Commenter “Eliza” recently added this note to my post about Roja Dove, the buffoonish ‘Professeur de Parfums.’ I found it interesting enough to reprint here in full:
I’m so glad you post pieces like this one. I studied perfumery in Grasse and am constantly amazed at the amount of baloney out there.What an excellent comment—a mini-essay, really!
I’ve often wondered where Roja Dove received his professorship . . .
There’s a ‘perfumer’ in Portland who writes that he is ‘recognized as one of 26 by the Council of Six. To qualify as a Nose, the prospective candidate must be able to recant all of the elements that comprises the essential elements within a fragrance before the sprayed droplets reach the floor.’
I LOVE that last bit. (Image in my mind of shrieking out “Hexyl cinnamic aldehyde, Hedione, Benzyl Salicylate!” as they ‘fall’ to the floor.) I double-checked with Max Gavarry just to make sure this wasn’t a top secret society I’d missed out on and he snorted in response.
In a nutshell, it seems that because a lot of people haven’t had the opportunity to learn about smell and at the same time are fed a huge amount of misinformation, ‘Noses’ like these can say what they like.
On the matter of baloney and misinformation, I couldn’t agree more. I’ve given talks all over the country and it astounds me that, thanks to Chandler Burr’s lick-job of Luca Turin, people think the vibration theory of olfaction is taken seriously by scientists. (It’s not. Most scientists find it as snort-worthy as the name-it-before-it-hits-the-floor test of the Portland Nose.)
Eliza’s reference to the Nose of Portland got my attention. Here is a character as potentially ridiculous as Roja Dove. The Oregonian’s name is Chris Tsefalas and he’s the elderly proprietor of a quirky but high-end perfume shop run out of his oddly-appointed home. He’s been in business over twenty years, along with his wife. By all accounts—and there are a lot of accounts available on the web—he’s charming, knowledgeable, and quite the raconteur (that’s French for “elegant bullshitter”). He’s made a business filling a niche in the ecosystem of West Coast retail fragrance, and for that he deserves applause.
As to his being anointed a “Nose” by the quasi-mystical “Council of Six”: well, let an old fellow have his delusions—or let a sly old fox bamboozle the newbies. The only web reference I can find to the Council of Six has something to do with World of Warcraft. (Hey, can any of you teen gamers out there stop reading the fart posts long enough to help us out?)
Mr. Tsefalas’s loopy claim of being a Nose (along with his tutelage by the mysterious Dr. Walter Lauchner of Cologne) is even more unnecessary than it is silly. The proprietor of a parfumerie needn’t be a Nose. The owner should be a person of taste and a judge of character—how else match fragrance and customer reliably enough to stay in business?
Finally, can we dispense with the term “nose”? If you apply that term to any of the real perfumers I know, odds are your nose will soon be meeting their fist.