Editor's note: These interviews are the first 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.
Hermès In-house Perfumeur
Marian: 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.
Jean-Claude Ellena: XXth century, in 1911.
M: Who would that be?
Paul Poiret, the first couture house which created its own perfumery under the name ‘Les Parfums de Rosine’.
M: What specific questions would you want to learn from them?
I wouldn’t have any questions, but the wish to live a week with him, in his fantasy, share his carefree life, his parties. Well finally I would ask him one question: How did you collaborate with the perfumer who created for you, Henri Alméras?
M: If you could team up together in that time period, who would you like to co-create a fragrance for?
As fantasy is important for Paul Poiret, we could create together the first masculine perfume of a man who will change the vision of the world: Pablo Picasso who was 30 years old at that time.
M: If you could bring anything back with you, what would that be?
Humour and joy of living.
Perfumer and Founder, Tauer Perfumes
I am not a fan of the early fifties and based on what I have learned about this time period I would rather like to leave this rubber plant and huge cocktail dress time to get my whiff of patchouli or other weeds later in the sixties. But I would be delighted to travel to 1950.
There is one reason to travel back then: It is Edmond Roudnitska, working on a fragrance that would see the light of this world as Diorissimo in 1956. I would travel back in time, end of April, early May, when the lily of the valley in his garden were blooming and where I imagine meeting this genius. Maybe I would have refreshed my French a little bit in light of this occasion. Bonjour Monsieur, I would say, and blush and would fall on my knees to sniff with him the lily of the valley, growing in his garden.
And then, I would ask him whether he put cumin aldehyde in the Diorissimo, hoping that I am right (I belong to an almost extinct class of perfumers working without GC). I love Diorissimo; and I admire Roudnitska and I have his “qualités fondamentales du grand parfum” always in front of my nose: “caractère, vigueur, pouvoir diffusant, délicatesse, clarté, volume, persistance”. Thus, after the second glass of Champagne, I would be brave enough; begging him to let me know more about the base that he used to fix the lily of the valley.
Marian: If you could team up together in that time period, who would you like to co-create a fragrance for?
Not having mastered a really good orange flower fragrance myself, I would like Roudnitska to help me out there, joining me for a few years, waiting for the sixties, and then we would do the ultimate patchouli-sandalwood-orange flower scent together. For Jim Morrison, of course, who would be delighted to pose for our marketing campaign.
M:If you could bring anything back with you, what would that be?
On my way home to 2008 I would buy Sandalwood from Mysore, as much as I could possibly get, in a quality that I cannot get anymore today, and I would then finally make the scent that I have always been dreaming of.
Join Marian next week for time travels with Camille Goutal, Ineke Ruhland and Antoine Maisondieu.