RB: I know that your grandmother inspired you, what was your early experience of fragrance with your grandmother?
Every time I think of my grandmother, I see a small child who was entranced by this woman who was so elegant and refined. Fragrance was very important to her. She placed sachet discs in her drawers to make her leather gloves, scarves and silks fragrant. Upon arriving at her apartment, I would immediately go to the chest of drawers and my small hands would pull out the sachets and silks and marvel at the scented gloves and inhale the aromas. I would watch her get out her big powder puff and powder her body after a bath. Most of her perfumes were Prince Matchabelli's. I loved the Abano bath oil. Delagar bath pearls were particularly delightful as I was allowed to choose the color and aroma that I desired for my own special bath. I learned early on that aroma filled me with delight and transported me to other realms. Even though my grandmother passed away when I was 12, I still feel very connected to her today.
RB: How did Kingsbury Fragrances come to be, that is your grandmothers maiden name, Kingsbury?
My brother Sherwood and I were talking about what name to call my perfume company. My mother's maiden name is Gassen and my maiden name is McCall and neither of those communicated the feeling that I wanted for my company. I thought of my grandmother's maiden name "Kingsbury" and I loved it. It felt right, it sounded right and it would honor my grandmother who had such a profound influence on my experience of perfume. I found the coat of arms for Kingsbury and had it redesigned more in keeping with my symbolism. Of course the butterfly is a symbol of transformation and many of us use perfume to transform ourselves in some way or another.
RB: How did you discover the world of fragrance? What compelled you?
I was introduced to the world of fragrance not only by my grandmother but also by my mother's
garden of Scented Stock, Sweet Peas, Honeysuckle, Gardenias and Roses. I would feel very serene when
I would arrange bouquets of these highly aromatic florals. Of course, boyfriends bought me perfume
and my first important bottle was when I was 15 and I was given a bottle of Shalimar. I have bought
perfume for myself ever since I was a teenager. I loved to burn very expensive highly fragrant candles
that would fill an entire room and move through the house. I couldn't afford to do this very often so
I was compelled to go on a quest to learn how to create perfume candles. That led me on a journey
of buying all kinds of oils and to practice blending. It took me quite a bit of experimentation to create
candles that would do what I needed them to do. What continues to compel me is the creative process
of perfumery and the journeys that I go on when I inhale beautiful aromas as well as the satisfaction
that I get from happy customers.
RB: What led you to become certified in aromatherapy from the Australasian College of Health
I had been studying aromatherapy on my own since the early 1990's. I thought if I was going to work
with all these oils I had better find out more about them, what they could be used for and what oils
blended well with which oils. I found the Australasian College and appreciated what I would be learning
from them. Actually, taking the aromatherapy courses helped to prepare me for a basic course in
perfumery from Perfumers World. There was a lot of overlap.
RB: You went to summer school in Provence, Grasse, please tell us about that.
Going to Provence for summer school at Dr. Malte Hozzel's retreat is one of the highlights of my life. We
went to a farm where we watched lavender being distilled. We also got to see the distillation of rosemary.
We had classes from morning to night taught by faculty from around the world. Some of the classes were
in the field where we were introduced to numerous herbs that had wonderful medicinal uses. We were
able to smell the difference in the "high" Lavender versus Lavender that grew on lower elevations. Our
class had much fun in aroma composition by blending oils and using our tester strips to evaluate our
compositions. My partner Michael came with me and this is where he photographed some of the images
that I use in my packaging.
RB: What led to the desire to create perfume in Grasse, going on Aromatours and creating the perfume that launched Kingsbury Fragrances? What led you on the journey to creating your first fragrance Tres Bon?
Every step on this journey, Raphaella, was leading to creating my own perfume. One day I was online and started searching for perfumery tours. I don't know why I would even think this would exist and up popped Aromatours. I contacted Jim Lewelyn and Robbie Zek and found that there would be a perfumery class on the tour. I was sold. To be able to create perfume in Grasse, the Mecca of perfumers, well it couldn't get much better than that. There was no person that influenced me during the creative process of Tres Bon. All my teachers were all the oils, absolutes, resins, spices and fragrance oils that I had experimented with all the years before that determined what essences I would choose to be in Tres Bon. What guided my selection was to choose everything that I loved that I knew would go together and smell what happened. And Voila!
RB: Were you inspired by any one perfumer?
I was inspired by the perfume that they had created. Only later was I to learn of Francis Fabron, Jacques Guerlain, Bernard Chant, Germaine Cellier and Josephine Catapano. Although I am currently wearing approximately 72 perfumes, not including my own, the perfumes that have particular importance to me are: Edmond Roudnitska, Le Parfum de Therese; Caron, Narcisse Noir; Lorenzo Villoresi, Dilmun and Garofano; L’Artisan, Oeillet Sauvage, Molinard, Habanita; Guerlain, Shalimar and Liu; CdG Avignon Incense; Nina Ricci, L' Air du Temps; Clinique, Aromatics Elixir; Estee Lauder, Youth Dew; Balmain, Vent Vert ; Guy Laroche, Fidji. There are so many…
RB: What was your favorite fragrance growing up-any favorite scent associations?
When I was really young I wore Chantilly, Intimate, Emeraude, Heaven Sent, Shalimar, Tigress and Aphrodisia. The spicy Orientals really work with my skin. I found my beloved Aphrodisia once again through "Long Lost Perfumes" at the Irma Shorell website. Aphrodisia is a Chypre. I can wear that fragrance family very well also. Tres Bon is also a Chypre.
RB: I know you already have many fans for your fragrances-can you tell us what makes your fragrances special?
My customers tell me that what makes my fragrances special to them is that they don't give them a headache. They love how they smell and how they make them feel. They enjoy the element of customized fragrance and the individual attention they get. I create a lot of soap and make hand painted bunnies called "Love Bunnies”, hand painted roses and peonies called "pretty spots". They love coming in buying unique gifts that are not costly and that they would not find anywhere else. I have also created a replacement for the dreaded mothballs through natural moth away closet sachets using patchouli or patchouli, spike lavender and clove. I sold a lot of these at Christmas time. Since using these I have not had trouble with moths. I also think my customers enjoy knowing that they are a part of this creative process and I honor their visions and contributions in my products.
RB: You seem to have developed a sacred mission with aromas, can you tell us about that?
It is a sacred mission when it comes to creating fragrances because I understand very well the power of aroma to move the human spirit into other realms, to help rebalance disturbing emotions -- to uplift or to calm. Fragrance is evocative. And so I feel a certain responsibility with that. And always my intention is to create a fragrance that has the power to do that for my customer. I smile when I think of one of my customers who is on an antidepressant and she was feeling down, tired, just not looking forward to the day. She decided to shower with "Silver Water" and as she showered and inhaled she started feeling more energy and motivation. She had energy for the whole day. She returned to the boutique to tell me "I didn't need to "up" my medication; I just needed to shower with Silver Water." I have also been given very special commissions for memorial candles. We are moving into the realm of the grieving heart. And what fragrance can be created to honor that loved one and to connect with him or her in the symbolic light of the flickering flame. What words need to be written to bring comfort and how do the oils chosen, represent the intention to provide an atmosphere to support the expression of those memories? I have also sent memorial candles for beloved pets that have died.
RB: How do you use aromatherapy with your clients in helping them with rebalancing their lives? You have talked of a harried and stressed mother with a son that suffered from night terrors and a woman with panic disorder-
As you know, I am a social worker Monday through Thursday. As a mental health provider I do a lot of work with helping my clients to rebalance their emotional worlds. Anxiety, panic, depression, post traumatic stress and chronic stress can be debilitating to the body and we can create all kinds of stress related illnesses. Again, aroma goes straight to the emotional brain. Depending upon the aroma it can create rapid mood shifts positive or negative. So I teach my clients about the power of fragrance to help with stress reduction. I worked with a harried mother who was irritable and who had a very young boy about 3 years old who suffered from night terrors. The family was not able to sleep through the night and as a result everybody was pretty cranky. The mother started taking lavender baths as part of her treatment plan and her young son walked in and refused to leave stating "It smells too wonderful in here." When she told me this I devised an evening ritual with her to do with her son whereby they would express appreciation for what was good about the day, read a story and she would place lavender diluted in oil on his forehead and a drop under his nose. He would sigh and go to sleep. Very quickly the night terrors diminished in quantity and frequency until they were entirely gone. Everybody received a good night’s sleep and the stress level went down in the household.
Another client would have terrible anxiety attacks. She reported Vanilla was one of her favorite fragrances. You know patients have been given Vanilla to help them get through closed MRI's. Anyway, I created Vanilla oil for her and she would use it to help herself rebalance when she was experiencing an anxiety attack. There was the interweaving of the comfort of the office, the comfort of the Vanilla and the comfort of my words all contained in those drops of Vanilla oil. The Vanilla oil became an aromatic anchor that could bring all of that together for her instantaneously.
RB: Some perfumes are created from a place of beauty and some, well not so. Tell us what you think-
I know that not all fragrance is created from a place of beauty and healing. Some fragrance is created "Just for fun" and there is no real seriousness to it. And it doesn't have to be. There can be the challenge of "What new aroma can I create today that will be fun, or shocking or downright raunchy?" Look at the coffret that has been advertised to represent the smells that were depicted in the movie "Perfume". I heard that there were a couple of really disgusting compositions in there. I haven't smelled them myself. But they were to represent that particular time and movie theme.
RB: I understand that you believe that perfumery helped you to rebalance after 9/11.
A pivotal point came in my life for my own health. In August of 2001, Michael and I had just returned from our glorious tour of Provence. I had brought back my Tres Bon that I had created in Grasse. It was such a happy time. A few short weeks later 9/11 hit and I was crying every day as so many of us were. I couldn't stop crying, the grief was overwhelming and relentless. There seemed to be no end to it. Out of that traumatic grief emerged a wellspring of creativity that drove me into developing new fragrances, creating soap, hunting for packaging, designing labels, creating text, getting a webmaster and website up and on and on. I created so much that my dining room was overflowing with products and fragrance was taking over the apartment. Needless to say a new company was born and became Kingsbury Fragrances. As a result of all this creativity, my emotional, physical and spiritual worlds came into balance. I became happy and energized again. I often talk to my clients about creativity being a force for healing. When they find a passion for themselves they are happy and fulfilled also.
RB: What is the most amazing fragrance you have ever smelled?
The most amazing fragrance I have ever smelled is "Gardenias from Heaven". I had returned to Texas to see my father before he died. As I drove up to the family home, my brother Jon was in the front yard looking better than he had looked in a long time. He had a special glow to him that day, like he was lit up from the inside. I was hoping to be able to smell my mother's gardenias this visit, but it was too hot and too late in the season and there were no gardenia blooms anywhere. Jon hated to disappoint me with this news knowing that I was on a quest to create a gardenia perfume. That night Jon died of a heart attack. My father was dying in the Veterans hospital. We were all in shock and grief as my brother's death was completely unexpected. And we needed to attend to our father. The next day as my brother Michael and I left the hospital and we sadly walked towards the car, a breeze from nowhere came to us filled with the aroma of gardenias. It left us only to return again and again filled with the unmistakable fragrance of gardenias. For months to follow my siblings and I continued to receive "Gardenias from Heaven." Guggenheim and Guggenheim wrote a book called "Hello from Heaven". Olfactory after death communication is very common and often experienced by more than one person at a time. In ancient times fragrant offerings were sent to communicate with the Divine. In our case we felt like the gardenia fragrance was sent from the Divine to us to comfort us and to reassure us that life and love is eternal.
Different strands of threads that connect us…
RB: What makes the art of perfumery accessible to individuals that was never available before?
As I was preparing for presenting at the Sniffapalooza luncheon on April 1, I couldn't help but think about this whole
journey for myself. And I couldn't help but ask myself what has enabled a Texan; who is practicing social worker in
Pittsburgh, PA to be able to engage in the art of perfumery. Historically, there has been a veil of secrecy which
has surrounded this art form. Today this veil has lifted. Books which educate about the creation of perfumery
and aromatherapy are available to the lay public. As I read magazines on health, I came across a college that
taught aromatherapy. The Australasian College of Health Sciences provided for long distance learning. The College
arranged for summer school in Provence to give us direct access to the experiences of distillation and meet the
farmers who were carrying on the tradition of growing the plants that we use in aromatherapy.
