Nathalie Lorson

NATHALIE_LORSONNathalie grew up in Grasse, where her father was a chemist at the fragrance house Roure. She’s something of a pioneer: ‘In 1980,’ she recalls, ‘very few women entered the perfumery field.’

Nathalie’s ‘signature’ is obvious in her choice of raw materials: round, smooth and sensual. Her many dozens of creations include Lalique AmethystEncre NoireFlora by GucciLe Labo Poivre 23Bentley for MenGucci PremièreKate Moss Kate and Dita Von Teese’s signature scent. She is one of the quartet of perfumers at fragrance house Firmenich who worked on the new YSL Black Opium.

She describes her olfactive style as ‘harmonious and generous…’ What motivates Nathalie? Her travels to Japan, among other inspirations.

She also has a passion for research: molecules, accords and new olfactive territories. We’re told that Nathalie ‘dreams of everything that has not yet been discovered…’

What is your first ‘scent memory’?
My first scent memory is the field of mimosa when I was walking with my parents on the hill of Tanneron, near Grasse.

When did you decide you wanted to be a perfumer/create your own perfume?
I grew up in Grasse – and smelling, for me, was literally child’s play. After passing my exams, I entered the perfumery school at Roure to learn the profession of fragrance creation and gain an in-depth knowledge of the raw materials. In 1980 there were so few women it it was a real challenge for me to become perfumer…

What are your five favourite smells in the world?
Rose, vanilla, the smell of sand, freshly-cut grass and Christmas trees.

If you had one fragrance note that you love above all others, what would that be?
I like to work musky notes, vetiver and rose – but newness is also important and it is exciting to discover new materials.

What is the fragrance you wish you’d created?

Two, actually. FlowerbyKenzo: a beautiful re-interpretation of a classic floral-powdery theme with a very identifiable trail. And Dior Hypnotic Poison: a product of pure pleasure, sensual, enveloping, very recognisable and with just the kind of ‘signature’ I like.

Is this an exciting time to be a perfumer?

Yes, with the arrival of all niche brands, which allows for the expression of creativity. But today, the luxury brands are also asking perfumers to create fragrances with unique ‘signatures’ that are new and different from others – so that’s very stimulating, too.

If you could have created a fragrance for a historical figure, who would it be?
I already had the chance to work for celebrities like Kate Moss or Lady Gaga. It was really exciting to meet these people and to create a fragrance for them.

How many perfumes might you be working on, at one time?
I am currently working on about 10 fragrances at the same time.

Does your nose ever ‘switch off’?
Yes, sometimes when I am sick, I feel a terrible sensation of losing the sense of smell and the taste at the same time. Hopefully it is rare.

What’s the first fragrance you bought? And the first bought for you…?
The first perfume I bought is actually YSL Opium. I received Cacharel Anaïs Anaïs as a present.

What can each of us do to enhance our appreciation of fragrance?
The best thing is to wear fragrance, to live with it, to smell it, to experience it.

Do you have a favourite bottle design, from those that have been used for your fragrance creations?
I really like the bottle design of Black Opium, actually!

Olivier Cresp

OLIVIER_CRESPOlivier Cresp’s family heritage is rooted in perfume: his grandfather and father spent their lives buying and selling natural raw materials in Grasse. (In fact, the Cresp name in this ‘perfume’ region of France goes back to the 12th Century.) Becoming a perfumer was an entirely natural step for him. ‘I never doubted this instinct, this destiny…’ But he didn’t enter the perfume world in Grasse: in the 1970s, Olivier moved to the US, where he now works for the fragrance house Firmenich.

He says that the most important aspect of fragrance creation is the idea: it can arise from a childhood memory, a feeling, a conversation, a walk in nature. His preferred style is ‘minimalist’, simple and authentic.

One of the perfumery world’s most distinguished figures, Olivier has hundreds of creations under his belt, including Midnight Poison, Estée Lauder Modern Muse, Penhaligon’s Peoneve and Juniper Sling, the legendary Thierry Mugler Angel and Paco Rabanne XS. He is one of the quartet of perfumers behind YSL Black Opium, one of the biggest launches for autumn 2014.

What is your first ‘scent memory’?
It is the smell of bergamot in my grandparents’ garden, during my childhood.

What are your five favourite smells in the world?
I like jasmine and freesia for their feminine edge and their sunny and luminous accords. I also like rose, vanilla and patchouli for their sensuality.

And your least favourite?
I don’t like narcissus and hyacinth notes.

What is the fragrance you wish you’d created?
It would be Guerlain Shalimar for the feminine fragrances: I love Ambrées and I like its sensual, chocolate and leathery facets. For the masculine one, it would be Dior Eau Sauvage, which is unlike anything that existed before.

Is creating a fragrance ‘visual’ for you, as well as something that happens in the nose/brain? Is a mood-board helpful?
When I am creating a perfume, I take inspiration from everywhere. I enjoy working from figurative ideas but sometimes I also like to work on abstract fragrances. However, I always start from something visual, something from the nature.

How many perfumes might you be working on, at one time?
I am currently working between five and 10 fragrances.

If you could have created a fragrance for a historical figure, who would it be?
For Napoleon! I would have created the best Cologne ever for him!

Do you have a favourite bottle, from those which have been used for your creations?
Yes, I like the Angel star.

Does your nose ever switch off!
Yes, just as my brain does, sometimes!

What is your best tip for improving a person’s sense of smell?
The best thing to do to enhance our appreciation of fragrance is to smell it! The more you smell more you develop your sense of smell. Smelling raw materials is also a good way to improve your abilities. The key is to focus and concentrate on what you smell all the time: a fragrance, a smell in the street, food, etc.

