Nicola Pozzani

Nicola Pozzani is an award-winning fragrance creator and educator. Trained by Master Perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena he started his career with fragrance house Symrise before working for brands such as LVMH Acqua di Parma, Le Labo, BMW and The Merchant of Venice amongst others. Long-time Bespoke Perfumer for Floris London, he won a Fragrance Foundation Award and got to create for Queen Elizabeth II. Nicola shares his passion as guest lecturer of Slade School of Fine Arts UCL, Bern University of the Arts and ISIPCA – Universita’ di Padova. He is Associate Member and regular Guest Speaker of the British Society of Perfumers.

 

 

PERFUME SOCIETY:  PERFUMER Q & A

 What is your first ‘scent memory’?

 I guess it’s a glue we would use as kids in school in the 80s back in Italy, heavily scented with coumarin, the gourmand odorous molecule found in the Tonka Bean.

 

When did you decide you wanted to be a perfumer/create your own perfume?

As a perfumery student of Jean Claude Ellena who opened my senses to perfume as a way to touch the human heart.

 

What are your five favourite smells in the world? 

Nature’s green scents, orange blossom, coffee, the sea, good sex.

 

What’s the worst thing you ever smelled.  (Honestly!)

A leather tannery. The mix of the carcass with the chemicals used to wash it off was the most revolting attack on my sense of smell which I could feel all the way down my guts.

 

What is the fragrance you wish you’d created?

Eau de Cologne. Arguably the first major fragrance product, which marked an evolution in people’s attitude to hygiene.

 

Do you feel (like us) that this is one of the most exciting times in fragrance history, because of the creativity being expressed by perfumers?  Why do you think that is?

It is and it isn’t. The rise of ‘niche fragrances’ has certainly pushed boundaries but at the same time it’s now quite saturated and redundant.

 

If you could have created a fragrance for a historical figure, who would it be?

I actually have, that being Queen Elizabeth II, a larger than life figure, both political and spiritual, I guess I’m happy with that.

 

What’s the first fragrance you bought.  And the first bought for you…?

It must’ve been YSL Body Kouros, which smelled a lot like coumarin. Upon reflection that coumarin-scented glue from my childhood must’ve had an influence… the first scent I created as student was based on it too!

 

Do you have a favourite bottle design, from those that have been used for your fragrance creations?

Definitely the timeless Floris London bottle which has housed hundreds if not thousands of fragrances that I’ve blended in the perfumery at 89 Jermyn Street over the last 10 years or so.

 

How many perfumes might you be working on, at one time?

I guess it’s been 15 – 20 at the most. I know, it’s crazy! But it isn’t like that all the time…

 

Does your nose ever ‘switch off’?

The perfumer’s nose tends to be busy but yes, for sure. The actual nose thank God is always breathing!

 

How long, roughly, does it take you to create a fragrance?

It completely depends on the type of project, we are commercial artists that need to satisfy client, budget, timeline…

 

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?

Absolutely, like in the case of Floris Golden Amber where I wanted to capture the shades of the so-called ‘golden hour’ , that is when the sun sets. Contemplating this amazing spectacle in the sky over and over left an impression on me, I took loads of pictures which helped too although images don’t always capture an emotion.

 

What can each of us do to enhance our appreciation of fragrance?

What is your best tip for improving a person’s sense of smell?

Studying perfumery, paying attention to all smells, keeping a journal .

 

If you had one fragrance note that you love above all others, what would that be?

Orange blossom.          

 

 

Roberta Ion

Roberta’s interest for scent was born in the olfactory tableau of an old Romanian city by the Danube, shadowed by blossoming linden and black locust trees. The passion was cultivated however in London, where she studied Cosmetic Science and created scents for futuristic fashion accessories and live musical performances. Inspired by the connection between scent and art, she focused her master research on the cross-modality between fragrance and music. She started work in the technical side of the industry, focusing on IFRA compliance and global regulations. Nowadays, Roberta found her calling in being a bespoke perfumer in Floris London, as well as returning to London College of Fashion to teach perfumery to the same course she graduated from.

 

 

PERFUME SOCIETY:  PERFUMER Q & A

 

What is your first ‘scent memory’?

My great-grandmother’s room, as a child. She used to have mint candies in a wooden cupboard, as well as this geranium plant by the windowsill. The highlight of my visit was always the geranium leaf that I would play with and the sweet rosy scent on my hands.

 

When did you decide you wanted to be a perfumer/create your own perfume?

In my teenage years, I was always oscillating between arts and science, writing poems in-between the Maths classes. One evening, I had a very vivid olfactory dream where I could smell the scent of one of those poems I wrote. This is when I first thought of scent being as ephemeral and ethereal as the fleeting emotion of words written on a paper. Chemistry was my favourite subject in school, so a career based on it seemed promising, however that was the moment I knew that perfumery is what I needed to do.

 

What are your five favourite smells in the world? 

Iris germanica blooming in the warm summer in my hometown, green linden blossom on rainy days, hyacinths on Mother’s Day, dusty piles of autumn leaves, and wooden churches in a crisp, cold, snowy day.

 

What’s the worst thing you ever smelled.  (Honestly!)

I cannot think of one. When a smell is quite bad, I tend to go in analytical mode and find the shinning spots of beauty within.

 

What is the fragrance you wish you’d created?

