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?
As part of our ongoing Working Nose series, we were thrilled to meet up with one the busiest and most talented of perfumers – the incredible Bertrand Duchaufour.
We met with Bertrand at the launch of a new trio of fragrances for Miller Harris, for whom he created Hidden (On the Rooftops) as part of the Forage collection. Inspired by urban foraging and the joy of happenstance, these scents focus on seldom used ingredents which we may overlook or even tread on as we traverse our cities.
Miller Harris chose Bertrand along with fellow perfumer Mathieu Nardin (who made Lost (In the City) and Wander (Through the Parks), and you can read Part One of our perfumer interviews with Mathieu, here.
I began by asking Bertrand how he went about translating an original brief into a final perfume. How does that alchemical process actually begin…?
Bertrand Duchaufour: ‘Well this is my interpretation of foraging, and I think the original concept was to take the idea of humans foraging – you know, wandering through parks and gardens in cities and coming across this incredible array of plants, herbs and flowers we don’t normally stop to look at. In fact we came to London with the Miller Harris team and went foraging with a professional forager. It was really very eye-opening to take this practical trip as a creative exercise.’
So, did you end up using ingredients in Hidden that you’d never used before?
‘No not really, but here’s the interesting thing – although I’ve used all these ingredients previously, it depends on the way you work with them, how you make your accords, what else you put them with, and then you can make new smells that replicate the ones you were inspired by. As a perfumer it’s not always a matter of just writing a list of ingredients you come across and then using them to re-create a scene, because often that doesn’t work.
I try to translate certain plants and herbs I found, the smell that came from scrunching up their leaves, and it was really quite amazing to try and accomplish this. Foraging for me was something completely different, and for this fragrance I tried to look at it from the perspective of a bee. I imagine the route the bee takes, all the flowers they visit in that area. It’s a bee’s eye view of a city!’
‘I only recognised one plant I could eat while foraging, the Wild Garlic, which we also have in France – and I used that to make a homemade pesto!’
Why do you think we so often overlook the plants growing around us and think of exotic ingredients for fragrances?
‘Well I guess we are just not that curious! We tread on them almost every day, but we worship the expensive materials we don’t have access to.’
Do you have a set routine for working on a fragrance, or does this change depending on the project?
‘Too much focusing on just one project is never good as a perfumer, you get lost in it and can’t see clearly anymore. Spending all day long on one fragrance is not healthy. I’m always working on many things at the same time. Sometimes you just happen on an idea, it comes to you just like that [snaps his fingers] and those ideas are usually the best!’
Are there visual stimuli used to help with the creation of each perfume?
‘Sometimes yes, sometimes no. For Miller Harris they gave me a moodboard made up of photographs, and this is a starting point, I found it very inspiring because ideas start to form in your head right away. It gave me the idea of having the bee’s eye view, foraging from the bees, just from the photographs. I thought that because honey can taste very different depending on where the bee forages, the same should be true of this fragrance.’
Do you prefer to get up early in the morning to begin?
[Bertrand looks utterly aghast at the word “prefer” in regards to getting up early, so I modify the question as ‘Is there a time of day you work best?’]
‘Again, it depends with each project. I have so little time to just sit and think, so there is no going for a long walk to find my muse or anything like that! I work on perhaps twenty or thirty different fragrances at once, so sometimes you just have to get your head down and get on with it.’
People have the idea that any creative person must use the luxury of time to be inspired…
‘Maybe Jean-Claude Ellena can use the luxury of time – you know, wandering around his garden – especially now he is retired, but the majority of perfumers cannot!’
Miller Harris seem very good at allowing perfumers to interpret the brief in their own way. How do you find working like that?
‘It’s a different way of beginning, certainly, and really interesting, but in the end you still have to go through the same process, and so I always work the same way. You have a concept, and there are many ways to interpret even one word of a brief, or the way you are inspired by a picture. I like to talk about synaesthesia, the way these things cross over in our senses, the millions of ways we can each translate something. Synaesthesia is the art of making correspondence between one expression of a sense to another one, and it’s not that easy. For me a patchouli, for example, might be likened to violet or something purple. I might be convinced of that, but Mathieu might have a completely different idea. It always has to be personal.’
Miller Harris say: ‘High above the city, London is home to countless hives of diligent honeybees. A whoosh of fresh honeyed floralcy leads you to the crisp green privet of a HIDDEN rooftop garden. The hazy yellow sun warms new flowers, motes of pollen and seed buds dance lazily.’
Top notes: Bergamot, lime, angelica seeds, violet leaf absolute, clary sage, red berries, black pepper Heart notes: syringa, privet flower, pollen, honey, honeysuckle, Turkish rose oil, tea Base notes: vetiver, ambergris, sandalwood, driftwood, musk
Miller Harris Hidden (On the Rooftops) £95 for 50ml eau de parfum millerharris.com
We tend to think of ‘noses’ insisting on using exotic ingredients to be found growing in vast jungles, or atop far-away, mist-shrouded peaks only reachable by particularly gutsy mountain goats; but the truth is, we all overlook those fragrant materials growing – often literally – right under our feet. Mathieu Nardin is a talented perfumer from a family of noses who hail from (where else?) Grasse, and has been doing some incredible work for Miller Harris, who asked him and fellow perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour to concentrate on the concept of foraging – searching for unusual ingredients to be found peeking through cracks in concrete, lurking beside pathways and creeping over buildings: nature always finding a way.
We were lucky enough to attend the launch of the Miller Harris trio of fragrances that resulted from this fascinating creative exercise, two fragrances from Mathieu – Lost and Wander – and Hidden from Bertrand (we’ll publish our interview with him, later, as Part Two); and we asked both of them to explain exactly how they work on a fragrance.
So, how does a perfumer take a brief and turn it into that final fragrance we so enjoy wearing…?
‘We received the brief from Sarah and she wanted us to go forgaing with an expert who knew what to look for. It was actually really cold – we were in a graveyard of all places, in Tower Hamlets! – and I wondered what we could possibly find. It was actually amazing. We found many ingredients, like violets, magnolia, something called sweet woodruff which is incredible and smells and tastes like tonka beans. If I hadn’t have been with the forager, I would never even have looked at them, and certainly not felt confident to pick them up and eat them.’