Honorine Blanc

SL3_BLACK_OPIUM_HONORINE_BLANC‘There is this strong excitement within me when I am creating a fragrance,’ says Honorine. ‘I could not live without creation! It gives my body so much energy that at the end of the day, I am exhausted.’

Honorine was born and raised in Lebanon under the magical spell of its Ambrée culture, until the political situation there forced her to leave for an independent life in Paris. Reflecting on this time in her life, she has difficulty putting into words ‘a childhood lived between flowers and bombs’.

She first gained a masters degree in maths, physics and chemistry, and found herself drawn to the ‘crystal ball’ nature of the perfume profession. ‘Perfume creates a world where your senses can float… I wanted to live in that world.’ She went on to study at ISIPCA, the renowned perfumery school in Paris, and went on to work alongside legendary Master Perfume Sophia Grojsman. She now works for the fragrance house Firmenich, in New York.

Her work includes Juicy Couture Viva La Juicy Noir, Estée Lauder Amber Mystique, Beyoncé Heat Rush, Diesel Loverdose (with Olivier Cresp) and a trio of perfumes in the AERIN collection. Honorine is one of the quartet of perfumes who also worked on YSL Black Opium, one of the blockbuster launches for autumn 2014.

What is your first scent memory?
The smell of gardenias that grew on my balcony.

When did you decide you wanted to be a perfumer/create your own perfume?
Since I was very young, I always wanted to work in the beauty industry more for what it does to people (the psychological part) than for the glamour.

What are your five favourite smells in the world?
Early mornings at 5 o’clock, the odour of skin, jasmine, blackcurrant buds and damp earth.

What’s the worst thing you ever smelled? (Honestly!)
The smell of fear.

What is the fragrance you wish you’d created?
Balmain Vent Vert and Rochas Macassar.

If you had one fragrance note that you love above all others, what would that be?
I love musk for its sensuality.

Does your nose ever ‘switch off’?
Never. I am also working while I am dreaming.

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

What’s the first fragrance you bought. And the first bought for you…?
Chanel No.19.

How many perfumes might you be working on, at one time?
Many at the same time, and I think it is very important because it is easy to get emotionally attached to a fragrance and so not to be objective. It is a good thing to switch between creations.

Is creating a fragrance ‘visual’ for you, as well as something that happens in the nose/brain?
If it is visual, it triggers an emotion. My creativity is attached to my emotions and I always say that whatever triggers emotion is a source of inspiration.

How long, roughly, does it take you to create a fragrance?
There are no rules. Every fragrance has a story, an emotion. It can take one month or many years.

How should we shop for fragrance?
It takes time to understand a fragrance. You have to wear it, to see, to feel, to understand it. It is useful to wear it many times, on different occasions…

Andy Tauer

Discover what the 'nose' knows: Andy Tauer tells us what it means to be a perfumerWe’ve been charmed by this Swiss-born perfumer since we first encountered him – and his innovative, beautiful creations – some years ago. It’s an odd change of career, from IT man to perfumer – but this Zurich-based man (who does happen to have a chemistry background) has gained quite a global following, for scents like the super-smoky Lonestar Memories, Incense Rosé, Une Rose Chyprée and the intriguing Dark Passage, each packaged in a so-recognisable geometrically-shaped flacon.

You can read about Andy Tauer’s fragrances at, where he also writes a terrific regular blog. (That previous link takes you to the store locator, for your nearest retailer, too.) We’re also charmed by his drawings, by the way. (All Andy’s copyright, naturally.)

What is your first ‘scent memory’?

Well, to be honest: I do not really remember. The older I get the more my memory seems to fade. An educated guess would be the scent of my mother. What I do remember, however, is the smell of the area where I grew up: In a little village, at the border of the river Rhine, 400 people living there. It is a medieval village that used to have the privileges of a town in medieval times as it sits over a bridge and was an important gateway to the lands cross-river. Anyhow, there I grew up in the sixties, in an old house. The streets are narrow, mostly in the shadow and I remember the fragrance of cold, humid stone, mosses, the scent of centuries gone by. And I remember the scent of pigs, on the farm nearby, peacefully doing their business outside. We would feed them dandelions and carefully try to touch them. Pigs are lovely animals and smart: I bet they knew me.

When did you decide you wanted to be a perfumer?

I did not decide, really. I came to perfumery like a virgin getting pregnant: It just happened. Initially my making perfumes was a hobby, a game and not taken seriously from a commercial point of view. It was an outlet for my creativity that sort of died in the office. It became a serious matter when I created my first perfume that landed on the shelves of a store (a bookstore, actually). But still then, I remember clearly, I would never dare to call me a “perfumer”. The first time I said that I am a perfumer was when getting through the immigration in Egypt, a couple of years ago. I handed the filled out immigration form over to the officer and learned my first lesson being a perfumer: It makes people talk. The security officer was very enthusiastic, started talking about Egypt’s fragrant treasures and wanted to know more about my brand and whether I use jasmine from Egypt. I do, and the officer was very happy with my answer.

ANDY_PIGSWhat are your five favourite smells in the world?

• First comes to mind – very banal and common place: coffee, freshly-brewed, in the morning. Best, if I smell it while still in bed, which means that my partner made it. Second best: When I made it. The smell of fresh coffee is a promise, of a bright enlightened brain. So far, it always kept its promise.

• Now that we are talking about drugs: another wonderful scent, not understood by many, the whiff of a freshly lit cigarette or better even, a Cigar. Just the first whiff can be amazing.

• Another favorite: the smell of a forest after a rain on a warm day. It is a rhapsody of moss, warm wood, damp rich earth, animalic mushrooms. Just wonderful.

• I also love, love, love lily of the valley blooming in May. Again: in the the woods, so little flowers, so much volume.

• I always loved the smells of the hair of my lovers, too. All of them different, though, but all of them so sexy.

