Superstar perfumer Calice Becker talks about her beautiful career (and more)…

When we learned that Calice Becker – perfumer behind masterpieces like Dior J’adore, Tom Ford Velvet Orchid and countless By Kilian fragrances – was collaborating on the new L’Occitane launch, Terre de Lumière, we sat up and took notice. A sign for sure that this beauty and perfume name, with its roots in Provence, is now taking fragrance Very Seriously Indeed. (Her fellow perfumers on this creation as Shyamala Maisondeau and Nadège Legarlantezec.)

Calice Eurostarred into London for the flower-filled launch, charming us with her easy manner and love for her work. In Terre de Lumière, she contrasts aromatic, fresh lavender, pink pepper and bergamot with sweet elements to create L’Occitane‘s debut gourmand perfume. Ambrette seed and acacia flower are drizzled with honey, with bitter almond taking the edge off the sweetness, and a final flourish of tonka and musk.
Calice happily answered our questions about how she became a perfumer, about how she works and what inspires her – so we’re delighted to share this latest in our series of ‘nose’ interviews with you here…

When did you decide you wanted to be a perfumer?

The heart of my perfume memories begin with my mother. I was four years old, getting out of a bath.  She opened a bottle of eau de Cologne and applied it to me. I was fascinated and curious about the smell.  So I asked her how it was made. She said, ‘It’s made from flowers…’ But I couldn’t see the flowers in the bottle! I couldn’t imagine how the flowers got into the bottle and got out, dispersing this beautiful smell. I was very confused, and I kept asking, and asking her questions.

She said: ‘You will understand it later, when you get older.’ So I give credit to my mother, who helped me find my calling. She told me I should become a perfumer, a ‘nose’, after she recognised how sensitive I was to smell. When I was very little, she realised that I couldn’t recognize people by name but, only by their fragrance.
I would tell her, ‘This person is like that one!’ And she would say, “Oh, no! They have nothing in common!”’
What I meant, and what she understood later, was that they were wearing the same fragrance.

What is your first scent memory?

My scent memories as a child show my curiosity and learning that started with the illusion of flowers inside a bottle. I continue to feel this way today, in my daily life. I’m constantly discovering ways of translating emotions that fit inside a bottle. As perfumers, we have the right resources and knowledge to reconstruct these feelings.

What are your five favourite smells in the world? 

• Lychee.
• Leather and saddlery.
• Lily of the valley.
• Honeysuckle.
• Bergamot.

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

The smell of hospitals. It is very unpleasant and associated to sadness.

What is the fragrance you wish you’d created?

Dior Diorissimo.

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

Michelle Obama.

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

The first fragrance I bought for myself was Dürer by Dürer, while the first fragrance someone gave to me was L’Artisan Parfumeur Eau de Pamplemousse.

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

The bottle of Dior J’adore is outstanding, timeless, just beautiful. Otherwise the bottle for Nina Ricci L’Air du Temps is one of my favorites. It is at the same time aesthetically beautiful and highly symbolic.

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

I’m usually working on four to eight perfumes at the same time.

Does your nose ever ‘switch off’?

Yes, it does sometimes! For example when I have a cold or when I’m very tired at the end of day. (But it is more my brain switching off than my nose!)

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

It depends. It usually lasts from three months to a year.

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?

For me, a fragrance is at the same time visual, tactile and auditory. All the senses can help translate the olfactive emotion. A mood-board can be a starting point in a creation, as well as a harmony, or a texture.

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

For me, it is important to learn how to truly appreciate beautiful things. It is like tasting wine or discovering opera. You can like something beautiful at once but the more you develop your taste, the more you can understand what you like about it, the way it makes you feel. It is all about the capacity to feel emotions and share them with others. My advice would be: express and share your olfactive emotions…

L’Occitane Terre de Lumière from £58 for 50ml
Buy it at and their many stores

By Jo Fairley

How can you improve your sense of smell? Watch this cute cartoon and book our 'How To' workshop!

Are perfumers possessed of magical noses gifted to them at birth – with a heightened sense of smell beyond the reach of mere mortals…?
Well, there’s an argument to made that perhaps some of the ‘noses’ behind our favourite fragrances are somewhat naturally gifted, but my goodness they had to work to get where they are. Perhaps also some of them grew up in perfume-y places – like Grasse – where the culture, history and even the streets themselves are awash with scent. But the truth of the matter is, they had to start somewhere. And those of us lucky enough to have a working sense of smell can undoubtedly go about improving that sense – and thereby enhancing every aspect of our lives.
We couldn’t resist sharing the wonderfully incisive (and undeniably cute) cartoon, below, that does a great job of explaining how important our sense of smell is in everyday life, and the basics of how one might begin mastering the sense of smell.

