Buly 1803 at the Louvre

Eight masterpieces have inspired eight world-famous perfumers to create fragrances for L’Officine Universelle Buly 1803 – the ancestral beauty, fragrance, home and lifestyle brand revived by Ramdane Touhami and his wife and business partner, Victoire de Tallac.

Buly 1803 invited The Perfume Society to a private view of the fragrances alongside the artworks within the Louvre. Yes, a private view – no jostling crowds or security guards moving you along, just a small group of journalists wandering the magnificent building, the hallways echoing to the sounds of our footsteps, the smell of beeswax a clue to the wooden floors being polished, our voices hushed, reverential, as though we were in church.

Before we entered the sanctuary of art – and now, scent – we asked Victoire how the project had come about, and why, with the greatest respect, the Louvre had asked a (still relatively small) niche company to create the perfumes, when they could have had any number of famous French fragrance houses beating a path to their door. ‘I think they really wanted to collaborate with us because they’re still interested in working with modern artists, to show the power that art still has to inspire,’ she explained.

Inspirational indeed, when one considers the artworks arrayed here represent some of the most famous pieces in the world. As we walked by faces looking out at us from the golden frames or perched atop marble plinths, it felt strangely like visiting a gallery of dear friends, glancing in our wake.

One by one, we were led to particular pieces the perfumers had chosen as the inspiration for their fragrance. An art historian explained each work in great depth, with the perfumers standing by to explain their process, and of course to let us smell their final creations.

Describing how they had worked together, Victoire said that ‘Ramdane had a very clear idea of what he wanted to do, allowing the perfumers to pick the artwork and creating a perfume based on it. They had completely free reign, they could choose anything.’ Perhaps unsurprisingly, none of them chose The Mona Lisa – it would have been a bit obvious, it’s become the one painting most people in the world could probably name as being housed at the Louvre. And really, as you will see, there are far more beguiling oeuvre to become enamoured by…

Conversation in a Park – interpreted by Dorothée Piot

Gainsborough’s painting of courtly flirtations within an idyllic landscape inspired the perfumer, Piot, to add sharp, cooling touches of peppermint and bergamot to an imposing bouquet of Ottoman roses. One can almost hear the laughter, the stiff rustle of shot taffeta, a snapshot of shared intimacy that’s thought to be Gainsborough himself, with his wife.

Buly say: ‘Behind the green, sylvan curtain of a theatre of the tender touch, a ray of sunlight, redolent of berries and citrus, illuminates the temple of the soul. On a carpet of peppermint, the silky petals of the dress unfold like the heart of a rose; a flush rises to the cheeks. In the air, sweet nothings float.’

The Valpinçon Bather – interpreted by Daniela Andrier

The luminescent skin of Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres’ Bather just glows from the canvas, and perfumer Andrier translates the glorious textures using a stimulating burst of citronella and orange blossom, embellished with rich patchouli and a smoky drift of incense.

Buly say: ‘Steam rising from marble sluiced with waves of heated water, dampened muslin wraps the shining limbs, delicately soaped; susurrations of the hammam. After bathing, resting on fresh sheets, the skin, still beaded with moisture, is chafed with lavender and orange blossom; now refreshed, its velvety pallor like an iris petal pearled by a mist of incense and musk.’

The Venus de Milo – interpreted by Jean-Christophe Hérault

Here, Héreault reconstructs the languid sensuality of the female form using an intoxicating combination of mandarin, jasmine and amber – a quietly imposing blend that seems to swoon on the skin rather than merely be applied.

Buly say: ‘Gentle white of jasmine, of neroli, of the matte and polished petals of magnolia, amber and sacred wood. Eternal, without past or present, the beauty of the marble goddess, elusive and notional, lifts up the soul with timeless bliss.’

The Lock – interpreted by Delphine Lebeau

Fragonard’s much-discussed painting provided Lebeau’s fragrant muse, seeking to evoke the sexually charged possible danger of the scene juxtaposed by the opulent velvet drapery, with a combination of lily and musk to create her bewitching scent.

Buly say: ‘Scent of the apple on the table, fruit carried to the lips like a kiss, to the neck, the breast. Ardent desire entangled in linen sheets, tousled hair, traces of the teeth on tender skin, its white musk scorched scarlet by love’s burning touch; the heady thrill of an illicit rendez-vous.’

Saint Joseph the Carpenter – interpreted by Sidonie Lancesseur

Georges de La Tour’s tender depiction of Joseph’s weather-beaten face, lit by candelight and looking with concern at the infant Jesus, is demonstrated by Lancesseur with a deep, resonant thrum of cedar wood suddenly illuminated by verbena, pink berries and vetiver.