The invention of the internet changed everything. I now had access to a virtual global community that has exploded
in its offerings. I found Aromatours online and was able to tour Provence and make perfume in Grasse. The large
perfume houses in Grasse such as Molinard and Galimard offer perfumery classes so visitors like myself could
walk away with a fragrant creation. There are aromatherapy schools and online perfume schools. After Grasse,
I found online the long distance perfumery school, Perfumersworld which is based in Thailand. I was now able to
have access to different types of perfume materials and to explore what these could do in my perfume compositions
which would not have been possible without the internet. Finally I have become aware of different virtual
global communities such as Natural Perfumery, Botanical Perfumery, Natural Perfumery Boards, Perfumemaking,
Sniffapalooza, Perfume of Life and Makeup Alley.
How wonderful to have found these communities that are filled with people who are passionate about perfume.
I love learning about the perfumers and learning about the structures of perfumes from people who come
together to create perfumes. There would not be this incredible explosion around the art of perfumery without the
internet. I love being a part of this wonderful perfume community that continues to support and nourish my creative
Raphaella, I must compliment you on how you are pulling these various cultural strands together and weaving them into a virtual magazine that supports the perfume community. Thank you so much for this.
RB: Thank you. The niche fragrances have also exploded due to the internet, don't you agree?
Absolutely! People have become very tired of the same old fragrance profiles that seem to be created over and over and over again that end up in the department stores. People are tired of feeling like they have allergic reactions and headaches, I get all kinds of reports and so people are turning more to the niche houses like L’Artisan and Lorenzo Villoresi, there are many now, the niche houses are wonderful and they are sources of inspiration to students of perfumery.
RB: I have heard you say many times “The fragrance needs to “speak to you”, “it needs to move you” and it’s so true. -So, what moves you?
What I mean by that is a perfume must take me on a magic carpet ride. It must take me someplace where I get visions, images or a story emerges or I will not buy it. It must communicate with me plain and simple. Sasha Bard's Ministry of Fragrance’s Malachite is a perfect example of what I mean. I have written about my experience on Sniffapalooza some months ago, however I will share it with you now. I have a ritualistic way that I access this magic carpet ride experience that I talk about. First, I take a bath. And then I spray the perfume that I wish to experience into unfragranced cream which I blend and stroke from my feet all the way up my body. Finally I spritz a few more sprays on different parts of my body. If the perfume is successful, I start getting images right away. Sasha had given me a sample of Malachite, a composition of hers that I wanted to try. Here is my description of Sasha’s perfume:” I sprayed the whole vial all over my body. And then the magic carpet ride began. I am walking under trees, wound by vines of ivy. It is morning and the streaming sunlight has created spotlights of dewy crisp aromatic delights wherever I walk. Each step lifts up subtle woody notes from the soles of my feet to the top of my head. Surrounded by the cool morning, the fragrance promises a lovely day. I can feel a spring in my step. I am surrounded by colors of spring green shading into darker green, subtle shades of earth and wood, sunshine yellow from sunbeams and crisp white linens. The breeze is gentle and fresh." Sasha's perfume was a success for me and so I contacted her right away to buy it.
RB: Where do you draw your inspiration?
I draw my inspiration from the needs of my clients, from the photography of my partner Michael, from the poetry of my brother Patrick, from the signature "1000 Kisses" from my brother Michael, from the mentoring of my brother Sherwood, from the rose petals from my sister's garden, from the vision of a customer's child and from beautiful perfumes. Raphaella, When it come to perfume there is no end to learning about it because it taps into various cultures, ancient rituals, how we communicate with ourselves, how we communicate with others when we perfume ourselves, how we use perfume spiritually to communicate with God (for example; Avignon Incense, which creates sacred spirals for me.) Inspiration is everywhere.
RB: Tell us about your rose fragrance Twilight Rose.
I wanted to create an ethereal rose fragrance. I presented the final composition to my muse, Florence, and she remarked there is something mysterious about this fragrance. All of a sudden I began to experience an ethereal rose garden. Day is meeting Night and surrendering to the gradual enveloping darkness. It is cool and a few stars are captured in the darkest part of the descending night. The floral aroma is fresh, cool and green. Although I am still I can smell the perfume moving all around me. And so this experience led me to call this fragrance "Twilight Rose" I wanted to invite my customer to share in my vision and so I invite her to "Step into the place where Day surrenders unto Night and experience the mysterious floral freshness of --Rose in twilight." My niece Sonia who is 13 loves how this fragrance "wafts." This fragrance is composed of a Tea Rose bouquet with touches of Rose Otto, Citrus, Clary Sage, Narcissus, Green Leaves, Vetiver, Musk and Civet. The sillage is like a garden of roses in the coolness of the Twilight hour. All is aged in organic Grape Alcohol fixed with less than .001% of Benzoin. Available in parfum, cream, soap, candles and potpourri.
RB: Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about you or your perfumes that we have not discussed?
I think it is important for people to know that I keep a few standard perfumes in stock e.g., Tres Bon, Kingsbury for men, Avignon Fougere, Twilight Rose and Fern. However I am always coming up with new products and creating new fragrances -- mostly in small batches. I am always exploring and seeking aromatic perfection. Once I have discovered what I need to know, the creative purpose has been fulfilled and I don't need to make that one again. Also, I work with a lot of naturals and my ability to be consistent is limited by the accessibility of my materials. For the boutique I make perfume products of EDP and EDT, crèmes, candles, potpourri, a full line of men’s products; Kingsbury for Men. I am always exploring different ways to create. I have a completely natural perfume called “Fern” which is composed of all naturals; I like to have one perfume that is all natural. When I move into the aromatherapy part of the business I never use any synthetics-you have to use naturals. Some perfumers use 100% naturals such as Mandy Aftel, Anya McCoy of Anya’s Garden and Ayala Moriel Parfums. That is their passion. I don’t know anyone that works 100% in synthetics. The human nose, I believe, doesn't really care for a totally synthetic fragrance, there has to be an addition of naturals for balancing.
Each person’s nose is unique to him or herself with how they experience the fragrance that they have chosen to wear. They can be choosing the fragrance for it's therapeutic aspects to strengthen themselves for the day, there are many reasons.
Additionally the synthetic Freesia that I use in "1000 Kisses" is no longer made, the Boronia absolute is very dear. Once these materials are gone I will be on another quest and sourcing beautiful freesias is very difficult and Boronia can smell very different depending upon the source. Customers can be challenged to be open to new aromas that are not the same and yet still wonderful. The best course of action for potential customers is to contact me by e-mail and discuss their needs with me. I send out small samples to interested customers who belong to Sniffa, MUA and POL as they are serious. I am unable to update my site at this time. Too busy with projects right now. Hope to get to this later this year after things settle down. Kingsbury Fragrances also carries a full line of soaps with different bases for people with sensitive skin and allergic reactions. The fragranced soaps are also very popular and I have over 50 types of soap molds for special orders.
Raphaella, thank you for sharing my story with the perfume communities at large; and, for showing that this art is available to anyone of us who has a passion to go on this journey.
Dorothy, thank you so much for your time. You are such a beautiful woman and perfumer and have been such a treat to talk to. We all are very excited about seeing you in New York City very soon! We wish you the very best for your continued success.
Dr. Dorothy McCall is currently involved in private practice for individual, conjoint and family therapy and counsels in the field of chemical dependency. Dr. McCall is listed in the “Who's Who in the World, Who's Who in America, Who's Who in American Women, Who's Who in Emerging Leaders in America, and Who's Who in Medicine and Health Care”. She is a certified aromatherapist as well as the owner and perfumer for Kingsbury Fragrances in Pittsburgh, PA and devotes all of her free time to Kingsbury Fragrances creating new perfumes and products.
All the most interesting artists seem to have moved to Brooklyn and that’s where you
can find Christopher Brosius’ gallery on Wyeth Avenue in Williamsburg. In this handsome white atelier stacked with silvery bottles, and accompanied by his scent hound Zephyr, Christopher has assembled hundreds of accords and his signature collection of perfumes. Custom work is his forte and during an individual consultation he can guide you from basic layering into more elaborate personal compositions and fragrance wardrobe development.
I was crazy to sample his leather accords: baseball glove, new shoes, football. And my favorite “old leather” which smells like an antique Parisian opera glove. It seems that the whole cuir genre has never been popular in the general public so I asked him what motivated him to be able to capture these elegant and subtle variations on leather.
JD: Why does someone love a certain note?
I’ve always really kind of liked it and it’s hard for me to say whether I like it because it reminds me of buying new shoes when I was a kid or whether I just automatically liked that smell the first time I went into a shoe store. But it’s definitely a note I’ve really, really liked and I do tend to use them a lot in the basenotes of the scents that I do. A lot of my clients like them and that goes back to that idea that leather scents have always done poorly in America. Because I began to notice back in 1999 that there are groups of fragrances that I myself love and that people who come to me really love as well. Leathers are definitely a group of that, smokes are a group, and tobacco scents. And it’s curious because a lot of the people who love those and buy them are women.
JD: And supposedly leather is a masculine note...
Exactly. And these are perfectly normal women who love that smell for various reasons and
come to me because that is never a part of what the traditional fragrance industry offers them.
It’s just not there. Now they may well be a very small percentage. I can’t say that every woman
in America longs for the scent of leather or the smell of pipe tobacco. It’s been one of the major
tenets of what I’ve always done, which is to offer scents that people want but can’t find elsewhere,
or to make the kind of scents for people who might not be interested in what would be thought of
as perfume or cologne. This is where they can come because they really do enjoy “smells.”
I’ve worked a lot on leathers over the years and there are about twenty-five that I have at the moment,
only a few of which are actually out or on the list. I can go back and get them for clients. But there
are two main scents that I myself really just love: things that are incredibly fresh and green and
always reminiscent of the country, woods, the river, and fields. Or things that are really really sensual,
and leather definitely fits into that category. It is skin so that when it’s on the skin it gives this
wonderful warm deep erotic aura to the skin and that’s hitched into why I think that in this country
leather is rarely a successful note. I’ve often found that even though people will put on a fragrance
because they think it’s sexy or attractive; that is an artificial construct. It has nothing to do with how
they think of the scent itself and when it comes to things that really do smell of human or skin or
sex those same people will run a mile in the other direction.
There was one woman who came here from a blog last summer and fell in love with my musk. And I made that musk to be a really erotic smell. A lot of times when it’s on the skin it doesn’t even smell as if there is fragrance there. You just get this oh my god impression from it which is what it is supposed to do and that’s what musk originally was used for. So it’s been kind of curious because March brought it to my attention that there is this whole group of people who absolutely love it and other people who find it the most revolting, repellent, frightening thing they’ve ever smelled in their lives. And that’s a touchstone for people. And that’s not to say that either group is right or wrong but it’s still a curious thing for me to observe.
JD: Muscs Koublai Khan is just like that. It’s either “this is the skankiest thing ever, and I’d never be able to leave the house with it” or “I don’t like musk but this is the most amazing thing that I’ve ever smelled.”
I’ve loved all the Serge Lutens scents that I’ve smelled and Christopher Sheldrake’s work in general. And that dirty edge... that’s what I think is most attractive about a successful perfume. Leather is as close as I can really get without resorting to animal materials to capture that fabulous natural skin smell. The musk that I did is a first in a series and I have been working on other skin notes that smell wonderful but not as if there is a scent on a person . There was one woman who came in and said she made a special trip here because she had been hearing all this commotion about the musk. William dipped a blotter into it and she smelled it and she said, “This is it? This is what all the fuss it about? This smells good ,” and she took a bottle.
JD: I want to ask you about layering. What about someone who comes in and looks at all of your accords and says, wow this is fascinating but how do I start?
