Ruth Mastenbroek

‘Scent is my life.  The fragrance is the essence of my art.  It is my signature…’ 

Ruth Mastenbroek was born in England and graduated with a Chemistry degree from Oxford University.

Ruth trained and in the late 70s worked as a perfumer in the UK and Netherlands with Naarden International.  (It later became Quest and is now Givaudan – one of the largest perfume suppliers in the world…)

Ruth worked in Japan and in the perfume capital Grasse before returning to England to work for a small company, where she created fragrances for up-and-coming brands like Kenneth Turner and Jo Malone – including her Grapefruit candle.  Ruth set up her own perfumery company, Fragosmic Ltd., in 2003 – the year she became president of The British Society of Perfumers.

In 2010 Ruth launched her capsule collection of scented products featuring her signature fragrance – RM – and also became the first to use advanced micro-encapsulation technology in a scented bathrobe…!

Ruth launched her second fragrance, Amorosa, in May 2012 at Les Senteurs in London.  Her range is now sold in more than 25 exclusive shops in the UK, as well as in the Netherlands and Nigeria.  Through Fragosmic, Ruth loves creating bespoke personal and home fragrances for small and medium-sized brands…

Notes Ruth loves…  ‘Memories of childhood in England and America – chocolate cookies, fresh earth, blackberries…  Of Holland – lilies, narcissus, hyacinth and salty sea air…  Of France – orchids, roses and wild herbs…  Of Japan – cherry blossom, lotus and green tea…’

Ruth’s signature creations: click on each perfume’s name to read more about them…

RM Signature

Amorosa

Oxford

www.ruthmastenbroek.com

Follow Ruth on Twitter:  @ruthmastenbroek

Sonia Constant

It’s tradition for perfumers to have a ‘trophy’ wall in their office: a shelf with all their creations. It starts out bare, of course, but as their career progresses, fills up with beautiful bottles and extravagant boxes, a testament to their talent.

Sonia Constant‘s ‘trophy wall’ at leading fragrance house Givaudan, in Paris, is quite something. Sonia’s roll-call of fragrances is longer than most people’s arms – from Balmain Extatic to Montblanc EmblemOscar de la Renta Fresh Vanilla to Burberry Sport for Men, via eight fragrances for Fragonard (MuguetLe LilasÉtoile, among others), as well as Guerlain L’Abeille and Acqua Allegoria Tiaré Mimosa. And that’s just a taster.

Now a mother-of-two, Sonia trained at the Paris perfumery school ISIPCA. ‘I didn’t really know I wanted to be a perfumer; I thought I might become a designer, a stylist, an architect. And then I discovered ISIPCA and because I loved fragrance, it seemed the perfect profession for me. My grandmother says that one of my first words was “flower”.’

‘My family didn’t really believe I could do it,’ Sonia continues, ‘because they thought I was too shy and not tough enough to work in such a competitive industry. I did not have an uncle, a father or any male relatives to help pave the way. I was alone in believing I could achieve my dream. Even as a young woman, though, I thought that it was better to aim for the moon – and if I missed, at least will end up in the stars… It took five years: I did a “sandwich” course, training at the school and spending time at Givaudan, where I still work.’

We’ve a hunch Sonia could go on to become one of perfumery’s top names. And we’re delighted to share some of her fragrant insights, here…

What is your first ‘scent memory’?

My mother’s perfumes: she was wearing Van Cleef & Arpels First, and sometimes Paloma Picasso. She liked those ‘rose Chypres’.

What are your five favourite smells in the world?

• I love a flower that almost nobody knows, called a spider lily. It smells a little like a lily, but is more powdery. I work a lot with flowers.

• Ambroxan. It’s a synthetic ingredient and it excites me a lot: it’s like a black-and-white photograph – very modern, and it doesn’t date or age.

• Cashmeran. It’s a wonderfully soft ingredient but also a little bit ‘rock star’ – like a beautiful feminine woman wearing leather trousers. I like the handwriting it gives to a perfume.

• Orange flower. For me, it’s a sort of gourmand (edible) flower – you just want to eat it. And of course, you can: it’s used for cooking. I like to use it with musk for a sort of marshmallow effect, and it goes brilliantly with iris.

• Orris (iris). I love the powderiness, like a woman with a sort of untouchable beauty. It almost has a texture, to me – like suede. I like to use it in a modern way.

And your least favourite?

Vomit! I used to run a lot around a lake where there’s a restaurant where people take a boat and drink too much… And every Friday there were piles of sick on my run. I also hate the smell of durian fruit.

What’s the one fragrance note that you love above all others?

Ambroxan – for the reasons above.

What’s the fragrance you wish you’d created?