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

Absolutely: You find in many fragrances of mine cistus ladaniferus extracts. Amber, wood, vibrant, balsamic, earthy, depending on the extract. Another ingredient that I love to include is rose in many facets. Sometimes it is just a hint in order to soothe a composition and correct mistakes (or cover them up….) and the rose absolute will not appear in the list of notes. Jasmine works the same way. Just a drop of jasmine absolute can do wonders.

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

Dead Amardillo, road kill in Texas, US.

What is the fragrance you wish you’d created?

Diorissimo, but in the fifties, when you were still allowed to use ingredients that are now banned or restricted in concentration by the European Union and its out of control bureaucracy.

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

How about doing a charity fragrance for Albert Schweitzer? He was a man of many talents, who did -in his time with the value system it brought- good to many people. He might have appreciated a nice perfume inspired by Africa. Or maybe, a bit more on the dramatic side: a nice cologne for Sir Winston Churchill. A great man, who happened to be there where and when he was needed most. I wish we had a Churchill these days in Europe.

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

I think the two go together. I cannot remember having bought a fragrance for somebody else when being a teen… My first purchase might have been Kenzo, or Lagerfeld. For sure I wore Joop back then, too.

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

Oh, that depends! It can take a day. This happened (lucky strike!) when I composed the fragrance Loretta for the Tableau de Parfums series, inspired by a film called ‘Woman’s Picture’ by Brian Pera. We have this wonderful collaboration and the perfumes in this series are inspired by women and their world in this film. Loretta just happened. First in my mind and then in an Excel spreadsheet and then in the experimental flint glass bottle. Sometimes, it takes for ever and is never good. Then we are talking years, and agony and the feeling of failure. Usually, it is 1-2 years.

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

Creating a fragrance is, on one hand, intense mind work. A constant juggling and up and down in the brain, starting from an idea that I cannot describe really. It is like a mirror picture, or the look through a kaleidoscope: You see it, see details, the colors, the shape, the texture, but it is not the picture itself. Often, while working on a scent this kaleidoscopic picture becomes different, solidifies. I start working on a scent in my mind, then I start writing formula(s) in Excel, from head notes to base notes. Then I mix in my home, in my creative mess room that used to be a guest room (no guests sleeping in the house of Tauer anymore). As I use a lot of naturals in my compositions, the trial versions have to mature for at least a few days before I can test them. When starting with a new idea, I do large iterations, big steps, covering a large ‘scent area’, and by picking the best, narrowing down the iterations, changing details, I gradually try to approach my goals. Quite often, I follow different branches and if presenting the formulas graphically, all the trials would look like a evolutionary tree, with the final result on the top and many dead ends branching out.

There is one thing that is important (I think): Intuition and letting it in. Sometimes I do weird trials that mostly fail because I follow an intuition, a crazy idea. Rarely it works out nicely.

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

Leave the Duty Free and comparable environments. No good for a searching nose! Reach out for the classics and try to enjoy them, even if they are outdated. An example of such a classic, not being outdated: Knize Ten. Be open. Don’t let the price tag fool you. High price does not mean high quality. Give it more than one try. Edmond Roudnitska, in his little booklet ‘Le Parfum, from the ‘Que sais je’ series (not in print anymore), said about perfume: A beautiful perfume is a perfume that leads to a ‘sensorial shock’ (literally translated). I interpret this in a way that a good, beautiful perfume will always be something striking, hard to classify. Give it another chance.

Don´t worry, but enjoy! Fragrances are made to be enjoyed, be it a five pound cheap thrill or a £200 Pound artistic composition. Don’t worry if you do not smell the rose in the niche rose fragrance. If you like it, it is ok, whether you get the rose or not.

And, maybe, be careful not be fooled by your eyes. Do not let pictures of handsome men or fairytale women, elaborate packaging, crystals on flacons, gold and silver, fool you. It is the juice that you want to smell, it is not the flacon, not its packaging and not the ads. that tell you what you smell. Ask kids whether they like a particular fragrance (on you): they are honest and will tell you the truth.

What do you think that living in a highly-fragranced world – not perfume, but all those scented candles, room fresheners, fabric conditioners – does to us, and our senses?

It is detrimental, disastrous. As nice as it is to have left the stinks of Paris of 250 years ago, scent and fragrances have become a commodity. My generation is conditioned by these scents that you find everywhere; and we are all desensitised. The same happens in the food industry. Nowadays, our food (think: yoghurt, vanilla cream…) comes with too many synthetically-produced aromas (often natural identical, but this is not the point, it is the concentration and mono-tonality that matters) that we have a hard time appreciating the real thing.

Try it yourself and add blueberries to a yoghurt without any additions, no color, no sugar. You will be disappointed how blunt and boring it seems. What I find devastating , as experience, is also the awkward moment when you realize that your £100 fragrance smells, in the end, like your 1 Pound shampoo. It is called ‘trickling down’, meaning molecules used initially in high perfumery will sooner or later, with the decreasing price of the molecules, be used in low end What can we do? Think twice before buying another room fragrance, and read the labels of your yoghurt.

Sophie Labbé

Sophie Labbé spent her childhood between Paris and the Charente-Maritime area of France, encountering contrasting smells: the odours of a capital city, against the scents of the countryside, living to the rhythm of grape-picking and harvesting, swept with a salty breeze…

She studied at IPSICA, Paris’s perfumery school, and at the Givaudan Perfumery School in Geneva for six months. In 1992 she joined IFF as a junior perfumer, where Sophie has worked on fragrances including Bulgari Jasmin Noir and Mon Jasmin NoirCalvin Klein BeautyEstée Lauder Pure White Linen and Salvatore Ferragamo Signorina and Signorina Eleganza.

What is your first ‘scent memory’?

My mother’s neck – her scarf with the powdery notes of her perfume combined with the smell of her skin.

