mike Id really love to listen to this interview could you paste a link to the audio file I couldn't find it on their website
Ever so often I meet someone at work, or in a social situation and the subject of fragrance comes up. As soon as I start talking about it with someone else I get so eager and excited about it. That's why I enjoy reading perfume articles, reviews so much both here on BN and on the 'net (Burr, Turin, various blogs, etc.)
How did I get so lucky, that I have the opportunity to wear a fragrance as beautifully composed as Vetiver Extraordinaire or Heritage (fragrances that are NOT prominently displayed at my local dept store counters) and then have the opportunity to understand the ingredients, the perfumer, the science behind them, comparisons and alternatives - that firmly plant me in the creative arc and history of the fragrance itself? Well, because of Basenotes.
I've come to realize that fragrance most perfectly reflects how being in the world feels to me (minimal techno music is a close second). I love their romance, grandeur, and mystery; and how they blend with natural ambient smells in my life, buffering, coloring, and orchestrating my surroundings.
The reasons why I like fragrance so much and write about it so much are definitely related, although I'm not sure whether the former exerts influence on the latter, or vice-versa. Either way, I'm certain that all the writing I've done here on Basenotes (this being my 5,000th post) has made it harder to smell a brand new fragrance without my brain cranking into overdrive. How does it work? What is its note pyramid and/or classification? Do I like it? Should I like it? Where should I write/talk about it?
So in honor of my 5,000th post I thought I'd post about the opposite effect - that of not actively critiquing and talking about my thoughts on fragrance, but instead just listening to someone else talk about fragrance. One of my favorite perfume critics, Luca Turin, recently conducted a radio interview on the American Public Media program 'The Story'. A fellow Basenoter posted about it here: http://community.basenotes.net/showthread.php?t=206131 It's another fascinating opportunity to hear Turin discuss fragrance, emotion, memory and much more. Since the radio show archived the show online, I decided to transcribe the interview (it's a 50 minute show), so I am posting the show in sections. I will post additional sections as I transcribe them.
If you want more information about 'The Story' radio program please visit their website at: www.thestory.org
Announcer: I'm Dick Gordon. Coming up the story of scent. From the man who says he's figured out what makes smell so appealing. Luca Turin works as the top scientist at a company designing the molecules of which perfume is composed. He's become completely consumed with the search for and the appreciation of the finest ever made - he's partial to Shisedo's Nombre Noir and Houbigant's Fougere Royale - he says that one starts like a Bruckner symphony, a muted pianissimo of strings giving an impression of tremendous ease and quiet power. Imagine, he says, approaching a white beach, and when you get closer you realize it's a beach covered with all different sizes of white birds and as the wind lifts them off the beach...first the smaller then the larger birds, so the air lifts the molecules of scent from the smooth wrist of a woman. Interested? I'm back with Luca Turin after the news.
Announcer: Luca Turin talks about different smells we might all recognize. Vanilla. Musk. Sandalwood. He says that science has long known what's in them, but that figuring out how they work inside the nose, that's the real puzzle. Luca studied the idea of vibrations on membrane receptors wondering if that's what causes the smell of something like sulfur to make us scrunch up our nose. He's read papers about inelastic electron tunneling spectrometry and while the scientific explanation is what matter to him as a man in the perfume business Luca Turin has developed his own wonderful nose for scent. And an ability to explain how. Not why, but how we smell. I'm Dick Gordon and this is 'The Story'.
(station identification pause)
Announcer: Luca Turin says that a good perfume is a like a poem. Where each different molecule is a word. And the arrangement of certain molecules will create a certain scent. Luca says its like a poem because each sniff is different as the smell of the perfume warms and ages and changes – and says you can find great depth and complexity there. One thing that Luca Turin will do when you meet him is remind you that he’s a scientist with a doctorate in biophysics and this perfume ‘thing’ – it wasn’t until he started exploring something like smell that people started asking him questions.
Luca Turin: Every single thing I had done before in Science, had been of interest only to me – or at best a small number of people specialized in the field. My previous research topics had been the stability of membranes profused with fluoride and the movement of lipid soluble ions across tight junctions of membranes, etc. None of these had ever proved particularly electrifying as a topic of conversation. Smell was different. Everyone perked up when I explained what I was up to.
Announcer: Luca, why is that? Why, why do people like this subject as much as they do.
