Dorothée Piot is the nose behind seriously stunning perfumes, including Amouage Memoir Woman, Olfactive Studio Chambre Noire – and most recently, contributed to the Lalique Noir collection. She’s based at Robertet – a fragrance house especially well-known for its expertise in natural perfumery – and (like us) shares a particular passion for the Chypre family of fragrances.
What is your first ‘scent memory’?
Yardley Lavender soap, used in our family bathroom.
When did you decide you wanted to be a perfumer?
One summer, when I was 15, I found out about the profession via a friend whose uncle was perfumer. From that meeting, my desire was to become a perfumer.
What are your favourite smells in the world?
- The smell of the earth in the summer when night falls. At this time, all the scents seem to ‘exhale’.
- The intoxicating scent of the black truffle.
- Freshly grated lime.
- Cut hay.
What’s the worst thing you ever smelled. (Honestly!)
In a taxi, the smell of dirt and fried food mixed through the potholed streets of a big city. A real torture…
What is the fragrance you wish you’d created?
Clinique Aromatics Elixir for its mesmerising wake.
If you could have created a fragrance for a historical figure, who would it be?
Marco Polo for his great expeditions and knowledge of spices and herbs
What’s the first fragrance you bought. And the first bought for you…?
Dior Diorella and Guerlain Vol de Nuit.
Do you have a favourite bottle design, from those that have been used for your fragrance creations?
I like simple shapes – especially the sobriety of the bottle Chambre Noire, by Olfactive Studio.
How many perfumes might you be working on, at one time?
I like to work on different projects simultaneously. The challenge of comparing them allows me to highlight different aspects and correct the balance.
Does your nose ever ‘switch off’?
Never, I am always ‘on the lookout’!
How long, roughly, does it take you to create a fragrance?
It varies depending on the brief and the customer – but usually three to four months.
What can each of us do to enhance our appreciation of fragrance?
Spray a perfume in a small room. Evaluate the air. Close the door. Return a few minutes later. Re-evaluate and then in a second step. spray the perfume on the skin, follow its evolution by taking your time…
What is your best tip for improving a person’s sense of smell?
Cook. In the kitchen, the ingredients we are working with raw materials, which can be incredibly fragrant. We use spices, herbs – and they work on our olfactory memory, helping us to build points of reference.
If you had one fragrance note that you love above all others, what would that be?
I love Chypre fragrances. This olfactory family is loved by many perfumers. Chypre perfumes don’t open all their notes immediately from the first accords, but share their secrets with the wearer little by little. I would compare Chypre fragrances with a walk in a beautiful garden: we discover flowers, blooming bushes on every step, but not all at once. This family has changed a lot since it was invented – most of all, alas, due to restrictions on ingredients: oakmoss and materials of animal sources. Now Chypre perfumes smell modern, but still sensual.