Buly say: ‘The golden orange blossom and incense ignite in the amber night, humming with vetiver and cedarwood. In a censer, spices and dry herbs smoulder to keep the spirits at bay. A gesture is arrested, suspended in the face of epiphany. The divine aura illuminates the heart of the initiate, and banishes the darkness.’

The Winged Victory of Samothrace – interpreted by Aliénor Massenet

The emotional power of the iconic statue – found in hundreds of pieces, she was put back together like a jigsaw – has been given life in olfactory form by Massenet’s rich harmony of tuberose, magnolia and jasmine, enhanced by the warmth of myrrh.

Buly say: ‘Blown by a gale scented with citrus, in the perilous rush of the straits, the white bouquet of the salt-encrusted drapery wraps around the victorious effigy. At her marble feet, the waves, the incantations, the roses, the ocean of History and all her conquests; at her feet, the foundered hearts of heroes.’

Nymph With the Scorpion – interpreted by Annick Ménardo

Somehow making marble seem as supple as the female form, Lorenzo Bartolini’s sculpture does what it says in the title – the naked nymph perhaps regretting not donning a pair of shoes and she reaches for her freshly bitten foot. And Ménardo’s enticing bouquet of heliotrope and jasmine also sizzles with amber and musk.

Buly say: ‘The bitter kiss of the sting of almond prickles on the naked skin massaged with amber. Like quicksilver, the venom floods the veins, arrests the maiden’s glance, frozen in marble. The heart clouds with toxins, like the bloom of algae in a clear pond.’

Grande Odalisque – interpreted by Domitille Michalon-Bertier

The licentious gaze of Inges courtesan is reflected in Bertier’s alluring trail of exotic incense and pink pepper enhanced with intensely musky notes, to represent the reach-out-and-touch me textural deliciousness of the sitter’s pale skin and the luxuriously delicate draperies.

Buly say: ‘The musky, chilly satin of a shoulder, the sinuous curve of a hip or breast, gleaming in an alcove chased with brass, an Orientalist’s shrine, a dream of Eastern Promise. The pink pepper of the cheeks pricks the heart and, beneath the silken scarf, a perfume of incense suffuses the hair.’

We were so sad not to be able to include this incredible Buly/Louvre collaboration in the Perfume & Culture edition of our magazine, The Scented Letter – the project didn’t launch until after it had been published. But it certainly shows our fingers are firmly on the pulse of this artistic fragrant revolution. Get a huge dose of glorious artistic interpretations of perfume through the ages – from cinematic scents, to actors using fragrance to fully ‘become’ the parts they play, and a jaw-dropping collection of perfume art flaçons recently auctioned in America (one of which graces the cover). Along with your regular scent shots of news, interviews and all the latest reviews, the 60-page print magazine is available to purchase here.

What a complete honour – and how overwhelmingly emotional – it was to walk the hallowed halls of the Louvre in such a private party, and to smell such wonderful evocations of the artforms. In Eau Triple formulation (milky, hydrating and skin-friendly water-based), each truly pays perfumed homage to the iconic artworks. It was an experience we will never forget, and which we urge you to take part in by visiting the Louvre, and trying the scents on your own skin having seen the magnificent pieces yourself.

The Buly 1803 shop will sell all eight fragrances at the Louvre for one year only, along with candles, scented soap sheets, and fragranced postcards for the most chic ‘wish you were here’. So if you’ve always meant to go there, or hanker after another look at the Louvre’s incredible collection, then now would be the perfect time for fragrance and art fans to pay them a visit…

L’Officiene Universelle Buly 1803 €150 for 200ml Eau Triple

By Suzy Nightingale

The Beautiful Mind Series

The Beautiful Mind Series celebrates women for their intelligence and creativity – indeed, when creating the house, perfumer Geza Schoen (perhaps best known for his best-selling Escentic Molecules fragrances) wanted this concept to inspire the very fragrances themselves.

We still see photographs of beautiful women used everywhere in advertising, to sell everything from salads to scents, but how refreshing that The Beautiful Mind Series actually bothers to dig far deeper than superficial looks.

During our recent event at Jovoy Mayfair with Geza Schoen and one of his muses – the astonishing Memory Grandmaster, Christiane Stenger – our Perfume Society VIP Club Members got to hear first-hand how they collaborated to create a fragrance that celebrated brain power and women’s strength and particular talents (more of which, below). But The Beautiful Mind Series wanted to dig deeper still, interviewing a number of other thought-provoking and successful women from various backgrounds, and have just published a series of blogs with a thought-provoking series of successful women drawn from various backgrounds and disciplines.

