Why perfumes should be synonymous with Luxury?

Posted in AROMAS & SCENTS NEWS, DISCOVERY, HISTORY AND SCENTS, OLFACTORY DEVELOPMENT, SOCIETY with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 1, 2013 by ParfumsIsabelle

 …’Coeur d’Île’ expresses all that the Seychelles islands encompass…

Coeur d’Ile makes you travel to the Indian Ocean islands

As I am about to launch ‘Coeur d’Île‘, the Signature perfume of  the Station Perfumery Seychelles , I wanted to reflect on the reasons why Perfumes seem to have lost their Luxury feel in the last decades.

While preparing Coeur d’Ile, my mind was travelling back to when I was 15 and the Parfum FIDJI and its eternal slogan ‘The woman is an island – Fidji is its perfume‘ was given to me as a gift. My family had then just moved back to Europe after years in the exotic island of New Caledonia;  it was cold and the adjustment to the new life was proving difficult. Fidji became my sunny companion and spraying it in the cold winter mornings was helping me keep warm and happy inside. Its discreet waft of spice and floral notes combined with a powdery and sensual base was making it My Island as a young girl to take refuge to. But above all, its smell was elegant and feminine and this is what makes it such a timeless fragrance.

Perfume should be about Discretion and not imposed on everyone around you. It should only be smelled by those immediately in your vicinity. Unfortunately, modern perfumes with their strong hyper sweet and fruity notes that stick to your clothes like a leech for days – and actually also stick to the cilia in your nostrils, making it impossible to smell anything else for a few days – cannot pretend to be discreet nor intimate.

”Luxury”, from Latin Lux meaning ‘Light’ and later Luxuria meaning ‘deviation’

Luxury is thus an ”indulgence in something refined and sumptuous that provides pleasure, satisfaction, or ease”. Not the modern days scents that are created with cheap ingredients which in my view do not provide any pleasure, satisfaction and even less ease. This is of course, apart from some niche houses, of course, that are making the efforts to maintain a tradition of  Artistry in their creations.

A Perfume should be a piece of accessory that we treat ourselves with at times. For everyday use, a Cologne or Eau Fraiche should suffice. If consumers start discovering what is behind the creation of a true perfume, the lengthy process the Master perfumer goes through to obtain something that’s right,  they might then want to go about their purchase with a more informed knowledge and appreciation. They might also want to figure out which perfume suits them most and better and create the closest intimacy rather than the largest trail!

Coming back to Fidji, it used to be the Luxury for young girls but in modern days, it is more of a woman’s perfume because of its floral powdery and slightly spicy tone.  When we can get hold of one original one that is! It is normal that tastes change with times but shall we say that in the 1960′s to 80′s, teenagers’ choices were not so much driven by the celebrity trend but rather than the memories of their mother’s perfumes or bags’ satin lining impregnated with those vintage scents. Shall we also not forget the fact that the advent of the use of 100% synthetics as seen in the last 2 decades has actually become a major concern for scent allergies and near-anosmia which is the reason given by regulators to suffocate Perfume Heritage and even ban the use of perfumes.

I feel so nostalgic when I see that people can’t smell with appreciation any longer and that we live in a society with no sense of scent which to me equals to no Soul.

I can only hope that the definition of Luxury returns not to something around possessions and lots of money but rather to indulgence and pampering and then maybe true, Classic perfumes will also make their way back to bring ‘light’ to our lives.

‘Coeur d’Île’ is the signature perfume by Isabelle Gellé at the Station Perfumery in the Seychelles. This simple exotic scent from the Spicy Floral family will transport you to the tropical world where the clove of Zanzibar meets the Bourbon vanilla and the patchouli of the Indian Ocean islands, with at its heart a bouquet of white flowers, symbols of these lush islands, including ylang ylang and jasmine. The top notes are composed of a cocktail of Seychelles island citrus: grapefruit, petitgrain bigarade and lime, all complementing the sweetness of vanilla and the spicy clove.  It is 100% natural and has a lasting power on the skin of up to 6 hours.

It will soon be available for sale online. Please visit www.lesparfumsisabelle.co.uk for more details.

