Inspirations and distillations of a perfumer ~ Scent Treks through Time

02nd June, 2008

My office looks like a perfume emporium. It is stacked high with beautiful fragrances and flacons, tissue-stuffed bags, and dozens of press kits, CD's and USB hubs. Sorting through the jpegs and a plethora of poetic descriptions, mostly pertaining to “beautiful dreams," “far-off lands” and “sex, sex, SEX;” they all vie for my immediate attention. Lately, something unique in the media kit has caught my eye.

On the page with the pyramid breakdowns (top, middle and base notes) is listed something new, which has impacted the way we view fragrances! The names or teams of perfumers are now getting finally receiving recognition - and about time too!

Much credit should be attributed to Frédéric Malle, President Editions de Parfums who, back in 2000, released these wonderful 'genies' out of their flacons! Malle provided quality materials and credited the artisans on the bottle (don't call them “noses” most dislike this term). It was only a matter of time before the public relations managers, media, and bloggers followed suit and now, some perfumers have reached cult status.

Perfumers have emblazoned scented notations in the pages of cultural history. Scholarly books, great works of art and religions speak of their significance and proliferation which reaches across the continents, dating back thousands of years. From the plains of Mesopotamia, to the scented clocks of China to the spice trade routes of Oman and Yemen, the religious, tribal, and functional uses of rudimentary blends were ingrained in everyday life. Fragrances impacted and helped to orchestrate commerce, trade, exploration, and influence. While some alchemists worked in relative obscurity, modestly refining their craft; others gained much notoriety and were respected and revered by their associations or for advancing techniques of perfumery.

Recently, with the inclusion of aroma-chemicals and experimentation, the fragrances of the past two hundred years have evolved into sophisticated blends. Their associations with individuals have continued to be lauded as badges of honour. In subsequent eras, their impact and legacy still lingers. Historic and modern blends have contributed and defined the social mores, political and socio-economic standards for over five thousand years, pre-dating the birth of many major religions of today.

The life of a perfumer through the ages

If one wants to experience the life of a French Perfumer in the 16th through 20th centuries, indulge yourself in a leisurely visit to through the Castle Chamerolles in the Loire Valley, 100 km south of Paris in France. The 16th century castle is owned by the City of Paris and donated to the Loiret Department (Conseil Général of France).

Each room is dedicated to a particular century and replicates how perfumers would spend their daily routines from the 16th, 17th 18th 19th and 20th centuries. The rooms can boast many authentic artifacts and furnishings. One might see a geographer's box that carried new and exciting plants from abroad; scented pomander balls that hang from the rafters and dry baths in musty rooms where the windows are actually taped up, lest the plague enter in.

The perfumed aristocracy of these times would possess an ornate Toilette case, with multiple compartments that would contain delicate beauty appliqués, powdered cosmetics and costly hand-blended perfumes on an ornate vanity table.

From perfume diffusers to jars of preserved ambergris, one can browse through authentic perfume advertisements, view an original perfume organ of 270 oils and synthetics, or mosey through a darkened room lit up with fairy lights with glass showcases that hold a multitude of collectible flacons and vintage perfume labels.

Continuing the fragrance theme to the immaculate, landscaped grounds, the botanical Renaissance gardens are abundant with climbing vines, plants and flowers of honeysuckle, hybrid roses, lavender and medicinal herbs. All of these naturals were the basis of the perfumer's palette.

One could imagine a perfumer of the time, Jean-Louis Fargeon blending intricate scents for his patroness, Marie-Antoinette, in the 18th century room. Inspired by one of his original formulations, perfumer, Francis Kurkdjian recently reproduced with finite artisanship, one of Fargeon's blends for the Château de Versailles and aptly named it, 'M.A. Sillage de la Reine'.

All of these creative challenges of the future meets the past planted a particular curiosity in me. I wonder what a blue-ribbon 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?

With Honour:

The 50 Perfumers...


  • Jean-Claude Ellena and Andy Tauer [2 June 2008]

  • Camille Goutal, Ineke Ruhland and Antoine Maisondieu [9 June 2008]

  • Mandy Aftel, Antoine Lie and Michel Roudnitska [16 June 2008]

  • Francis Kurkdjian, Geza Schoen and Jessica Buchanan [18 June 2008]

  • Nathalie Lorson, Roja Dove and Michael Storer [24 June 2008]

  • Bertrand Duchaufour, Marvel Fields and Steven deMarcado [30 June 2008]

  • Jean-Michel Duriez, Calice Asancheyev Becker and Vero Kern [7 July 2008]

  • Maurice Roucel, Linda Pilkington and Lorenzo Villoresi [9 July 2008]

  • Rodrigo Flores-Roux, Ralf Schweiger and Neil Morris [23 July 2008]

  • Nathalie Feisthauer / Christoph Hornetz / Jane Hendler / Isabelle Michaud [9 August 2008]

  • James Krivda, Sophie Labbé, Laurent Le Guernec and Christophe Laudamiel [23 August 2008]

  • Cecile Krakower, Karine Chevallier, Lyn Harris and Sylvie Jourdet [22 September 2008]

  • Aurélien Guichard, Stephen Nilsen, Michael Carby, Yann Vasnier [12 October 2008]

  • Evelyne Boulanger, Patricia Choux, Jean-Pierre Béthouart and Christiane Plos [25 November 2008]

  • Mathilde Laurent, Thierry Wasser, Harry Fremont and Serge Lutens [12 December 2008]

    Marian would like to thank Michael Edwards and Fragrances of the

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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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