Subjects include the Anglo-American actress, Lucy Boynton (playing Freddie Mercury’s love interest in the upcoming biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody), a talented tatoo artist called Saira Hunjen, Liv Little – the guiding force behind brilliant magazine by and for women and non binary people of colour, gal-dem; and Zowie Broach, Head of Fashion at the Royal College of Art.

The Beautiful Mind Series explain that the series of blogs ‘…aims to highlight achievements of a broad spectrum of quite simply brilliant women who aim to have a profound impact on modern society. Artists, scientists, costume designers, film makers, feminist activists, photographers, poets and playwrights are just some of our subjects.’ And the blogs are put together by a female duo of writer, Susan Irvine, and photographer, Susannah Baker-Smith.

Accompanied by tender, intimate portraits of the women they interviewed, we’re utterly thrilled that fragrance houses are just starting to see the potential for celebrating fascinating – and real – women we can all relate to or be inspired by: an exciting subject we explore at length in the latest just-published Fashion, Fragrance & Feminism issue of our magazine, The Scented Letter.

As for the The Beautiful Mind Series fragrances? Well of course they are beautiful, but a nuanced story-telling depth of complexity that’s a distinct move away from the more minimalist tendenacies of Escentric Molecules…

Volume 1: Intelligence & Fantasy is the first of the series – a fabulously vibrant floral that boasts a heady heart of tiaré absolute – the dreamily exotic, waxy Tahitian gardenia, celebrated as the flower of affection and adored for its intoxicating aroma. Think of a balmy summer breeze as you stand and gaze at the setting sun, skin still warm from the heat of the day, your whole body relaxed but your mind focused and alert to every aspect of your surroundings.

Grand Master of Memory Christiane Stenger was the muse for Schoen here – a voluptuously decadent fragrance dedicated to women gifted with exceptional skills. Magnolia bud, bergamot, mandarin, and Schinus molle (pink pepper) co-exist with freesia and apricot-like osmanthus. Rose oil melds into addictive hedione with oodles of that tiara absolute slowly drifting to a woody, cashmeran base.

Inspired by Russian ballerina Polina Semionova, Volume 2: Precision & Grace is the second of the series – ‘I was fascinated by what goes on in the mind of a great dancer while she’s dancing,’ explains Schoen, ‘in the precision she must have to express the grace.’

Upliftingly fruity with a juicy, crisp freshness that makes the mouth water, the Williams pear and plum notes are a direct reference to the dancer’s childhood childhood memories of the Russian countryside, with a heady embrace of jasmine blossoms, sandalwood and pink pepper twirling throughout. Resting on a softly, musky base, we think it’s wearable year-round – making even the most serious-minded perfume-lover imagine donning a gauzy gown and joyfully pirouetting through a flower-strewn orchard at dusk.

The Beautiful Mind Series Volumes 1 & 2 £95 for 100ml eau de parfum
Try them at Jovoy Mayfair

Excuse us while we find our ballet shoes and go memorise every book in the library – while happening to smell incredible, of course…

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Givaudan perfumer reaches for the stars

Givaudan perfumer Shyamala Maisondieu grew up wanting to be an astronomer, ‘…but in Malaysia, there are no astronomers!’ and so decided she wanted to travel, broaden her horizons and eventually became a perfumer. And there’s a link with the stars in more ways than one, for did you know that there are more people who have walked on the moon than there are master perfumers?

We loved watching this insightful interview with Shyamala, which we’ve shared with you, below, and especially hearing her views on niche versus mainstream (or what she calls ‘selective perfumes’), especially because she has worked extensively across both categories of fragrance, enjoying them in differing ways but finding ‘a symbiosis between them.’

‘I think perhaps travelling gives you different insight into differing people, different cultures, different backgrounds. And as perfumers, it’s imporant for us to understand the diversity of human beings!’

‘People are more in tune with themselves, and they need things that reflect them, and you cant make one type of perfume for so many different types of people.

It’s always such a pleasure to hear directly from perfumers themselves, on what drives and motivates them, what inspirations they bring to a fragrance brief – something we enjoy talking about in our series of Working Nose interviews (just search that phrase at the top of the page), and when asking noses about their Five Favourite Smells (which never fails to be an eye-opener!)

Watching this video and Shymala’s humble but obviously passion for her craft, it’s also encouraging to see diversity of gender and culture finally breaking through in the fragrance world. For, as Shymala puts it so well: we humans are a diverse bunch, so why shouldn’t our fragrances reflect this?

Written by Suzy Nightingale