In our continuing series of A Working Nose interviews, we take the time to get nose-to-nose with some of the most talented perfumers on the planet. In these exclusive one-to-ones we dig a little deeper into what happens behind the scenes in the scent world, and discover how they structure their working day, how long a fragrance can take to work on and what, exactly, inspires them.
Today we focus on the brilliant young perfumer Ane Ayo – one of several women we’ve met recently who are, we are very glad to say, forging ahead way in the fragrance industry. We first met Ane at the launch of several new Lalique fragrances, one of which – Pink Paradise – she had been especially comissioned to create for the house.
Part of Les Compositions Parfumées collection, inspired by the modern lines of René Lalique’s jewellery and crystal designs, and fusing the best natural and molecular materials; Pink Paradise is a cloud-like swirl of heliotrope, pepper-sprinkled jasmin and sun-warmed creamy skin atop a lightly salted sea breeze. And for this fragrance, Ayo was the perfect choice, bringing her contemporary style to this ever-chic house…
Lalique Les Compositions Parfumées Pink Paradise £190 for 100ml eau de parfum
Try it at harrods.com
How did you start learning, and who were you inspired by?
‘I was trained in France and have been working in Paris the last six years. I really think that fragrance is like emotion, so I wanted to keep this one [Pink Paradise] very simple, to allow people space to interpret it themselves. When you’re using a short formula, as I prefer to, it’s actually more difficult to create. Everything has to be perfectly balanced, nothing out of place or there without a specific reason
In this way I am very inspired by the work of perfumers like Jean-Claude Ellena who worked with this aesthetic all the time. He was the master of the short formula. For Pink Paradise I worked around two main molecular materials and built the entire fragrance around them, to make them light and airy, that was the most important thing for me.’
Do you use a mood-board, notebook, music or other creative stimuli to help you?
‘I’m a very visual person and always have been, I love working with photos and so sometimes I do use a mood board to collect these and focus on them. It depends on the brief the client gives of course, as sometimes they will supply the imagery, but I like to collect my own. I always try and work very closely with the brand, but not slavishly, because I think it’s important to have fun during the process and not to be afraid to try different things!’
When do you prefer to smell things – is it true your sense of smell works best in the morning?
‘There are times you don’t have the luxury of only smelling things in the morning, and after a time you get used to it, but it’s true that most perfumers I know prefer working early. If you’re working on an important project, the very first thing you would do is try the versions you created the day before, to see how they have settled and smell them afresh. Sometimes, that day before, you think something’s okay, and then you smell it again in the morning and you can spot all the mistakes and say, oh wow. No.’
Do you ever take fragrances home to test and wear them there?
‘Yes for me it’s very important to take it home. I think in the work environment you smell things very differently, clinically, and we do this for a reason, but at the end of the day, this is not how it’s going to be worn by the person buying the perfume! I always want to wear the perfume myself and just see how it performs.
I always ask family members, but you know what? Sometimes they will say ‘well actually I don’t like this one very much’ or ‘you should make it sweeter!’ and while I love them, I have to not get muddled by their personal preference. It’s something a perfumer has to learn to do – to step away from being too personally tied to a fragrance…’
It’s easy to get stuck in a bit of a scented rut sometimes – something we’re all guilty of! But we’ve decided now is the perfect time to blow away the cobwebs and start thinking about things we’re looking forward to trying, seeing and (of course) smelling this year. Which of these have you tried already, and what are you most looking forward to in 2019…?
1: Get social with scent
The internet is, obviously, a wonderful thing (hello, we’re on it right now!) but it’s also good to remember to get our from behind our desks and away from a screen to actually interact with human beings occasionally. There’s absolutely nothing like discovering a group of people who share your passion, meeting up with them and realising you’re not alone. This is genuinely one of the greatest bits of our job – meeting all of you lovely people, and watching you form your own groups and friendships around our common love of fragrance! If you join our VIP Club, we promise you an entire year filled with fragrant opportunities…
– Exclusive perfume events – meeting top perfumers and founders of niche houses, exploring the history of a house with the very people who created it. Learning about ingredients, getting previews of new fragrances or simply finding out about new names our noses need to know…
– How to Improve Your Sense of Smell Workshops – sharing the top tips we’ve learned from the world’s best noses, changing the way we think about scent and discovering deep emotional connections. These workshops are some of the highlights of our year: fun, informative, down-to-earth and genuinely life-changing for everyone who attends!