Edwardian Bouquet by Floris. I rediscover this fragrance every day. The beautiful balance between green hyacinth, the floral heart and mossy base notes is what impresses me on paper. Once I spray it on, it is pure comfort to me.

 

 Do you feel (like us) that this is one of the most exciting times in fragrance history, because of the creativity being expressed by perfumers?  Why do you think that is?

Creativity is definitely blooming right now! It feels like the fragrance industry has opened its boarders to talent from across the world, people with diverse backgrounds, experiences, heritage, and olfactory journey, each with their unique input creating the beautiful mosaic that is perfume today. The consumers are also becoming more educated and interested in fragrance, pushing perfumers to perform to their absolute bests.

 

If you could have created a fragrance for a historical figure, who would it be?

Edvard Munch, for sure. Not only is expressionism my favourite artistic current, but his quote “I do not paint what I see, but what I saw” resonates with my creative process. I would love to have created a scent to go along with The Vampire, or why not, The Scream.

 

What’s the first fragrance you bought.  And the first bought for you…?

As a teenager, I was obsessed with Lady Gaga’s Fame fragrance, ever since the launch, so my parents had to travel for a few hours to a nearby city to surprise me with it on Christmas morning. Then, fresh out of school, I was saving to buy the classic Opium by YSL, but I was again surprised by my partner gifting it to me.

 

Do you have a favourite bottle design, from those that have been used for your fragrance creations?

The classic Floris bottle is my favourite bottle design. There is something elegant and understated about the shape, which makes sense for classic British perfumery.

 

How many perfumes might you be working on, at one time?

It is always different for me, due to the nature of my daily work. Bespoke perfumery is so intimate, that when I create for the person in front of me, they alone are my only focus. Of course, after the fragrance is complete and the curtains close, I would still have a couple of other projects on the roll. Sometimes, if I had a particularly inspiring day, I would arrive home in the evening and blend scents with no scope or brief, just to let the creativity out.

 

Does your nose ever ‘switch off’?

It does, sometimes when I am being overstimulated. This is how I know that I need a walk outside. Just ten minutes surrounded by nature is enough for me to start with a fresh nose.

 

How long, roughly, does it take you to create a fragrance?

Every fragrance is unique. Sometimes, the second or third trial might be the winning one. Other times, I would go through tens of iterations over several months before even getting close to the brief.

 

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?

Sometimes it is visual, and I would start with creating a mood-board to better coagulate an idea. Other times it feels just like composing a song, where I need to harmonise the components of the scent spatially and in time. Most of the times, however, all my senses are involved, creating an image, a soundscape, a texture in my brain for me to translate using scents.

 

What can each of us do to enhance our appreciation of fragrance?

I think attentive and purposeful smelling works best. So does opening your mind and heart to fragrance. It is such an instinctive sense that sometimes the best you can do is emotionally feel the fragrance first.

 

What is your best tip for improving a person’s sense of smell?

Like in so many other fields, practice is what helps improve. Stop and smell that beautiful flower on your way home. Do it every day, every year when it blooms again. To me, it is not the nose that we train, but the mind. We constantly teach our rational brain to recognise the stimuli around us, and practicing helps the information imprint.

 

If you had one fragrance note that you love above all others, what would that be?

Green notes are my favourite! Right now, I am obsessed with galbanum and harmonising it with other resins such as frankincense or myrrh.

                                                                       

 

Caterina Catalani

BIOGRAPHY: Caterina Catalani is a perfumer based in London. She honed her expertise at the renowned Grasse Institute of Perfumery with a degree in Fragrance Creation and Sensory Evaluation. With a family legacy stretching back over four decades in the fragrance industry, including her grandparents managing the Vatican City pharmacy’s perfumery for over 20 years, she brings a wealth of inherited knowledge and experience to her craft. Growing up surrounded by the scents of her family’s trade instilled in her a profound appreciation for the artistry and intricacies of perfumery.

Now, as a Perfumer for Floris London, Caterina continues to craft scents that blend tradition with innovation.

 

 

 

 

PERFUME SOCIETY:  PERFUMER Q & A

 

What is your first ‘scent memory’?

My earliest scent memory is the smell of my grandma’s skin. During her three-month stay in Italy, the memory of her smooth, silky, and musky scent creates a positive and comforting flashback to the safety and warmth of my youth.

 

When did you decide you wanted to be a perfumer/create your own perfume?

My journey into the world of perfumery began at a very young age, with my grandparents managing the perfumery of the Vatican City Pharmacy in Italy. I inherited their passion for fragrances, and I remember the smell of the corridors full of a specific liquor the friars were making in the basement. A liquor my family still drinks today! I decided to pursue my studies in Fragrance Development in Grasse, the epicenter of perfume craftmanship before starting my career in this Incredible Industry.

 

What are your five favourite smells in the world? 

Italian and Colombian coffee bring me comfort and joy; orange blossom reminds me of my childhood in Italy. Fresh cut grass, orris root, and cardamom take me back to cherished moments in Grasse.

 

What’s the worst thing you ever smelled.  (Honestly!)

Definitely an overdose of Calone in fragrances. Whenever I smell this note in a scent it instantly wrinkles my nose. I find that marine fragrances are one of the most polarizing areas of perfumery.

 

What is the fragrance you wish you’d created?

