Scent Treks through Time ~ Michel Roudnitska / Mandy Aftel / Antoine Lie

16th June, 2008

Editor's note: These interviews are the third part of a series in which Marian Bendeth explores what a panel of modern perfumers would say if they could travel back to the time of their choosing, to meet, chat and co-create with a perfumer of the past. An introduction to the series and table of contents is here.


Michel Roudnitska

Perfumer, Art et Parfum

Noir Epices by Frederic Malle, Amoureuse by Delrae, Bois de Paradis by Delrae, Debut by Delrae, Eau Illuminee by Delrae, Ellie D, N de Maurice Namani, Shiloh by Hors la Monde (more...)

I think that during these past 40 years we have been living the golden age of Perfumery: the wider palette of raw materials we never had in our history combined with the final recognition of the creation of fragrance as a work of Art. I really feel as a privilege to have been living in such a period and a greater privilege to have been taught by my father Edmond. He communicated me his passion for quality and creativity in perfumes but also in the other Fine Arts.

I had the chance to assist at the progressive birth of Eau Sauvage after 6 years of work, to smell it on nearly all my business school’s friends and to have a wonderful mother wearing the unique and fabulous Parfum de Therese!

So what could be a better dream for a perfumer than that?

In fact my challenge was not to find another master in the past or in the present but to find my own personality independently of my father’s influence.

That’s why after five years of hard studies with him, I decided to go away home for ten years, traveling all over the world, looking for a new inspiration.

I have been particularly attracted by tropical countries, Asian and Oceanian cultures.

Nature itself has been my best teacher, discovering new scents and also listening to the old traditional cultures.

Indeed I was not interested in the study of the great Classic fragrances as every young perfumer does, but in finding a new approach of composition based on my experience in olfactive shows and ballets. In this field of research there was no master available because when I started in 1996 it was completely new.

I had to invent everything by myself, starting first with a small number of raw materials and combining them to express strongly the spirit of a whole country /culture, or a particular emotion. So I learned a new kind of olfactive writing, like a music score, helping people to fly with their imagination and memories in a very expressive multisensorial trip.

No marketing considerations, no financial limits because the quantity of fragrance used was very few!

This incredible liberty was very stimulating for finding new olfactive “accords”.

That’s how my show “World Scents” has been created in 2003 and then presented in several cities all around the world.

If it was possible to travel back in time to any particular century and decade of your choice to meet your number one inspirational Perfumer:

When would that be? Please state century and decade.

My best partners in this kind of research would be the Shamans with their ancestral knowledge of plants and their psychoactive effects.

MB: Who would that be?

Since the beginning of humanity perfumes have been used in a sacred way by those peoples: Aboriginals, Polynesians, Native Americans, Egyptians, Greeks, Buddhists…

MB: What specific questions would you want to learn from them?

I am convinced we still have a lot to learn from them, especially in the use of some special vegetal we are not aware of yet.

When I went to Australia in 2003 for the Aboriginal Garma Festival in the Northern Territories, I discovered the “Fire Tree” which has a very distinctive and powerful fragrance which immediately inspired me. This plant was traditionally used in rituals by the Aboriginal shamans and I would like to learn more precisely its effects on our spirit.

I started to work with it in a new floral composition but I am still waiting for its homologation by the safety authorities.

My main purpose in the future is to combine the best of our modern technologies with the ancient traditional wisdom of these people (before it’s completely lost!), in order to bring more consciousness in our creations, for a better respect of the public and the planet.


Mandy Aftel

Perfumer and Owner of Aftelier Perfumes

Creations: Tango, Cepes and Tuberose, Pink Lotus (more...)

Marian Bendeth: If it was possible to travel back in time to any particular century and decade of your choice to meet your number one inspirational Perfumer:

When would that be? Please state century and decade:

Mandy Aftel: I would travel back to the last quarter of the nineteenth century, when all the materials for natural perfumery were in abundance.

MB: Who would that be?

W. Septimus Piesse, author of The Art of Perfumery, one of the first intelligible and well-written authoritative studies of perfumery. Partly historical and partly about ingredients -- a passionate love of both permeates every page. It was first published in 1855 and translated and revised in various editions for the next four decades. The book is a classic in the literature, and his international reputation has survived to this day.

MB: What specific questions would you want to learn from them?

Septimus Piesse was, along with the poet Baudelaire, one of the first people to compare perfume to music. He saw the musical structure of scents and a correspondence between musical and perfume notes. He created the “The Odophone”, taking sharp smells to correspond to high notes and heavy smells with low. He believed that one false note among the odors, as among the music, destroyed the harmony.

It was during this time period that perfumery was becoming accepted as an “art”. Piesse observed, “As an artist would blend his colors, so must a perfumer blend his scents. “ From this aesthetic and totally original idea, I would want to further explore the connection between scent and music, to break free from the stifling stock recipes used by apothecaries, to turn natural perfumes into something beautiful, self-conscious and original. I would want to work with him to apply this painterly sensibility to creating perfumes wholly with natural essences.

MB: If you could team up together in that time period, who would you like to co-create a fragrance for?

The great Oscar Wilde who wrote one of the best arguments for creating with natural essences:

“And so he would now study perfumes and the secrets of their manufacture, distilling heavily scented oils and burning odorous gums from the East. He saw that there was no mood of the mind that had not its counterpart in the sensuous life, and set himself to discover their true relations, wondering what there was in frankincense that made one mystical, and in ambergris that stirred one's passions, and in violets that woke the memory of dead romances, and in musk that troubled the brain, and in champak that stained the imagination; and seeking often to elaborate a real psychology of perfumes, and to estimate the several influences of sweet-smelling roots and scented, pollen-laden flowers; of aromatic balms and of dark and fragrant woods; of spikenard, that sickens; of hovenia, that makes men mad; and of aloes, that are said to be able to expel melancholy from the soul.” Portrait of Dorian Gray

MB: If you could bring anything back with you, what would that be?

The wisdom, wit and humanity of Oscar Wilde, along with big chunks of ambergris, which were apparently in abundance back then.



Antoine Lie

Senior Perfumer, Givaudan

Creations: Etat Libre d'Orange Rossy de Palma, Armani Code for Men, Burberry Brit Gold, Paul Smith London Men, Comme des Garçons 8 88, Tom of Finland, Davidoff Adventure (more...)

I would travel to the last century between 1950 and 1970 to meet Germaine Cellier because she created Balmain’s Vent Vert and Piguet's Bandit and Fracas. I think and they are still very creative and inspirational

I would not ask her any questions specifically but just tell how lucky she was to be so daring and that her fragrances looked more like an art at that time. Now we are really more an industry of business.

I would love to do the next Christian Dior for woman with her. With her vision and my understanding of the market and the power of LVMH, I am sure it would have been a hit.

MB: If you could bring anything back with you, what would that be?

The liberty in creation, the quality of natural products and the legislation in toxicology at that time.



Join Marian again on Wednesday for more scent treks...

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About the author: Marian Bendeth

Marian Bendeth is a Global Fragrance Expert based out of Toronto, Canada. Marian has won six fragrance industry editorial awards for her writing. You can find out more on her website


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