A Whiter Shade of Pale


Perfumes are turning very pale, do you notice? Olfactory pallor is “on point”. That’s an interesting theme. Myself, I prefer to have my chosen fragrances rich and brilliant. “Penny plain and twopence coloured” is my way of thinking. I was enthralled on this drear and stormy wet morning by the earrings on my Tesco check-out lady: baroque silver sprays with huge glowing ruby drops. Cherries in the rain, she said. “Colour”, as Miss Brodie remarks, “enlivens the spirit”. Other folk are more aroused by the ideal of our ancestors – “pale and interesting”. (Or, as another later version has it – “pale but interesting”. Not quite the same thing).
We have watched with interest as this pallor in fragrance has developed over the past year or so. It began, I think, with a tendency for perfumers to become shy about revealing their ingredients in interviews and PR releases. I approve of this like mad, actually. Many of us fragrance lovers are looking not so much for a recreation of a specific flower, plant or redolence but a mood, a fantasy, an atmosphere. This is as it should be. Perfume is capable of such magical and psychotropic effects that it is the accomplished transcendental whole that is vital, not the component parts. Agreed that a perfect rose scent – see Frederic Malle passim – is a marvel and a joy for ever; but it all too easy to become overly narrow in our presumed preferences of ingredients. An appealing legend in the business – possibly true – has it that one of the twentieth century’s most famous rose soliflores (Guerlain’s Nahema) has not a trace of rose oil in its formula. The stretching of the imagination is key to the joy of scent. Illusion is a very luxurious and accomplished commodity. Think about Marlene’s nude souffle stage gowns.

“She’s leaving no rhinestone unturned!”

white tulip field
The new pale beauties – the enchanted triptych of Altaia; James Heeley’s imminent Chypre 21; Francis Kurkdjian’s Baccarat 540 has just drifted in – are paradoxical. By pale I do not mean insubstantial or naive. Their components (if divulged, or hinted at) are rich, even florid, but their final realisation is fragile and elusive. Baccarat is impossible to define in terms of the now outmoded classic fragrance families. It’s a conceptual exploration of the scent of blown glass, hot sand becoming crystal, of a glittering chandelier chiming in the hot draught of candles – with a single burning drop of crimson, “la touche de rouge”, at its heart. Oolang Infini by Atelier Cologne is another excellent early example of this type. Blond leather, neroli, tobacco flower, jasmine and blue tea are fun to think about and fool you into thinking you are going to enter a traditional Aladdin’s Cave of sweltering oriental chypre whereas the genius of Jerome Epinette gives us instead the hungry ghost – a Fata Morgana –  of these oils. The latest Frederic Malle release – Monsieur – has a massive injection of patchouli at its core, paraded with mandarin, rum and amber – but do not expect a new take on Opium or old-style gourmanderie. Monsieur is exquisitely restrained, aristocratically parched: like the tweed cuff displayed on its inspired PR visuals.

Where has this love of pallor, this exquisite delicacy come from? Does it not reflect a pathology of our times? For millennia, pallor of skin was an essential refinement. Egyptian tomb paintings show noble women as shades paler than their men. Queen Elizabeth painted her skin with egg albumen and white lead. Byron drank vinegar. Seventeenth century ladies of quality applied leeches and enemas, and wore sickly green veils to encourage a look of chlorosis. Women caught in the San Francisco earthquake perished in collapsing buildings rather than run hatless into the street. Like pencil-long Manchu fingernails, paleness was an indicator of status; it showed that you did not have to toil under the sun, cultivating your own diet of root vegetables. Ruddiness was intolerably vulgar.* But then, barely a century ago, vegetables and sunburn became all the rage: everyone wanted to glow and tan¤. And, at around the same time, the soi-disant Golden Age of perfumery exploded in a dazzling heady pyrotechnic riot of gorgeous colour and throbbing fragrances as powerful as the Victorian aniline dyes. The exaggerated perfection of the cinema screen brought sex, glamour and fashion into the lives of anyone with a few pennies. The terrible twentieth century stigmatised reticence and modesty as unbearably dowdy and everyone started cheeping for attention like insatiable baby birds in a nest.

So, the new pallor may be a temporary reaction, a rebellion against seven fat years of oud. Or it may be something deeper: another of those exercises in nostalgia that take such curious forms. Are we associating paleness with the comforting security of the past? I think we certainly equate it with craft and skill and integrity: a return to the days before the scientific molecular explosion when all perfume was “natural”, every man was gallant and every woman virtuous.