– Exclusive competitions with fab fragrant prizes – including bottles signed by perfumers.
– An exclusive monthly ‘insider offer’ – just for our VIPs.
If you keep an eye on our Events page, we also list many other perfume events and pop-ups taking place around the country, so whey not make a pact to attend at least one this year and see how exciting they can be? You can make new friends, discover new scents to love and most of all, have fun with fragrance!
2: Be braver!
There are very few people we know (apart from professional ‘noses’ really) who don’t have preconceived ideas about what suits them, and certain ingredients they tend to avoid. Even we can be guilty of it! It’s a slippery slope when you avoid things becuase you ‘know’ they don’t work for you. Taste change – ALL the time – as we get older (or wiser), and the more things you try, the more you become accustomed to liking and the more your fragrance palate expands.
Think you hate rose? It completely depends which type of rose is being used – fruity, fresh and honeyed, or deep, dusty and velvety – how it’s been harvested, where it’s used in the composition and what other ingredients surround it. The same goes for any ingredient you care to name – the new fractionated patchouli, for example, removes the ‘dirty’ earthiness that many naysayers associate with ‘hippies’ and kept them at arm’s length all these years.
We double dare you to seek out notes, fragrances and houses you assume you don’t like, and to just try them (again or for the first time) with a new nose and fresh attitude…
It’s not only about trying things you thought you disliked, but expanding your fragrant horizon at your own pace. How about branching out just a little bit – but still within your comfort zone – by seeing what six fragrances are ‘matched’ to one you already own and love? There’s suggestions for every budget, from niche and high-end luxury, through all-time classics and highstreet-friendly names you may have overlooked. Try our Fragrance Finder, get out there and give them a try. You might find a brand new fragrant love…
3: Change it up
We know there are some of you who still feel a bit odd about fragrance layering, but honestly, what have you got to lose? If there’s a Cologne you love that sits gathering dust during the colder months, bring it out and combine with a deeper fragrance to ring the changes and bring some freshness to your scented habits. We’ve several features dedicated to the art of fragrance layering (simply type into our search box to see more), but here’s the basics for nervous noses…
Always remember: perfume isn’t a tattoo – if you don’t like it, you can wash it off!
– Add power: ramp it up by adding more base notes like patchouli, labdanum, vetiver, woods or musk.
– Add freshness: look for citrus notes like bergamot, neroli, lemon, lime or ‘green’ notes such as galbanum, tomato or violet leaf, green tea, marine/aquatic accords (synthetic recreations of sea-like, watery smells) and aldehydes (often desribed as being like Champagne bubbles).
– Add beauty: find a scent too ‘harsh’ or clinical? Look to layer it with decadently velvety or lusciously fruity rose oils, the sunshine-bottled scent of orange flower, a heady glamour of tuberose or a luminescent jasmine; try an apricot-like osmanthus flower, the fluffiness of mimosa or the powdery elegance of iris/orris.
– Add sweetness: vanilla and tonka bean can ’round’ a perfume, making it swoon on your skin (and addictive to smell), as can touches of synthetic notes described as ‘caramel’ or ‘dulce de leche’, ripe fruits, chocolate or even candy floss. Try to add less than you think you need, as adding more is always easier than taking away, and a little of these can go a long way!
4: Keep a fragrance journal
Writing down your thoughts about a new smell every day is surprisingly revolutionary – especially when noting your feelings at several points through the year about the same fragrance. It’s amazing how weather, mood and even what we’ve been eating can change the way we consider how something smells! This is homework we give attendees of our so-fun How to Improve Your Sense of Smell Workshops (see above), and even if you just jot down a few words about a new thing you smell (perfume, cooking ingredient, handcream, flower, bath gel… anything!) it gets your mind and your nose symbiotically linked, and truly helps ‘fix’ smells in your mind. Try it and see!
We love the scented notelets and journals available at Floral Street – a favourite being their Wonderland Peony Notepad / £12 (above) which makes every page a fragrant delight to fill in…
5: Make your own
Nothing gives you a greater appreciation for a perfumer’s skill than having a go at making your own. Sound simple, right? Just take all your favourite ingredients, mix them up and hey-presto! Well, uh, no. Much like mixing all your favourite colours results in a brown sludge rather than the rainbow you’d imagined as a child, it’s fascinating to attempt to try and balance notes, or to enhance them… a true art form and a kind of modern alchemy we’re in awe of. But it is possible to have a go at making your own under the watchful eye of a professional who can help guide you – and oh so satisfying to come away with a little bottle of a scent you made yourself.
