Anne Flipo is one of an elite group entitled to call herself ‘Master Perfumer’, a title given by IFF (International Flavors & Fragrances) to their most experienced and talented perfumers.
Anne has worked with IFF since 2004 and the list of her creations would keep you scrolling and scrolling, but highlights include Burberry Brit Rhythm, Chloé Love Story, Jimmy Choo Illicit, Paco Rabanne Lady Million (with Dominique Ropion and Beatrice Piquet), The Herb Garden collection for Jo Malone London, in which she was able to express her own passion for gardening; and more recently, the astoundingly green lushness of Frédéric Malle‘s Synthetic Jungle.
We caught up with Anne to discover exactly how she works, where the inspiration comes from, and the classic scent she wishes she could have created…
What is your first scent memory?
My first ever scent memory is the smell of my mum. She used to wear lot of huge fragrances, but I also remember her own natural smell.
When did you decide you wanted to be a perfumer and create your own perfumes?
I had a revelation during my studies at perfumery school in Versailles, near Paris. It was also a school for flavours and cosmetics, but when I began to play with fragrance ingredients and raw materials I saw it as a game, as a challenge. That’s where my passion and curiosity developed.
What are your five favourite smells in the world?
- Wow! Well the first one, at least, is easy: neroli. I’ve always loved this extract from the blossom of the bitter orange tree. It’s very important to me because it holds personal memories from childhood. I work around this scent all the time and it’s a constant note in many of my creative processes at the lab.
- I love basil, too, so when Céline Roux at Jo Malone London approached me about using it in the Basil & Neroli fragrance (launch: autumn 2016), I was delighted.
- I also love jasmine sambac – a very interesting white flower. It’s the variety of jasmine most similar to the orange blossom.
- I really like patchouli; it’s a great raw material and so effective within a formula. I use it as a ‘modifier’ to adjust a composition.
- The last one is difficult because I have so many raw materials going around in my mind – but I do love orris for the sense of volume and quality it can bring to a fragrance.
What is the worst thing you’ve ever smelt?
Pigeons – they have a terrible smell! Especially if they land on you – it is the most horrendous odour. I used to play with a lot of odd-smelling ingredients at perfumery school – both natural and synthetic – so nothing really fazes me except that!
What is the fragrance you wish you had created?
A fragrance that I love and that I wear a lot is Guerlain L’Heure Bleue. Astonishingly, it was created at the very beginning of the 20th Century.
Do you feel that this is one of the most exciting times in fragrance history?
Absolutely – over the past five years or so it’s become a very interesting and exciting time. But I believe that if you want realnsuccess you have to take some risks.
If you could have created a fragrance for an historical figure who would it be?
I am so interested in the idea of Britishness – that’s why I love working with Jo Malone London and especially on Basil & Neroli, which is the spirit of British youth, elegance and carefree hedonism. So I would love to choose one of your own very famous historical personalities such as Sir Winston Churchill.
What was the first fragrance you bought and the first bought for you?
They were both Guerlain fragrances; the first I bought for myself was Guerlain Parure, and the first perfume given to me was Guerlain Chamade.
Do you have a favourite bottle design from those that have been used for your fragrance creations?
I am in love with all the Jo Malone London bottles! To me they are so chic and elegant, and the perfect representation of high quality. I love them.
How many perfumes might you be working on at one time?
Good question! That really depends, but usually quite a lot. Luckily they are never at the same level of development, so it doesn’t get too overwhelming. At the moment it’s not too many; I can manage!
Does your nose ever switch off?
Yes absolutely, I need to have certain forms of ‘silence’. Often during the weekends I can cut off and switch off.
How long roughly does it take you to create a fragrance?
It depends, but I would say nine months is the minimum.
Is creating a fragrance visual for you, as well as something that happens in your nose and brain? If so, in what way?
To create a fragrance I use all of my five senses. It’s very much a brainstorming experience. I can visualise in my mind some odours and after that I play with the idea through flavours, textures, smells and even sounds.
There’s a moment during the day, at the beginning of the afternoon, when I think about fragrances in my mind. I go into a meditation period, and after this time I write my formula.
What can each of us do to enhance our appreciation of fragrance?
Firstly you have to try to relax. Write down or say immediately the words that come to mind when you smell something, and don’t hesitate. Don’t worry if you make mistakes or say something wrong. In fact I personally think there is always something correct in what anyone says about a fragrance.
What is your best tip for improving someone’s sense of smell?
One really helpful exercise is to smell by contrast. So you smell one type of fragrance, and after that you smell something very different – for instance a fresh citrus Cologne and then a spicy Ambrée. That way you smell by contrast and it makes it easier to think, write or speak about each one.
If you had one fragrance note you love above all others what would it be?
Neroli – absolutely without question. I love the fragrance of orange blossom: it’s so rich and beautiful; I want to smell it every day. I really love, love, love it!