“When all the world is young, lad
And all the trees are green
When every goose a swan, lad
And every lass a queen..”

Pale perfumes have an intrinsic agreeable mystery, with intricately subtly wrought ingredients whose secrets need to be teased out. They require patience and detective work. They demand a keen sense of smell which, like pallor, is always associated with sensitivity. In a crass age of blarting noise and demented trolls everyone wants to be thought sensitive – if not spiritual. A new report from the University of Stirling concludes that most people choose a perfume which chimes with their own personal smell – “fragrances are chosen to work in tandem with individual body odour, potentially enhancing an individual’s personal olfactory fingerprint”. Like calls to like. How satisfying it is when all the pieces fit together!

“Pale hands I loved beside the Shalimar,
Where are you now? Who lies beneath your spell?”

* which is why Edwardian hostesses found tomatoes so unbearably common.

¤ had not everyone mucked in, and fought and laboured together during the Great War?

My Grapefruit and I


Sixty years ago grapefruit were still rather exotic. They hadn’t been around for all that long, the first canned specimens arriving Britain via Florida in the 1880’s, well in advance of the fresh fruits hitting the shops. Grapefuits are a hybrid fruit derived, either by deliberate grafting or by chance mutation, from the pomelo a.k.a. the shaddock. The eponymous Captain Shaddock is said to have brought the original seeds from Java and sown them at Barbados. A romantic tale; and grapefruit are suitably glowing and glamorous in their native orchards, hanging like great golden suns among the leaves, a fructose solar system in the Garden of the Hesperides. I remember eating them once in Bermuda, sun-kissed and warm, straight from the tree in January. Succulent and sweet, they bore little resemblance to the pithy sour old things we were used to at home.

I could see then why grapefruit have been called one of the Seven Wonders of Barbados. (I have no idea what the other six are, though one of them certainly ought to be the movie star Claudette Colbert. She spent her declining years as queen of the island, telling Vanity Fair magazine that her greatest disappointment would to be denied the eating of sorbet “EVERY day”).

Maybe because her father had been a Leicester food inspector in the 1880’s, my grandmother had very definite views on food: Bovril, Italian ice cream, Mother’s Pride and Birds Instant Whip were all streng verboten. Milk was always suspect. Bemax, P.L.J., muesli, raisins, wholemeal bread and grapefruit were strongly recommended. When I stayed with her as child we shared a grapefruit for breakfast, with the addition of unlimited brown demerara sugar. (The same dish, popped under a hot grill until the sucrose bubbled & caramelised, used to be a popular starter at dinner parties of the period). To drink there would be tinned grapefruit juice which bore no relation to the modern carton drink. It was very thick, viscous and (as I recall) a dark yellow colour, the colour of a chrysanthemum. My grandmother would hack and tear the can with a heavy Victorian opener shaped like a black bull’s head, with a blade like that of a miniature guillotine below the animal’s jaw. I think now that maybe it was made of lead. It had a very distinctive smell, rather like dill, maybe the result of being impregnated with decades of fruit and other juices . The grapefruit nectar had a not unpleasant musty dusty taste: I drank it from a thick white china mug decorated with a picture of a jovial Yorkshire yokel in a blue smock. I wish I had that mug now.


Grapefruit in the 1960’s was ubiquitous. The juice – or alternatively, segments in heavy syrup¤ – was served as an appetiser in hotels & fancy restaurants (‘fine dining’ was then unheard of). We were shown (on Blue Peter, I think – or maybe in the Blue Peter Annual) how to use the empty fruit rinds as growing pots for bonsai trees. “Burn off the roots as they emerge through the skin to keep the plant dwarfed…”. My mother was very sceptical and we had an entirely unsuccessful attempt with acorns before all rotted. Fanny Cradock ( pronouncing them “grrrrapefruit” ) dolled them up for the dinner table, filling the half shells with coloured brandy butter – “a harmless food dye” – stuck with crystallised fruit. There was also a very popular reducing diet – you ate grapefruit before every meal to kill your appetite – and I seem to remember a variant whereby one lived exclusively on hard boiled eggs¤¤ and the said fruit.

pomelo lo-res

So grapefruit has “previous” and a rich “back story”. Grapefruit can also work well as a delicious perfume accord if you fancy something a little bracing and original. With more body to it than lemon and less sweet than orange or mandarin, grapefruit has a challenging, more assertive even faintly sweaty (ergo erotic) aroma. See if you can track down a bottle of Caron’s Alpona, said to be the first fragrance in the world to blend flowers with this particular fruit. Grapefruit accords can also demonstrate sophisticated froideur, a coolness well illustrated by Creed’s Royal Water which is as frosty as though fresh out the ice box, then spiced with a slow burn of black pepper, cumin and peppermint. Try Atelier Cologne’s new Pomelo Paradis – with its juicy sweetness which makes the mouth water as though with wine gums; and smell the intriguing grapefruit-like molecules emanating from the woody earthy depths of Heeley’s Vetiver Veritas.

