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

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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 www.scentlondon.co.uk 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!

www.scentlondon.co.uk

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.

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Julie Massé

JULIE_MASSEWhat is your first ‘scent memory’?

I am French, my family is from Grasse, but I was born in Tokyo and I lived there for many years as a child. My earliest memory is the scent of Japan. It’s the aroma of tatami mats and wooden and papyrus screens. It’s a blend of woodsy, papery grasses and tea… a very natural, slightly dry woody smell.

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

My father worked in the world of perfume, in Tokyo and in Grasse. I was surrounded by fragrance and its language; it was very natural and instinctive for me to end up working in the world of scent.

What are your five favourite smells in the world? 

•  The comforting scents of home and of my loved ones! But in terms of olfactory notes, I would say woods, for their mystery and subtlety.

•  The orange tree in all its forms, blossom, fruit, rind, leaf…  neroli. So varied, versatile.

•  The frangipani flower, for the powerful memories it recalls of travelling to Sri Lanka, a country I adored.

• Orcanox, a form of white amber, because it smells like warm skin.

•  Cardamom for its ambrée associations…

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

The worst thing I’ve ever smelled brings me back to one of my travels. During a vacation in Indonesia, I found a market in Bali where all the different smells made up an unbearable whole. Rotten meat, dust and dirt mixed in the ambient mugginess. A rather unpleasant olfactory memory! 

What is the fragrance you wish you’d created?

I am thinking of Christian Dior Eau Sauvage, because of its incredible citrus chypre structure, fresh and so elegant at the same time. This fragrance is one of these fragrances that has marked perfume history. I have always found that a man wearing Eau Sauvage has intense, almost magnetic charisma!

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

Absolutely! It’s a fantastic time to be creating fragrance. For one thing there’s much innovation in the field of new molecules and methods, like MANE’s captives (NB MANE is a leading fragrance ingredient house), and Jungle EssencesTM, an exclusive extraction technique of capturing naturals. And also, not least of all, there’s creative freedom we get now with the smaller, niche brands like Shay & Blue where the founder-art-director tends to push perfumers to open up and imagine all sorts of creative possibilities. 

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

I would love to create a fragrance for a legendary rock star. Mick Jagger for example, for his attitude and his charisma, something between rebellious style and British elegance!

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

My first fragrance was Azzaro Eau Belle. I wore it for many years. The sparkling freshness made me feel good. 

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

There are many. But I love the way that Dom De Vetta has taken the classical perfume note flacon that we perfumers use and reinvented it in the bottle for Shay & Blue. It looks simultaneously old and new, something I love. 

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

I might work on up to fifteen fragrances at a time. But you have to find a way to juggle them, to punctuate one project with another, to shuffle them around so that your creative imagination remains fresh and stimulated.

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

Most typically a fragrance will take a year of work back and forth. At its extremes, you can create a scented sketch in an afternoon, or a grand project could take three or four years. I like to work swiftly though, there’s an energy and dynamism in working quickly and instinctively.

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?

Of course! I like working with the Art Directors who have a crystal clear vision of their fragrance house, and visual references can be a great help. Dom De Vetta at Shay & Blue expresses himself through painting, visuals, tear sheets and mood boards. It’s a fantastic way of opening up the rich dialogue that we then have around our creations.

Does your nose ever ‘switch off’?

Never! It’s always there, in the background, working. Even when I’m off duty, wandering around Paris or London, it’s unconsciously registering all manner of scent in the air. It’s a great creative reserve, so I don’t mind.

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

Be curious and have confidence in what your nose is telling you. If you think a wine you are smelling is spicy, go with it, sniff more deeply, think about what other aromas and associations it’s provoking for you. You can do this with everyday smells, and in this way you can ‘train’ your nose and actively improve your sense of smell. 

