Elie Roger and Estee Lauder Knowing

Who was the perfumer behind Estée Lauder’s Knowing, a chypre of roses tangled up with dark moss? For many years, Lauder, like many other companies, didn’t put the perfumers into the limelight, and this is why Elie Roger’s name is not often linked with Knowing if you search for the information online. Roger worked for the fragrance house of Firmenich, and he signed both Knowing (1988) and Clinique Wrappings (1990). While his portfolio wasn’t as extensive as that of some other perfumers, he had a distinctive style, and both Knowing and Wrappings remain beloved classics.

estee-lauder-knowing

Roger passed away on Nov. 19, 2010, after a long career, which started in 1946 in Grasse, France, his hometown. He worked for 20 years at Firmenich, both in New York and Paris, and he received the American Society of Perfumers’ Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001. Since he crafted two American classics as well as some other interesting fragrances, it’s well-deserved recognition.

As the Perfumer & Flavorist article (November 24, 2010) says, “Roger’s esteemed career was marked by the creation of several perfumes that are still considered modern classics today, including Knowing (1988), and Clinique Wrappings (1990). Karyn Khoury, senior vice president of corporate fragrance development worldwide for The Estée Lauder Companies, said, ‘Elie was a gentleman in the truest sense of the word. Kind, collaborative and so giving of his talent and expertise, he had the soul of an artist blended with a wonderful sense of humor, which made working with him an absolute delight and resulted in incredible creations like Estée Lauder Knowing. We will miss Elie both as a talented creative partner and a dear friend.’ “

As Roger himself once remarked, “As perfumers, we must have a lot of imagination ; we must be dreamers sometimes.” Whenever I wear Knowing, I dream too, since the great perfumes are the ultimate means for fantasizing and giving more color and beauty to our days.

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46 Comments

  • Solanace: Now I’m dying to try Knowing! It will be in my next samples order. July 9, 2014 at 7:30am Reply

    • Victoria: Absolutely worth trying, especially if you love dark chypres. July 9, 2014 at 11:16am Reply

      • Alanagh Rea: Where do I order samples from. I live in Northern Ireland. Thank you. July 11, 2014 at 6:55am Reply

        • Victoria: I’d look for a counter at your local department store. Perhaps, someone else from Ireland can give you more pointers. But if you want to mail-order, the only place off the top of my head is surrendertochance.com, a website that sells many different samples. They are reliable and they ship internationally. July 11, 2014 at 11:32am Reply

          • Alanagh Rea: Thank you. The department stores here that sell perfume are Boots Chemists and Debenhams and they do not give out samples or even information. Apart from them there are only a few shops selling a few perfumes at a cheaper price. So mail-order is the only choice. July 12, 2014 at 7:25am Reply

  • Michaela: Interesting post! Wonderful work, wonderful character! What a nice coincidence, he was born in Grasse… July 9, 2014 at 9:09am Reply

    • Victoria: I have never met him, but from everything I read and heard, he seems to have been an interesting person. And his perfumes are beautiful! July 9, 2014 at 11:20am Reply

  • Merlin: ‘ a chypre of roses tangled up with dark moss’

    i didn’t think I liked Knowing but with that description I will have to re-try it!

    It can be surprisingly difficult to find out which noses are behind certain perfumes. I recently tried recording who formulated some of my favorite perfumes and cannot find out who is behind L’Occitane’s Eau de Beaux, Aramis’ Calligraphy Rose, Le Prairie’s Midnight Rain and some of Santa Maria Novella’s and Crabtree&Evelyn scents.

    I’v checked most on-line blogs and forums, as well as Parfumo – is there any other source? July 9, 2014 at 9:15am Reply

    • Victoria: Eau des Baux is by Karine Dubreuil, but I don’t remember who did the others. There is no other freely accessible source, as far as I know. Fragrantica and Basenotes list noses, but I know that their lists are far from complete.

      If I find out the creators of these other perfumes, I will post it here. July 9, 2014 at 11:23am Reply

      • Merlin: Thanks Victoria, but please, don’t go to any trouble! I mainly am just surprised that the info is not that easy to access. But now I have another name to fill in my chart! Karine Dubreuil, huh! July 9, 2014 at 4:34pm Reply

        • Victoria: Even inside the fragrance houses, it can be hard to keep straight. Perfumers themselves, of course, know what they have created, but internal names for the perfumes can be different from the commercial ones, and this can occasion some confusion. July 10, 2014 at 3:11pm Reply

          • Merlin: Sometimes it seems like the brand has an interest in hiding the perfumer. Perhaps they want the scent to be linked to the brand only? Or perhaps I am just paranoid! lol July 10, 2014 at 3:48pm Reply

            • Victoria: Some of them definitely don’t want to put the perfume front and center, but in some cases, brands select the perfumes first and only then finding the project to fit them. Sometimes they tell the perfumes which perfume it’s going to be, but in others, they don’t bother. Some brands find the perfumer adds more cache, especially when everyone wants to know about the creator. But it can also backfire as the brands start mentioning the star perfumers who worked on the formula, but not the junior ones that toiled by their side.