A immaculately elegant and perceptive colleague said to me just the other day: “Grapefruit? It’s the new black!” There can be no safer guide to chic.

Finally, there is also a huge and unlooked-for bonus in the wearing of a grapefruit fragrance which has been pointed out to me by a dear friend and expert of many years in this very tough business. And that is, “scientists have proved ” that a grapefruit accord on the skin can make you appear years younger than your actual age. Can you imagine it? Lemon Wedge is no chemist (though he may be something of a psychologist) so he’ll refer you to the abundant material germane to this absolutely fascinating theory on Google. Oh, see for yourselves as Frankie Howerd used to say.

¤ indeed “grapefruit segments” became something of a catchphrase in Private Eye magazine. We also ate them for breakfast at school as a Sunday treat – these were of a more austere type, presented therefore either in a “light syrup” or stewing in “their own natural juices”.

¤¤ a nutty theory went the rounds to the effect that hard boiled eggs require so many calories to digest that if you eat enough you ultimately starve to death.

Mama Rose


Madonna of the Roses

Mothering Sunday falls on March 15 this year, which still leaves you time to choose a glorious perfume for that unique lady in your life. Maybe Mother has already dropped a hint as to what fragrance she would love as a gift; or perhaps you have a standing order for her favourite signature scent. If not, here are a few ruminations at the shrine of the modern Matronalia: potential perfumes to offer up with thanks at the altar of the Mother Goddess!

By and large the British are not so hot on botany but a rose is the one flower that everyone knows. It is a symbol of universal currency: even the name is basically the same in all the main European languages. The rose has not been on the planet as long as the Jurassic magnolia – flowers came late in evolution though they pre-date Man – but it has entranced us since anthropoid apes first stood upright and tucked blossoms in their fur.

Because of their universality, and due to their scent, delicacy, beauty, richness and colour, roses have accumulated a great body of lore and cult significance. The rose is the symbol of maternal love as well as of carnal passion. It represents altruistic suffering (the flowers sprang from the blood of Christ); or wounded rejected love (the thorns which injured baby Cupid). The goddess Aphrodite – “foam-born” – was blown ashore in a cloud of rose petals on the sands of antique Cyprus, the birthplace of perfumery. Roses are the emblem of the Queen of Heaven whether she be personified by Juno, Isis or the Blessed Virgin – “The Mystic Rose”. Mary appears in countless medieval paintings crowned with roses, or sitting with the Christ Child in bowers and arbours; even enthroned among the stamens of one vast Cosmic Rose, with angels swarming overhead like exotic insects attracted by the Divine Sweetness and Odour of Sanctity.

No wonder with all this tremendous back story we all think we know what a rose smells like; or what it should smell like. One of my favourite perfume legends is the rumour that Nahema, Guerlain’s gorgeous hymn to the Flower of Flowers does not contain a drop of rose oil: all is magnificent illusion, a dance of pink and crimson veils. What a stroke of genius that might be! Every perfumer longs to create the definitive rose scent, as he does the sheerest and most glittering of colognes. But in perfume terms, what is the scent of a rose? Should it be a beautiful template, like Garbo’s face, on which to project our olfactory desires and perceptions? Science now allows molecules to be identified, isolated and manipulated to the nth degree: yet a rose fragrance still remains one of the most controversial of creations – “THAT doesn’t smell like rose to ME!”

Consequently, Les Senteurs have cultivated an extensive nursery of roses on the shelves. Here come 12 of the best, in no particular order but all beautifully long-stemmed and worthy of Mother’s finest crystal vase. And we have plenty more to choose from,too, so why not come by before Sunday? Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.

UNE ROSE by Editions de Parfums

Editions de Parfums - Une Rose

Editions de Parfums – Une Rose

Red wine, black truffles, blue camomile + Turkish rose. Stately and majestic.

