Perfumer for a Perfect World

the_Perfume_MakerYou’ve seen this exercise before, the question is what perfumer living or dead, would you choose to make you a signature scent?  I’ve read the question and always think it depends on what it is, or was, that the perfumer did best ? Meaning, which genre of scent did they excel at composing?

If you choose to wear chypres, you’d have to resurrect Francois Coty as a composer.  Nobody knocked them out of the park the way he did.  And personally, I love chypres.  You could insist on Jacques Guerlain, but he was so good at orientals, that I kind of hate to make him budge. No, for chypres, in the dream of perfume enthusiasts, it would have to be Coty. Among the living, no question, Michel Roudnitska.  He does beautiful lasting ones.

If, however, I were casting about for a leather perfume, it would be Ernest Daltroff.  Tabac Blond, En Avion anyone?  No question, Daltroff for leather scents.  So far so good, and for a live composer of leathers, alright, because of Baladin I’d choose Patricia de Nicolai.

Now the question of the floral breaks down two ways, aldehydic and non aldehydic.  If I wanted aldehydes, I would go for Vincent Roubert, and quite frankly I might knock on his door for straight florals as well, though I would go and pester Olivia Giacobetti for those or possibly Nathalie Feisthauer, and for aldehydic perfumes I would go to Francis Kurkdijian.  He gets the light abstraction of the sub-genre right.

Citruses are a matter of ….sorry.  You thought I would say Edward Roudnitska, right?  Well, no, I find myself not a fan, but I loved the original Eau de Hadrian which was a perfect memorial of the Tuscan countryside right down to the scent of the cypress trees, which are as frequent there in old cemeteries as panicle hydrangeas are in New England ones.  That’s a scent I truly miss.

The green perfumes are difficult, I think I would have to get either Jean Claude Ellena to do a green jasmine, because he loves jasmine and has done a tea one in Bulgari Eau Parfumee, so why not a green jasmine? Or else Germaine Cellier.

For gourmands I would head to the man who is the contemporary master, Pierre Guillaume.  I don’t write about him enough, but he really is a wonderfully interesting perfumer with quite a body of work behind him now and his Bois Blond (a beer/green/wheat scent) and Cadjmere (a vanilla shawl of a perfume) are among the most interesting fragrances of the oughts.

For fruity florals, and I know many perfume lovers would forgo this sort of scent, but I like it, the choice is simple, Pierre Bourdon.

Orientals I seldom wear but they would be Serge Luten’s if I did now, and Jacques Guerlains’ back in the day.

Overall, I wonder who I would choose as a personal perfumer?  It’s a difficult question.  Possibly I would choose Olivia Giacobetti who never composes a scent I don’t like, or perhaps the wonderful Jean Kerleo, if only to ask him to re-gild Sublime, which has been missing its golden glow.

Who would you choose?

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20 thoughts on “Perfumer for a Perfect World

  1. Oh, I looove these games! ;)
    I wouldn’t have thought of breaking down my choices beased on perfume families… but it makes perfect sense!
    My choices are easy:
    I’d resurrect Coty and Jaques Guerlain for chypres and orientals – I think their opus was all the better for being in competition!
    Living parfumer choice for the genre: Mathilde Laurent and Patricia de Nicolai – two of my favorite perfumes are Attrape coeur and New York.
    For florals, it’s easy: Germaine Cellier (Fracas) and Ernest Beaux (n°5) are my classic references. Among the living perfumers I’m partial to Dominique Ropion (because of his une fleur de Cassie and carnal Flower).

    If I were honest though, I’d be completely happy with just one name: Jaques Guerlain. I imagine him working for me – “so, Jaques, what merveille have you concocted for me today?”… the best daydream to kickstart a rainy monday!!!!

    • Oh the Jacques Guerlain fantasy is a good one. Yes, it would be something to have a new Guerlain to wear because this week M. Jacques had a feeling for florals. Yes indeedy, I’d be down with that.

      Mathilde Laurent is a perfumer I’d missed out on here. She was so good during her time at Guerlain, and have not really smelled all her Heures for Cartier yet. Sometimes wonder if the public got those, the “public” including me btw.

    • You can’t go far wrong there. I still love old Vent Vert, and used to love Miss Balmain too. Did you ever wear that?

      One of her better ones though was Coeur Joie for Nina Ricci. Lovely old iris perfume it was, with a green aspect to the iris. Hard to find now.

      • I wear and like the current Vent Vert, love Bandit, and even have come around to Fracas! Haven’t smelled Miss Balmain; that will be added to the to-try list.

  2. Since I do not know a single perfumer all (or at least most) perfumes of whom I like, I wouldn’t want a personal perfumer. I have hard time telling my cleaning lady when she’s done something not the way that I’d expected – and I know a thing or two about cleaning; so I’m not sure I would be able to explain what exactly I do not like about the perfume… Maybe I’ll say something once or twice – but then I’d end up with something that is “just fine.” So I prefer to choose from the perfumes that already exist.

    • You think you wouldn’t make a good ” art director”? I think you’d be more specific than most of us, and less wishy- washy, which would be a good thing, because indecisiveness of the “sort of kinda” variety can’t be much help to a perfumer working with a client to perfect a scent.
      My worry is that no matter how demanding or fussy I was, I would not be more so than a corporate account, and the result would be mediocre.

  3. This is a fun exercise! I would love to work with Jacques Guerlain, for my very own customized Guerlain masterpiece (since I mostly wear orientals, this is a no-brainer). It would be fun to see what Maurice Roucel would do; I think he is not afraid of embracing zany ideas, and I’m sure I would have a few. And I would like to meet Elena and talk to him about perfume – making something would just be an excuse. :)

    • So far Jacques Guerlain is getting a lot of love. Don’t blame anyone for choosing him.

