Making perfumes drop by drop


Esperança Casas has rarely repeated a perfume. Only in very exceptional cases has she decided not to destroy a formula and make it a second time, and from each of the perfumes she has repeated she remembers the reason why. “In Florence in 2017, for example, one of the times I participated in the Artigianato e Palazzo craft exhibition, which is held at the Corsini Palace organised by the Corsini family, I presented a “modernist” bag with four perfumes inspired by women: the Woman of Light, made thinking about the painting by Ramon Casas where Julia comes out of the bathroom; the Woman of the Spirit, inspired by the same painting, Portrait of Julia, which I later saw on the cover of Roger Bastida’s book La mirada de la sargantana; the Woman of Serenity, a tribute to her lifelong aunt, and, finally, the Harmony Woman, dedicated, contrarily, to rebellious spirits. Well, there they asked me for the original perfumes of the Woman of Light and the Woman of the Spirit. I thought about it a lot but I knew that the excellence of that fair was very important and the customers were willing to wait a year and a half for me to make them again. That’s why I accepted,” she says. And she ultimately made them again. The customers finally waited a year and two months and the perfumer remembers the joy with which they received the perfume so long later and the value they proved to have for her craftsmanship.

One perfume she repeated was Christmas Water, the smell of “the Christmas gathering,” she says. She made it for the first time for her family and friends. “As they knew how long the process took, they ordered it for the following year. So the person who received it the first time made sure they gave me until the next holidays to make it again. I went back to the beginning and made it all over again.”

A complex process

Perfume-making involves a very complex process that, according to Casas, must take at least eight months. She makes perfumes drop by drop and with lengthy macerations that facilitate synergies. “A minimum of 20 elements” come into play (of about 240 or so elements artisan perfumers can work with), she explains, while adding that she once made a perfume, Moxaines, from 70 elements. “Artisan perfumers work with local materials, which come from resins, roots, wood, leaves, fruits, spices, flowers, plants...,” she explains.

The Secret Garden is the name of her creative workshop, in Tiana, where she lives. Now retired, she has won dozens of international awards, especially in the United States. The latest distinction was the Dr. Ghada Hijjawi-Qaddumi Honorary Award, at the 7th International Craft Awards 2023 in New Delhi. She was the first European to be honoured with this award, which will be presented to her later this year at the India Craft Week gala.

In 2019 she opened Bcn Art Lab®, a school studio for experimental and creative perfume, which was included in the Made in Europe training programme in June 2020. Dozens of students, mostly Americans, have passed through it. To make her perfumes, she looks for ingredients everywhere, and says she has often had to buy materials in remote and expensive places (some have taken her years to find). She buys the materials from professional extractors (“people who know the craft very well and do the extraction at the right time and in the same environment as the essential source to protect it”).

Casas says that she never begins crafting a perfume with preconceived ideas. “I don’t rule anything out or start with a pre-established idea. Every perfume has its own story,” she observes.

feature CRAFTS

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