Narciso Rodriguez, by Christine Nagel. Actually, she’s my sister-in-law – I’m married to her brother. (She kept the name of her first husband.) You might think we talk about perfumery when we get together, but actually, we’re both very busy and it tends to be family stuff. (NB you can read Christine Nagel‘s nose questionnaire, here.)

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

Does it have to be a historical figure…? I’d love to create a fragrance for filmmaker Wong Kar-wai: I love his films -especially ‘In The Mood for Love’ – and the atmosphere they create. They’re all about love and lovers; the cinematography is so beautiful: no sex, just suggestion. I’d love to capture the same feeling in my perfume. His films give me shivers and I’d like my perfumes to do the same.

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

I stole my mother’s Van Cleef & Arpels First, and then when I had some money, Chanel Allure was my first big fragrance. When I finished the bottle, my boyfriend at the time bought it for me again. Nowadays I wouldn’t want to wear something I hadn’t created myself – and of course, I’m always trialling perfumes.

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

The crystal bee bottle for Guerlain L’Abeille. In general we are given bottles of the fragrances we create but this one is way too expensive!

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

Up to 10 big ones, at one time. I also work on niche perfumes, of course. It’s not easier when it’s a niche perfume, but when I create for a big brand – such as Valentino – the fragrance is tested on consumers to gauge their response, and you need to know that response is positive. When I create, it’s like a partnership: I listen to the comments and adapt, constantly.

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

I’m a very visual person, and so yes. I might be shown a picture of ice, and I love the challenge of something that smells ‘frozen’. Or see a picture of bright colours, fruits and spices, and create something that’s fizzing with energy. Ingredients for me can be like planets, orbiting in the universe. It’s like my solar system: there’s the sun and the planets and sometimes, there’s a big bang!

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

Pay attention to all of the smells around you. Blind-smell your spices, in the kitchen, and try to figure out which is which. Smell plants. Smell wine. Most people go through life not thinking of smells, but when you start to notice them, there are just so many different and interesting things to smell – beyond fragrances themselves. It’s an absolutely fascinating time in history, for those of us who love smells, as this awareness of our precious sense of smell dawns.

Sidonie Lancesseur

SIDONIE_LENCESSEURAs you all know by now, we’re fascinated by perfumers – an elite group of just a few hundred individuals in the world, who make their living via their nostrils… (There are fewer of them than astronauts!) Sidonie Lancesseur is one of the ‘noses’ for the Lalique Collection Noir Premier fragrances.

Here, the perfumer – who also worked on several of Frapin‘s fragrances, Olfactive Studio Lumière Blanche and Terry de Gunzburg Flagrant DéliceOmbre Mercure and Parti Pris, among others – shares her thoughts on smells, scents and memories…

What is your first ‘scent memory’?

Chimney fire smouldering in the country house of my grandfather.

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

I’ve always been interested in smells. I remember a meeting when I was 12 years old with a friend of my parents who was in the perfume industry. She shared with me her passion and gave me the desire to express myself through scent.

What are your five favourite smells in the world?

• The smell of my children.
• Chimney fire.
• Books.
• Twilight in the heart of the countryside when there is deep moisture in the ground.
• The smell of the wind in the middle of ocean.

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

Each smell could be interesting depending on the situation and the intensity!

What is the fragrance you wish you’d created?

Déclaration by Cartier.

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

Freud, in order to create a universal fragrance which gives desire to people to confess.

What’s the first fragrance you bought?

Paloma Picasso Minotaure.

And the first bought for you…?

Thierry Mugler Angel.

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

I love the bottle design of By Kilian L’Oeuvre Noire collection for its luxury approach while respecting the environment. Once the bottle is empty you can refill it.

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

There is no rule; for example today I am working simultaneously on nine different briefs.

Does your nose ever ‘switch off’?

For me, it is instinctive to keep in olfactory contact with my environment. It is an endless source of inspiration and I’ll never cut the link.

How long, roughly, does it take you to create a fragrance? This is very variable. Sometimes the creative work is very fast, 2-3 days. Or inversely, many months or more may be needed to achieve the reached accord.

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

Absolutely; all external sources of inspirations are rewarding to create a new fragrance: images, colours, shapes, raw materials etc …

What can each of us do to enhance our appreciation of fragrance? Smell regularly and be curious about everything.

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

Take time to smell…

Cécile Matton

Cécile Matton grew up in Africa where she comments ‘the smells were very strong, because of the heat…’ Cécile originally began mixing fragrances herself as a teenager, using essences sold in the Pier Import shops in her native France, before training as a perfumer.

Her creations include YSL Baby DollValentino Gold (with Antoine Lie), Viktor & Rolf Bonbon (with Serge Majoullier) and most recently, the most ‘animalic’, sexy offering – Élegance Animale – in the Lalique Noir Premier Collection.

What is your first ‘scent memory’?