The smell of the Seychelles, a new journey to the scents…

Posted in AROMAS & SCENTS NEWS, DISCOVERY, OLFACTORY DEVELOPMENT with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 15, 2013 by ParfumsIsabelle

There is a very particular smell to the Seychelles and it gently teases your nose as soon as you get out of the plane! It is a mixture of smoky, mossy and earthy odour that gives a feeling it exhales from the granite rocks, characteristic from these Paradise islands…

Seychelles beach, granite rocks and forest

But it’s only when I went to visit the one and only distiller on the island that I could figure out what this gorgeous smell was! And it’s all to do with cinnamon, a widely grown spice on this Indian Ocean island…

 Globarom is the one and only distiller in the Seychelles… Mustafa, its owner, welcomed me with a smile even though, like many of his counterparts worldwide, he only manages to scrape a living out of his passion, mainly due to lack of finance and lack of technical support. He explained to me that he has stuck to traditional steam distillation because he believes it is the most natural way to extract the kilos of cinnamon bark in a way that keeps the authenticity of this oil.  As a natural perfumer, I would agree with him… However, the Seychelles, in the global scheme of the botanical world is not placing a lot of focus on the abundance of fine perfumery plants the islands showcase. They have one of the best patchouli in the world which grows widely but it is currently not distilled.

Mustafa also shared with me his difficulty in selling his essential oil of cinnamon bark because the Seychelles type has a high content of cinnamic aldehyde, which to us perfumers is a blessing but to all the rich buying companies being in the West, a full GC/MS certificate is a must and this is costly… Mustafa would like to standardise his production but he is yet to find the $350,000 investment needed to fully develop the 7000 square meters parcel of land he has been allocated by the Government… When he does so, he is planning to develop patchouli and vetiver plantations to extract their essential oils. His crusade is to revive coconut oil extraction and to place the Seychelles patchouli oil back onto the international scene…

Globarom Seychelles 250L steam distiller

Globarom Seychelles 250L steam distiller

…Back to the particular smell of the Seychelles…

I would love to capture this relaxing odour in a bottle because it definitely makes you travel through scents! Once the cinnamon bark has been removed, the trunk is burnt and transformed into charcoal used for smoking fish and for barbecue. This smell is present all around the island and blends with the algae smell of the sea, the granite rocks which are part of the geological pattern of the Seychelles, the rainforest mossy and earthy odours covering those rocks, the mandarin bigarade trees and the mystical takamaka tree (Calophyllum inophyllum), also present all over the Seychelles. All these natural botanicals constitute a genuine perfume in itself! Indeed, the cinnamon tree (Cinnamon Zeylanicum) is grown in small clearings located in the middle of the forest. Once cropped, its trunks are rid off the bark. The inner lining and outer part of the bark is the part that curls up and is rolled to make the cinnamon sticks. The rest of the bark is transported to the distiller who dries it in order to remove its moisture content before proceeding to the steam distillation. 250 kg of bark can yield 7 to 8 liters of essential oil.

During my visit of the distillery, I was served a cup of tea perfumed with cinnamon. I am not a tea drinker but I must confess that this beverage has hooked me… It also made me feel revived and relaxed soon after and despite the 90% humidity rate of the moment! I left with my nose full of the smell of the Seychelles, a smell that has never left my memory ever since my first visit back in 2001.

My perfumer notes for my next creation ‘Weekend in Aldabra‘:

- Takamaka tincture
- Cinnamon bark
- Seychelles vanilla
- Seychelles cinnamon bark
- Sweet fennel – Patchouli
- Coriander
- Ylang ylang
- Lemongrass
- Petitgrain bigarade

Presenting the Perfumery Art School UK…

Posted in AROMAS & SCENTS NEWS, SOCIETY with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 30, 2013 by ParfumsIsabelle

I always love new challenges, particularly when they pertain to the Future of Perfumery. All those who follow my work also know that I keep on advocating education in Aromas & Scents and as a qualified teacher, it was thus natural to create a School rather than just organising workshops introducing the Art of Perfumery…

The Perfumery Art Schools Logo Original BG avatar icon

So I embarked on a journey that has lasted 18 months to create the first ‘virtual’ Perfumery Art School in the United Kingdom. We launched the first course called ‘Certificate in Perfumery Art’ a few days ago!  And we already have student from all the corners of the world.

This course teaches the A to Z of the Art of Perfumery according to the methods used by the Master Blenders from the House of Grasse. It is a Level 3 programme in the UK standards (Certificate level). The Perfume Foundation, a consumer organisation based in Brussels whose mission is to protect the Heritage and the Art of Perfumery and that is constantly challenging the EU and IFRA regulations –  is the Certification body for the course.

To teach the Art of Perfumery online, there is a need for a methodological approach, that gets away from a standard PDF or lecture format. I created a methodology called ‘S C E N T (c)’  for ‘SMELL’, ‘CREATE’, ‘EXPLORE’, ‘NURTURE’ and ‘TRANSLATE’.

