Interview with Luckyscent – Natural Perfumery
March 11th 2020
We’ve got a special treat for you all this afternoon – a wonderful, illuminating interview with AbdesSalaam Attar of La Via del Profumo Perfumes/AbdesSalaam Attar. Please enjoy!
Q: Hello Salaam, thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions for us. We here at Luckyscent are honored to be the sole destination for your marvelous creations outside of Italy – it is a wonderful opportunity for us to be able to share your unique art with our customers across the world.
A: Thank you. I have had my own online shop since 1998 and manage to sell directly to my fans without intermediaries, like the Ferrari. The rarity and cost of my ingredients cannot fit the logic of big production and wholesale distribution. Neither does my choice to keep an affordable price to customers.
If my project had been to sell to perfumeries, I would have had either to double my prices or to lower my quality. Which is why I do not give my perfumes to shops. The wholesale logic is just incompatible with the product that I make.
However, Luckyscent is a milestone in the perfumery world, a success in concept and in business. I felt honored that you asked me to hold my fragrance. What really convinced me to change my mind for you, has been your positive, considerate, and above all the generous attitude in business.
I am proud to say that Luckyscent is my only destination in the world and that I intend to keep it that way.
Q: All artists know from an early age that they are artists, but perhaps it takes longer to discover the medium one is meant to work in. What are some of your earliest fragrant memories, and how did you come to the realization that your destiny was tied to fragrance?
A: I do not consider myself an artist and even less a creator of anything. Guerlain used to repeat to his students; “Have simple ideas, execute them scrupulously, never cheat on the quality and make good products.” The greatest name of perfumery was not teaching perfumery as an art but as a philosophy, an ethic, and deontology. I am just making good products with good ingredients. As he did.
I came to perfumery very simply because of my love for perfumes, which I discovered while traveling in the Muslim world in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. The love for perfumes comes from a thirst for things spiritual, it springs from a quality of the soul. I just followed my own spiritual way and perfumes were part of it. Then, when it came to earning a living, what could be better than working with what I loved?
Q: For some perfumers, working entirely with natural materials seems like an effect, but your fragrances seem to be in harmony with their ingredients on a spiritual level- what made you decide to avoid synthetic ingredients entirely? Are there synthetic-based fragrances you admire or do you view them as a crutch to true fragrance creation?
A: At the beginning of my perfumer’s life I knew nothing. I used chemical raw materials but quickly started to develop allergies from testing them on my own skin. I quickly understood what were the real precious and expensive materials, the absolutes, the essential oils. I discovered also that I could use these in order to heal myself, I started using them on my body and even eating them. Eating essential oils for cure was such a hedonistic experience that I started to use them daily in my coffee, my tea, drinks, and food. I had jumped into a world where perfumes became indispensable to my health, happiness, and delight.
When I am able to drink and eat synthetic ingredients as I do with essential oils when they will be as beautiful, as delicious and will cure me as well as the essences do, then be assured that I shall use synthetic ingredients in my perfumes.
Q: It seems that you’re driven both by a desire to compose, but also a desire to teach and pass on your knowledge, as evidenced by your renowned workshops. How does the joy of individual composition compare to the joy of teaching? In an era of mass-marketed fragrance, do you feel a sense of responsibility to keep the tradition of handmade, natural fragrance alive?
A: Teaching and studying are what make human beings become divine. The transfer of knowledge requires a person to be able to give it and a person able to receive it. It is a spiritual process, giving and receiving something that is not material. It is comparable only to healing. It is a humbling honor to teach someone.
Most of the students who come to my classes want to become perfumers. Teaching them is always a challenge because whatever they expect, I shall present them with something besides and beyond their expectations. At the end of the six days seminar, they are able to make perfumes for every request and every situation.
I am not really passing on any tradition, I am only teaching people to make perfumes the way I learned myself, in a completely new way. I call it “The Way of Scent”. You could call it the Zen of perfumery. It is a discipline, a mental approach, and a method that will bring a perfumer to dive into the inner meanings of scent and of human nature.
Most people think that a perfumer makes perfumes with the nose. This is wrong. This is what my students learn; perfumes are made with the brain, not with the nose. The nose is there only to control the result and eventually correct it. Beethoven did not have a special ear; he composed music when he was deaf. He had a special love for music. Likewise, you do not need to have a special nose to be a perfumer, you need a special love for perfumes. During my course, the students will really have reached to become perfumers, when they make their perfume without the nose.
Everybody can become a perfumer. We are born to make perfumes because we are born to think with smells, we only have to learn to do it. Making perfumes is easy, it is just like swimming. Nobody believes in it until they join my seminar, exactly like nobody believes that swimming is easy until they have learned it. Making perfumes is as natural and innate in us as swimming is. We were born to swim.
The perfumer translates ideas into smells. When the students have understood this, they can interpret the whole world with scents. They can interpret people, music, concepts, stories, brands, and emotions. I really become elated when after 5 days of intense workshops,
I can tell the class “You do not need me anymore”, and they know it to be true. As Guy Robert once said in a famous speech in the British society of perfumers, making perfumes is easy. This is what I teach to my students.