LT: Well, it’s one of these questions that people I suppose, people ask themselves when they’re nine years old (laughing), and then… because it doesn’t get answered they kind of forget about it…um…I remember when I was a kid, in fact I was nine years old and a friend of my mother’s, I think she must have been then about thirty-five, she was tall, very handsome in a sort of Amazon like, angular, aristocratic face, with high cheekbones and small dark blue eyes and wore her hair short; wore tweeds…trousers. She was very, very elegant. And she wore a man’s fragrance. She wore Guerlain’s Vetiver. And I thought she was divinely beautiful (laughing) and the very essence of style and in fact she was (laughing) at the time I think she was considered to be one of the most stylish women in Paris. And I, I fell totally in love with her. And, and I remember thinking that the fragrance that she wore, this thing for men was really it! You know? The fact that she wore this masculine thing was a real statement and it made a huge impression on me.
A: Did you ever buy it yourself? That fragrance?
L: Oh, yes. Of course, of course…it’s…that particular one has been on my shelf since…virtually…since when I was fifteen years old.
A: And this woman, did you see her again in later years?
L: Yes, I saw her again. In fact…(laughing) we went to a fancy dress ball and I was…I was not fancy dressed. But I picked her up and she was in her mid-seventies at the time. She was still really beautiful. And she had on a stunning black dress… and I mean when she came in the place fell quiet.
A: And the fragrance would have been a small part of that?
LT: I don’t know what fragrance she was wearing that day…(laughing)..in fact, no, I do know. She was…by that time she was wearing a dreadful, very loud (Announcer laughing) jasmine…which smelled of (unintelligible word)…I thought
A: Oh my. Did you tell her?
LT: No…(laughing) I don’t dice with my life (laughing)
A: (laughing) There’s a lot that I learned in reading The Secret Scent. And one of the things was that…the way a perfume comes off a smelling strip or your wrist or wherever we’re smelling it from…changes almost from the moment that you begin to, to smell it…have I got that right?
LT: Yes, absolutely…it…most people don’t realize how small molecules are…I…when I calculate I imagine molecules to be like birds of different sizes. And you have a huge flock of birds and you have small ones and big ones. I imagine that you sort of…fire a starting gun and they take off. And the small ones take off quicker than the big ones. So, in a perfume, what you smell is in order of size. First the small, and at the end the really big molecules. And when I calculated how big the beach would be if it were a smelling strip it was 1,200 miles wide (laughing)…so, you know, for a normal size bird. So molecules are really are incredibly tiny.
A: There’s a scene that you describe in your book, about going to the perfume museum in France. I forget the proper name of it…what’s the French name for it?
LT: The Osmoteque!
A: The Osmoteque. It’s like a church, the way you describe it.
LT: It’s a very strange place indeed because the actual collection lives in a refrigerated room in the basement and you have to be a member of the French Society of Perfumers, which I am…to…to…visit and to have access to it and to smell things. And then you walk in there…it’s…it’s…just jaw dropping because all the great fragrances from the past, and there are hundreds that have vanished…that haven’t been sold for…I don’t know…twenty, thirty, fifty…sometimes eighty years – are there, reconstructed and you can actually smell it. It’s just…incredible!
Announcer: If you could go there now…if you were there now what, what would be the one that you would choose…what would you choose to smell?
LT: There’s a fragrance…um…called Iris Gris. Grey iris. Which was composed by Vincent Roubert in the late forties I think, and it’s a very funny fragrance because he, he took a lot of iris and iris smells sort of like violets but dustier and iris root. It’s…a pretty depressing smell (Announcer laughing) it’s pretty funereal in itself…in itself is a pretty depressing smell and has a kind of grey sadness to it. And he had the idea of genius of adding a beautiful peach note to it, and to kind of give it a kind of…blush on the cheeks I suppose…and the combination is just…perfect. And its funny because it’s so simple and I’ve spoken to various older perfumers in France who think that it’s somehow unfair because Vincent Roubert was apparently sort of…lazy…you know (Announcer laughing) and he hit this formula of genius once and you know was famous thereafter.
A: And it’s not available on the market now, you have to go to the Osmoteque to smell it, is that right?
