may pursue a profession in perfumery with proper training.

Does a Perfumer Need a Degree?

A scientific background, particularly in chemistry, is not required, but it can be useful.

Is Perfumery Expensive?

Yes, the cost of quality ingredients and training can be high, making perfumery an expensive pursuit.

Who Is the Most Successful Perfumer in the World?

The answer to this is purely subjective, but in my opinion, it’s Jean-Claude Ellena, former in-house perfumer for Hermès.

Is Perfumer a Scientist?

Yes, in a sense. Perfumery requires a deep understanding of chemistry and olfaction.


It’s apparent that being a perfumer, whether traditionally trained or self-taught, is a difficult yet rewarding process.

The profession is a one-of-a-kind synthesis of refined precision and subtle sensitivity of the senses, and you need to possess creativity and precision, as well as intuition and knowledge. 

It is a journey of continuous learning and the search for the delicate balance between tradition and innovation. The world of smells can open up a world of possibilities for you if you pursue it with enthusiasm, effort, and patience. 

So, whether you opt to dive into this profession or merely take on a hobby, remember that every scent has a story to tell, and you might be the one to tell the next great one.