© What We Do Is Secret
While we patiently wait for Katie’s review on the two trials she is testing on her friends, family and herself, here are fragrant pictures form Grasse, France. The man on the left owns the best rose field in the region.
Before Laurent moved forward with the trials, he had one last question for me.
Your feedback was very helpful. I will keep in mind that you like the aromatic note. And don’t worry about the burnt note since it is one of the key elements in the leather note. I just think it should be more refined. Regarding some other notes, I love the idea of frankincense, rich and deep, other resin like Labdanum could be interesting, myrrh, opponax, tolu, peru balsam……
Katie, what floral note do you like and what floral note do you not like? I think I’ll be ready to start once I have the answers to this question.
I wrote up what reads more like a shopping list than what is probably a helpful answer, I’m afraid. Poor Laurent – he has to wade through my rambling and then try to divine some sense out of it. It dawns on me that perhaps in addition to having both technical and artistic skills, a successful perfumer must also acquire psychic powers for reading the minds of those who place demands on him or her. In this case, there’s just me, but having to read the minds of, say, a table full of focus group people… ugh. It sounds impossible, and utterly maddening.
You know, that aromatic quality is something I think I’d not worry over – I tend to appreciate more the overall balance of a perfume rather than individual notes. (Which? I suddenly realize sounds awfully funny given all the talk about individual notes, heh.) And, generally, I don’t usually care for a medicinal-seeming aromatic quality in perfumes except in the Frankincense & Myrrh and in Serge Lutens’ Santal Blanc.
I think the same goes for floral notes. There are those that please me, and some that pique my interest when I read they are contained within new perfumes, but I rarely ever love a perfume solely because it has some specific floral note.
I love, and I mean REALLY love Pre de Provence’s Linden Blossom edt and soap: I think it might be the cheapest linden blossom on the market, but it’s my favorite. There are much more refined and elegant perfumes employing linden blossom in them, of course. The Pre de Provence is the one I happen to like best. It causes me to feel irrationally happy when I use in the morning.
I love the ylang ylang of J&E Atkinsons’ Cananga di Java, though I don’t find the note as compelling in other fragrances. I think I like it in that fragrance because it never interferes with the rich woodiness, it simpy rises and soars above to float across the other notes.
I do like rose, but I don’t think I’d like rose in our perfume – I don’t know why however, and can’t articulate the reason I feel that way. Maybe it’s a tad too prosaic? I really don’t care much for powdery roses. Actually, I don’t personally care for powder particularly with perfume, period. I can appreciate and enjoy powdery ones, but I don’t like it. Except in Desprez’s Debutante de Versailles, but only because it’s a powdery perfume with, uh… I don’t how to put this politely… it’s a powdery perfume with balls.
To me, one of the most relaxing scents is lily-of-the-valley, yet I don’t care for it always, and the only perfume focused on that note that I wear with any frequency is i Profumi di Firenze’s Mughetto di Primavera.
I dig Weil’s Antilope (vintage, not this newer cologne stuff, sigh) with it’s lily-of-the-valley and chamomile combination, yet weirdly I hate chamomile. I hate it in tea, I hate the scent of it in a garden, I hate in compresses, etcetera.
I like the cool, almost creamy marine-infused floral bouquets of Compagnia delle Indie’s Donna, CB I Hate Perfume’s Mr. Huilot’s Holiday, and my John Frieda Kelp Help hair conditioner, but I’d never describe myself as a fan of marine perfumes. In fact, those are the only marine scents I really like. There is something about the soft bouquet of those products that smell like a comforting hug to me.
I like gardenia every now and again, but I find it is far too oppressive to wear very often.
Hyacinth and lily are notes I can appreciate, but I don’t really like them per se.
Freesia is a tricky little bugger – while I do like the candied way the note generally comes across as used in most perfumes, I don’t want that to be in THIS perfume. The only fragrance I’ve smelled that captures a freesia flower with any accuracy is Antonia’s Flowers, and unfortunately, that particular fragrance as a whole smells like a bad hangover on me.
Sweet pea is a very pretty note, but alas, it’s a note that seems to go to die on my skin. It comes and goes within all of a minute – and that’s only a whole minute if I’m lucky.
Jasmine is one of those notes I rarely pay any mind to. Which is awful, because it’s, like, in every other perfume made. Sometimes it reads as clean on me, nearly like a laundry detergent. It’s usually in only the older vintage perfumes that jasmine comes across as something very profound on me. And even then, it’s nothing I pay much attention towards. It’s a nice note when it works in a composition, but I rarely ever seek out jasmine focused scents.