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

I was studying chemistry and I read about a special perfumery school called ISIPCA. Before applying I decided to try to meet a perfumer to find out more about the profession. I was lucky enough to meet Jean Kerléo , the in-house perfumer at Jean Patou. This encounter changed my life! He made me discover all the treasures of that brand, and this unforgettable meeting was the deciding factor for my future. Nothing was premeditated, I just followed the right path totally unawares.

What are your five favourite smells in the world? Only five?? Hmmm…

• Immortelle, the everlasting flower reminds me of the sand dunes of my childhood in the west of France, sunkissed skin, ocean breezes. It has a slightly spicy curry note and a maple syrup facet which is very addictive.

• Chocolate! Melting chocolate when making a birthday cake.

• The smell of springtime – fresh air, sunshine on new green leaves, lilac blossom and lily of the valley. Lily of the valley is such a beautiful smell and particularly precious as it is only with us for a week or two each year.

• The smell of a tea factory in Sri Lanka. The incredible smell of drying leaves as you enter the factory.

• Frangipani flowers in Bali. A wonderful childhood memory from my first visit to Asia.

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

The smell of a tannery I visited on my travels. Awful!

What is the fragrance you wish you’d created? Unquestionably Clinique Aromatics Elixir.

Do you agree that this is one of the most exciting moments in perfume history – and why do you think that is?

Today I feel that all kinds of perfumery can be expressed. We have all sorts of brands from mass to niche, local to global: so many ways for a perfumer to express themselves. We draw inspiration from every part of the globe. We work with colleagues in every continent. I am currently very interested in the approach to fragrance in the Middle East with its rich perfumery heritage and distinctive styles.

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

Cleopatra – a powerful female figure whose legendary status is drenched in perfume!

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

Cacharel Anais Anais was the first fragrance given to me. The first fragrance I bought, when I considered myself “an adult”, was Guy Laroche J’ai Osé.

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

ORGANZAGivenchy Organza, with its beautiful feminine, goddess like curves. Particularly striking when it launched after a decade of clean, neutral bottle designs (the 90s)

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

Up to 10 perfumes – but all at different stages of development.

Does your nose ever ‘switch off’?

No. It is always ‘on’, but in different ‘modes’ e.g. ‘analytical and concentrated mode’ when creating, “enjoying and appreciating mode” when wearing a perfume as a consumer, ‘expecting nothing mode’ when I am suddenly surprised by an odour.

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

From nine months to two to three years, depending on may factors.

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

For me, words are important. I try to translate the words which are contained in a brief. I try to re-tell the story in my perfume with the top notes to the dry-down. The words are key.

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

Open your nose – be aware of all the smells around us. Start with all the everyday smells that you take for granted and then move on to perfumes. You can train your nose. Smell as many perfumes as possible, starting with the classic milestone perfumes which every perfumer studies when they start their perfumery degree. Read as much as you can. There are books, and excellent articles about perfumery. And now we have The Perfume Society to inform and educate – perfect!

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

Vetivert Heart LMR from the world renowned producer of top quality natural materials, Laboratoire Monique Remy. It has the gorgeous distinctive note of vetiver without its rooty smoky facet, and with a refreshing grapefruit hint.

Azzi Glasser

AZZI_GLASSERAzzi Glasser calls herself a ‘Perfume Designer’, working with brands like Topshop and Illamasqua, designers such as Agent Provocateur, Reiss and Bella Freud, and celebrities including Kylie Minogue (she worked on a personal scent with Kylie before she had her own collection), as well as the band JLS. Her role is to help to transform their thoughts, wishes and aspirations into fragrance, working alongside professional trained ‘noses’ almost as an ‘interpreter’.

An oddball start: Azzi almost stumbled into a career in perfumery when she had the idea of scenting stones, for the mineral company she’d been working for since leaving school. The aromatic rocks went on to become a huge commercial success, but the British fragrance house which created that scent (CPL Aromas) offered her a job. ‘To me, perfumery always seemed the most glamorous thing in the world: it’s a cliché, but my loveliest memory from childhood is my mum kissing me goodbye before going out, wearing her Worth perfume…’

What is your first ‘scent memory’?

My first ever scent memory is when I would watch my mother getting ready for a party and she would always wear her false eyelashes, put her fur coat on and the finishing touch after was her perfume which she would spray all over, leaving this unforgettable trail behind which smelt so expensive and so non-accessible. I always remember thinking that one day I would love to have my own perfume to wear!

When did you decide you wanted to become a ‘Perfume Designer’?

It all started in 1999 when I met with Jo Corre and Serena Rees, founders of Agent Provocateur. I was working with British perfume House CPL Aromas at the time. Having worked through most of the 90’s where most perfumes smelt quite light and watery and very similar, It was at this time that I decided to try and change the direction of perfume trends by helping to create the most powerful, seductive perfume around which was encased in a pink porcelain hand-grenade style bottle – something that would be so different to all the rest and to bring back the’raison-d’être’ into the perfume industry. We launched Agent provocateur’s signature in 2000, the start of the new millennium, we never envisaged the amazing success it had.

What are your five favourite smells in the world?

• Rain on Earth.

• My children’s heads.

• My bed.

• Marrakech.

• My attic when I was a child.

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

Vomit from a stranger.

What is the fragrance you wish you’d worked on?

Chanel No.5.

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

Queen Elizabeth 1.

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

The first fragrance I bought was Magie Noire by Lancôme. The first fragrance bought for me was a tiny bottle of Chanel No.5 parfum.

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

The award winning Freak by Illamasqua.

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

Between 10-25.

Does your nose ever ‘switch off’? Never.

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

This always depends on how much time I get given by the client. I usually take all the time that I am given. On average, between two to three months.

