our profession is based on the notion of secrecy

Molecular Love, Portraits

iffperfumers.jpgMolecular Love: March of Perfume Posse sent me a message a few weeks ago, and it has been bothering me. Well, she had some great points in her message which made me think to do something about it…

Portraits: I love portraits whether it’s photography, painting or sculpture. I’m thinking about showing the great black and white photos of all 34 fine fragrance and beauty care perfumers at IFF on the website. It will probably be the first time for any major fragrance houses to show their most valuable assets to the public. [by Nobi]

The Prize for Kuri

arles.jpgBefore my vacation last summer we had left a quiz. We had asked what was Clement’s favorite music genre. Kuri who answered Reggae became the winner of the quiz, and we promised to send her one of the scents from the huge IFF library which we hoped she would fall in love with. We needed to spend some time to choose a perfect scent for Kuri among the thousands of scents in the library. Finally, we have found something and are sending it to her. It took a long time but was a fun process! [by Nobi]

To choose the prize, we asked Kuri for some information. Below is the excerpts from her messages.

In her first message Kuri wrote:

My favorite notes are almond, gardenia, and black tea. I really love straightforward smelling almond scented lotions like Caswell-Massey and Crawford & Williams, and the smell of Lush’s Snowcake soap.

I’m still searching but perfumes I like include:
Les Parfums de Rosine Un Zest de Rose
The Body Shop Indian Gardenia
Emanuel Ungaro Desnuda

I find interesting but wouldn’t wear:
Bulgari Omnia

I don’t like:
most Chanel perfumes that I’ve tried; they smell like old school perfumes (Chanel Chance is boring)
l’Eau d’Issey; I think the ozone note bothers me, it smells empty
Anna Sui Secret Wish; tires my nose out although I like it to begin with
Lanvin Eclat d’Arpege; liked for a while but in the end it also tires my nose out
Bulgari Eau Perfumee
most of the Shiseido perfumes I have tried are interesting but too heavy – Saso, Chant du Coeur, Jeanne Arthes Sultane
most Guerlains haven’t worked for me either

Later she added:

Current explorations:

Fragonard Eau du Bonheur solid perfume: cheerful, bright, and fun. I really like it and it’s fun to put on (1 1/2 weeks so far). I have a feeling that the solid perfume consists only of the top notes, though. It’s got a lot of oomph and impact but doesn’t feel heavy at all. I probably really like citrus. Essential Oils of Portland’s Grapefruit essential oil smells addictive. So does Muji’s fragrance hair essence (grapefruit and orange?). I don’t know if I want to smell like that, but I could breathe in the scent all day long.

4711 Original Cologne; rather addictive, but doesn’t last at all. At first the spice(?) was a bit surprising, but I soon needed a hit more than once a day. The citrus doesn’t have the same impact as in Eau du Bonheur.

Jean Patou Sublime; I have an old sample, so it’s probably gone a bit off, but I rather like this. It’s pretty subtle, but elegant and pretty and still interesting. In contrast, I re-tried Estee Lauder Beyond Paradise and found it rather boring. It’s very nice and I can totally see why it would be popular, but it was too refined and restrained.

CK Summer was better the second time I tried it. I got a bit of a tea note this time. Rather nice.

In her most recent message Kuri states:

I discovered I don’t like Caswell-Massey’s almond that much. It’s nice but too sweet for my taste.

Some fragrances were not at IFF, so we searched for them at stores. Veronique Ferval, the Director of Fragrance Development at IFF, has tested all the fragrances mentioned in Kuri’s messages and chose one of the newest addition to the library which was created by Laurent Le Guernec.

Since Ms. Ferval has enjoyed the selection process so much she wanted to give recommendations on fragrances on the market that Kuri should check out, too. Here is her message to Kuri.

Dear Kuri,

Congratulations on winning the quiz !

It was a pleasure searching the right scents for you to try from thousands of great products available on the market.

From widely available fragrances I would recommend the followings:

Fracas by Piguet … it’s a classic if you like white flowers like gardenias and tuberoses. It’s not only an amazing floral but also has a very skin like sensual back, musky and slightly animal…

Eau Parfumee Au The Rouge by Bulgari … this addictive red tea could also be a black tea to me with it’s slightly smoky dimension and a luscious “cooked berry” note, like a blackberry. Love it !

