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October 07, 2009

Inspiration in Perfumery

Perfumers

Fascinating glimpse into the creative process in perfumery (quoting famous perfumers such as Henri Robert, Andre Fraysse, Ernest Beaux and Edmond Roudnitska) excerpted from The Complete Technology Book on Herbal Perfumes & Cosmetics By H. Panda, p. 53-54.

"Different perfumers react to different stimuli. Thus Henri Robert interviewed some years ago, mentioned that he always kept an odour-diary throughout his worldwide travels. On returning to his laboratory, with the aid of these notes, he would attempt to recreate in memory the various olfactive impressions that he had received: 'something suggested, for example, on a May morning on the Riviera or in the heat of a tropical afternoon, the impression arising from a market scene, a visit to the grand magazines or a concert.' He might then decide to translate this or that olfactive reminiscence into a formula. ... The place which he considered the most unfailingly stimulating source of odour-impressions was Paris, or to be more precise, a very small section of the Faubourg St. Honore. Here he was able to find the strongest impression of artistry, beauty and that subtle feeling of elegance so necessary to achievement in the sphere of fine perfumery.

Another perfumery with similar inspirational sources is Andre Fraysse, whose name is so closely associated with the successes of Lanvin. It is recorded that on one occasion in the country, when after a sudden shower the strong odour of wet grass mingled with that of the warm earth, M. Fraysse said, 'The conditions in which I created my first perfumes were exceptional. I was young. I lived in Paris, I was working with Lanvin. Around me daylong were elegant mannequins, lovely and charming women. My work as a perfumer could not but smell of all that and feed upon it. ...' This explains, adds Weriguine [Constantine Weriguine, a perfumer who worked with Ernest Beaux,] a background of femininity in his perfumes, and in his appreciation of earthy odours one finds 'that slightly bitter note that presages the beauty of autumn.'

Weriguine also tells how Ernest Beaux came to create a perfume eventually called Bois des Iles. 'I was given the idea,' said Beaux, 'by Tchaikovsky's opera, Pique-Dame, which excited me so much during my early years in Moscow.'

Formal and informal meetings of perfumers in Paris, London, Rome and elsewhere have been notable for enthusiastic discussion of the odours and flavours of food and drink, and in some respects the immediate environment itself--as at Les Halles, Covent Garden market and in the countryside. To inspire is to breathe in, and this the perfumer does, receiving his inspiration from all quarters.

Edmond Roudnitska has published many observations on perfume and perfumers, and all of them are worthy of attention. On the subject of inspiration he had written, 'A perfumer should be most concerned with expressing his personality in his compositions. His perfumes should incorporate an ideal--his ideal--and should therefore be characteristic, so that they cannot be confused with any other compositions. That is essential. Later on, when he has gained more experience, the perfumer must see to it that the perfume combines strength odour with diffusive power, without dispensing with the finess and purity of the odour. He will have to devote his special attention to the volume of odour, which is usually important in use and is often harder to achieve than, say, the stability of the odour. This is practically guaranteed if one limits oneself to simple compositions and takes careful heed of the reactions of the various ingredients.' "

Photograph (clockwise from the top): perfumers Jacques Polge, Germaine Cellier, Ernest Beaux, Isabelle Doyen.

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