Thursday, June 20

Conclusion

El.Arden For Beauty
Dear readers,

After eight years of perfume writing here in the on-line space, following my first works devoted to the Art of Perfumes, it's time to announce a change which has been in the air for a while. New perfume raw materials from all corners of the world were presented today in Paris at the Société Française des Parfumeurs. A very special day for those who know me closely.
My new official position doesn't allow me to publish too much about the perfumes launched under various names on the market. I have decided to permanently close this address. If there are texts you loved, you can save them the next days. After, they will not be accessible anymore on this address, excepting several introductory articles - around 10-20 from the myrrhiad of my texts. They will be put in a book with other many detailed texts I wrote when it will be possible, if I have time and a good secretary. There are more than 5000 articles written in the past 8 years in various languages and websites (about a thousand only about aesthetics, formulation and creation), for more than 1,7  million perfume lovers which speak only one language - the Perfume. You can still discover many things on various other websites & forums about the new launches. I will preserve the beautiful addresses on the right bar of this page.
We'll see each others very soon in a new Beautiful context. The round bottle you see on top is "Je reviens" in red (the original was cobalt blue, cca eighty years ago).
I wish you a fabulous summer in the Perfume universe. There are many magnificent surprises.


OCTAVIAN SEVER


I wish to thank all of you, my dear readers, for the kind and beautiful words you e-mailed me after the announcement I made yesterday. Hundreds of e-mails I hope to answer in private. It is not a goodbye message, but a new dawn in a new context - Beauty. It is not the critic, nor le discours which matter - but only the personal relation between the scent and the woman, an un-compromised beauty which is not changed by fashion or reformulation. The art of perfumes is a form of love - the Judgment of Pâris on Mount Ida. Hermès, a golden apple from the Garden of the Hesperides, which has the inscription "for the fairest one", Pâris, Hera, Athena, Aphrodite and the beautiful Helen.The Perfume, as wrote a beloved writer from La Sorbonne, has a mythical and divine dimension we could not neglect. It is the first form of ART.

There are several books written in the last decade that I recommend you as an introduction. Each of them represent something for me and each represent something for the new Renaissance of Perfume. First, there is Chandler Burr, who organized in 2012 the first American exhibition devoted to the 8th ART at MOD - New York. He published The Emperor of Scent and  The Perfect Scent. The second book made Jean Claude Ellena famous and ensured the success of Hermès. Perfumes: The A-Z Guide by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez will guide you with the new genre which emerged in the last decade - perfume criticism. For the scientific background of the perfume, I recommend you the opus Scent and Chemistry the edition updated by the well known scientist Philip Kraft - he invented all the musks which adorn your skin in all products you use. If somebody loves your skin its because of a captive ingredient. There are also two literary novels which present the wonderful universe of perfume and its endless romances. The Perfume Lover which describes the birth of an artisan parfumeur and The Book of Lost Fragrances which presents the lost and re-discovered ancient book of formulae.


Among the modern perfume houses I presented on this blog, I wish to underline several which had a significant olfactory contribution to the new Renaissance of the perfume - Divine, Arquiste, Kilian, L'Artisan Parfumeur,  Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle, Patricia de Nicolaï, Olfactive Studio, Francis Kurkdjian, plus a more personal choice Le Huitième ART, inspired by me and my writings. This new decade was undoubtedly dominated by the work of several great names: Alberto Morillas, who signed an impressive number of ultra original creations à Genève, Daniela Andrier and her work for Prada in Paris, Yann Vasnier with Rodrigo Flores Roux for Arquiste and Tom FORD in New York, Calice Becker for Kilian. It is, obviously, a very short list for 1300 new launches this year, but the very good start for the appreciation of the art of perfumes and its new Renaissance. I left several articles on this blog, among them my L'Heure Bleue, the key perfume I love so much. After the blue hour, a new dawn for Beauty.

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Wednesday, June 19

Perfumer in house


Today, more than in any historic period, the in-house perfumer is the only key for the survival of a beauty company producing cosmetics and perfumes. Odors are in the public space and in the public domain. They belong to anybody who has the ability to catch and bottle them. The role of the perfumer is to ensure than the  right scents are offered under a certain name, not only beautiful, but also coherent and with a certain uniqueness. When you open the door, you recognize the house through its unique odor.
Cosmetic giants spend many hours submitting briefs to various perfume houses. They select and reject perfumes. But nothing is trashed, everything is perfectly recycled. The worst thing is to see the trial you've been working on for months launched by the competition. The rejected fruity body cream that becomes a niche perfume wrapped with an artistic discours in the exclusive range of the competition. Irony is part of the game. The main task of the in-house perfumer is "originality", being original at the right time, going back to the origins of the Beauty House to redefine it for future. There is no such thing as the "never smelt before" perfume - everything is a copy, reproduction, interpretation of something. However, bringing the right thing at the right moment is something in a universe where it takes an afternoon to  replicate a new launch. The original is the unexpected, the surprise, like un coup de foudre.
Working for many houses / briefs allows the perfumer to be aware of the zeitgeist, the trend, the fashion, the scent of an era. He imagines things and recycles them because they are his formula. Who owns the formula  sets all the rules of the game. Because the in-house perfumer doesn't work for other brands, he doesn't interfere and can be totally loyal to the spirit of the house. He has a nose in all bottles, but his soul is not "polluted" or "corrupted" by other styles.
The confusion is the dominant note today - there are so many brands today and so many new launches. In such an environment, whether it is called artistic niche or mainstream (the only difference being the price and the points of sale), it is very easy to duplicate what other did. The "re-done by". But such brands, and there are more to come under your nose in 2013, are only the result of recycling - like articles about new launches where the words of le discours are  recombined on websites and forums by "people" with pseudonyms as if they were computer algorithms. Being an in house perfumer means adding every time a new "variable" to the system - a new odor, a new molecule, a new idea, a new design - something which is unexpected because it originates elsewhere than in the bottle next door. It means also setting new standards - the quality of the raw materials, the re-definition of each olfactory family, always with a red thread.
The in-house perfumer generates the scented maze of a cosmetic house, the invisible architecture of dreams. Millions of customers, using creams, lotions, soaps, perfumes, live the dreams and desires which have been conceived for them behind the red door. Like a golden chain, a perfume is built from fragments and accords. If it is mere duplicated by a simple GC analysis, it will slowly lead the woman to their origin, to the first idea or products still on the market, to the "most holy". If the thread is fragile, not "red" enough but "blue" or "white", the consumer will be guided to other doors.
Like in religion, people adhere not to the Truth, but to the most organized system, the most coherent expression of what they already know. They adhere to order, which has the same significance as in architecture. A red thread which defines the quality of ingredients and reunites the perfumes of the house which do not belong to the same group / family or the same historic period. Rivoli / rue de la Paix   St.Augustin  / av. des Champs Elysées. Street numbers do not reveal the age of the new master when the style is as youthful as the first day.
Before I arrived in Paris, the "most holy" or the perfume lab of a house, was open only to clients and mistresses - women are muses, their skin serves to test the essence. The ART of Perfumes was a notion from the distant past with the exception of 2-3 houses which preserved a certain tradition. There was no intelligent conversation about the depths of this noble profession, except those which were too secret to be considered even real, or those too superficial to have any impact. What is not told, shared or written doesn't exist at all. In house perfumers almost did not exist eight years ago. Could you invite a woman in an empty house?

Do you know l'Amour?
A certain Beauty Gospel is translated into scents which evolve to you redefining the red thread, ni tout à fait la même, ni tout à fait une autreNew perfumes, new beauty products.

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Thursday, May 9

ARQUISTE - "A glimpse into our development process" Guest post with Carlos Huber


Dear readers
This may, the month of flowers in Grasse, I have the honour to introduce you Carlos Huber, founder of Arquiste, luxury perfumes with amazing stories and amazing scents. Arquiste has recently won an important prize in USA. Carlos will share with you his philosophy  "A glimpse into our development process".


