On one of my frequent visits to Grasse, the fragrance capital of the world, I took time out to meet up with Jean-Charles Niel, the distinguished perfumer who created our Botanical Essence No. 1. Jean-Charles has been involved in the fabulous world of fragrance since birth, so I thought it would be great to ask him a few questions about his career and experience working with Liz Earle.
Jean-Charles was born in Grasse and, as a boy, always imagined that he would be a pilot or a surgeon. However, throughout his childhood, he was surrounded by discussions of perfume and natural ingredients since his father was president of the leading natural raw material company at the time. This company had a pioneering lady named Monique Rémy as their Technical Manager. Like Liz Earle, Monique was passionate about the finest quality natural ingredients and later set up Laboratoire Monique Rémy to source and produce the best raw ingredients in the world. She watched Jean-Charles grow up and was probably not too surprised when he abandoned his previous career aspirations and started to train as a perfumer. His excellent ‘nose’ continued to develop as he found inspiration in his love of art, classical music and fine wine!
Lorna: How has the career of a perfumer changed in the last 30 years?
Jean-Charles: These days the young perfumer must be an artist, but having a chemistry background as a starting point is a plus. When I started, things were different, with a daily emphasis on building olfactive memory and blending naturals and molecules from around the world. Today, while some rules are necessary, they are much more complex and restrictive. The more tests the authorities insist on, the more prohibitive the prices and the harder it is to be creative. There are also far more fragrances around nowadays, with a large number of celebrities’ fragrances regularly launched onto the market.
Lorna: What was it like working with the Liz Earle team?
Jean-Charles: In my entire career, I have never enjoyed such freedom when creating a fragrance. I did not believe it at first, but once I met Liz and Kim, I understood how totally committed they were to the creation of the finest possible fragrance. Their goal was a luxury fragrance at an affordable price – the value for money that Botanical Essence No. 1 offers is exceptional.
Lorna: What is the most exciting element when creating a fragrance?
Jean-Charles: The brief! (This is the communication from a company describing the type of fragrance they want the perfumer to create.) When you work with people, you need to listen to their words, guess what they think, discover what they like and what they don’t like. You work together to narrow down creative options and end up with the closest olfactive illustration of their vision. This can be a lengthy process, just like it was with Liz Earle Botanical Essence No. 1! We took a long time to perfect the right smell for your signature scent.
Lorna: Why did you want to work with Liz Earle?
Jean-Charles: Liz’s love of naturals matched my experience really well. Not many people know how to work with so many natural ingredients these days, and I had to rediscover how some of these ingredients interacted with each other, which was so exciting having been born into this field.
Lorna: How did the challenge of creating the Liz Earle fragrance differ from other companies?
Jean-Charles: The fragrance embodies Liz’s philosophy, so it had to be a journey from excellent skincare into excellent fragrance. The desire to be as natural as possible was unusual as it is so much more difficult to create a successful, totally natural fragrance. It had to be compatible with her philosophy of wellbeing yet also be respected in the world of ‘fine’ fragrances. The Liz Earle team allowed the fragrance to be developed the way perfumery used to be done to get the best possible formula. Liz Earle is the epitome of good taste.
Lorna: Which of the fragrances you’ve created are you particularly proud of?
Jean-Charles: Magie Noire by Lancôme, Red by Giorgio, Silence by Jacomo and, of course, Liz Earle Botanical Essence No. 1!
Lorna: What are your favourite fragrance notes to work with?
Jean-Charles: I love working with natural ingredients which are found in the Chypre family. I especially enjoy the combination of patchouli and rose as they blend so well together, and also love adding sophistication through the use of Florentine orris.
Lorna: What is the most satisfying aspect of your job?
Jean-Charles: Seeing my babies born!
Lorna: What do you think are the major trends in the perfumery industry at the moment?
Jean-Charles: The olfactory trends are easy-to-wear fruity floral, crystal clear and fresh fragrances with a subdued sensuality, but I do see things leaning towards the more feminine, gourmand, sensual, even sexy notes.
Christmas shopping evening
If you would like to find out more about the development of Botanical Essence No.1, join me and the Liz Earle team at the London store for an exclusive Christmas shopping evening on Thursday 24th November between 6.30pm and 8pm. I’ll be sharing some stories with you from the world of perfume, and there’ll be a complimentary engraving service in store for everyone buying a bottle of Botanical Essence No.1 on the day*. There’s also a chance to win a Liz Earle Ultimate Hamper, which includes a bottle of our fine fragrance engraved with the initials of your choice*.
All guests will leave with a gorgeous little goody bag packed with treats for you to take home and try*. Spaces for this event are limited and tickets are £10, redeemable against any purchase on the night. To reserve your place at this very special evening and to book the complimentary engraving service, please call 01983 813562 between 9am and 5.30pm, Monday to Friday.
*Subject to availability, while stocks last. Terms and conditions apply. Separate terms and conditions apply to prize draw.