News and views on trends in aromas, scents and flavours

Nose for hire!


Creative perfumers are called ‘noses‘ in the industry jargon. What differentiates one nose from another one, is their extended knowledge of the perfume raw materials (natural or synthetic), their unlimited access to as many as these ingredients as possible (thus the financial backup) and their creative ability to put them together to compose a perfume. A nose rarely uses more than 200 to 400 out of the thousands of ingredients available. Many perfumers such as Francis Kurkdjian work as independent perfumers AND as a nose on behalf of a major fragrance house. Most however work in the background of a fragrance house or for themselves as smaller independent perfumers and although not so famous, have as good a nose that can be hired.

So if you are a client (private or corporate) looking to develop a perfume, what would be the factors to hire one nose rather than another one?

Apart from the geographical location which might determine your choice, your first task is to decide which type of perfume you would like and prepare your brief to help you find the right nose for your scented goal. If you are looking at an all natural perfume, turning to one of the major house could be costly and disappointing. I met many highly trained chemist perfumers who find it hard to make a perfume with 100% natural ingredients. It is unfortunate that because they don’t know otherwise, clients most often turn to major fragrance houses for their briefs. This is OK if you do not have any restriction with your budget (major fragrance houses and manufacturers can costs 100 of thousands $!) but if budget limit is a problem, turning to a non-famous/celebrity perfumer can often produce wonders! A less known nose will work for you and only for you whereas the fame perfumer tends to work on several briefs at a time. In both scenarios, if you want an exceptional perfume, you will need to give time to the artist to perfect their work. It can take up to 2 years for your perfume to be ready to hit the store shelves.


As mentioned before, a perfumer tends to work with a certain number of ingredients and one thing you will often notice, is that a particular perfumer uses or always comes back to a set of similar core ingredients that s/he prefers. This is how a perfumer develops what is called their ‘signature‘. Whereas one might be more inclined to create light floral types of perfumes, another one will be more versed in strong Oriental or spicy perfumes. This does not mean to say that s/he is not able to create something different but identifying the signature of a perfumer does help your selection process. 

I have been making bespoke perfumes for private clients for many years. Many of them came to me because they had tested my own collection and liked it. My signature is classic and vintage with perfumes such as Chypre and Fougère but there is always an exotic, tropical or Oriental trait to them; some are fresh and spicy scents that make you travel the world from the comfort of your home. My floral scents have more frangipani, jasmine, Asian lily and ylang ylang than rose or mimosa. The exotic twist is definitely present even when I create something as classic as a Cologne. So if you hire me as a nose, and you want an English garden, you will more likely be offered an afternoon tea in the Bahamas!

I worked and lived in Pacific and Indian Ocean islands as well as African countries and my nose has been trained in these exotic and tropical odours. A perfumer who has spent most of his/her life in the mountains or in a city might have a totally different scent memory and knowledge of smells. Since the first thing a nose does is to ‘visualise‘ the scent before even starting the composition, the olfactory memory of both you the client and the creator will play an important role in the end result.

The personal story of the perfumer is thus another factor that you want to consider.

When one reads accounts from the most famous perfumers such as Guerlain, Ellena or defunct Master Perfumers such as Roudnistka or Carles, there is one common thread to all of them: – at some point in their lives, they took upon themselves to travel round the world (sometimes for several years) to discover the raw materials live and in search for new ingredients but mainly to train their noses to odours that were unknown to them. The valuable learnings from these faraway trips made them create some of the most timeless perfumes still available today!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are solely the opinions of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of businesses or institutions affiliated with the author. 

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Why perfumes should be synonymous with Luxury?

 …’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 for more details.

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

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

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Presenting the Perfumery Art School UK…

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

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The end of our perfumer’s world?


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!

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Iris root powder, my first love…

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.
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Bottega Veneta and my love at first sight! (or nearly)…

Encountering a new fragrance can be a really unusual experience particularly when the fragrance takes you back to your childhood – more exactly to the silk or satin lining of Mum’s leather bag after the bottle of Ô de Lancôme or of a Coty Chypre had slightly leaked or just impregnated the fabric!

It’s even more of a treat  as the encounter takes place when  perfume is the last thing on your mind!

Last week, I was flying back from Bordeaux to Manchester via London Gatwick! This is after having caught a train (luckily there was no strike!) and a shuttle to the airport. Landing in Gatwick, all I wanted was to catch my connection flight to Manchester. After going through the UK Border Agency passport control, I had to check-in again at another departure gate, about 3 km away!!