I always give people general directions but I will never tell someone that you have to wear this. Or this is the perfume for you. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about what you think and feel when you smell. So I’ll ask what kind of smells do you like and they’ll say, I like this perfume and that, and I’ll say no no no.. let’s just back up. What kind of SMELLS do you like. And that becomes a much more difficult process because people rarely think about it so specifically. They know it when they encounter it but they have a tough time recalling it. So we’ll go through what do you think about flowers of a certain kind, what kind of flowers? And when the grass is cut? Do you like sitting by the sea and smelling the air? And that’s when we really get to the kinds of smells this person might like best. Then I can point them to various parts of the accord collection and say sniff through some of these and the ones that you smell that you think, oh wow, or even the ones that you think oh, I like that. Let’s set those aside for a moment. And from that we can get down to the smells that someone is really going to enjoy. Now there are occasions, and it happens fairly regularly with custom clients where the majority of fragrances that they pick are earthy, green, a couple of flowers and maybe some fresh water smells, but then they’ve got this group over here that’s hyperspicy or hypersweet or rubber cement or something like that. And they have very specific reasons for responding and loving certain of those things but it doesn’t really fit in with the general group. So we can put a blotter in the ones that you like best and put them together and smell them and just start by smelling them on the paper and thinking about do you like the way that the combined smell smells or don’t you and if you don’t then let’s try another variation. Because the thing that a lot of people don’t truly realize is that they automatically know what smells are going to fit them and what smells are not. People are schooled to think that these smells are bad, even though on some level they are drawn to them which creates this whole level of hypercomplex stuff which is best worked out on someone’s couch. But, at the end of the day, on a really simple level, it’s not that people can’t tell what’s going to go well together, but that often they don’t have the confidence to really say this is for me. Because for years when I first started doing the individual thing with the old company and suggested layering, there were journalists who would interview me and I would say these can be worn singly or you can wear them together. Or you can wear them with another perfume if you like, if you want to bring out a certain flower in your favorite scent , why not? Well, traditional perfumers were horrified.
JD: I’m with you. Open it up to experimenting. Sometimes you get a muddled disaster and sometimes you get something really stunning and you have to have a sense of humor about it.
Disasters like that happen to everyone. The only way you’re going to know is to try it out. For the average person who is just trying it out it’s not going to result in an olfactory stinky mess. So much of that process has already been done for them. Oftentimes with clients who come here wanting to layer, I’ll recommend that they start small and gradually build up because it really does take time to stand, even if they pick two or three things. Give them time to really live on their skin. Think about them under different conditions and situations with different ways that you feel. See how all of that works and then you can start to add another or another or try the more complex fragrances. It’s exactly like learning a new language. You don’t go to french class and think that you’re immediately going to be reading Colette the next day, but as you work with it, it becomes more familiar to you. You become more comfortable and confident speaking it and then you really can become as creative as you like with trying things out.
As soon as he could crawl, James dragged himself into the garden and began smelling the scented pelargoniums and purple bearded iris. He began precociously reading peculiar old herb books and attempted to prepare Hungary Water from rosemary. Since alchemy was not a contemporary career choice, he became a psychiatrist with a fondness for deeply strange things. His current interests include the neuropsychiatric aspects of olfaction, cross-disciplinary studies of smell, healing and magical perfumes, and all things odorous. James enjoys meeting fellow flaireurs and olfactophiles and feels they represent a superevolved form of humanity.
A VISIT WITH MANDY AFTEL
By James Dotson
“ From these scent boxes whose odors once perfumed rosy faces, long ago turned to dust, from these perfume fountains which no longer retain their ‘ scented memory,' and above all from these infinitely graceful and profound pages, it seems that something troubling and delightful, although supremely intangible, escapes: namely, the melancholic odor, the ‘imperishable Perfume,’ of the Past.”
Proust, Contre Sainte-Beuve
Mandy Aftel’s brown-shingled craftsman house is planted smack in the
middle of the gourmet vortex of North Berkeley, immediately around the corner
from Alice Waters’ restaurant, Chez Panisse. After traveling to Paris in the 60’s,
Miss Waters had a gastronomic awakening which eventually led to the “delicious
revolution” of nouvelle cuisine, a revolution that has forever altered our local grocery
stores which now carry fine coffee and exotic produce. Mandy had a similar
olfactory awakening that occurred while she was researching a novel and began
to collect turn-of-the-century perfume books, as she explains in her essay,
“Perfumed Obsession,”: “The books were charming, beautiful and eccentric,
and before long I had amassed a collection of more than one hundred of them.
I felt the thrill of being the first one into the cave that harbored the relics of a lost
civilization....” You can see the passion in her surroundings: engravings of
civet cats, sterling perfume compacts, strange old bottles and all the impedimenta
of a 19th-century lady’s toilette. But of course, center-stage, as it should be, is
the perfume organ with its extraordinary ingredients. Many of her natural materials
represent single harvests or dowager oils which are so limited that they may
disappear after she has composed a scent. Her philosophy is: “ I live on that
edge... it’s not repeatable.”
On the afternoon that I was visiting, she was just back from teaching a class at the French Laundry; it was a special fragrance and aroma seminar for master chefs, vintners and sommeliers. She has a hands-on technique of leading you through various scent combinations, starting with a horizontal pairing (both top notes for instance) and then a vertical pair ( top and base ) where the participants add a drop at a time until they perceive a synergistic locking of the two notes. Mandy has developed her own classification system too, a natural perfumery color wheel that links groups of notes to specific hues, such as the fresh spices ginger and coriander to the color orange. It is a much more accessible key than the family categories like fougere and chypre, and it is significant that she has chosen a symbol system that is entirely natural (the physical spectrum of visible light) as her guide. Her website has a kit and workbook that allow you to experiment at home if you can’t make it to a class in person. Or you can hone your nose by mixing the essence minis with one or more of her perfumes. My recent favorite pairing was layering her Leather Essence over Tango which made for a serious slice of Marlene Dietrich style smoky floral goodness.
For the connoisseurs, Mandy offers a few of her obscure essential oils and absolutes at Aftelier.com. There is a rich boronia that smells like freesias and creme de cassis, and an antique patchouli which is the most ethereal precious-woods patchouli you will ever smell. But here’s the amazing super secret find: Africa Stone Tincture, which is a cruelty-free alternative to civet and castoreum, a product freely given by the fluffy little rock hyrax when it relieves itself in the wilderness. This animalic stuff has a remarkable ability to resurrect perfumes that have been gelded by modern reformulators. I added a miniscule amount to Chanel’s Cuir de Russie and it was as if the composition leaped into a fourth dimension. Just don’t use it straight out of the bottle unless you want to feel like a giraffe is squatting upside your head. I have two bottles at home for perfume restoration purposes.
This fall, something exciting is coming to a resort near you! Renowned Perfume critic Chandler Burr continues his very unique and exciting series of Scent Dinners at a select number of Rosewood Hotels and Resorts around the country. These innovative and interactive dinners combine the artistry of perfume and gourmet cooking and promise to be an unforgettable experience you won‘t want to miss! I recently sat down with Chandler to get an in-depth view from the head of the table…
Mark David: How did the idea for the scent dinners first come about? Had you been thinking about it for a while or was it more of an idea that you acted on impulsively?
Chandler Burr: Actually I'd been thinking about the idea for years. I've always been instinctively drawn to the food perfumes, and I found it fascinating that what in France is a very well-known category, culinary perfumes-les parfums gourmands-is virtually unknown in the United States. Americans don't talk about them, don't even realize that for professional perfumers they're a standard class along with florals, orientals, woods, etc. I'm an instinctive teacher. I was literally a teacher in Japan, where I taught English in my early 20s, but all journalists are simply story tellers and teachers. Combine that with the fact that I'm also an inveterate performer, plus the fact that I write on food, and it was, I think, merely a few weeks after discovering my first culinary perfumes that I thought up the idea for the dinners- a lecture on perfume that I would do in the context of a dinner that illustrated those perfumes via other senses, the senses of sight, hearing, touch, and of course taste.
Mark David: What made you choose the Rosewood chain of hotels? Did you approach them or did they approach you?
Chandler Burr: Neither and both. It was pure coincidence. I had drinks at the Bryant Park Hotel with some of Rosewood's communications people to discuss their properties as traditional travel destinations. Then at the end of the meeting they asked, naturally enough, "OK, so what perfumes should we buy? For boyfriends, mothers, ourselves, what's good?" and I was talking about what I admired, and one of them said, "You know, you really like food perfumes." I hadn't realized it, but I'd been recommending scents like Safran Troublant from l'Artisan Parfumeur and talking about the vanilla in the classic Guerlains. One woman said, "You know, you sound like our chefs" and she pointed out that each Rosewood has its own restaurant, and their chefs are constantly seeking to innovate, find new approaches, do dinners that delighted and surprised. I said, "Funny you should mention that, there's a category called gourmand perfumes, and I have this idea.." They loved it. We started working on it immediately. It took eight months to put together.
Mark David: To plan for this event, where did you start - obviously with the fragrances themselves, yes?
Chandler Burr: Yes. Which is not necessarily the way I'm going to be doing it every time. It looks like I'll be doing a charity fundraising dinner at the James Beard House on West 12th Street on December 7. I've had one meeting with the chef with whom I'm going to be collaborating, Paul Liebrandt, had him smell some perfumes, but we're getting together again in a few weeks for our next creative session, and I may actually take quite a few cues from him. He's know for his inventiveness and creative daring, and if, for example, Paul has specific spices or fruits or vegetables he's interested in creating with, I'll write our script around those. At the Carlyle, Jimmy Sakatos, the Carlyle's Executive Chef, and I departed from the perfumes I proposed to him. So you can approach it either way.
Mark David: What was the process of choosing the particular fragrances that corresponded to the courses like? Once the fragrance was chosen, did you work with chef Jimmy Sakatos closely to conceive the course or did you let him have complete control over the food part of the event?
Chandler Burr: With Jimmy it was extremely specific: At our first meeting I brought in about 40 perfumes that were either in the gourmand category or contained gourmand raw materials, like Estée Lauder's Pleasures, which has a spectacular Firmenich natural pink peppercorn. We went through them, and for the first hour Jimmy just thought I was completely crazy. He's a good Jersey boy, and these guys, as Jimmy said, don't really have much contact with
perfume. I was getting a little worried, and suddenly he tentatively smelled Bois Farine by l'Artisan Parfumeur. The name means "Wood / Baking Flour" and the concept is the smell of baking flour on a wooden plank. It's an astonishing scent. Jimmy stopped dead, and all five of us in the meeting were staring at him. I thought, "Oh, Christ.."
He smells it, he smells it, and he starts smiling and thinking about it hard and he says, "Now this.I could make a terrific bread that smells just like this." And that, the bread course, the very first course of our meal, was the first course we put together. I enhanced the olfactory bread course with some other materials-I actually serve a virtual bread course, I won't tell you how, come to the dinner and see-and Jimmy filled out his culinary bread course in a very interesting way, an idea that at first I thought was strange but that winds up working great, and we were off. Jimmy started re-smelling every single scent and raw material and saying, "I can do a fish with that one! I wanna do a tomato glaze with that.!"
Mark David: What kind of work did you have to do to prepare for the dinner - research, etc.?
Chandler Burr: Basically smelling lots of gourmand perfumes and then spending lots of time figuring out which raw materials we wanted to use. Because of ethical considerations due to my position at The Times, I very consciously chose perfumes from a variety of houses-Lauder, Mugler, Missoni, Dolce & Gabbana,, Tom Ford, etc.-and I use raw materials from all the major scent makers so that I can tell diners about them: Firmenich, Givaudan, IFF, Symrise, and even some from Charabot for one particular perfume I love. Remember that this is a lecture. Its purpose is as much didactic as it is entertainment, guests come to learn-they're simply not learning in a dry lecture hall with a podium but instead in the entirely sensual context of a gourmet dinner whose moving parts and process are the 3D illustration machine. Rather than some Power Point. And central to that is that I systematically deconstruct perfumes, break them down into their crucial components and show the exquisite pieces inside them, like taking apart a Swiss watch and showing watch enthusiasts how the cogs fit together. The point is to allow people to love perfume by understanding it better and by reconceptualizing it. It's self-evident that the more people know about perfume, the more they'll appreciate the immense, difficult work and creativity that goes into this art, the more interest they'll have in it, and the better, more discerning consumers of perfume they'll become.