The following perfumers run sessions we’ve personally attended and rate highly, and each of them offer differing workshops based on your experience – from complete beginner to something more skilled. Go on, you know you’ve always wanted to… Make 2019 the year you made your own!
Trained at the perfumery school of ISPICA, Emmanuelle Moeglin worked as a Scent Design Manager for global fragrance brands, alongside some of the biggest perfumers in the world, and now works as an independent perfumer in London. In 2015, wanting to open fragrance up to the consumer and demistify the world of perfumery, she started the Experimental Perfume Club. Choosing some of the most enjoyable elements of her training, she developed workshops to help people understand scent better – exploring the smells of individual ingredients, harmonious combinations, understanding the magic and science of fusing scents. There’s workshops available from Apprentice, through Expert Masterclass to Corporate levels, in a really down-to-earth and friendly atmosphere that encourages you to learn more.
Sarah McCartney – 4160 Tuesdays perfumer offer fun and more professional days, along with afternoon tea and a chance to get your hands on Sarah’s extensive personal collection of perfumes to smell, in her truly astounding Wall of Scent. 4160 Tuesdays are in the process of moving their HQ at the moment, but do get in touch with Sarah to ask when the next dates are, and they can also come to you if you’ve some friends or colleagues who are interested in joining in…
Those wanting to launch their own fragrance should seek out Karen Gilbert, who now runs a series of specialised courses – including making skincare products – for those wanting to learn more about this intriguing yet technically challenging world. She explains that ‘…it came out of years of students coming to my live classes where we make an alcohol based EDT, who really wanted to create for their own product line.’ With courses varying from online Masterclasses – perfect for those who find it difficult to travel – days of natural perfumery and intensive 5-day professional courses, there’s something for all levels of interest.
Don’t you think there are things you could change about your fragrant habits – even if it’s just getting out there and sharing your excitement with a friend, showing them around your favourite perfumery or letting them sniff your own collection of fragrances? Whatever you choose to do, there’s a whole year of perfume excitement to look forward to, and we certainly can’t wait to share it with all of you…
‘Scent is my life.’ Says perfumer Ruth Mastenbroek. Quite simply, she explains that ‘The fragrance is the essence of my art. It is my signature…’
Ruth Mastenbroek was born in England and graduated with a Chemistry degree from Oxford University. Having trained in the late 70s and then worked as a perfumer in the UK and Netherlands with Naarden International (who 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 compan. There she created fragrances for up-and-coming brands like Kenneth Turner and Jo Malone – including her now infamously successful Grapefruit candle. But finally Ruth knew she wanted to 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 her capsule collection of scented products featuring her signature fragrance – RM – and also became the first to use the ground-breaking micro-encapsulation technology… in a scented bathrobe!
Ruth launched her second fragrance, Amorosa, in May 2012 at Les Senteurs in London. Her range is now sold in more than 25 exclusive shops in the UK, as well as in the Netherlands and Nigeria. Her fragrances are astonishingly well composed, but more than smelling beaituful, they capture whole worlds and stories in every bottle.
We’re thrilled to be stocking this incredible discovery set of fragrances in the Ruth Mastenbroek Collection for you to try at home. From the smoulderingly sensual to the classically chic, with sunshine, smoky green unisex to travel memories and joyous moments captured in every bottle, we truly believe there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Why not treat yourself (or a loved one) to a whole new world of exploration…?
Ruth has long been a friend of The Perfume Society, so we thought it was about time we caught up with her and found out exactly how she goes about making her fragrances, as part of our series of exclusive interviews with perfumers, called The Working Nose…
Is there any such thing as an average day for you? What’s your routine?
Ruth Mastenbroek: It’s not quite as rigid as that. What tends to happen is that I get ideas overnight, and then I can try them out in the lab the next morning. I do enjoy writing out my formulas then, and feeling that then I’ve got the rest of the day to work through them. The way that I like to work has evolved over time. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to make a chypre, and the basic structure, but I wasn’t exactly sure what to do with it – there was a lot of trial and error and going back and forth between versions, but eventually I did get there with Signature.
