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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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

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Tuesday, April 3

The Perfume Lover - a personal book presentation


The four posts I wrote in the weekend were maybe a surprise because the literary approach, where reality and fiction were mixed, was certainly not very familiar with my style. I thought it was a more funny way to present a selection of real facts because often a serious tone "ex cathedra" might be considered too pretentious. After all, the Bram Stoker 2012 Awards took place on march 31, Descartes' birthday! But the true reason behind this small writing experiment was the fact that I became a character in a new book about perfumes -  The Perfume Lover - a personal story of scent by French author Denyse Beaulieu.
I met Denyse 5 years ago, before she started her blog. Today her "duende" became reality and the "dominus" spirit hauting every perfume bottle became the "dueño" (master). It was released in our world. She has recently published a magnificent story about perfumes and her dream perfume is now presented by Artisan Parfumeur. She is one of my best students, though my "school" has not the appearance of any formal institution.
We met on the same place where I enjoy my coffee in Paris watching the people entering "La Comédie Française" and the famous characters walking through the arcades of Palais Royal, the magnificent Valois building where Serge Lutens, the scent wizard, had its perfume shop. We met under the auspices of a forgotten masterpiece she discovered - Iris Gris by Jacques Fath. Her vintage version, I later remade for myself, is better than the perfume reconstructed by the Osmothèque in Versailles.
Since then, we've been seeing each other many times, usually it is "domingo" (Sunday), because we share the same area in Paris. In fact, she lives at the angle of the street where a pharmacist worked 100 years ago, he published an important perfume book still in use by those who buy old formulae books. I presented her many raw materials, ingredients, old perfumes from my collection, I advised her on vintage purchases, I shared my experience from my perfume school.
When I graduated ISIPCA there was not a single perfumer in Paris who wanted to take me for what is called "stage" or "apprenticeship". From the 50+ letters I wrote to everybody in Paris all answers were negative. For instance, Firmenich said that I do not have the right age for them to work as a perfumer (which is rather strange because a perfumer can change his appearance at will, as Count Saint Germain would suggest). Since I am a generous nature I thought that many of the things I knew better than others should be shared with the rest of the world. Denyse has been very gifted and I helped her when she set her perfume training in London. She has a real talent and communication skills with young students.
Before her book,  The Perfume Lover, we had another project or idea which obviously did not work because things in France are complicated and impossible. It is futile for us to defend the interests of a country whose name is not on our passport. But I was extremely happy when she finally succeeded to publish her book in UK, "The Perfume Lover", a real story about perfume and an expression of her literary talent. My nature is more objective and oriented towards history and science. If "The Perfume" from Süskind is a metaphor and a work of fiction, the "Perfume Lover" is the real account of the often untold stories behind any great creation. Love, passion, memories, art, criticism and reflection - the objective nature of the perfume captured by the subjective lenses of those who live it.
Denyse Beaulieu is also teaching at London College of Fashion where she does an excellent work which is impossible in Paris but will soon spread all over Europe in other countries more open for perfume collaborations. After all, France is only a temporary host for the perfume industry, its Frenchness is explained in the book and its decline is only a matter of years (read also Jean Claude Ellena about l'impérialisme olfactif de la France in Le Monde)
In  The Perfume Lover, I guide Denyse in chapter 18, after Serge Lutens has condemned her with a perfume, in the world of "white flowers", creatures of the night with dark, potent and vibrating odors haunted by bats and moths, who by the way are responsible for the pollination of these flowers.
What else is the perfume if not the sign of transformation? The trail in the maze of darkness which transforms the dream in reality, after you whispered the invocatio.
"What if I took you to Seville for Easter, then?"
As the years passed and she began working on this book, I often told her "you will become a different woman". The perfume is future memory, she replied quite often. But the nature of this work, whether it is expressed in the literature or in the real experience of the a scent is unknown to us.
"El Duende", the name of a character in the book, is the spirit of evocation which characterizes an artistic performance that is particularly expressive and, as portrayed by Garcia Lorca, it is a demonic earth spirit helping the artist see the limitations of intelligence, to a higher degree than the muse. His arrival means a radical change like a miracle. The perfume too, is capable of Duende because it emerges with power from the human body pointing directly to the soul.
"Seville à l'aube", the perfume imagined by star-perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour for Denyse Beaulieu and now sold by Artisan Parfumeur, is the expression of this fleeting moment from Seville - the orange blossoms in bloom during a procession with incense. One might call this special moment "La Fuite des Heures" as Balenciaga said with his perfume, the gift Denyse made me when we first met in Paris to speak about perfumes.
The book is a wonderful expression about how one's life becomes legend through the work of a perfume giving both a real account of the events and one of its most poetic interpretation. There are many ways to teach or pass a message from the shadow of a bottle to the light of one's heart, but literature has always been one of the best way. When Denyse Beaulieu and Bertrand Duchaufour arrive at the vial 128, the perfume whose development started at chapter 8 with the code name "Séville Semaine Sainte", is ready to breathe and go out in the world. The dream of a forbidden presence becomes real and from the shadow emerges the scent of a new universe.
