A Reflection Of My Client: Nathalie Feisthauer At The UK Launch Of Pelargonium From Aedes De Venustas

09th June, 2017

Nathalie Feisthauer
I hesitate to use the word 'feisty' about someone whose name is Feisthauer, but it's the main one that keeps popping into my mind as I chat with the creator of Eau Des Merveilles, Putain Des Palaces, Honour Man and now, Pelargonium, the latest fragrance from Aedes De Venustas. Nathalie Feisthauer fizzes with energy. Having spent several years at Symrise and Givaudan, she decided to go independent two years ago, and perhaps some of that bravery of spirit comes through in the way she responds to my questions. She smiles. She giggles. She gesticulates. She veers off into anecdotes. And before the interview begins, she insists on taking a photo of me with Basenotes founder, Grant Osborne, who's by my side. "But I have to have a picture of Persolaise together with Basenotes!"

When I manage to turn the attention back on her, I start our conversation by asking her to tell me about her contribution to the Aedes portfolio



Nathalie Feisthauer: Pelargonium is the Latin name for geranium. It has a rosy part and a minty part, and also an incense part. For me it's not a floral note and this perfume isn't floral.

Persolaise: Did Karl Bradl and Robert Gerstner of Aedes insist that you include an incense note in the composition?

NF: No.

P: Because you'd already included one?

NF: Yes, because I'm not stupid. But in this one, for me, it's not only the incense note that is the Aedes signature. It could be vetivert, or a spice, but done in a way that is not rounded, but is still elegant.

P: It doesn't sound like it's going to be similar to Malle's Geranium Pour Monsieur.

NF: No! Frederic Malle went very, very far into the minty part of geranium. For me it's almost borderline toothpaste. I feel like I'm in a bathroom. Here, in Pelargonium, the suggestion of the greenness comes from the geranium and from some spice also. Elemi gives a peppery feeling, vetivert, a lot of cedar. I would say it's the comfort zone of the tastes of Robert and Karl.

P: You've just made this perfume for a brand which has so far enjoyed a fair amount of success on the independent or semi-independent scene. Do you have a view on the fact that several larger brands have been buying independent perfume houses?

NF: For me the fact that Estée Lauder and all the big brands are buying niche brands means they're admitting that they've failed. The way they work - which I know very well - is that they talk about creativity, but their goal is to make something that someone would like in Manila and Buenos Aires and everywhere. They have to make money. But they waste so much time saying they have to be unique or whatever. And at the end of the day they make something that smells like La Vie Est Belle or Invictus or Fierce. They make something that they think is creative, but actually it's not. For me, niche is about having an identity and telling a special story. The big brands buy creative brands because with their processes they cannot do that sort of work. 

P: So will the bought brands suffer?

NF: That's my concern. I really wonder what's going to happen. They say that the brands have all the creative freedom, but at the end of the day, those brands are in the system. I don't know. We'll see. 

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P: You're the first female perfumer who's made a fine fragrance for Aedes, if we don't count Olivia Giacobetti's candle. Do you think you can smell whether a scent has been made by a man or a woman?

NF: No. But yes, maybe, for some. Like, for example, for me Christine Nagel is a seductress. She's very feminine. And her perfumery is like her. 

P: But do you recognise it as the work of Nagel or as the work of a woman?

NF: You know, 20 years ago I was working in New York and Sophia Grojsman was the biggest perfumer. She's one of the most talented perfumers in the world, but she's very short, wears boots up to here, leather, orange hair, black eyes. She played on the witch look. She didn't fit into the blond, corporate American image. And she's made the most beautiful, feminine perfumes like Paris, Eternity, White Linen and all those. And once she said something to me: "As a woman who is older or fat or whatever, maybe I know more than other women about what it takes to seduce somebody." I thought that was very interesting.

P: Which perfume do you most wish you'd made?

NF: A lot. I have a list. L'Heure Bleue, for sure. I love Giorgio and Poison. Feminité Du Bois. Eau De Bulgari. Light Blue also, in a way. 

Eau des Merveilles

P: So finally, speaking of classics, when you were working on Eau Des Merveilles with Ralf Schwieger, did you know it was going to be a hit?