Mark David: What did you find was the hardest thing about the entire process?
Chandler Burr: Actually the hardest thing in my view was simply our rehearsals. Making the timing work. The thing has to run like an atomic clock. We have pre-dinner champagne for arrivals at 6:45, then curtain promptly at 7 for Act I, an intermission about an hour later, Act II opens after that, and curtain falls, depending on the audience, at around 10 or 10:30. Late arrivals are seated at the discretion of the management so as not to disturb the show. It took us several rehearsals to get it right, get it organized. Logistically it's extremely complex. But as a diner, you don't see the half of that, of course. Any good lecturer-on painting, sculpture, wine, or literature-will try to be as polished as possible. We simply have more moving parts.
Mark David: Did you only use gourmand fragrances? Would you ever choose a Chypre or a White Floral?
Chandler Burr: In Jimmy's and my dinner, it is basically gourmands, but we stretch the boundaries. There is a perfume-again I don't want to say which-that I use for one of our two dessert courses that most wouldn't consider a gourmand. I bet the designer doesn't even consider it a gourmand. But it has a fascinating Givaudan gourmand natural raw material in it. So that's the "traditionalist"- if you will- scent dinner I'll be doing at The Carlyle hotel in New York on Sunday, October 21. But actually I very well may be using chypres and florals and so on in future dinners. Each Rosewood chef will be recreating the dinner from scratch, and thus each property will be unique. My next dinner will be at the Inn of the Anasazi in Santa Fe on Thursday, October 25, and I already know that Executive Chef Martin Rios has some raw materials particular to the South West that he wants to use, peppers and smokes. On Friday, November 9 I'll be collaborating with Executive Chef Fabrice Guisset at Las Ventanas al Paraiso in Los Cabos, Mexico, and then on Wednesday, November 14 with Executive Chef John Tesar at The Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas, and Guisset and Tesar will also take the raw materials and perfumes in my script and create their own culinary illustrations. When we go to Tokyo and the Caribbean in 2008, we'll recreate the experience in those places.
Mark David: What was the most surprising thing that has happened during one of your scent dinners?
Chandler Burr: Um.no one was able to guess one of what I consider the simplest of scents. It was weird. It's like everyone froze for a moment. And when I told them what it was, everyone exploded, "Oh, God, of course!..."
Mark David: As a guest of your scent dinner, what should I know before attending?
Chandler Burr: Don't wear any perfume, and try to avoid using any heavily scented soaps or shampoos before you come. If you're a woman, try to wear a sleeveless top so you can try the perfumes on. Other than that, just fasten your seatbelt and enjoy the ride.
Mark David: How interactive is the dinner for a guest? What kinds of things are asked of someone in attendance? Need they be well-versed in fragrance before they attend?
Chandler Burr: The dinners are, in fact, extraordinarily participatory and interactive. You are smelling, guessing, judging, thinking, tasting, drinking, listening and talking the whole evening. You smell naturals, synthetics, and finished perfumes constantly. But you don't need to know a single thing about perfume, and there is no "expertise" necessary. I ask you to try to identify scents, and everyone has a pad of paper and pen to take notes. Sometimes we play perfume games, it all depends. But the experience is for everyone, from lovers of Serge Lutens and Andy Tauer to those who don't know Charlie from Chanel No. 5. It's about experiencing and interacting.
Mark David: What are your future plans for the Rosewood Scent Dinners? Can we expect a regular series of them?
Chandler Burr: Actually we're working on it. We have some plans...
I would like to thank Chandler Burr for taking the time to speak with us on this most exciting of ventures. If you would like more information, or to reserve your place at the dinner table, all of the details can be found at www.rosewoodhotels.com or www.chandlerburr.com. Bon Appetit!
with Natural Parfumeur Mandy Aftel: The Queen of Green
By Michelyn Camen
Long before we knew we were leaving carbon
footprints, and back in the days when drinking
bottled water was tres chic, there was Mandy Aftel;
owner and founder of Aftelier , the founder of the
Artisan Natural Perfumers Guild creating
fragrances that used only 100% natural ingredients.
Most perfumers and corporations eschewed this
methodology; natural and organic materials were
expensive and volatile. The difficulties of obtaining
only the finest ingredients, distilling essences and
creating natural fragrances were not deterrents to
Aftel’s mission – to disprove the popular belief that
natural fragrances could never achieve the status of
‘fine fragrance’ which used synthetics in their
composition. Aftel founded Aftelier, her own
company and pioneered the way for the
dozens of new fragrances popping up,
hyping that their scents are greener and
Today, many of these companies are
touting their organic fragrances,
claiming that they are certified by
this organization or that, but few can
stand up to the quality of Aftelier fragrances.
Formerly a psychotherapist and currently
an author of six books, Aftel began her
interest in perfumery just over ten years
ago. She was researching the area for her
next novel, where the main character
was a perfumer. She recognized she had
found her calling and started a revolution that we now take for granted as part of our environmentally conscious culture. In fact, one of the most interesting facts about Ms. Aftel’s many accomplishments is that she is working outside parfumery– in conjunction with large corporations such as Glaxco-Smith and with Clean Well to develop ‘green’ scents for consumer products.
BN: Mandy, you are an accomplished writer, and teacher and of course an award winning perfumer… when you think of MANDY AFTEL, who is she?
MA: I don’t really think of ‘Mandy Aftel.’ I am very focused on my work and don’t really
see myself from the outside. From the inside, I just feel so fortunate to be able to do
the work I love – working with gorgeous essences and creating new fragrances.
BN: You have been called the ‘Alice Waters’ of natural perfumes. You were there
at the beginning when organic fragrances and oils were for ‘hippies’ and
‘treehuggers’. How do you feel years later, when everyone is plugging ‘green’?
MA: I couldn’t believe my good fortune at literally ‘following my nose’ and stumbling
into natural perfume. At first I fell in love with the old perfume books – ones from the turn
of the last century – and immediately after that I fell in love with the voluptuous, complicated,
fecal-floral extraordinary natural essences. I wanted to write a novel about a perfumer and
became one instead. I am very pleased that people are interested in natural essences. There is pleasure in knowing that the scents are derived from particular plants and places – that they came from the earth. Much of what is described as natural is of course synthetic, but, as I learned in my research, that dishonesty has been going on for almost a hundred years, so it is nothing new. I genuinely believe that perfume buyers are interested in the beauty, authenticity, quality and complexity of natural essences and are becoming more educated about what they put on their body.
BN Can you define Natural Perfumery?
MA: A natural perfume is made only from pure and natural aromatics including essential oils, absolutes, concretes, CO2 extracts and resins. Natural Perfume can be considered art when constructed correctly, but it always made by hand.
BN: For you Natural Perfumery has been your path for over a decade. What do you think about the major fragrance houses and manufacturers’ marketing tactics that are claiming to be all natural, organic, etc.?
MA: I understand that most of the time their motivation has to do purely with maximizing profit without concern for the integrity of their ingredients and I think this is beginning to catch up with the perfume industry at large. I like that more attention is being brought to naturals and that their inherent virtues are being extolled, but not all manufacturers are actually using them. I would wish for more honesty in the perfume industry. The better educated consumers are, the more they will ask for their perfumes to be created with imagination from better quality ingredients.
BN: Are there global or government standards in place that qualify a fragrance to be considered natural or organic. Is their a difference between natural and organic? I think many of us are really confused by some of the new terms we are hearing.
MA: This is a very confused and confusing issue. Everyone is jumping on the organic and natural bandwagon. I use fair trade ingredients — along with organic and wild-harvested whenever possible.
BN: I have tried other natural perfumes and find they often turn sour or bitter as they drydown. Why is this?
MA: Natural perfumes that turn sour and bitter as they drydown are poorly constructed. Just because someone works with natural essences doesn’t mean that they can create a good perfume. One of the first things I say to my students is that “you cannot throw a bunch of beautiful natural essences into a beaker and call that a perfume.” First and foremost in working with natural essences is a thorough understanding of structure. The cornerstone of fragrance construction is around top, middle, and base notes. This cannot be modified and has to do with the amount of time an essence is perceptible on a scent strip. Top notes last ½ hour, middle notes 2 hours, and base notes up to a few days. A perfume is an art form that evolves in time.
BN: I want to tell you and our readers, your scent Tango by Atelier actually brings tears to my eyes. It is one of
Beauty News and Sniffapalooza’s Best Scents of 2007. We, like many well respected ‘noses’ and ‘perfumistas’
consider it a masterpiece. What inspired you to create this complex and haunting fragrance?
MA: Thank you so much for your kind
words and I am so proud of being a
recipient of this award. Tango was
very very hard to create. I had to work
on it for a long time and go through
many versions until everything was right
about it. It was built around choya,
blond tobacco and coffee along with
champaca absolute and wild sweet
orange. I wanted the perfume to be
like a night of naughty pleasures:
dancing, drinking, smoking, coffee
and sex. Choya is the smell of
burst seashells – very intense,
smoky and sultry, blond tobacco
is warm, slightly sweet and smells
like a cigarette or cigar before it is lit.
Together they formed the base of the
perfume – sweet, musky, and heavy.
Champaca is rich and complicated fecal floral but also sweet and the coffee added a dirty edge to that voluptuousness. My wild sweet orange from the Dominican Republic is a very sophisticated high-register orange that just lifted the heaviness and added a fresh and wild aspect to the citrus at the top.
BN: Parfum Prive is your latest scent and quite a departure from
the collection. What is the story behind its creation?
MA: Someone had some old ambergris that they were willing to sell to me.
Ambergris is possibly the most beautiful smell in the world and the rarest.
I was so thrilled to be able to work with it that I created an accord of
osmanthus flower, ambrette seed and orange flower absolute to build
the perfume around. The rest of the formulation was in service of these
four “break-the-bank” essences. I wanted something that was simply
beautiful with a spiraling quality to it.
BN: Are you working on a new fragrance now?
MA: I am working on a new perfume which will be called Cassis.
I am challenged by the fact that all fruit essences are synthetic
and it is extremely difficult to create a fruity perfume with all naturals.
I want it to be light, buoyant and sophisticated
BN: There is another side to your business that is directed towards
the natural food industry and natural food enthusiasts.
Briefly can you tell us about your Chef’s Essences and who purchases them?
MA: My Chef’s Essences are for use in cooking and they are sourced from
all over the world. I take a great pleasure in sourcing my essences and
will tend to sample at least five to ten versions of an oil before I am
satisfied that I have found the one with the best odor profile and quality.
Much like a good cook, I believe the final creation – be it food or perfume –
can only be as good as the quality of the materials that it was created from.
For example, my fresh ginger is a revelation – all ginger essential oils come
from the dried root but this ginger is distilled from the wet rhizomes and has
a light, citrus spicy aroma and tastes like the freshly grated ginger.
Many restaurants, cookbook authors and chefs buy my oils: Nobu and
Blue Hill in New York, The French Laundry, Coi, and Bouchon in California,
Bill Yosses, the pastry chef in The White House, Harold McGee,
author of “On Food and Cooking,” and Rose Levy Beranbaum of “The Cake Bible.”
BN: Does music, art, literature play a role in your creative process?
If so, who are your muses?
MA: I always create perfumes with music on. Many people do not know
this but my very first book was a biography about Brian Jones of the Rolling
Stones. My muses are Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Lucinda Williams.
All three of them focus on affairs of the heart - love’s ecstasies and difficulties.
For me, they often capture in a lyric some ephemera of a sensual and
feeling-full life. They create beauty from these fleeting moments.
This is my inspiration.