This miracle is not the book itself, neither the perfume, but something else you will notice in the future. If auto-biography is the technique employed by the author in the rich narrative texture, her real character and companion is "The Perfume" whose secrets are intermingled with reality and fiction. She gives a precise account of its nature, both emotionally and very technical, following the development of the creation imagined by Bertrand Duchaufour. I would say she is both the muse and the client of a special essence she dreamt when she opened one day a perfume bottle - its content is symbolicaly the "Spiritus Familiaris" of the Grimm brothers. How the perfume is made, how it is constructed, preserved, taught, sold, protected, the entire mechanism of the modern perfume industry is presented with delicacy and charm inside this book. It is also the passion and innocence of the author who discovers month after month more amazing things from the infinity of the perfume universe. She's constantly asking for more in an aesthetic addiction which knows no cure. Perfume is like Love.
As I meet with Denyse usually on Sunday to smell perfumes or rare findings, I often came with very old XIXth century perfumes from my collection because I believe that a writer should nourish his spirit with the scents of those he admires and their shadow. The perfume of Marquis de Sade she wrote about in her previous book? It survived in a XIXth century perfume I presented on this blog. Because Denyse studied literature at Sorbonne I thought it was a good technique to "connect", even for several minutes in a modest way, with the air of those glorious years (technique I discovered at Wagner), without revealing her that some of my bottles belonged to some notorious estates.
If the  The Perfume Lover is an excellent reading, it is also because Denyse was surrounded by very good perfumes, as she enjoys only the most exquisite things in life like any Parisian woman who made her life an art performance with "duende".
Her personal perfume she worked with Bertrand Duchaufor for a long time, studying the evolution of every note and idea through 128 trials, is also the reflection of another hidden desire called Embrujo de Sevilla. One Sunday, looking into the photos of Myrurgia glorious perfumes created before WWII (she published an article in September 2008) we both made a secret wish in our heart - to smell all of them. It is not a secret today that foreign masterpieces of the perfume history cannot be found in Paris, the Osmothèque is devoted to the glory of French houses and preserve only those creations which can be remade when the original formula is available. That's why I thought bringing to live some forgotten Russian creations in Paris. But one day, all those orphan scents will be all housed in my Museum along with many other dreams of any perfume lover which are not possible today in Paris.
The book presents with accuracy many aspects of the perfume industry and its history. I helped her to avoid any possible mistake. After reading the book there is still one question - Who is the Perfume Lover?
An old acquaintance from the past, once living in Seville and surrounded by a garden of perfumes? A perfumer who left the amazing city to follow his path? A forgotten perfume house whose masterpieces are to be re-discovered?
Everybody who has ever entered the perfume universe follows the paths of the Book in any of its possible combinations because without perfume and scent there is no life.
The book is a perfect and correct account of the perfume industry where the author is taking a lot of care to sculpt the details, it is also the story of an initiation. The perfume is a Cathedral, it has the infinity of the space, people react to it in an almost religious way. It is also a Cathedral of knowledge which links past and future taking the reader into its maze like the pilgrim who discovers the maze of a gothic cathedral.
If  The Perfume Lover concludes with the presentation of the perfume "Seville à l'aube", a creation of Bertrand Duchaufour for Denyse Beaulieu, now sold by Artisan Parfumeur, the story doesn't really end. After all, the true nature of the perfume is not inside the bottle, but outside, when it is released into the world and is adopted by those who can share their love.
As you have already noticed, I did not unveil very much from the book itself. It is because I consider that every perfume lover should buy, at least two of it, one to read, the other as a present for Easter, and every niche brand who has ever been presented on her blog or mine should buy at least 4 books. As you know, my blog and her blog where we have extensively shared many things about the art of perfume are free. It is a small form of gratitude for the thousands of pages written and a form of gratitude for the support we brought to the universe of perfumes. Texts don't write themselves by magic! In real life you plant a tree, in the world of fiction you buy a book and I have always considered that authors must be supported because without imagination, passion and intelligence an industry cannot live.

One might ask what is a perfume, after all? It is a link between reality and fiction like the picture showed on the cover of Denyse Beaulieu's book portraying "Marie Madeleine", the woman who once kept the most precious vial of perfume in her hands. Do not try to search the nature of a scent only through the chemistry like modern companies do. Try also the imaginary of cultures where every plant and every scent have left their traces, but explore them with the instruments of Reason. Scent is the shadow of the Word and I learnt the most important things not in the perfume books but exploring mythology and literature where the scent becomes the reflection of author's inner thoughts. Like Plato's World of Ideas, perfumes have their own existence.


          



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Fragrance is the 8th Art - Octavian Coifan - Le Parfum est le 8ème Art
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