I’m always fascinated by the ability the nose has to tie a place to a particular smell. Who hasn’t experienced the smell of the sea on a visit to the coast, or of incense in an old church, mosque, or temple? How about the musty, woody scents of an old house, or the evergreen smell as you hike through a forest full of pine trees? Places are defined not only by their physicality but also by our sensory appreciation of them. Light defines the volumes we see and scent defines an invisible but nevertheless very present spatial boundary also. As in the case of a cloud of perfume surrounding a person, or the exhalation of natural or artificial materials in an actual space, sometimes our nose can tell us a lot more than our eyes about where we are.

I’ve always been very connected to my nose, and every time I recall a place I go immediately to the olfactive memory of it. For example, I remember being twelve and visiting London with my family for the first time. We were staying in a beautiful old-world hotel that had a big bouquet of Madonna lilies in the lobby. To this day, whenever I smell lilies, I think “hotel” and immediately remember the red carpet, red-veined marble columns, and wood paneling. 

Another more recent memory ties a sweet, honey-like whiff of orange blossom with a special visit to the Palais de Luxembourg. I was staying in Paris with a friend who worked in the Senate, and he offered to show me around the palace. It was amazing to see rooms and halls reflecting different periods in a building so significant to French history. I especially wanted to locate one of the original rooms dating back to Marie de Médicis, its original occupant. We finally found a small square room with 17th century gilt paneling and a heavily waxed parquet floor. I smelled the sweet, saturated aroma of orange blossom, and my friend mentioned that beeswax was used to maintain the old wooden floor. I found it beautiful to carry the memory of that special visit with me thanks to that scent. With this type of an experience, you can’t separate the smell of the space from the patina of its surfaces or the “personality” it’s developed.

The experience of working close to building materials and in historic spaces is what inspired the process behind ARQUISTE. This awareness of scent, place, and time is unavoidable when I research a historic site. There will usually be an anecdote that leads me to wonder, “what did that smell like?” or “was the day to day experience of that ‘old house’ the same as it is today?” Sometimes, there’s a particular chapter in the building’s history that is especially evocative of scents. This kind of curiosity, my daydreaming of time travel to experience long gone moments or places is the reason I created ARQUISTE.
I wanted to take the “inspiration” mentioned and used by so many perfumers and base it on a strong foundation of authentic references. 

My approach in developing a “perfume story” is actually similar to the process I was taught in Historic Preservation. You start by looking at a particular site and research everything about it in an effort to understand its significance. This might be a particular historic period important to the building, an architecturally-significant space, a valuable material used in its construction, or its relation to certain important characters. Because every work of preservation involves interpretation, you have to choose a specific direction in order to “restore” that significance and launch it into the present. This will set the tone for the structure you are building. 

Good quality raw materials are essential for a good composition, in architecture and perfume. You have a foundation (base notes), a structure (heart notes), and the ornament or decoration (top notes). The comparison to architecture is not accidental. The architect is the one responsible for coordinating all stages of the building phase to make sure it comes out as purposefully designed.

And how do we find the notes? Well, the answers lay in the story itself. What is the building composed of? What clothing were the characters wearing and what foods were they eating? Is the natural landscape important to the place? Are there any flowers, trees or other notes referenced in the historic account? These answers help me identify the scents of that particular place and time, and we then use those in the perfume formula. For example, the woods used in Fleur de Louis were the materials used to build the pavilion where the French and Spanish courts met in June 1660, and the flowers used were fashionable in the cosmetic catalogues of the perfumers to the French princes and princesses. 
This approach, although quite rationalized, was still experimentmental when I contacted Rodrigo Flores-Roux and Yann Vasnier. It felt a bit like Frankenstein—reanimating matter through the spark of a scent. ARQUISTE finally resulted as a very personal, interdisciplinary collaboration of art, history, architecture, and perfumery.


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Monday, December 17

L'Homme Infini (Divine) - new fragrance review


After the Big Bang comes the Divine particle - L'Homme Infini - a fabulous scent.

In the early 90's an eminent professor from the University prepared me on quantum mechanics for the National Physics contest which I won. Among the many formulae and their mathematical background was a certain philosophy and conversations which I thought more useful for what I always loved - perfumes and organic chemistry. On a metaphoric level, the perfume, a form of LUX in its Latin expression, shows a similar strange duality to the famous particle-wave duality. A physical / chemical dimension of small elements which act around you with a "magnetism" and an invisible power like a "field". No surprise that "magnet", "aimant" and many other similar words related to its forces were used to speak about creations from the past from Coty to Gabriela Sabatini. It is a form of poetry to "explain" the profound effects of the scent which enters your nose - "what you inhale has direct access to your brain".
L'Homme Infini, recently launched by Divine, is one of those perfumes profoundly anchored in a tradition which transcends time or space and links the invisible traces left by its author, Yann Vasnier, in his previous works. Like the previous one, this was an instant coup de foudre.
The essence of Bang, with its strong peppery woodiness, emerges in the dark Druid forest which surrounds the Western coast of France up to the place where Divine was born many years ago. It is a profound homage to the oak, the bitter astringent facet of its bark rich in tanins which are perceptible in several vines. Take the oak of roman emperors, the sacred gui/mistletoe (Viscum) and the houx/holly ilex and you have the expression of divine transposed in a scent from the forest. Many notes are evoked by this wonderful scent - thuya, sage, artemisia, the bitterness of wallnut leaf and nut (nux gallica) and cypres. It is also the natural odor of Christmas because these plants are often associated with this period of the year.
Serene and slightly spicy with metallic elemi and pepper, L'Homme Infini brings something which hasn't been around for many decades - sharp bitterness - and I am thinking about a perfume I love very much with a Tibetan theme (I do not name it because it became too expensive even for me on e-bay since I started to praise very good old perfumes).
At the heart of L’homme Infini (Divine) lies the oak theme, warm and serene, but the new element, compared to Bang and the woody vetiver facet of Terre, is the green element - almost pungent over the soft musky sensual base with new Givaudan musks. 
Like in the previous successful creation, the theme is highly stylized because very modern elements are used to evoke and not to depict known themes in perfumery. There is oud, but not the arabic one (mixed with balms) - it is the wood rich in tanins much like a perfume created for Tom Ford.
Green nutty and abstract smoky with a vetiver which floats between rhubarb and the bitter aldehydic skin of a frozen pomelo, L'Homme Infini offers a sensation of nobility, distinction wrapped in the sensuality of a pure white cotton shirt. Monastic by its "herbal" mixture, but terrible sensual through its woody muskiness, the creation has a profound effect on the wearer without disclosing its "secret" tonality in a similar way to the original Black Cashmere (DK) on the other side of the spectrum.
Those who loved the first Gucci pour Homme with its incense-woody theme, not monastic but sensual, will discover with L'Homme Infini the infinity of nature - the green sacred forests with oak. A concentrate of perfection with a tremendous sillage. It is one of the best masculine launches of the year with none of the classic Parisian tricks - lascive fruity sweetness. 
With L'Homme Infini, Yann Vasnier introduces with grace a new theme in perfumery - the oak - a note well know in oenology, but not as often used in perfumes, with one notable exception sold in a green bottle. A very old creation from Givaudan was based on "green oak", but it is probably totally lost today. 

Oak wreath was a well known symbol in Antiquity

With L'Homme Infini, based on many new ingredients, the art of perfumes re-discovers a very old theme - the wood, the true bark of a tree famous like the tree of life. Like the classic oak crown, the perfume surrounds you with an infinite aura of beauty. When you wear this perfume, you are in the middle of an old druid forest en Bretagne.
Stones, oaks, coup de foudre - this is l'Homme Infini signed by Yann Vasnier for DIVINE.