Apart from simple practice, practice, practice – the most important aspect, we have gleaned by interviewing those famous perfumers over the years; is learning to “fix” a smell in your head by creatively describing it in terms that are absolutely and entirely personal to you. And how on earth do you go about doing that? By attending one of our regular How To Improve Your Sense of Smell Workshops
These fun, informal (but totally informative) sessions are held in groups, some people liking to bring friends along others preferring to sniff solo, and during which you will be taught how to start building your very own volcabulary of scent – pinning those intensely personal memories and emotions that are automatically triggered the second you smell something (good or bad!) and using that to invesitage – and vastly improve – your sense of smell. We’re not pretending you’ll come out as a fully fledged perfumer – and neither is this the reason we set up the workshops. But we can gurantee you’ll not only experience your favourite fragrances in a whole new way – you will appreciate your nose like never before.

[Photos by Essence PR]
So, do you fancy a morning or afternoon of sharing fragrances, laughter and learning to improve your sense of smell – with a fragrant goody bag at the end of it and as many biscuits and tea (or coffee) you can drink in-between? Of course you do!
Come and join us for the next How To Improve Your Sense of Smell Workshop in London on Saturday 4th February. Not a Londoner? Look here to find (or request) your nearest workshop.
How do you join in the fragrance fun? It’s simple:
How To Improve Your Sense of Smell Workshops cost £10 for VIP Subscribers – which is 100% redeemable against any box purchase on the day of the workshop
Want to bring a guest? (it’s even more fun with a friend!) £20 for Guests of subscribers or non-VIP Subscribers
Maximise the opportunity by choosing to become a VIP with your booking for £35 to include a one-year VIP subscription to The Perfume Society, £10 of which is redeemable against box purchases on the day of the workshop.
Want to read a review from a happy attendee of a previous workshop? Cosmetic Candy blog waxes lyrical about attending one of our Manchester workshops, and Samantha Grocutt, MD of Essence PR describes her experience, here.
Workshops are generally hosted by Senior Writer of The Perfume Society, Suzy Nightingale within the London area, and co-founder Jo Fairley further afield.
Simply bring along a favourite fragrance – and your nose – and we so look forward to meeting you there.
Book your tickets here.
Written by Suzy Nightingale

Nose to nose with the best perfumers in the world – can you guess who said what?

Being in the privileged position of interviewing some of the most famous perfumers in the world about their lives, inspirations and perfumed preferences; we like nothing more than getting to share that with you – the people who actually fall in love with and buy their fragrances.
We believe their talents should be recognised and celebrated – just as composers, artists and (more recently) chefs are acknowledged for their gifts, and the enormous pleasure they bring us.  Until lately, almost all perfumers worked behind the scenes, anonymously.  Now, noses are emerging from their laboratories, starting to talk about their creations, and what goes into them.
We’re lucky enough to have met some of the very best perfumers working today, and love nothing more than finding out their history, inpirations, personal favourite smells and sharing them with you on our Noses page. But can you guess who said what? (Click on their answers to find out…)
What is your first ‘scent memory’?
‘Traditional Christmas Cakes that smelled like Anis and Vanilla, made by the Carmelite nuns in my town, we would order these cakes from Christmas and pick them up at the convent, this smell is imprinted in my memory.’
If you could have created a fragrance for a historical figure, who would it be?
For Napoleon! I would have created the best Cologne ever for him!’
What are your five favourite smells in the world?
‘I love the scent of a Pierre de Ronsard Rose and the scent of asphalt just after a pouring rain.’
What’s the worst thing you ever smelled. (Honestly!)
‘Dead Amardillo, road kill in Texas, US.’
What can each of us do to enhance our appreciation of fragrance?
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…’
Written by Suzy Nightingale

Juliette Karagueuzoglo reveals her five favourite smells… the secret scents perfumers can't resist!

