An interview with CPL Aromas perfumer, David Ruskin

by Grant Osborne, 08th January, 2010

As part of the Basenotes Community Fragrance Project, where CPL Aroma's are going to create a fragrance based on the ideas of the Basenotes Community, we are featuring interviews with the three perfumers who will be creating our fragrances for us. Last up is David Ruskin.

Hello David, tell us about yourself.

I'm David Ruskin of CPL Aromas. I've been in the industry for thirty years. I've only ever worked in two fragrance houses, the first was at Bush Boake Allen (now part of IFF) and since then I've been at CPL for 13 years.

What would you create if you had no brief?

I think in many ways the 'Golden Age' of fine fragrance has passed. I have become increasingly interested in some of the old, classic fragrances that are always talked about. Mitsouko is a special favourite, but there are many others that I would like to use as inspiration.

If I had no brief and no cost restrictions at all, I would like to reinterpret some of the classic fragrance styles but using modern aromachemicals that we now have available, that weren't available at the time the fragrances were initially created. I'm quite a fan of old fashioned chypre's and oriental fragrances and would like to take a fresh modern look at those. I’m also a fan of leathery notes.

Fragrance follows fashion. We've had more than a decade of quite transparent, light, watery fragrances but it's gradually changing and we're seeing more fragrances that are more oriental, woody, even animallic - and the chypre is coming back big time. I would like to go more extreme than we’re seeing at the moment, some of the old fragrances were extremely extreme!

Are there any downsides of being a perfumer today?

The cost of raw materials never goes down, unfortunately! But I think the main problem we all face is the increasing complexity of regulations and the fact that we are being constantly restricted in the number of materials we can use. We have to also be aware of the different applications of the fragrance, and even the country to which we're working, because we have the EU regulations, the North American regulations, Japanese regulations and individual country regulations - and the regulations of individual companies within those countries…..It's a full time business just to keep abreast of those, because they're constantly changing. A lot.

And I am finding it frustrating that it's getting tighter and tighter and stricter and stricter which is a great shame. That's my personal bugbear.

What are the fun parts?

You get to smell stuff! I really do think that the sense of smell is underused by most people, and it's such a wonderful sense. The fun side of being a perfumer is that you get to constantly smell lots of things and that generally makes you more aware of the sense of smell. I think all perfumers are passionate about what they do so its always great to be able to talk to other perfumers who share that enthusiasm.

The sense of smell brings much more enjoyment to your life. I've always wanted to educate people because it brings more pleasure to them, and I've done quite a lot of that in my career. I’ve taught on the Cosmetic Science degree course at the London College of Fashion and in the past I was president of the British Society of Perfumers, and one of the briefs of that society is to educate.

Are you looking forward to accepting briefs from a community of fragrance lovers from around the world.

I'm an avid reader of Basenotes, I think it's a wonderful site. I love the enthusiasm and the passion of the people who contribute. I'm looking forward to it, though I'm somewhat concerned as I know a lot of the Basenotes community know a hell of a lot about perfumery, probably more than I do about fine fragrances! I think they're going to be very tough! But, I'm looking forward to it very much.

[HR][/HR]Join The Basenotes Community Fragrance Project Have you ever wanted to create your own fragrance? You can sign up to come to CPL Aromas to have a perfumery day - or you can help evaluate the fragrance by joining the sample program. More information on both of these can be found here.

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    • Redneck Perfumisto | 9th January 2010 01:49

      I wouldn't worry at all, David - not one bit. Reading what you have to say, it's like a dream come true for Basenoters. The things you would love to do - those are the things SO many BNers are waiting for. I think we have a fair number of briefs in there that would be right up your alley (and pleasing to all of us), and I sincerely hope that you can find several that you love and feel passionate about. :thumbsup:

      And, needless to say, your resume is very impressive. It's far more than a lucky break for us to get someone with your background. It's truly an honor. I was also quite impressed by CPL giving us Mike, with 30 years in the industry, and Beverly, a Senior Perfumer. Wow! I just want to say thanks to all of you at CPL, and to Grant and Dani, for pulling this off. I don't think there could possibly be a better way to celebrate 10 years of Basenotes.

      Cheers! :beer:

    • Nicolas V | 9th January 2010 14:20


      Great interview and we are really honored to have you on board. I liked how you mentioned that the industry has been steadily producing light, airy, watery scents for over a decade and now is moving toward orientals...and chypres. What do you think has prompted this shift? I also liked that you are interested in "reinterpreting" some of the classics. I too am a lover of classic scents--there is something about either the materials or structure of the "older" fragrances that really moves me--and have wondered why don't we do this anymore.

      Whereas fragrance is a big love in my life, I didn't really think about how much I don't use my sense of smell until you mentioned how "underused" you think it is. Obviously, you utilize this sense more than most, but how can we incorporate more of it in our lives?

      Thank you for your time and it is really exciting to have you with us.



    • Asha | 10th January 2010 21:20

      Chypre? Did somebody say Chypre? And oriental? And did I hear "reinterpret some of the classic fragrance styles but using modern aromachemicals"? Sounds like a winning briefless brief :smiley:

    • David Ruskin | 11th January 2010 09:48

      Thank you so much, I hope something acceptable can be done.