Aftelier fragrances and Chef’s Essences are available at www.aftelier.com. Aftelier fragrances are also available at Henri Bendel, NY. Mandy Aftel’s books can be purchased on www.amazon.com.
all rights reserved www.beautynewsnyc.com
Mandy Aftel, Founder of the Artisan Natural Perfumer’s Guild
Sonoma Scent Studios Reviews
Interview with Perfumer
By Kathy Patterson
Perfumer Laurie Erickson lives in the beautiful rolling hills
of California’s Sonoma County where she is surrounded by
vineyards and gardens. Lucky gal! She took a few moments
in between concocting luscious new fragrances to answer a
few questions for Sniffapalooza Magazine.
KP: When you gardened as a little girl, did you imagine that
someday you would be using these floral aromas to create
your own fragrances?
LE: No, I really didn't. When I was young I didn't have a perfume-making kit, though I did have chemistry and geology kits and worked through various experiments with them. I didn't dream of making perfume though. When I gardened as a child it was for fragrant cut flowers and for vegetables. I didn't start to grow cottage-style landscape borders until I was older, and that's when the perfume and essential oil experiments began.
KP:What are your earliest fragrance memories, other than those of the natural scents of the garden?
LE: Besides the garden scents there are lots of other memorable outdoors scents from my childhood. Since I was very young I’ve always loved a nearby park that has a mixture of oaks, redwoods, and bay trees. I loved the smells of the trees, the dusty trail, the dried grass in the hot sun, and the moist earth by the creek. You walk through a whole series of different plant assemblages in just a few minutes as you pass from the dry oak grasslands to the redwoods by the creek, and all the scents change as you walk. I still love that.
My parents took us camping each summer, so I have lots of
fond scent memories from those trips, especially the freshness
of the mountain air. My brother and I learned that the bark
of Jeffrey pine trees smelled of vanilla, so we had to run
around sniffing all the tree trunks to see which were scented.
I rode horses when I was a little older and have lots of scent
memories from the barn: leather, oats, alfalfa, hay, cedar
shavings, and pungent green grass in the early morning dew.
Of course the holidays have lots of pleasant scent memories
for kids, like Mom’s gingerbread cookies baking and the
wonderful green smell of the Douglas fir Christmas tree we’d
cut down at the tree farm each year.
As for early perfume memories, my Mom didn't wear much
perfume but my grandmother did and whenever we went out
somewhere special her sillage of aldehydic floral scents
intrigued me. My own earliest perfumes were two miniatures:
one of L'Air du Temps with the doves on top and one little
painted porcelain bottle containing violet perfume. I loved
both but sniffed them more from the bottles instead of wearing
them, partly to make them last longer and partly because the L’Air
du Temps seemed so sophisticated at that age.
KP: Are you completely self-taught in perfumery?
LE: I haven't taken any classes, so in that sense I am completely self taught. I feel as though I’ve learned from others through their writing and their fragrance compositions though because I've read many journal articles and books and I’ve sampled thousands of perfumes that have taught me a great deal. Perfumery is part science and part art, and both parts build on past achievements of others and on new materials that become available. Inspiration from past perfumes combines with your own vision, preferences, and style. Studying the classics and learning the materials available is a similar process whether you do it on your own or in courses. The chance to study a whole library full of ingredients all at once would be a dream come true though, and that would have been especially helpful back when I was first starting.
Mainly I’ve learned through years of sampling ingredients and experimenting with them to discover the best ways to use them, and by researching online and in journal articles (I had a science background in college so I’m used to researching via journal articles. I've learned a lot about aroma chemicals from articles in the Perfumer and Flavorist journal (you can subscribe or buy individual articles or get a compendium they publish from time to time). I would have loved to have flown to France to perfumery school, but that's not an option for me. The learning process has been fun though, and there's always more to learn. The deeper you get into any subject the more you realize you have yet to learn, but that’s part of the fun.
KP: What is your personal favorite family of scent and why?
LE: I don't have a single favorite scent family; I love many different types of scents, and that's partly why I got into perfumery. I love florals, woods, incense, and orientals. I love a few chypres but am fussy about them (I do love oakmoss though). The only notes I rarely like are marine, melon, and strong lemon. I don’t have as many favorites in the green family as in the floral and woods families, but I do love a few greens and quite a few musks too.
KP: How do you go about creating a fragrance? How long does it usually take?
LE: I usually start with the heart of the scent, the primary theme notes. I build an accord that I like for that, and then I experiment with other notes that complement that theme accord. I go through a lot of trials that usually take 3-12 months, sometimes putting the scent down for a month while I search for an ingredient that I need. Some scents take more time than others and most average about 4 months or so, but often I complete two at once during that time.
KP: Your site mentions a To Do list. How many scent ideas are you kicking around to eventually produce?
LE: I almost always have about five or six scents in progress. Right now I have Ambre Noir, Lieu de Reves, and Gardenia Musk all nearing completion and I have Fete de Fleur and Zen Musk half-done waiting in the wings. I rotate working on different scents so I don't smell the same ingredients more than 2 days in a row. There's never enough time to finish all the ideas I have in progress. Between filling orders, answering emails, website work, sourcing ingredients, and paperwork, only a portion of my day is left for blending.
KP: Are you happy to stay small as an indie perfumer, or do you hope to increase your market by selling your wares in shops and boutiques?
LE: I've split my fragrances into two groups, one that will be available to boutiques and one that will be sold only online and here at the studio. I have a little list of things to accomplish before I sell to boutiques, and I've nearly completed the list. I just recently had some pretty custom boxes made for my bottles so they would be ready for retail. Now I want to finish a few more of those scents on my To Do list (Ambre Noir and Lieu de Reves) and then finalize which scents to wholesale and which to keep as online only.
Even when I wholesale I want to stay small and continue to offer hand made products with personal customer service. I don't dream of becoming huge; I really like the positives I can offer as a small indie perfumer. I think I still have plenty of growing I can do and stay with those goals though.
KP:What is your all-time favorite smell?
LE: That's a very hard question because I don’t have one favorite smell above all others. As a whole, floral smells probably make me smile the most. I love rose, jasmine, sweet pea, and orange blossom. But I also love the smells of green trees, dried grass in the sun, incense, and woods. For sniffing straight natural ingredients, rose, jasmine, frankincense, labdanum, and oakmoss are all extremely beautiful. In the food category I love the scents of warm spices, tea, coffee, oats, apricot, and mandarin. It's hard to imagine life without the roses in my garden though, so they are certainly very high on my list of all-time favorite smells and may be my best answer.
Sonoma Scent Studios Reviews
By Kathy Patterson
Laurie Erickson is a woman who is not afraid of musk (only 4 of her 14 current offerings do
not include musk of some type). I’m a big fan of the note myself, as is my husband,
so I was thrilled to be able to try a handful of her fragrances.
Vintage Rose is like a glass of strong sweet wine flavored heavily with crushed rose petals. It’s not a powdery, or watery rose, but one that is rich and heady. The plum note not only gives the impression of wine, but also of a dark, unsweetened chocolate. It’s completely delicious and very nearly gourmand.
As the scent dries down, the amber and sandalwood come in to make the scent a little powdery, but no less rich. The scent also becomes quite musky, but only as an enhancement to the dusky rose/plum combo which does fade a bit as the basenotes make their way forward. Hours into the drydown, sandalwood predominates, creating a sexy woody rose aura. Gorgeous stuff.
Although the scent is called Vintage Rose, don’t let that scare you with olfactory visions of dusty, forgotten corsages or anything even remotely “old ladyfish.” Vintage Rose may reminisce a bit, but it is a gorgeous modern scent that is a must-try for rose aficionados.
Kathy Patterson has had an interest in fragrance all her life. Some of her fondest memories involve digging through her mother's toiletries and playing with her scented soaps. (She hated Mom's Youth Dew though.) At the ripe age of 40, Kathy discovered niche scents and Sniffapalooza.
Now she's getting out of hand with the perfume collection, and her husband Neal thinks she's maybe a little crazy. Kathy is a jewelry designer/graphic artist/research analyst who lives in Baltimore, MD with her loving hubby and two cats.
Our favorite SA'S
by Raphaella Barkley
This is the first part of a series that I conceived. There are SO many sales associates that we all love and I decided to let them shine here at Sniffapalooza Magazine.
If you would like to nominate your favorite SA, please email me here to do so. Upcoming issues will feature Jason Beers of Guerlain, Bergdorf Goodman, New York City and many,many more.
Interview with Christopher Lynch
Tom Ford Private Blend Manager; Saks Fifth Avenue, San Francisco
Last year I had the pleasure of meeting Christopher Lynch in San Francisco and was instantly struck by his intense enthusiasm and knowledge of fragrances.
I have personally seen his collection so imagine this: Take the fragrance department of Barney's New York City and that is the equivalent of Christopher's personal collection at his home. Imagine owning a collection that would fill Aedes in New York City- Possibly bigger than that, it is absolutely mind-boggling. He owns every Bond. No 9 fragrance ever made. As he took me around with great delight and introduced me to everyone in the fragrance industry in San Francisco, I could tell that he is very well loved and he knew everyone, wherever we went. Don't let his incredible personality fool you though-he is very serious about fragrance and has a huge wealth of knowledge which he loves to share.
Christopher, tell us about yourself and what are you currently doing?
Well I am Avid Fragrance connoisseur who loves educating people
on the beauty and history of scent. I am a bit of a “Fragrance Celebrity”
on San Francisco’s Union Square so that is Humbling. I am currently the
Counter Manager for Tom Ford Private Blend at Saks Fifth Avenue
San Francisco. It is the hottest brand out there and we have the
Northern California Exclusive at 384 Post Street/Powell on Union Square.
I heard you had some insane collection of fragrances, tell us about that.
It started when I was 12, but has really blossomed especially as of late!
I started using my parents Avon products because I loved the bottles!
I then purchased drug store brands and yard sale finds. I am quite star
struck so I also collect Celebrity Scents. I love commercial bottles
and minis, factices, and collector’s bottles. It then progressed to
full line collections as well as tester units, fragrance books, bags, etc.
I am a big kid in a never ending candy store and cannot choose just
one-ask my Partner Russell!
You seem to know everyone in the fragrance industry in the Bay
Area, which was a lot of fun when I met you; it was like a
continual party walking in the different stores and all the
fragrance departments with you. Everyone knows you as well;
I guess you are somewhat famous in San Francisco!
That is so true what can I say? I started in this business almost 20 years
ago in Phoenix. Even when we moved here in 2000 I would see reps and
co-workers and even customers at the stores, on the streets and the airports.
It is fun and I never forget a fragrance face. I love walking all over our fine
city and taking in the scenic sites and running into people I have known.
I have even run into reps and models in Seattle, Alaska, Hawaii and
Salt Lake City!
I heard that you own every Bond No. 9 fragrance there is. Tell me
your top five Bond’s.
Other than Salivating for the new Lexington Avenue arriving any minute,
I love all of their fantastic scents. Westside- the bottle the scent and
long lasting (I Blend it with Chinatown and Bryant Park; New Harlem
and So New York - sorry a tie, and layered together, is calorie free Heaven.
Little Italy because Russell wears it well and the candles are the best to
scent our pad! Chinatown- What a bottle a true art piece and
Andy Warhol Silver Factory
You recently got to spend time with Sarah Jessica Parker, tell us
OMG!!! After driving all of the Saks Fragrance department insane over
the "save the date" so I could attend in Pleasanton, CA it was so worth it!
It was definitely worth the three year wait to meet her (I was laid up with a
leg injury the first time and bad flu the other). I love her and love SATC
(movie still good the 5th time). She was down to earth, sincere and looked
absolutely incredible! I am saddened Covet is on its way out but I wear Lovely.
The new Covet Pure Bloom is soft and great for summer a mélange of Hawaiian
flowers with fruit. The pictures are fun to show my clients and I got the photo
on a necktie, T-shirt and mug. I not a stalker I swear! SJP is the real deal and
I have met a lot of Celeb’s so this was it for me.
You are currently at the Tom Ford counter at Saks Fifth Avenue San
Francisco on Union Square. Tell us about that.