The concept of this methodology is that it introduces the learner immediately to SMELLING and CREATING while the more standard modules related to History, Health & Safety and Hygiene in the Perfume environment and Project Management & Marketing are completing the in-depth learning without boring the learner. The key is to help the students to unleash the artist within while using a structured approach based on knowing all the facets of an ingredient whether its odour, aromatic compound and matching capacities.

Learning Authoring and Learning Management Content tools was not easy… These tools, in my view, represent the Future for the teaching of any subject to higher education learners who are, for most of them professionals who do not have the possibility to take a long break from their work and go back to school. Authoring requires that one gets deeper into the knowledge of programming even though these tools are usually adapted to course developers who do not know html.  But to the learner, it is a user-friendly experience online – with a lot of interactivity which makes it easier to remember but also less lonely…

The Perfumery Art Schools Logo Writing the course and finding a manufacturer to put the student perfumer kit together, were the biggest challenges of all. I finally found an independent French perfumer who thanks to his long standing contacts in Grasse has done a great job in preparing a unique perfumer kit. The Perfumery Art School is offering a complete kit that includes 38 natural aromatic compounds, the perfume bases (alcohol, oils), various waxes and butters and the complete glassware and accessories… This means you do not need to go out and buy anything and can just start learning the Art of Perfumery.

The course is hosted on SCORM Cloud, a SCORM compliant system (Sharable Content Object Reference Model), a standard for Web-based eLearning. As a student, you receive a private invitation to join the course and all you need is to play the course. You can stay or return on each page as long and as often as you want.

Upon completion of the course (expected within 18 months), the student receives the Certification as soon as their perfume project has been assessed by the School Committee.  With this exceptional and unique course, the student can either start their own independent perfume business or join a perfume house that requires a deep knowledge of naturals and the Art of Perfumery. The School has already concluded a few partnerships with some perfume & cosmetics houses and manufacturers in various countries to accept internships, for those students who would like to make a career out of their study.

Station SeychellesPartnerships have also been agreed to deliver practical workshops and courses in the UK and France (these are not part of the online courses and are optional). The ‘onsite’ campus for the school has been established in the heart of the island of Mahe, in the Seychelles. Students who join the practical and short courses that will be organised there will have a unique opportunity to discover the Abundance of the tropical Nature of the Seychelles, smelling for real the exotic flowers and plants such as ylang ylang or patchouli or the spices such as cinnamon, clove and vanilla that grow locally – or simply smelling and discovering genuine marine and ozonic scents!

My mission is to educate as many people as possible about creating beautiful scents in the most traditional way while applying the Ancient methods to modern tools. Students at the Perfumery Art School come from all over the world…

For more information, please visit www.perfumerartschool-uk.com

The end of our perfumer’s world?

Posted in AROMAS & SCENTS NEWS, SOCIETY with tags , , , , , , , on December 16, 2012 by ParfumsIsabelle


If the Mayan calendar planned the end of the world on 21 December, there is one end of the world which is definitely going to happen unless a movement starts to protect its heritage: the world of the Art of perfumery. At a time when the consumer is demanding natural cosmetics and perfumes, the madness of the EU and IFRA has marked yet another step towards the end of naturals.

Reuters article reports on a worrying news that a new measure will be debated in the anti-democratic institution of the EU in Brussels at the beginning of 2013. The report highlights the extent of the madness of those people from another planet who go as far as advocating the use of ‘safe’ synthetics (?) and the potential ban of 100 more natural ingredients as well as an entire ban of moss and oak moss as a response to 1% of the entire EU population (a mere 3.5 million people) who seems to suffer all types of allergies to all types of things.

Despite attempts to get answers in order to explain how come a supposedly ‘self-regulatory’ association such as IFRA seems to have become the voice of the aroma chemical industry and whether the aim is to ban perfumes all together, I am left frustrated by the absence of fighting mood from some of the big names mentioned in the article.

So the EU is about to ask us perfumers, and in particular, natural perfumers to forego their passion in the name of the pretence of safety. The worst is that a murky underdog association called the Bureau of European Consumers (which is only a sideline and lobby association not belonging to the EU but receiving finance from them) is claiming victory because they say, there is a “thorough and evidence-based study”! The question is ‘who mandated the study and where is the evidence’ that synthetics are safer than naturals. Besides, would they ask a painter to only use a palette composed of a couple of colours because too many colours might harm your sight? Or a pianist to play with only a couple of key notes because the noise might harm your hearing?