Juliette Karagueuzoglo is a brilliant perfumer who worked with mentor, Anne Flipo on creating the brand new Coach fragrance. We recently met up with Juliette for an exclusive interview about the creative process behind the scenes, but we always like to delve deeper and ask the deceptively simple question of ‘what are your five favourite smells…?’
1 – One of the smells that’s really important to me is when I go on vacation to the south west [of France]. You have the smell of the pine trees, and the sea coming through, so you have the sense of the ocean mixing with the heat. When it’s hot the Pine trees have this sweet smell… I go back to this place each year, and I open the window as soon as I arrive and for me it’s such a pleasure just to breathe the air there.
2 – The smell of people I love. My kids, it’s so special, unique, you can’t beat it. I don’t even think I can put it into words. Then there’s my aunt, she used to wear Cabouchard and Magie Noire, so it got me into Chypre at an early age because I just loved the way she smelled!
3Patchouli is a very important smell for me, I love using this material in so many ways, it’s vital for me.
4 – Oh, iris!  I discovered this plant we have in Lozere where we have the orris drying for six to nine months of the year in a heated room. When you enter you have this powdery feeling coming to you – just the smell of the rhizomes drying and nothing else, it’s completely amazing.
5 – I love all nature smells, but especially the ground just after it’s rained. The “petrichor“. It’s that special time when it’s rained but the ground’s drying and it’s hot, humid, dusty but at the same time you get this feeling of lushness. In big cities like Paris and New York after a big storm you can suddenly smell greenness even if you can’t see it. Nature reminding you it’s there…

Alberto Morillas – our exclusive interview with the iconic nose and ‘king of musk’…

Legend is a word bandied about so often it can be rendered meaningless, but when applied to the perfumer Alberto Morillas, there can be no doubting the truth of such a statement. Creator of any number of iconic fragrances – from Calvin Klein CK One, Kenzo Flower, Bvlgari Omnia, Cartier Panthere de Cartier, Giorgio Armani Aqua di Giò for women (seriously, the list is seemingly endless) – to more niche, modern interpretations of his art, working alongside remarkable brands such as Aedes de Venustas, A Lab On Fire and By Kilian to name but three of his extensive client list. Whatever your taste, wherever you began your quest for the perfect perfume – his scents have doubtless been in your collection and on your skin at one time or another.

Maintaining that he is ‘mainly self-taught’ as a perfumer, Morillas been working for Firmenich since 1970 and creating many of those all-time greats, while also finding time to work on side projects for Zara home, and now concentrating on devloping his Mizensir range of home candles into a luxurious collection of personal fragrances. Imagine our excitement at getting to sniff them at their press launch in the UK last week – with something for everyone (another oft-used phrase that’s equally true in this case) from soft musks, exqusite roses, uplifiting neroli and right through to ‘The Perfect Oud’ (yes, he went there)…

0000011775874_img_6319We’ll reveal our full interview with Alberto waxing lyrical about his love for candles and the new Mizensir fragrances very soon; but in the meantime, sit back with a cuppa and revel in our exclusive ‘nose’ interview in The Noses – a regular feature here on The Perfume Society website, in which we quiz some of our favourite perfumers on their passions, working methods and how you, too, could improve your appreciation of fragrance… Happy exploring!
Written by Suzy Nightingale

Nivea to launch NOSE app that ‘sniffs’ male body odour: wake up and smell the digital revolution?

When the heat rises and armpits emerge from beneath layers of jumpers, coats and jackets, commuters hold their breath in anticpation of the inevitable olfactory onslaught. With the premise that our noses eventually become attuned to the scent of our own sweat, Nivea have developed a digitised nose for your phone – an app they say scans areas of men’s bodies particularly prone to funkiness (and we don’t mean dancing to James Brown).

Having analysed the area – based on a specially produced algorithm that previously evaluated the scent of 4,000 other males – the app warns concerned men of their potential whiff-factor, rating their particular smell from ‘it’s okay’, through ‘it’s time’ and the climactic klaxon of ‘it’s urgent’. Nivea’s NOSE has been created by Geoffrey Hantson – a Belgium-based chief creative officer behind the so-called “smellphone” technology. Having been beta-tested in Belgium, worldwide whiffing is soon to commence, with the app then to be launched simultaneously on AppStore and Google Play, and a consumer version hoped to be released shortly afterwards. Watch Nivea’s video below for an insight into how it all works…

Meanwhile, the rather appropriately named Nosang Myung – a UC Riverside professor who’s invented an electronic nose to be used for sniffing out potential dangers to human life – said although the technology is in its ‘most simplistic form’ it could possibly work through only having to detect levels of sweat. On his rather more intricate technology, which he hopes could detect hazards such as dangerous levels of gas in the air we breathe (or even bombs) Professor Myung commented, ‘we developed a nose. A smartphone has an eye, so we just have to put on the legs. So now, I call it an electronic sniffing dog. Places you don’t want to go, instead of sending a dog, you can send this robot.’