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

Yes, to me fragrance is very visual and always has been. I can see what the fragrance will smell like and look like, before I even start the creation process.  I use film visuals as inspirations sometimes. For example when I worked on the idea and concept for Agent Provocateur’s signature scent, my film inspiration was ‘Catherine Deneuve in ‘Belle de Jour’ and for Maitresse it was ‘Grace Kelly in ‘High Society’. As people are explaining their ideas and what they would like to achieve in the fragrance I am visualising their words in my little fantasy world and then I start to smell ingredients that I would like to be used in my head for the end composition…

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

Whenever I explain about the history of fragrance and how fragrances have changed over time, it always enlightens people’s thought process and they all seem to start appreciating fragrances – not only the new modern fragrances but also some of the lovely old classic and iconic fragrances. Taking a memory trip to what you first wore, what your mother’s favourite fragrance was, boyfriends and friends etc. – always awakens your senses.

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

I think it is always good to stop and take in all the different aromas around you. From when you wake up in the morning to when you go to sleep. There are so many smells in the air from nature to synthetics, which are generally ignored on an everyday basis by most people. But if you stop and notice them all, you can start to appreciate the little things that are missed in life.

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

I have so many! But vetiver is one of my all time favourites and I tend to use this a lot for both men and women…

Domitille Bertier

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Domitille Bertier has worked on some seriously successful fragrance launches in the past few years, in her role as a Senior Perfumer at International Flavors and Fragrances (IFF). She studied at the ISIPCA perfumery school in Paris, before joining IFF as a trainee – and her many fragrance creations include Lanvin Me, Lanvin Jeanne Lanvin Couture, Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb (with Olivier Polge and Carlos Benaïm), Thierry Mugler Mirror of Secrets and Roberto Cavalli Just Cavalli for Him (with Clement Gavarry). She juggles all this with having three children…

What is your first ‘scent memory’?

When I was a child, I spent two years in the New Hebrides, now called Vanuatu, a tropical paradise where I found the perfect playground to educate my sense of smell. I have a very clear memory of the smell of the islands – woody and green – that I rediscovered, 30 years later, during one of my trips.

When did you decide you wanted to be a perfumer?

Ever since I was a child, I’ve had a passion for smell. Then, when I was in college, I became aware of the ISIPCA degree (at Paris’s ‘perfume school) and found out about the job of being a perfumer job. This was a revelation. My passion could become my profession!

What are your five favourite smells in the world?

Actually, I would have three… The smell of my three new born babies, a very special smell I would associate with some kind of orris (iris) leathery note.

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

I don’t have a signature ingredient but I do have a perfumistic style. I like daring and unusual fragrance associations. I design fragrances with a lot of ‘parti-pris’ (thought-provoking), with beautiful natural ingredient in their heart.

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

The vomit note of jackfruit.

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

I would have loved to create the original fragrance for the Empress Josephine, wife of Napoleon. But, actually, I had the chance to (re)create it in her honour, for the scented gloves designed by Maison Fabre as a limited edition in their boutique in the Cour des Senteurs, at Versailles.

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

When I was 22, I bought my first fragrance, Shiseido Féminité du Bois. The first fragrance I was given was Annick Goutal L’Eau de Charlotte. At the time I was 12 years old.

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

The inspiration could take just a few seconds… while the realisation could take years, sometimes even a full life.

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

The creation of perfumes is certainly “cerebral”. When a musician writes a score without any instruments, he can hear what he is writing. It is the same for me when I create. I start with a piece of paper and a pencil. I write down the perfume recipe that I can smell in my head… Then, my assistant blends the ingredients and I can really start smelling what I have imagined.

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

I think it is like wine tasting. To truly appreciate a fantastic wine, you need at first to have a true knowledge of wine tasting. The same would be true to appreciate perfume. You would need to reinforce your knowledge on perfume, on the art of creating a structure, on the ingredients that are used.

Do we live in an ‘over-fragranced’ world – scented candles, room fresheners, fabric conditioners – and if so, what do you think this does to us, and our senses?

Every morning, all year long, I open the windows wide at home, to fill the rooms with fresh and unscented air. Then, I carefully select a candle to create the specific atmosphere. I clearly prefer quality to quantity, which is why I select only a few scents to surround me.

Juliette Karagueuzoglou

JULIETTE_KARAWhat is your first ‘scent memory’?

I cannot put a date on my first scented memory, but as far as I can remember I have always been attentive to the smells of my surroundings. I remember the smell of my parents’ house, the gardens of my young years, and the characteristic smell of asphalt after the rain. And I have always paid attention to the smell of my own skin, when it has been bathed by the sun, or when it is wet… I like to smell all its different states!

When did you decide you wanted to be a perfumer?

I was thirteen when I found out that perfumery could be a career. My aunt used to work for Christian Dior. She made me smell their new launch, which was Dune at that time. I realized that behind a brand (and a perfume), there was the work of a genuine perfumer. I understood it was a real job and I decided that one day, I would become one.

What are your five favourite smells in the world?

It’s hard for me to answer, because I like almost every odour! Each odour has something about it from which I can learn or be inspired. But of course I am keen on my children’s scent. From Nature, I really enjoy the gorgeous smell of an orange blossom orchard, the soothing smell of the sea, the smell of earth when it is dried, the odour of pine woods in the south of France – when we leave the highway and when we go into the forest to reach our beach house. It is the olfactive signal of holidays!

The smell of lilac, too, one of the most popular flowery smells in Europe. In perfumery, we don’t use it as a natural ingredient, because it cannot be extracted – so we have to reproduce it synthetically. I also love the smell of a natural vanilla bean extract, which could almost make me cry. It is both very regressive and sensual, because it has a leathery side.

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

I try not to, but when the purpose allows it, I like to add a touch of vanilla, in order to bring addiction to a fragrance, or a trace of patchouli, in order to deepen its sillage (‘trail’).

