lundi 3 mars 2014

Speed-smelling: IFF cuts its noses loose (and a sample draw)



What do perfumers get up to when they’re left to their own devices?

There aren’t a million ways to find out. Since niche briefs might range from “So, anything you feel like working on?” to “Darling, do me an oud”, the default-setting artistic freedom pitch is no guarantee. Otherwise, unless you’re talking about indie noses, two options. Either the über-democratic Fragrance Republic, whose concept is bringing free-style compositions directly from lab to consumers. Or the ultra-exclusive sessions organized by Big Aroma, in which perfumers get to play with (and showcase) their companies’ best and newest materials. Some are built around a theme, for instance at Mane. Others make a point of cutting their noses loose.

Such is the case at IFF’s Speed-Smelling lunch, held in November 2013 at the American Embassy in Paris. It is the sole such event to be a formal, annual meeting with the press. And the only one to offer the public a chance to smell the compositions at leisure, via a limited-edition set sold at Colette in Paris.

So, what do IFF perfumers get up to when left to their own devices? As it turns out, their sources of inspiration don’t stray far from what you’d expect to find in niche perfumery. Most of these wouldn’t actually need much tweaking to be released, bearing in mind that most niche brands can’t commandeer a big-lab perfumer to develop a scent from scratch since the volume of the order wouldn’t justify the time they spend at it.

Going places


From her trip to Sri Lanka, Sophie Labbé brought memories of tea plantations, chili pepper, cardamom, ginger beer, coconut milk and steamed rice – she added a touch of civet for the elephants. This the type of olfactory travel journal L’Artisan Parfumeur used to be best at doing since they created the template… Hopefully someone will snap it up.


Domitille Bertier headed out for Turkey to harvest the roses of Isparta. The owner of the fields asked her to turn his flowers into a fragrance for his daughter. On a woody ambroxan base, Bertier used the amazing Rose Water Essential, an IFF captive by LMR in which the aromatic molecules lost in rose water during distillation are recaptured and added to the essential oil. No rose extract comes so close to the actual fragrance of the flower.

It is from the beauty rituals of India that Anne Flipo, one of IFF’s foremost white floral experts, drew her inspiration: to conjure the scent of attars and hair oils, she blended jasmine sambac absolute and Indian sandalwood. This is a quintessentially Flipo composition, airy, amiable and plush.


Jean-Christophe Hérault stayed closer to home. His “autumn sonata” is a cozy, guaiac-laden umber palette of smoky, balsamic and woody scents, drawing an olfactory picture of a fireplace with roasting chestnuts and mushrooms sprouting in the loamy forest.

Digging into notes


Juliette Karagueuzoglou poked her nose into an old base used in Hermès Équipage and Cacharel pour Homme called “epicene gamma”, a spicy blend of pimento, clove and nutmeg, to tweak a classic masculine fresh aromatic accord around clary sage.


After last year’s lilac, Aliénor Massenet offered another long-neglected flower, honeysuckle – which she defines as less animalic and greener than jasmine. The twist is in the unusual note she used to set off her delicate floral accord: sesame, with its roasted, fatty-leathery facets.


For the third year running, Dominique Ropion played around with oud, an ingredient he has been obsessively exploring to tug it away from traditional Middle-Eastern accords: like jasmine and rose, he says, oud is a “complete construction”. His “Ceci n’est pas un oud” (This is not an oud) brings out a completely unexpected player: nootkatone, a green molecule found in vetiver and especially grapefruit. Oud oil contains 1% of it. Enough for Ropion to create what must surely be the first citrusy oud (someone call Atelier Cologne, stat).

Synesthesia


What would peridot smell like?  Two jewelers, Olivier Durbano and more recently Ann Gérard, already base their collections on gems. Is Marie-Hélène de Taillac, whose studio is based in India, gearing up to put out her own perfume brand? Véronique Nyberg teamed up with her to conjure the gem in scent. A green pear note boosts the green facets of tuberose and jasmine in a bright, translucent composition.


Nicolas Beaulieu is not related to me – but he does bear the name of a renowned camera company, and for his portrait of the frangipani blossom he tried to translate a photographic technique called tilt-shifting, used for selective focus. The idea was to make the yellow heart of the flower look sharp, while the petal stayed blurry. I’m sorry to say I’ve ever met a plumeria in person, but this must be what ylang pollen smells like in its dreams…


Out to beat Dominique Ropion’s unholy alliance of grapefruit and oud, Loc Dong went for Coca-Cola flavored yogurt which is, apparently, a thing. My 12-year-old Parisian sophisticate of a goddaughter looked unconvinced when I asked her whether this actually smelled like Coca-Cola. But I do get some of its lime-ginger maltiness, along with a touch of metallic-aldehydic fizz, which works surprisingly well over the tangy yogurt effect.