Two actual flowers that I love to catch sniffs of when walking by are rhododendrons and bridal veil, but I do not know if one could honestly translate either of their aromas into a perfume accurately. Both possess such ethereal, gently floating smells. One flower I grew (by accident, which is a whole long story) last year was the crown daisy, and the blossoms had such a fine, rather delicate scent that I deeply appreciated. They look like this:click here. But again, I do not know whether or not it is possible to authentically translate that aroma into a perfume.
The other notes you mentioned I am sure will be fine. I am mostly hoping for a very good, rather dry smelling resinous quality with the frankincense, anyhow. Just not sweet, please – I think I may be cursed with sweet-amplifying skin!
Let’s hope you can pull some common thread out of this list, because I sure can’t. Perhaps I am rather random in my tastes? GAH! I will clarify anything you would like, since I am thinking this may not contain anything of consistency or use. Although I can’t tell if I was being too specific or not specific enough…
Cheers, and thanks again,
In the next week or two, Katie will post reviews on her two trial versions, like Marina has already done. At that time, samples of the trial fragrances for both Katie and Marina’s project will be made available for purchase.
Please note that the supply is extremely limited, and all samples will be sold on a first come, first serve basis. All three Round 1 samples will be sold together in one package. Each sample will come in a 3.5 ml vial. The price, including shipping, will be $15 for for US customers, and slightly more for those outside the States.
Below is Clement’s reply to my message about the first mod, Holy Grail R1/A:
First of all, there is no problem in criticizing a fragrance, I mean that’s what makes the perfumer go forward! So any opinion is more than welcome!!! Then it’s my job to interpret them to modify the fragrance.
Actually, I found your comments pretty clear and accurate…When you talk about the almond note… that aspect of the fragrance is created by the combination of some powdery milky and sweet notes like cinnamon and vanilla, and citrus notes such as mandarine and orange. And I will remove that effect in the further mods.
Also, from what I understood, it’s pretty clear you want something much richer, raw, straight to the point, with much more signature and personality, I guess I was a little too shy in my first trial…
Work is already in progress so be ready!
This concludes Marina’s Round 1 with sketch R1/A.
The first Mod (trial, version) of my Holy Grail has arrived! Below is my reaction / message to Clement:
I am so very excited to receive my first “Mod”! Thank you so much once again for agreeing to make my very own Holy Grail. I have never had a perfume done especially for me before and I find it difficult to review something that was so kindly created for me and even harder to actually criticize. It feels awkward to say the least.
I want to start by saying that I think my first Mod, “Holy Grail R1/A” is a very pretty scent. It smells feminine and light, almost ethereal. I also smell a lot of almond here. Perhaps my nose is playing tricks on me and there is no almond there? It is not one of my favorite notes and, unless it is crucial for the composition, I would prefer not to include it. If I had to describe how the scent smells right now, I would say it smells of almond, light vanilla and a little bit of musk. It reminds me of scents like Castelbajac, Lea St Barth and Strenesse. In my opinion, these are light, somewhat fresh, “cool” scents. I would like my fragrance to be quite a bit heavier, more “substantial”, much “warmer”, much spicier and much “darker” than it is now. I wonder if what I am saying actually makes any sense and I apologize if it doesn’t.
To sum it up, I would like the scent to become heavier and spicier. More sultry, more sensual. I would like the musk note to be less transparent than it is now, in fact I would love for it to become “dirtier”, more animalic. A more pronounced cardamom note would also make me very happy as would an addition of a warmer, more robust woody note and some amber.
I would love to hear from you regarding the scent, the first Mod and my ramblings about them.
Bestest of wishes,
Please tune in next week for Clement’s response to my review of the first Mod.
After Laurent sent his response to my proposal, I replied back to him with my thoughts…
I believe I understand what you mean by that “aromatic minty note” in Frankincense & Myrrh. Though, admittedly, I liken that “aromatic minty note” more to the way it feels when you catch an ungodly cold and in desperation smear nose-tingling Vicks VapoRub across your chest. (I lack a poetic soul. Clearly.) I do like it, but solely within the context of that specific fragrance. I can see why you might not be so crazy about it, and I concur it’s best to not use that sort of note for our perfume project. Your description of a “raw woody” note is one I quite like, because I deeply enjoy the arid quality about the woodiness.