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

Probably a blend of orange or orange blossom and woody ambers. A contrast of both the fresh and the deeply sensual…

 

Karine Dubreuil

KARINE_DUBREUILKarine was born in the heartland of perfumery, in Grasse, where children grow up with their noses buried in the flowers the town is famous for – ‘so I decided I wanted to be a perfumer at the age of eight years old…’

She was essentially ‘apprenticed’ at the local perfume school (just three students a year were taken on). ‘They trained flavourists, too, but I decided that would be a dangerous job for someone who loves food as much as I do…’ By the age of 24 Karine found bestseller success with collections for Roger & Gallet, and went on to create for Lanvin, and Gucci (their Gucci for Men and Envy Me). Famous for her work with florals, she was taken on full-time by L’Occitane, creating the acclaimed La Collection de Grasse fine fragrance collection. ‘And I’m proud to be part of an industry that’s finally recognising women. It’s such an obvious feminine job, yet not long ago women in perfume companies were mostly washing the dishes or making the tea…’

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

When I was a child growing up in Grasse, I loved the smells of the flowers, the plants and the fruits in my grandparents’ garden (mimosa, roses, jasmine, orange flowers, violets, lilac etc…). I also loved the smell of my mother’s cooking; she always used lots of spices and fresh aromatic herbs.  I always knew I would have a creative job. One of my parents’ friends was a perfumer and she introduced me to this art at a young age. I always used to smell the new perfume creations she was working on and visited the labs regularly.

What are your five favourite smells in the world? 

I have too many favorite notes. I love patchouli, Grasse jasmine, vanilla, lilac, bitter orange…

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

The smell of rotten potatoes. It’s a memory I wish I didn’t have.

What is the fragrance you wish you’d created?

It is hard to choose one: Clinique Aromatics Elixir, YSL Opium, Courrèges Empreinte

For you, is this one of the most exciting times in fragrance history, because of the creativity being expressed by perfumers?  And if so, why do you think that is?

Rather than an intense period of creativity, I would say that the fragrance industry is facing some big changes. For several years, brands have been launching so many new perfumes every year, many of which are copies and variation of previous ones; they have now reached an economic and creative deadlock. In my mind, the only solution is a return to honest, artisanal perfumery with precious ingredients, distinctive character and personality. That is why in-house perfumers have become more prominent and starting to guarantee an olfactive ‘tone of voice’ for brands. Perfumers are placed again at the centre of that, which is a very good thing!

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

It would be for Maria Callas. (*Karine is trained classical opera singer)

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

I broke my piggy-bank to buy Nina Ricci L’Air du Temps for my mother.  For me, I used to wear Monsieur Balmain, a fresh verbena and a precious fragrance, when I was doing a lot of classical ballet. And I would always remember the Eau de Cologne that my mother used in my hair after my bath when I was a very little girl.

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

I really like the shape of L’Occitane Eau des Baux; it reminds me of old perfume flask.

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

I might be working on a dozen different ideas at the same time.

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

It can vary greatly. In general, a perfume development lasts from 6 months to 1 or 2 years. In the current industry, this is a real luxury to have.

Does your nose ever ‘switch off’?

Hopefully, no! It has happened before when I worked for too long on a project or on the same note. Thankfully, my sense of smell still evolves; it becomes more developed every day, and when I smell raw materials that I already know, I can still discover facets that I hadn’t necessarily analysed before. When I am relaxing and socialising my mind switches off – but my nose still works and every now and then it will draw my attention back to something it picked up.  

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

I do get inspiration from pictures, images and often memories. But my inspiration can come from anywhere and anytime. I might be inspired by a journey, by a delicious meal with wonderful and surprising flavours, by a garden or a walk in a forest… I usually begin by writing down what I want to create. Then I start thinking about the ingredients I’d like to use. So I might think about jasmine, which has many facets: it can be very fresh but also very strong, just like the flowers before they are picked. When I smelled the extract for the first time, I was so disappointed. I always want a fragrance to smell as natural as possible, like the living flower, which often is the biggest technical challenge for a perfumer.

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

The first step will be to improve your awareness of all the smells around you. Take time to quietly analyse and explore them and try to learn the language to speak better about them. Then, don’t be shy about smelling things around you; be curious! If you want to train your nose, you should smell in a place that’s well-ventilated, but not too dry and quiet.