Beware perfume lovers!. Do not visit the European Parliament or the IFRA because I have a strong feeling it stinks there! Meanwhile, as an artisan perfumer defending the Art of perfumery, I have decided to take a stand… Here is what I have to say to the IFRA: I will carry on making perfumes using naturals, for the pleasure of the senses and in order to protect the ancestry heritage that you are busy assassinating for some blurry reason!

4000 pieces of Perfume Art in a XVIIth century manor in Burgundy…

Posted in HISTORY AND SCENTS with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 10, 2012 by ParfumsIsabelle

Nathalie Lancier and Isabelle Gellé at Le Musee du Parfum

When I arrived in Southern Burgundy a couple of months ago, I could never imagine that I would come across one of the most important private perfume collection in the world!

There it is, 5 minutes away from me, nestled in a magnificent XVIIth century manor in Prissé, a place reknown for its white wine – Le Musée du Parfum, a project from Nathalie Lancier, a real lecythiophile* (perfume collector)who has accumulated over 4000 pieces of Perfume Art over 40 years, at a time when people could not possibly know the value of some pieces, some of them going back to 1820! Lalique and Baccarat crystal bottles sit along the first 4711 Cologne bottle belonging to Napoleon I, and next to an important collection of Czech bottles and Russian perfumes.

Nathalie is originally from Hungary and was a hydraulic engineer who at first, was passionate about glass-blowing and glass-making. Rapidly, her interest turned to the Art of perfumery itself and she even created her own brand, ‘La magie du parfum’, offering a collection of fragrances for the youth.

I could not resist taking pictures of some of my ancestors’ fragrances and powders, Gellé Frères but I also bought the latest must-have book by Bernard Gangler, ‘Parfums de collection’ (available in French) in which this expert in perfume collection for auction houses and founder of the perfumery group, Galaxie and Espace Parfumerie in Paris, has listed over 1000 perfume bottles from the XIXth and XXth century with their actual market value. This book is a real bible for collection perfumes and helps the collector browse and look for valuable collector’s items.

Musee du Parfum view

”Never mind the exhilaration, as long as we own the bottle’ – Perfume collector’s quotation

* Lecythiophile: from the Greek word “lêkuthos”, which is a type of Greek pottery in which one put perfumes and precious oils, and “phile” which is derived from the Greek word for love.

Le Musée du Parfum house

As part of the Level 3 Certificate in perfumery Art offered by the Perfumery Art School UK, students will – as of next year – have the opportunity to attend a practical course at Le Musée du Parfum, where they will be able to practise their Art while staying in one of the beautiful character rooms of the guest house, part of the XVIIth century manor.

 This was one of the most exciting and unexpected tours I have had for a long time. Nathalie does not charge for the visits but an appointment is required. The Museum is open 7 days a week all year long.

Baccarat crystal bottles

Old Gellé Frères Cologne

For more information about Le Musée du Parfum in South Burgundy, visit: www.museeduparfum.com

Iris root powder, my first love…

Posted in AROMAS & SCENTS NEWS with tags , , on June 1, 2012 by ParfumsIsabelle

ImageMy current stay in South Burgundy feels like a pilgrimage to my childhood… pre-exotic travels abroad that is!

Enjoying the spring scenery of the multitude of beautiful iris flowers with their Royal violet colours, lining the vineyards and their gorgeous smell when they blossom was enough for a flashback to an attic in a farmhouse in the Pyrenees where aged Iris root powder had been stored for decades…

The farmer’s daughter and myself used to sneak in there and help ourselves with a (tiny) handful of this powder which we instinctively sprayed on our (long) hair! My usually very dark hair had turned powder-white and all we were thinking about after that is what our parents would say…. And how to get rid of the beautiful powdery smell in our hair and on our arms and face! But the parents were only pleased to see that their little girls were showing early signs of feminity and coquetry…

The smell of iris powder is very specific of grandma face and body talc powders. When I started to create my own perfumes, I then realised how important this short-lived flower is for perfumery. Its roots are the most important as, once dried and turned into powder they become the best natural fixative around that adds the special touch to the perfume…

I fail to grasp how such a beautiful, sensual and feminine flower and smell can be associated with grandmas. I would rather associate it to young and elegant ladies who understand sensuality. Its scent is close to that of violet and indeed is used to create violet scents since the violet itself does not release its scent from extraction (apart from the leaves that give a green smell and not a powdery one).

Touching its petals is like touching soft velvet. You really want to stroke it, bury your nose into the beautiful  lining…. The ultimate pampering dream would be to plunge into a bath filled with those magnificent flowers.