I wish I’d come up with “Fidji” by Guy Laroche. It’s got this fresh, elegant vibe with floral and green notes that I absolutely love. Plus, it used to be my mother’s favorite scent!

 

Do you feel (like us) that this is one of the most exciting times in fragrance history, because of the creativity being expressed by perfumers?  Why do you think that is?

Absolutely! It’s an incredibly exciting time for fragrances. Perfumers are truly pushing the boundaries of creativity. With advancements in technology and a growing interest in niche scents, there’s a whole new world of possibilities opening. People are craving unique experiences, and perfumers are rising to the occasion, blending the worlds of perfumery and art to create innovative scents that inspire like never before.

 

If you could have created a fragrance for a historical figure, who would it be?

It would undoubtedly be Cleopatra. Imagine a scent that embodies her charm, blending Egyptian spices and florals like jasmine and rose. Maybe add a touch of musk and incense for that opulent and ancient court vibe!

 

What’s the first fragrance you bought.  And the first bought for you…?

Having had my grandparents and parents working in the industry for decades, I was lucky enough to be able to continuously smell fragrances they would distribute for the Italian market. One vivid memory I have is my mother gifting me Petits et Mamans fragrance by Bulgari. I remember it being such a comforting, warm, sweet fragrance! It always takes me back to my childhood.

 

Do you have a favourite bottle design, from those that have been used for your fragrance creations?

I adore the Floris fragrance bottle design. Its blend of heritage with sharp edges and modernity with a golden cap and embossed logo is stunning.

 

How many perfumes might you be working on, at one time?

I often manage multiple projects simultaneously. Some days, I immerse myself in perfecting a single fragrance, while other days, I hop between two or three different projects. It’s the dynamic nature of perfume making that keeps it exciting!

 

Does your nose ever ‘switch off’?

My nose never switches off, but sometimes I wish it had a snooze button!

 

How long, roughly, does it take you to create a fragrance?

I strongly believe time in perfume creation is very subjective. It all goes down to inspiration.  As an artist, I find that the process unfolds naturally, without rigid constraints. Each fragrance evolves at its own pace, of course sticking to deadlines!

 

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?

Crafting a fragrance is a deeply visual process for me. I begin by creating vivid images in my mind, capturing scenes rich with colours, light, and people. Each detail is then translated into ingredients, carefully chosen to embody the essence of the envisioned image.

 

What can each of us do to enhance our appreciation of fragrance?

To truly appreciate fragrance, embrace smelling. Take in the everyday scents, from morning coffee to your favorite dish. Give importance to your sense of smell; it’s a powerful memory trigger! Don’t underestimate its impact, it holds the key to unlocking vivid recollections and enhancing your overall sensory experience.

 

What is your best tip for improving a person’s sense of smell?

Smell smell and smell! The nose is like a muscle, the more you smell the more you train your nose to get used to smelling a lot in one day. Nature gives us the most incredible botanicals to smell; Always take time to stop and appreciate its beauty!

 

If you had one fragrance note that you love above all others, what would that be?

If I had to pick one, it would be cardamom…warm and cool. I love the perfect harmony of warmth and coolness of the spice! Also, it reminds me of my first perfume project.

Kevin Mathys

For Kévin, fragrance is an emotional trigger, by creating fragrance that people wear, it allows him to be a small part of their lives, something he finds greatly rewarding.

 PERFUME SOCIETY: PERFUMER Q & A – Kevin Mathys, CPL Aromas 

 

What is your first ‘scent memory’? 

The roses in my grandmother’s garden, alongside the delicious raspberries that I would enjoy during the summer. 

 

When did you decide you wanted to be a perfumer/create your own perfume? 

When I discovered we could make a living out of making perfume, I started to buy books and aroma chemicals to begin educating myself. I spent hours mixing essential oils trying to produce perfume. 

 

What are your five favourite smells in the world? 

AMBROXAN 

ALL TYPE OF WOODS 

GARDENIA 

TUBEROSE JASMINE 

 

What’s the worst thing you ever smelled. (Honestly!) 

A dead wild boar in the forest. As you can imagine, it was awful! 

 

What is the fragrance you wish you’d created? 

Shalimar by Guerlain 

 

Do you feel (like us) that this is one of the most exciting times in fragrance history, because of the creativity being expressed by perfumers? Why do you think that is? 

I think people are becoming more educated about perfumery now more than ever. They are more excited about it and are willing to give more creativity to perfumers, this is why it is a very exciting time for perfumery. 

 

If you could have created a fragrance for a historical figure, who would it be? 

Albert Einstein, it would have been extremely interesting to have his point of view on the world of perfume. 

 

What’s the first fragrance you bought. And the first bought for you…? 

I bought Black XS by Paco Rabanne and was bought Le Male by Jean Paul Gaultier. 

 

Do you have a favourite bottle design, from those that have been used for your fragrance creations? I think all of them stand out in their own unique way. 

 

How many perfumes might you be working on, at one time? 

Currently I am working on roughly 25. 

 

Does your nose ever ‘switch off’? 

Where is the button? I never found it 

 

How long, roughly, does it take you to create a fragrance? 

It depends on the fragrance and the customer, it could be 3 weeks up or even up to 1 year… 

 

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? 

Mood boards help me to understand what the customer wants and to better visualize what they have in their mind. From there I will have several ideas that I can start at the same time and the more trials we do, the less directions are kept. I usually end up with one or two per theme. 