DISCOVER the DIVINE essence at Dinard - Parfums Divine
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Wednesday, June 20

L'Heure Bleue (Guerlain) - historic perfume review



This year we celebrate one hundred years of pure magic - L'Heure Bleue, the masterpiece of Jacques Guerlain, the most important perfumer of the XXth century with Ernest Beaux.
100 years ago Balkans were the hottest subject in Paris, the Balkan wars of course, but also the curiosity for a world that was totally unknown, full with mysteries, dark stories and amazing decorative elements. Folk art, music, dances, fashion, everything came from the East. Fashion designers took the embroideries like Paul Poiret after a fashion tour in Eastern Europe. Coty became a different person after his first trip in northern Moscow (through South Balkans, Romania would play a capital role in the story of his Empire) and the support he received from Rallet, who supplied the company with capital, distribution, know-how and ... formulae. The most fashionable place in the East was Livadia, the new magnificent summer palace has been recently inaugurated by the Tsar on Black Sea coast, while Peles Castle was the marvel of the Carpathian Mountains. Other less known "trends" came from trips perfumers made with the Orient Express when they discovered a world wild, archaic and scented. But Jacques Guerlain brought the most precious things from a trip he made in Eastern Europe. He brought Kadine, the captive beauty from Istanbul and the idea for the ultimate masterpiece, L'Heure Bleue. He brought also Bulgarian rose oil whose production started at the time when he made Le Jardin de Mon Curé, a quality superior to anything else known in Paris.
Like most of creations imagined by Jacques Guerlain, often with a double meaning and rich poetic connotation, the 1912 masterpiece is both "l'heure bleue" (the blue hour) and "fleur bleue" (the blue flower). It is the perfume of the blue flower during the blue hour, something which has little to do with impressionist paintings and more with the ideals of Goethe, Romanticism and the European folklore, all set in a magic context. Impressionism was Aimé, not Jacques. In Eastern Europe, Jacques Guerlan had a special sensorial experience, something which is unique, archaic and mysterious. Back to Paris he set the wonderful experience and theme in his own universe using for his poetic quest an inspiration previously found in one of his earliest perfumes.
With L'Heure Bleue, Jacques Guerlain develops the four stages of a true masterpiece: the magic moment, the divine inspiration, the aesthetic ideal, the nature reinvented.

1) the magic moment
"L'heure bleue" refers to a special moment of the year which takes place between June 20 and June 24, between the June solstice and the birthday of St. John the Baptist (whose relics are now in Bulgaria). The night before 24 is known as Sânziene in Romanian popular tradition where the oldest European traditions and myths have been preserved. The Romanian source is found in his personal history at the turn of the century, a Guerlain theme I revealed ten years ago. This unique moment in Nature has several meanings - those days the plants have their best odors and magic properties, aromatic and scented plants are traditionally harvested and girls place flowers under their pillow to dream their future lover. All these ancient agricultural traditions are infused with odors and have a very special and highly scented dimension. When aromatic plants are harvested during the blue hour which starts on June 20 but most specifically the night of Sânziene, they have something unique. Cosânzeana is in Romanian folklore the name of the most beautiful girl while the name "sânzeana" is the mixture between saint and fairy. The most beautiful maidens in the village dress in white and spend all day searching for and picking the flowers known as Galium verum they use to create floral crowns they wear upon returning during the blue hour when they turn into fairies dancing in circle. Heavens open during the blue hour and magic events are commonly reported in Carpathian Mountains in places known as forbidden forests. It is because of the plants with a unique chemical profile.

2) the magic plant
One of the herbs used in l'Heure bleue is related to a scented plant know as "Sânziene", the traditional magic plant used in European folklore. Sânziana is a herb similar to "herbe de la saint jean", it has a strong golden color, but the original highly scented type is found only in Carpathian mountains. It is the magic herb par excellence, used against evil spirits and for love spells. There is however a notable difference, the real plant has not been extracted yet for the perfume industry, what you have in l'Heure Bleue is something similar. True Sânziana flowers found in wild forests smells like a mixture of hay, wild thyme and immortelle, with accents of artemisia, chamomile and lavender absolute. "Herbe de la Saint Jean" is also a magic tradition in France, a sorcerer's herb harvested June 23. However, there are many botanic plants known under this name in France, harvested during the blue hour or in the morning with the dew. Only one is the true inspiration of Jacques Guerlain when he discovered the magic scent of a scented floral crown. The "secret" of L'Heure Bleue and one of its original aspects is the aromatic bouquet which crowns the perfume in the most unusual setting. This is the magic scented floral crown of Sânziene discovered one summer during a special trip.

3) the ideal of the blue flower
The blue flower, the Romantic flower par excellence with deep spiritual connotations from Ancient Egypt to Nepal, represents for Jacques Guerlain a flower archetype and one of the earliest attempts into pure abstraction set inside a natural theme. The literary symbol of the blue flower appears as a symbol in the work of the German author Novalis where it symbolizes the joining of human with nature and the spirit, the understanding of Nature - the ideal of Jacques Guerlain. The symbol of the blue flower is at the heart of Romanticism, it is also the ultimate inspiration, the metaphysical striving for the infinite which characterizes the art of Jacques Guerlain. The idea expressed also by Goethe is based on earliest poetic studies concerning the primordial archetypal plant and the Linnaeus system, a flowering plant from which all plant forms might emerge he formulated during his visit of Palermo gardens in 1787. In Italy, Goethe searched for the archetypal plant trying to find the original flower.
The theme of the ideal flower set into an ideal perfume was first experimented by Paul Parquet, the great perfumer from Houbigant who based his perfume on a discovery he made in Bulgaria. He was from the same generation with Jacques Guerlain. The project of Paul Parquet was to construct an ideal form of perfume, a pure abstraction inside the perfume structures which were developed in the past 200 years in France. Jacques Guerlain took the notion of ideal to the most profound level - Nature.   He constructs the blue scent as the Nature would do and for this the study of the correlation between color and fragrance was crucial.
Jacques Guerlain was the Leonardo da Vinci of perfume - meticulous, precise, highly innovative and deeply mysterious. He invented and perfected everything. The portrait of the ideal blue flower is realized through poetic representation. The Blue Himalayan poppy (Meconopsis), a flower who started a real craze among connoisseurs since late XIXth century, is the equivalent of a metaphysical perfume. The flower itself, hard to find in Europe 100 years ago when "poppy" was a major perfume trend, has not a strong characteristic perfume. Forbidden scents like meconopsis were also a part of Jacques's intimate agenda. In order to portray the ideal flower, Jacques Guerlain painted everything in blue, taking inspiration from plants with a particular blue flower. The essence of the ideal blue flower is something found in flowers with a blue to deep purple color. He designed the blue note using the scents of the blue sweet pea, blue heliotrope, blue hyacinth, violet and blue orris. L'heure bleue is one of the most complex examples of the 8th art because everything in the perfume is the result of imagination. Because no real blue flower extract was available in 1912 he imagined the scents of each accord based on olfaction. Blue sweet pea plays a central role inside L'Heure Bleue, it was also a type of flower very popular and highly scented one century ago when horticulturists created highly scented types. A specific blue cultivar was the most scented true blue flower he could use as an inspiration for his poetic representation and understanding what a blue odor might be in Nature.

4) the blue scent
The predominant, but not exclusive, colors of bee flowers are blue, yellow and ultraviolet. Blue is the perfect counterpart of the golden Guerlain bee symbol, but blue scented flowers are not quite usual in the vegetal kingdom and their odor is rather delicate for the human nose. If Nature has developed a strong pigment to attract pollinators there was no particular need for a strong and sophisticated scent chemistry. There are not so many blue flowers with a strong and characteristic type of perfume. Blue flowers like the Himalayan blue poppy or the Egyptian blue lotus have a particular symbolic connotation. They are ideal flowers, flowers representing the quest for infinity. When they have a very delicate smell it is to suggest that their real perfume is beyond the visible world.
One of the candidates for the blue flower of Novalis and Goethe is a variety of sweet pea. They were first domesticated by a monk named Father Cupani, who found them growing wild in Sicily and the original mention of the plant was in 1696 in his book - Horthus Catholicus. They were one of the flowers Goethe might have discovered in Palermo when he discussed the notion of variety in plants. Sweet peas were the plant of choice for the breeding experiments by Czech monk Gregor Mendel on which the entire modern science of genetics is based and this allowed Henry Eckford the great variety of cultivars, sweet pea sensation which started after 1888 when he developed an impressive number of cultivars with amazing colors and sweetly scented flowers. There were more than 250 types in 1901.
The Divine in Blue - Giovanni Boldini