How does Mathieu structure his day, I wondered – can he devote an entire day to working on a single perfume?
‘Well, we have plenty of projects to work on at one time, but actually I find that’s a good thing, because it helps me not to focus too much on one thing. If I’m too immersed I cannot see the whole picture, so sometimes it’s good just to put it on one side and work on something else. Then I get another perspective – perhaps even the day after something will occur to me about that fragrance I put aside, and that gives greater clarity.’
So how does Mathieu balance these projects, then?
‘I continue working on things in my mind even when I leave the office, these ideas are there all the time, so in a way I don’t stop thinking about it even if I’m not actively engaged in working on it. All the time. There are moments when something suddenly becomes clear, what I have to do with it, and I can be at home reading when it happens. It becomes obvious.’
What about using visual stimuli, like photographs or notebooks?
‘Well we have mood-boards usually for the fragrances we are working on, they can be photographs or things from books and magazines, they help set a mood or give an idea of direction. But for me I take the idea of it everywhere, and like I say, I think the best ideas happen when you’re thinking about something else.’
Is there a time of day you prefer working on the ingredients?
‘I’m at my best, my nose works best, in the early morning because we are fresh – sometimes at the end of the day the nose can get tired. But you know, I also really like working late at night because my colleagues aren’t around and I can just do my own thing! I can really dig down and work on a project then, because often during the day you can get interrupted. So what I prefer is to work on the formula alone at night, and then be ready to smell it in the morning.’
‘There’s always a lack of time, because we’re working on so many projects. So what I try to do is allow myself, alone at night when everyone else is gone, to have maybe one hour that is not connected to any project at all, but is just experimenting. It’s free creativity. It could even be half an hour, but it’s so important for me.’
What did this experience, working on the Miller Harris fragrances, bring to Mathieu?
‘I feel that it’s always a learning process, and if a project isn’t moving or going in the right direction, then we just stop and experiment. My whole time is spent constantly working, experiementing and learning. So for me this foraging was an amazing experience – it’s quite rare to get that luxury of indulging in a project that way. To smell and taste new things, and then you try and describe these unknown things and liken them to things you do know. This is always what we do with new ingredients, we have to learn to describe them accurately.’
Was there something particular on the foraging trip that Mathieu was inspired by?
‘There was one herb we smelled and tasted it, and it was exactly like melon. It blew my mind really. And then magnolia blossoms – when they are dried I had no idea they tasted gingery! I knew the smell of magnolia blossom, but not the ginger taste. Things like this really help with my work because it gives you new ideas, new ways of thinking about ingredients and how they can be used…’
Ferns force their way through walls and concrete, their green intensity splashing vibrantly against the grey backdrop of buildings. In Lost, this intense verdancy is contrasted with the sharp pink snap of wild rhubarb, making the senses fizz.
Stinging nettles spring up all over London, producing a unique, sparkling green scent. Before they flower their spiky greens are smoothed, the sappy earthiness of the stems blend with zesty fruits. A beautiful unisex fragrance with fresh notes of Pink Grapefruit and Juicy Mandarin to balance the green, sappy Nettle.
‘I’ve inherited this incredible legacy and I want it to live on,’ Kate Evans explains, somewhat hesitant but with a glow that hints at how proud she is to have not only been bequeathed the award-winning London perfumery her mother, Anglea Flanders founded, but also marking the first fragrance she has created herself: the truly lovely, Lawn.
To be sure they were big scent-shoes to fill, and as the first perfume to be launched in the new era for the house it could be nothing less than a tender tribute to all Kate’s mother held dear, and yet full of Kate’s own personality, too.
Angela Flanders say: ‘Lawn captures the image of a dewy, green garden seen through gauzy lawn curtains stirring in the breeze before the heat of the day scorches through. To conjure that calm, fleeting sense of newness, Kate chose fresh top notes of black pepper and bergamot, while sappy-green galbanum and earthy patchouli evoke plants fresh with dew. Tuberose, jasmine and lemon balm at the heart unfold with the warmth of the wearer, just as the sun simmers through a misty dawn.’
A former television costume designer, Angela Flanders started her eponymous Colombia Road perfumery in 1985, ‘In the early days, we worked together in her studio. As a fledgling business it was very hands-on,’ Kate recalls. As Kate opened her own fashion boutique, Precious, (just up the road from her mother’s perfumery) the close collaboration of mother and daughter became even stronger. ‘Whenever Anglea created a new fragrance, she’d call me in,’ and Kate explains she felt the more she learned about perfume, through watching (and smelling) her mother first-hand, she suddenly found she had ‘…become her second nose.’
When Angela sadly passed away on 2016, she left not only a remarkable legacy but a renewed responsibilty for Kate, who felt, she admits, that she had to do her apprenticeship all over again. ‘I had a lot of re-learning to do, so for eighteen months I immersed myself in Angela’s formulas, getting back in touch with her methods and retraining my nose.’
Vicci Bentley was a long-time friend and admirer of Angela Flanders’ work (and had worked on a previous perfume with Angela herself) as well as being an award-winning fragrance writer and expert; and, it turns out, had a hand in encouraging Kate to continue the perfumery by working on her own composition.
These gauzy mornings
there’s a reason why you push your bed pillow-close
to the open window so that the cool, the light
bathes you awake five o’clock and eager
to leave diseased dreams and watch
the calm, silver sheet of the
dawning lawn catch the
unhurried tumble of
a petal’s feather curl
for in the blink of that first, not-quite time
you still believe in the lightness of your footfall
stepping out onto the fresh, the wet
beneath your soles, between your toes;
inhaling silver, tasting green as
each liquid call in the chorus
trickles down to touch the
newness in you
until the truth of the day scorches through
~ by Vicci Bentley
‘Mum always loved sensual fabrics, so as a tribute to her I’d been toying with the idea of creating a fragrance based on cloth, texture and touch. With its dual meaning of of mown grass and floaty, diaphanous fabric, Lawn was the perfect catalyst,’ Kate believes.