The “burnt note” you sense in Cuir de Russie is nothing I’m overly enamored with, but I do like a wee bit of wickedness in a fragrance. Is it possible to use something else that might smell somehow naughty in the base? I think I the fragrances I love best all seem to have some sort of small conflict hidden inside them, perhaps for the same reason that all good music has a degree of tension to it. Cuir de Russie’s trace of smokiness is enjoyable for me, but pehaps this perfume can possess but a small wisp of smoke that smells rather transparent, and not quite so, well, burnt smelling? Or maybe you have something good in mind that is even better? I must defer to your vast knowledge and sense of balance here. It will be interesting to discover what you decide upon for filling out and widening the scent with… Please, go just a little nuts! I am hoping for a fragrance with funny little angles to it, something that beguiles with a few odd quirks here and there.
Hopefully, this is more helpful than not, and I sure hope I’m not being difficult!
Hi, it’s Katie! After reading my proposal for Auxeos, Laurent sent his response to my ideas. Squeeee!
I am very excited about your proposal for your perfume.
I have smelled the two fragrances which you like to layer together, and here is what I think. I love the idea of using an ocean-like leather note which I can smell in Cuir de Russie but would like to make it more modern and less smoky. There is a “burnt note” which is not so pleasant, but I like the theme of Cuir de Russie. Regarding Czech & Speake’s Frankincense & Myrrh, there is a very raw woody note that I will keep and play with (blend of cedarwood, sandalwood and vetiver), but I am not that crazy about the aromatic minty note… so, if it’s alright with you, I want to use only the raw woody part of this fragrance.
I completely agree that we need to find something else to give depth, richness and more signature to the combination of these two fragrances to make our collaboration a master piece.
I am ready to concoct your perfume now, so let me know if you feel comfortable with the direction that I am thinking about.
My letter back to him will be up shortly!
Since the beginning of 2005 several blogs devoted to scent have appeared on the web. I am not an avid reader of these blogs, but it didn’t take take me too long to understand each blogger’s interest and way of smelling things. Interestingly enough, in this small community, there is enough diversity in their opinions to make you believe that the way we smell scent is not as simple as the way flowers appears to our eyes. That is why it’s so difficult to make a good mass fragrance.
There are two things that I don’t like about today’s mass fragrance market – insane number of new launches, and too many celebrity scents. But the whole structure of making commercial scents is driven by shrewd marketing to achieve better sales just like any other businesses. What differs in fragrance business is there are only few major suppliers (or makers), each of which with a small stable of perfumers, to feed the huge appetite of giant cosmetic companies. Anyone with knowledge and passion can make their own scent, but to be a perfumer at one of these major fragrance suppliers is much more difficult than having a solo exhibition in New York City as a visual artist. One needs to have an exceptional olfactory sense, to be able to go through years of rigorous training, and to withstand an enormous amount of pressure from their clients. They are the genuine creators… but with an ironical mission. The perfumers have to make sure the designer, celebrity, or the brand will stand out, not them.
Geared with cutting edge technology, their hands on the best natural and synthetic raw materials, the biggest three fragrance suppliers (Firmenich, Givaudan, and IFF) are intent on recruiting the best noses. They employ these distinguished noses to work almost exclusively for their client’s multimillion dollar projects, which are based on thorough market research and analysis. The perfumers’ outstanding skills and the superb materials are rarely used for small clients. However, this does not imply that individual people’s taste lack importance to a perfumer. The truth is that there are simply not enough trained professionals to cater to any one individual’s taste.
If you have a passion for perfume, what could be more exciting than to have your own perfume created by one of these perfumers at their state-of-art lab using the best materials that only they can have?
So, I asked two very different type of women who both have a deep, boundless passion for perfumes if they were interested to have their own “dream” scents created by very talented perfumers in one of the major suppliers. They were both excited about the idea, and I received their proposals shortly after. Their proposals were interesting and articulate enough for me to choose the ideal perfumer for each proposal. The rest was simple: I handed their proposals to two perfumers who coincidentally worked together on Lovely Sarah Jessica Parker. The way perfumers at these big suppliers work on scents has always been secretively hidden inside their contemporary and modernly outfitted buildings. So I knew these two perfumers were going to be excited by the proposals and the idea to develop a scent openly using a blog.
Marina‘s scent will be composed by Clement Gavarry and Katie‘s scent by Laurent Le Guernec. The two scents will be developed without any deadline or cost restrictions, in other words, there is no commercial goal to achieve for this project and, and none of us know where it will end up. I hope both the “clients” and the perfumers will have unique experiences through the developments, and the visitors to this blog will have a better idea of fragrance development.