Could this digital form of smelling lead to perfumers being replaced by robots? Well, the Noses we know can rest easy for now, as the human olfactory system is so highly complex and nuanced that scientists are still beavering away to understand it fully, let alone reproduce it. Hanston remains optimistic about the future for digital technology in harmony with scent, however, telling Huffington Post that although Nivea to will have to sell the sensors separately – currently the sensory technology is embedded in hard covers for phones – he’s pretty sure the technology will eventually be integrated into the integral structure of an actual phone ‘within a couple of years’.

While parents may be rejoicing at the perfect present for their teenage sons, some might suggest that if one is dithering about whether or not to apply deodorant, perhaps top it up anyway, just to be on the safe side…?

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Fascinated by perfumers? Meet the talented Cécile Matton…

Continuing our conversations with the world’s leading fragrance creatives, we’d like to introduce you to Cécile Matton, a perfumer who grew up in Africa where she comments ‘the smells were very strong, because of the heat…’ Cécile originally began mixing fragrances herself as a teenager, using essences sold in the Pier Import shops in her native France, before training as a perfumer.

Her creations include YSL Baby DollValentino Gold (with Antoine Lie), Viktor & Rolf Bonbon (with Serge Majoullier) and most recently, the most ‘animalic’, sexy offering – Élegance Animale – in the Lalique Noir Premier Collection. Here are her scented musings…

What is your first ‘scent memory’?
The mosquito repellent which was sprayed on houses during my childhood in Zaïre, in Africa.

When did you decide you wanted to be a perfumer/create your own perfume? 
About the age of 14. So I decided to train as a pharmacist, because at the time a lot of perfume companies belonged to pharmaceutical groups.

What are your favourite smells in the world?

  • Nutmeg.
  • Puppies.
  • A synthetic called Orcanox™, when combined with vanilla.
  • Drying laundry.

If you had one fragrance note that you love above all others, what would that be?
The green Chypre accord.

What’s the worst thing you ever smelled.  (Honestly!) 
A mix of rotten garbage and metal I smelled next to some fast food restaurants in some big cities…

What is the fragrance you wish you’d created?
Chanel Chance.

Do you have a sense that this is the most exciting time to be a perfumer, since the dawn of fragrance? 
It is a tricky question. We have exciting new ingredients to work with, yet strong limitations at the same time, because of regulations and the need to please as many people as possible. Creativity may be stimulated when you are limited because you have to find a new path… But I would fancy more freedom!

If you could have created a fragrance for a historical figure, who would it be?
Marilyn Monroe. When it comes to beauty, she made history.

What’s the first fragrance you bought.  And the first bought for you…?
The first I bought was Van Cleef & Arpels First. I was given Jean Desprèz Bal à Versailles before that.

Do you have a favourite bottle design, from those that have been used for your fragrance creations?
I really adore the bottle designed for Bonbon by Viktor & Rolf.

How many perfumes might you be working on, at one time?
Generally from 10 to 20.

Does your nose ever ‘switch off’?
Yes it does… If it gets ‘saturated’ and I need it to work, I pause for a moment and smell wool.

How long, roughly, does it take you to create a fragrance?
It all depends on the wishes of the person who I design it for. I sometimes find that the first trial is the best one!

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?
No, it doesn’t work for me like that.

What can each of us do to enhance our appreciation of fragrance?
You should smell fragrances outside in the fresh air, not in perfume shops. Preferably on skin. Always wear it before buying!

What is your best tip for improving a person’s sense of smell?
Train again and again. Improving your sense of smell has a lot to do with memory; you have to smell a lot (and often).

Discover more ‘Noses’

Nose-to-nose with Thomas Fontaine – the perfumer who’s revived Jean Patou for a new era

This charming, Paris-based perfumer has in recent years been responsible for the revival of the house of Jean Patou – a legend, in fragrance terms. (He also works on fragrance development for Worth and Jean-Louis Scherrer.) Thomas studied perfumery at the ISIPCA Fragrance Academy in Versailles, and went on to work for leading aroma companies including Mane and Chariot.

He definitely seems to specialise in ‘reviving’ heritage brands, having worked for Lubin (with Black Jade, Gin Fizz, Figaro, among others), Grès (Cabotine Floralisme and Miss Cabaret) – and lately, created three absolute stunners for the stunning ‘phoenix’ brand Le Galion, including Snob, Tubereuse and Eau Noble. (Do sniff them out at Liberty, if you get the chance.)

We caught up with Thomas for breakfast in Paris at The Lancaster Hotel…

What is your first ‘scent memory’?
My mother’s perfume.