Q: If you please, select for us one of your Fragrances of which you are particularly proud. What makes it stand out to you? Was the process of creating this specific cent especially easy or difficult? Did you know from early in the process that it would be special?
A: Sensemilla is a custom fragrance I made for a customer who gave me 7 ingredients as required on my website for personalized fragrances. 7 natural essences mean several hundred single molecules, much more than in any commercial perfume. I was completely anosmic when I composed it. I had been for 3 years without smelling. I composed Sensemilla the way I teach my students to do, I ordered the ingredients, I wrote the number of drops in front of each one and I executed the formula. This is how perfumes are made, you write the formula, you execute it and you check the result. I could not check the result, as I could not smell a thing. I had the people around me tell me what they thought about it, which is what a perfumer always does anyway. The welcome was so good that I
sent a bottle to Luca Turin who in his turn liked it so much that he wrote a piece about it. He was very impressed that I composed it without my sense of smell and he even compared me with Francois Coty.
Q: Your fragrances seem to reflect a unique blend of influences from East and West. What keeps you in Italy as your creative base and home? Is there something unique to Italian culture, palette, or artistic sensibility that has enabled you to grow as an artist?
A: I left France at the age of eighteen and traveled for 10 years in Africa Middle East and Asia. When I came back to Europe, I found in Italy people whom I loved and just took roots there. Italians are standing out among people because they have an innate sense of beauty.
You are right; they have supported me from the beginning.
Q: What is the material- precious or otherwise- that most challenges you as a perfumer? What style or scent profile do you still endeavor to master?
A: Making natural perfumes is easy, there is no challenge with the ingredients, everything can go with everything, it is just a question of proportions.
The challenge for a perfumer is economic, at every step. As I always say to my students, “Making perfumes is easy, selling them is difficult”.
Discover the beautiful, unique world of AbdesSalaam Attar here: https://bit.ly/338Veqj
First seen on Facebook
I just recently tried some from this line. Holy Water is beautiful. Just received my second 15.5 ml. bottle. Can’t wait for the New York summer to start to see how it is in the heat! Saving for a big bottle but thank goodness for those smaller ones in the meantime!
Coral Sh Carte
I have explored several scents of AbdesSalaam Attar and I can say that each is a spiritual and sensual experience. Its as though the world of the earth the sea and the sky, as well as Italian and Middle Eastern, has been blended into a soul-touching experience. I love Holy Water, Tasnim Night Flower but best of all Indu Kush. I originally bought that for my lover and then after that relationship had ended I found that it both calmed me and enhanced my own sensuality. Given the calming effect of this perfume, I wonder if it’s because I know the perfume well or if it is because it has calming ingredients. And in the light of this underlying fear in Italy at the moment is there any ingredient or perfume you could suggest to help us through these difficult times?
La Via del Profumo Perfumes
Yes Carol. As a perfume, it is “Holy Water”.
As an essence, it is “Bacetto”.
Coral Sh Carte
Bacetto, these are essential oils? Looks like a mix of essential oils, including cloves, origanum, fennel, ginger and frankincense. This looks like a good antiviral.
Bacetto is one of several EO blends Salaam has created for healing work. Not only is he a wonderful perfumer and teacher, but a truly spiritual being bc he uses EO in aromatherapy for any and everyone. He could be a doctor.
Use Bacetto in gargle morning and evening for best protection against viruses.
Aisha Chai Nawab
So happy to see this!! I love that the philosophy of your perfume making and teaching entails a spiritual aspect. I don’t know of anyone else who teaches or creates like this. You mentioned the importance of non-synthetic materials. Is it true that essential oils can actually be part synthetic? How do we know that we are getting 100% authentic oils and extracts?
Aisha you do as I taught you with the method and protocol I taught you. Your nose is enough. You need a standard sample to compare with. With time, working only with naturals, the synth will jump to your nose.
Very true – last year I picked up a synthetic note in an ingredient I had been using for a year prior to that. I questioned the supplier about it and they eventually admitted that they had mildly doctored the ingredient. I think that over time working exclusively with naturals and avoiding smelling synthetics (as much as possible) allows your nose to hone in on anomalies.
Aisha Chai Nawab
Hi Marie Aoun!!! So nice to see you here! Yes, I have been using my nose and usually, I get a headache or an allergic reaction. I just have to work on getting a standard sample as our teacher mentioned. Thank you, AbdesSalaam Attar and Marie Aoun for your reinforcement.
Thanks Luckyscent and Salaam Attar – a wonderful interview. I have such fond memories of my time with Salaam in Italy. It was an incredible week. Salaam’s teachings are with me every day, not only in my perfume work but as I move through life.
