Two perfumers reveal a favorite fragrance note, and discuss how finding balance in materials gives fragrances a soul.
BY JEB GLEASON-ALLURED
n Perfumers face increasing time
constraints, forcing them to work
differently than in past decades.
n Communication is very important,
and there’s always something to
learn from a consumer wearing the
n The perfumer’s job is to interpret
what is being asked for by the brand
owner and to find what needs to be
fixed in the formula to execute the
idea. A finished scent is a result of a
Of the perhaps 3,000 novel aroma molecules created, assessed and vetted by Firmenich’s perfumers and R&D staff each year, perhaps as few as three will make their
way onto the company palette.
“For a perfumer to discover a new
material, it’s almost like a painter
discovering a new color,” says master
perfumer Harry Frémont, considering a
blotter of the material. “Imagine what the
artist could do. We use the new materials in
different contexts, giving new effects.”
“The palette is so important,” says
master perfumer Annie Buzantian. “You
can use the same note over and over again
in different contexts, but when you have
something special in particular that you
fall in love with, it gives a fragrance a soul.”
These sorts of “exceptional notes,” she
adds, can in many cases serve as founding
inspirations for fragrances.
“When you have something that is
exclusive to your company, it gives you a
sense of confidence in what you do and
what you show to the client,” says Frémont.
“You feel you have something special. As a
perfumer, it’s important to have this kind
“We are a very much like architects,”
says Buzantian. “We are influenced by
new raw materials—a new construction
material. It inspires you.”
Helvetolide are among these few raw
materials that have made it onto Firmenich’s
palette. The captive musk was discovered
and commercialized in the 1990s, and the
somewhat ubiquitous material is markedly
refined, making it generally more suitable
for women’s fragrances than men’s scents.
“It’s luxurious, elegant, classic, it smells
expensive,” says Buzantian. “It’s like a cloud.
It lends itself to floral notes, woody notes.
I’ve used it in a woody complex, and people
think it’s woody instead of musky. It has
its own personality, but it lends itself to
whatever else you want to work with. It’s
very malleable. It’s like a chameleon.”
“It does wonders in a fragrance, from
top note all the way to dry down, which is
very important in a musk,” says Buzantian.
Frémont notes: “Because some musks
are very bottom-heavy, they flatten out
fragrances. This one doesn’t.”