And yes, there’s a real sense of fine white cotton sheets, freshly washed and hanging out to dry already in the first glimse of the morning sun, of sheer muslin curtains gently rustled by a breeze. Dewy freshness trancends the notes from top to bottom as green galbanum melts like morning mist, revealing a swift twist of pepper-speckled jasmine blossoms, ethereal, translucent tuberose and cooling lemon balm. Wearing this feels like strolling through a garden at dawn, wet moss beneath bare feet, the heat of the day teasing with tendrils, and an earthy patchouli to ground the base.
‘I wanted to come to the perfumery fresh and find my own way with it. The concept for Lawn was something we didn’t already have in the collection.’
‘I’m immensely proud of what Angela created and honoured to take on the perfumer’s role now. Sometimes, when I’m in the studio, I feel she’s looking over my shoulder.’
And we’re sure that Angela Flanders would be immenseley proud of her daughter, too…
Angela Flanders Lawn £65 for 50ml eau de toilette, £75 for 30ml eau de parfum
Want to try some more of Angela Flanders fragrances? We’ve got three stunning scent ‘trilogy’ collectionsback in stock! Mini sizes, beautifully boxed, they’re perfect for travelling – and for trying something new.
Can you imaging being invited to enter a room in which several of the world’s best perfumers are seated, ready to share with you the secret scent they’ve been working on, just for the sheer pleasure of experiementing with the materials?
Step with us into the opulent surroundings of Claridges, and have your mind ready to be blown…
This week we were lucky enough to be treated to the annual (usually industry-only) Speed Smelling event, in which the IFF (International Flavours & Fragrances) perfumers gather to play. On this occasion, IFF had very kindly allowed spaces exclusively reserved for the winners of our Perfume Society competition – a rare opportunity, indeed.
And in case you’re what ‘Speed Smelling involves’, well it’s like speed dating, but with perfumers and their scents!
Given completely free reign, with no brief, no client and no expense spared, the noses get to work with materials and abstract concepts they’d never usually be allowed to explore in a commercial sense.
Judith Gross – Global Director, Fragrance Innovation at IFF – held aloft a bell and explained the concept. We were to experience a ‘Speed Smelling’ session with each perfumer, groups of us playing musical chairs as we moved from one to to another, and with a strict time limit of seven minutes per session (hence the bell).
Each year, the Speed Sniffing has a theme, and this time they chose the idea of ‘Post Modern‘ perfumes – like deconstructed works of art, we’d smell the accords or layers and then the final ‘fume. And oh boy, were we in for a treat!
‘Some of them go back to antiquity, others refer to the dawning of modern perfumery in the 19th Century,’ Judith explained before we began, ‘and they have been deconstructed, all the better to re-construct…’
At separate tables, the perfumers sat, passing blotters out with an array of fabulous ingredients and the final creation to smell…
It was with these incredible building blocks we began, as Christine Mortimer from LMR explained how precious the Naturals are (and how the IFF perfumers get so excited about using the latest of their ingredients). ‘We’re the premium supplier for fragrance ingredients, and also within the flavour market,’ Christine told us, while explaining how hard they work to obtain the very best quality of extractions for the perfumers to work with. Firstly we sniffed a stem-distilled juniper berry – which smelled like the best gin and tonic you’ve ever had – and soooo clean.
Our favourite of course had to be the most expensive – the orris – which can reach 100,000 euros per kilo. LMR use a blend of the very best, because the supply chain of orris can be incredibly unpredicatable, and so this way they can guarantee a vital constancy. The carrot seed – part of their ‘Heart Collection’ – was completely glorious, too. For this, they can remove the parts of the smell (in this case, the earthiness) they don’t like to amplify the very best aspects of an ingredient.
The first perfumer we spoke to was Fanny Bal – who began her training eight years ago, and is now working with the legendary nose, Dominique Ropion. Mark our words, Fanny Bal is a name to watch and they way she’s begun her career is incredible (she’s been chosen by Fréderic Malle for the soon-to-be-launched Sale Gosse). Her creation was to revisit an amber base – bases are blends often used by perfumers to create the backbone of their fragrances – ‘I decided to remove ylang ylang from the original amber base and replace it with jasmine, which doesn’t have that medicinal note and isn’t so old-fashioned.’
Adding coriander and pink pepper to further the modernity, her final note was a real surprise… ‘It’s Nutella!’ she beamed, handing blotters for us to sniff. And it really smelled exactly like it! ‘I wanted an addictive, gourmand note, and so I added a completely natural LMR ingredient of cocoa accord. It’s not sweet at all, quite dry, animalic… I found it so interesting to use, with vanilla bean which is also quite dry, really spicy.’ We’d happily have bathed in vats of this, but, mouths watering, we had to move on.
Next up it was the turn of Bruno Jovanovic, whose scent caused quite the sensation within our group – particularly for our Co-Founder Jo Fairley, who declared it was one of the best modern Chypres she’d smelled and ‘must have it!’ (and I’d be totally in on purchasing gallons of this, too).
Bruno’s inspiration was a memory of his (incredibly glamorous sounding) mother, who’d liberally spary her fur coat with Cabochard (a vintage leather Chypre) before kissing him goodbye when she went to work. ‘I wanted to create an olfactive snapshot of the whole image of her in that coat, with the lipstick, her face powder, everything.’ Talking about how special it was for him to remember her smell, that when he missed her while she was at work ‘the scent was a way to have her a little longer,’ he thought this deconstructing theme was ‘a perfect opportunity for me to use my “super powers” to create that again… but with none of the animal-based or unsustainable ingredients.’ And so, ‘this is a “vegetarian fur coat”,’ he grinned, ‘a way of indulging in that past without having access to the materials they used then.’
The final perfume he called ‘Neo Fur’ and he deliberately ‘didn’t look at the price – that’s the beauty of the exercise!’ Jasmine and rose absolute were used along with orris for the freshly made-up face effect… and oh, on the skin it’s just sublime. We couldn’t stop sniffing all day!