NF: Truly, not at all. I was in Paris and Ralf was at Givaudan in New York. And we started with an ambergris accord. At that time, Miracle from Lancôme was a bestseller - a fruity, sparkling bay rose - so I kept trying to put some of those notes into the mods for Hermès. And one day, (Creative Director) Veronique Gautier said to me, "If you keep doing that, I'm going to kick you off the project." And I said, "Yes, but you always say you want something creative and at the end of the day you launch a stupid fruity-floral musky scent. I'm fed up of hearing this pitch about creativity." And one day Veronique said, "Oh by the way, you've won the project." I was so happy. But I would not have guessed that it would be so successful. It echoed with a lot of people who wore it. And you're happy when something like that happens once in your life. When people compliment me on it, I always say that I'm just a reflection of my client. Veronique was the one who pressed the button to launch something without fruity or floral notes. 

Pelargonium by Aedes de Venustas is available now

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About the author: Persolaise

Persolaise is a four-time Jasmine Award winning writer with a lifelong interest in the world of fine fragrance. His perfume guide, Le Snob: Perfume, is published in English by Hardie Grant and in German by Süddeutsche Zeitung. He has written for Sunday Times Style, Grazia, Glass, The Scented Letter and Now Smell This, amongst others.

Website: http://www.persolaise.com/


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      • Starblind | 9th June 2017 19:26

        Wow. Love her openness in this interview. It's seldom that we get to hear perfumers discuss their own work (and the work of others) with this much transparency.

      • CapriDog | 9th June 2017 21:45

        Thoroughly enjoyed reading the article and looking forward to trying Pelargonium.

      • hednic | 9th June 2017 21:53

        Great article. Enjoyed her comments especially about Pelargonium as I have it and love it.

      • Cook.bot | 10th June 2017 02:09

        Gosh, that interview was a lot more candid than the usual. Loved her quote from Sophia Grosjman:

        And once she said something to me: "As a woman who is older or fat or whatever, maybe I know more than other women about what it takes to seduce somebody." I thought that was very interesting.

        I'd definitely give this release a sniff. Love the scent of geranium stems when you snap them, maybe they'll capture some of that juicy greenness.

      • Redneck Perfumisto | 10th June 2017 03:52

        I've met Sophia in person a few times, and can say this is true. I found myself ignoring all the other women present. Knowing (somewhat) how she does it only makes her more attractive. ;-)

        Chandler Burr used her mods of Tresor as one "piece" in the MAD museum's olfactory exhibition. The steps shown (five or seven, I think) made very clear the symphonic structure of the fragrance.

        All that aside, I have to love a woman who says "Yes, because I'm not stupid" in an interview, and I have to respect an interviewer who dares to see it to print! Bravo!!! Wonderful interview!

        Would love to see the picture with Grant!!!

      • gandhajala | 10th June 2017 08:48

        Enjoyable read; thanks!

        Is this available in the UK yet? Neither Liberty's nor Rouiller White have it listed on their websites.

      • gandhajala | 10th June 2017 11:37

        Thanks, Grant! Will check it out soon.

      • Persolaise (article author) | 11th June 2017 17:32

        So pleased you enjoyed it :-) And yes, her candour was refreshing.

      • Persolaise (article author) | 11th June 2017 17:32

        Thanks so much for reading and for taking the time to leave a comment :-)

      • Persolaise (article author) | 11th June 2017 17:33

        Thanks for reading... and you were quick off the mark with Pelargonium :-D

      • Persolaise (article author) | 11th June 2017 17:34

        If you like geranium, I'd say this one is well worth trying.

      • Persolaise (article author) | 11th June 2017 17:34

        Wow! You've met her? She's high on the list of perfumers I'd love to meet.

        I'm so pleased you enjoyed the piece.

      • Persolaise (article author) | 11th June 2017 17:35

        Thanks so much for reading :-)

      • Redneck Perfumisto | 12th June 2017 12:08

        It was years ago - a bit of a lucky break every time, as I was visiting other people, or just in the right place at the right time. I would love to read your interview of her - it would be amazing, and she is such a treasure!

      • Persolaise (article author) | 12th June 2017 20:14

        Oh, I'd LOVE to interview her. But I don't see it happening any time soon... unless I cross the Atlantic.