And here it was!! Winking at me: a simple but elegant bottle of Bottega Veneta

In my run to the departure gate and before being asked to smile for the camera, scanned through the body and searched by a lovely London custom officer who was wondering whether my bottle of Sauterne wine  was a liquid bomb and why I was carrying a French baguette in my bag, I went past the World Duty Free perfumery!! 

I was literally sweating under my coat and I needed to freshen up… And here it was- like winking at me, standing exactly where the marketing people knew everyone would go first i.e. on the side shelf, on the way to the departure gate,  a simple but elegant bottle of  BOTTEGA VENETA, a brand I had never heard of!

Mind you, I might have forgotten it all together because I quickly sprayed my neck and scarf and my wrists and run to the plane… I had forgotten to  note the  name and back home all I could remember was some words like VENDETTA  in the name…

 Time stopped!!

I could swear the smell that was developing on my wrists and scarf was Coty! And it was like the silk lining impregnated with a Chypre perfume in a leather bag!! No wonder! Bottega Veneta is LEATHER itself!! The company started to produce artisanal leather goods in 1966 and since 2001, is in the hands of Gucci. Bottega Veneta means ”Venitian Atelier”….

 This leather bags and accessories Italian house went for the full Monty on its first fragrance. Thomas Maier, their creative director  turned to Coty and Robertet for the creation of this Chypre-Fruity fragrance with Leather as its theme. The beauty of it is that because Bottega Veneta is about craftmanship, the fragrance has not lost the philosophy of the craft and this is why it is such a beautiful fragrance, reminiscent of the lost vintage perfumes.

On the first spray, you get bergamot and pepper (pink)!! I could swear it’s a CO2 extraction because it’s light. Exactly what I needed in my rush through Gatwick airport! But nothing really special at first glance! The spice continues through the fruity heart of prune. This Prune smells natural (maybe a blend of cedarwood + rose?) butI read somewhere it was a blend of osmanthus and violet. It’s not sickening at all because it blends with the jasmine (a natural isolate of jasmine to tone down its green aspect) and very quickly develops to give place to a powdery Venitian leather created through  a combination of patchouli (natural isolate giving a less mouldy smell), oakmoss (the derivative version of it, Evernyl )and leather note (its smokiness evokes birch tar). You start falling in love with Bottega Veneta when you realise that the first impression of vintage and classic scent gives place to a velvety leather seat on which you share a kiss with your lover in a Rolls-Royce! But it’s a soft, reassuring and warm leather that makes you feel like cocooning.

It’s been a week and the smell is still lingering on my scarf in which I plunge my nose every time I wear it. I close my eyes and I see Mum’s bag when I was 10!! Its price is affordable: £60/$90 for a 75 ml bottle but if you want the Murano bottle version, you’ll have to spend $395. It is definitely one I will treat myself with in 2012!

Bottega Veneta leather bag

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Are designer fragrance houses finally getting back to senses?

 I am rarely – if ever – enamoured by any of the fragrances created by designers, at least those created after the 1980s and the advent of EU regulations!

Usually, when I venture into sniffing designer fragrances, it takes me days to get rid of the awful synthetic smells lingering on my skin even after showering and I always feel sickened by the smell!

So when I was invited by a friend to discover the Collection Privee of Arabian scents by Giorgio Armani, I did not expect any thrill nor excitement. But as an Artisan perfumer, I confess I can sometimes be set in my mind and be too critical about designer’s fragrances.

My discovery of the Woody-Oriental Trio collection by Armani first introduced me to OUD ROYAL, a fragrance which -as its name clearly states – is composed mainly of Oud (or Agar wood) from Cambodia…

The Oud Royal composition is a classic one so it is not unique.  My own Arabian oud perfume, Escapade à Oman has very similar natural ingredients i.e. amber, rose, sandalwood, myrrh and incense but Armani has enriched his Oud Royal with saffron, his sandalwood is obviously an expensive Mysore one and he has added synthetic animal notes.  Oud Royal is designed to be unisex and it works. The whole scent is voluptuous, sensual, animalic and highly sexy. Its lasting power is incredibly powerful! Even after the shower, the oud is still lingering and the sexy smell still teases your nostrils but in a nice way. You want to revisit it again and again until it disappears completely and then, you want more!!  You will have to fork out a hefty £180 for the 100 ml Eau de Parfum though. Originally, the Armani Trio-Collection Privee was launched for the Middle East market which explains the Black and Gold bottles… and the price tag!