The wonderful Domitille Bertier was the next perfumer to describe her creation, and she ‘wanted to create a musk, but without any musk…’ And therefore the name, so suitably chosen, was Not A Musk. Using the indole from jasmine and natural vanilla extract, ‘smells very leathery, really animalic, and not like a cake!’ Domitille described using synthetics as being ‘the real art of the perfumer – a Trompe Nez! [to ‘trick the nose].’ Taking two months to finalise her composition, she said ‘it’s much easier this way, as I am the only judge.’ We asked if when she thought of a perfume idea, could she almost ‘smell’ it in her mind? ‘Oh absolutely!’ Domitille enthused, ‘It’s like when a musician writes a sheet of music. They can hear it before any sound has been made.’
Julien Rasquinet was our next nose to visit, and he ‘wanted to go back to the very genesis of perfumery. And I want you to guess which note could be linked to this…’ Passing around the blotters, we thought perhaps frankincense? ‘Very close! But it’s myrrh, which the ancient Egyptians believed had healing properties. So for me this was for me a very important ingredient to work with.’ He wanted to capture the history, but also the literal act of smelling the wood, heating the incense and wafting the smoke. Using 8-10% of myrrh (incredibly expensive) he laughed as he said ‘I didn’t care about using so much, because IFF are paying, so it’s wonderful to use what you want!’ The name he gave it? ‘Myrrhveilleux [a play on “marvellous”]… because it also has another meaning. “Veilleux” can be someone who watches out for you and supports you – like a kid’s night light, you know? That’s called a veilleux.’ Adding flinty notes for ‘the gesture of the first man lighting the myrrh’ Julien used a mineralic molecule that’s also used ‘for scenting gas. Because naturally gas has no smell, so they have to scent it so you know if you have a leak.’
Whoah. Now this we did NOT know – did you?
‘I wanted to revisit an Eau de Cologne,’ Sophie Labbé said, while introducing her scent, ‘because originally they were drank for your health. And,’ she added, ‘it worked for the Queen of Hungary, as she managed to seduce a young prince, so it could be good for us, too!’ The original ‘unisex’ fragrance, Sophie explained she wanted her creation to echo this cocktail Cologne, and ended up calling the fragrance her ‘Moscow Mule Cologne’ to highlight this.
‘When you think of a Cologne, you think of traditional hesperidic notes such as orange, lemon, citruses, orange flower… but there are no hesperidic notes in mine.’ This we found incredible, because it really smelled as though it contained mandarin, but yet again this showed how a clever perfumer can ‘trick the nose.’ So the note she used to trick ours? ‘Ginger…’ And as soon as she said it, we could, fascinatingly, smell the fresh ginger, ‘both the heat and the cold of it,’ Sophie elaborated – a delicously juicy, fizzy juxtaposition of smells which she combined with gentian (that’s used to flavour Angostura Bitters, hence the booziness) and smelled exactly like walking into an old bookshop. The final fragrance was uplifting and comforting, familiar and new all at once.
Alexis Dadier began by explaining his approach was to use the concept of artists ‘who use collages of old things to create something new. And that’s what I wanted to do with this perfume.’ He described going to his lab and looking at traditional ingredients, but to combine them in a way that was ‘recycling’ them into a whole new smell.
At first he used an almond milk accord – which smelled exactly like hot milk, in fact, we all agreed. His second accord was green matcha tea ‘which is addictive but subtle, kind of salty…’ The next accord was hemp – a very traditional smell, but which we might now associate with a teenager’s bedroom. ‘Very bitter and araomatic, for me it has a nature that’s very vivid.’ An historic Fougere accord was made, and when combined with the other three accords, Alexis calls the scent ‘Rasta Vegan Milk. Something that’s addictive but good for your body!’ We didn’t know if we wanted to spray it on ourselves or eat it, so he defintely succeeded.
We staggered from the room at the final bell, noses having been tantalised, minds having been blown – but not before sharing a canapé and a drink or two with the Perfume Society readers who’d won a place, and were pinching themselves at their good fortune.
Certainly this was another day to be filled with wonder at the art of perfumers, and the skill of those who harvest and create their raw ingredients. The most frequently repeated word throughout the room? ‘Wow!’ And wowed we definitely were.
Wish you’d been there? Well now IFF are making a limited number (only 300!) of the Speed Smelling fragrances available for you to purchase.
Olivier Cresp, master perfumer at Firmenich, has been announced as the Fragrance Foundation’s 2018 Lifetime Achievement Perfumer Award recipient.
One of the perfumery world’s most distinguished figures, Olivier has hundreds of your favourite creations under his belt, including Midnight Poison, Estée Lauder Modern Muse (read on for your opportunity to try this one!) Penhaligon’s Peoneve and Juniper Sling, the utterly legendary Thierry Mugler Angel, Paco Rabanne Black XS, and one of the quartet of noses behind YSL’s Black Opium.
Quite the roll call, and that doesn’t even begin to list his successes!
Cresp was named a master perfumer in 2006, joined the Firmenich team in 1992 and was honored with the title Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres from the French Ministry of Culture in 2012.
Congratulating Olivier Cresp for his ‘well-deserved Lifetime Achievement Perfumer Award,’ Fragrance Foundation president Linda G. Levy went on to say they were ‘…thrilled to celebrate his artistry, passion, and contributions to the fragrance industry.’
Jerry Vittoria, president of fine fragrance worldwide for Firmenich, and chairman of the Fragrance Foundation Board, joined in the congratulations, commenting that ‘Perfumery has always been at the heart of Olivier’s family heritage.’ Vittoria went on to say that Cresp’s catalogue of work has been invaluable not only for fragrance lovers, but to inspire his fellow perfumers. ‘Working across generations, with a passion for constantly shaping new ideas, he has not only become one of the greatest creators of our time, but also one of the most sought-after mentors in our industry. We are so proud to see this recognition of his outstanding legacy.’
You can read more about Olivier Cresp (including his top tips on how to improve your own sense of smell) in our exclusive interview with him.
And why not treat your nose to the work of this genius perfumer to smell for yourself why he so deserves this lifetime achievement award? Many of you, we’re sure, have tried the unforgettable Angel, but how about this modern interpretation of an oriental style floral…?