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

If I have to choose one, I would say patchouli.

 

Alienor Massenet

ALIENOR_MASSENETAlienor Massenet studied perfumery at Cinquième Sense and Firmenich before beginning an internship at International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF), where she has worked since 1995.  Her fragrance creations include Liz Earle Botanical Esssence No. 15, Chloé Eau de Fleurs Neroli (2010), and many key fragrances for MEMO, including Italian Leather, Lalibela and Sundance.

What is your first ‘scent memory’?

I was five years old and I smelled my skin under the sun. The skin, bathed by sunbeams, produces a warm smell: I was addicted to it.  And during all my childhood, I used to smell my food before eating it. My parents actually got angry at me, because it was a “bad” habit, but I couldn’t help it.

When did you decide you wanted to be a perfumer?

At 20, after a training in the industry (at the fragrance houses IFF and Firmenich), I started to learn olfaction, I discovered I loved to create smells. I created my first scented candle then, and I am still asked to reproduce it by friends. But I don’t know where the formula is – I would love to find it. 

What are your five favourite smells in the world? 

• Vanilla bean oil is my favorite smell ever, I love to compose fragrance with it.

•  The smell of a newborn, when he or she is delivered from the womb. It has animalic and strong  musky notes.

•  The powerful smell of the Atlantic Ocean. Standing on a large and windy beach, when iodine and salty smells come to your nose. It is a cloud of freshness and nature.

•  Incense and myrrh are deep and spiritual; they evoke a lot of memories.

•  The smell of the lotus flowers on the lakes in Asia;  it’s almost synthetic. I would love to reproduce such a smell. But once it is picked, the flower does not smell anymore.

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

When you are in a mountain hut, after a long trek in the snow and when you enter the restrooms, the smell is awful (fermented ammoniac!)  Better go outside. But, usually as a perfumer you analyse smells, even bad smells; for instance civet, at small dose, gives character to a fragrance…

 What is the fragrance you wish you’d created?

This question is very difficult. But I must confess that for me, Shalimar is one of the most beautiful fragrances. It represents femininity and warmth, it is one of the first Ambrée perfumes. And yet it is very simple, it keeps a coherent identity from top to bottom notes. The magic is that it evolves from one woman to another.

Still there are a lot of fragrances that I admire:  Cartier Le MustDior J’AdoreGuy Laroche Drakkar Noir, Calvin Klein EternityLancôme TrésorCarolina Herrera for Men

Do you share our feeling 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?

In the niche perfumery there are a lot of nice and interesting creations. Many new brands are being launched. In the more mainstream and commercial perfumery, the money goes first to the packaging and less to the perfume in itself – but hopefully it will change.

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

I would have loved to create a fragrance for Cleopatra; because of her beauty and will, she tamed strong male figures like Julius Cesar or Marc Antony. In the same spirit, Jeanne of Arc raised an army thanks to her strength and faith. 

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

The first olfactive object I bought was not a fragrance but a vanilla tincture in a small bottle – I was seven!  As a gift, I received Cacharel Loulou.  I still remember its power. I used to make my own mix, by combining it to a few drops of Chanel Cristalle or Eau de Givenchy.

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

This is hard to answer, but one of my favorite is the bottle and design of Liz Earle Botanical Essence No. 15. The pack is very soft to touch. All the botanical pictures of the ingredients are printed on it. It is very pure and elegant.

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

It varies from nine to fifteen. To have a variety of brands and fragrances to develop makes me more creative.

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

There is no rule. From three months to four or five years; the pace is decided by the clients. Besides, some fragrances are in my mind for a very long time – and then, if there momentum is good, I may write down the formula.

Does your nose ever ‘switch off’?

Yes when I have a cold. It is the only time I am on full vacation.

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?

