Monday, August 20, 2012

Perfumers Squared at Elements Showcase

Just a quick report from day one of the Elements Showcase in NYC.

I attended the panel presentation hosted by Robertet, the French fragrance & flavor house now celebrating their 160 years of creating rose essences. VP Arnaud Adrian ran down the basics of harvesting and extracting fragrance from Rosa damascena and showed a beautifully produced video of the company's operation in Senir, Turkey.

Then moderator Jennifer Powderly, Robertet's marketing director, turned to two perfumers who each had created a full fragrance to demonstrate the use of the company's rose essential oil and rose petal essence. They were invited to discuss their creative methods in general, and the aesthetic logic behind their demo fragrances in particular.

First up was Olivia Jan, a French perfumer with Robertet. She described how she works to express a specific emotional state in her fragrances, often by imagining a story with a particular time and place. She sometimes engages the happy, playful quality of rose by blending it with apple or raspberry, or uses other fruits to achieve a more feminine impression. For the demo scent, however, she went for the "darker side" of rose by adding a smokey woody note (based on elemi). I enjoyed how she synaesthetically described matching the "roughness of the wood" against the "prettiness of the rose floralcy."

Next up was my old pal Mandy Aftel. Always a champion of natural materials--she says she is "besotted by them"--Mandy's modus operandi is to begin with a pair of key raw materials. In this case it was rose and tarragon absolute. She thinks of rose as her "workhorse," but also values it as a "great smoother." In other words, when she has added a bunch of "strange and eccentric" notes to her sketch (such as ginger, saffron, black pepper or pimento berry), the rose will smooth out the olfactive hububb.

Mandy has a charmingly animistic way of thinking about her work. She sees the raw materials as "friends," and when filling in the space between her two key materials, she "reaches for the friend she thinks is going to create the feeling" that she is after. All in all a fine panel, accompanied by blotters of the individual essences and finished fragrances.

Th-th-t-that's all for now, folks!


queen_cupcake said...

Hey, I enjoyed reading this. More like this one, please, and fewer about poop, farts and corpses. :-)

Avery Gilbert said...


Glad you liked it. But no stinky stories? You're killing me here! Ya gotta gimme something to work with. How about an occasional smutty B.O. limerick?

mandy said...

So great to see you Avery, thanks for such a nice writeup!