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perfumery. We are proud to be the first in the world to identify a unique perfumery talent.”
The training session on this second leg was being conducted by Amandine Nikuze, fragrance development manager at Firmenich. Through the two-hour theory class Amandine gave an insight into the journey of perfume production. “There are six broad families of fragrances – citrus, aromatic, floral, chypre, woody and oriental – used in making perfumes,’’ she explained.
On a separate counter, staff members from Ajmal dipped paper strips into bottles containing oils of various ingredients that fell in these categories. The strips were then handed to contestants to sniff and analyse the distinct scents. “The idea is to be aware of each smell. Be creative, mix and match and tell a story through the fragrance you finally create,” Amandine told the room.
After lunch the action moved to an adjoining room that had been transformed into a laboratory, decked out in the signature red and yellow colours of the Ajmal Young Perfumer Talent Hunt. There were 20 laboratory stations and on each of them 16 bottles of perfumery ingredients, a bowl of coffee beans, a scale to weigh the ingredients, syringes to measure the scents and a notepad to write down the measurements and the formulae used to create the perfumes.
The theme for this round – as it well be for the finals – was the modern or French mukhallat – a mix of 16 oils. “You have three hours to experiment with several blends and create your own perfume. Our experts are here to guide you,” said Ajmal’s Abdulla. The base of the mukhallat was to be shamama, which is made from several natural rawmaterials including Sitting on the lab chair next to Hamad was Ahmad. Relaxed and confident while mixing the scents, he said, “I love perfumes. On most days you will find me on the trail of scents in Paris Gallery and Galeries Lafayette.” When asked what motivated him to enter the competition, he smiled, “Well, I am here for the prize money, which will help me get married.”
Seventeen-year-old Sakina Sawan was clear about what she wanted to do with the prize money too. “I will give a part of it to my parents, some of it I will keep for my university fees and the rest I will blow on shopping.”
An hour and a half after the second part of the training began, Abdulla and his team approached each counter smelling and inspecting the test bottles. “It’s nice. But you need to push the shamama scent up,” Abdulla told a nervous Fatima Abdul Qayum Shah.
A dentistry student, Fatima had come all the way from Fujairah for the event. She revealed that fragrances made her feel good, but now she seemed unsure of what she had created.
“Can I mix the perfume families?” she asked Abdulla and received a nod of approval. She delicately started mixing droplets extracted from the woody and floral perfume families.
With years of having been surrounded by an assortment of scents, Brandan, on the other hand, looked composed at his counter and said he was relying on his instincts. His mother, Cynthia Pereira, looked indulgently at her son from a corner of the room. “We are an aromatic family. We have a perfume business and our house is full of scented candles and perfume sticks. Brandan owns more than 20 bottles of perfumes,” said Cynthia, who was hoping to see her son win the contest and eventually take over the family business.
At 4.50pm, with just 10 minutes to go before the end of the training session, most contestants had filled up all five trial bottles they had been given. Nineteen-year-old student Haytham Hamwi tucked his five bottles into a bag – the contestants were allowed to take their work home – and admitted, sheepishly, “I am going to make Mum a guinea pig and let her try out my perfumes.”
Brandan couldn’t wait to show off the new perfume blends he’d created. Clutching his Ajmal goody bag he left with memories of mesmerising aromas and a dream of being discovered as the newest talent in the UAE’s perfume industry.
Hamad Hameed Al Khouri wants to create a perfume to appeal to Middle Eastern tastes