Estée Lauder’s Modern Muse was another of Olivier Cresp’s brilliant creations – a lush floral scent with enough woody swagger to intrigue your senses throughout the day. Warmly magnetic, it could well become your go-to from the boardroom to the bar… Try it in our Fashion, Fabric & Fragrance Discovery Box.
There are reportedly more women now joining the famous French perfumery school, ISIPCA, than men – an about-face for the time women in the perfume industry were either not employed at all, or remained somewhat faceless behind-the-scenes as their male peers were lauded as genius perfumers in gleaming white lab coats, then the respectable (and respected) face of fragrance.
The perfume world – and all fragrance fans – have many pioneering women to thank for the centuries they spent, tirelessly working their way to the top. So, for International Women’s Day, here are just a few we’d like to put our hands together for, and whom we should all celebrate, not just today, but every single time we spritz…
Germaine Cellier was a pioneering nose from the 1940s who created scandalously daring scents such as Balmain‘s Vent Vert – overdosed with galbanum and considered the first “green” perfume of its kind – and Robert Piguet‘s Fracas, a bombastic, room-filling, man-slaying tuberose. Cellier believed in doing her own thing, and as such it’s often reported her male colleagues found her ‘difficult to work with.’ For ‘difficult’ read ‘opinionated’ and just wonder if those male colleagues were similarly chastised for daring to disagree. Here’s to ‘difficult women’ everywhere.
Had she been male, or growing up in an age of equality, Patricia de Nicolai might have become the next generation of the Guerlain family’s master perfumers (the title traditionally being passed from father to son). Undefeated, de Nicolaï has gone on to found an eponymous fragrance brand – Parfums de Nicolai – is a member of the technical committee of the French Society of Perfumers and now president of the prestigious Osmothèque scent archive. Having won the International prize for Young Perfumers (Prix International du jeune Parfumeur Créateur – Société Française des Parfumeurs) in 1988, her fragrance Number One garnered her the position of their first female laureate. Top that? She did. In 2008 going on to be decorated as a knight of the Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur. It’s fair to say de Nicolai is one of the all-time (if mainly still unsung) great perfumers.
Josephine Catapano is considered a mentor by many female perfumers working today, and when you read her list of accolades, it’s not hard to see why. In 1980 Capatano was granted the Cosmetic Career Women’s Award followed by a Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Society of Perfumers in 1993. Working during an era when perfumers were kept firmly within their labs, no names emblazoned on bottles, and most especially if they were female; creating the all-time classic Youth Dew for Estée Lauder, the original Shiseido Zen and Fidji for Guy Laroche; it is only now truly Catapano’s name has even begun to be truly acknowledged.
There are certainly more historical female pioneers we should hoist the bunting for, but we’d also like to pay tribute to just a few of the contemporary noses who’ve risen in the ranks to become distinguished perfumers we follow the careers of with fascination, and much respect.
Sophie Labbé spent her childhood between Paris and the Charente-Maritime area of France, encountering contrasting smells: the odours of a capital city, against the scents of the countryside, living to the rhythm of grape-picking and harvesting, swept with a salty breeze… She studied at IPSICA, and at the Givaudan Perfumery School in Geneva for six months. In 1992 she joined IFF as a junior perfumer, and since then Sophie has worked on fragrances including Bulgari Jasmin Noir and Mon Jasmin Noir, Calvin Klein Beauty, Estée Lauder Pure White Linen, Salvatore Ferragamo Signorina and Signorina Eleganza. We asked whom she’d most loved to have created for. Her answer? ‘Cleopatra – a powerful female figure whose legendary status is drenched in perfume!’ And which, we wondered, was her favourite bottle of all the perfumes she’s composed? ‘Givenchy Organza, with its beautiful feminine, goddess like curves.’
Ruth Mastenbroek was born in England, spent some of her childhood in America, and graduated with a Chemistry degree from Oxford University. Having been classically trained in Grasse, she’d studied alongside brilliant perfumers such as Olivier Cresp, who created Angel, and Jacques Cavallier who created the Jean Paul Gaultier ‘Classique’ fragrance. In the late she 70s worked as a perfumer in the UK and Netherlands with Naarden International (which later became Quest and is now Givaudan – one of the largest perfume suppliers in the world…)Ruth worked in Japan and in the perfume capital Grasse before returning to England to work for a small company, where she created fragrances for up-and-coming brands like Kenneth Turner and Jo Malone – including her Grapefruit candle. Ruth set up her own perfumery company, Fragosmic Ltd., in 2003 – the year she became president of The British Society of Perfumers. In 2010 Ruth launched a capsule collection of scented products featuring her signature fragrance – RM – and also became the first perfumer to use advanced micro-encapsulation technology… in a scented bathrobe! Inspired by her travels, ingredients she grew up with and most of all by her seemingly tireless zest for life, Ruth’s perfumes are shamelessly romantic, but still with a contemporary edge, and we’re always thrilled (and proud!) to wear them.
‘I didn’t want to make perfume as a child; I wanted to be a witch,’ says Sarah McCartney, founder and perfumer of the gloriously unconventional 4160 Tuesdays. ‘I started to blend my own essential oil combinations after I joined Lush as a writer in 1996; I’d been dabbling from 1999 and started seriously making fragrances when I left in 2009.’ The ‘dabbling’ as a hobby combined with her marketing experience, bag loads of energy (and bravery!) led to Sarah becoming an entirely self-taught perfumer with boundless imagination. Having written a novel about perfumes, readers asked if she could create the scents she’d invented, ‘This turned out to be impossible – and pretty expensive – because no one was making exactly what I wanted, so I started another quest to see of I could make them instead.’ And so she rolled up her sleeves and did just that. Her guilty pleasures include ‘playing on the swings at the park [in fact, she’s installed a swing at 4160 Tuesdays HQ, and invites visitors to have a go – did we mention unconventional?], red lipstick, watching Nashville, and drinking champagne…’ Now winning acclaim the world over, Sarah still delights in having fun with fragrance, and in making scents that work the way she wants them to. Bravo.
