Alienor Massenet is the award-winning French perfumer who has helped us create our new Botanical Essence No.15. I caught up with her at our press launch to find out a little more about the fascinating world of fragrance.
Hannah: What inspired you to become a perfumer?
Alienor: I knew I was interested in fragrance from a young age – I used to smell everything my mother put in front of me! I decided to become a perfumer at 20, when I paid for my vacation by selling perfumed candles I had made myself in my kitchen.
Hannah: Did you enjoy creating Botanical Essence No.15?
Alienor: Yes. It is very rare to be asked to use such a high level of natural ingredients, particularly for an oriental fragrance; other perfumers shy away from a brief to use high levels of naturals as it’s easier to use synthetics. It’s also unusual to work with such a high spend per kilo – it meant we could choose ingredients of a very high quality. I felt like a chef who gets to play with all the special ingredients!
Hannah: How is Botanical Essence No.15 different to Botanical Essence No.1?
Alienor: Fragrances are generally categorised by family depending on how they smell and the degree to which each ingredient is used. The two botanical essences sit in two very different fragrance families; Botanical Essence No.1 is classed as a Fresh Citrus whereas Botanical Essence No.15 is a Fresh Spicy Oriental.
Hannah: Why is Botanical Essence No.15 called a ‘modern’ fresh oriental?
Alienor: Unlike more traditional oriental fragrances, Botanical Essence No.15 doesn’t have such a fruity, gourmand effect. This is because of the combination and concentration of natural ingredients we’ve used, particularly the cedarwood oil and cypriol in the background which give the fragrance a very clean, very fresh, sexy note which you don’t find in a traditional oriental scents. To have this freshness coming from the background of an oriental fragrance rather than the top of the fragrance is very new.
Hannah: And why do you describe it as a ‘spherical’ fragrance?
Alienor: When you spray the fragrance on your skin, you have a tiny bit of bergamot and spice, but very quickly you smell the powerful rose and woods and the cocktail of vanilla, tonka bean and benzoin which are all wrapped together, so it becomes a very rounded fragrance. Botanical Essence No.1 is shaped like the Egyptian pyramids with its very distinctive citrus top notes, which give way to a floral heart and then woods at the base, but Botanical Essence No.15 is more like the Guggenheim Museum – very modern and round, where you see everything at the same time.
Hannah: Are there any particular ingredients in Botanical Essence No.15 that you love?
Alienor: It’s been incredibly exciting to use real Indian sandalwood again. I remember smelling its creamy, milky effect when I first started at IFF, but it has been an endangered ingredient for a very long time, and so it’s wonderful that we now have a sustainable source grown in Australia and are therefore able to include it. I also love cypriol, which is not too different from patchouli, but less dark. The Damask rose is also very special – we use a blend that comes from Bulgarian rose petals, which are beautifully apple-like and fruity, and rose petals from Turkey, which have more spiciness. This rose combination works really well with the pink pepper and the cinnamon leaf to give the fragrance a feminine spiciness.
Hannah: What brief did we give you and how long did it take you to complete?
Alienor: I was asked to create an oriental that was very sensual, captivating and very feminine with a lot of naturals. It took me about a year to perfect it.
Hannah: What do you think we are going to see in the fragrance industry in the next year or two?
Alienor: The world is changing a lot and different continents want different scents. People in Brazil, say, have very different tastes in fragrance to people in China or France or North America. I think having a fragrance that is a little bit more personal to you is going to be very important. Fragrances will need to take you on a personal journey or trip somewhere.
Hannah: And which trip do you hope people will make when they wear Botanical Essence No.15?
Alienor: Good question! I think somewhere in Asia, because you have the cinnamon, the warm humid quality from all those woods, and the patchouli from Indonesia. Its warm, sensual attraction reminds me most of India and Asia.