The Perfumed Signature

  • Posted on 29th April 2013 by Alex
  • Do you go to the movies for actors or directors? Lets take ‘The Great Gatsby’. Are you going to see it because it’s Baz Luhrman the twinkly-eyed silver fox director of Moulin

  • Rouge and Strictly Ballroom or because of the power glamour pairing of Di Caprio and Mulligan? In the same way do you wear Cartier’s Baiser Volé because it’s the new Cartier launch or because it has been created by Mathilde Laurent.  The same applies to Penhaligon’s Amaranthine and Juniper Sling. Quirky scents from a renowned British house of fragrance by master perfumers Bertrand Duchaufour and Olivier Cresp?

    Personal Prefrence

    Many of us have very particular preferences about style, we like to understand and see behind the surface. In cinematic terms, following actors and watching their quirks and talents groomed, smoothed and manipulated in a variety of often up and down roles can be both frustrating and rewarding.

    Then there are those who are obsessed by the construction of cinema, the editing, lighting, cinematography and the all-important guiding hand of a creator. The alchemy can be dazzling. Contemporary directors like Harmony Korine, Lars Von Trier, Nicolas Winding Refn, Kathryn Bigelow, Terence Malick, David Lynch, Pedro Almodovar and Jane Campion to name a few are very distinctive visual film makers and attract devotees for their unique personal take on our world.

    The Concept

    The concept of a perfumed signature is a fascinating one. The blogosphere and the huge rise of interest in perfumery have created a high level of interest in the noses or creators of the many fragrances released each year. Some perfumers have become superstars, especially in the rarified and closed world of niche perfumery. There are many websites and blogs dedicated to raw materials, perfumers, regulations and perfume history so enthusiasts can now access information about their favourite fragrances and noses.

    Each perfumer works in his or her own way, with a set of emotional reactions to raw materials. The interesting part of the work is how much freedom there is to fully express an idea. Specific marketing briefs and budgetary constraints play an enormous role in all aspects of perfumery, be it at Chanel or smaller niche houses like Miller Harris.

    A precedent was set by Éditions Frédéric Malle, a concept of commissioning and publishing fragrances by perfumers allowing them to freely explore their own thematic preoccupations without the constraints of working for larger mainstream houses. The results arguably changed the way perfumers were perceived. Malle allowed them to shine and highlighted the styles and themes they explored.

    Betrand Duchaufour In 2009 when Penhaligon’s decided to launch a new woman’s fragrance, the brief went out and samples came in. The decision to go with independent perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour was an inspired one. Amaranthine sent shockwaves through the perfume world. It was radically different from anything the brand had released before, a shockingly sensual tropical floral with huge levels of ylang ylang and jasmine shot through with spiced oils, banana tree leaf and a wonderfully unsettling milk note in the base. Bertrand’s trademark use of fabulously inventive raw materials and his penchant for global references are usually more at home with brands like L’Artisan Parfumeur and Eau D’Italie. However, by playing these elements against the preconceived notions of Penhaligon’s as a more traditional style of perfume house produced startling results. The prim and proper Englishwoman transfigured by love in the tropics, desire and sensuality amid the plantation flora. Bertrand’s signature is very much there running under the classic floral structure, his use of incendiary petals and spices to explode the skin. Tied to notes of rose, vanilla, freesia and orange blossom, the structure is a beautiful marriage of styles, a sensualising of reserved desires.

    Oliver Cresp When Olivier Cresp agreed to work on Juniper Sling, he was a relative newcomer to the world of artisan fragrance, having spent much of his time working in the turbo charged atmosphere of mainstream perfumery. He had created mega sellers such as Angel for Thierry Mugler, Light Blue for Dolce and Gabbana and Noa for Cacharel. Many of his fragrances are white and clean with a distinctive musky transparency. This deceptive glassiness and ease of wear is apparent in many of Olivier’s fragrances and an element he chose to explode when it came to exploring the world of London Dry Gin for Penhaligon’s. The chilled, addictive result was a huge hit and Juniper Sling is one of Penhaligon’s most successful fragrances. Olivier’s extensive experience in big name perfumery and the eccentricities of an English perfume house combine to create a showstopping scent.

    Both Olivier Cresp and Bertrand Duchaufour extended their olfactory palettes and skills with other work for Penhaligon’s. Bertrand ran up the bestselling Sartorial, inspired by the cutting rooms of Savile Row and Olivier created Peoneve, an atmospheric floral of rose and violet wrapped in a white peony note, a homage to Olivier’s family garden in Grasse.

    Olivia Giacobetti Olivia Giacobetti is well known for her work with incense and fig notes. There is delicacy and strength in her oeuvre and the soft tension between these two elements is often what makes her work so interesting to wear. In 2008, when it came to creating a link to Hammam Bouquet, our oldest fragrance from 1872, Olivia decided to revisit incense, mixing it with spices, rose, orange blossom and eucalyptus to create a modern day spa response to the old Edwardian Turkish Hammam experience. Elixir is smoky, sweet and all embracing, deeply resonant with all the techniques and flourishes associated with Olivia’s career, but created at the same time with an awareness of the heritage of Penhaligon’s and one of its most iconic fragrances.

    So we can all become fragrance aficionados, we can sample the latest releases from in-house perfumers at Chanel, Dior and Hermes, big budget releases from brands like Givenchy, Lancôme, Prada etc or we can keep a more specialised eye on noses like Annick Ménardo, Karine Vinchon, Antoine Lie, Ralf Schweiger, Mathilde Laurent, Dominique Ropion and Olivia Giacobetti. Either way we can see themes, threads, styles and influences. With a little work and attention to scented detail it is possible to be become quite adept at olfactory autograph spotting.

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