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

Some odoors are too horrible to even talk about them, but I really cannot stand the smell of the menagerie of wild beasts, or a pigsty.

What is the fragrance you wish you’d created?

In the range of my favourite classics, I can quote Guerlain L’Heure Bleue, Lancôme Magie Noire or Grès Cabochard. They are at the same time avant-guarde and timeless masterpieces.

If you could have created a fragrance for a historical figure, who would it be? Wonderwoman, and don’t tell me she is not historical! She embodies the 20th Century femininity….

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

The first fragrance I bought was The Body Shop White Musk and the first bought for me was Cacharel Anaïs Anaïs. These fragrances are two olfactive emblems of my generation.

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

Sometimes it does not take long to ideate a fragrance, but to materialise it is much longer! It takes between six months and two years. The idea has to be reworked; you have to perform many trials before you perfectly formulate your initial idea.

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

Fragrances appear as something specific in my mind. Of course there are synaesthetic links (between the different senses) and I often take my sources of inspiration from photo or images – but it is not the only way. I can see points of similarities between two raw materials, which makes me want to link them. The starting point is in this case purely olfactive.

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

Improvement comes first from work! If you want to better appreciate a fragrance, learn how to verbalise the emotions that the fragrance arouses. You have to smell and describe, smell and describe…

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

You can choose to fragrance your environment or not. A scented environment is not mandatory. Of course sometimes on public transport you may be overwhelmed by the fragrance of your neighbour, but it is better to have a scented environment than an aseptic one. And yet, scented products have to abide by the rules of living together. Everything is a question of good measure!

Besides we live in a culture of transformation, where every product is enhanced through ‘bigger than life’ flavours or scents. Even the milk for babies is flavored with vanilla. It is important to educate your children to the real taste and smell of life. Today, there is a lack of education; you have to taste a tomato before you eat tomato like flavored products… It will be the best way to really appreciate natural products.

Anastasia Brozler


London-based Anastasia Brozler works for many private and corporate clients and refers to herself as a Perfume Curator: she works on formulas, but then often in close collaboration with perfumers such as François Robert.

Perfume houses Anastasia has worked with include Union and Illuminum, while private clients include everyone from ballerinas to politicians.

She also runs a perfume school for individuals and for children, out of her St. James’s offices, next to Green Park. Visit for more info.

What is your first ‘scent memory’?

Egypt provided this starting from the age of eight followed by many years of life in Cairo with visits to the souk and to the desert, with exotic market places that brought a palette of new, enticing and exotic smells that became part of my experience.  Some were terrifying! But I still needed reassurance from out old and familiar scents, from suitcases to toys from our previous home in England! Dettol accompanied me on many life journeys – its distinct antiseptic smell forming a safety bridge between my old and new worlds. That Dettol smell remains my friend, a queue for safety and security – I treasure it!

When did you decide you wanted to be a perfumer?

Never. Through friends and family, perfumers have surrounded me all my life. It never occurred to me to sit in a lab and formulate perfumes myself. It was through the encounter with the psychologist Jellinek who inspired me to write my PHD on ‘Tthe influence of smell on human behavior’, and my meeting with Roger Firmenich in Geneva (after leaving university) that made all the difference. That was the point of being inspired to enter the fragrance industry, which eventually led me to the bespoke fragrance world almost 20 years ago.

I work closely and directly with noses. So as a Fragrance Curator, to create bespoke fragrances for discerning clients on a daily basis was the next step. The critical role of translating the clients’ fragrance vision through collages and mood boards was another important stage.

Then I set about procuring an expanded fragrance oil library to include forgotten raw materials or precious crops in limited supply. And finally, assisting and completing formulations on behalf of clients brought a new understanding of the wonderful process that noses follow. Having this one to one training with such great masters was an extraordinary privilege that went on for almost two decades. Today I remain humbled by their expertise in formulating and wealth of knowledge of raw materials that have long been forgotten in the modern world of perfumery.

A few of the perfumers I have worked with have now retired; one has left me his library of beautifully crafted laboratory bottles that still carry the names of great oils such as ambergris, musk, Persian rose or oak moss from Yugoslavia.

In their spirit, I like to call myself a ‘Perfume Curator’, as this seems to be my best gift – to intuit the client’s aspirations and translate these in raw materials and accords, then design the initial formula. The technicians then ensure my formulae adhere to all the everchanging regulations within the industry.

What are your five favourite smells in the world?

Familiar smells…

• The scent of my children, the beautiful scent.

• The smell of my garden during a brisk, early spring walk is also top of the range among my personal catalogue of evocative smells.

• Dangerous smells, addictive ones, such as the smell of glue, of petrol, or the smell of a freshly-lit match are alluring too. Working with perfumers I have spent years trying to capture this, and of course, we have succeeded! For instance, I sent perfumer Norbert Bijaoui a miniature reconstruction of a car engine so he could smell this with me, over and over again to capture the scent of an old car!

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

No, each brief takes me on a new journey of exploration. The nature of my work allows this, as we are not driven by commercial success and the accompanying statistics. It is often worrying how the industry has developed and perfumers have often more than 20 fragrances to work on simultaneously in order to win a large brief. I admire this, but fear I might fail miserably.

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

Rotting teeth.

What is the fragrance you wish you’d created?

Guerlain Mitsouko and Caron Tabac Blond!. Perhaps their creators were my inspiration, as they reflected the innovation and history of their times. For instance Jacques Guerlain was inspired by the arts and Art Nouveau, and created Mitsouko in 1919. Mitsu means ‘mystery’ and is an interpretation of a lasting, dramatic love set in Japan and a great chypre. Tabac Blond was daring, reflecting newly acquired women’s liberation as women began to smoke in public.