The choice Jacques Guerlain made for the blue sweet pea as his central theme inside l'Heure Bleue is also personal. 200 years after the Italian monk domesticated and mentioned these sweet scented flowers, Jacques Guerlain signed his perfume - Le Jardin de Mon Curé - when he entered in contact with monastic scents and histories. Sweet peas were common around churches and in 1912 a blue variety of Lathyrus, highly scented and highly decorative, was available and it was the inspiration source behind the floral accord with sweet rose-honeyed heliotrope-hyacinth undertones. Unlike l'Origan, where Coty used a base which reproduces the scent of orange flowers, the orange flower is just an ingredient in l'Heure bleue. Jacques Guerlain used a specific molecule for a very different purpose - contrast. Like in a real painting if you want to emphasize the blue, you add something orange - for L'Heure Bleue, the pictorial concept, a very successful technique in perfume design and easy to learn, meant using a strong orange contrast brought by the ultimate molecule of the orange flower note. For the brain, orange flower (fleur d'oranger) smells orange because every time you smell and recognize its odor you "say" orange (and not néroli). The orange flowers are white but the symbol the brain retains is the fruit, its shape and its color - "the odor is what you see".
L'Heure Bleue contains a particular honey note, specially chosen by Jacques Guerlain. First, sweet peas have a delicate sweet honey note, but a "blue flower" perfume cannot be designed without honey knowing that blue is one of the main colors perceived by bees. Honey note is quintessential in this perfume formula because Jacques Guerlain did not base his masterpieces on scent only. True perfumes have to be designed with the true understanding of nature and life where the scent is only a fraction in the general equation. A precursor of l'Heure Bleue in terms of symbol, theme and odor was Azurea (Piver), launched a decade earlier in Paris, another forgotten masterpiece of the 8th Art.
Jacques Guerlain achieves in L'heure bleue the poetic representation of the ideal blue flower set in the magic context of June solstice, the three days when the gates of heaven open during an archaic festival celebrated with a floral crown made of Sânziene.
Another archaic theme, also from South Eastern Europe, is the love potion prepared precisely at this moment during an ancestral ritual. It is known in the West through "A Midsummer night's dream" by William Shakespeare, but its origin and floral period correspond to old Thracia. Both rituals trace back their roots in Antiquity and are related to other less known properties of several scented plants. which could be considered entheogens (entheos = animated with deity + genesis), sacramental plants used in initiation rituals and mysteries. 100 years ago, the flower associated with Shakespeare's opus was considered to be a type of purple pansy. The scent of this Viola tricolor, very woody, was poetically reproduced by perfumers starting with 1890's and in L'Heure Bleue is a very distinct accord created around a molecule produced at that time by Chuit Naef. This floral universe is present in an ornamental interpretation at the entrance of a Guerlain "house". One should remember that none of these flowers is just a metaphor. Euphoric states, love and desire correspond to many chemical marvels of Nature accessible to the expert perfumer's nose, but for the modern man, unable to protect the beauty of Nature and its endangered species, it is better they remain a poetical fiction in a forbidden forest.

Lophophore, the magic bird of Nepal

One century ago, Paris was (re)discovering the ancient roots of folklore and history. L'Heure Bleue was the magic of a summer before the Rite of Spring (1913, Diaghilev) exploring the secret scents of nature when heavens open during the blue hour. The bottle becomes the magic calyx protecting the scented corolla. The stopper of L'Heure Bleue is a heart because Sânziene is a pagan festival of love in the wild Carpathian Mountains. The label is round like the crown of Sânziene flowers and the dance performed at blue hour in the forbidden forest. The curly design on the label and on the bottle is also reminiscent of the Sweet pea flowers.
The magic crown of the fairy, represented by the original aromatic bouquet, is associated with the sweet pea note, a plant with a monastic past and often found across churches (Le Jardin de Mon Curé and the painting used for the perfume ads). This way, the meaning of "Sânziana", both saint and fairy, is recreated in a poetic way by Jacques Guerlain in order to express his ideal - the quest of the blue flower during the three magic nights which start in 2012 on June 20, the summer solstice.
Blue poppy or Meconopsis - in bloom in Nepal. 

The Himalayan blue poppy, was described for the first time in 1886 by L'abbé Jean-Marie Delavay who brought to Paris several small seeds after a visit in Tibet. Jacques was 12 years old, he lived in the new family house with a Renaissance angel decoration near the door and windows with a small green dragon. We'll never know if these flowers bloomed in Delavay's garden, Le jardin de mon curé, because the first specimen brought to Europe officially belongs to Frederick Markham Bailey in 1912, the year when L'Heure Bleue was launched. For this reason, the plant is now known as Meconopsis baileyi. Bailey was a British intelligence officer and he was born in Lahore, the place who would inspire later Shalimar (Jacques Guerlain). Jean Marie Delavay was a great botanist who assembled one of the largest botanic collections in Paris Natural History Museum, most notably the Yunnan collection. It is a place where I go every spring. The blue poppy is used in traditional Tibetan medicine and one member of the Meconopsis family contains powerful molecules acting as psychedelic drugs, but its chemistry has not been enough explored. The blue flower or blue poppy from "Shambala" was an ideal flower in 1912 like Goethe's inaccessible flower, but the imagination of the perfumer knows no space limits when the emotion of sacred flowers and sacred rituals are recreated through poetry.
When Heaven's forbidden doors open every year for three days on June 20, the calyx of the most beautiful flowers reveal the corolla of Nature's marvels - the divine jewels of ideal Beauty. Heaven's sent - the Perfume.


Nefertoum
the Blue God of perfumes with a lotus
(the theme of a rare perfume signed Ernest Beaux, the same period)






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Sunday, June 10

Hedione 50 years - anniversary perfume & scent chemistry


Hedione 50, a molecule, some very old papers & scents from the 1920's
(my collection)

Several months ago Firmenich invited me to join the team preparing the anniversary of Hedione, one of the most celebrated and known molecules of the XXth century. In the anniversary DVD, along with François Demachy (for Eau Sauvage) and Firmenich specialists, I spoke about the impact of this molecule on the art of perfumes since one of the most unexpected historical perfume, retracing the source of the ideal freshness from the earliest Eau de Cologne (XVIIIth century) to Eau Sauvage (1960's),  Acqua di Gio for Men and CKOne in the 1990's. Thanks to Acqua di Gio for Men, a miracle, I understood Hedione before I knew what this molecule is. The perfume has an impressive aura and the 90's were basically these two perfumes for men floating all over around. A perfume is a masterpiece when you can remember it after a decade without any "private" souvenir. Hedione contributed to this magic like Lyral did for feminine flowers and of course a salicylate which is beauty par excellence.
All started several centuries ago in Italy with a perfume formula who knew many variations and names but the same spirit - an ideal freshness - the most known today being the Feminis, Farina and 4711 versions, updated since their first creation.
In the original Italian formula there are two special ingredients of the outmost importance. One is jasmine, the other is orris, they are all present in traces in a time when modern powerful extracts (absolutes) were not known. Italians did other type of extracts, let's say more original. Smelling the original old italian formula I remade this year it is impossible to detect them in the drydown because their purpose was not the odor but the trace effect. They were not used for their characteristic facets (sensual jasmine or powdery orris notes), but for special effects often brought by under dosed ingredients. The mysterious nose who invented the sparkling freshness was searching for a Hedione like material and another special orris component. After 200 years, Chuit and Firmenich solved the XVIIth century mystery and gave to perfumers what they were dreaming since the first formula was imagined in a monastery - jasmone and methyl jasmonate plus an entire collection of jasmine jewels. When natural jasmine is used in trace inside a lemony composition (citron composé), you get the jasmone-jasmonates effect. Every single intuition in perfume design is explained by chemistry which is essential to this art, to understand nature and to conceive new perfumes. Today, every perfumer knows that Eau Sauvage (1966) was immediately followed by the trend of Eau Fraîche where the orris-beta ionone plays a strategic role as it plays in many natural scents, often under dosed. 
The last developpement of the 19th was Eau de Bulgari which is nothing else than the translation of a chemical relation found in Nature, the XVIIIth century principle transposed from lemon to bergamot. Earl grey tea odour is based on bergamot flavoring while the organoleptic principle of Ceylon tea is represented by methyl jasmonate (and other characteristic jasmine elements) plus molecules related to the ionone-damascone family. This is why the odour of tea was already used in perfumery in the XIXth century as I showed in the past.
This desire for abstract freshness which characterized the invention of a new type of "Acqua" appears in 1708 in a letter written by Jean Marie Farina to his brother Jean Baptiste where he describes his creation with these terms (my translation):
"I created a perfume whose odor is the reminiscence of a spring morning where the odors of  wild daffodils and orange flowers are mixed shortly after a rain shower. This perfume refreshes, stimulates my senses and my imagination."
This pursuit for a wild freshness inspired Eau Sauvage where Edmond Roudnitska made the XXth synthesis of three families - the freshness of the original Cologne, the earliest coumarine-lavender tonality of new mown hay and fougère plus the chypre, in its most purist form as it was perfected by Houbigant in the 30's (when the "archaic" labdanum Coty facet was underdosed). 
With Aqua di Gio pour Homme, the ideal freshness, transparent and immaterial, but radiating with a strong sillage, was pushed in a new dimension adding the new watery elements because water itself became available for perfumers - it is Calone, but many other notes which play a major role in the transparent green freshness. They were all discovered by Chuit Naef (now Firmenich) since early 1900's when the company started to investigate the freshness and the "watery transparent" element present in every plant. Every single complex plant odor has its "water/air/sap" molecules which do not smell necessarily like "plain marine water" but act as a fluid giving the true to life dimension in a reconstitution. For instance, Firmenich developed the green watery sometime fruity violet notes, used from Le Parfum de Thérèse to l'Eau par Kenzo. I call these molecules "Odeur Sève" because they refer to the "fluid" of the fragrant plant, which is not necessary green like the crushed leaves, and can be understood once you study "the aesthetics of fluids" related to human body, a concept which belongs to philosophy and art history. 
Hedione belongs to a very complicated and rich family of molecules present in the jasmine like flowers. These jasmonate family might be described as the quintessence of jasmine. Decomposing the natural odor of jasmine into its myrrhiad of facets and molecules, you will discover that some smell jasmine, other are not at all characteristic to this flower, while other have a little contribution to the odor. What makes a jasmine a jasmine, or the inner soul of the flower, has been at the core of the perfume art for many decades. For some it was just a pursuit to make cheaper jasmine versions of the absolute, but for creative perfumers it was the abstract input to play and master a jasmine tonality inside a complex perfume where notes tend to overlap.
A detailed article about the chemistry of Hedione and the modern jasmine molecules from Firmenich can be found in Perfumer and Flavorist 
The Chemistry and Creative Legacy of Methyl Jasmonate and Hedione ( (+)-paradisione, Methyl cis-jasmonate, Hedione and splendione), 
Chapuis, Christian - Perfumer & Flavorist 36/12, 12/2011, p.36-48
"Edouard Demole discovered methyl jasmonate in 1957, accomplished a synthesis of Hedione  in 1958, synthesized methyl jasmonate in 1959, placed both materials under intellectual protection in 1960, and published these discoveries in 1962. "