It is quite an honor to be sought after to return to Saks after a 2 year absent
as an employee once again. I have enjoyed the vendor side and am excited
to introduce and nurture the Tom Ford Brand with the most professional and
seasoned Fragrance team in the Bay Area.
What is the best part of being a sales associate in the fragrance industry?
Interacting with new and established clients to entice and excite them on their
quest for a unique brand that few have experienced. I also enjoy finding a scent
for a client when he/she has worn a discontinued fragrance looking for something
similar. Michael Edwards Fragrance’s of the World is the best Industry source.
I had the Honor of meeting him in March at Bloomingdales. I saw him
walking around the counter with his book in his hand and asked him if it
was him-another celeb sighting and he signed the new book to me-WOW!
Finally I love to wrap up the purchase, making it an adventure to be enjoyed
by the client and them leaving feeling like a superstar –like SJP or Me!
Also telling a client we do not have an item they have come in for that day
and they have to wait it out till stock replenishes
Name me your top ten fragrances, currently.
Tom Ford Private Blend- I blend Noir De Noir with Tobacco Vanille, LOVELY –Sarah Jessica Parker, my signature when not at work, Chanel Les Exclusifs- I own all 11 and waiting for the new one this Fall, -if I had to pick one I guess 28 La Pausa for summer (do we have summer in SF? Ha-ha) Kilian –LiasonsDangereuses (just purchased when he was in our store last week) Bond No. 9 Bryant Park, Covet Pure Bloom –Sarah Jessica Parker, Kilian Love by Kilian, Covet –Sarah Jessica Parker, In Love Again-Yves St. Laurent and Chanel # 19 Edp
What is your favorite Tom Ford fragrance?
Noir De Noir
Tell us why you love fragrance so much and what it means to you, say, other
than your job and work environment with fragrances.
It is my true Passion and has even become somewhat of an Obsession. It is my true essence
and I feel naked with it all around in every aspect of my life. I have always loved beautiful things
and smells. I remember being a young child at my grandmother’s in Maryland wandering around
her rose garden sniffing and getting into trouble playing at her beautiful vanity. That is probably
why I love Chanel # 5 to this day. I have just decided I am bathing in it tomorrow to revive those
wonderful memories and be the true fragrance DIVA I am!
Is there anything you would like to add before closing?
I am very glad to be interviewed for your wonderful magazine. It was so fun to have met you
in San Francisco. Enjoy life, its fragrant memories and please stop and smell the Roses of life!
Please feel free to call or visit me at Saks Fifth Avenue Tom Ford Beauty counter. (415) 438 – 5367
Fragrantly and Fondly, Christopher Lynch San Francisco
Special thanks to Nilson Fernandes and Randy Moore; Cosmetic Deptartment Managers,
Romano Ricci is one of niche fragrances’ most attractive new faces. He is the owner
of Juliette Has a Gun, a brand that sounds more like the name of an alternative rock
band than a perfume company. Romano is a RICCI; the grandson of perfumer Robert
Ricci, and the great grandson of the fashion icon Madame Nina Ricci. Before founding
his new company (which launched at Henri Bendel in 2007), Romano Ricci was a race
car driver, had a bad boy reputation as a playboy and someone who was always ready
to party. Yet, he studied fragrance for over five years at an obscure company who did
not recognize his last name. Now Romano is developing a master plan for his new wave brand.
Of course we all want to know why he named his company after a gun toting woman,
but I suspect she is the modern day incarnation of Shakespeare’s Juliet, who would
shoot any Montague that came between her and her man. His first two fragrances
were created around a rose accord, but his newest scent, (which is set to debut in
the Fall), called Citizen Queen, is a 'chypre noire' and seems an irreverent nod to
Orson Well's Citizen Kane and dare I say...Rosebud?
MC: Congratulations on the success of your two fragrances Lady Vengeance and Miss Charming. Is there any significance that your two inaugural scents are rose based? I am a lover of symbols, like my Juliette, rose is a flower you have to handle with care… or it can hurt a little…Olfcatively, it was also a flower which I thought had a good potential for expressing what I wanted to say with my fragrances.
MC: Romano growing up a Ricci. What is your first fragrance memory?
Having lived a 100 meters from the Nina Ricci factory all my childhood, my first fragrance memory was a mix all the perfumes that were manufactured there! It is a very special smell…indescribable (too many notes), and incredibly powerful! I have also a very strong memory about my grandfather’s perfume. I remember him, his house, his clothes smelled Signoricci. It was a sensual and masculine fragrance. To my point of view, one of the best male fragrance ever.
MC: The large PR machines of the fragrance industry are waking up to the fact that they are not connecting with the many women and men that they are targeting. Do you see an awakening among consumers that fragrance is an Art, more than toploading and a famous face in an ad? Will consumers DEMAND quality? I think perfumery in the fifties was real perfumery, very qualitative, creative, and urbane at the same time. Today, it is a very different. It has become a gigantic business, with worldwide companies aiming for maximum profit. I am not against evolution but I have to say, it sometimes a bit sad to see great names on that kind of products. But on the other side it is good, because it leaves some room for a brand like Juliette.
MC: You were a race car driver and also someone who enjoys the night life. When did you say, “OK, now I am ready to be a serious perfumer.” What and when was the turning point? It comes very naturally when you run a company. You simply put your energy into something else.
MC: You have been in the media and you are generating plenty of buzz. Tell us something we don't know about Romano Ricci, something we have not read elsewhere. I am not the dandy the press talks about. I am romantic and much more passionate than the image of me they portray.
MC: You must be fearless to be a race car driver. There must be something you are afraid of, what is it? I am frightened of heights. Even on chair!
insert citizen queen here
MC: What can we look forward from you in 2008?
The ‘third episode’ of Juliette, called Citizen Queen, (an "aldehydic chypre with animalistic notes") And will be available in October. I am working on a little fashion collection that I am drawing with my sister, and many other ideas I want to concretize.
Patricia, could you please tell us a bit about your background leading up to your career in perfumery?
Plants and flowers have always interested me, and my family had a gorgeous garden filled with all kinds of flowers
including roses, lilacs, flowering trees, and some really earthy tomatoes. Early on, I was president of the junior garden club. Perfume was always a topic of conversation at home. My mother and older sister were intensely interested in perfume, so there was plenty around the house, including Magie and Arpège. My sister and I were the recipients of many bottles of perfume that our parents would bring back from Michel Swiss or Freddy in Paris. Later, when I was studying dance in Paris, I would wander into the Caron boutique, the Galeries Lafayette or the couturier boutiques to sniff around. Cooking was also a family enterprise, and I've always felt that there is a correlation between cuisine and perfume. Although it's difficult to maintain a genuine interest in gardening in the middle of New York, I do have a plant story. We have a hearty, mature twelve foot tall Dracaena fragrans that we named Homer just for fun. One time we came back from vacation in the middle of winter. The apartment had been cooler than usual. When we returned home and opened the door, a wildly fragrant flowery tropical smell hit us. We looked at Homer and there was a huge spray of white flowers on its own new branch. This has only happened once, but it reminded me of how intoxicating real flowers can smell, and how beautiful scents make life so enjoyable.
Tell us about the fragrance you’ve created called Brandy. My husband told me he didn't like the perfume he had given me, and he didn't like the samples I had brought home either. He found them harsh and unappealing. It was at this time we noticed that the formulas of some of the classic fragrances had changed. Without much deliberation, I decided to blend my own perfume.
Your muse was a palomino horse named Brandy, correct? Yes, Brandy is a striking palomino with a wonderful, playful nature. I was writing and illustrating a book about him when I got the idea to compose a perfume. It is well known that horses don't like perfume, and I was aware of this when I decided to make my own perfume. The horse's sense of smell is far more acute than any human's, and they must use this sense of smell for survival. Just think of the length of the horse's nose – it's far longer than any nose in the perfume world.
There must have been a defining moment that led you to produce this interesting and beautiful fragrance, other than meeting Brandy, the famous horse, what was your exact vision? I wanted to create a perfume that would be pleasing to women and men, less harsh than what was generally available, yet with the characteristics of a fine, classic perfume. The apple, apple blossom and peach notes with the suggestion of rolling aromatic meadows were meant to make a soft statement, and I knew that apple is appealing to horses.
I understand that you originally created the first Brandy formula before you took it to a major house for distribution? My father was a chemist and inventor, so I had a role model, and I had an idea that I could come up with a formula. Carefully mixing various notes, and having Brandy the horse on my mind, I put in special notes that appeal to women and men, and to horses, too. It was a “eureka” moment, adding some ingredients that aren't normally found in perfumes.
How did you come up with putting all the notes together at first? That must have taken some time - I tried to steam distill some of the notes in my kitchen, which became my laboratory, and then found better already existing ones. One note I discovered while reading a Dick Frances novel, something that horses like that is not generally part of the perfume vocabulary. When I finished mixing and measuring a number of batches with variations on the formula, I brought some of the batches to Brandy the horse to see if he approved. He preferred Batch #5, just like another famous perfumer. My husband also approved of this same formula. We believe that having the input from a horse resulted in a fragrance that many people like.
What differentiates your fragrance from other fragrance lines? What is, in your opinion, the distinguishing characteristic of Brandy Parfum?
I believe that Brandy is delicious right in the bottle, also from the minute it goes on the skin. This was true of both my original formula and the finished formula from the great perfume house we used. There's no dry down waiting period. Even though it develops like a traditional perfume, the top notes, heart notes and base notes all interact beautifully with the skin. The base notes never become rank, which for me is a problem with many perfumes. Also, with other perfumes, I sometimes like only the top notes whereas with Brandy, I like it from top to base notes. It's as if Goldilocks found everything was harmonious and “just right.” There's also a trend nowadays to make perfumes with overly strong notes, and this was also something I wanted to avoid.
Please share some highlights of your journey into perfumery. The process of going from my original formula then working with a great perfume house that helped perfect it was very exciting. We were fortunate to work with a top perfume house. They told us they got a lot of pleasure working on the Brandy project and admitted that having a horse in the equation was definitely quite amusing. I also enjoyed designing the logo of Brandy as a Greek coin. This was really another “aha” moment. The American Numismatic Society was a valuable resource by showing me some magnificent Greek horse coins. When I designed the combination of a “human” looking eye for the logo and an overall look that was less militaristic than Greek horse coins, my husband and I felt that this coin image matched our newly-created subtle fragrance.
I have to tell you, I have never quite smelled anything like this fragrance and it is very unusual, I love it and it does seem to have some effect on the psyche, it is rejuvenating yet relaxing and very unusual. It is unisex as well, my husband loves it. It morphs into something just gorgeous on my skin.
I wanted the fragrance to be suitable for both women and men, but I didn't want just an ordinary unisex scent - it had to be different. The packaging design had to be appealing to both sexes as well. My personal taste is for “tailored” looking packaging, but not overly modern and generic. That would in my mind contradict thousands of years of the function of perfume, to fulfill the magico-religious needs of people. Even if contemporary life only has vestiges of this function, at least the modern perfume user should be able to feel enhanced and important while anointing himself or herself. Visual stimulation initiates the process, then the act of spraying perfume continues to enhance the persona. Brandy fragrance is meant to be alluring, refreshing and help reduce stress. I wanted it to be a bit understated, too, so that it can be worn in the theatre, restaurant or office. We've been told of people wearing Brandy in the office to help put the boss in a better mood or to counteract a cranky boss.
“BRANDY is lovely. It’s just what I like to wear.”
I also took Brandy to my local equestrian riding center and tried it on humans and horses; I received many friendly nudges from happy horses, so that was amazing. My horse, Sister, loved it as well. I find the buzz about the horse crowd very fascinating.