With Amorosa, I knew I wanted to create a tuberose fragrance, because it was so incredibly different from what I’d done, so I wanted to explore. But it had to have something else, which became the ambery woody part of it. With Oxford and Firedance I had a starting point, but then I’d take a chunk out and try something else, to see how that affected the performance and character. It’s not as though I know exactly what’s going to happen when I put two things together. Obviously after forty years I know a lot, I have the experience, but you can never absolutely be sure until it’s done!
Do you keep a notebook with you to collect ideas – how do you keep a track of everything you imagine?
Well it honestly tends to be all in my head, the ideas are very vivid and I like to start working on them immediately, but over the years I’ve made so many different formulas, it’s all written down and I keep a note of every single addition or subtraction I experiment with. That way you have this back catalogue of things that you might not have a use for immediately, but which you know will prove vital at some point! My daughter thinks it’s hilarious that I still write everything down by hand. I still make a note of everything on the computer, but I prefer writing by hand. I do tend to have a lot of Postit notes around, scraps of paper with things that have occurred to me – an unusual combination that worked surprisingly well.
Are you inspired by pictures, textures or sounds at all?
For me it’s a very visual thing – I know some perfumers are synaesthetic and also inspired by sounds, and I can imagine that being very creative working with music, but I see them visually. I think of them texturally, too – very touchy-feely. When I think about my fragrances this way I can then sense what else I need to add to extend that feeling.
Do you need to work in complete quiet – do you shut yourself away when you’re working?
I very much prefer to be alone. I love working and creating on my own. Working from home a lot of the time I can do that. If you’re in a bigger office it’s much harder to do that, but I will always go and find a room where I can go and have some solitude. Otherwise there are too many distractions. I mean, sometimes it’s nice to be distracted, but I like to work methodically through something and just get it done.
When you’re composing a fragrance, are you strict about keeping everything very neutral around you? So not wearing any scented products at all?
Oh yes, you have to really. I mean you end up trying them on your skin of course, because you need to know how they perform, but other scents are very intrusive. Actually, I had one moment that really awkward – I was working for a company where they invited several perfumers to on a day trip to a bluebell wood, with the idea that each perfumer would then create a fragrance based on their personal impressions of it. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of wearing a sweater I’d worn previously had perfume on it. I just didn’t think. But when everything else is un-fragranced (and everyone else there!), boy do you become hyper aware of it. I learned my lesson that day.
What do you think of the rise in self-taught niche perfumers? Do you think it’s a shame they aren’t being trained in that strict way you were?
I think it opens up other routes. But, from what I understand, those who are self-taught are learning about ingredients they can get hold of. And actually that becomes a very limited palette. Whereas, because I had the great fortune to work for a big company, I had access to thousands of materials and had to learn them inside out. On the other hand, Im sure it’s making them really consider what they’re using and how they use it, because they don’t have that luxury. I am a great believer in training, but there just aren’t the places or opportunities for everyone to train the way I did. I guess I’m just glad I did it, you know, a hundred-million years ago, and so I can now rely on that breadth of knowledge and experience. Because in the end, that’s what colours every single fragrance I create…
Julien Rasquinet is the brilliant perfumer for Elegantes London, and here we interview him as part of our Working Nose series. Privilleged access means we get to discover not only the ways perfumers train, but the way they think and learn – and Julian’s apprenticeship was more incredible than most…
What is the working process for creating a fragrance for a brand like Elegantes London? How do you begin?
The process of creation always starts with an encounter – with someone or a new culture, a new system of thinking within that culture – this what creates that spark of an idea for me. But I think something that’s so important, and so often overlooked, is being able to work as a team on the project. Together we have to be able to re-transcribe that initial encounter into something that really evokes a moment of truth. Being figuartive and being able to create something logical from this – that’s how I love to work.
What was your training like, and how did a career in perfumery start for you?
Well in the beginning I didn’t even know the job of a perfumer existed when I was young! I always wanted to work in perfume because when I was a teenager I fell in love with fragrances, and they totally became part of my life. You can say they were my first love, and I think as a perfumer now I’m always trying to recreate that same feeling of first love, and also hope that what I’m creating is going to light that spark, create that magic for someone else.
