“What makes a fragrance lovely?” I pose a query to Maurice Roucel realizing absolutely effectively that it’s a difficult query to reply. Roucel is a perfumer with greater than 40 years of expertise in creating beautiful perfumes, reminiscent of Hermès 24 Faubourg, Donna Karan Be Scrumptious, Frédéric Malle Dans Tes Bras, and Serge Lutens Iris Silver Mist, and he’s devoted a lot effort to selling the notion of perfumer as an artist, somewhat than a mere “nostril.” “We use our creativeness and our brains greater than noses,” he says.
Perfumery as an intangible artwork could be onerous to champion. Though scents are associated to the intangible cultural heritage protected by UNESCO reminiscent of delicacies and sure arts, they don’t profit from the popularity or documentation. (The Osmothèque, a scent archive primarily based in Versailles, is the primary establishment learning and preserving the historic fragrances immediately.) Fragrance is mostly seen as too subjective to outline and even describe, which makes definitions of creative value difficult.
Roucel, nevertheless, isn’t pausing together with his reply, as a result of he doesn’t know the way to outline “a good looking fragrance,” however somewhat as a result of he’s attempting to offer me a concise rationalization. “A fragrance has to have concord and stability,” he notes, and I consider one among my favourite fragrances, Chanel No 19. It’s a chic mixture of iris, vetiver and moss, and its dramatic impact is achieved via a fragile stability of accords. Roucel began his apprenticeship in fragrance trade below Henri Robert, the creator of No 19, and an analogous pursuit of concord is obvious in his creations.
On the identical time, Roucel is aware of that a good looking fragrance wants a jolt in the course of its improvement, and in Frédéric Malle’s Musc Ravageur, he achieves it by including a contemporary, zesty be aware of citrus to the bitter chocolate-like musk. “A perfume with out character is a perfume with out soul,” used to say my mentor Sophia Grojsman, the creator of such vivid olfactory personalities like Yves Saint Laurent Paris and Calvin Klein Obsession.
“Lastly, a fragrance ought to provoke a response,” continues Roucel, reminding me that like all artwork, perfume isn’t solely about aesthetics. It ought to evoke reminiscences, encourage goals and stimulate feelings. High quality of substances and technical particulars are vital, and so they can contribute an excellent deal to creating a fragrance memorable and authentic, however there’s something, a perfumer’s personal fingerprint, if you’ll, that provides the standard of magnificence. Fragrance is a narrative informed in fragrant molecules, and after we are capable of divine the creator’s intent, the expertise is particularly shifting.
With this dialog in thoughts, I attain for a bottle of Serge Lutens’s Tubéreuse Criminelle. It’s a paradoxical mix of white flowers and darkish balsams. It takes me on a whirlwind journey that features an Indian flower market, incense temple choices and Shalimar gardens. I understand that although Tubéreuse Criminelle is expertly crafted, once I put on it, I don’t consider method or substances. It takes me out of the routine. It makes me fall right into a reverie. It makes my day extra colourful. It’s my definition of a good looking fragrance.
Portray: Paysage bleu (Blue panorama), 1958 by Marc Chagall.