One of my favourite writers on the topic of perfume is world renowned author and perfume expert Michael Edwards. His book, Perfume Legends, is a key resource when I am researching legendary perfumes of the 20th century. His Fragrances of the World database is a reference I always use when I write about a perfume on my blog. Michael Edwards has an office here in Australia and Mrs Edwards is Australian, so even if a majority of his time is spent in Europe, America and more recently, the Middle East, Michael returns to Australia every year and I have had the fortune of hearing him give talks about perfume for the past two years; his fragrance masterclasses are also legendary. Earlier this year, Michael accepted my request for an interview and I began recording my conversations with him as part of my research. The final recording I made with him was a talk he gave for Sydney Perfume Lovers, a group of Sydney-based perfume enthusiasts that meet regularly – their calendar of events is posted on their Meetup website. For this event, the group’s founder, Catherine du Peloux Menage organised a Q&A with Michael. Catherine … Read More »
The story of La Parfumerie Moderne begins in the small resort village of Le Touquet-Paris-Plage on the northern coast of France. Overlooking the English Channel, Le Touquet was an early 20th century playground for holidaying British aristocrats and wealthy visitors from all over the world. Business thrived and grand hotels were built on a palatial scale to accommodate visitors. The most notable grand hotel was the Royal Picardy, built in 1929. It was advertised as the largest, most luxurious hotel in the world. For 20 years the Royal Picardy was the jewel of this affluent seaside village but these lucrative years were short lived. War and the Great Depression crippled business and the hotel fell into a state of disrepair. In 1951 it closed its doors forever.
Years later we meet the main character of La Parfumerie Moderne’s story. In the 1960s, Philippe Neirinck was a young boy. The son of hoteliers, he regularly vacationed in Le Touquet with his parents. The Neirincks spent time in one of the vacant palaces, which had closed to the public. While the adults amused themselves, these empty palaces became the playgrounds of children. Wandering from room to room, young Philippe would imagine the hotel … Read More »
Last year when I met perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux, we spoke about many things. We spoke about his work as a Senior Perfumer at Givaudan, one of the world’s most successful producers of fine fragrances and we spoke about Arquiste Parfumeur, a highly acclaimed collection of niche perfumes that Rodrigo co-authored with his colleague and friend, perfumer Yann Vasnier. It was Arquiste’s owner, Carlos Huber, who kindly offered to connect me with Rodrigo when I visited New York. More often than not, perfumers work silently behind their clients and this meeting was a rare opportunity to talk directly with the man responsible for creating multi-million dollar fragrances for some of the most influential names in the fashion and beauty industry. High above the streets of Midtown Manhattan, Rodrigo’s office read like a resume of his career. His desk was filled with rows of neatly coded laboratory vials, modifications of projects he was currently working on. Finished bottles of Rodrigo’s work sat proudly along the sill of his office window. Amongst these bottles were some personal items, which had played a part in inspiring the perfumer. A brightly coloured piñata became a prop in a story about Rodrigo’s Mexican heritage and he … Read More »
This week I have been writing about recently launched perfumes, created by Australian perfume house, Grandiflora Fragrance. If you don’t already know something about these perfumes, I recommend reading the posts I published about Magnolia Grandiflora Sandrine and Magnolia Grandiflora Michel, before reading this interview with Saskia Havekes, the author and florist behind Sydney’s Grandiflora brand. Last month I visited Saskia at her address in Sydney’s Potts Point, and below is an excerpt of our conversation about her latest adventure into the world of perfumery.
WMSSL: Flowers to perfumes – it seems like a natural transition but really, it’s not that common right? Tell me how this new adventure started?
Saskia Havekes: I have probably only ever bought myself one fragrance, which was Antonia’s Flowers, many years ago. It was before I worked with flowers and I was living in New York. I found a beautiful little store down in the Village and I’ll never forget finding it, smelling it and thinking that it smelled like a flower shop. Antonia Bellanca was a florist and she lived in the Hampton’s. All of that to me at that age just seemed so glamorous and amazing. And it was such a simple bottle. I … Read More »
Considering the vanilla orchid is harvested in remote parts of the world, it is something most of us will come in contact with on a daily basis, as a flavour in our breakfast yoghurt, an odour in a bath product, an ingredient in a chocolate lunch pastry or the perfume we choose to wear to dinner. In perfumery, vanilla is highly relied upon. Most perfumes contain natural or synthetic vanilla odours. There are fragrances that are all about vanilla, for example the niche Vanille Absolument by L’Artisan Parfumeur, Guerlain’s super gourmand Spiriteuse Double Vanille or the luxurious Vanille Galante by Hermes. Other fragrances require vanilla as part of their DNA; it forms part of the skeletal system of many oriental/ambreine perfumes such as Guerlain Shalimar and Calvin Klein Obsession. In a composition, vanilla can also be used to round off base notes. Sometimes even the most bitter eau fraiche might contain just a touch of vanilla to neutralise the acidic bite of the citrus notes as well as acting like a fixative, to bond the more volatile notes to skin.