 

What can each of us do to enhance our appreciation of fragrance? 

What is your best tip for improving a person’s sense of smell? 

Smelling, smelling and smelling again. There is no secret, I think it is a matter of passion and patience. Perfumery involves a huge amount of knowledge – like learning the raw materials, the big accords, the historical fragrances… 

To me it is like learning a language, it is not only learning words that allows you to speak, you have to understand the culture behind it and the history of the nation to become fully fluent. 

 

If you had one fragrance note that you love above all others, what would that be? 

The woody notes are definitely my favourites. They are mysterious and enveloping; I love that they can add a sensual touch to a fragrance. 

Julie Pluchet

Julie’s roots and heritage influenced her to become a Perfumer. She grew up in the French countryside in a family passionate about nature (now, an endless source of inspiration for her creations). Always fascinated by smells and perfumes, Julie’s mind was made up about perfumery when she watched the movie Fanfan with Sophie Marceau who plays a trainee perfumer.

PERFUME SOCIETY:  PERFUMER Q & A – Julie Pluchet

 

What is your first ‘scent memory’?

It’s a bit vague. But I think it goes back to my grandmother’s bathroom where I would find her Guerlain cosmetic products and a bottle of L’Heure Bleue – these scents were fascinating to me.

 

When did you decide you wanted to be a perfumer/create your own perfume?

I was a teenager! It was when I saw the movie Fanfan with Sophie Marceau. She plays a trainee perfumer and from here I discovered the world of perfumery. I was already into smells and perfumes before this, but I completely ignored the fact there was actually a perfumer job. Once I’d discovered it was a career, it was evident it was the career for me.

 

What are your five favourite smells in the world? 

Roses

French boulangerie

Melted chocolate

Frangipani flower

Rum

Now I’m thinking about it, I have never tried to create a fragrance with all of these notes together…

 

What’s the worst thing you ever smelled.  (Honestly!)

Expired tofu. Honestly!

 

What is the fragrance you wish you’d created?

Féminité du Bois by Serge Lutens. It’s the most beautiful woody fragrance I know.

 

Do you feel (like us) that this is one of the most exciting times in fragrance history, because of the creativity being expressed by perfumers?  Why do you think that is?

It’s great that perfumers are put more in the spotlight now and recognised as the creators of the scents. Perfumers are recognised as artists and are asked to express their creativity more freely like in other arts.

 

If you could have created a fragrance for a historical figure, who would it be?

It would have been nice to create fragrances for Vivaldi for his four seasons.

 

What’s the first fragrance you bought.  And the first bought for you…?

The first bought for me was a present from my mum, it was Delicious by Gale Hayman and my collection grew from there. I’m not sure which one I bought first but it could have been Ocean Blue by Escada.

 

Do you have a favourite bottle design, from those that have been used for your fragrance creations?

I really like The 7 Virtues bottles. I like the minimalistic vibe and the colourful design to reflect the fragrance notes on the labels and packaging.

 

How many perfumes might you be working on, at one time?

I manage between 20 and 30 creative projects at a time. But all projects are different. Some are more straight-forward and some need deeper creative work. But if we talk about only creative fine fragrances projects, I can work on 6 or 7 creations at a time sometimes.

 

Does your nose ever ‘switch off’?

Never completely – I can’t help it. This is why I rarely use home fragrances or strong scented products at home to allow me to switch off. But when I am out, I am always open and curious about smells. This is part of my job; anything could be a new source of inspiration.

 

How long, roughly, does it take you to create a fragrance?

It depends on the complexity and the emergency of the project. It could be anywhere from 24 hours for a quick modification to 6 months when working on a new fine fragrance creation.

 

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?

I process ideas in my brain and imagine the smell first. A mood-board, a smell in the air, an experience, or a memory… they can all start the creative process.

 

What can each of us do to enhance our appreciation of fragrance?

What is your best tip for improving a person’s sense of smell?

I would say to keep your nose as clear as you can and not be inundated with smells. You can’t appreciate a fragrance with too much “pollution” in your nose. I find it difficult to smell properly in a perfume shop for example, so I tend to avoid these. Smelling a fragrance in a neutral environment helps and also going back to nature to appreciate smells of flowers and plants in the garden.

 

If you had one fragrance note that you love above all others, what would that be?

Cardamom. It’s too addictive for me!

 

                                                                       

 

Get to Know the Nose: Mathieu Nardin

photo 4

 

A native of Grasse, Mathieu Nardin  grew up in a perfumers’ family and gravitated to the house of Robertet to fine tune his creativity and the sense of smell he began developing at a very young age. One of a new generation of perfumers combining traditional techniques and materials with the very latest innovations, Mathieu created Jacquard for Etro, Iris de Champs for Houbigant and Blue for Kenneth Cole, his latest project has been working withthe British house of Miller Harris creating Tea Tonique and Rose Silence at first, then composing the incredible Vetiver Insolent. More recently, Mathieu could be found foraging for fragrant inspiration for Miller Harris Wander – an exploration of overlooked ingredients right under our very noses.

Having already proved his versatility, perfumer is going from strength to strength and for our ‘Get to Know the Nose’ series, we were thrilled to catch up with him and find out more…

How many perfumes might you be working on, at one time?

