Annick Menardo has worked at Firmenich since 1991, having trained at ISIPCA and alongside Michel Almairac at Creations Aromatiques.
Menardo's list of creations is both vast and impressive, having created many fragrances that are considered favourites amongst those in the Male Fragrance Discussion board and by Basenotes founder Grant Osborne.
Incredibly deft in utilising vanilla notes, either in a resinous state or in a more gourmand take, one of Menardo's most famous (and inexplicably difficult to find in stores) scents, which happens to be the most reviews unisex fragrance on Basenotes is Bulgari Black
tempers rubber with a fantastic smoky tea note against and of course, a fantastic creamy vanilla drydown. The infamous hockey puck bottle has a juice often described as "like hot tyres" and is something every self respecting perfumista should sniff at their earliest convenience (I bought it blind and have never looked back).
In a much more commercially successful scent, Boss Bottled
(which is probably the best fragrance Hugo Boss have ever launched) the creamy sandalwood and vanilla base is put against what P&G's marketing department refer to as apple pie: cinnamon, a somewhat apple-y topnote, and geranium. It's fantastic.
Showing her skill at employing vanilla in a non-vanilla centric scent, Menardo created Le Labo's Gaiac 10: a translucent woody scent, with a faintly smoky character, that wonderfully plays up the creamy vanillic aspects of Gaiac.
Menardo is the Queen of the anise note - demonstrated so incredibly in many of her creations across various houses and it would appear she has been sought out and added to fragrance projects to impart her anisic wisdom.
The first anise centric fragrance by Menardo is 1997's Lolita Lempicka: a sheer variation on long-time collaborator Olivier Cresp's Angel - replacing the notorious chocolate note with a more muted licorice tone.
Also for Lolita Lempicka, she created 2000s somewhat tamer Au Masculin for gents too scared to go full on for the original. The same year also saw the launch of Body Kouros, which to my nose is the anisic take on Bulgari Black, with a quiet eucalyptus topnote.
is an anisic, spicy fougeriental, with an animalic backside and is easily identifiable as work of Menardo upon first sniff. Also available in the department store is Fuel for Life pour Homme
, where Menardo loaned her anise-expertise to the team of Perfumers that created what is probably still Diesels best scent since L'Oreal took over their fragrance division. (Fuel for Life pour Homme also has a fantastic dry raspberry note and is worth paying attention to.)
Resins and woods
Resins and woods have a many facets, including soft vanillic suggestions in both gaiac and benzoin - which Menardo is able to show off in such delicate and beautiful ways.
DSquared2's Potion was amongst the best masculines of 2011, a softly smoky woody scent where spices and patchouli dominate soft ambery notes.
For Guerlain, Menardo made the wonderful Bois d'Armenie which is deliciously sticky benzoin heavy scent, with whispers of incense smoke, playing on the idea of traditional Papier d'Armenie and translating it into a fantastically wearable, somewhat gourmand, perfume.
Having created my personal favourite of the Dior line, the original Bois d'Argent
, before Francois Demachy translated it to an EDP as part of La Collection Privee - has a gorgeous, woodsy and metallic iris note, as well as the softest, most gentle use of frankincense in a perfume that I've experienced.
And in what is probably one of her most 'out there' scents, Gaultier's Kokorico
a benzoin note hovers in the background behind a chocolate and figs topnote - giving the suggestion of vanilla ice cream that you get when sniffing benzoin in dilution.
Amongst Menardo's numerous creations, a few stand out as being 'weirder' than her other works and harder to fit into neat little categories. That isn't to say that they don't have relationships to her other fragrances, but they are noteworthy enough to require an acknowledgement.
Again for Le Labo, Patchouli 24 begins as a meaty, dense smokebomb which eventually dries into familiar Menardo territory, a soft, vanillic hug of a scent. You're in for one heck of a journey trying this one.
Givenchy's Xeryus Rouge
is probably one of the only scent's I've known to employ a successful kumquat note: the juicy, fresh opening is juxtaposed against dry, herbal and woody notes and is notable for being markedly more successful than its predecessor, Xeryus.
And a perfume that I feel deserves a mention in mourning is Palazzo
- a fragrance created for Fendi with Thierry Wasser that was genuinely wonderful - and then deleted because of low sales. A glorious orange blossom perfume, with Menardo's signature gaiac-sandal creaminess, and a spicy, dryness. It was crisp, feminine, and absolutely beautiful.
The fragrance in which Annick Menardo demonstrates her skills most effectively in the greatest flanker to ever grace perfume counters: Hypnotic Poison
marrying a soft, anise and licorice note against a rich, almond and vanilla background and a green, plush jasmine note. Hypnotic Poison has been ever popular since its launch - and remains the only Poison flanker to take the deadly theme in a literal sense (benzaldehyde smells of bitter almond), and to get decent flankers of itself. Hypnotic Poison will remain my defense for the perfume industries obsession with flankering already successful perfumes.