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The Art of Blending

Learning how to blend essential oils is a skilled art form, much like painting a picture or cooking a fine meal. Like any skill, the first requirement is to become familiar with the raw materials themselves: in this case the various natural aromatic materials at our disposal. Then by becoming familiar with the different ‘families’ of scent it is possible to gradually improvise and create well-balanced synergies for oneself. Don’t be afraid to experiment and allow your own creativity to explore the realm of fragrances. But we also need a methodology, to be able to measure precisely and to keep meticulous records of our blending.

When setting out to produce a blend, the first thing we need to ask ourselves is: “Who is this for and what kind of effect are we trying to produce?” We need to have a theme and decide if we are creating a ‘synergy’ as a natural perfume or mood-enhancer or primarily as a physically therapeutic blend. The definition of a ‘synergy’ is when the sum total of all the ingredients is greater than that of the individual parts: another words, it takes on a vital new enhanced aspect.

The most interesting part of creating a new blend is the process itself … it is an act of experimentation and discovery! Each time a new element is added to a blend it changes the character of the whole and even the smallest addition can give birth to something quite unexpected. For example, a soft floral blend often benefits from the inclusion of something entirely diverse: a hint of a clove or a touch of black pepper, for example. Too much spice, however, will instantly overpower the delicacy of the floral notes. We also need to remember that to promote the overall harmony of a composition it is important to include several components that share chemical constituents or belong to the same aromatic ‘family’, as this is what helps create a good ‘synergy’.

“Training and using our noses is very important in perfumery but it is also a way of being intimate with oneself. The experience of really smelling something with awareness and enquiry is meditative. Our mind becomes still as the sensation is felt in non-rational parts of the mind. Zen master Dogen’s shikantaza ‘just sitting’ meditation method is a practice of bodily awareness. The effective use of the method entails shifting ones awareness away from the stream of thought and placing it in the body. The method works because the body is always present whereas the mind hops around like the hare in the moon. Once the meditation is established, the body mind harmonises and like Ryokan in his poetry, we may turn clear and transparent. We should aspire to practice perfumery just like that.” Alec Lawless

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