I then tried AMBRE D’ORIENT– a woody oriental perfume , that starts with a strong note of thyme, so strong that the first impression is that of a failed attempt of a natural perfume that smells medicinal. Oud is equally present in this one with a strong hint of vanilla. A bit too much for my Westerner sensitive nose,  definitely more Arabian. It did not do it for me but maybe it’s my skin that did not take it.

The last fragrance of this Trio Collection is ROSE D’ARABIE. Here the oud is accompanied by a beautiful Rose de Mai, classically blended with dark patchouli and a base of ambergris. The Rose is definitely powerful, topped by the spicy notes and wrapped by sandalwood. This is a nice Oriental Rose attempt and again, even though I believe many of the ingredients used are probably isolates rather than essential oils, I must recognise that Armani has raised my expectations that designer’s houses might actually come back to their senses and understand that creating perfumes according to traditional methods is -after all – what perfumery should be all about…

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Happy 50th wedding anniversary Mum and Dad!

 …To my beloved Mum and Dad, on your golden wedding anniversary…

11-11-11, The perfume of your life

 For you,

A Special perfume made of white roses & ylang ylang 
Because your love is True & Pure,
Ginger for your life has been so full of spice
Peach to tell you how grateful I am you are still here with us And for us
Vetiver because of your inner strength I admire so much
Hibiscus as you always fought with courage whatever the obstacles on the way… 

I love you with all my heart!
Je vous aime de tout mon coeur!  

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Becoming a natural perfumer…

How does one become a natural perfumer?

This is a question I am often asked and each natural perfumer has their own personal story to getting there; from Trygve Harris  and her quest for Omani frankincense to Alec Lawless and his passion for oenology and so many other colleagues all over the world, one common denominator is that we are all contributing to making people discover or re-discover the Scents of Nature with the main driving force being PASSION for NATURALS…. So as we celebrate the 5th Anniversary of the Natural Perfumers Guild, it is the opportunity for me to reflect on my own personal path to becoming a Natural perfumer.

Natural perfume is in my DNA!

I believe we are good at maths or we are not as much as I believe we are creative or not. It has all got to do with which part of our brain is more active and in my case, it is obvious that my rational/logical part has never been favoured by the stars!

On the other hand, my senses – particularly my sense of smell – have developed very early. It is probably due to my ‘melting pot’ origins! Born in the very capital of Beaujolais wine, Beaujeu… from a Mauritian /Madagascan father and a Belgian / Polish mother, it would be difficult to deny that my DNA was not printed with variety and scented genes! Yet, I probably fell in the Beaujolais wine pot because to this day, Beaujolais has never left me with any great memory nor taste! But it did leave me with a sense of appreciation of Nature and it is probably no coincidence that one of my sources of inspiration are the vineyards.

The few first years of my childhood that I spent in the Pyrenees and Basque country made me discover the smells of old school fireplaces, farmhouse animals smells, fields of daisies and forests of chestnuts and mushrooms and the powerful smell of tranquility but strangely enough, I remember more the smells of VETIVER and VANILLA  brought by our family visiting us from Madagascar.

A golden childhood in a Pacific island…

But my early passion for perfumes undoubtedly started at the tender age of 7 when I first set foot in the tropical island of New Caledonia. Each stop of the 34 hours journey in a DC-8 plane on the way to the island had been marked by memorable smells of some kind: petrol smoke in Bahrain; strong leather skin in Karachi; exotic flowers in Colombo; gunpowder in Saigon (our plane was the last one to be allowed to land there at the peak of the Vietnam war); humid and damp earth in Singapore and finally the smell that I will never forget upon getting out of the plane: NIAOULI essence! I can remember breathing that smell in deeply during the 70 km journey to Noumea, the capital city where I will live for 8 years.

First flowers, first perfumes!

First flower, first perfumeMy Tahitian friends and I were producing Monoi of New Caledonia!…

Those golden years in Paradise were spent with Nature in all its aspects: beautiful sandy beaches with the smells of coconut, mangroves with the smells of roots, rainforests with the smells of niaouli and sandalwood, woods with the smells of guava and passion fruit! One could not experience more exotic smells at one time than when visiting New Caledonia! It was not long before my Tahitian friends showed me how to macerate tiare flowers in coconut oil. As kids, we were doing this on the beach while the parents were preparing the local meal ‘bougna’… After experiencing the production of Monoi, I saw no reason why not to continue with other plants. My next successful trial would be the infusion of sandalwood, niaouli and camphor wood! I used it as a wax for my desk in my bedroom. That gorgeous smell still is strongly imprinted in my memory today… It goes to show how strong the memory of a scent can be!