Nobi Shioya (a.k.a. Sacré Nobi)
New York, May 2006
My idea for a perfume is actually based on two other fragrances that I enjoy layering together, but alas, "something" is always missing from it. There is some sort of "lack" that I can't quite put my finger on. Layering Creed's Cuir de Russie with Czech & Speake's Frankincense & Myrrh is a combination that triggers in me an imagining of how wonderful an incense and leather scent would be. To wit, I love the dry (very dry) and almost woody nature of the Frankincense & Myrrh, and I like the ocean-like leather of Cuir de Russie.
Yet I wish for a scent that is fuller, curvier, and more strong-willed. Like, you know how when you hear a song on AM radio, and it's good, but you know you'd enjoy it so much more if you could hear the song in full-on surround sound stereo? I want to smell a perfume with an expanded bandwidth like that. I do not wish for it to be sweet or sentimental smelling - I wish for something that has strength and reserved power. I am unsure what else it would need to achieve that end. Perhaps in addition to the dark edginess of dry frankincense tears, myrrh tears, and saline softened leather, there could be ... Woody notes? Benzoin? Spice? I really don't know. And this is something I hope you, as a perfumer who is far, far wiser than I am, can understand and know how to approach.
The concept I keep coming back to for the name is via the word "auxetic." Auxetic materials, unlike most common materials that become thinner when stretched laterally, actually expand in cross-section when stretched. The effect is demonstrated very coolly here in this short video from Auxnet. The Greek root of "auxetic" is "Auxeos," meaning "that which can expand." My thinking is this - I like the idea that when we stretch ourselves, we too expand and grow. And I like the idea that with perfume, it has one type of smell, but it's upon application and wear that the smell grows and becomes bigger than when it remains unworn in the bottle or on a paper strip. Plus, I just like the sound of "Auxeos" when I roll it around in my mouth.
Thank you so much for agreeing to make this perfume dream come true for me! I cannot properly express how grateful and happy I am that you are creating it, so all I am left with is "thank you." I'm on the edge of my seat just waiting to see what you will come up with.
Yours in delighted anticipation,
Before I begin my proposal, I wanted to thank you in advance for agreeing to create my very own perfume. I cannot describe how exciting it is for me to have this opportunity to work with you. I promise to try not to be a very difficult client.
I want my scent to be spicy. I adore cardamom and saffron, and would love my scent to be centered on these two notes. These would be soft, velvety spices, as opposed to “red hot” and “dry”. To achieve that kind of softness, to balance the spices, I believe that iris, with its delicate, smooth, rooty quality, might be a great ingredient to use. I think that a little (and I really mean just a little) vanilla might also be necessary in order to achieve the kind of velvety softness I have in mind for this scent. I also would like the fragrance to have a certain sensual depth, that is why I also imagine musk as one of the notes. Again, this would be a soft, understated note, simply serving as a background for the spices. Finally, to complete and further balance the composition, the drydown would have notes of sandalwood and perhaps cedar.
To sum it up, the notes in the scent would be: cardamom, saffron, iris, vanilla, musk, sandalwood, cedar. It might also include cinnamon and amber for added spiciness and “fuller body” as well as violet to enhance the iris note. But in this case, I would rely on your judgment whether these extra notes or any other notes might be needed.
Velvety, warm, spicy, sensual are the descriptions that I would like for my scent to evoke. This would be a golden, candlelit perfume, enveloping the wearer in the smoothest embrace. I would love for this scent to be sensual and romantic, and, yes, sexy, but I also want it to be easy so wear, in other words I would like it not to be too heady, too heavy, too overwhelming ... too demanding.
I am undoubtedly drawing inspiration from some of my favorite perfumes. I want a fragrance that would be sensually-musky like Musc Ravageur by Frederic Malle, sweetly spicy like Safran Troublant by L’Artisan, exquisitely floral like Attrape-Coeur by Guerlain, and velvety-woody like Bois des Iles by Chanel…all the most wonderful qualities of my favorite fragrances, combined in one glorious scent, my Holy Grail…
And that brings me to the question of the name…I am a member of a wonderful site called Makeupalley.com. It is a place where perfume addicts like me meet and chat about perfumes and write reviews. On that site, a perfume that one considers to be the most favorite and/or the best of its kind is called a “Holy Grail”. For example, one would say something like, “Bois des Iles is my Holy Grail scent”. Or, “Musc Ravageur is my Holy Grail musk perfume”. Or, “Hermes Hiris is my Holy Grail iris”. So…I thought of naming my scent just that, Holy Grail.
Thank you again! I would love to hear your opinion about all and any aspects of my dream fragrance.