Firmenich tower when Hedione was made available in 1962
(my collection)

Synthetic jasmine notes are more useful than the expensive absolute because they bring its characteristic notes to light and the concept of jasmine can be manipulated at will. In fact, despite their "chemical" name, they are natural constituents. Jasmine is at the heart of fragrance chemistry at Firmenich for more than 80 years. Ruzicka determined the structure of jasmone in 1933, a compound much used by Roudnitska in his perfumes. Demole made jasmolactone and methyl jasmonate in 1962. Further, these jasmonoids were discovered in other plants as well, sometime in the most unexpected places. In some plants they act as hormones, for some butterflies they are pheromones. 
Many details about the science behind the jasmine notes can be found in the magnum opus Scent & Chemistry (p.259-266). The natural constituent is (-)methyl jasmonate, while Hedione is  methyl dihydrojasmonate (cca 1,8% in Eau Sauvage). Its cis isomer is considered at least 70% more powerful leading to commercial qualities with an increased amount of this isomer like Hedione HC (75% cis). Another commercial quality gives the special cachet to a Cartier perfume I adore. Hedione is present in all modern perfumes, in some it contributes to the amazing quality: First, Cristalle, Anais Anais, Ysatis, Pleasures with Hedione HC, Carita with Paradisone. The amount is 8-20% in these perfumes.  
Hedione, made available in 1962, brought even a more complex dimension - air. The molecule, delicate at first time, is incredible radiant and tenacious having an impact from 0,02 to 20% and more in a perfume. With Hedione the perfumes started to dance and diffuse.  The natural jasmine absolute, the delicate yet characteristic green note studied by Roudnitska, the presence of Hedione and other memories from the early 60's were briefly presented during a conference last year by perfumer Raymond Chaillan. The perfumer would later co-sign my two favorites from the 70's with a floral jasmine note among many other forgotten products.
It is difficult to say which perfume used Hedione for the first time since it was made available for perfumers in 1962. Eau Sauvage (1966) made it famous as a single ingredient, but we should not forget it was made to be used in jasmine bases. 

A floor at the new Firmenich Lab in 1957 when Hedione was made
(from a Max Stoll presentation in my collection)

With Hedione alone, perfumes became a presence, something not easy to obtain in perfume creation. Any composition has a note and the aura of the note, the most difficult to obtain, you can smell it on the blotter or you can smell it around like a real presence in the room. Not all molecules and not all combinations generated in the past 150 years have this amazing property, the ultimate goal of any perfume - pure abstraction and auratic presence.
A perfumer who sought all his life for this unusual property, the perfect balance between "fixed note" and "volatile note", was Ernest Beaux. He passed away in 1961, he didn't had a chance to work with Hedione and all the other swiss jasmine jewels. I was redoing the other day a floral Rallet perfume with 12+ intricate accords which give an impressive result, highly tenacious and highly diffusive in an abstract jasmine context (but not No5). Chuit Naef was very Chanel in terms of style. Their classic compositions since 1920's were so beautiful and abstract. Also, some of them were used in the classic Chanel formulae, both for perfume extracts and the eau de toilette - for instance their collection of roses and many other fantasy flowers which entered in the formulae signed by Beaux I have in my collection. 
Hedione event comes with the anniversary coffret made by Firmenich, a CD with the history (and my picture), an amazing perfume composed by Alberto Morillas and a collection of perfume specialties. Some of the modern Hedione jewels, modern jasmine molecules developed by Firmenich, are present in the anniversary coffret.
The perfume Hedione 50 was composed by Alberto Morillas and represents the lifetime quest of a perfumer for the ideal freshness - the air of a garden, the naturalness and the light. The ideal place where everything is in peace and harmony like several hundred years ago when Farina moved from Italy to North and recomposed the "water" of the new genesis - a new chapter in the history of perfumes.
I was wearing for several months the first version of Hedione 50 (the one presented in the coffret is a modified version). It is hard, if not impossible to speak about light in perfumes as it has no direct olfactory reference and pure white light defies even visual description, it is something beyond, the ultimate sparkle. But the first Hedione 50 translates this sensation of water and light, the rain,  the ocean (a special aldehydic oceanic note), the dew of a garden and the sparkle of water on a rock. Of course it is a woody ambery strong molecule used in touches and the shadows of many ingredients I recognize but not necessary to be used for a description. It has the vibe of Aqua di Gio, Omnia, CKOne, Eau par Kenzo, not their clear, understandable and recognizable "odor shape", but the abstract principle which vibrates through these modern perfumes.
The perfume Hedione 50 is based on a selection of Firmenich jewels, incredible molecules or compositions which are part of global scent culture.
12 key ingredients, like the 12 key accords in the old perfume Ernest Beaux was working for Rallet in Moscow 100 years ago, stand in the anniversary coffret from Hedione.
Hedione, Hedione HC, Delphone, Delphol HC, Splendione and Veloutone (powerful molecules for white flowers discovered during a lifetime jasmine research), Mandarinal, Grapefruit and Tamarine (amazing sparkling citrus notes, compositions with original notes of a bitter, cold and arctic freshness), Cassis (the most famous modern specialty and the global standard for this fruity note in the past 30 years), Sandalwood (the opulence and sparkle of this particular note with mud&Jungle like notes using almost the same combination Beaux did in the woody facet for Rallet with the ingredients available in 1912) and Wardia, the crown jewel of all roses. I love Delphol HC with its pêche de vigne touch, Splendione for its magnificence, Hedione HC and Wardia, all because magnolia makes me dream and mainly the lost Beaux Magnolia for Chanel.
The perfume itself consists of many other intricate notes which contribute to its richness, naturalness and long-lasting freshness - a "water" for the future or maybe the air and morning dew on flowers. The modern bergamot dominates with touches of wood and musk evoking the original accord of CKOne, underlined by a lemon aldehydic grapefruit facet while green galbanum-pineapple notes are mixed with a faint suggestion of rose-tobacco-dried fruits and a sensual woody drydown, so characteristic in sport perfumes with sparkling cocktails. It can be modified in many directions, for instance with Thé Noir Extrait Firmenich, bergamot, touches of guaiac and beeswax 0,1% or a magnolia-narcisse abs 0,1% touch. 
Not a perfume for the market, but a creation for pleasure and joy, Hedione 50 represents the endless Swiss quest for beauty and lightness, a form of youth and resurrection. Not a single obvious reference to the past, except the own perfumes of Alberto Morillas like an abstract code or heart of his creations.

