Carlos Benaïm – one of the most charming ‘noses’ we’ve ever met – talks scents…

When Carlos Benaïm landed from New York on a flying visit, we settled down into a pair of leather chairs and asked him to share his scent memories.

One of the perfumers we’ve been most charmed by in all our years of hanging out with ‘noses’, Carlos is a veteran of the industry, with so many fragrances to his name: the blockbuster Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb (with Olivier Polge and Domitille Bertier), Boucheron Jaipur Bracelet, Bulgari Jasmin Noir, Calvin Klein Eupohoria and Ralph Lauren Polo – among many others we’ve worn, loved or admired. More recently, he’s created for Frederic Malle, including the airily fresh and so-wearable Eau de Magnolia, as well as the sublime modern classic Icon for Dunhill.

His appreciation of scents and smells started early. ‘As a young boy I would often accompany my grandfather to the marketplace in Tangier and I remember the smells of the spices and fruits, oranges, peaches, melons and apricots – they are engraved in my memory…’

When summing up his career, we also love these words from Carlos: ‘There’s an old Arab saying: whatever is not given, is lost. That’s how I’ve tried to live my life and my career.’

What is your first ‘scent memory’?
The scent of my grandmother’s kitchen, cinnamon, mixed with sugar and other sweet smells. She’s someone I was very close to growing up in Tangiers, in Morocco; I was raised there, although my background is Spanish. I left Morocco at 17 to study chemical engineering and then at 23 went to Paris and New York, studying to be a nose alongside head perfumers Bernard Chant and Ernest Shiftan at International Flavors & Fragrances – I never went to a ‘classical’ perfumery school and for me, it was more like an apprenticeship.

What are your five favourite smells in the world?

  • Orris (iris) – an elegant smell; there’s something so cool (temperature-wise) about it that I really like.
  • Sweets and baking smells and chocolate – because I have a sweet tooth, and I’m often caught with something sweet!
  • Smells that remind me of my mother: Femme and Mitsouko – I always recognise both of those smells right away, which brings back wonderful memories.
  • Fruits. I love the smell of fruits, particularly raspberries and peaches, pineapple, cassis, blackberry, blackcurrant. There is nothing like the smell of a fresh-picked French raspberry; they taste and smell completely different to the ones you can buy in New York – so much more perfumed…
  • Tobacco. This is the smell of my grandfather; he used to have snuff tobacco, and my father who was a pharmacist used to perfume it, either with a violet perfume or a geranium aroma. It was a very rough tobacco from Morocco and that combination was very haunting, blended with those sweet notes. I use it a lot in fragrance as a note; I used to smoke when I was young and fortunately I stopped, but I do like a little ‘hit’ from using tobacco.

And your least favourite?
I hate the smell of garbage – but that’s an obvious one. Actually, I don’t like the smell of cats and dogs. We don’t have animals because my wife is very allergic to them – but I don’t like their scent, either.

What is the fragrance you wish you’d created?
The great Guerlains: the Mitsoukos, the Shalimars… My grandmother used to wear Shalimar. Those are magnificent, absolutely wonderful, with their mossiness – not just oakmoss, but the other mosses, which we’re restricted from using so much these days.

Is creating a fragrance ‘visual’ for you, as well as something that happens in the nose/brain? Is a mood-board helpful?
Everything is helpful for me. A fragrance is a mood, it’s colour, it’s form – and so it’s definitely visual as well; I build up a picture in my mind, and start trying to bring it to life. It’s a process that takes several months.

Do you have a favourite bottle, from those which have been used for your creations?
I’m very fond of the Ralph Lauren Polo bottle, which is also very significant for me because it was my first success. I also love the bottle for Flowerbomb.

Does your nose ever switch off!
As a perfumer, you can switch off being in ‘work mode’, to a ‘not actively searching’ mode. When my nose is ‘on’, I’m sensing the environment, I’m interested in the smells around me, I’m trying to put my effort into understanding what’s going on in, say, that particular flower. But I like to relax, too, and my nose relaxes at the same time.

What is your best tip for improving a person’s sense of smell?
Be interested; that’s really the key. Pay attention and try to ‘fix’ smells in your mind by putting words to them. That’s how a perfumer starts; you smell everything, and you can’t remember abstract smells so you have to label them – I would smell something and think, ‘ah, that’s the wood in my grandmother’s house’ – and that’s how I’d be able to remember it…


Five Favourite Smells: Rebecca & Clare Hopkins of Balance Me

In a continuaton of our series asking industry insiders their Five Favourite Smells – because really, is there any better way to know someone? – we caught up with the founders of Balance Me, sisters Clare and Rebecca Hopkins, and got them to reveal all…

Balance Me was created by British sisters, Rebecca and Clare Hopkins in London back in 2005. Their honestly natural, botanically active formulations – at the heart of what makes Balance Me unique and effective – have been truly pioneering.