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

If I lived in those days? Catherine the Great, Eleanore of Acquitaine, all powerful women. Then composers like Debussy and Ravel with their exotically influenced music. Debussy’s Iberia and Ravel’s Bolero offer wonderful opportunities for olfactory creations. If I should recreate one today using all the raw materials and technology available to me? It would be Shakespeare.

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

Egyptian Jasmine contained in a small hand blown glass bottle from the souk was my first purchase at the age of seven. My first gift of scent is forgotten. Generally I sneaked bottles of scent out of my mother’s bathroom and collected them obsessively. At 18 I was treated to an enormous collection of Van Cleef & Arpels First, which made me feel really ready to take the world on board!

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

Impossible to estimate. A day, a few months, a year, I am still trying to capture one formulation ‘idea’ onto paper after 10 years! And after capturing glue, machines, mud and almost any floral, to manifest the ‘rose’ that I have in my memory is still a great frustration, despite the fact I have worked with over 150-200 rose formulations! For me, it is my mission, a nemesis, a perfection that still eludes me.

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

Creating a scent employs ALL of the senses. The process is visual, acoustic , tactile and intuitive. Sometimes I think of a story board with a beginning and an end. Sometimes I think in colour only, red, blue, purple. Sometimes in words or music – Beethoven and Bach as opposed to Strauss or Tchaikovsky.

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

Bring scent to one’s awareness from the unconscious and subliminal to the conscious! We all respond to scent first from our emotions and quickly (too quickly sometimes) we move it to our rational thought. We should hold this fleeting, subliminal scent message and catalogue in our minds the role that scent has played in our attraction (or repulsion) to the scent in question. From there we can start understanding all fragrances/scents a little more, especially for their emotional value and enjoy them all over again!

SCENT/london offers marvelous educational courses with a team of exceptional professional perfumers to offer participants a detailed approach learn more about the Art of Perfume making. This introductory course (of a series) opens vast doors and participants leave inspired and with new views and appreciation of fragrance, and an understanding of their own relationship to that hidden world of scents that impacts on their unconscious minds and emotions. Thus their personal experience of the world is enhanced and enlarged.

Do we live in an ‘over-fragranced’ world – scented candles, room fresheners, fabric conditioners… What do you think this does to us, and our senses?

The world has always been scented, if not with room fresheners and fabric conditioners, then with the smell of human sweat, sewage and horse dung. I do not believe we are ‘over-fragranced’ – but believe that the type of fragrance has changed in the past 100 years. Before we were hit with true messages, for instance the smell of a ‘dying flower’ or the smell of clothes that require a “wash”, a house smelled of something because it was genuinely found in the house. Nowadays, we create an illusion of smells, which puts our minds into moods that are deceived. This is highly confusing – a shirt smells clean, whilst it is not, a city flat smells of freshly cut grass and a car with a synthetic interior smells of leather. You never know, one day, a dead flower may still smell of a live flower in a florist shop!

Sarah McCartney

SARAH_MCCARTNEYSarah McCartney is unusual: founder of 4160 Tuesdays, she’s an entirely self-taught perfumer (if you don’t count classes taken with people like Karen Gilbert). When LUSH founder Mark Constantine – who copywriter Sarah wrote Lush Times for, over a period of 12 years – first handed her some ingredients (to make a scent for her sister as a gift from her nephew), he couldn’t have imagined the journey he was sending her on. ‘We created a simple cologne, with citrus and lavender but also a very special, exotic boronia oil…’

But as she played around some more, Sarah began to imagine turning a hobby into a business. Happy, this life-long scent-lover also happens to have a background in Maths and sciences – a rather unromantic but essential requirement for a career in perfumery. Combine that with Sarah’s marketing wisdom and experience, then, and you have a seriously exciting niche perfumery brand: 4160 Tuesdays – ‘because that’s how many Tuesdays we have in an 80-year-old lifespan. So let’s use them to write, think, make and do lovely things. Or if that sounds great but you don’t have time, to buy lovely things other makers have put together.’ And as she points out, it’s not as if she could have used her own name: Google ‘perfume’ and ‘McCartney’ and Stella’s name comes up about two billion times before you get to hers. For now, that is.

This is probably our longest ‘nose’ interview on the site – but we think you’ll love it…

What is your first ‘scent memory’?

There was a mock orange bush (philadelphus) in our garden at Redcar and I liked the smell of the beautiful white flowers. I liked it so much I shoved the buds up my nose and had to be taken to the doctor to get them taken out again. I was two, and yes I really do remember that, especially being shoved in my sister’s pram and being pushed at a great rate along the street to the surgery.

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

I didn’t want to make perfume as a child; I wanted to be a witch. I started to blend my own essential oil combinations after I joined Lush as a writer in 1996; I’d been dabbling from 1999 and started seriously making fragrances when I left in 2009.

What are your five favourite smells in the world?

• The roasting coffee scent that used to come from the shop by Finchley Road tube station.

Dior Diorella.

• Grapefruit peel.

• The aroma that wafts along the streets of suburban Ealing from the tiny white flowers on massive fronds of palm tree blossom.

• Rock pools at the beach.

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

The dead animal that the cat bought in and hid under the bed to rot. By the time we found it, it wasn’t clear what it was, but it was about squirrel sized.

What is the fragrance you wish you’d created?

Lipstick Rose by Ralf Schweiger for Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle.

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?

Abso-blooming-lutely I feel that too. The internet changed everything. It’s changed the way that we can find out and talk about perfume; it’s made materials accessible to small companies and people who just want to experiment. The internet made it possible for small organisations to operate globally, to share information and for us all to talk to each other: customers to perfumers to bloggers to suppliers. And we’ve got such great events running these days too. Because of the internet, people can get groups together to sniff new things.