LT: Absolutely! In fact…it’s interesting…there’s many times I’ve seen on perfumers desks…the smelling strips with Osmoteque written on them, inside little sleeves…and oftentimes you see Iris Gris written on the smelling strip because every time they go there they want to smell that too, because it’s so beautiful.
A: I like the part of your description, when you go in with your, your guide.
A: And you ask to smell it but the guide will always smell it as well…what’s that about?
LT: You make an appointment. You get there, they take you down to this basement and there is there’s very large cans containing the master formulas so you have maybe…not very large, but half a liter or something…cans that contain the composition and then a smaller bottle in front which is the dilution to perfume level. And he just takes this smaller bottle and he dips simultaneously two or three smelling strips in it, and then writes on them what it is, and then hands one to you and keeps the other one. And you’re both standing there in this cold room…with the refrigeration equipment going and smelling these things under the neon lights (laughing) in complete silence. When you’re smelling the really great masterpieces…you’re supposed to observe a respectful silence.
A: It must drive you crazy though, when people wear it badly. When someone douses themselves with, with something…you’ve just flown across halfway around the world….I mean…in your…wandering through airports would I see you wrinkle your nose and scrunch up your eyes (laughing)
LT: No, I tell you where it bothers me…it bothers me in concerts. When people dress up to go out, not infrequently, they splash it on. And so you see them half an hour later sitting next to you and the smell gets in the way of listening to the music. But the worse thing is, that there are some perfumes that simply do not agree with food. In fact, my colleague perfumer friend…Guy Robert said to me once that he believed that there’s a certain class of fragrances called the ‘chypre’ which he believes they have been very successful since 1917 when it was invented, that…because they agree with food and wine.
A: Can you give me an example of a couple of brand names that we might recognize?
LT: Well, for example Chanel is coming out with an un…believably wonderful one called, 31 Rue Cambon
A: (interrupting) You’ve already smelled it!?
LT: Yes. It’s to die for.
A: OK, describe it for me. You use such wonderful words to describe the smell (laughing) see what you can do with this one
LT: Well, ok the original idea of chypre is a combination of three things: bergamot oil which has a fresh, sort of citrusy resinous smell. Very soft, sweet soft powdery thing. And a marine harsh ink-like note of oakmoss. And that’s the structure of the classic chypre. So you have, in a sense, a complete personality from top to bottom. You have fresh, sweet and…and dry.
A: The ‘inky’ part at the end, is that the musk in the perfume?
LT: No. It's moss…it's a tree moss actually...
LT: It’s…you know the stuff that you see hanging from…from trees…
A: Spanish moss we call it
LT: Spanish moss, that’s right. This one usually comes from Yugoslavia and it smells very, very marine inky. Now…this is the classic structure. And it turns out that on this structure you can hang all sorts of side things. It’s like a tree. You can decorate it with all sorts of things (Announcer laughing in background) and people have hung all sorts of ornaments through the years and this Chanel thing is particularly interesting because due to European restrictions on oak moss they decided not to use it. Because oak moss contains some things that are supposedly bad for you and…they decided not to use it and they they made an accord from iris and pepper to simulate the oak moss. And it’s wonderful because this constraint is kind of like a caricature for the left hand, you know – you couldn’t use the oak moss and out comes this incredible fragrance and
A: (interrupting) And the iris, pepper mix then is better than the oak moss…?
LT: It’s different. It just takes away the austerity…it’s just softer and so it comes across as…and I don’t normally use this word because I hate these associations but this is a really feminine fragrance…to me when I smelled it, it was exactly like…you know in ‘Rear Window’ when Jimmy Stewart is sitting there with his leg in plaster looking through his binoculars and Grace Kelly breezes in and…and she looks just…indescribably gorgeous and it sort of hurts. That’s what that perfume’s like. When you smell it there’s a woman in there and you wish you could…find her and you’d hope that she’d like you.
((background instrumental music playing))
A: If you’re a fan of Grace Kelly as Luca Turin certainly is you’ll recognize this as the theme from that film ‘Rear Window’ it’s named for the Grace Kelly character, Lisa. In just a moment I’ll ask Luca how forward he is with people if they’re wearing a scent he finds…disagreeable. Will he say so? I’m Dick Gordon from American Public Media. This is The Story.
((background instrumental music playing))
To be continued...
mike Id really love to listen to this interview could you paste a link to the audio file I couldn't find it on their website
That`s great job! Thank you!!!