We're very grateful to the equestrian community for promoting Brandy. One of our fans is an equine extremist who tells us she wears Brandy while training her horses. My favorite phone call concerning Brandy was from a British thoroughbred trainer calling from Palm Beach. He asked me if he wore Brandy would the horses like him better? My answer was yes, I think he should try it. We also have a following in the dance and skating worlds, and among actors and singers. We've been told that Brandy helps performers relax. There are a number of chefs who wear Brandy, too, which is most rewarding because they have a discriminating sense of smell. As for the rest of the world knowing about Brandy, we'd welcome that. We do get inquiries from abroad from as far as Indonesia. The word about us seems to be spreading.
What was your favorite fragrance growing up? It's hard to choose just one, but the following were definite favorites at one time or another: Cabochard, Câline, Calèche, Bal à Versailles, Fidgi, and Shalimar.
What one fragrance in the world do you wish you could have helped create? Lancôme's Sikkim, from 1971, with notes of bergamot, one of my all time favorites, Bulgarian rose, ylang ylang and other flowery notes, then green, and spicy notes but not heavy, just different. There is an aura of mystery and glamour surrounding this fragrance, just like the kingdom/country it represents, in between Tibet and India. There was a colorful episode in Sikkim's history that put it in the news quite a bit, when the U.S. socialite, Hope Cook married the Chogyal (ruler) then, later divorced him. Two years after Sikkim's launch, the country made steps to divest itself of royalty, which was finalized years later. Perhaps this political unrest doomed the continuity of Sikkim perfume, which is a shame. Looking on line, I noticed that those who bought the 2006 reissue were happy with it, and some men decided it was more for them than for women. I was afraid to buy the 2006 reissue, that now no longer seems to be available. The cost of the original ingredients and modern sensibility would probably have dictated changes. Even though Brandy is quite different, my memory of Sikkim is one of the inspirations for creating Brandy.
What was the most unexpected element of your journey into perfumery? Seeing the number of errors made in manufacturing. We were fairly lucky that we didn't have major mishaps, but we were told stories about larger companies that made major errors. Our printer told us he was so glad we made the trip over to Germany to watch the box run because an approved proof is much less reliable and results in wasteful mismatches and press runs that have to be redone. Printers' inks are always changing, and running a proof on a large press is very expensive for the printer. We saw the huge remains of a printing job gone wrong for an important company that the printer told us could have been prevented if they had sent a representative to watch the box run. We were also told of huge mis-measurement errors for caps for a large company. The perfume/cosmetics industry may be interested in going green, but they can also easily prevent waste by having designated personnel to monitor production.
And I understand you now have a scented body lotion? Our Body Lotion is based on our own formula and is made for us in Switzerland. It contains shea butter, vitamin E, green tea and honey, so it's quite nourishing to the skin. One podiatrist in New York recommends our lotion to his patients with dry skin. The lotion can be layered with our Eau de Toilette or worn alone.
Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about you or Brandy that we have not discussed? Brandy is a fragrance that people seem to really appreciate for its own merits. There's no hype about image, or manipulation by massive PR. Brandy wearers are loyal, too. Our stores and fans who write or call tell us that they buy it over and over. Hearing that we have repeat customers is quite satisfying because we wanted to create a classic fragrance that would endure.
Where are your fragrances available at? Brandy is sold in perfumeries, boutiques, and saddleries around the country, and on line at various stores and through our web site: www.BrandyParfums.com and Aedes
Patricia, thank you so much for taking some time out to visit with us at Sniffapalooza Magazine, we wish you the best!
I quietly love the transient quality of life and the dynamic forces of it that are exciting to feel, like change and energy. It is through these forces that I consciously experience nature and life, which then allow me to sublimate into scent. Infinitely ephemeral, this is deeply satisfying to me. Since I am driven by challenges and fascinated with the duality of life, this phenomenon stirs me and inspires my creative endeavors like perfumery/art. With these life these influences I have been lucky enough to experience making art in many forms like painting, writing, jewelry making, cooking,raising Hank and Luke and now olfactory art.
Could you please tell us a bit about your background leading up to your career in perfumery? After leaving Boulder, Colorado, where I studied painting and printmaking, I moved to Los Angeles, where I reluctantly (liked the city madness but could not connect with the offerings) made my home for 10 years. There I continued to paint at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena and simultaneously cultivated a career as an Art Director in the film industry. Then, looking for a deeper connection, I left the artificially perfumed elevators of LA behind in search of a purer environment. I packed my bags and moved my two young sons an hour and a half north to the magical Ojai valley. The connection was instant. I was in love. It was here that I found sweet inspiration to create my Trance Essence perfumes.
What inspired you to start a fragrance line? Inspiration in this case started with the simple liberating fact that ‘I could’. I sampled the Sage perfume line at Fred Segal many years ago, perfumery and how it got to be was somewhat abstract. Since it is an industry dominated by big corporations and I had not experienced positive associations with wearing commercial perfume, I was not compelled to look beyond a quick sniff and the bottle and package designs. My introduction that day to Sage at Fred Segal was a defining moment. The dots of my senses were connected.
What differentiates your fragrance from other fragrance lines in the niche market and makes them special?
The design and distinctness of Trance Essence was dictated by my openness to the creative process. Through this, it is my design of the combination of essential and perfume oils that give Trance Essence a cleaner more natural aroma than most commercial fragrances. They were designed to enhance the wearer’s own body scent as opposed to the perfume dictating the body scent, which commercial fragrances tend to do. And, unlike a completely natural perfume, they have a depth and complexity that you don’t get with perfumes that use exclusively essential oils.
Inspiration: My inspiration comes from a need to be creative and to translate my history and life experiences. And, the natural environment in Ojai is a platform from which I seem to find maximum creative inspiration at this time in my life. There is a mystical quality that this valley holds; an undeniable force and has inspired many creative and spiritual souls to reside here. It is not surprising that Ojai has been a haven for many creative people and spiritual leaders like Judda Krishnamurti.
Each perfume was inspired by history, these forces and incidental moments are translated into scent. When I am blending a scent I visualize each essence as a character. Each of the scents in a perfume has line weight, tone, texture and an energy that dictates the next note. Of course, there is an overall structure of base, middle and top notes to the perfume, just as there are formal elements that give structure to a painting like composition, light, shadow, shade etc.
What are some of the most popular fragrances and/or products in the Trance Essence line and what about them do you think makes them register to so many people? Genie In a Bottle and Hail Merri are very popular. Genie has seductive qualities that are very appealing and Hail Merri has a unusual combination of an earthy freshness that people respond to.
Tell me what you love about fragrances, why is it important to all of us? The variety of perfumes available is amazing! The range of creativity that fragrance embodies is infinite – and thanks to the niche brands we are starting to experience this to its potential. From the packaging to the jewel like bottles to the little mysteries inside, fragrances of all kinds invoke the imagination in a way that nothing else does. They speak without talking.
What are your favorite smells and which ones do you dislike? I love most smells and they all hold some interest for me. My earliest childhood memories are of natural scents of the outdoors like, cut grass, mineral smell of wet earth and leaves burning in the street that my father raked from our yard in the fall.
What power do perfumes have power over people, do you think, if any? Scent is powerful for humans and animals alike. Wearing perfume is a personal statement and therefore it plays a huge part in the psyche of the wearer; it allows for a certain confidence or whatever power the wearer allows it.
What is it about the fragrance industry that you find most disappointing? Looking at this from a positive perspective, the emergence of the niche perfume market is moving a new direction being established. Evidence of moving past the stale pandering of stereotypes in advertising is noticeable, with less about image and more about substance. Ingredients and process are becoming more important to the public.
I absolutely love “your look” on your marketing and PR materials, it is quite stunning. How did you come up with this imagery? I am very interested in the plant spirit medicine aspect of essential oils.Since the essences are derived from the entity of the plants I wanted to pay homage to the beauty and abundance that they give us. The eye logo is a visual metaphor for a window to the soul. The perfumes are a window to the soul of the plants. It was the collaborative chemistry of my imagery and design concept and the immensely talented designer who gave life to the boxes that defined my look.
I understand that Pamela Anderson, Kate Hudson and Laura Dern also love your fragrances. How did that come about?
Pam and I have a mutual friend. She and Tommy love the Pink Kat. Laura Dern was visiting her mother, Diane Ladd, in Ojai. They were shopping at a local store, Bhavantu, and both bought the same for themselves, Abbey Rose and Genie in a Bottle. Goldie Hawn bought my entire line of roll-ons for her daughter Kate Hudson in Venice at Coutula.
Janna Sheehan will be attending the Sniffapalooza Fall Ball in New York City in October and will be at Henri Bendel Saturday, October 25 with her special trunk showing of her products.
Magic In The Air
Review Trance Essence Genie In A Bottle
By Felicia M. Hazzard
If my instincts serve me right, and normally it will; Janna Sheehan, perfumer/designer will be a household name in the world of perfumes. Janna created Trance Essence Nectars. It is a collection of six exotic scents and each of the nectars contain up to twenty-five essential and perfume oil elements. But, let me tell you about my absolute love in this collection and that is Genie In A Bottle.
I received the perfume oil sample of this collection and I took one sniff and I was immediately transformed to Casablanca. I didn’t
read the descriptions about each of the nectars because I was just randomly choosing and I thought Genie In A Bottle was a cute name for a fragrance but when I did read the description it stated something like this…seductive, potent with exotic oils like jasmine, vanilla, organic frankincense, bittersweet chocolate, black tea and black pepper to infuse magic…
Egypt and just as I thought, it said Morocco. No, I have never been to North Africa, but I do know that Egypt is where perfumery was established around the time of the 18th dynasty. No wonder I felt so alive, alert and energized. It gave me an overall feeling as if I can conquer the world.
Genie In A Bottle is an exceptional fragrance and it is to be treasured by being placed in a sacred spot on a dresser or in an armoire. In my opinion, Janna Sheehan has certainly captured the world of perfumery with mystery and magic in a bottle. Not only did I find a ‘genie in a bottle’ but I found a gem as well.
Ms. Ilacqua, please tell us about the Téo Cabanel history and company. I understand it was originally
created in Algiers in the nineteenth century.
It was actually created not too far from Algiers, in Boufarik in 1893 by a French doctor: Théodore Cabanel.
The Cabanel company dedicates itself to creating essences for colognes. It also grows its own orange trees.
Téo Cabanel sets up in Paris in 1908 and soon becomes the Duchess of Windsor’s favorite perfumer.
The brand is highly appreciated by an exclusive clientele. Théodore Cabanel’s daughter then chooses to follow
in her father footsteps in the true craftsman’s tradition of “Maître Parfumeur”. She will be creating perfumes
until the age of 92 years old.
What an incredible history this company had, what led you to it, how did you discover it?
Mrs. Cabanel was the last member of the Cabanel family. She never got married, had no children and was an
only child. She was my mother’s godmother. She considered my mother as a daughter and therefore decided to
donate her the company. As my mother was working in a very different field of activity she gave me the opportunity
to take over the company. I was already very interested in the perfume business as I had been able to immerse
myself to the perfume business while spending time at the Téo Cabanel premises. Starting from the 150 perfume
formulas I inherited, I had to work on new and modern products. I started to work on the packaging and marketing plan.
It is only a few months after that I was introduced to Jean-François Latty a very famous perfumer who created Eau Dynamisante (Clarins); YSL for Men and Jazz (Yves Saint Laurent); Givenchy III as well as many other fragrances for companies like Coty, Van
Cleef & Arpels, etc. He is now our in house-perfumer and is working only for Téo Cabanel.
I understand that the daughter ran the company in the true tradition of “Maître Parfumeur”
after her father’s death. Can you explain to us the linkage between the founder and his daughter?
Mrs. Cabanel was an only child and was the most important thing in Théodore Cabanel’s life. The father and his daughter were very closed. They had a very special relationship. She was spoiled by her father all her life. They were traveling a lot together in order for Théodore Cabanel to find inspiration for the creation of its perfumes. When he died, she decided to not disappoint her father and to follow the true tradition of “Maître Parfumeur”. She did so until she died in 2000 at the age of 92, she was still working. She was not a perfumer herself and lived her whole life on the formulas her father created. Nevertheless, she was very good at selling and marketing her brand.