There’s also the academic side for me. I’m part of the CenSes team with Professor Barry Smith of the University of London School of Advanced Studies and Professor Charles Spence of the Cross Modal Laboratory in Oxford. Right now we’re at the point where suddenly neuroscientists, philosophers and psychologists are looking deeply into how scent and the brain influence our perception. That’s probably my favourite part.

To be slightly controversial here, I also think that regulations force people to be more creative. If a company suddenly finds that 80% of its products are technically illegal because, say, jasmine absolute is restricted, they have to pull their socks up, get a perfumer into the lab and find a way to make products that they can still sell – or go out of business. Of course it causes no end of problems, but a regulatory rocket up the backside means that you have to have new ideas. Restrictions squeeze innovation out.

The one huge problem is that we can no longer send our fragrances around the world because of the new shipping laws, so just when you get excited about trying samples from an indie perfumer in Australia or the US, you can’t. But that will change because people will see the demand and rise to the challenge. Someone will crack the problem and make it happen. I’m thinking of setting up a scent mule forum. Legal and helpful. I live hear Heathrow. I might just do it.

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

This is going to sound a bit arsey but I’m really not interested in the idea of making perfume for people I’ve never met, no matter how great their contribution to history. Trying a bit harder I’d say that if I could step back in time, I’d make a perfume for my Grandma Bain who was widowed in 1938 and at the time had four small girls, and fourpence in her purse, then spent the next fifteen years working dawn till dusk to get them through school and college. She deserved a bit of luxury.

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

Aqua Manda, and I bought it for myself. I was way too young to have perfume bought for me! I saved up my pocket money.

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

That’s not my world. All my bottles are those lovely ‘look there’s a London indie brand; ones from Pochet, who have made the wise business decision to sell small quantities to indie brands they hope will grow with them. There are at least four of us using Pochet’s Variation bottle with the same lid. I’m just taking one step up to getting them printed. Very exciting. It’s ever so different when you have to fork out for them yourself. It must be fascinating to have a brand team working on your scent’s positioning strategy and your fragrances might appear in the latest whizzo bottle design. It’s just not the indie arena.

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

I have six on the board at the moment. If I had my own way, I’d be doing more but I’ve got to rein myself in and concentrate on distributing the ones I’ve already made.

Does your nose ever ‘switch off’?

In that question I’d put ‘nose’ in the inverted commas, not ‘switch off’. It’s the brain that switches off, and it really does do that. But it doesn’t switch off all at once, it just switches off parts that it’s used already to identify what’s around it. (Do you think I’m spending too much time with neuroscientists these days?)

So yes, my capacity to identify a smell correctly does switch off, but all I have to do is walk outside and talk a breath of fresh air and it’s like clicking the reset button. On the other hand, I do dream in smell. Apparently only 5% of people do that. I’m not one of the 25% of people who can imagine a scent in my head. Some perfumers have that, and that really must be difficult to switch off.

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

I can give you an example or two. I made Says Alice, my 90s-style fruity floral which I love to bits and back again, in about half an hour. That was because I already had the sandalwood, rose, jasmine and honey accord made, and also the 1990s base which Karen Gilbert and I had experimented with on one of her courses. I slung in my favourite citrus fruits and raspberry leaf absolute and it was pretty much there.

For Time to Draw the Raffle Numbers I wanted to celebrate Bradley Wiggins winning the Tour de France in 2012. It took me six months. I couldn’t decide which parts of the tour to include, and was looking at mountains, avenues of poplar trees, the Champs Elysees, the hot sun of the south, sweat, bicycles and ginger. Eventually, when I narrowed it down to one moment – the point where Wiggo led the peloton into the final straight for Cav to cross the line first – it only took another couple of goes.

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?

Scent is sound for me. I hear it as musical notes. I can see it too, but I feel no need to express it in picture form for anyone else to see. I would if I were asked. I love making mood boards, but I do them for my life not my perfume.

I’ve made perfumes to recreate picture that someone else has given me. Lady Rose Lion (Monkey Unicorn) is based on the medieval tapestry series The Lady and the Unicorn; I took each element, imagined what it would smell like, and assembled them.

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

The most important thing is to learn what you love. People often disappear where the sun doesn’t shine when it comes to identifying perfume notes. Smell often and widely. Decide what you like. Then go and look it up and see what other people think of it. (Not the other way around.) I’ve heard people announce, ‘I won’t wear anything you can buy in Duty Free,’ which is just plain scent snobbery. The world’s best perfumers have made those scents. To ignore the entire works of the Estée Lauder, Chanel and Dior perfumers, or the dippy delights of Thierry Mugler? Sinful.

Do explore the classics. There are a lot of modern fragrances which are terribly samey – a few too many insipid pink things out there for my liking, or things with pictures of water on the box. The classics have survived because they’re good. Go in with your nose and your mind open.

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

Practice. Concentrate while you’re smelling. Then smell again and concentrate more. Then come back and smell it next week. We all know what mint smells like. Why? Because we smell it all the time. We need to smell things we can identify every day, then we get better at it.

It’s a little bit like music. I’ve heard people say, ‘I love that piece, the bit with the trumpet,’ and I say, ‘That’s an oboe.’ It doesn’t stop them enjoying the music just because their ears and brains don’t tell them exactly what’s playing. I do workshops where I let people smell the individual materials so then they can smell the difference they make in a perfume. Learn individual notes, and then they are easier to identify. That said, in some ways it’s completely different from music. A trumpet added to an orchestra will still sound like an orchestra with a trumpet.

Smell patchouli by itself and it smells like hippies did in the 70s. Put patchouli in a perfume blend and a lot of the time it smells like chocolate. Perfumes often smell of something that the perfumer hasn’t actually put in there. The nose doesn’t communicate with the brain the way the other senses do.

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

I love raspberry leaf absolute. It smells of jam.