      Maurice Roucel is such a big diffusive scent guy, his stuff does fill a room. (Well, maybe not L’Instant.) Always feels like dressing up as a Vegas Chorus girl to me, fishnets, diamond studded bra,ostrich feathers and all. Then Ellena is just the opposite, so understated. I like the juxtaposition, it’s rather intriguing. Don’t suppose they’d ever work together?

  4. Fun post, and you are so right about Francis K.

    I would go a completely different path. I once heard Sophia Grojsman remark, in a YouTube interview, that she imagines a woman coming home from work, tired, still with an evening’s worth of cooking and chores ahead of her. She needs a dab of perfume to get her through, and ‘make her feel like a woman’.

    Well, I can so identify with this; it’s the story of my life. And it’s an interesting remark isn’t it, in the sense that many of her perfumes (Paris, Yvresse, Tresor) are big-boned and glamourous, not cosy and domestic. Or perhaps it was just that she was at the height of her career at a time when that was the style people wanted?

    Anyway, I’d go to Sophia and say ‘Sophia, this is me. Make me a perfume all of my own. My favourite notes are … oh heck, do what you like, but nothing too gourmandy. It has to be feminine in style but relaxing in tone, and have good lasting power because I need value for money. Don’t make it too ‘night at the opera’, thanks, but don’t give me Demeter either. You know what I mean.’ I think she would.

    • Sophia Grojsman’s got the most democratic sense of aesthetics. She never forgets that perfume has to smell good, and too many perfumers do. Wasn’t she the perfumer who would test her fragrances out on taxi drivers? If they liked them she knew she’d done well?
      She’s also has one of the best ways with roses of anyone working. She did Champagne (Yvresse) ? Yeah I can see choosing Sophia alright.

      • Yes, now you mention it there is some story about Sophia and taxi drivers. Must look it up, can’t remember the details. (Note to self: try searching on ‘cab’ as well as ‘taxi’.) If I was a perfumer, the idea that a taxi driver would rush out to buy his wife one of my perfumes would be the best possible compliment.

        • There’s also the story about Christopher Brosius, which he mentions on his website, about driving cabs and hating some of the the power perfumes of the time. (I’ll just bet some of the fares were wearing Giorgio!) which made him evolve his own style.
          But Sophia’s story is a happier one, and no higher compliment to her perfumes could be imagined. Taxi drivers have got to have smelled it all.

  5. You know, I am not-so-much a fan of chypres in general. Really, really not, unless they have their citrus volume turned down a bit and the floral volume on 11… But THEEEE Chypre, that one who unknowingly bespawned The Goddess Mitsouko, THEEEEEE best-known of that Chypre name, that one stabs me to the heart and leaves me all pierced and stuck to the wall, flailing with love and autumn and thunderstorm. THAT ONE I adore. THAT ONE makes me cry.

    And Emeraude, I love that thing too – as it was, once. So. I want Francois Coty to make me something. I won’t even presume to tell him what I want, because clearly I don’t know, but I’d bet he knows.

    • You know, old Francois DID know, too. That’s how he got to be the first French billionaire. The man just knew.

      I have not run across a decent version of original Chypre, but I do wear Emeraude (which is so wonderful and why don’t I therefore like Shalimar?)Now if I ever get to the Osmotheque, have to smell his early things because they’re so perfect. He used to carry them around for six months solid. Live with them, smell them, think about them, plop them on the night stand.

      Plus which he made no distinctions; if something was right for a Duchess, it was fine for a shop girl. So, Fascist sympathizer though he was, I have to hand it to him for perfect taste. And I’d go to him, too.

  6. The relatively-unknown Gerard Goupy created two of my five favorite perfumes–Magie Noire and Silences–so he would head my list, with Ernest Daltroff (who had a way with not only leather but also carnation) a close second.

    • Are you listening Mals? Goupy, Gerard did Silences! I think she likes Magie as well. Both beautiful, and didn’t know who did them, so hats off to M. Goupy and you for mentioning him.
      Daltroff is someone I could not do without as a perfumer. He and his assistant Morsetti composed my favorite Alpona, plus my other favorite Acaciosa, and Bellodgia…and Farnesiana and… well, the list is embarrassingly long really.

      • The only other perfumes that I am aware of as credited to M Goupy are Cacharel pour Homme (interesting, but not my style) and Climat, which I’ve never experienced. Caron is, I think, my favorite house. Alpona is right up there with Silences and Magie Noire as one of my five favorites, and I also love Acaciosa, Tabac Blond, Bellodgia, and Narcisse Noir.

  7. Oh, fun!! I used to think it would be Dominique Ropion, but if I could hire any living perfumer today to make my personal elixir, it would Be Daniel Maurel, as I am head-over-heels in love with the three perfumes he made for Amouage: Epic Woman, Memoir Woman and Opus I.

    The no-longer-living perfumer I would choose would be Ernest Daltroff.

    • Have to catch up on the Amouages. Jubilation 25 is maybe like Quadrille, which is something I’ve always wanted to smell. Memoir Woman and Epic Woman I never tried, but if you like them, they’re probably the business, and I’ll have to try M. Maurel’s things.

      As to Daltroff, he got my vote too. And forgot to mention Tabac Blond and En Avion among the Carons that I’d save from a burning building.

      Are you a Narcisse Noir fan? That one scared me off a bit. Witchy is the word I’m looking for there. Though that could be a good attribute for a perfume.

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