Last year when Creed launched its new Acqua Originale collection of fragrances in Australia, I had the opportunity to speak with Erwin Creed who was in Sydney for the collection’s launch. We spoke about his role in the family business, a business that spans seven generations, going back to the mid 18th century. With perfume being the family’s primary activity, Erwin’s father, Oliver Creed currently holds the title of Creed’s Master Perfumer. Eventually this title will pass to Erwin, who currently oversees global distribution of his family’s perfumes. Although he has already authored perfumes for Creed, Erwin’s perfumer training is ongoing. He says he needs to learn how to think like his father, to understand how he creates perfumes. There is no fixed timeline for Erwin to succeed his father and his current training involves interning with a variety of perfume companies to learn the various aspects of his father’s role.
Asked to describe Creed in three words, he smiles and says decisively, “family, respect and quality.” Erwin goes on to say that quality of the raw materials Creed uses is very important. Part of his training is learning about different distillation processes and quality control so he can safe guard the integrity of Creed’s formulas. He uses the example of mimosa absolute. A greener colour is a sign that too many leaves were mixed with the flowers in the extraction process. The odour will be of lower quality compared to a more pure, yellow absolute. In this way Creed wants to respect its customers by choosing the best raw materials it can find. Erwin uses the analogy of a dinner party. He says that when you are cooking for friends, you naturally want to use the best ingredients you can find because you care for them. Erwin’s favourite raw material is bergamot oil, which he believes is one of the house’s signatures. It is a signature that now poses a challenge because when bergamot oil is used in excess, changing safety standards require the oil to be treated and the offending molecules removed. It is a new way of working, which did not affect perfumers, prior of Erwin’s generation. Erwin says that after the raw oil arrives from Creed’s preferred supplier, to be compliant with current safety standards, it is sent away, decolorised and stripped of photo-sensitizing molecules before being transported back to Creed. This resulting oil is less powerful so the perfumer needs to know how to work around this design issue and the finished oil is more costly because of the additional processes. Asked if reformulations had to be performed as IFRA regulations evolved, Erwin says his father has been responsible for keeping Creed’s older formulas compliant. Some of the original raw materials that were used are no longer available at the same level of quality. This means some old favourites like Windsor and the Private Collection edition of Tabarome have been discontinued. Erwin understands the demand for these perfumes and is hopeful some re-editions may be possible. On this topic he mentions Creed’s rare Angelique Encens (a single bottle is currently available on Amazon for US$9999).
Asked if Erwin has a favourite Creed perfume, he replies that it is hard to choose a favourite and he admits he doesn’t wear a lot of perfume. He prefers to keep his mind free and not preoccupied with a perfume that he likes. He adds, “A good perfumer is someone who can change. They have a signature but they can make different fragrances.” As we sit and talk, we smell each of the five new Acqua Originale fragrances. The collection carries Oliver Creed’s signature and style. I get the sense that the starting point of each perfume’s concept is a raw material that has captured Oliver Creed’s imagination. From a single raw material, his olfactory story takes form. In this collection, one raw material is contrasted with another to create a simple, but effective tension. The natural woody odour of cedar is contrasted with the shimmering light of lily of the valley (Cedre Blanc) and the sharp herbaceous note of lavender is contrasted with the round opulent note of amber-leather (Aberdeen Lavander). Since my meeting with Erwin, I have reviewed two fragrances that are now part of my collection, Aberdeen Lavander and Vetiver Geranium. Below is a brief summary of my impressions of all five fragrances. For Australian stockists of Creed’s Acqua Originale fragrances, visit Agence de Parfum.
Top: Absinthe, bergamot, rosemary, lemon
Middle: Lavender, lily, tuberose, rose
Base: Patchouli, leather, vetiver
Mirroring the house’s history, which began in England and continues in France, Aberdeen Lavander is a fusion of French and English spelling. Lavande, as it is spelt in French, is the amethyst-coloured jewel of France’s south. For centuries the aromatic flower’s calming odour has been used in perfumery. Aberdeen Lavander borrows from the historic 19th century fougere accord, which changed the course of perfume history through fragrances like Houbigant’s Fougere Royale (1882), Guerlain’s Jicky (1889) and Mouchoir de Monsieur (1904). Aberdeen Lavander begins with sparkling citrus notes, aromatic lavender and rosemary. Floral notes are bathed in lavender light, drying down to patchouli, vetiver and sweetened leather.
Asian Green Tea:
Top: Bergamot, mandarin, lemon, neroli
Middle: Violet, heliotrope, green tea, rose, blackcurrant
Base: Sandalwood, musk, amber
Under an umbrella of refreshing citrus notes, a lush garden of scented flowers emits colourful odours. Vibrant purple hues of violet flowers are coupled with pink roses and fruity blackcurrant. Heliotrope adds warmth and a delicate bitter almond note. This bouquet contrasts with the perfume’s namesake, green tea. The result is a refreshing beverage for the nose, consisting of citrus notes, tea, and floral accents. Asian Green Tea dries down to become airy musk with subtle hints of amber and sandalwood.
Top: Bergamot, cardamom, galbanum, laurel
Middle: Geranium, lily, jasmine
Base: Cedar, sandalwood, vetiver
Cedre Blanc was a fragrance in the collection that didn’t make a big impression the first time I smelled it, but over time, it had me going back to smell the sample vial I had been given. Cedar Blanc intrigues me. Erwin told me his father wanted to create the illusion of a white wood. Oliver Creed achieved this by pairing Virginian cedar with a pale muguet accord. Cardamom and laurel’s green camphorous notes help desaturate cedar wood’s golden hue and geranium energizes the heart note. With accents of vetiver and sandalwood, cedar is the star of the fragrance. The wood feels young and green as though it has been freshly cut. It is an innovative treatment of a note that is often used yet seldom focused on as a perfume’s main theme.
Top: Galbanum, orange, violet leaves
Middle: Tuberose, lily of the valley, lily
Base: Musk, orange blossom, vanilla
Built on gourmand notes with an animalic musk accord, Iris Tubereuse is a classic white floral. Creamy jasmine notes are reworked into a rounded tuberose accord supported by spicy lily. As it begins, a flash of green galbanum and violet leaf wake the senses and the fragrance dries down to become a well-balanced melange of spices, caramelised milk and flowers.
Top: Granny Smith apple, bergamot, lemon
Middle: Geranium, cinnamon, rose
Base: Patchouli, cedar, musk, amber
My favourite of the collection belongs to Vetiver Geranium. Citrus peels and tart green apples work perfectly with vibrant geraniums, which smell as though they were cut from the garden only moments before. With a touch of cinnamon, the woody dry down is deceptively vetiver-free, despite the title. Erwin told me that for this fragrance, his father created a vetiver accord using patchouli, cedar and other green-woody raw materials instead of using natural vetiver oil. Cleverly constructed, this is a versatile scent and one of my favourite Creeds to date.
Thank you to Erwin Creed for his time and Nick Smart from Agence de Parfum for the introduction.