Hedione 50, new molecules and old specialties
(my collection)

What is perfume creation? A future projection and future memory in uncharted lands where the best and new molecules serve for the invention of a new dawn. The past is always the fragrant moment "seen" by the creator, a fiction, as if he had to rebuilt the world once again from pure water - Aqua Admirabilis.
Because perfume is like time machine, two molecules in particular would please Ernest Beaux when he was working in 1912. This is precisely what I did, adding them to the old formula I remade for my pleasure, plus the amazing vanilla CO2 Firmenich I love, regretting that I still haven't found an equivalent for the forbidden musk molecule vibrating in the drydown of Aimant and original No5.
Every good formula from the past can be resurrected when it is understood and when new ingredients are available to make it bloom once again at dawn in the natural cycle of Beauty.

PS: The original Italian formula and Hedione 50 (first version in the big bottle) make a perfect perfume, I couldn't resist the temptation to update the Aqua, adding something even older than the Italian formula because past and future can meet only in perfumes.
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Friday, May 25

Scent and Chemistry - book review and personal presentation

Schimmel, Dragoco, Firmenich, Givaudan - a century of research
Scent & Chemistry - The Molecular world of Odors
plus two special perfumes in my collection

I was born 45 km away from the birth place of Leopold Ruzicka, the man who made the macrocyclic musks 80 years ago and my other name on my birth certificate is the maiden name of his mother. I didn't know that 20 years ago when I first read the high dilution  method he used to make the new musks, a technique I was ready to duplicate in the Organic Chemistry Faculty. The lab was my playground and since then Baudelaire, Lalique and science textbooks share the same place in my room among precious bottles.Don't blame me if I love chemistry, I see no contradiction with Nature and Art!
The new edition of  Scent and Chemistry: The Molecular World of Odors, originally written 20 years ago by Günther Ohloff, is like a perfume, a dense collection which opens the gates to the huge library of odors in the world, a book which can be used in many ways - a manual, a memory tool, the starting point for a scent investigation, an index to more detailed work in the scientific literature. The opus "Scent & Chemistry" is written by three eminent chemists, but it is signed with the heart of a perfumer paying respect to more than a century of fragrance research and it emphasizes the contemporary part of the perfume industry. 
Günther Ohloff (1924-2005) was Firmenich research director from 1968 until his retirement in 1989, his scientific work is documented in 228 publications and 111 patents.
Wilhelm Pickenhagen (1939-) was a research chemist at Firmenich and between 1996 and 2003 head of corporate research at Dragoco. He authored 60 scientific publications and 29 patent publications
Philip Kraft (1969-) joined Givaudan research in 1996, has authored 78 publications and 27 patents and invented Super Muguet, Azurone, Pomarose, Serenolide, Cassyrane, Sylkolide.

The latest chemical research, more than 1500 molecules with their structures, more than 300 new exquisite perfumes using special ingredients, more than 800 references from the scientific literature and more than 400 pages about the molecular world of odors illustrated with the "picture" or Pomarose on the cover make  Scent and Chemistry the most coveted book of the year. It is dense like the most complicated floral absolute and a useful tool when one knows how to use it. It shows that only a small fraction of the scented universe is known. Many jewels are reserved for perfumers and other are kept in precious vials by several chemists in Switzerland before few of them would ever be produced for the market.


There is undoubtely a chemistry between us and our fragrance, between a perfume lover and the perfume, but what is chemistry for a perfume lover?

Chemistry is at the heart of perfume's art and without chemistry we wouldn't be able to speak about aesthetics today. These "chemicals" with impossible names are the bricks of our universe - the alphabet of life. Their study is the essence of knowledge and science of life. The vocabulary of perfumes, extremely rich and dense, but not easy to learn, appeared thanks to chemistry and not exactly because of perfumers. Perfumers rarely speak, evoke, explain, unless they do not fear to lose their "secrets" in an extremely naïve attitude in the third millennium. They do not need to verbalize. But chemists needed a practical, precise and concise approach in order to understand, classify and re-produce the odors of nature since the development of organic chemistry. They were also the first to publish descriptions when patents became a major aspect of the industry. In the contradictory world of perfumes, a chemist is appreciated by the number and quality of papers he signs while a perfumer is often silent like a Sphinx and his name disappears in the sands of time. From this mutual interference art-science evolved the modern art of perfumes and a new understanding of the past.
For instance, what precisely is a musk? Dr. Philip Kraft, one of the authors of Science & Chemistry, is one of the few on this planet who knows in detail what is the nature of this mysterious word which captivates the human kind since centuries. During his research when he invented for Givaudan the new musks (five categories in 2012 presented at p.363)  Dr. Philip Kraft smelled more than 1000 musk molecules, a process similar to what Carl von Linné did for plants when he invented the botanic taxonomy. Smelling one thousand musk molecules is like reading the most encyclopedic definition of a word with all its synonyms in a dictionary. 
The world "natural", unless it refers to something strictly defined by cosmetic legislation in Europe, is very tricky. A ratio between the fragrance ingredients that are truly man-made (they have not been reported in nature) and those which are key odorants in plants, often found in trace and re-produced in lab, will surprise many consumers. Several man-made molecules, not reported in nature when they were invented in the previous decades, were only recently spotted in traces in exotic plants. It is the case of some musks or some molecules which act as pheromones in the animal kingdom, but are not labeled under this name on a perfume organ. It is difficult, if not impossible, to say that X odorant cannot exist in nature.
Under the exotic name "Anjeruk", a modern specialty of Givaudan, you will not find an artificial demon (it contains a sulphur atom), but the key ingredient of "Citrus nobilis", developed after an original research. The recent Delphol HC, Delphone and Splendione from Firmenich are sparkling jewels, the diamonds of the transparent jasmine note with a fruity theme, while Karmaflor is the most astonishing salicylate made after its discovery by Roman Kaiser in the exotic indian flowers of Saraca, now at the disposal of perfumers. Silicon based odorants, still a research theme, open the landscape of an unknown word which smells science-fiction, like the long sought after Spice from Frank Herbert's DUNE.
Learning how to smell and learning what an ingredient stands for is a process which started with chemistry and through the patient analysis of essential oils at the end of XIX century when perfumers began to understand what they were smelling. You cannot know what "tonka bean" stands for until you smell pure coumarin, you cannot understand what "vanilla surabs." can bring in a perfume without knowing vanillin and you cannot describe jasmine without knowing what it contains. If people speak today about "the indolic quality of a flower" and they extrapolate a known quality of the garden jasmine it is because at the end of XIXth century a man called Hesse analyzed the jasmine oil and showed the amount of indol it contains. The vocabulary of perfume art owes to chemistry the precision and the truth. You cannot blend intelligently naturals if you do not know the molecules which makes them or if you do not know the history of perfumes, what other perfumers did with the same "blend" in the past.
For instance, the transition between the ambery and woody family is explained at page 34 of "Scent and Chemistry" with the example of 8 sample odorants: (-)Ambrox, Amberketal, Ambrocenide, Timberol, YsamberK, IsoESuper, (+)cedrol, Folenox.
Organic and analytic chemistry are the microscope of the perfumer. They show what a natural smell is, how Nature generates a composition perceived as an harmonious unity of odors. They allow also the creation of other details often perceived by the nose as a trace or impurity in the general scent. For example, cis-jasmone, (-)methyl jasmonate and (+)epi methyl jasmonate and other jasmonoids occur in a number of other plants providing clues for the creative perfumer (p.262).
Chemists working in the fragrance industry are a special type of artists thinking through craft, a concept I borrowed fro the history of XIXth century art. They imagine molecules, design an incredible variety of scented jewels and select only a few of them which will be used in the future by creative perfumers. While none of them would call himself an artists, they are actually engineering the emotions of the future generations, they generate the bricks which are responsible for everything you'll love and feel in terms of odor. They are  architects of the invisible before the perfume is given a "visible" and memorable shape through the work of perfumer. A great perfume is always the perfect mix between art and science like the building where the architect and the engineer combine their knowledge to create an outstanding work.
The art of perfumes in France is by definition artificial and the aesthetic concept of artificiality shaped this art since the XIXth century and the writings of Baudelaire on beauty. Great perfumes of the XXth century understood the potential of chemistry and placed the new molecules at the heart of their creation. In the past I spoke about Jacques Guerlain and the interest that Guerlain had for chemistry since the very first days of the new science in XIXth century Paris - they had labs, patents, research, even if it was on a small scale, and collaborated with the first companies who sold molecules.