Castelbajac from Castelbajac … an edible almond. quite monolithic but powerful. Brings back the memory of green almond from a French glue called “colle blanche.”

Farnesiana from Caron … another classic. Almond-ish, heliotrope, wrapped in a classic floralcy between orange flower and violet. Addictively feminine. Only at Caron stores. One of my old time favorites.

Code Donna from Armani … not exactly what you are hoping in terms of
ingredients but close in terms of sensations. Tuberose and almond have very feminine comfortable “white” voluptuous sensations to me, and tea is an easy fresh qualitative appeal. Code Donna is an extremely natural orange flower on a bed of warm, light edible vanilla and musks (like a “fougasse” : famous French pastries) with a crisp bright top.

Now, for your prize, we are sending you a beautiful gardenia, wrapped with an intimate almond accord and with a subliminally addictive background reminiscent of the Madeleine cookie. The top is more like a bergamot tea…. Enjoy !!!!

V e r o n i q u e F e r v a l
Director of Fragrance Development
International Flavors & Fragrances

Oh, and one last thing. Kuri will be posting her review on the scent she receives in her own blog some time in the future. We’ll let you know.

An Encounter

Row House in SumiyoshiA slamming sound followed by a loud, angry voice broke the silence of the night. I turned my head towards the voice. A man in a white shirt holding a thick black binder was about to give another blow to the young man in a construction worker’s uniform and a hard hat. The furious man wasn’t big or tall but had a threatening presence complemented by his thick voice and a strong Osaka accent. Suddenly he turned and approached me. “Are you Fura-san (my pseudonym used in the ’80s)? I’m Tadao Ando.” He politely bowed once and looked at the objects spread all over the empty new building which had been designed by this renowned architect. “They’re beautiful… look like surfboards. Do you surf?”

This was how I first met Tadao Ando in 1984. A month after I had graduated from Tokyo University of the Arts (formerly known as Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music) I was commissioned to design the interior of Ando’s new building in the center of Osaka. Strangely enough, Ando who had been known as the most perfectionist of all architects in the world didn’t bother to meet the young unknown sculptor before giving the opportunity to design the interior of his new building. He had only seen some schematics and a model before the actual sculptural fixtures arrived at Osaka from Tokyo.

Many things I had heard about Tadao Ando was unusual for what one would expect from an architect: the only selftaught architect from Japan to have received worldwide acclaim, a former pro boxer who had fought all over in Asia, an architect who was feared by construction workers, a boss who threw an ashtray to his staffs with master degrees when upset, the architect who almost punched Dr. Peter Eisenman… above all, the most unexpected was his architecture. How would a man with such temper possibly create buildings with such serenity and awe?

Like his twin brother whom he didn’t grow up with under the same roof (Ando was raised by his grandparents), Tadao Ando started to fight professionally when other kids of his age were going to colleges. Later when his brother started graphic design he wanted to do something similar, too. During their early 20’s, the brothers designed most of the night clubs owned by Yamaguchi-gumi, the most powerful crime family (or better known as Yakuzas) in Japanese history. Then Ando gradually picked up small architecture projects neglected by aspiring architects with master degrees. He executed each project with uncompromising attention, even to the tiniest details. Most amazingly this young boxer had an incomparable aesthetic that most Japanese architects at that time couldn’t match. His breakthrough came with the smallest architecture with the smallest budget. The small row house in Sumiyoshi built in 1976 (Azuma House) earned the 34 year old Ando a world-wide recognition.

The following day of my encounter with Tadao Ando I visited his firm. He appeared somehow shy, but his extraordinary willpower could be felt in the air. We spoke about sculpture and architecture. Unfortunately I don’t remember much except his few remarks which has stuck in my mind over the years. One was, “An architecture always needs to be big enough to contain a person, but size is not a parameter in sculpture. A one centimeter sculpture could become a masterpiece.” There was another one, “When I have to build something on a tiny land, I feel like in the square jungle. A small project becomes a life or death matter.” Ando was a genius at bringing out so much out of a small space. He also told me that the life of a building would start after it was built, and he had to take care of the building as long as it stayed. And because of that he wouldn’t want to accept too many projects outside of Osaka.