And thanks to the huge advances in natural chemistry in recent years, this has allowed Balance Me to push the boundaries on what is possible to achieve in natural skincare, without compromising on results. The brand’s mission from day one has been to solve concerns and bring skin into balance and advocates self-care through skincare with their sophisticated and easily absorbed textures so using them is a pleasure.

Of course, because of their high-quality ingredients, much of the range happens to smell incredible as an added bonus. We’re of the opinion that when products you use for a daily beauty routine smell good, they make you feel even better, and so you are likely to use them more frequently while gaining the benefits of some much-needed me-time: something we all need to be more mindful of in these ever-busy, troubled times.

As well as their innovative natural ingredients such as Vitamin C, peptides and Hyaluronic Acid, each aromatherapeutic Balance Me fragrance is blended on three levels: for its unique, natural aroma; for skin benefits and mood-boosting properties through the sense of smell.


Lemon – ‘I start my day with a glass of warm water and lemon as I find it really hydrating, aids digestion and it’s a natural body cleanser! early mornings, start to the day. I love mornings and find it’s when I have the most energy and excitement for what lays ahead of me.

Hyacinths – I would have them in the house year-round if I could! They evoke lighter, warmer spring days and just boost my mood.

The Atlantic sea in North Cornwall – My happy place! We spend long, early summers here surfing, coastal walking and just hanging out with family. The sea air is always a huge natural tonic.

Roses – We grew up near to the Peak District and our parents garden was always full of flowers, in particular roses. Our parents had a lovely rose bed and I remember spending long, lazy summer days outside in their garden making an array of fragrances that I insisted my mother spritz on her skin!

Neroli – I find neroli such a beautiful, calming fragrance. It is in Balance Me’s Super Moisturising Body Oil that one of our formulators created for me when I was pregnant with my first daughter. It conjures up such happy memories and I continue to benefit from it daily, not only in our oil but in our Hyaluronic Plumping Mist that I carry everywhere with me. I think I am a bit obsessed!


Mountain flowers in Crete – This is where I learned Ashtanga yoga all those years ago and I remember not only being blown away by the fabulous yoga there, but also the beauty of walking to the yoga shala with a view of the sea, goat bells tinkling in the background and the gorgeous smell of the mountain flowers. They use the flowers to make tea.

Roses – Just like Rebecca I remember our parents Rose beds in our garden. They were full of beautiful pink and white English roses with soft petals. They smelt gorgeous and we used to pick them to make potions and perfumes.

Pine forest – On our first camping trip as a family we stayed in France and our Father spent the whole holiday commenting on the smell of pine forests – it reminded him of growing up in his childhood in Virginia Water. I now always think of him when I walk through a Pine forest.

Sea air – I love swimming outside in the lido but nothing beats a trip to the seaside and a swim in the sea. Like Rebecca, our Cornish holidays have made a big impact on me and we now go back yearly with our children. The seaside village is packed with families who have been going there for generations. It is such a relaxing and happy place, partly for it’s beauty and partly for the slower, simpler pace of life (I love the fact the mobile reception is really patchy and it is faster to walk to the beach across the cliffs than take the inland road).

Mountain Air – We live in London, and although I love the buzz of the City and our work and many of our friends live here, it is great to get away. We have started taking the children skiing each year and it’s been fun to learn again with them. I love the smell of the fresh, clean mountain air.

Malin+Goetz founders share their Five Favourite Smells

MALIN+GOETZ was created by a maverick duo in New York, back in 2004. Their easy-to-use, easy-to-understand skincare rapidly became a ‘cult’ favourite, and now their incredible, ground-breaking perfumes are also a fragrant force to be reckoned with…

When Matthew Malin and Andrew Goetz first launched the brand, from the word ‘go’, it was clear this was something different. Throwing open the doors of their first store in Chelsea, that hip corner of Manhattan, they took a contemporary apothecary approach to luxury skincare. ‘Our mission was simple,’ they told us. ‘To provide easy-to-use treatments that are both gentle and effective. For all skin types. Women and men. And we still live by those words today.’