ROSE ANONYME by Atelier Cologne

O8-RA 100ml Packshot
Hot dark nights spiced with ginger, incense, oud and patchouli.

TOBACCO ROSE by Papillon

Papillon - Tobacco Rose

Papillon – Tobacco Rose

Heady surreal clouds of overblown rose, beeswax, honey and patchouli.


Caron - Delire de Roses

Caron – Delire de Roses

Sweet and diaphanous; jasmine, lychee & lotus at a cool poolside.

PORTRAIT OF A LADY by Editions de Parfums

portrait of a lady 100ml

Editions de Parfums – Portrait of a Lady

Turkish roses fizzing with spices,patchouli and amber. Audaciously elegant: a silver frost melting to golden sun.

LIPSTICK ROSE by Editions de Parfums

Editions de Parfums - Lipstick Rose

Editions de Parfums – Lipstick Rose

Raspberries, vanilla and the scent of a gleaming lipstick warmed on a lovely mouth.

UNE ROSE VERMEILLE by Tauer Perfumes

Tauer Perfumes - Une Rose Vermeille

Tauer Perfumes – Une Rose Vermeille

Sweet, creamy rosebuds served with cream in a silver bowl. Playful & joyous.

A LA ROSE by Maison Francis Kurkdjian

Maison Francis Kurkdjian - A La Rose

Maison Francis Kurkdjian – A La Rose

Inspired by the pastoral portraits of Marie Antoinette; a rococo cascade of pink champagne.


Creed - Fleurs de Bulgarie

Creed – Fleurs de Bulgarie

A favourite of the young Queen Victoria, lover of flamboyance and colour: crazily deep, dark and intense Bulgarian roses.


Heeley - Hippie Rose

Heeley – Hippie Rose

Hommage to the 1960’s and that Summer of Love: take a lovin’ spoonful of incense and patchouli with your roses.

PAESTUM ROSE by Eau d’Italie

Eau d'Italie - Paestum Rose

Eau d’Italie – Paestum Rose

Roman temples and the votaresses of Venus: myrrh, coriander & osmanthus.

ISPARTA by Parfumerie Generale

Parfumerie Generale - Isparta

Parfumerie Generale – Isparta

Turkish rose oil sharpened by piquant red fruits and deepened with woods and aromatic resins.

Wishing you all a very Happy & Loving Mothering Sunday!

An introduction!

Ahead of our anticipated soiree on the evening of Thursday May 8th, here is a brief introduction to each of our guests to whet your appetites!

So read on, discover the creations of these masters of fragrance and join us from 17:30 at:

Les Senteurs, 2 Seymour Place, W1H 7NA

James Heeley


Born in Yorkshire, James Heeley worked for many years as a designer – taking his inspiration from the world of nature. It was when he moved to Paris and discovered the works of legendary perfumer Annick Goutal that he fell in love with the world of fragrance. James’ contemporary style can be seen in every scent: they are innovative, imaginative but always with a hint of the long tradition of French perfumery.

James will be introducing his latest scent, Coccobello, as well as the rest of his fragrances. Always a joyful, warm fellow to talk to, this will be a rare treat!

Discover Heeley


Marina Sersale and Sebastian Alvarez Murena


Eau d’Italie hails from the beautiful sun-drenched coast of Positano, and Le Sirenuse hotel which is wonderfully apparent in their fragrances. Marina and Sebastian, who have spoken at Les Senteurs before, are both incredibly charming and passionate – always a complete joy to talk with, one can’t help but fall in love with them and Eau d’Italie!

They will be presenting their upcoming fragrance, Graine de Joie, for the first time in the UK; a brilliant, sparkling scent with notes of red currant, pomegranate, freesia and a slightly musky drydown. Sure to be a favourite in the coming summer months!

Discover Eau d’Italie

Alberto Borri


Nu_be are a relatively new addition to Les Senteurs, and they have been met with great enthusiasm. Contemporary, stylish and enticing: the fragrances are each inspired by Chemical elements, including Hydrogen, Carbon and Sulphur, and created by some of the best noses working today.

Alberto created the brand in order to combine the modern artistic approach to fragrance with traditional perfumery. He has a strong familial background in fragrance: his grandfather founded Morris Profumo, and has an undeniable passion in scent, which shows in the fragrances of Nu_be. Alberto will introduce Mercury and Sulphur, the two latest additions to the Nu_be range, as well as showing the short film inspired by the collection.