The Speed-Smelling set is sold at Colette, but if you’re not planning a trip to Paris just yet, I’ll be happy to share my samples with you. Just drop a comment saying which three scents intrigue you most, and I’ll make up 2 ml decants of them for the winner of the draw. You have until March 9th to enter.

Photos courtesy IFF/ Douzal & Sauvage, all rights reserved.

53 commentaires:

  1. oh, I would love, love love to try these...
    It's a very easy choice, for once:
    1. Nicolas Beaulieu (you made his frangipani-based perfume become a major lemming)
    2. Anne Flipo (a jasmine and sandalwood attar... want!)
    3. Domitille Bertier (to push my boundaries- will this be *the* rose?)

    The idea of selling the set is cool, though I would love to be able to buy my first two choices...No way to do that, I suppose? Sigh... Frangipani...That smidge of yellow on the petals (which I've never smelled IRL) have always made the pictures of the flower so irresistible to me.
    I wonder what is it that makes tropical white flowers so attractive to my eyes and nose, lol!

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    1. Zazie, unfortunately it's the whole set or nothing, and I think there were only 20 made... And what's not to love about white tropical flowers, right?

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  2. I love Anne Flipo, Sophie Labbé and Loc Dong. The last one sounds extremely interesting!

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  3. I'd love to try the first three, Sophie Labbe, Domitille Bertier and Anne Flipo. The rose especially sounds lovely!

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  4. Holy cow-
    Unreal what people can dream up, and then execute. Lots of beautiful things to choose from, but I think the Sophie Labbe scent (very Michael Ondaatje). the Domitille Bertier rose scent (heaven) and the Juliette Karagueuzoglou scent (my scent loving brother would go made for this).
    Thank you for this!
    Carole

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    1. Carole, haven't read Ondaatje in ages, but you're right!

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  5. This is a very interesting article! Being a "vintage" lover, I'd be really interested in the Epicene Gamma typical of "Equipage" an Cacharel. I could imagine that mix of clove and nutmeg..... Similarly , Herault's "Autumn Sonata" could be interesting.
    Regards,
    Andre

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    1. André, what struck me when Juliette spoke about Epicene was the actual meaning of the adjective: in grammar, it is a noun "having but one form to indicate either sex". It can also mean " having characteristics typical of the other sex"... So I guess that though the base was originally named for spices -- Jean-Claude Ellena told me its initial name was "Epicéane" -- it's not necessarily a masculine blend. Though I'm not aware of a feminine scent that uses it.

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  6. Oh, I love your reviews of Speed Smelling creations! Being (still!) in oud phase, I am mostly intrigued by "Ceci n’est pas un oud” by Ropion- well, Maison Lancome already stated that they offer "L'Autre Oud" without agar, let's see how this concept smells!
    Thank you for the draw, never had a luck before, maybe this time :)
    Regards! Ela

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    1. Ela, forgot to add that Ropion said this composition did not contain oud at all. Most fragrances claiming the note don't.

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  7. What an interesting project. I think the three I'm most curious about is by Nicolas Beaulieu, Domitille Bertier and Veronique Nyberg. I do love my florals :)

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    1. AD, there were indeed a lot of florals in this edition!

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  8. A very interesting article about an exciting project.
    All of the creations are very intriguing, but restraining to three of them,... would be
    1) Domitille Bertier's roses of Isparta
    2) Alienor Massenet's honeysuckle
    3) undecided - Dominique Ropion's "Ceci n'est pas un Oud" or Veronique Nyberg's smell of Peridot.
    Thank you for the great opportunity. I hope to have good luck.
    Gentiana

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    1. Gentiana, it's always a very exciting event, though what's frustrating is having less than 10 minutes with each perfumer! I always miss one or two and they have to make their pitch as we're heading for lunch!

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  9. Hi, I am very interested to try the fragrances by Loc Dong, Anne Flipo, and Sophie Labbe (although I am a bit scared of civet... I am too tempted by what sounds like the quintessential Southeast Asian perfume!)

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  10. I don't know how many they have, but you can buy it directly from their website, altough you can only get the whole collection:

    http://www.speedsmelling.com/index_en.html

    Apparently, they ship worldwide.

    They all look very interesting, is hard to pick three. But, if i was they lucky winner, my choices would be:

    Sophie Labbé, because i love tea, spices and i like the exotic aesthetic that L'Artisan travel line has, so if this fits that line i'd love it.