While walking around the vineyards of Burgundy and observing those flowers, all I could think about was harvesting them, distilling their roots to create my own Iris butter! And it did remind me that Iris was my first aromatic love!

More info about iris pallida>>>


Iris Pallida in Pouilly Fuisse by I. Gelle

You can read about other first fragrance loves from the Natural Perfumers Guild members by clicking the links below.


From the vineyards of South Burgundy: when wine and perfume are a marriage of Principles…

Posted in DISCOVERY with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 25, 2012 by ParfumsIsabelle

This is the view I will enjoy every morning for the next 6 months from the apartment where my partner and I are staying in a small rural village on a hill in the heart of the famous ”Pouilly Fuissé” South Burgundy wine region!

There is a good reason why I am here: it is just inspiring and for me to be able to deliver the accredited Level III perfumery course I have put together, inspiration and quietness were needed… Plus it was just the good opportunity to reconcile with my French roots but above all, to proceed with one of my strong interests: the traditional wine-making process or Terroir wine-making! And I could not find a better place than Pouilly-Fuissé in South Burgundy to look  more into how wine and perfume are a ‘Marriage of Principles‘!

” Terroir”- From the French word ‘terre’ (land)*

The concept of terroir is at the base of the French wine ‘Appellation d’origine contrôlée‘ (AOC) system that has been the model for appellation and wine laws across the globe.

Terroir’ is originally a French term in wine, coffee and tea used to denote the special characteristics that the geography, geology and climate of a certain place bestowed upon particular produce. Agricultural sites in the same region share similar soil, weather conditions, and farming techniques, which all contribute to the unique qualities of the crop. It can be very loosely translated as “a sense of place,” which is embodied in certain characteristic qualities, the sum of the effects that the local environment has had on the production of the product.

* Source: Wikipedia

Naturally, I wanted to learn more about  similarities between perfume-making and wine-making and in the short 2 weeks since I have arrived in South Burgundy, I had the chance to meet Roger Saumaize, one of the  most reputed wine makers and growers of white grapes for Burgundy superior quality wine. He is a practitioner in ‘biodynamic wine‘, a holistic and ecological form of agriculture based on a spiritual/practical philosophy, called ‘anthroposophy‘, which includes understanding the ecological, the energetic, and the spiritual in nature.

I prefer calling the likes of Roger, Natural Winegrowers… And like Natural perfumers, their methods which are basically Ancient and Traditional methods going back centuries are controversial. One of the aspects I learnt about the ‘biodynamics’ principle is that the alcohol in the wine is created just by adding sugar in the grapes! After having crushed and pressed the grapes, the mixture is transferred into a drum and sugar is added. During the fermentation process an every other day, the blend is BEATEN UP with a special stick (bâtonnage process) because the stirring of the fine lees (sediments) remaining in the barrel of unfinished wine enriches the wine flavours and gives it this ‘animalic’, ‘earthy’ taste while ensuring that the fruity aromas are equally present. In other terms, this very traditional and painstaking process is the equivalent of stirring your perfume everyday for several weeks, allowing the sediments of natural essential oils to blend and impregnate the scent before you start the decanting process.

I was stunned when Roger showed us blackboards on the barrels in his cellar in which various acidic levels were written including ‘lactic acid’, an acid derived from milk! Who could have known that this could come from grapes! But then Roger explains that it all comes from the way they treat the soil (the Terroir). Because lactic acid comes from a bacteria  and this very bacteria creates the FERMENTATION process! And in biodynamic growing, the focus is not on adding chemical fertilisers but on digging deep in the soil to extract the minerals and bacteria and brings them up to the grapevines who will ‘feed’ and ‘grow’ organically.

 Another similarity between wine and perfume-making is adding ‘new’ on top of ‘old’ where the old takes over the new. In the traditional Art of perfumery, and because the essential oils can be altered year on year by the quality of the crops, we always keep a good percentage of the old recipe from a fragrance and add the new blend on top of it. This mainly allows for consistency in the smell because the ‘old’ blend that has been sitting for much longer will tend to impose itself over the newly added concentrate.

During my visit in the cellar, I learnt that the white wine-makers are faced with a similar ordeal: how to achieve balance and ensure that the wine does not taste too powerful? New wine is added into old wine barrels! It is worth noting here is that the oak-tree wood from the barrel will also exude into the wine and give it its Terroir taste. In traditional perfumery, if you want your perfume to smell woodier or to fix more, one of the method is to let it sit in an oak-tree barrel… This is how a Grand Cru wine can be accomplished. In perfumery, this is how a VINTAGE perfume will be achieved!


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