From a perfumer’s perspective, the beauty of vanilla lies in its complex odour. It is an odour that encompasses a broad range … Read More »
Last year when I visited Christian Dior in Paris, I was intrigued by one of the bottles in the brand’s perfume organ. The organ is used as a sales tool for consultants to identify the client’s preferred notes. One of the small bottles was labelled New Zealand Ambergris. I was intrigued for two reasons. My first reaction was one of surprise, that major perfume houses such as Dior, were still producing perfume using this rare material and the second was that the small country in which I grew up was supplying one of world’s most iconic names in fashion with perfume ingredients. I never heard of ambergris growing up in New Zealand, so I was surprised to learn it was found there. A surprise that later turned to reason, knowing that whale watching is one of the country’s tourist attractions. I asked the sales consultant if I could dip a paper touché in the ambergris bottle. The resulting smell was somewhere between wood and musk. Unconvinced I smelt unadulterated ambergris and I left Paris with a mental note; I wanted to find natural ambergris on my next visit to New Zealand.
Last week I was in Auckland on New Zealand’s north … Read More »
If you open the wardrobe where I keep my collection of perfumes you should notice a theme of vetiver fragrances. After almost a year of perfume blogging, writing about all of the scented creations that I have the pleasure and fortune of choosing from every morning, I have not written about every vetiver scent that my wardrobe contains. I do not help my predicament by adding new vetiver scents to my perfume wardrobe as new bottles find their way into my restless hands. I guess this is not a bad predicament to be in! I have often thought of what it is about the native Indian grass that I find so attractive. I believe it has something to do with the complexity of the scent, the paradox of its radiant green character and dense earthiness. It’s ultra suave masculine personality that can change gender when paired with seductive floral notes. Vetiver is the chameleon note that adapts to the perfumer’s hand. The grass has been used for centuries, in perfumery and for medicinal purposes. Oil is distilled from the plant’s roots and contains no less than one hundred different molecules, a testimony to its complexity. Vetiver (Vetiveria Zizanioides) was not … Read More »
I have a history of dabbling in spirituality. My parents enrolled me in a Catholic primary school as they considered the level of education was better than public school. In my early teens the ritual of catholic mass and the stories of the bible fascinated me. During my first year of art school I became interested in eastern philosophy and mysticism. After some experimentation I decided to put art school on hold and traveled for three years with the Hare Krishnas. This was my first authentic encounter with the beautiful Santalum Album. Sandalwood has been used for millennia in India by a variety of Vedic or Hindu sects as well as Buddhists. During certain festivals devotees of Krishna will grind sandalwood into a paste that can be mixed with floral waters, spices such as turmeric or saffron and clay from the holy Ganges or Yamuna River. This cooling paste is applied to the heads and bodies of the temple deity as an act of worship. It is a ritual that began many centuries ago in India when Lord Jagannatha instructed King Indradyumna to smear the deity’s body with sandalwood paste as an act of devotion. This ritual continues to be … Read More »
Leather as a style has existed in fragrance for centuries. There are several histories that modern perfumers draw inspiration from such as Cuir de Russie and Peau d’Espagne. Traditionally perfumers worked with master tanners to scent hides used for the creation of perfumed leathergoods such as gloves that were the fashion in 17th century France. Leather holds it’s own scent, which is enhanced by the tannins that have been used to transform the hide into leather. Modern tanneries use a combination of mineral or chromium salts to halt the decaying process. The hides are then drummed and dyed, further developing the hand and grain desired. The hand refers to the sensual touch of the leather and grain is the visual aspect. The master tanner will monitor this drumming phase with care to create the hand and grain required. Aniline and semi aniline processes create leather that is very natural and has a wonderful hand. This natural aspect shows the true nature of leather, each piece is individual and bares its soul. This style of leather will develop its own patina with time and becomes darker. Many buyers of luxury leather goods do not fully appreciate this natural aspect and prefer … Read More »
So what exactly is Iso E Super? It sounds like something you would find at your local gas station instead of something on a perfumer’s wheel. Recently the ingredient was placed into the spot light by Swedish perfumer Geza Schoen. His brand Escentric Molecules features a fragrance composed entirely of Iso E Super. Even if this was your first conscious experience with Iso E Super, if you have worn fragrance in the past 20 years you will be no stranger to this essential perfumer’s material. Created by International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF), Iso E Super is one of the patented molecules to come out of their research and development department. The payback for companies like IFF to literally invent a new scented molecule is immeasurable if you consider how many tons of the chemical are produced every year. What makes this molecule so precious is its ability to replicate wood without the density of naturals such as sandalwood or cedar. Described by IFF as woody, floral, ambergris; Iso E Super has a wonderful iris note and works well as a floraliser in iris/wood men’s fragrances such as Christian Dior’s Dior Homme. It also works as an extender for woods. Mixed … Read More »