Salaam, you taught us that perfume making is a good job but healing with essences is the real mission. Since Italy is a focal point in the CoronaVirus news lately, can you share your thoughts on Aromatherapy’s role in supporting the immune system, fortifying the respiratory system, and anti-microbial support?
La Via del Profumo Perfumes
It has become clear from the numerous doctors who counsel the use of essential oils such as tea tree and Ravintsara that there is no preventive or healing remedy except essential oils.
If you are interested to understand what essences are to be used and how to use them, from my own experience, you can read my essay: https://attarperfumes.net/blog/aromatherapy-in-case-of-pandemics/
Coral Sh Carte
I had been using straight Tea Tree, but I’ll add in lavender and geranium. Thank you!
Salaam is the best teacher one could ask for. I have been blessed to learn from the best, his classes are not about just making perfumes, it’s years of experience and learning that he imparts to his students, absolutely invaluable.
I never knew making perfume was so easy until I met Salaam. There are no complicated procedures, lab methods, or complex equipment. You learn that you don’t need to add too many oils, just a few ingredients can yield the most beautiful of fragrances. Over the course of his classes, you realize that you are able to play with oils to create perfumes in autopilot mode as if you have been doing this for years. Your brain knows already it can create magic with the oils in front of you.
After experiencing his class, his signature perfumes, his ways of perfumery, you realize the true power of a good teacher and natural essences to ever use any other synthetic perfumes.
P.S: He is always just a chat/call away when his students need him or have questions.
Thank you Luckyscent and Salaam for this interview. Salaam is a wonderful teacher. His method of utilizing 1-3 main ingredients to make up the core of a blend is almost foolproof. Salaam, I wondered if you ever work with accords at all or do you exclusively use the method you taught us?
La Via del Profumo Perfumes
Dear Marie, probably you mean using blends of different essences as you would use single ingredients.
A single essence is a word in the olfactory language, a perfume is a story told in a few words. Telling a story made with stories is possible, but only if the “accords” as you call them have been conceived from the principle as stories. Not as olfactory blends, not as smells. Conceived as perfumes in all their effects, as “perfumes with a meaning”.
The method of the main accord is a method but what I taught you is that perfumes are not made with the nose. They are made with the brain. The nose is there only to control and eventually correct what the brain did.
I transferred 30 years of experience in a few days, it was intense. Some students even come back again to the seminars, but the fact is that after this course you are starting from the point that I have reached. You must go ahead on the Way of Scent.
There is not, no rule. Rules are for idiots. You are Ninja Perfumers.
Greetings Salaam. I was honored to study under you. The guidance and direction I received under you are invaluable and will never be forgotten.
What is a good alternative to distilled water to bring down the level of alcohol in a natural perfume. I use organic grape 190 proof.
La Via del Profumo Perfumes
I use pure alcohol. If it is not denatured, just pure alcohol, it has no smell at all and evaporates in seconds.
However, it is expensive. 10 times more than denatured (Bitrex added). If you want to cut the price down by adding water, know that the essences of your perfume will probably not keep as well as in pure alcohol.
If you want to cut down the smell of bitrex, a little water will not change anything.
Thanks for your reply. I only use pure organic grape alcohol food grade. It is undenatured with a very mild smell. Even so I find that with some formulas the alcohol is still stronger than I would like. I was wondering if there was a way to reduce the alcohol smell when first sprayed. I suppose I could adjust the top notes.
Thank you for this beautiful interview, Salaam! I am impressed by the wonderful quality of the essential oils from your aromatherapy kit. I’d like to know: How do you choose suppliers for the essential oils that you use for your perfumes?
My suppliers are either distillers or the main players on the raw material market which are four or five. I ask them a few samples and I compare them to find the best product.
My students know where I supply from and I teach them in 6 days to evaluate the essences. At the end of the course, they are experts.
Salaam, my teacher, so happy to see this interview and Maa sha’Allah!! For Luckyscent fans, I encourage you to explore his perfume line on Luckyscent, and explore his website at https://attarperfumes.net/. Salaam is the most generous teacher I have ever encountered. He gives freely of his knowledge on his website in the hopes that anyone can learn. For those who want to learn more, he has teaching experiences available. I first heard of his workshop and teaching method in 2015 in a 6-part blog post on www.kafkaesqueblog.com and was inspired to take the class, not thinking in any way that I wanted to become a perfumer, but only because I loved perfume and had an innate connection between smell and memory. Something about the class drew me. I was finally able to attend in 2017 and the class changed me and the direction of my life forever. I have now made 28 perfumes, each of them a bespoke creation inspired by the client and informed by both the foundation given to me by Salaam and the continued learning process he inspired us to undertake. When you learn to make perfumes in his workshop, you learn about yourself, which has immeasurable benefits beyond revenue and profits.
I am in total agreement with Guy Henninger who was my perfume partner in Salaam’s course in 2017. Salaam is a generous teacher and he gave me a solid foundation in creating perfume but also is finding the soul of the scent. I have a line of 13 but also create bespokes. So blessed to have studied with a man of such knowledge.