Leaving New Caledonia and arriving in Africa!

My teen years were spent in a totally different environment and culture yet a fascinating one: West Africa. Once again, I will always remember the smells during the journey from the airport to our house: those smells were a blend of all kinds of smell that are difficult to describe and that anyone should experience at least once in their lifetime; alongside the roads in Togo, were small stalls run by women – the scents were composed of anything from resin woods for burning to Brazilian nuts, peanuts, grilled maize, charcoaled cassava, spices and herbs and the scent of SHEA BUTTER (slightly smoky) which – in its raw and unrefined version – is most commonly used in cooking meals and as a skin moisturiser… The smells were enhanced by the beautiful and vibrant colours of the fabrics and of Africa: earthy, yellowish, green! A real dance of the senses takes place when you visit Africa.

First sight at arrival in Africa

Those smells are so addictive that it is very difficult to get rid of the powerful grasp Africa can have so, after my graduation in France, I decided to return there. And guess which sector I worked in: SPICES AND AROMAS! For 3 years, working for a Japanese food & spices company, I travelled all over West Africa, covering 16 territories, from cities to the bush, to source,  negotiate, buy and sell spices, green tea and herbs. These remain the most memorable years of my life, with so many tales and adventures that they could easily be contained in a book… But above all, this very intensive experience of the senses did set the basis for the perfumery path I am now on…

It is also during my years in Africa that I learnt about the essential oil and shea butter extraction processes in the bush! I also became the Secretary General of the Coffee/Cocoa/Pepper farming association in Togo and learnt a great deal on organic botanicals and farming. This explains why I do not accept to join any organic certified association in Europe or the West… Real organic farming using natural plants for fertilising should be learnt from developing countries!

Welcome to green England and back to the DNA theory!

I left Africa eventually as I felt I needed some Western professional experience in my career. I arrived in England where I lived for 4 years before embarking on more international travel from the Canary Islands, Spain and Mexico to the Indian Ocean islands of Reunion, Madagascar, the Seychelles, South Africa and eventually returning to Africa before ending up in France, Belgium and finally back to the U.K.  Even though the weather is so different to most of the exotic places I lived in, there was always something attracting me about England in particular…As I said, perfumery to me is in my DNA…

A few years ago, I did try to put together my family tree and discovered that one of my distant ancestors were Jean-Baptiste and Auguste Gellé, soapmakers and perfumers in the end of the 18th century in Paris… I also found out that another direct ancestor was a persecuted noble Huguenot who run away from France to England where my great-great-great grand father was born. He eventually left to Mauritius island as a trader on behalf of the Queen! Talk about DNA eh?

My family coat-of-arms

I am a self-taught perfumer and hold a diploma in aromatherapy from Oxford College, U.K. as well as an Indian head massage diploma. I also am a qualified lecturer (Hull College and University of the Arts, London) in the lifelong learning sector and regularly run perfumery and aromatherapy workshops and courses throughout the U.K.

Having always lived with and around pure Nature, I define myself as a true environmentalist and I believe in a holistic approach to the Beauty in general.


Adam Gottschalk – Lord’s Jester
Alec Lawless– Being Led by the Nose
Anu Prestonia– Anu Essentials blog
Anya McCoy – Anya’s Garden Perfumes
Charna Ethier – Providence Perfumes
Christine Ziegler– A little Ol’factory
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz – DSH Perfumes
Denise Smith – Perfume Journal
Elise Pearlstine – Belly Flower Perfumes
Emily Pienaar – The Western Cape Perfumery Blog
Ida Meister – Ca Fleure Bon
JoAnne Bassett – JoAnne Bassett Perfumes
Karen Williams – Aromatics International
Laura Natusch – Olive and Oud
Lise Abdul-Quddus  – Blossoming Tree Bodycare
Noelle Smith – ElleNoire
Robert Tisserand – I’m Just Saying
Ross Urrere – Olfactory Rescue Service
Susan Stype – Aromatherapy Contessa
Trygve Harris – Absolute Trygve

Categories: AROMAS & SCENTS NEWS | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

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