I knew I wanted to work in the industry but didn’t know exactly where. I did a business course, because that’s what you do when you’re not sure which direction you want to take in life! I did an internship at Firmenich and as part of my marketing course I met with some perfumers there who gave me the sickness for creating perfume. But I didn’t have the chemistry background required to even apply to ISIPCA [the famous French perfumery school]. My chance came when my father met with Pierre Bourdon. In an airport, of all places! They exchanged business cards, and that evening he told me he’d met “some guy who works in the perfume industry” but had no idea how significant Bourdon was!
You know, in my mind he was the greatest perfume ever. He created YSL’s Kourous, Dior’s Dolce Vita, Davidoff’s Cool Water masculine and feminine (which are still best sellers)… so many greats. So when I saw his name on this card I jumped to the ceiling, and continued jumping all night long! The next morning, after no sleep, I called him and basically harassed him for the next few months. But I never once asked him to train me, because I just assumed without the chemistry background I had no chance. Then one day he called me and said he was going to retire soon, and wanted to train his last student to pass on his knowledge and techniques. He said “I want you to be this guy.” It was amazing.
So he must have seen something in you, despite not having had the technical training?
Yes I guess so! I suppose part of me thinks it was fate, but yes he made a connection with me and saw how seriously I took this, how much I wanted it. It all goes back to connections. Like when I first met with Thomas and Dagmar Smit [the husband and wife duo who founded the house] from Elegantes, and I knew they travelled a lot – that’s something that’s really important to me, it broadens the mind and your expecations. We just clicked. So much of perfumer’s life is about these connections – from who they are working with in their team, to the house the fragrance is for, and of course from the fragrance to the person wearing it.
What testing process does a perfume you’re working on go through?
For me there’s a lot of similarity between music and perfumers. We know the raw materials, like a musician knows the notes so well, and so you can imagine how they blend well together and what the melody of the fragrance will be like. I like to wear a fragrance on my own skin – it’s very important, because there are always some surprises. I need to smell on other people, too, so always in the office we are asking “do you have skin available?!” We want to evaluate on lots of different people’s skin. I don’t personally wear it during the day, but at night I take it home with me, and everyone ends up wearing it. For Elegantes it was very important for their fragrances to be powerful and diffusive – that meant trying it on my wife as she was cooking, seeing if I could smell it as she walked down the street. There’s no escape if you are married to a perfumer you know!
I know it was part of the way Thom selected the final fragrances for Elegantes, too. You know when people stop you in the street to compliment you on your fragrance, you’re on to a good thing! This is the only form of market testing that really matters to me.
Do you insist on strict laboratory conditions at all times when you’re working, or can you allow yourself to be more relaxed and work on things outside the office as well?
Well I strive for excellence at all times, of course, but I’m not slavish to strict conditions, For instance, a lot of perfumers smoke you know – Pierre Bourdon was always smoking when I trained with him! One thing that is important is not to have too many disturbing smells around you as you work though. I know many perfumers who refuse to even allow people to drink cups of coffee in the office, but Im not like that. You have to live.
What’s the most imporant skill for you to have as a perfumer?
For me the job of a perfumer is not only to smell well, though of course that’s very important, but it’s more about the ability to create new olfactive forms. You could have a brilliant sense of smell, but not the creativity to put it together.
How does the fragrance go from formula to being finished?
I work in front of a computer in my office, and I have a lab assistant, one in Dubai and one in Paris. I give my formula to the assistant and we even have a robot who helps with measuring exact amounts. Then the lab assistant give me back the mixture in a very neutral environment to smell. At this point, with many brands, one of the main features to focus on is the cost. For Elegantes luckily this was not a consideration, which gives you much more chance to fulfill your creativity. We never discussed price, and that’s so freeing. Not being limited in the cost means you can use everything you have. If you are limited, the palette of raw materials becomes more and more tight.
Are there particular materials you like working with?
This is something we’re often asked, but to be honest it’s not something I like answering, because for me it’s vital that I experiment always, and start with a blank page for each perfume, with no preconceptions about ingredients I want in it. It’s like if you always used the same words, you’d always end of telling the same story. Each one of my perfumes, I hope, tells a different story. I mean of course I am drawn to some more than others, naturally – I love cistus labdanum notes – but I don’t let this guide me.
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.
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