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Natural Awakenings Tucson

Romance is In the Air: The Art of Naturally Empowered Perfumes

Jan 31, 2022 11:00AM ● By Suzie Agrillo

Miriam Vareldzis

This Valentine’s Day, spice things up with a gift of the scents created by Miriam Vareldzis, Founder and Creative Director of Palette Naturals. A graduate of the University of Oregon School of Architecture, Vareldzis has parlayed her architectural acumen to the perfume industry. A relatively new Tucson resident, during her 30-year fragrance career, she has been intimately involved with fragrance development and natural perfumery, from deep within the fragrance industry in New York City to the west coast.

Vareldzis recently hosted a masterclass, “A Journey Through the Genealogy of Scent”, at the Southern Arizona Arts Guild (SAAG) gallery in La Encantada. The three-hour scent training session is a great first step for beginners, seasoned professionals and green beauty entrepreneurs looking to work with scent. Participants were able to smell unusual scents, glean some of the language of the perfume industry and learn about the art of blending perfume. In these pandemic times, the seminar also addressed Anosmia (loss of sense of smell). Olfactive training is now being explored as a supportive therapy in rehabilitation and recovery for this and other smell disorders.
With her newest venture Palette Naturals, Vareldzis offers an online store with an array of 100 percent natural perfumery blending accords (oils). These perfume blending accords are the building blocks in the creation of natural perfumery compositions. In support of “perfume architecture”, the complete collection is offered as a sample kit for purchase, as well as individual accords and an aromatherapy kit to promote health.
The demand for natural products and ingredients has exploded. Vareldzis’s blending accords meet the consumers’ desire for the complexity, lift and brilliance that traditional natural perfumes lack, making her one of the luminaries in the perfume industry.
We spoke with Vareldzis about her history, methodology and her approach to fragrance.
What was the impetus for your career in the fragrance industry and perfumery?
From my earliest memories, I have always had scent as my companion, compass and co-anchor. Scent was always part of my family. My mother had an excellent sense of smell, knowing what spices were needed by just smelling above the dish she was making. And my grandmothers and aunts were excellent cooks of our family Greek cuisine. But at the time, I had no idea there was even such a thing as a fragrance industry. I knew the scent of coriander seed in my grandmother’s baking.
I knew my mother’s Chanel N°5, or my grandmother’s signature Guerlain Shalimar, or even Jean Nate splash. I knew the mildew smell of a dank basement and the smell of hairspray + cigarettes + peppermint mints that was my grandmother’s aura. During my high school years, as fate would have it, I applied for a summer job at our local department store. I ended up in the cosmetics department at the store, which later became a Macy’s.
I worked as a floater and would go from brand to brand where needed. I was exposed to every perfume, scent, cosmetic and skincare brand in the late 1970s. Who knew that decades later, I would meet the perfumers who created and formulated those scents, by collaborating with them within the elusive and secretive fragrance houses in NYC? Life is a wonderful adventure!
When I finally started working with International Flavors and Fragrances (IFF), my role was an evaluator—the liaison between the perfumer and the client. My job was to smell with the perfumer the ideas, sketches, formula experiments for every project that we were assigned. This could be months, or in some cases a year-long process of development with a major brand. It wasn’t until years later that I decided to become an indie perfumer and formulate on my own.

How many years of experience do you have?
I’ve been in the perfumery/scent/olfactive side of my career for a total of 30 years, after six years in my previous architecture career. This includes time within fragrance houses (IFF, Agilex/now Firmenich and Robertet), launching my own companies (40notes Perfume and Palette Naturals), as well as my very first job in this industry in NYC with a company on the brand side called Gryphon Development, where I got my start in product and scent development and met those who would become my mentors and future employers.

Can you tell us a little bit about your education, training and experience in the perfume industry? Who were your mentors?
My degree is in Interior Architecture from the University of Oregon—a five-year program that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I would recommend a design education for everyone who feels a connection with not only design, but creative thought, bringing ideas to fruition, holding both complex details and abstract concepts in mind at once. Everything required for perfumery. The basis for Palette Naturals is the building blocks of natural perfumery, inspired by my architecture education.
I’ve had mentors along my path, from world-class perfumers to the magnificent companies I’ve worked within. But the primary person who shaped my early career is Ann Gottlieb, the nose and world renowned fragrance consultant to numerous world-class perfumes. She both guided my career and honed my own inherent evaluation skills to a prominent level so that I could be successful in the fragrance industry.