Discover Nu_be

If you would like to attend our evening on Thursday May 8th, please RSVP to:

pr@lessenteurs.com | 020 7183 5842

A Study in Scarlet


If you key “images Cardinal” into your search engine you will be visually bombarded by a beautiful barrage of scarlet, vermilion and crimson good enough to print, cut out and keep. Interestingly, pictures of cute American birds materialise first, seguing into a surreal juxtaposition of images avian and clerical. It’s the venerable Princes of the Church that intrigue me more: that magnificent title which combines the temporal and spiritual and which evokes the promise of a world of immense exoticism and arcane power. Also, being synaesthetic, I find just pronouncing the word of power is both satisfying and fun – “cardinal” conjures up a great blood red splash of rustling crackling coruscating satin and silk.

Wonderful names, too: the historic Cardinals Fleury (a great lover of cats); and Mazarin, the uncle – or maybe father – of the beautiful “Mazarinettes” who so entranced the young Sun King. Was Mazarin the lover of Louis XIV’s mother, as once widely rumoured? We remember Cardinal Richelieu, familiar to readers of “The Three Musketeers”; Cardinal Spellman, intimate of the Kennedy’s; and Cardinal Rohan who longed for the favour of Marie Antoinette and precipitated the Diamond Necklace Scandal which did so much to undermine the French monarchy and hasten the Revolution. Rohan’s arrest in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles while robed incarnadine for Mass, is one of the great images of eighteenth century France. The saintly English prelates Newman (author of the so-called Fragrance Prayer) and Manning altered the face of the Victorian Church; Thomas Barham set the Cardinal Archbishop to rhyme in The Jackdaw of Rheims; while in our own time we have seen the media resound to the evocative and beguiling names of their eminences Biffi, Casserole, Martini and Sin.

Coming from Leicester I grew up with the story of Cardinal Wolsey’s demise in that fair city – “Father Abbot I come to lay my bones among you”. He died here providentially and peacefully before he could reach London and a hanging trial for treason. (A butcher’s son from Ipswich he had set himself up as richer and mightier than the King, and was once said to have infected Henry VIII with syphilis by whispering in his ear). He lies in what is now Abbey Park in the shadow of the old knitwear factory, the Wolsey Works, from which he still stares forth, portrayed on a magnificent plaque. His scarlet biretta’d head looks over the roofs towards his tombstone among the old abbey ruins, the ducks and boating lake. When I was 8 or 9 he was my favourite figure in games of “dressing up” – simple enough to do in an old red dressing gown and hat cut down from a fez. I carried in my hands (gloved and bejewelled) an orange stuck with cloves which my mother assured me was the very essence of the man.

Today I should recommend a bottle of Heeley’s fragrance Cardinal to complete the picture. Many perfumers have experimented with incense, but James Heeley subtly portrays the man enveloped in the fragrance, a warm breathing human presence in red soutane and blue smoke, rather than an impersonal and impassive cathedral interior. So Cardinal is fresh and warm, rather than redolent of candles, woodwork and venerable cold stone. Cardinal has the delicacy and crispness of rochet lace and fine clean linen, pristine watered silk and taffeta scented with fumes of finest frankincense. Aldehydes and orange exult and exalt in the top notes, surging into woody, spicy resinous folds. Cardinal is the odour of sanctity, suave and uplifting: but, suitably for the 21st century, it welcomes women into the Church too, and the accent is on youthful fervour and exuberance rather than sombre venerability.

Image from famous-artists.net

I’ll Smell You In My Dreams

Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bumblebee around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening

I must have od’d on perfume this past month: I have begun to dream in fragrance – a new and faintly disconcerting experience, although it has the makings of an exciting adventure. Last night I was awoken by a powerful scent of sweet hot just-about-to-singe pineapple meringue that hit me as shrilly and disturbingly as any alarm call. Of its dream context I can remember nothing but, my word, the impact was massive. All my animal sense of danger on electric alert I lurched into the kitchen to find nothing more than an cold and empty oven, a scoured cake tin – and only the bleak smell of a London February at two o’clock in the morning: a whiff of soap, grubby rain and cold hot water bottles.

