Alberto Morillas is a man who needs no introduction in the well powdered circles of perfumiers. The debonair Spaniard is the Master Nose behind some of the world’s most feted fragrances, including several iconic Penhaligon’s favourites: from the dynamic beauty of Iris Prima and the rugged charisma of Blasted Heath, to the blue blood delights of Lord George and Monsieur Beauregard, Morillas invariably infuses his scents with a rare and precious magnetism. We got together to sample scents and talk trade with the maestro Morillas.
First off, you’re something of a legend in the perfume business, but how did you find yourself working in the industry and did you always know you wanted to be le nez?
I grew up in Seville in Andalusia. As a child I used to dream a lot and our garden, it smells and colours, no doubt influenced my sensitivity. When we left for Geneva, I knew that I wanted to do an artistic job and I enrolled at the Fine Arts College. I started hearing about the craft of perfumer at that time and discovered that there was a creator behind each fragrance as I had read an article in Vogue Magazine where Jean Paul Guerlain explained how to create a fragrance. That was a revelation for me! I rapidly got fascinated by the discipline. I read and experimented with some formulas and went to libraries to feed my curiosity. I joined Firmenich when I was 20 and right from the start I loved arriving in the morning and being surrounded by all these fragrances.
When you first approach creating a new scent, how does your process begin?
Looking for inspiration and new ideas when I work on a new perfume project is the more exciting part of my job. Behind every fragrance is a unique story emerging from a lot of sources but above all from a direct dialogue with the people. As a perfumer, my inspiration comes from meeting with the brand. Their words are very important.Proximity makes all the difference when creating a perfume. I confess I can hardly stop working and almost all my formulas are written by hand. My handwriting is my emotion. When I write the formula, I can smell the perfume. Like a craftsman, I have an indestructible passion for creation. All my fragrances come from this devotion to creation and have consumed all my days and nights for the past 45 years. I can easily imagine the fragrance without smelling it. For me, perfumery is an emotion. The technique is intellectual, but every perfume has to have a soul, a story and be an emotion.
I’m interested in the work you did with Penhaligon’s for Iris Prima – how did you go about capturing the movement and dynamism of dance in a fragrance?
Iris Prima was my very first collaboration with Penhaligon’s. The brand had set up a unique partnership with the English National Ballet to give me the opportunity to best capture the very essence of ballet.
Perfumery and dance share a passion for emotion, creation and art. Inspired by on-stage performances and the hushed intimacy of the wings, I transcribed the remarkable artistic collaboration with the choreographer and the beauty of the ballet through a floral, woody fragrance. The perfume evokes delicate olfactive choreography, as orris embodies the prima ballerina performing against a backdrop of woods and balms. The rhythm is exact, the harmony flawless, and the dream begins with the nose!
The Tragedy of Lord George is one of your new scents for the Portraits Collection. How did you embody Lord George’s noble yet mysterious personality in the fragrance?
The olfactive portrait of the aristocratic patriarch was to be masculine and elegant in the most traditional way – yet unexpected. Powerful, opulent, and welcoming, the woody, ambery fougère reminds of the barber shop atmosphere: noble woods blended with nectar liquors – like a Brandy – and I decided to wrap them in mysterious Tonka beans.
And what about the new Monsieur Beauregard: how did you go about bottling the French spirit at a very English perfume house?
Mr. Beauregard is composed of orris, the finest ingredient of classic perfumery. In both England and France, orris stands noble, rich and opulent altogether. The sandalwood is then glorified by rich and tasty warm spice, and the cinnamon delivers an addictive sensation of creaminess.
And lastly, where should a true gentleman spray his perfume?
Men mainly apply perfume on the neck. I also advise to perfume one’s clothes to increase the power and on key points of pulsation like the chest and the wrists for more seduction!