Ernest Beaux said in an interview in May 1952 (my translation from French):
"What do you understand by creation in perfumes?"
"This expression has for me a particular meaning which some would probably judge too restrictive. It is not about making a new product by mixture or combinations of already known bodies. No. Creating a perfume it's about inventing an original composition based on at least one new ingredients which can be given by Nature or by Chemistry[…] I am my only inspiration." 

Rallet lab at La Bocca when Chanel No5 was launched

Since late XIXth century the chemical literature related to perfume ingredients, whether of natural origin or imagined in the lab, increased with an outstanding factor, making the study of scent ingredients for perfume creation one of the most sophisticated areas of interest. With more than 10 000 perfumes around and a number of ingredients several magnitudes higher (considering that every natural has its chemical specificity which must be known by the perfumer) the study of odors is an entire adventure. Unlike any other artistic domain, the perfume art is additive - you cannot omit or discard the previous knowledge as you cannot take out from the blend the oil you have just added. In my library I have the impressive collection of German pre WWII Berichte, other 3 volumes devoted only to aldehydes, and thousands of patents since the first days of organic chemistry. But since that time, the amount of science (the study of naturals and the development of new molecules) became impressive. 
How do you use, learn, study, memorize everything which is under our nose and have an up-to-date picture of the chemistry of perfumes and odor perception? 
The magnum opus  Scent and Chemistry is one of the answers - an entire library is packed inside the 300+ pages like proteins adopting the most clever spatial solution for their complex structure. You open the book and you endlessly read until you know by heart what it contains, like the perfumer who smells his entire life the same essences until he knows how to use them.

2. Scent & Chemistry - magnum opus

The new  Scent and Chemistry  is an up-to-date version of the condensed magnum opus originally written by G. Ohloff in 1990 and it can be considered the most accurate picture of the scented landscape today. It has behind a century of research and the experience accumulated by three noted chemists: Günther Ohloff, Wilhelm Pickenhagen and Philip Kraft. The book started as a first opus 20 years ago, a precise and very detailed presentation of the chemistry of perfumes written by Günther Ohloff, first in German then in English, focused also on the creative side of the industry and the impact many molecules had on new perfumes. Ohloff, is the one of the scientist behind the modern amber notes, a long Firmenich history presented in Paris several years ago during a conference at the SFP. But since Ohloff wrote the first edition of "Scent & Chemistry", an entire revolution took place. More advanced research for naturals, more molecules and of course an incredible amount of new perfumes which demonstrate the possibilities of the new art. The new science is also perception, the relation between chemical structure & odor allowing the design of the new lily of the valley notes or sandalwood. The first book, a brief and concise presentation, has almost doubled in size. 
The new  Scent and Chemistry is a useful tool for every perfume lover to understand and appreciate the science and decades of work behind all major creations. It does the most honest appraisal of the immense science and research behind every new note or creation which seduces the consumer. For instance, the success of Serge Lutens is also the perfect blend between art, poetic sensibility and chemistry and in some cases they use impressive amount of naturals combined with new molecules. Various chapters from Science & Chemistry provide the right information to understand many contemporary perfumes. There is only 2% of rose damask absolute in Sa Majesté la Rose and that's a huge dose today. Iris Silver Mist contains 25% of the molecule Isoraldeine and 4,5% orris butter, while the woody perfumes derived from Feminité du Bois have around 14% of the powerful Isoraldeine prepared from citral. 0,5 % of methyl ionone is found in Cuir Mauresque. Miel de Bois contains the powerful Ambrocenide. Gris clair has 14% of lavandin oil, but also 7% of linalyl acetate. Bornéo 1834 has 8% Iso E Super and 2,3,5-trimethylpyrazine in a Quest base around the impressive amount of patchouli oil. A la nuit contains an impressive 0,35% jasmine absolute, an exceptional amount in modern perfumes. 43% Galaxolide is the main theme in  Clair de Musc.
Chuit Naef Magnolia - based on original Ruzicka's research 80 years ago

In Scent & Chemistry you will discover many of the "secrets" behind great creations, amazing ingredients which made a revolution when they were used for the first time opening new paths in perfume creation. One of the most useful elements of the book is the presentation of the impact of an ingredient through modern creation. A careful study of the landscape of modern creations launched since 1990, the first German edition, brought precious information about the possibilities of both natural and synthetic ingredients. 0,36% Pomarose in Be Delicious for Men (DKNY, 2005) and 0,18% in 1 Million (Paco Rabanne, 2008), 0,09% b-damascene and b-damascenone in Poison (Dior, 1985), 2% isolated (-)(R)-lavandulyl acetate in Brin de Réglisse (Hermès), 0,7% Magnolione in Eden (Cacharel), 11% vetiveryl acetate in Arpège (Lanvin), 12% Vertofix Coeur in Chanel 19.
Many perfumers are so obsessed with their secrets they cannot have a proper conversation about scents while their approach about art subjects is naïve because of poor education and lack of proper readings. I remember a conversation I had in Paris with a perfumer who worked for Chanel and evoked the type of ylang used in the famous perfumes of the house, but when I asked to describe the odor I was gently refused because it was "top secret". Other perfumers have a Sphinx attitude about olfactory experiences which will certainly not help them to get appreciated anywhere. The magnum opus "Scent & Chemistry", because it is written by chemists, shows the details of famous perfumes. No poetic names, notes or fancy words, but the precise ingredient, either natural or artificial, and its relative amount in the formula. It is certainly a small revolution because the perfume is presented with its objective dimension showing the importance a certain ingredient has for the perfume history.

Chuit Naef perfume blotters for the new Exaltone in the 1930's

3. Scent & Chemistry - Opus Structure

1. Historical aspects

2. The chemical senses

3. Structure Odor Relationships

4 Odorants from Natural Sources

5. Odorants from Petrochemical Sources

6. Ionones, damascones and Iso E Super

7. Essential Oils

8. Odorants of Animal Origin

The new Firmenich products when Günther Ohloff was the head of the research

The most interesting and perhaps the most complicated part of the book is the chapter devoted to the Structure Odor Relationships: "the elucidation of the relationship between the chemical structure and the olfactory properties is the basis for the targeted design of new odorants" (p.61).
You will discover the scent and its evolution for nitrile vs. aldehyde functions; for oxa, thio and thia analogs for rose oxide, exaltolide, ambrettolide, furaneol; for sila odorants (silicon versions of linalool, beta ionone, geraniol, Coranol, Mugetanol, Okoumal); for Ge, Sn, Si and even fluorine substituted odorants. Theories about molecular shape and odors are presented along with the scent of (E,Z)-isomers, the steroids and the powerful woody steroids, the controversial existence of human pheromones "the armpit, this charming grotto, full of intriguing odorous surprises" (p.95) followed by the odor rules for sandalwood, amber, musk, vetiver, and the surprising Muguet olfactophore model (p.110), the most gourmand model for the caramel odorants, the marine olfactophore of a new generation of oceanic notes (Azurone, Aldolone), and the enantioselectivity of the odor sensation (the +/- carvone, the S/R celery ketone, the +/- patchoulol, the various jasmine notes).