Preceding this was what I’ll call the Warner Brothers dream: what seemed to be an entire imaginary movie in lush 1940’s style but shot in scent rather than colour or 3D or what have you. The leading lady was a kind of Stanwyck / Bacall / Bette Davis amalgam but defined and described not by face, dialogue, voice or character; rather by clouds of mauve, magenta and violet perfume which emoted and vibrated like a symphony, wordless but nonetheless explicit – Apres L’Ondee, Teint de Neige, Iris de Nuit, Jasmin Imperatrice Eugenie; waves of stocks, sweet pea, heliotrope and lilac underlaid with vanilla, tonka and musk. A romantic melodrama, evidently; just about coherent through familiarity with the genre and the medium, but the plot line was as challenging as adapting to a new language. Strange, when we so frequently and loosely talk of fragrance as being the stuff of dreams: when it actually becomes so there is the risk of getting lost and left behind.

I can see that this all kind of ties in with my synaesthetic tendencies; and I have always dreamed profusely, and in colour rather than black and white. What puzzles me about this new development is this: habitually it is the tiny almost unnoticed details of my day which appear in that night’s dreams and are given the full Dali treatment – a note to the milkman, someone’s name, a tin of paint, the washing machine filter – take on exaggerated and grotesque significance. Whereas things with which I am preoccupied, or by which I am delighted or shocked rarely put in an appearance. I almost never dream about horrors in the news, for instance. I learned as a child to think about those things I wished to avoid in sleep just before dropping off, thus infallibly precluding nightmares later.

Yet my life is soaked and permeated by scent: maybe I’m starting to take it for granted? Those with thoughts on or experience of this phenomenon please write in.

Image from wikimediacommons

If you were a perfume…

Grace Kelly Les Senteurs Blog Aroma Folio

…Who would you be? And as ever please do join us in this fantasy and write in with your own suggestions. Certain fragrances have such definitive personalities of their own that one can instinctively assign a celebrity to them. It is immaterial whether the perfume is contemporary with that person: one just mentally pairs the scent and the individual. For instance, think of Malle‘s Une Rose: who could that be but a portrait of Ingrid Bergman? The luminous beauty, the integrity, the apparent innocence hiding a deep woody earthiness and sensuality. Pure and radiant; but disconcerting and unpredictably erotic.

Then two legendary blondes: when I smell Coudray’s Musc and Freesia and Pierre Guillaume‘s Brulure de Rose I hear the whispery throaty voice of Marilyn Monroe: the early Marilyn of the 1950’s, in a dusky pink angora sweater and black pencil skirt. Sweet, coquettish, effortlessly feminine fragrances that are playfully sexy,kittenishly soft and exquisitely fragile, while their musky bases hint at something a little darker and troublante.

Diana Dors has to be Isabey‘s Fleurs Nocturne: a bewitching bouquet of white animalic hothouse flowers, creamy and slightly fruity with notes of peach flowers and peachy skin…accords of narcotic night-blooming flowers exuding golden nectar and fatal attraction. Opulent, fleshy, exuberant but still retaining a certain innocence and candour.

In the male line-up I thought of Casanova and the trail of ruined maidens and broken hearts he left across 18th century Europe, and so impulsively assigned the rather obvious Secretions Magnifiques, that bizarre and notorious blend of bedroom bodily smells and effluvia. But on thinking it over, I find Heeley‘s Iris de Nuit infinitely more appropriate: mauve + sweet, powdery and faintly sinister, highly intellectual (remember Casanova’s memoirs and his ending up in that terrible library) and snakily seductive. A sexy enigma with a massive amount of panache and elegance. Secretions is a sketch of a far creepier character: maybe Hitler (who loathed scent) with his notoriously impenetrable but reputedly lurid sex life? Or the supremely decadent 19th century writer Huysmans who explores a jaded mind and exhausted senses in his novel “A rebours” : the chapter on perfume experiments is especially fascinating, and the book is readily available in an English translation.

All this whimsy leads to more serious speculation about the way a perfumer creates a bespoke scent for a client, especially if he is painting a portrait of that person in scent. Without knowing the exact circumstances of its birth, Creed‘s Fleurissimo has always had close associations with Grace Kelly and it flawlessly reflects her image: cool, gracious, chic, glowing, poised and immaculate. A work of art to be sure; but, I wonder, who decides whether to capture the public persona or the (often more interesting ) private? For instance, would a perfumer creating for Garbo have evoked the unapproachable goddess of the screen; or the sporty peasant Swede who played with toy trolls and whose favourite topic of conversation was grocery bills? I think we shall return to this theme on another occasion.

Image from newsxu.com