It depends, it can be five at the same time or two. It’s the amount of modifications that take the time, you work with a team of people and it’s back and forth. Or you know, sometimes it’s straight away. It’s always good to have another opinion though – they can see things that you’ve missed because you are too close to a particular accord or note.

Does your nose ever ‘switch off’?

If you’re focusing too intently on something you have to put it aside and come back to it later. I like to step back and see the whole picture. At night when I go home, I’m covered in coloured dots where I’ve sprayed different things and people look at me like I’m a crazy person, because I’m sniffing myself! But then you need to let the notes macerate and come back to them the next day with a fresh nose.

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?

Everything can be inspiring. I have a notebook, and everything I see and experience that triggers an idea goes in there. Things I see, the personality of someone, going for a walk in the woods or the city. Pictures I’ve seen, books I have read – as a perfumer when I read a book I can smell what I am reading – the sense of what the writer is describing, I “see” it as a smell. It’s to do with emotion and your imagination triggering your senses.

What can each of us do to enhance our appreciation of fragrance?

The most important thing is that people become more aware of what a great sense smell actually is. Taste and sight always seem to come first and people aren’t so focused on their nose. What perfumers do is to close their eyes and focus on that one sense a lot – I mean all the time, not just at work. There are so many studies that say the nose is so closely linked to memories and images, it’s incredibly intense. But you have to explore it deeply. When you smell something – lavender, a particular perfume, a cooking ingredient – you have to forget what it literally is and instead link it a personal feeling, whatever it makes you feel. The more you analyse those emotions and link that to personal feelings, the better you become at smelling more and memorising those smells. This is how we learn at perfumery school. It has to be personal or it has no meaning.

If you had one fragrance note that you love above all others, what would that be?

I love to use… oh goodness there are so many! But I do really love frankincense and labdanum. It’s very complex and can be so overused, but it is fascinating to work with.

Anne Flipo

Anne Flipo PortraitAnne Flipo is one of an elite group entitled to call herself ‘Master Perfumer’, a title given by IFF (International Flavors & Fragrances) to their most experienced and talented perfumers.

Anne has worked with IFF since 2004 and the list of her creations would keep you scrolling and scrolling, but highlights include Burberry Brit Rhythm, Chloé Love Story, Jimmy Choo Illicit, Paco Rabanne Lady Million (with Dominique Ropion and Beatrice Piquet) – and recently, so-successfully, The Herb Garden collection for Jo Malone London, in which she was able to express her own passion for gardening.

What is your first scent memory?

My first ever scent memory is the smell of my mum. She used to wear lot of huge fragrances, but I also remember her own natural smell.

When did you decide you wanted to be a perfumer and create your own perfumes?

I had a revelation during my studies at perfumery school in Versailles, near Paris. It was also a school for flavours and cosmetics, but when I began to play with fragrance ingredients and raw materials I saw it as a game, as a challenge. That’s where my passion and curiosity developed.

What are your five favourite smells in the world? 

• Wow! Well the first one, at least, is easy: neroli. I’ve always loved this extract from the blossom of the bitter orange tree. It’s very important to me because it holds personal memories from childhood. I work around this scent all the time and it’s a constant note in many of my creative processes at the lab.

• I love basil, too, so when Céline Roux at Jo Malone London approached me about using it in the Basil & Neroli fragrance (launch: autumn 2016), I was delighted.

• I also love jasmine sambac – a very interesting white flower. It’s the variety of jasmine most similar to the orange blossom.

• I really like patchouli; it’s a great raw material and so effective within a formula. I use it as a ‘modifier’ to adjust a composition.

• The last one is difficult because I have so many raw materials going around in my mind – but I do love orris for the sense of volume and quality it can bring to a fragrance.

What is the worst thing you’ve ever smelt?

Pigeons – they have a terrible smell! Especially if they land on you – it is the most horrendous odour. I used to play with a lot of odd-smelling ingredients at perfumery school – both natural and synthetic – so nothing really fazes me except that!

What is the fragrance you wish you had created?

A fragrance that I love and that I wear a lot is Guerlain L’Heure Bleue. Astonishingly, it was created at the very beginning of the 20th Century.

Do you feel that this is one of the most exciting times in fragrance history?

Absolutely – over the past five years or so it’s become a very interesting and exciting time. But I believe that if you want realnsuccess you have to take some risks.

If you could have created a fragrance for an historical figure who would it be?

I am so interested in the idea of Britishness – that’s why I love working with Jo Malone London and especially on Basil & Neroli, which is the spirit of British youth, elegance and carefree hedonism. So I would love to choose one of your own very famous historical personalities such as Sir Winston Churchill.

What was the first fragrance you bought and the first bought for you?

They were both Guerlain fragrances; the first I bought for myself was Guerlain Parure, and the first perfume given to me was Guerlain Chamade.

Do you have a favourite bottle design from those that have been used for your fragrance creations?

I am in love with all the Jo Malone London bottles! To me they are so chic and elegant, and the perfect representation of high quality. I love them.

How many perfumes might you be working on at one time? 

Good question! That really depends, but usually quite a lot. Luckily they are never at the same level of development, so it doesn’t get too overwhelming. At the moment it’s not too many; I can manage!

Does your nose ever switch off?

Yes absolutely, I need to have certain forms of ‘silence’. Often during the weekends I can cut off and switch off.