In this image from my archive you have the team from Dragoco factory at Holzminden (now Symrise) in the mid 50's. Thomas, the chief for analytic chemistry, in the middle, Pampel, the chief perfumer, and on the right the young chemist Günther Ohloff, who worked for Dragoco between 1953 and 1959.

The Dragoco factory, Holzminden 1950's, where 2 authors of the book worked

4. S&C - interview

Tomorrow you will read an exclusive interview with Dr.Philip Kraft about chemistry, perfumes and the new edition of  Scent and Chemistry.

Follow Scent & Chemistry - The Molecular world of Odors on Facebook and Twitter

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Anthuria contained cyclamen aldehyde and the new jasmine molecules Givaudan made in the 30's

All images are from my personal archive (Givaudan, Dragoco, Firmenich, Schimmel).
          
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Fragrance is the 8th Art - Octavian Coifan - Le Parfum est le 8ème Art
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Monday, April 9

Flowers of night and day - Shanghai Lily the perfume


In the book "The perfume lover" I guide Denyse Beaulieu in the world of night flowers, the most powerful and mysterious scented creatures (book review article). In the picture you have Shanghai Lily, my Easter perfume gift for the author. I made it to reflect the ideas of chapter 18.
Small, tiny and delicate, these flowers do not fade. Night flowers do not die, they become stars on the sky as their fragile being is taken away from this world. They are small and white, they have shapes that are less pretentious than the exuberance of flowers blooming at noon. They have no wrinkles, only the perfection of their scent and the complex chemistry which relates beauty and decay.
In daylight, flowers attract with their amazing colors and enchant our eyes with the beauty of their shapes. Their presence is visual, sometime it is even an illusion because some of the most beautiful roses are almost scentless. But flowers of the dark knows only the power of attraction by scent when bees, hungry for precious honey are dreaming.
Perfumes based on roses are the first to fade, they are the first to go out of fashion because we relate them with images. When a rose in daylight is at the end of its natural cycle we first see its visual corruption, the slightly sour odor of fermentation of the flowers who gave their precious honey and were fertilized thanks to hungry bees. It is not uncommon to notice in the odor of some roses or even in the scent of the expensive rose absolute a note of a decomposing universe similar to the vegetal compost in the garden. But when jasmine and tuberose fade and their death is imminent, the increasing amount of indole and similar molecules of decaying flesh will accentuate the nature of the odor. The flower, though naturally fading, becomes more powerful like the last sparkle before she reaches the stars of the night sky. Its substance emerges with even more power.
In terms of perfume cycles, roses bloom when new ingredients are discovered, often found in traces in the flowers, when new aspects of the flower become dominant or when a rose is rediscovered after it bloomed so many years ago and it was forgotten by everybody. Rose perfumes fade quickly from one generation to another and are those who play a major role in the "old lady smell" - it is not the rose itself, but the interpretation, subject to evolution and decay like the natural flower. When people name "rose", they rarely refer to its specific scent, they speak more often about the visual symbol, the image, the cultural idea of a rose, completely immaterial. Show today the classic Bulgarian rose oils, once sold in small vials in Eastern Europe and half will reject with disgust this scent. In the past there were so many roses in terms of perfume specialties because in order to survive as a perfume concept, this flower needed variation and revolution.
La Rose Jaqueminot, the amazing perfume from Coty, could not be launched today, it can only bloom as a scent idea from time to time. The same paradox of the flower is at the heart of Caron classic perfumes who used a lot of fabulous rose extractions - sometime they were in fashion, but many years they simply smelled "old".
Lily of the valley, a flower blooming in shadow in the morning, is the perfect balance between day and night, with a strong dose of rose alcohols and green notes. Until Roudnitska, perfumers made this flower with a lot of rose molecules and even some ionone-violet, like in the perfumes of Coty and Houbigant. But only the addition of the night facet in Diorissimo gave naturalness and eternity to this scent prototype. Often a lily of the valley scent idea ends as a functional perfume and, decades after, a prototype, once original, seems "faded", though it has survived as a different scented product. More a perfume is "natural", fresh and delicate capturing the elusiveness of nature, less chances it has to survive the next decade in a process which mimics the cycle of odors in nature.
When Coco Chanel said she did not want a rose perfume, certainly a reference to her competitor Paul Poiret who started with La Rose de Rosine in 1911, she made also a fashion statement. In 1921, La Rose Jacqueminot had 17 years. La Rose de Rosine had 10 years, their time was over like the note of Angel (Thierry Mugler) which smells teribly old in 2012 for the young generation. When Jean Patou launched JOY, the masterpiece of Henri Alméras used an overdose of rose, but it had also an impressive amount of jasmine - the women who knew the rose in their childhood, a popular theme before WWI, had their madeleine in a new context.
The perfume of white flowers, when it is interpreted with talent by a great perfumer, survive many years in the complex biology of the market as women age and their skin chemistry changes. New and youthful roses do not match their skin chemistry, while old roses, scent prototypes from previous decades, show their wrinkles with accuracy. On the contrary, white flowers do not age, they have an unknown immortal beauty secret. Rose themes can survive only with a very specific perfume combination. It is the same since the first part of the XIXth century and only the notes set around knew a variation.
Rose chemistry is one of the most important fields of research because it supplies the creator with new elements for a scent which is subject to evolution like the natural floral prototype.
Rose perfumes sell everywhere, every time and very easy. But it is rarely the same "universal" and eternal flower because this plant alone as a solinote does not survive. White flowers might not please at first, but they always survive and decades after, when an old bottle is opened, the perfume emerges as if no oxidation has occurred. I have tuberose-gardenia-jasmine soliflores from end XIXth century or mid 20's and they smell as if they were compounded yesterday.
Horticulturists, for obvious reasons, spent their efforts on the development of rose hybrids in an endless quest for beauty like perfumers made endless variations on roses since end XIXth century. Very few things were done in the universe of night flowers, but thanks to Firmenich we have the most beautiful jasmine and tuberose elements.
The rose paradox - constantly asking for new molecules and new scent combinations because the highly popular flower fades like any queen of the day;
The tuberose paradox - the flower lasts many years, often makes a tremendous unforgettable entrance like a night queen;

A woman wearing a rose perfume is always admired but often forgotten unless her rose is a masterpiece. A woman wearing a night flower is always remembered.
Rose perfumes are highly based on new synthetics. It is not only a question of price, I hardly think a classic rose with huge amounts of absolute and oil would sell today, but new rose extractions or different roses used for extraction can change this. Caron did amazing perfumes, but few consumers are still speaking that language of perfumery. Women buy the idea of a rose, not its scent stricto sensu. Roses found in chemistry their most precious ally and thanks to Firmenich we have today all the wonderful products of their research since the late 1950's. Night flowers like jasmine and tuberose are even more expensive than roses, but their extractions are already a perfume which needs little adjustments. A true revolution will begin when perfumers will have other night flowers at their disposal as extractions or even different hybrids of classic flowers they can smell. People smell roses during the day at home, perfumers explore them in public parks at lunch time, sometime they get tired. The flowers of the night are the uncharted territory of perfume creation. Marketers often speak about the perfume which makes us dream …. but rarely they explore those flowers which bloom when we dream. Their dream perfume is many times the rose which blooms at noon and is known by everybody.
The personal perfume is an alter ego, a shadow, it is not a functional smelling good product. It is emotion like those flowers people experience in summer during the evening at night parties - "C'est la fête".
In Shanghai Lily, the personal perfume I made for Denyse Beaulieu to celebrate her book "The perfume lover" (book review article), I used tuberose absolute LMR with a selection of floral notes from Egypt  which make the feminine skin highly addictive and sensual using the technique of "scent quote" I explained in an old article.
Marlene Dietrich as Shanghai Lily / Magdalen in Josef von Sternberg’s
SHANGHAI EXPRESS (1932)
80 years ago and now,
... after 5 years ....
a new present from Madeleine

Did you enjoy my article? Sign up for updates about new fragrances, reviews of artistic perfumes and exceptional vintage masterpieces. I would be very happy if you would consider joining 1000 Fragrances, throughRSS feed,GoogleFriend connect, Facebook (more personal), or any other way that appeals to you.
Fragrance is the 8th Art - Octavian Coifan - Le Parfum est le 8ème Art
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