Today clients and admirers of Tadao Ando include the most powerful figures in various fields of design, Giorgio Armani, Karl Lagerfeld, Rolf Fehlbaum (Vitra), just to name few. The scale and budget of each project is often infinite, and the design has become more stylish and elegant than ever. Is there still the hungry fighter? Sadly, I’d say no. As Ando’s bio has become relatively normal and behavior calmer, his architectures started to lose something that his earlier works had used to have. I cannot hear the heartbeat of a fierce fighter from the beautiful mass of concrete any more… or was it just a ghost that I heard when I had my own boiling ambition?


Continuing from the previous post

Here’s a quiz.

There’s another perfumer who shared the same dream of becoming a concert pianist. Is it Jacques Cavallier, Loc Dong, Thierry Wasser, Olivier Polge or Annick Menardo?

The winner of this quiz will receive AU.WOOD.029 by Laurent Le Guernec. The winner will be announced here (in the comment section) in one week.



Laurent Le Guernec didn’t turn his childhood dream into a career but is still very passionate when he speaks about music and piano. He explains about the importance of studying GC (gas chromatography) at an early stage, “We tend to think learning GC is not important, but it’s like practicing solfège, it’s one of the basics.”

Ahaa I see, it sounds quite boring but seems as important as practicing to throw jabs and one-twos millions of times. In boxing the rule is simple: keep your feet and hands busy, or you ain’t gonna survive.

Laurent’s answer to Anya

Back in August, during my vacation, Anya left a question to Laurent at Laurent’s video interview. You can find her question here. I’m finally posting Laurent’s answer to the question. The reason for this time lag is due to my lack of communication with the perfumers. My apology. Nobi

Dear Anya,

We perfumers definitely feel roundness and scratchiness. When we say that a fragrance is round it means nothing is sticking out, all ingredients or notes are well balanced, not even one note will take over the others. And usually a fragrance that is round smells almost the same from the start to finish.

A fragrance which is scratchy tells something is sticking out, and it is usually not pleasant, it’s almost like having something in your throat.

Going back to your question, I do not use shape as an inspiration.



Tuesday, October 17, 2006, 3:35pm.


It’s soggy in New York City today. I was with Laurent and Clement a few hours ago for an interview. After the interview we spoke about this blog and have agreed on both perfumers to be a little more involved in the blog besides working on Katie’s and Marina’s perfumes. So, there may be some posts, quizzes from the two perfumers… or you can help us with your suggestions.

By the way, we haven’t forgotten about Anya’s question to Laurent and a prize for Kuri. We will respond to them here soon. [by Nobi]

On the Phone: My Chat with Laurent for Round 3

As Nobi noted in the previous post, I had the opportunity to talk on the phone with Laurent regarding the next phase of development for our project.

It felt rather surreal, to say the least. Well, let me explain that: I was wearing my grubby jeans with the hole in the knee and faded varnish stains, and a worn out t-shirt that long ago has turned the corner into rag territory but I won’t throw it out since it’s oh-so-comfy. I’d just finished shoving half my body under the kitchen sink counter to clean out stank goop from the plumbing trap, pulling out gobs of unspeakable ickiness. And this, just so I could do the dishes without pinching my nose shut. Yeah, my life is simply one glamorous event after the next. Chatting about “my” perfume contrasted wildly with the rest of my day. (Or more accurately, with my life in general.)

We talked a bit about the email and my feelings about the previous mods, just to clarify things. The worst part is, I keep getting the letters mixed up unless I have my notes or scent strips with the letters written down right front of me. Perhaps I ought to consider giving them goofy nicknames from now on, so I can better remember which is which. It’s kind of like when companies use numbers instead of names for their lipsticks – unless I bring the old used-up tube with me to replace it, I’m lost, y’all.

The way leather shall be used was one big topic of conversation. I mentioned how much I liked the animalic growl of leather as used in older fragrances. One such example I cited was the growl smoothly contained in vintage Chantilly (as opposed to the triviality it has now become.) But Laurent pointed out that of course, those older fragrances were animalic because they WERE animal. He mentioned that we could go ahead and try natural animal ingredients, but I feel like it would be for the best if we avoided that. He then pointed out the limitations, if not impossibility, of sythetics mimicking that quality so deeply. However, as much as I enjoy those old perfumes, I’m a vegetarian, and wearing them calls up a whole ethical conundrum as it is. Hopefully in this modern day fragrance we can spare others that same conundrum, by continuing use of non-animal ingredients to imbue a lovely leathery expression.