From the first time she met a ‘nose’, that’s what Christine Nagel knew she wanted to be. So she trained as a research chemist and market analyst, and in Paris, in 1997, was launched on a seriously distinguished career that’s included creations like the blockbuster Narciso Rodriguez for Her (with Francis Kurkdjian), Jimmy Choo Flash and Guerlain’s Les Elixirs Charnels collection. After several years at Jo Malone London, Christine joined Hermès, to work alongside the incredible perfumer, Jean-Claude Ellena. Strongly believing that fragrance should be genderless, she asserts that ‘In reality, anyone can wear whatever he or she likes – even if the fragrance is supposedly “masculine” or “feminine”. There’s no right or wrong…’ Her desire to ‘pare down’ fragrances chimes perfectly with Jean-Claude’s, and she describes her scent style as ‘characterised by simplicity, which mirrors their philosophy’. ‘Favourite’ notes go in cycles: ‘I’ve phases when I’m deeply into a single type: woody, oriental, green facets. It can turn almost into an obsession, until I have the feeling I’ve found what I’m looking for, and then I move on.’ And move on she certainly did, for in 2016 it was announced that Nagel would now succeed the much-beloved Ellena. With enviable shoes to fill, she began not at a trot but full gallop – Galop (a stunning blend of leather and rose) proving a huge hit and ensuring the perfume world is on tenterhooks, and our noses are primed, for whatever she next creates…
For more female pioneers of perfume, read a selection of our exclusive ‘working nose‘ interviews by searching for that term, above, or browse our perfumer interview archive – that just happens to be bursting with talented women, and which we’re constantly adding others to.
And how shall we give thanks? Seek out some of the perfumes created by these women, or treat yourself to a new one by an up-and-coming star. Now there’s an on-going reason to celebrate. Yaaas, sister! *fist-bump*
Simply named Trudon, the new perfume line hailing from heritage-rich house of Cire Trudon, takes three of the world’s top perfumers – Lyn Harris, Antoine Lie and Yann Vasnier – and challenges them to new inspirations in fine fragrance. Taking the themes of religion, royalty and revolution, five fragrances reveal contemporary chapters: in each scent, one natural ingredient is allowed to take centre stage. Utterly intriguing, and completely sharable no matter your gender, we couldn’t wait to find out more…
Part of Cire Trudon’s collaborative ethos is to work with unique talents, promote creative freedom and showcase artisanal expertise. Handpicking three of the best perfumers was therefore a considered choice. And even the way they were given the brief was unique from the very beginning… As Trudon explain, ‘Individually given a brief by a sophrologist, each nose was taken to a Parisian landmark; chosen for its evocative meaning; each venue catalysed singular ideas and sources of inspiration.’
As one may expect from such a perfectionist design team, the attention to detail and harmony of the packaging is simply stunning. The 100ml bottles evoke the design of Cire Trudon’s scented candles. Created by Pauline Deltour, even the rippled-glass cap echoes the elegant silhouette of La Promeneuse, their diffuser that melts scented wax cameos in a ceramic dish over a candle’s flame.
But enough of the preamble, we wanted to get our noses stuck in! Bruma Top Notes: black pepper, lavender, galbanum Heart notes: violets, purple peony, iris, jasmine sambac Base notes: labdanum, Haitian vetiver, tonka bean Trudon say: ‘Bruma (“solstice” in Latin) is intrinsically tied to the sun. And to royalty. An icy solstice, Bruma feeds on the moon and the forest to evoke the inner metamorphosis of a character in contact with the nature surrounding her.’ Antoine Lie says: ‘A noble figure leaves the comfort of her rooms on horseback at night to discover a part of herself in another, nearly supernatural place. Her appearance is evoked by the notes that transcribe her femininity as well as her elevated rank. The rider crosses a clearing, passing from the half-dark into the nocturnal light, shrouded in mystery, enigma and a distinguished sensuality that is almost animal-like. Her beauty is suddenly revealed by a spiritual energy.’ Olim Top notes: bergamot, lavender, anise Heart notes: pink peppercorn, clove Base notes: patchouli, benzoin, myrrh, musk Trudon say: ‘Olim (Latin for “once”) recalls the first four registers of the old Parliament of Paris, including the numerous texts and laws delivered to the King’s court between 1254 and 1318 under different reigns, particularly St. Louis (1214-1270). Olim shines light on the evolution of royal power and the decline of 13th-century French feudalism.’ Lyn Harris says: ‘A spirit, a veil of elegance, and beauty… the scent is full of history. Better still, it has the power to reveal history. Cold notes, reinterpreted in a modern way leave a lasting impression in those around and purity on those who wear it.’ II Top notes: green leaves, orange bigarade Heart notes: pines, pepper, juniper Base notes: cedar, incense, Ambroxan, Cashmeran Trudon say: ‘II is the alliance par excellence, the unique link that ties two beings together. II transcends and calls to the pious, revealing its fragrance like an emerald impulse.’ Lyn Harris says: ‘This perfume’s vibrant greenery is a forest painting: pines, juniper and cedar covered in moss and berries on a damp, earthy floor. ￼ is a modern take on eau de Cologne; a green, peppery scent with orange bigarade from Brazil. It’s something for everyone that unites and brings two people together.’ Révolution Top notes: elemi Heart notes: angelique Base notes: cedar, papyrus, patchouli, cade, incense, pure cistus, opoponax Trudon say: ‘The streets of Paris during the French Revolution, an odour of smoke and musket powder. Rage and intense emotions on the faces of the crowds. Houses are afire, the cobblestones awash in oil, sweaty riders are robed in black leather. A touch of incense softens the air, suggesting peace is near.’ Lyn Harris says: ‘Révolution captures a moment in his- tory, a period when smells were raw and prevailed everywhere. History is alive in this composition where smoke, wood, leather and incense reign. Yet modern elements in the formula let the scent breathe. A form of harmony is born out of these contrasting notes, leaving an elegant, clean, smoky wood-scented backdrop that remains on the skin.’ Mortel Top notes: black pepper, pimento, nutmeg Heart notes: Somalian frankincense, Mystikal, Virginia cedar Base notes: pure cistus, myrrh, benzoin Trudon say: ‘The artist, living between shadow and light, is a mortal creature. Halfway between the religious and the revolutionary, with an unquenched thirst for eternity, Mortel is a revolutionary drive that combines virile force and natural harmonies. A fatal attraction.’ Yann Vasnier says: ‘A winter’s night. A heavy metal door opens on a huge room. A man appears in the distance; intense heat and light are pulsing from a forge. Light is reflected on the skin and gestures of this man, who is engaged in a rite: standing in front of the blaze, his eyes seek a form buried in the magma before he can recreate it in the open air. The furnace throws giant, moving shadows. In the midst of his activity, sleep finally overcomes the fiery eyes of the artist-craftsman.’ We say: This is a perfume collection we’ve been waiting in fragrant anticipation for ever since we first heard about them, and suffice to say, we weren’t disappointed! Remarkably refined, characterful yet with restraint, these are scents to see you through the seasons and to be fully explored by trying them all on the skin. With such a stellar line-up of noses behind them, and Cire Trudon’s history, it’s hardly surprising the frgrance world is going gaga for them…
We’re about to get geeky, here. Because we’ve a hunch that you’re as fascinated as we are with how perfumers actually work. When they’re at their most productive. What they surround themselves with. What the creative process entails…
So – with our privileged access to the world’s greatest perfumers – we’re introducing a new series on The Perfume Society, which looks at how these ‘noses’ go about the job of creating.