The mosquito repellent which was sprayed on houses during my childhood in Zaïre, in Africa.

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

About the age of 14. So I decided to train as a pharmacist, because at the time a lot of perfume companies belonged to pharmaceutical groups.

What are your favourite smells in the world?

• Nutmeg.

• Puppies.

• A synthetic called Orcanox™, when combined with vanilla.

• Drying laundry.

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

The green Chypre accord.

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

A mix of rotten garbage and metal I smelled next to some fast food restaurants in some big cities…

What is the fragrance you wish you’d created?

Chanel Chance.

Do you have a sense that this is the most exciting time to be a perfumer, since the dawn of fragrance? 

It is a tricky question. We have exciting new ingredients to work with, yet strong limitations at the same time, because of regulations and the need to please as many people as possible. Creativity may be stimulated when you are limited because you have to find a new path… But I would fancy more freedom!

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

Marilyn Monroe. When it comes to beauty, she made history.

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

The first I bought was Van Cleef & Arpels First. I was given Bal à Versailles before that.

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

I really adore the bottle designed for Bonbon by Viktor & Rolf.

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

Generally from 10 to 20.

Does your nose ever ‘switch off’?

Yes it does… If it gets ‘saturated’ and I need it to work, I pause for a moment and smell wool.

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

It all depends on the wishes of the person who I design it for. I sometimes find that the first trial is the best one!

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, it doesn’t work for me like that.

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

You should smell fragrances outside in the fresh air, not in perfume shops. Preferably on skin. Always wear it before buying!

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

Train again and again. Improving your sense of smell has a lot to do with memory; you have to smell a lot (and often).

Marie Salamagne

MARIE_SALAMAGNEMarie was born in 1977 in Paris, and claims to have had ‘an awareness and fascination for odours, ‘of attics, bread, earth, putty…’

As a child, Marie was passionate about dance – but after a degree in chemistry, she went on to study at the ISIPCA perfume school in Versailles, before joining Firmenich. When talking about her career, she makes parallels with art: when she was a teenager, she took painting lessons, and remembers preferring acrylics to watercolour. Today, she often associates smells with colours – and enjoys materials with a strong character. ‘I like working from a raw material that has a history… like patchouli, to “dress” it, to enhance it…’

Marie is particularly drawn to masculine notes like amber and wood, and her wide portfolio includes La Perla Just Precious, Nina Ricci Nina L’Eau (with Olivier Cresp), Jo Malone London Osmanthus Blossom and Saffron Cologne Intense, and Kylie Minogue Music Box. She’s one of the quartet of perfumers who worked on the new YSL Black Opium.

What is your first ‘scent memory’?
My mother wearing Guerlain Shalimar.

How many perfumes might you be working on, at one time?
Currently, I’m working on about 20 fragrances.

When did you decide you wanted to be a perfumer?
I started studying child psychiatry after passing my Baccalaureate but I quickly realized that my destiny was elsewhere. My lucky star revealed the existence of the ISIPCA school in Versailles, which I entered after obtaining a degree in chemistry.

What are your five favorite smells in the world?
Patchouli, putty, glycine (an amino acid), bread crust and the head of my children when they were born: a singular scent that lasted only the three first weeks of their lives!

If you had one fragrance note that you love above all others, what would that be?
It would have to be the patchouli.

What’s the worst thing you ever smelled?
The odor of tanners in Fez is really strong, animalic and a bit disturbing but it is not repulsive.

How long, roughly, does it take you to create a fragrance?
It is quite variable – but the average is about 14 months. Creating the initial accord is one thing, but then it takes a long time to find the perfect ‘expression’ – the one that a brand wants to share, without losing the original idea.

Is this one of the most exciting times in history to be a perfumer?
Yes; the fragrance industry is changing with niche brands multiplying and expressing their creativity. Brands want to create fragrance that everyone likes, but also that is memorable and unique, which is really exciting for us perfumers, but it is also a real challenge…

Do you have a favourite bottle design, from those that have been used for your fragrance creations?
I love the bottles of the Martin Margiela Replica Collection.

How many perfumes might you be working on, at one time?
At this time, I am working on about 20 fragrances.

What is the fragrance you wish you’d created?
Guerlain Jicky because it is audacious and ultra feminine. It is an ‘elegant overdose’.

Does your nose ever ‘switch off’?
No, never, even during the night, sometimes, I smell fragrances I have put on my skin or I think about new ideas when I wake up.

Is a mood-board helpful when you’re creating?
Very helpful, as I like to associate colours with raw materials. It is a real support for me to see mood-boards.

What is your best tip for improving a person’s sense of smell?
Curiosity is a good thing to explore and develop a person’s sense of smell. You have to not be afraid of smelling things you think you don’t like at first sight.

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 www.tauerperfumes.com, 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.

www.tauerperfumes.com

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.