How long roughly does it take you to create a fragrance?

It depends, but I would say nine months is the minimum.

Is creating a fragrance visual for you, as well as something that happens in your nose and brain? If so, in what way?

To create a fragrance I use all of my five senses. It’s very much a brainstorming experience. I can visualise in my mind some odours and after that I play with the idea through flavours, textures, smells and even sounds. There’s a moment during the day, at the beginning of the afternoon, when I think about fragrances in my mind. I go into a meditation period, and after this time I write my formula.

What can each of us do to enhance our appreciation of fragrance?

Firstly you have to try to relax. Write down or say immediately the words that come to mind when you smell something, and don’t hesitate. Don’t worry if you make mistakes or say something wrong. In fact I personally think there is always something correct in what anyone says about a fragrance.

What is your best tip for improving someone’s sense of smell?

One really helpful exercise is to smell by contrast. So you smell one type of fragrance, and after that you smell something very different – for instance a fresh citrus Cologne and then a spicy Ambrée. That way you smell by contrast and it makes it easier to think, write or speak about each one.

If you had one fragrance note you love above all others what would it be?

Neroli – absolutely without question. I love the fragrance of orange blossom: it’s so rich and beautiful; I want to smell it every day. I really love, love, love it!

Alberto Morillas

2009ALM2Alberto Morillas has created some of the world’s most iconic perfumes – Calvin Klein CK One, Kenzo Flower, Bvlgari Omnia, Cartier Panthere de Cartier, Giorgio Armani Aqua di Giò for women, and now Goldea for Bvlgari: however you began your journey in to scent, he is bound to have been the nose behind several of the fragrances you’ll have worn, lived with and loved.

Born in Sevilla, Spain in 1950 – though Morillas describes himself as ‘mostly self-trained’ in perfumery, he began his career at the School of Beaux Arts in Geneva, staying there for two years before eventually joining Firmenich in 1970.

Winning the prestigious Prix François Coty in 2003, among numerous awards for his creations, Morillas set up Mizensir, initially selling candles – using the same dedication and attention to detail in hand-making these as he does creating fine fragrances. Now fans rejoice in the fact Morillas has recently expanded Mizensir in to a range of fragrances, too.

With so many infamous names on his client list, Alberto can pick and choose who he works with at any time, and recently created the wonderful Goldea for Bvlgari – a uniquely ‘Morillas’ modern take on an ethereal musk that somehow glows from the very bottle. We questioned Alberto on his favourite (and most-hated) smells, his fragrant inspirations and for a unique insight in to this incredibly hard-working perfumer’s behind-the-scenes techniques…

What is your first ‘scent memory’?

‘Traditional Christmas Cakes that smelled like Anis and Vanilla, made by the Carmelite nuns in my town, we would order these cakes from Christmas and pick them up at the convent, this smell is imprinted in my memory.’

 When did you decide you wanted to be a perfumer/create your own perfume?

 ‘I started hearing about the métier of perfumer when I came to Geneva to study; around the same time I discovered that there was a creator behind each fragrance. I had read an article in Vogue Magazine where Jean Paul Guerlain explained how to create a fragrance. That was a revelation for me!’

 What are your five favourite smells in the world?

More personally, I like everything that would evoke the Mediterranean Sea, with the deep blue water, the sun and the nature which go with it. I am very attached for example to the citruses, sea notes and flowers including jasmine, tuberose, neroli and orange blossom. They are the expression of a certain kind of freshness, a sophisticated freshness and at the same time full of joy. I’m also in love with gardens. They are my second passion. I spend a lot of time in my family garden in Geneva, it gives me a breath, a moment of dream and relaxation, and it always inspires me for my work as a perfumer. The inspiration which feeds my creation is very simple, it is everything I see in nature.’

 What’s the worst thing you ever smelled. (Honestly!)

 ‘The smell of onion is really unpleasant and overwhelming. I can’t smell anything when there’s onion in the room. And it makes you cry!’

Do you feel (like us) that this is one of the most exciting times in fragrance history, because of the creativity being expressed by perfumers? Why do you think that is?

 ‘A lot of things have changed! Mainly due to an acceleration of time and pressures. In reaction to these constant pressures, people want freedom, to express themselves freely. Perfume is a world of passion, pleasure and emotions which gives a beautiful escape to everyone. The increasing number of new creations each year has not restrained the community of perfume lovers. On the contrary, men and women are becoming more and more experts of fragrances. Brands are now offering a different storytelling around creation, giving a major place to the olfactive creation and to the ingredients. I’m very positive about the future!’

How many perfumes might you be working on, at one time?

‘Oh I can be working on many, many – in over twenty directions at any time! I work on mine and for other people. I like to say yes, but only if I love the people themselves. I made Zara candles and that was an honour to me, that they wanted to have my signature. But when I finish working on something it is no longer mine, it’s not for me when it’s finished – it’s for the customer, it belongs to them. Though the formula is mine!’

Does your nose ever ‘switch off’?

‘No, never, I am working all the time – even just walking down the street I am smelling and sometimes, well quite a lot as it happens, I smell one of the perfumes I created as someone passes me. It still gives me the same pleasure to smell that on someone now as when I first created it… Perfumers never rest, no one is ever in a completely odour-free environment and it is like the brain: the nose never rests. Creating a fragrance is an art, it is very personal and creative exercise.’