Their shared love of fragrance is something that drove their creativity and continues to inspire, and this was first expressed via a line of candles. Grabbing headlines, in particular, was the Cannabis candle – a tongue-in-cheek name, yes (not least because Andrew and Matthew advise having ‘something savoury or sweet on hand when burning’!) But also a fabulously spicy, herbaceous scent in which fresh top notes of lemon and orange mingle with fig and pepper, underpinned by deep, dark base note of oakmoss, sandalwood, patchouli and amber.

And from candles, it was surely a natural progression to fragrances we can enjoy on our skins. No ingredient in any of the products is there simply for the sake of it, or merely to smell nice, and so it was especially important to them to create perfumes that revolved around a central ingredient but explored every single facet of the scent. Another  distinguishing feature of the MALIN+GOETZ fragrance range, is that quite a few of the fragrances are available as perfume oils – wonderfully long-lasting on the body, and ideal as a base for layering beneath the eaux de parfum, or eaux de toilette to create a customised signature.

But something we like to do at The Perfume Society is catch up with the founders of houses and dig a little bit deeper, asking their 5 Favourite Smells. We truly believe the answers are always incredibly revealing – a scented shortcut to working out how someone truly ticks. So, let’s get closer…

Matthew Malin

Musk –anything musk. A college friend of mine, Verna, always wore a musk that she would buy off a street vendor. It was soft and warm and sexy. It is a scent that has stayed with me for over thirty years. LOVE.

Cedar – as a kid, I had two chores: mowing the lawn and making a fire in the winter. Hauling wood in from the garage to the family room always left the scent of cedar sap on my hands.

Grass – similarly, my other chore was mowing the lawn (which I despise). However, I cannot walk past a freshly mown lawn (by another) and not be transfixed by the smell of fresh cut grass.

Library – and the smell of books. It reminds me of college and the energy used cramming for a test. It is weirdly calming and exciting at the same time.

Lilacs – we have groves of lilacs at our weekend home in the Hudson Valley. There is this ephemeral moment in time when our harsh New York Winter has turned, and it is warmer, but not yet “warm”. And, for only a few days, the first Spring days, lilacs burst into the crisp clean air. The whole yard is filled with their perfume. It is overwhelming. And, then they are gone. I get chills thinking of it as I write…

Andrew Goetz

Dew – I love the subtleness of this scent. And I love the mood it evokes. It’s particularly alluring in the autumn up at our farm house. I love getting up early and seeing the due blanketed on the grass and meadows. There is a subtly sweet aroma in the atmosphere that I find incredibly calming, and makes me feel a bit moody in the best possible way. Having lived in Amsterdam for many years where there is no shortage of dampness, the morning due often evokes me of the romantic darkness that consumes Amsterdam in the Autumn.

Tomato – Or more specifically tomato leaves and stems. Our garden up in the country produces a prolific amount of tomatoes every August. The season is incredibly short, but incredibly intense. I love when the intense green perfume of the leaves and stem rub off on your hands as we prune, stake, and ultimately pick the tomatoes. As the tomatoes ripen in mid-August, the scent of the fruit blends with the powerful scent of stems and leaves. To me it is the defining scent of Summer.

Salt – Salt is always magical to me. In the right measure, it makes the ordinary taste, and smell sublime. So the scent of salt can often depend on where we find it. But it always reminds me of the sea. I’m always seduced by anything briny. Good raw oysters always have that quiet salty scent. The scent of salt can transport me to Mediterranean or amazing sandy dunes of Provincetown in Cape Cod. It is the scent of calm for me.

Our Garden – Gardening came late to me in life. But I’ve embraced it with a real passion. Our garden up in the Hudson Valley is a mixture of vegetables, herbs and flowers. There is never one dominant scent. In fact it changes by the week, as some things ripen and bloom, and other die off. The crescendo at the end of the summer is like an orchestra of different fragrances and scents. It’s practically operatic. But even the finale is gorgeous, as fruits and florals fade to earth, crispness and warmth.

Leather – The scent of leather is so three dimensional for me. I love the hardiness and sexiness it projects when you smell an old warn in leather garment. But you just can’t just smell leather, you are compelled to touch it. It smells even more intense as your skin interact with it. It’s irresistible. And of course there is nothing like your favourite old weathered leather jacket. It just doesn’t look good; it feels good – and it smells amazing. Leather has a way of releasing pheromones and endorphins of smokiness, sexiness and confidence when I put on that favourite jacket.

You can read more about MALIN+GOETZ on our page dedicated to their history, and do yourselves a favour by checking out the full range of their fabulous fragrances in-store or online!

Written by Suzy Nightingale