For our first subject, meet Alberto Morillas – without question one of the greatest perfumers of our times, with literally hundreds of fragrances to his name. For 20 years, this Spanish-born perfumer has been the exclusive ‘nose’ for Bulgari (and indeed we caught up with him on his recent London visit to launch Bulgari Goldea The Roman Night). He’s also the man behind Giorgio Armani Acqua di Giò (in its many incarnations), Penhaligon’s Iris Prima and Blasted Bloom/Blasted Heath, Calvin Klein ckone, Marc Jacobs Daisy, Flower by Kenzo – and so the list goes on and on and on. And on. (Morillas also has his own beautiful fragrance collection, Mizensir.)
But how exactly does he do it…? Here’s what Alberto Morillas told us.
I do my creating in Geneva. I have offices in Geneva, New York and another in Paris – and every week, I’m on a plane somewhere. But the lab in Geneva [at Firmenich fragrance house] is where I actually work. Before I create a fragrance, I have to do a lot of thinking. Geneva is a good place to achieve a synthesis of all the impressions I get while travelling. I am inspired by the view of the mountains – I can see Mont Blanc – and by being outside in my garden, which is very private and enclosed. I grow a lot of roses there, and it is very important for me to see the beauty of nature. I have to do a great deal of contemplation before I actually start to create any of my fragrances, to get my ideas in place. Sometimes I will sit for three hours, just contemplating. Travel fuels my creative process. It’s important for my spirit. I recently spent four days in Formentera, where there is sunlight, the smell of the different aromatic plants, a lot of stone. Travel’s hugely important to me. When I set about creating Bulgari Goldea The Roman Night, for instance, I thought about what is important to me when I visit Rome. The first thing is the gardens, the trees – and the smells; you have this amazing night-blooming jasmine. And stone. Again, a lot of stone. (See the beautiful visual of Bella Hadid as the ‘face’ of the fragrance, below.) For me, starting to think about a creation is a bit like watching a movie. I literally travel there in my head, drawing on those experiences of travelling. For The Roman Night, I started with blackberry to have the effect of the sunshine in Rome. Black peony and night-blooming jasmine, which are very feminine – like the women of Rome. And patchouli, for the mineral effect of the stone. And of course there had to be musk, because that is my signature for Bulgari: it gives the same sensation as when you wear nice jewellery; it’s heavy and sensual. Yesterday, I spent the day in London – with its very diverse, bustling crowds, but also the wide open spaces of beautiful parks and gardens; a place where the energy of the city meets the energy of gardens. On the streets I smelled a lot of oudh and also a lot of rose. So I will carry those thoughts and at some point in the future, they may help to shape a perfume that I am asked to create.
I like visual clues when I’m given a brief. And I like a tight brief – if you have complete freedom, it can be difficult. Photographs and art works are very important – sometimes it’s just looking back at my personal photographs, to get a feel of what I’m trying to convey. This process is useful for crystallising the emotion of the fragrance. I take a lot of photographs of flowers, and I try to capture those in fragrances; my phone is very important for capturing moments and flowers and places – but I don’t enjoy the narcissism of social media so much. I get up very early, at 6.30 a.m. The mornings are very important for me, creatively. I like that quiet time. I have a coffee, I smell things, I check my formulas – and I write many, many notes. I work for very short bursts on each perfume. Creating a fragrance requires huge concentration and I can only spend about four minutes at a time on a particular fragrance before I stop. During that time I write all my emotions and feelings – it’s a little like holding onto a dream when you wake up; you have to write it down before it goes. I need to go from one perfume to another, refreshing my mind. I will come back to it many, many times, but I can’t work for hours at a time on a single fragrance. And there is much more to be done, alongside creating: I am selecting new ingredients and testing how long they last on the skin. Many hours are spent on that each day, and it’s very important for future creations. I don’t take to lose time having lunch. I find it hard to get back to where I was afterwards in the creative process – so I work right through the day. I finish my day at 5 p.m. But I take everything I’m working on home with me. I might smell it again after dinner – and definitely in the morning, for the dry-down.
