Richard E. Grant explores the world of Süskind’s Perfume novel in episode 2 of his new BBC series, Write Around the World, and we think you’ll be captivated by his so-evocative scent journey…
‘I’ve been led by nose all my life,’ says Richard. ‘When I was 12 years old I tried to make a perfume with gardenia and rose petals – to impress a girl I was madly in love with, called Betty Clapp. It took me 56 years to create my own professional perfume brand here in Grasse.’ He’s there for part of his wonderful new BBC series, Write Around the World, traversing those places that have inspired iconic writers through history – Grasse being the perfume capital of the world and the setting for one of Richard’s favourite books: ‘Patrick Süskind’s Perfume novel… the best description of scent I’ve ever come across, and reading it is almost a physical experience.’
The BBC say: ‘Book and travel lover Richard E Grant journeys to southern France, visiting the Cévennes mountains, Marseille, Juan-les-Pins on the French Riviera and Grasse in the hills north of Cannes, in the footsteps of writers inspired by the country, its culture and history.
Reading key passages from their books as he goes along, including works by Robert Louis Stevenson, Alexandre Dumas, F Scott Fitzgerald, Elizabeth David and Patrick Süskind, Richard not only learns about the lives of these great authors, but also experiences many of the places immortalised in the literary classics they created.’
Richard’s own fragrant journey led him to the brilliant perfumer Alienor Massenet. She garlanded his original idea (and favourite flower) of gardenia with marijuana (a nod to his film, Withnail and I), mandarin, vetiver and a plethora of spices, with a sophisticated, cologne-like zing of lime up top, capturing all Richard’s favourite smells in an intensely personal ‘signature’ scent. That fragrance is now immortalised as Jack – the first of the synonymous collection, and a scent which succeeded in winning the Fragrance Foundation Award for Best Independent Fragrance in 2015.
In the episode Richard wanders through Grasse with obvious delight, his nose veritably twitching as he sees (and smells) the places described in the novel, even having a fragrance created for him at the historic house of Galimard, which he names for Grenouille, the novel’s protagonist. Little wonder, given his scent obsession, that Richard went on to add three other fragrances to his collection, which you can explore in our page dedicated to the house of Jack.
‘Our sense of smell is the shortest synaptic leap in the brain to our memory,’ says Richard, ‘and every one of these ingredients is like a sensory trigger. I’ve aspired to create a fragrance that is as lickably moreish as it’s addictive.’
For a fragrantly inspiring journey of your own, we suggest watching the episode, reading Patrick Süskind’s Perfume (if you’ve not already, you’re in for a treat!), and then truly indulging your sense of smell by exploring the full range of Jack fragrances…
By Suzy Nightingale