Funny, fun, with a fresh outlook, we’re convinced Pierre Guéros is a talent we’ll be hearing more of. His creations, to date, include Herrera Confidential Oud Couture (finalist in The Fragrance Foundation USA Awards), Ferrari Red Power Intense, Odin New York 02 Owari (with fellow perfumer Kevin Verspoor), and the new Yardley English Dahlia, too – more of which here.
He didn’t start out wanting to become a perfumer – rather, an archaeologist or a fashion designer, following in the footsteps of his father. Instead, with thoughts of becoming a doctor, he went on to study chemistry and biology, and leaped at the chance to study at ISIPCA, the Versailles perfumery university. Since then, he’s worked in New York, Germany and later in Dubai with Symrise, who he now works for back in his home town of Paris.
And here, he shares his insights into his profession – and some thoughts on how we can all improve our sense of smell. (Which is our true mission at The Perfume Society…)
How many perfumes might you be working on, at one time?
It is quite normal to be working on 10 fragrances at a same time. A perfumer can create a lot of fragrances in one day. It doesn’t take so long and sometimes when you feel very inspired, you can create up to 25 formulas a day. Some other days I feel a bit more dry and cannot really concentrate on very complicated challenges… I love working on international projects for India, South Africa, USA and France at the same time, so I switch my mind to be able to fit the local tastes and habits.
How long, roughly, does it take you to create a fragrance?
There are three phases in creating a fragrance.
First the inspiration, the initial idea…. this moment can be very long and goes through a maturation process… It can take weeks.
Then the first formula on my computer, usually an accord of maximum 10 raw materials… I have the ingredients in mind, the general picture of what I want to achieve… 10 minutes.
But then the development itself can be up to two years on complicated, challenging and economically important launches. Fine-tuning, perfect balance, technical issues, test results; there is no rule but it takes time.
Does your nose ever ‘switch off’?
Not much, I would say. As a perfumer, my perception of the world goes through my nose: places, people, food etc… But sometimes I don’t realise it. So my brain can switch off – but my nose, never.
Is creating a fragrance ‘visual’ for you, as well as something that happens in the nose/brain? If so, in what way…? Is a mood-board helpful?
We live in a world where most of the pieces of information go through pictures, films, TV etc. So of course I am very much influenced by colours, shapes, moodboards or visual descriptions… At the same time I am colour-blind (not totally, just I see less colours than average people). So my visual perception of the world is very personal and almost ‘twisted’, I’d say.
What can each of us do to enhance our appreciation of fragrance?
Smell is one of our five senses but don’t have that many occasions in everyday life to train this very important , primitive, exciting way of describing the world – usually because there are so few words to describe odours. Olfaction is like a new language where you can develop your own vocabulary to describe fragrance and then create your own world. So: smell each day in the subway, in a café,at work and try to describe odors with your own world and then you will see that you remember them. To know and remember the natural extracts etc is very useful – but that is a science and a long process that actually can get boring!
If you had one fragrance note that you love above all others, what would that be?
It is lavender – especially the beautiful Lavender blossom extract we have on the Symrise palette. Lavender is for me the perfect smell. The right combination of floralcy, aromatic notes, earthy, woody and powdery tonka-like facets. It has such a calming and relaxing effect on my body and soul… and that is so French!
Do you have a favourite bottle design, from those that have been used for your fragrance creations?
I think that the quality of the bottle and all packaging for the Herrera Confidential project is one of a kind.