A fragrance is visual for me because when I create a fragrance some ingredients are vertical; other horizontal (they vary from time to time). So I literally conceive fragrance as a geometrical figure. It is helpful for me to construct a fragrance this way. I also often associate raw materials to colours; some create strong emotions – for instance, aldehyde is blue and cold.

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

First take your time to discover fragrances. Improve your knowledge by enlarging your scope of perfumes. The more you know about perfumes, the more you distinguish the tiny details. 

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

It is better to smell in the morning; the room must not be “polluted” by other smells or fragrances. Train your smell memory by smelling three or four different fragrances per day, and learn to recognise them. Then increase the number each day.

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

I love ‘gourmand’ fragrances – first because I am found of vanilla, but there are also lots of different possibilities in the gourmand family. It is very exciting to explore that family and invent new combinations.

 

Christine Nagel

CHRISTINE_NAGEL

From the first time she met a ‘nose’, that’s what Christine Nagel knew she wanted to be. So she trained as a research chemist and market analyst, and in Paris, in 1997, was launched on a seriously distinguished career that’s included creations like the blockbuster Narciso Rodriguez for Her (with Francis Kurkdjian), Jimmy Choo Flash and Guerlain’s Les Elixirs Charnels collection.

After several years at Jo Malone London, Christine has now joined Hermès, to work alongside Jean-Claude Ellena. Her desire to ‘pare down’ fragrances chimes perfectly with Jean-Claude’s, and we’re on tenterhooks to see what this creative partnership produces:

‘I have a creative preference for compositions characterised by simplicity, which mirrors their philosophy’. ‘Favourite’ notes go in cycles: ‘I’ve phases when I’m deeply into a single type: woody, ambrée, green facets. It can turn almost into an obsession, until I have the feeling I’ve found what I’m looking for, and then I move on.’ And is it easier to create for women, or men? ‘Gender in perfume is an everlasting debate. In reality, anyone can wear whatever he or she likes – even if the fragrance is supposedly “masculine” or “feminine”. There’s no right or wrong…’

What is your first ‘scent memory’?

My first olfactory memory is the scent of the famous Italian talc “Boro Talco” that my mother used for my little brother.

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

I knew I wanted to become a perfumer when I started working in Firmenich R&D laboratories. There, I fell in love with the raw materials used in perfumery and begun to express myself through fragrance.

What are your five favourite smells in the world? 

Of course, the best scents are the ones of my loved ones: my children, my lover and my mother! I love the scent of a Pierre de Ronsard Rose and the scent of asphalt just after a pouring rain.

What is the fragrance you wish you’d created?

There are two fragrances that I absolutely love and wear myself: “Féminité du bois” and “Ambre Sultan” by Serge Lutens.

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

I agree. I feel that brands are asking for more and more authentic and qualitative notes, complex fragrances with great character and signature. So it is quite an exciting time indeed! 

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

Eve – to imagine a fragrance for the first woman ever would be quite exciting.

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

The first fragrance I bought was Mary Quant Havoc. Most of the time, if want to wear a fragrance I will buy it for myself, but once, I received as a gift Guy Laroche Fidji.

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

I like when a fragrance bottle is heavy, when you feel the weigh of precious glass. The Jo Malone London bottles in particular had this quality.

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

It depends; quite often I work on about ten fragrances at the same time.

Does your nose ever ‘switch off’?

Even if my nose sometimes “switches off” because of a bad cold, the brain doesn’t, and I can still imagine and write formulas. I smell them once my nose is treated.

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

Once again, it depends on the project. It can be from three days to three whole years.

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?

The idea of the fragrance first rises in the brain. Everything can arouse my imagination: mood boards, stories, colours, shapes, textures … After that, I write down what I imagine and at the end, I smell what I had in mind in the first place.

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

To appreciate a fragrance, you just have to follow your instinct. When a fragrance touches you, tickles your sensitivity, it means that the fragrance is made for you.

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

Be olfactively curious. Smell everything you can, everywhere, everyday.  Have your nose on high alert.

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

The next fragrance I will be creating of course. I will certainly love it more that any other one!