Guy Robert, the creator of fragrances such as Hermès Calèche, Christian Dior Dioressence and Rochas Monsieur Rochas, during the course of a lecture given in April of 1998 to the British Society of Perfumers brought up a very interesting point about perfume creation. He notes that “our art is so mysterious, most of the perfumers cannot explain the proceedings they use to build a perfume. Our method could be compared to the Art of Cooking, a sort of “rule of thumb” (empiricism), and I agree this is not looking very serious!”
Recognizing the relationship between music and painting, Robert proceeds to offer two theories, even though they have not been defined. First, “for every perfume note there are several levels, like what the musicians call “octaves”.
(example : Damascones, Rose Oxydes, Otto of Rose, Geranium, Rose Absolute, Rhodinol, Geraniol, Phenyl Ethyl Alcohol …)” Second, “it is also possible, by comparing perfumery to painting, to imagine an “inter communication of tones” like what is happening between the colors…. And like a painter, if he [perfumer] accumulates too many elements he is going to get a sometimes awful confusion of grey and sad tones.”
Finally, what makes perfume memorable and what causes its scented veil that conjures images and creates associations to entrench itself in the mind, beyond the physical perception of scent? “We all know these many little songs we are hearing anywhere and forgetting almost immediately, but, from time to time, one of these songs sticks to our ear and we go on whistling it the whole day … I can assure you the author of these successful songs do not use any “fixatives ingredients” to get that result …” (from notes taken by Robert himself) Please read the entire lecture in British Society of Perfumers 1998 newsletter. He touches upon a number of fascinating topics, with his characteristic sharp wit.