Updates on olfactory trends, marketing, development and future

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. 

Categories: AROMAS & SCENTS NEWS, OLFACTORY DEVELOPMENT, SOCIETY | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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 www.lesparfumsisabelle.co.uk for more details.

Categories: AROMAS & SCENTS NEWS, DISCOVERY, HISTORY AND SCENTS, OLFACTORY DEVELOPMENT, SOCIETY | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Categories: AROMAS & SCENTS NEWS, DISCOVERY, OLFACTORY DEVELOPMENT | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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…

Categories: AROMAS & SCENTS NEWS, OLFACTORY DEVELOPMENT | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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