    If it's possible to pick one that you haven't mentioned, my choice would be Olivier Polge and his sustainable mysore sandalwood creation. I'm fascinated by this wood and Olivier Polge work has a sophistication that suits my tastes.

    And finally, i'd pick Dominique Ropion Oud, since it seems to be exactly what i have been dreaming and asking why no one has made yet, a citrus oud.

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    1. Henrique, the link you give is, confusingly, for the collection presented in 2012 (but commercialized in 2013). So this isn't the same series. Although if you win, I've got the previous one as well!

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    2. Oh, sorry, i thought it was the same! Will check if you have written about the ones commercialized in 2013

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    3. I have, I just forgot to add the link...

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    4. Can you please post the link here? I couldn't find it on your archive...

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    5. Here it is:
      http://graindemusc.blogspot.fr/2012/12/fifty-shades-of-grey-perfume-at-iffs.html

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  11. Thanks for the generous draw Denyse :) I'd love to try them all, so I'm going to look into Henrique/Rick's tip (thank you for posting that!), but if I had to choose, the three that sound most obviously appealing to me are the Sophie Labbé, the Anne Flipo and the Dominic Ropion creations.

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    1. Sarah, see my answer to Henrique above: the coffret of this edition of Speed-smelling is actually sold for 100€ but only at Colette, not through the link which is to the previous (and very costly) set...

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    2. Thanks for the clarification Denyse :)

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  12. Yikes - at EUR 245, perhaps I won't be trying them all!

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  13. These all sound interesting, but I would pick the Anne Filipo, the Jean-Christophe Herault, and the Alienor Massenet - I don't think I've ever smelled anything with sesame in it before.

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    1. Sesame *is* quite an unusual note in perfumery. I don't think I've ever smelled it in a commercial fragrance either!

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  14. These all sound so fascinating! I'm very interested in smelling the Sophie Labbe, the Alienor Massenet, and the Domitille Bertier. Thanks for this lovely giveaway.

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    1. It *is* fascinating to discover things perfumers want to work on themselves, and it's a fabulous initiative by IFF. Wish all the labs would do the same!

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    2. It's a beautiful idea. I really wish that perfumers were given more artistic freedom. As you mentioned in your post, places like Fragrance Republic, and even Frederic Malle and Our Lab On Fire, are coming up with such lovely perfumes, probably because of the creative freedom which they allow them!

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    3. I didn't mention Frédéric Malle in the piece but of course he pioneered the approach (though I suspect he sometimes has a lot of input as a creative director). A Lab on Fire is a little more elusive in Paris so I can't say I've really sampled those...

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  15. Anne Flipo, Alienor Massenet and Loc Dong sound like the ones I would like the best, if not necessarily the most interesting.

    London

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    1. I know what you're saying! Though the Loc Dong is very unusual indeed...

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  16. hi! thanks for doing the draw! these all sound intriguing, but i think of the group, i am most interested in those by flipo, massenet, and beaulieu.

    hope this finds you well.

    cheers,
    minette

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  17. The Cola one seems exciting. I have always tried to find that note and could not.

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    1. Some people say you can find it in Youth Dew, but there are so many other things going on in there that it's never been hugely obvious to me...

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    2. Youth Dew to me smells like homeless people :(

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    3. Odd. Though if I had little access to soap and water, I'd consider it a blessing to smell of Youth Dew.

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  18. This sounds so interesting. Thanks for the draw! The ones Massenet, Herault, and Beaulieu sound most intriguing to me.

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  19. Mustela putorious7 mars 2014 à 02:13

    I'd love to try them all, but would be supper happy to get samples of Labbé, Ropion and Dong's creations.
    Is Collete selling this set on-line too (or only in the store)?
    Thanks!

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    1. I haven't seen it online, no... mind you, I haven't seen it in Colette either, but that's because I tend to avoid the place (too many people!).

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  20. The Domitille Bertier and Massenet sound lovely; as for the third, well that would be a three-way tie between Labbe, Herault and Ropion...however, it is intriguing to wonder, what does a peridot smell like? How interesting!

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    1. Well, since the draw is tomorrow, you still have a day to make up your mind!

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  21. These sound fascinating! If I had to pick three, they would be the perfumes by Sophie Labbe, Dominique Ropion , and Jean-Christophe Hérault. Thank you!

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  22. The Loc Dong scent sounds like it could be oddly amazing! Would love to try that and the Sophie Labbé and Véronique Nyberg perfumes. What a fantastic experiment!

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    1. It is, isn't it? Just with the samples provided, I'd have enough fragrance for several months, so I'm happy to share...

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  23. I'm very much interested in Ropion, Herault, and Massenet (I love honeysuckles)!

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