Natural Selection…the story of a failed perfume project

It’s a hard thing to admit when you’ve failed.

I’ve had my mind and heart set on creating a beautiful, uplifting citrus scent for the past 3  months, and, although that is not a long time in terms of perfume development, I thought I could do it. After all, it’s a citrus – how complicated can it be, right?

clementines – image from

For the most part, the fragrances I’ve created are either a 6-month on-and-off project, or a first-shot wonder (sometimes with an an extra little tweak or two). But this jolly citrus scent is evading me. I’ve spend numerous hours trialling, researching, creating and testing samples and I thought I was near the mark. So I got together my posse for a trial night to decide on the winner. And there was none.

Natalie Portman’s disappointed face –

Sure, there were a couple of vials which had some high ratings by the reviewers, but there was no one or even two clear favourites. Most of them ranked about a 6 or 7 overall. Blah. Take it or leave it. Smells nice but wouldn’t buy it. And that to me says I’ve failed on this one.

My review team did a fantastic job of giving me feedback and assessing each modification for its merits and downfalls, picking notes, detecting nuances, and scoring each vial. But, at the end of the day, I want a polarising scent. One that some people absolutely MUST have, and others say, um, no thanks. That would be a winner to me. (I used the same method for choosing our Devotion scent, and it has a huge following (and it’s detesters!) ).

‘Devotion’ by One Seed


So what I’ve ended up with is 5 finalists in this beauty pageant that have a pretty good figure, and a cute face, but no personality, and no real attraction. So no winner.

beauty pageant – image from

But it’s OK. I’m not actually too sad about it. It just means that the scent I was promising to launch in November needs to find a launch date in its own time. I think I need a whole new assessment of the project, and a re-evaluation of what my clients want.

Want to help me? I thought you would. 🙂

What do you look for in a citrusy or fresh fragrance? What notes do you love? Got any favourite citrus-based scents? I want to, no, NEED to, hear all about it….





13 thoughts on “Natural Selection…the story of a failed perfume project

  1. What a fabulous & honest post! Isn’t it strange how some fragrances just ‘work’ and others don’t. I was working on a mens fragrance this year and last based on the scents of the ocean, and it just didn’t come together. It was okay (my husband occasionally wears it) but not great, and now my trial versions have been sitting gathering dust in my studio, until I have the urge to revisit them again and have another go. I guess it just makes the moment when it all comes together so much sweeter 🙂 x

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Sally. Seems to be the ones that pop up as moments of inspiration are so much less hard work than the planned ones, don’t you think? Maybe that’s the key – leave them sitting around the studio until one of those moments (which, for me, are usually when the phone rings or I’m rushing off to pick up the kids from school!!)
      Great to have your comments. Keep it coming x

      • Yes I totally agree! The perfumes that I am most proud of almost seem to come in a lightning bolt of inspiration, with the main outline of the perfume coming through very quickly, and then a tweaking period following. Others are labours of love that seem to linger on and on and slowly get to the point where they feel ‘finished’ or complete. It’s strange but I never feel as happy or satisfied with these ones! I guess it’s like alot of creative pursuits. When I used to do alot of drawing and painting the works I liked the most were the ones that felt truly inspired. Sometimes it feels like a larger force coming through – very bizarre! xx

      • Pretty sure we create in the same way then, Sally. I prefer the feeling of a whisp of manic inspiration leading to a brilliant result, than the ones that take forever; I think I prefer my scents to come from inspiration rather than perspiration (feels more genuine somehow). x

  2. Do not give up.
    If you truly believe that there is a great product at the end of the line DO NOT give up. It was Thomas Eddison who had many failures and still declared that (can’t remember the exact words) he had found 10,000 ways an electric light fillament wouldn’t work. But he persevered and look around… everywhere over the last century we have been using incandescent light globes invented by him.
    Do not give up.

  3. I think it is pretty thin border between making great citrus scent and making something more convenient for room spray. 🙂
    For me, it is important that citruses don’t go too sweet… it feels almost like rotten perfume. I like it fresh, open, sparkly and interesting… 😀

    • Totally, agree, Bellatrix. And therein lies half the challenge, I think. Like one of my focus group participants put it, “I don’t want to smell like an orange”.

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