When did you decide you wanted to be a perfumer?
At th age of about 11 when  I smelt Chanel Pour Monsieur on a friend of my parents.

What are your five favourite smells in the world?  
Of course I love smell: it’s so varied and rich, and so difficult to pick just five. But if I must…

  • Orris
  • Rose
  • Patchouli.
  • Sandalwood
  • Galbanum

Do you have ‘signature’ ingredients that you like to include in fragrances?
I certainly use some ingredients more often, either through knowing them or like them more. (See above.) Generally it is more instinctive than conscious…

What’s the worst thing you ever smelled.  (Honestly!)
Rotten potatoes or animals; in some ways it’s the smell of death.

What are the fragrances you wish you’d created?
Hermès Bel Ami, Jean Patou Joy, Davidoff Zino Davidoff Cologne.

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

What’s the first fragrance you bought.  And the first bought for you…?
I bought myself Chanel Pour Monsieur – which I was so inspired by, at that first encounter.

Can you ‘switch off’ your nose?  How do you do that?
Yes, to a certain extent on vacation – but it is always on the alert, especially when something new or nice is around.

How long, roughly, does it take you to create a fragrance?
It really depends of the project and the inspiration – from a few weeks to several years.
Is creating a fragrance ‘visual’ for you, as well as something that happens in the nose/brain? If so, are you able to explain in what way…?
In a certain way when I associate odours with colors or shapes

What can each of us do to enhance our appreciation of fragrance?
Mental concentration is very important to understand a fragrance. You really have to focus on what you’re smelling.

How does it feel to be asked to work on an iconic fragrance like Joy? Is it scary? Exciting?
Scary definitely because it is a huge responsibility because you can’t make any mistakes – and of course exciting as you are touching a part of fragrance history.

How have you immersed yourself in the history of Jean Patou – and how do you move on from that, as a perfumer, to make your creations relevant to the 21st Century?
I feel like I’ve had a relationship with the perfume house for a long time: when I was studying perfumery at the ISIPCA school because my class was under the patronage of Jean Patou. Secondly, Art Déco is a favourite period for me in history because of its minimalist approach – and my creations fit in with this aesthetic…

Rising star perfumer Violaine Collas is our ‘nose of the week’ interview

Another week, another ‘nose’… There may be fewer perfumers in the world than astronauts, but through our contacts in the fragrance world The Perfume Society is delighted to be able to share insights into their fascinating, aroma-filled lives.

Violaine Collas is a Parisian-based perfumer who trained at the city’s ISIPCA school, and trained alongside legendary perfumers including Dominique Ropion and Maurice Roucel. She’s now making waves in the industry through exciting creations like L’Occitane Cerisier aux Papillons, État Libre d’Orange Voyages en Orient (the Jasmin Poudré and Epices Sultanes creations), Amouage Honour Woman, Atkinson’s 24 Old Bond Street – and also created the Lalique Lalique Noir Premier Collection.

What is your first ‘scent memory’?
My mother’s perfume on her scarf.

When did you decide you wanted to be a perfumer/create your own perfume?
Quite early, around 12 years old.

What are your favourite smells in the world?
The smell of my daughter
• Melting chocolate

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

What is the fragrance you wish you’d created?
Bulgari Black.

What excites you about being a perfumer, in 2015? 
What is exciting today is working from a worldwide perspective. To think you create a fragrance which may be worn by someone who is on the other side of the planet is incredibly exciting.

If you could have created a fragrance  a historical figure, who would it be?
A scent for members of the Borgia family…

What’s the first fragrance you bought.  And the first bought for you…?
The first I bought was Cacharel Anaïs Anaïs, and the first I was given was Nina Ricci L’Air du Temps.

Do you have a favourite bottle design, from those that have been used for your fragrance creations?
I love the new designs of the Atkinsons collection, especially ’24 Old Bond Street Triple Extract’.

How many perfumes might you be working on, at one time?
It varies, but sometimes up to 20.

Does your nose ever ‘switch off’?
No! It wakes me up sometimes if I smell something strong or unusual.

How long, roughly, does it take you to create a fragrance?
It really depends on the project and the customer. It can take the time of a single trial, or take three 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?
Yes definitely. I often have a color in mind when I create, as well as a painting or a visual memory; So yes a mood board can be inspiring and helpful.

What can each of us do to enhance our appreciation of fragrance?
Smell them blindly (i.e. with eyes closed), in order to avoid any influence other than the scent itself.

What is your best tip for improving a person’s sense of smell?
The more you practice, the better it gets. But you have to actively focus and concentrate…