How long, roughly, does it take you to create a fragrance?

‘Some are one or two years, others can be five or more. But it’s very difficult you know, because it needs to change only a tiny bit and that takes a lot longer than if it was just brand new. To alter something a little takes a lot more work.’

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?

‘No, I can be inspired by seeing something but it automatically goes to an emotion in my head and I memorise that and that’s what I try to create. As perfumers, we use words, sounds, colours, shapes, textures to talk about smells, and get our memory working. That’s how we build up and maintain our “scent bank”, by associating a smell with another completely different sensory element. Perfume calls on our strongest instincts and our emotions. Spontaneously, we grab hold of something palpable, something we can see to give it meaning. In my daily work, I’m a very visual person, almost all my formulas are written by hand. My handwriting is my emotion. When I write the formula, I can smell the perfume. I also really like to receive images when I create new products; it is always a great source of inspiration.’

What can each of us do to enhance our appreciation of fragrance? What is your best tip for improving a person’s sense of smell?

‘If you train your nose, you’ll be able to make the difference between the main olfactive families. In fact, everyone has his own olfactive memory like a “library of scents”, made of smells you associate to people, places, travels, objects, food, moments of your life, etc. You can enrich this library by smelling fragrances in store or trying them on skin to live with them. Some are fresher, some are more sensual, try to put words on what you smell to define the different sensations. Then repeat, repeat ceaselessly. Practice by smelling in blind. Be spontaneous, say everything, feel free to write everything which comes to mind. Time after time, you’ll have your own references and you’ll be able to classify fragrances by main themes, like woody, aromatic, citrus and ambrée. Memory. That’s the most important thing. You need to smell again and again and again the same thing and then mix it with other things and see how it changes. Like cooking – you need to taste all the time to improve your palette and it’s the same with smell. I cannot say enough how important memory is, that act of memorising how something smells, what it means to you.’

If you had one fragrance note that you love above all others, what would that be?

‘Oh the rose for me, always the rose. But then the musks of course – I guess I am the king of musk! But each one is different – so there’s an Armani musk, a Cartier musk… They each have their own unique character, so you cannot simply talk of “musk” as one thing. And it’s not an obsession, but I like very much orange blossom when I’m back to my homeland in Seville, spring time is the moment for traditional processions. It smells orange blossom and incense, a wonderful smell that could inspire me in the future, who knows?’

 

François Robert

FRANCOIS_ROBERT_CARICATUREFrançois Robert is almost ‘perfume royalty’: a fourth-generation perfumer, he is the son of Guy Robert, who created (among other masterpieces) Chanel No.19, Chanel Cristalle, Dioressence and many more.

Francois’ own creations include the fragrances for Londoner,Friedemodin and most famously Charlotte Tilbury (he created her award-winning Scent of a Dream), as well as for Les Parfums de Rosine. His perfume creation house goes by the name of Quintessence, and is actually based on England’s South Coast, near Brighton.

What is your first ‘scent memory’?

Difficult as being raised in a family of perfumers, I have seen smelling strips and little bottle all around since I could open my eyes… One smell I will always remember is my grandfather’s shaving cream. Very old-fashioned but so classic. I don’t remember the name or brand but could recognize it if I come across it.

When did you decide you wanted to be a perfumer?

Again I was very lucky. For the holidays, when we were kids, our parents sent  my younger brother and myself, to Cannes at our grandparents. My grand-father used to take us to the orange tree orchards, jasmine and rose fields between Grasse and Cannes. He was showing me the different essences and explaining the ways to use them. From the age of eight years old, I was in this ‘ambiance’. I did my first training at Parfums Rochas when I was just 14 years old.

What are your five favourite smells in the world?

I have worked and lived in many countries. Each place made me discover and love some different ingredients. Among all the beautiful ingredients, I always prefer the naturals, of course. These are the ones I love most…

Ginger. I have always been fascinated by this fresh and delicate smell and taste. I used it in one of my first fragrance, Roland Garros for Men, in 1990.

Cardamom. I discovered this spice drinking the very special tea they prepare in Rajastan. Impossible to forget. I use cardamom as often as I can.

The ocean. Another very special smell for me comes from the sandy beaches of l’Ile de Ré near La Rochelle. When I was young, I spent my holidays on the Mediterranean sea where the tides are very small and the odour is weak. When I first visited l’Ile de Ré my nose was struck by this strong and powerful ocean smell, along with the smell of the herbs and plants and trees in the dunes. Since then, I have tried to work near a mass of water with tides (New York, Mumbai, and Brighton).

The smells of Corsica and Greece. Both have the same type of smell due to the vegetation that grows there: cistus, everlasting, thyme, rosemary, fennel, and so on. I have always tried to recreate the odour of those places.

Rose flowers. Last but not least, my favourite smell… With Marie-Hélène Rogeon, we’ve created together more than 10 fragrances for Les Parfums de Rosine. Each one originated from a special rose growing in her garden or in mine or when we travelled and visited rose exhibitions. A rose with a touch of grapefruit was the idea behind Rosissimo; a rose with a touch of saffron and cardamom gave birth to Rose Kashmirie and a rose with a hint of cinnamon gave birth to the latest creation for her: Majalis. A rose scent seems simple but it is far more complex than it looks. For the past give years, I’ve been trying to create a fragrance around a special rose I have in my garden.