I understand that Téo Cabanel was the Duchess of Windsor’s favorite perfumer and was
appreciated by an exclusive clientele of private connoisseurs as well as pharmaceutical
cooperatives and independent pharmacists. Tell us about that.
As I told you before and thanks to the success his creations encountered in Algeria, Théodore
Cabanel decided to come back to Paris in 1908. He opened a store in a very aristocratic
surrounding called “Montmartre”. It was an immediate success. He became highly appreciated
by an exclusive clientele of connoisseurs who were coming to his shop to buy their perfumes as
well as their “extraits de mouchoirs”. He also started to sell its fragrances to pharmaceutical
cooperatives and independent pharmacists. At that time, people were buying their perfumes in
pharmacies when they had no local shops close to their house.
The Duchess of Windsor was in fact a very faithful client for years. She considered Téo Cabanel
as her favorite perfumer. Each time she was in Paris she was ordering litters of two creations of
Théodore Cabanel: Julia & Yasmina. We still have letters written by her private secretary on
the hotels Ritz or Meurice writing paper.
Obviously you have a great deal of experience in the industry. Please tell us about
yourself. Are you also a perfumer? Actually, I didn’t have much experience in the industry
before working at Téo Cabanel. I took over the company at the age of 22 (5 years ago). Before
that I had been working several months as an account manager for the advertising agency
Ogilvy & Mather in Dublin, Ireland. But as mentioned before, I had been immersed in the
perfume business from very young.I was spending a lot of time with whom I considered as a
grandmother: Mrs. Cabanel. I learnt a lot with her. I am not a perfumer myself and this is
the reason why we have Jean-François Latty with us. He is the creator of all the Téo Cabanel
perfumes. To date in the industry, very few brands have their own perfumer. This is why we can
consider ourselves as very lucky to work with such an experienced artist and professional as
Jean-François Latty. I am still learning a lot with him. I am giving him the brief for each new perfume we decide to create and he is the one who builds the fragrance. I have always been passionate by the perfume industry. It was then easier for me to learn about fragrances. I spent hours reading books about perfumes and smelling ingredients in order to know how to recognize them!
At the young age of 22 you actually took up the responsibility of re-creating and managing Téo Cabanel and leading it into the future. You must have felt a great deal of passion for this lost company. What motivated you to resurrect it? I couldn’t be indifferent as I have alwaysknown the Cabanel company. It has always been part of my life and the Cabanel were a second family for me! I couldn’t let the company die at the same time as his manager. Moreover we had to perpetrate the sophistication and quality of the French perfume industry. Téo Cabanel has always been working with
qualitative and natural ingredients. Today, most of the fragrances available in perfumeries are not as constructed and qualitative as they were in the 1950s-1960s. Our credo his to offer high quality perfumes which last on the skin. To do so, we take the greatest care in using the finest natural ingredients and the
most unexpected and precious essences.
And you found over 150 perfume formulas from 1893 to develop a new concept for the company?
So you do have one foot in the past and one in the future, don’t you think?
We definitely cannot deny such a long history. We get the inspiration from the creations of Théodore Cabanel.
The quality of the products that were created by the Cabanel family is also key for us. They always remind us
that we have to offer extremely qualitative fragrances and packagings to our clientele. This is what real perfumery
is all about! You know, tradition and creation always go hand in hand. Téo Cabanel, always true to its heritage,
moved toward fully elaborated and modern perfumes. These new creations remain true to our original values: quality, elegance and generous natural ingredients.
Please tell us how you met up with perfumer Jean-François Latty and what happened from there?
When I inherited from Téo Cabanel I did not know if it was still possible to produce some of the formulas created by Mr Cabanel. I then decided to go to Grasse (the world capital of natural ingredients). There I met a very important woman called Monique Rémy. She created, in Grasse in the 1960s, a company specialized in natural ingredients. She was immediately seduced by the Cabanel history and introduced me to Jean-François Latty. I went to Jean-François’ place to let him know about Téo Cabanel. He explained me that he had stopped working a few years before as he was fed up creating low quality perfumes. Nevertheless, he immediately told me that he would be pleased to work for “such a brand”: a brand which was willing to create perfumes without financial constraints and using natural ingredients. We are using a minimum of 45 ingredients to create one perfume. This is huge if you consider that most of the brands are using between 5 and 15 ingredients per perfume! We started to work together on Oha and Julia the week after!
Please tell us more about Jean-François Latty.
Jean-François Latty took his first step into the world of perfumery in 1965 when he entered a very famous perfumery school in Grasse. 3 years after he started to create its first perfumes: Givenchy III, Drakkar (Duy Laroche), YSL for Men (Yves Saint Laurent). IIn 1971, he was hired by IFF where he created Portos (Balenciaga), Estivalia (Puig), Eau Dynamisante (Clarins), etc. In 1987 he left IFF for Takasago where he soon created Jazz (YSL), Universo and Avatar (Coty), Love Story (Ferraud), Backgroung (Jil Sanders), Tsar (Van Cleef), 360 (Perry Ellis). In 2000 he founded his company specialized in perfume creation and selling natural ingredients. He then stopped working until I met him and presented it Téo Cabanel.
Jean-François Latty and you are to be congratulated as you truly have taken the tradition of French perfumery and highest quality of natural ingredients and have turned them into stunning fragrances with a modern and beautiful twist. What were some of the challenges in accomplishing that?
What is the most popular fragrance in the Téo Cabanel line?
It varies from one country to another and even one city to another. It can also vary from one season to another so I don’t think we really have a most popular fragrance! We tried to create fragrances that are very different from one another in order to be able to answer the needs of any woman. Julia for instance is highly appreciated for its floral and fruity notes. Oha and Alahine are more powdery. Oha is a very special fragrance. It is in fact very difficult to create a floral chypre as it is usually an olfactory family more targeted to men. It requires a great deal of experience to create a feminine chypre like Oha. To create Alahine we are using the finest natural ingredients. It is a very rich fragrance that combines up-market ingredients such as: rose, iris wax, bezoin, jasmine, etc.
I understand that only natural ingredients are used in the fragrances, please tell us about that.
We tell our clients the truth. Today, it is impossible to create a fragrance with only natural ingredients. Téo Cabanel is using a maximum of natural ingredients. Nevertheless, a perfume cannot be well created without ingredients such as musk and amber. These ingredients are of animal origin and are now prohibited. This is the reason why perfumers had to replace them with synthetic molecules. We use between 85% and 95% of natural ingredients to create our perfumes. Téo Cabanel’s signature is to use 2 different types of roses: Bulgarian and Moroccan rose. We are one of the only brands to use two roses in a perfume. Natural ingredients are very expensive but give to the perfumes an incredible quality. Some of the ingredients we use:
Rose – approximately 8000€/kg – we need 5000 kg of petals to produce 1kg of essence.
Iris wax – the most expensive ingredient: between 10 000€ and 15 000€
Jasmine – one of the most delicate flower – only 5 to 6 tons of essence are produced per year which explains the price: between 6 000 € and 8 000 €/kg.
Caroline, please us about the newest fragrance Meloe that was just released. I had the opportunity to smell this and it is a gorgeous fragrance. Méloé is a fresh, green and fruity fragrance. It is very elegant perfume that we created both for summer and winter. It is inspired by the orange tree that the Cabanel were growing in Algeria. Méloé was the name of Théodore Cabanel’s wife: Méloé Cabanel. The fragrance generously draws its top notes from citrus and spices. Bergamot from Calabria, mandarin and lemon from Sicily, lavender and basil play their part in perfect harmony. The sparkling citrus notes linger until a dainty floral bouquet of Neroli from Tunisia, orange blossom and jasmine with just a touch of nutmeg comes to full bloom to make up the heart notes. Sensual base notes of musk, amber and just a hint of woody create its trail! Méloé is a modern and mysterious fragrance perfect for all occasions.
Please tell us about the amazing solid perfumes of Téo Cabanel.
First came solid perfumes… This is why we decided to go back to the very origin of perfume and to offer each one of our eaux de parfum in solid form. Jean-François Latty very well captured the three existing fragrances to deliver them in a gold plated engraved compact. Cuddled in its garnet-coloured faux-leather case, the solid Téo Cabanel fragrance fits perfectly in any handbag. It is a practical and deluxe solution for women who like to travel. Soft to the touch, it melts on the skin. It is also alcohol free and totally natural. It is thus suited to all skin types, even the most sensitive ones, and of course it can be wear in the sun without any risk of stains appearing on the skin. The solid perfumes have to be apply on pulse points, on the flat of your wrist, behind your ear and in a low neck line. The product comes with a refill. A gold needle is pinned on the flap of the case and allows you to flip off the original pan and clasp in the refill.
Caroline, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to visit with us. We at Sniffapalooza Magazine are honored and we truly wish you and the Téo Cabanel company great success.
Reviews next issue! Téo Cabanel fragrances available at Henri Bendel.
images courtesy of Teo Cabanel. All rights reserved. Images not to be used without permission. 2008
Interview with Jeanne Weber
Pavillon des Fleurs / Septimanie Perfumes
Jeanne, can you tell us briefly about yourself? I grew up in Boston, have lived in
New York and Washington D.C., and now reside and work in the Philadelphia area
designing pleasure gardens.
Could you please tell us a bit about your background leading up to your career in perfumery?
After studying art history in college I found I could not make a living wage at either a gallery or a museum, and took a job at L’Oreal assisting the president’s assistant. I was moved upstairs to their Lancome division where I initially ordered components from vendors and later coordinated the approvals and signoffs for each element of product development, from inception to launch. It was an ideal education.
What inspired you to create this fragrance? I was inspired by old-fashioned, classic French florals that disappeared from the market, evidently because they were too costly to produce, and was never completely happy with any modern fragrance for more than a year or two. I think your readers will identify with the often fruitless search for the perfect scent. The niche perfumers have revolutionized our options as there are now countless remarkable fragrances to choose from.
What differentiates your fragrance from other fragrance lines in the niche market and makes them special? It is probably the only one that has been macerated for fourteen weeks! Also, the jasmine and ylang notes are both uplifting and aphrodisiacal.
Tell us about the fragrance you’ve created. I was adamant that the scent be as genuine as possible with the scent of real flowers and insisted on using a great quantity of natural absolutes despite the formidable cost. I did not want a perfume that changed considerably over time or on the skin and I did not want a musky or woody finish. I wanted it to be mistaken for a scented garden, and in fact I have achieved that. My greatest achievement is hearing the number of women and men who tell me they absolutely love it.
What did you find was the hardest thing about the entire process in creating perfumery and dealing with the business aspect? The most difficult aspect was finding beautiful packaging components in manageable quantities.
How did you discover the world of fragrance? Through the women in my family: my mother has always worn Joy, her mother wore only Chanel No. 5, and my other grandmother wore Bal a Versailles.
There must have been a defining moment that led you to create this and go public with it, what was that? I still don’t know what possessed me to begin the creative process. I took all my design earnings and funneled them into the perfume, and when told my mother about it after I had taken the first steps, to my surprise she actually encouraged me. In fact, all my family and friends supported my somewhat impulsive endeavor.
Tell me what you love about fragrances. I think fragrance expresses a key part of one’s identity and in time becomes as recognizable as your features. I love the idea of a signature fragrance and the strong association it creates between you and that scent.
What was your favorite fragrance growing up? Calandre by Paco Rabanne, which my father brought back to me from Paris.
What is the most amazing fragrance you have ever smelled? Is it rude to say my own? It makes me smile.
Which fragrance do you wish you had created? Ormonde Man.
Why do you think so many women and men are part of this fragrance explosion, especially the niche and natural trend? We have grown weary of commercial fragrances that barely register because they are either too common or unpleasant. Rather we are driven to find something truly astonishing and completely individual.
Where Pavillon des Fleurs / Septimanie Perfumes available at?
Aedes de Venustas and Takashimaya in New York, Algabar in Los Angeles, First in Fragrance in Germany, and a concept store called Beauty Cool in Barcelona. It will soon be available in Nashville at White House, an elegant boutique being opened this fall by the British supermodel, Karen Elson.
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