What is ISO 9235? Why did you gravitate toward natural perfumes?
ISO 9235 is the ISO-standard (International Standards Organization based in Geneva, Switzerland) who gives the official definition for “aromatic natural raw materials” for use in perfumery. The Palette Naturals Collection was created in strict compliance with the ISO 9235 definition of natural raw materials, thus paving the way for any brand user to claim an “all-natural” scent formulation when using these accords.
I gravitated toward naturals when I realized that I craved a deeper understanding of the natural materials of perfumery. It was in 2012 that I accepted a job with the beautiful, 160-year-old, fifth generation, French fragrance house and raw materials supplier, Robertet Group.
During these years I was exposed to the growing, extraction methods and processing of natural botanical perfumery materials. This exposure, along with my role as the west coast natural ingredient supplier to educate and create with the brands I called on, inspired me for what would become the natural Accords Collection for formulators.

How would you describe what inspires you to create a new perfume?
I am inspired by an actual raw material, the inherent beauty of a single raw material and the perfume of its own nature, which I refer to as Mother Nature’s formula. From there, I can be excited to pair that with other notes, creating a harmony as in music, or a sketch as in design, and explore where that takes me.

Have you received any awards and/or other accolades for your perfumes?
Yes. When the original 40notes perfume limited edition collection launched in 2010, and for the next couple of years, we gratefully accepted gold, silver and bronze awards for Aroma, Packaging, All Around Product Line, Top Artisan Perfumer, Best Gift Set and Best New Product from the Artisan Fragrance Salon Awards hosted by Taste TV, in San Francisco. It was a fantastic start to the limited edition run of the 40notes Perfume Luxury Perfume Collection.

What was the genesis of 40notes perfume?
After several years within the fragrance industry in NYC and the west coast, and oddly just after 9/11, there were several changes in my personal and professional life. One of them was my upcoming 40th birthday in 2002. The desire to create and formulate my own perfume collection somehow took hold in that year. From that perspective and desire, the name “40notes” floated around me until it landed and became 40notes Perfume (now sold out).

Where can people purchase the Accords kits?
The Palette Naturals Accords sample kits are available for purchase on the website,, along with a multitude of both creative and technical information about how to use the perfumery blending accords.

Do you have any words of wisdom for the beginning, amateur perfumer?
Perfumery is a life-long immersion, a holographic art, as I imagine it. Scent captures our memories, feelings, thoughts, preferences and tastes. It also accesses the limbic system, the part of the brain that is the home of our memories and emotions, bypassing speech. It is a study of both the right and left brain, meaning it won’t happen fast and it’s an ongoing pursuit. You will fall down the proverbial rabbit-hole and be a student your entire life. Practice patience, cultivate a love of smelling and observe how the materials unfold. Let the materials tell their story.

What do you deem to be the most challenging aspect of your business?
There is a difference between the art of perfumery and the business of perfumery. The business has the same challenges as any business: sales, marketing, inventory and profit margins. But for my own business, one major challenge is communication and education: educating our customers, who range from formulators, brand owners, indie perfumers, chemists and labs, as to how they can use the Accords in their creations. Palette Naturals is an indie fragrance house, supplying the building blocks of natural perfumery. I just happen to have the idea and I am now in my fifth year of bringing it to light.

How do you create calm in your own life?
My yoga practice is one of the constants in my life that helps me get and stay centered and creates calm. Hiking or walking are my favorite ways to let go of stress. Early morning quiet time has also been a way to get the day going with a calm start. At the center of it all is breathing. I love arranging flowers; quite accidentally, I’m always in a calmer, happier place.

Do you have a favorite quote or motto?
I have always been inspired by two quotes in my life: The first is: “Actions speak louder than words.” This quote inspires me to get the ideas out of my head, or notebook, and to start bringing them to life. Often easier said than done, this sets the path for an adventurous life.
The other is the motto of my creative work and a quote by the poet Rumi: “Let the beauty we love be what we do.” This inspired my own quote that defines my perfumery work and is the tagline for my 40notes perfume line: “bringing the essence of beauty to life”.

Connect with Miriam Vareldzis at 503-860-3112, [email protected] or

Suzie Agrillo is a freelance writer in Tucson, and a frequent contributor to Natural Awakenings Magazine. She focuses on writing about the arts, inspirational people and the human connection. Connect at [email protected].

Palette Naturals - NA Tucson AZ

Palette Naturals

A collection of 100% natural perfumery blending accords, the "building blocks of natural perfumery". Created expressly to enhance the development of all-natural scent formulations in hea... Read More » 


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