Do you have ‘signature’ ingredients that you like to include in fragrances?

Not really. I like to work on an accord and play around with some raw materials but I change depending on the fashion, mood or trend. However, I always like to add a few rich and special naturals to my fragrances; they are complex and multi-faceted and bring depth to the fragrance.

What’s the worst thing you ever smelled. (Honestly!)

When I lived in Mumbai in India, I loved walking through the little non-tourist streets. With the heat, some garbage could deteriorate to an extremely strong unpleasant rotten odour. It always took me some time to adapt to this smell. Otherwise, all odours are interesting. There is always something ‘good’ in a ‘bad’ smell…

What is the fragrance you wish you’d created? There are so many! Arpège, Calèche, Opium, Kenzo pour Homme, Angel, Casmir, Eau de Bulgari au Thé Vert, Terre d’Hermès to name a few.

If you could have created a fragrance for a historical figure, who would it be?

I have created some fragrances for many individuals already, some famous, others less. I do not see anything different or more exciting to create for a historical figure or a personality than for any other person.

What’s the first fragrance you bought. And the first bought for you…?

Never bought a fragrance for myself, never received one as a gift either!

How long, roughly, does it take you to create a fragrance?

I was lucky to create a fine fragrance in a single trial for a customer 15 years ago. A lucky blend that was ‘perfect’. No modification, nothing. My customer liked it also and we launched it. It lasted on the market as long as the brand did. On the other hand, I worked together with Marie-Hélène Rogeon for almost 10 years on Rose d’Homme before we were both satisfied with it… So it’s difficult to say; it depends on so many parameters. Five to eight months is closer to the average.

What can each of us do to enhance our appreciation of fragrance?

The majority of people do not smell things around them. I spend my time smelling everything, everywhere: leaves, flowers, newspapers, paint, anything. You improve your sense of smell by using it consciously. The more you concentrate on smell, the better you will smell.

Do you ever think we live in an ‘over-fragranced’ world – scented candles, room fresheners, fabric conditioners…?

It is difficult to preach against your own church but I things we are getting a bit overloaded with odours. For a lot of things, you have a choice. A candle for example, you can light or not. However, I have noticed lately the breakthrough in technology, especially micro-encapsulation, is invading your atmosphere. A few years ago I was visiting my father and staying in the guest bedroom. He had bought a new washing powder (or tablet or liquid). True, the bed sheets smelled nice and fresh. However, I had to take them off the bed in the middle of the night because when I moved in my sleep, my body was breaking the micro capsules and the fragrance did wake me up each time! My only choice was to remove the bed sheets, cover, pillows… Same with tissues.

 

Cécile Zarokian

CECILE_ZAROKIAN

Paris-based Cécile Zarokian graduated from ISIPCA and spent four years at fragrance house Robertet, in Grasse and Paris. She was still a trainee when she created her first fragrance, the stunning Amouage Epic Woman.

In 2011, Cécile set up her own laboratory and now creates as an independent perfumer for Jovoy Paris, Xerjoff, Jacques Fath, Laboratorio Olfattivo and Masque Fragranze. She also created the entire Chateau de Versailles scented candle collection.

What is your first ‘scent memory’?

The perfume of my mother, Femme de Rochas.

When did you decide you wanted to be a perfumer?

Pretty late; I first studied medicine and biochemistry until I changed my mind. Then I met a friend of a friend who was ending the school ISIPCA – and that’s how I started to consider perfumery as a career.

What are your five favourite smells in the world?

Tough question! I would say smells and perfumes of my relatives.

What’s the worst thing you ever smelled.  (Honestly!)

Puke… I really can’t stand it.

What is the fragrance you wish you’d created?

I’m truly impressed by Jean Paul Gaultier Le Mâle and Guerlain Shalimar.

If you could have created a fragrance for a historical figure, who would it be?

Victor Hugo.

What’s the first fragrance you bought. And the first bought for you…?

The first bought for me by my mother was Tartine et Chocolat (from Givenchy). The first I bought when I was a teenager was Yves Rocher Vanille.

Do you have a favourite bottle design, from those that have been used for your fragrance creations?

Maybe those of the brand Suleko (ceramic handmade) or the bottle of Hayari Only for Him.

How many perfumes might you be working on, at one time?

I may find myself working on 10-15 at a time.

If you had one fragrance note that you love above all others, what would that be?

Amber.

Does your nose ever ‘switch off’?

Not really. But I can decide to be less focused on it, not to pay too much attention, like you hear something versus you listen to it.

How long, roughly, does it take you to create a fragrance?

I can’t really say, it depends on a lot of things, it can be different depending on what the clients want, deadlines, etc…

Is creating a fragrance ‘visual’ for you, as well as something that happens in the nose/brain? If so, in what way…?  

I can’t say it’s ‘visual’, but it’s definitely like I smell it in my brain…and of course sometimes I have visuals (mood-board, pictures, paintings, etc…) that go along with the brief  so I will “translate” them into smells and raw materials, or it could be the other way around.

What is your best tip for improving a person’s sense of smell?

It’s often just a matter of paying attention, be focused by the smells around you. And another thing is usually you notice the smell but it’s difficult to express about it, you need to know the words.

www.cecilezarokian.com