We also discussed other choices for notes, one such being use of a honey note. I found Laurent’s suggestion very interesting, but as I said on the phone, I find honey too cloying usually. What’s crummy is that sometimes honey notes are able to convey a sense of feral wilderness to a scent, but I know I’m not alone in finding my skin turns honey notes into something approximating the aroma of sweet, sugary cat pee. Eeek. Those of us who can’t carry off honey well pretty much despise and envy those of you who can, heh heh.

The overtly soapy smelling character that some of the mods exhibited was also discussed. While I do like it in some small measure, I don’t want it to be anything that predominates our final product. There’s already too many “clean/soapy” fragrances out there, and it was the one thing that my guinea pigs specifically cited as something they didn’t like so much. Laurent explained that when certain ingredients are used in combination, this quality can come out. So, we shall see what he can devise to lessen the effect. He did say what the likely cause was, but I forgot it almost instantly, since that sort of information kind of sails right over my head. Perhaps the reason all us perfume-nuts remember metaphor- and adjective-based descriptions is because, for many of us, the technical details are simply too far removed from our everyday life to be mentally recorded.

Hm. What else? I think I apologized over much to him about my amateur-hour knowledge. Excessive apology is just as rude as never apologizing for anything, so I hope he didn’t take too much offense. Part of that was due to my feeling that ultimately I wanted to make sure that he felt like the various mods were solid concepts and balanced. While it’s my imagination that spaked the creation, when it comes down to it, the entire project should be credited to his work and his creativity. I have this terrible fear that if I try to insert myself too much into his own ideas, Auxeos will meet some laughable Wile E. Coyote end. No one wants to smell the aromatic equivalent of a “splat!” as the end result of this process; Letting me get ahold of the Acme catalog to order up item-specific failure is not an option. I feel more strongly than ever that my input should be kept to general descriptions, rather than me trying to specify in details, when obviously I am not as intimately familiar with them as Laurent. Attempts at interfering too deeply with his own wisdom and judgement seems to me like a destructive action. It’d be like telling Picasso “too much blue!” or Donizetti “no minor keys!” In other words, it would be downright silly. Consequently, my input as far as notes go is more along the lines of vague preferences, rather than anything even close to resembling a strict edict.

It’s so funny to me that Nobi created a “roadmap” for Made by Blog. That’s precisely what this project feels like. The whole process seems to me like an open-ended road trip. We have the vehicle; we have a general destination. But how we get there, and all the little stops and detours we make along the way are up to us, to be decided on the fly. I might express a desire to head north, but it rightly should be up to the driver, meaning Laurent, to decide if we take the scenic route or the freeway to get there.

100% LOVE

what’s up?

It seems not much is happening lately, but both Clement and Laurent are working hard for Marina’s and Katie’s next rounds. Actually, Laurent and Katie had a phone conversation recently, and Katie’s post on the conversation will be up soon.

In the meanwhile I am going to willfully invade this blog to write about my new ideas…

As some of you may know, I sell perfumes called S-Perfume, S-ex and so on. Perfumer Christophe Laudamiel is the author of S-Perfume (he remixed Alberto Morillas’s original scent) and S-ex. Christophe is always willing to show his formulas if his clients are OK with it. But of course… no company will want to talk about their secret formula, and he hasn’t been able to do it. So, maybe we should at least make it happen with S-Perfume and S-ex. The formula will be written all over the bottle, I like this idea visually.

There are raw materials which will be banned by future regulations (don’t think they are only synthetics). These materials are the endangered species, and some are critical for creating certain notes. I’d like to make a list of seven most critical and fatal raw materials and called them The Seven Deadly Scents. They will also be available in precious packaging and be accompanied with a list of well known perfumes which include these materials. Maybe this is a bad idea…

There is a company selling Iso E Super (by IFF) as a perfume. OK, that’s unusual. But there are more interestingly smelling molecules, like Galaxolide or Muscenone for instance. How about making some of these molecules available in safe level of alcohol solutions. To make this more interesting, I would ask perfumers like Sophia Grojsman or Dominique Ropion to choose one molecule and one natural to create a “super short formula.” The composition will be so simple that the perfumer wouldn’t mind sharing the formula. Now, I think this is a good idea. [by Nobi]