I`d love to read more!
Vetiver The Great!!!
Damn Mike, you hit 5,000 posts at almost the same time I hit my 4,000! I've got some catching up to do! Congrats on the 5K.
Thanks Mike. Hell of a job. Among so many other things, Turin's one of the few people who understands how good masculine fragrances often smell on women.
Last edited by pluran; 17th March 2008 at 07:21 AM.
Congrats on the 5k and thank you for the interview, interesting read.
Thanks for all the effort you give here and I enjoy your posts always.
This place would have a void without you.
Thanks, Mike, and congratulations on 5,000 posts. You're an incredible resource for Basenotes and the fragrance community.
Everyone is entitled to his own opinions, but not his own facts. Daniel Moynihan
Congratulations on your insightful posts. Thanks for the labor of love.
Congratulations Mike. Its a great joy for me to read your posts here in basenotes. Also let me thank you for your insightful recommendations in the forums.
Thanks for some great reading and congratulations!
I enjoy reading Turin's stuff now, and plan to buy his new book, but I started out on basenotes, and posters like foetidus have really been helpful. Then I read several reviews by Turin, and the difference is stark. If I had made purchases based on Turin's suggestions (such as Jacomo's Paradox), I can't imagine still being interested. I think I would have sold whatever I bought on ebay and forgotten about the whole thing. By contrast, after reading reviews here, I was able to buy different styles of cheap, but high quality fragrances, and fiddle around with them. I simply can't relate many of his descriptions to a fragrance. I want to know about the notes, the progression, the longevity, the sillage, etc.
Congratulations Mike on achieving an amazing milestone - 5,000 posts - all of which have been thoughtfully composed. Phenomenal!
Congrats also to Indie_Guy on his staggering 4,000 posts.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both and be one traveler, long I stood and looked down one as far as I could to where it bent in the undergrowth; Then took the other, as just as fair, ...... I shall be telling this with a sigh somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -- I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference. - Robert Frost
Fantastic! Mike, you are certainly a pillar of this community, and thus I would like to congratulate you on your 5000th post and thank you for your constant gems, both in the fragrance section (reviews, articles, comments, etc.), as well as in your music posts.
Best of luck in everything.
You are not your perfume.
Congrats on your 5k posts Mike. I always enjoy reading your posts and hope to continue reading them for a long time.
Things are things because of Mind--Zen Buddhist saying
5000? Incredible. Congrats!
Well done! You are a super duper dependent!
I really like this post. Well done.
EnvYuS My Wardrobe
I agree with all the things that have been said before this. Mike Perez, super-poster, you are a gem.
everyone knows mike is the man...
simply an amazingly nice person who not only knows so much about the world of smell but who is also incredibly humble about it....
he is the first on this site i would turn to on opinion or help on anything regarding fragrances.
CDG 3 (The one you CAN'T find anywhere) for trade.
Full 4 oz Bottle of Silver Mountain Water(95% full) for trade(purchased at Nordstrom not online). PM me for details.
My Blog: www.BLAMEURPARENTS.com
And what do you think about 31 Rue Cambon? To my nose it's not very interesting. Has some similarities with Allure Sensuelle and Coco Mademoiselle..
Last edited by DreamerII; 27th March 2008 at 10:36 PM.
"PLAIN LIVING, HIGH THINKING" O.W., De Profundis
One can not prove the beauty, but show it. You see it or you don't.
Real beauty: 1) Frederic Malle 1-20 2) Chanel Egoiste 3) YSL Opium pour Homme edp 4) Guerlain Habit Rouge 5) TF Noir de Noir \\ Noses: 1) Jacques Cavallier 2) Maurice Roucel
Congrats to you on passing 5000 posts!
Yr good bud,
"Why spend life seeking that which does not satisfy? Why remain a slave, when freedom waits? Let your life shine; illumine the world with your truth!"
Fiat justitia ruat cælum.
Let justice be done, even if the sky should fall.
— Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus
Qui nihil potest sperare, desperet nihil.
Let him who can hope for nothing despair of nothing.
Male irato ferrum committitur.
It is an evil thing to arm an angry man.
I know I read a few thousand
From reading other blogs/online reviews 31RC has many fans.
"When you become comfortable with uncertainty. infinite possibilities open up in your life"
-- Eckhart Tolle