Nowadays I am very selective about the fragrances I work on. That’s the luxury of being at this point in my career. I like to work very closely with people; this is what gives me the energy to create, and don’t like ideas being diluted by a hierarchy within a team. I have a wonderful relationship with Bulgari, going back almost 20 years; it leads to a kind of shorthand in a working relationship, where I am easily able to understand exactly what they want. And for the recent Gucci Bloom, I worked very closely with Creative Director Alessandro Michele, who was very involved in the fragrance design from start to finish. With Bulgari it’s about the stones; with Gucci it’s about the fashion. But the bottom line is: I don’t want to work on 10 fragrances at the same time now, as I did in the past. If you’re tired, you aren’t happy – and if you aren’t happy, you can’t create. I may work for a year and a half on a fragrance – and yet we’ll go back to the fifth submission for the final perfume. You need to experiment a lot. For Giorgio Armani Acqua di Giò, there were thousands of tries – but that’s fine. It’s like a dancer; they have to repeat and repeat and repeat to get something perfect. And yet quite often, when you get to that 1,000th try, it’s not so very far from the first one. If you ask me what is the greatest fragrance ever created, I’d say Guerlain Shalimar. It’s old-fashioned but also very modern. There are all sorts of contrasts inside it – but it works so well. I have 3,000 materials at my fingertips when I create. But I have a palette of around 200 that I enjoy working with the most. As a perfumer, I have a certain signature. Naturals are incredibly important to me: I want to smell a real rose, real jasmine… But beyond that, musk is what people tend to recognise in my perfumes; it’s how I add light to a perfume. I also love woods: patchouli, vetiver, sandalwood – they’re part of my signature. There’s no ingredient I won’t work with. If the brief demands a certain ingredient, and I don’t particularly like that material, that’s a challenge I actively enjoy – to transform it and make it more beautiful. Even though I write down so many thoughts and ideas – and it is such an important part of my work I don’t consider myself a good writer. I find it very difficult. But I am a good perfumer – and I suppose that’s what matters! Bulgari Goldea The Roman Night from £45 for 30ml
Buy it at Escentual
Written by Jo Fairley
In celebration of #InternationalWomensDay, on our Instagram account we’re sharing our admiration of just a few of the incredibly inspiring women in perfumery, and wanted to take some time to write about them here, too…
Currently there are more women joining the famous French perfumery school, ISIPCA, than men – an about-face for those legions of ladies who spent years beavering away in labs but in fact remained somewhat faceless as their male peers were lauded within the industry (a time before noses were public names) as the genius perfumers: moustachioed masters in gleaming white lab coats, the respectable (and respected) face of fragrance.
So we say: let’s hear it for the gals! And do read on for ways you can join in the celebration, too.
Germaine Cellier was a pioneering nose from the 1940s who created outstandingly new (and scandalously daring) scents such as Balmain‘s Vent Vert – overdosed with galbanum and considered the first “green” perfume of its kind – and Robert Piguet‘s Fracas, a bombastic, room-filling, man-killing tuberose. A formidable woman who shone through in a time the entire scent world was otherwise dominated by male perfumers, forging the way fearlessly and stamping her mark in scent history; Cellier very much believed in doing her own thing, and how we applaud her for it.
Josephine Catapano is considered a mentor by Sofia Grojsman (see below) and when you read her list of accolades, it’s not hard to see why. In 1980 Capatano was granted the Cosmetic Career Women’s Award followed by a Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Society of Perfumers in 1993. Working during an era when perfumers were kept firmly within their labs, no names emblazoned on bottles, and most especially if they were female; creating the all-time classic Youth Dew for Estée Lauder, the original ShiseidoZen and Fidji for Guy Laroche; it is only now truly Catapano’s name is truly acknowledged.
Sofia Grojsman is a Belarus-born American perfumer who moved to Poland when she was fifteen, receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in analytical inorganic chemistry there before being uprooted by her family and arriving as an immigrant to the United States in 1965. Delighting in creating multitudionous scents inspired by the rose, Grojsman composed such contemporary classics as Estée Lauder’s White Linen, Lancôme‘s Trésor, Calvin Klein‘s Eternity and Yves Saint Laurent‘s Paris. In 1999 Grojsman was honored by the Cosmetic Executive Women for her lifetime achievements in the fragrance industry.
Estée Lauder may not have been a perfumer but nevertheless was a complete perfume pioneer. In an interview for Vogue in 1986, Lauder spoke of her marriage, saying ‘…we decided that Joe would give up his business and come in to mine. We would work together: he would deal with the economics and practical aspects of the business, I would do the selling.’ Well-known as a generous philanthropist, supporting countless charities and the restoration of Versailles; Lauder was honoured with so many awards during her career, but one of the high points is said to have been receiving the French Legion of Honour.
Patricia de Nicolai might have become the next generation of the Guerlain family’s master perfumers, had she been growing up within an era of equality, but de Nicolaï has gone on to have her own eponymous fragrance brand – Parfums de Nicolai – is a member of the technical committee of the French Society of Perfumers and now president of the Osmothèque scent archive – striding forth on her own path rather than resting on her laurels. Having been decorated as a knight of the Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur, it’s fair to say de Nicolai is one of the all-time (if unsung) great perfumers. An inspiration. Chantal Roos is legendary in the fragrance world for commissioning and launching some of the biggest fragrances of all time – seeking out the best of the best way ahead of her contemporaries. Lovers of Yves Saint Laurent‘s Opium and Kouros, Jean Paul Gaultier‘s Classique and Issey Miyake‘s L’Eau d’Issey have the genius marketing savvy of Roos to thank. Now working with her delightful and equally talented (musician and composer) daughter Alexandra on their own perfume line, Dear Rose; Roos can concentrate on launching fragrances closest to her own heart. Not so much #sisterdoingitforthemselves as a mother and daughter doing just that.
We’re donating a raffle prize to the International Women’s Day Celebration taking part this evening: Wednesday 8th March 2017 Venue: Good & Proper, 96A Leather Lane, London, EC1N 7TX Time: 6.30pm – 9pm Details: £20 on the door – £10 of that goes straight to the charities and then the other £10 goes on wine/beer/soft drinks and food which will all be laid on.
Organiser Roxy Walton says: ‘As well as selling the usual raffle tickets – for which there are some really great prizes this year – I have a fresh delivery from the Women’s Interlink Foundation of beautiful items handmade by women who have been rescued from human trafficking and the sex industry in West Bengal, India. Silk pyjama bottoms, weekend bags, silk wash bags, silk scarves and much more – nothing will cost more than £35 and it’s all lovely. Convenient shopping opportunity for anyone buying Mother’s Day gifts and I will accept IOU’s if you don’t have enough cash! 100% of the sales will go back to them.
The other two charities we’re supporting are Women For Refugee Women and the International Planned Parenthood Federation. I will have lots more information on the incredible work they do to share with you on the night…’
Written by Suzy Nightingale