              Lauder will usually mention all perfumers involved, and the stories about their launches in the WWD or other trade publications never fail to mention this. July 10, 2014 at 4:01pm Reply

  • Austenfan: I so want to try Wrappings, I have tried Knowing a number of times but so far I haven’t fallen for it. Might just be the quality of the testers. July 9, 2014 at 10:10am Reply

    • Victoria: Or maybe, it’s just not for you! Lauder’s chypres are peculiar and very different from Guerlain, for instance. They are drier, sharper. July 9, 2014 at 11:25am Reply

      • Austenfan: That may be the cause, but I do adore Aromatics Elixir, which is a Lauder really, and I like Private Collection so I am just going to give it another try every now and again. July 9, 2014 at 11:53am Reply

        • Victoria: Then you should try it again. But of course, Knowing is still a different thing from Aromatics Elixir and Private Collection. If you have a chance, try it side by side with AE to see what I mean. July 9, 2014 at 3:10pm Reply

          • Austenfan: I will do so. Sometimes it’s just so strange that a scent that you think you’ll love turns out to be so difficult to like. But I will go on trying, I’m very stubborn that way. July 10, 2014 at 11:50am Reply

            • Victoria: That’s part of the fun. :) July 10, 2014 at 3:36pm Reply

        • Merlin: And just to agree to the differences I very much like Private Collection – but do not enjoy either Knowing or Aromatics Elixir. July 9, 2014 at 4:38pm Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: Inspired by your article I wear Knowing today. I love dark, mossy perfumes and Knowing is one of the best. I don’t know Wrappings, will look at it.
    I wonder what Elie Roger was dreaming, creating Knowing? Maybe picturesque ruins, with a mysterious hermit and the howling of owls. July 9, 2014 at 11:00am Reply

    • Victoria: Wrappings is released seasonally around Christmas, so it might not be available right now. I keep wishing that it becomes a part of the permanent collection.

      I wonder what Lauder told him about Knowing and what the brief looked like! July 9, 2014 at 11:26am Reply

  • george: Do you know why this perfume is often attributed to Jean Kerleo? (sorry to even mention it, I think your article probably left it out so as not propagate this misconception any further? If you want you can delete this comment once you’ve read it so at least this article won’t come up in an Jean Kerleo Knowing google search!) On another note, thank you for so unselfishly posting whilst on your Ukrainian stay- both the perfume and other articles! July 9, 2014 at 11:13am Reply

    • Victoria: I have a feeling that one site made a mistake and all others picked it up. On internet, this is so easy. Kerleo was a Jean Patou in-house perfumer at the time, and he could not have developed anything for Lauder.

      My pleasure! I miss not writing here and chatting with all of you, and it’s a fairly long stay. But of course, on some weeks, I’m more occupied by family than on others. July 9, 2014 at 11:34am Reply

  • yomi: Lovely article Victoria, as always. To create a great perfume you need a great team and he seemed to be such a great team player. One point to note on your article though I personally don’t think knowing as dark! More often luminous! Aromatics elixir yes – very dark! But knowing is all luminousity to me with its ambery base – perception ! July 9, 2014 at 12:06pm Reply

    • Victoria: I definitely agree that it’s very luminous and it seems to be composed of layers. That’s exactly what makes wearing Knowing so interesting to me. July 9, 2014 at 3:11pm Reply

  • Liz G.: Knowing has been one of my absolute favorites for years. Glad to find out who created it and sorry he has passed. Knowing is a truly beautiful fragrance. July 9, 2014 at 12:58pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’ve been wearing it a lot ever since Elisa wrote her review, and yes, I can’t agree more, it’s gorgeous. July 9, 2014 at 3:16pm Reply

  • Esperanza: Thank you for this tribute, Victoria. I always thought Knowing was made by Jean Kerleo and it used to surprise me. Beautiful fragrance, Knowing.

    This might be an off question but would you happen to know who made Yves Rocher Cantate ? Some YR fragrances are attributed and this one is not. July 9, 2014 at 1:10pm Reply

    • Victoria: Glad that you liked it! The authorship of perfumes is always a tricky subject, especially when it comes to the older fragrances.
      I’m not familiar with Cantate, and my notes don’t mention the perfumer. I’ll add it onto my list to research in the meantime. July 9, 2014 at 3:20pm Reply

  • minette: Knowing is a really, really good rose chypre. It could be a classic French perfume, without question (my highest compliment). Thanks for letting us know who wrote it.

    Cheers! July 9, 2014 at 2:48pm Reply

    • Victoria: I started to reply under Elisa’s review, but then thought that a separate article would be better. Roger deserves his credit! July 9, 2014 at 3:23pm Reply

  • Ann: Folded neatly inside my copy of Michael Edward Perfume Legends was a mail-in order request for the “soon to be released” or some other similar language… for Perfume Legends for American feminine fragrances… I am sorry that publication never materialized. But it would be fun to think of a list of American legends, which would include several Lauder’s no doubt, and would absolutely include Knowing. Something like…from Youth Dew to Cuir de Gardenia :) ? July 9, 2014 at 2:56pm Reply

    • Victoria: Keeping my fingers crossed that it will be happening soon, because Perfume Legends is such an excellent book and it deserves a follow up and an update. Youth Dew should definitely be there. July 9, 2014 at 3:24pm Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: I have a little book by Nigel Groom: The Perfume Companion (2001), Dutch edition: Parfum. There I read; Knowing, flacon Ira Levy, parfumeur: parfumeurs (plural!) van Firmenich.

    I never heard before of Elie Roger. A neglected genius? July 9, 2014 at 4:39pm Reply

    • Victoria: Even now Lauder is not forthcoming about the perfumers working on its products (except for the trade publications), so I’m not surprised that Roger wasn’t mention more. July 10, 2014 at 3:13pm Reply

  • Courant: I’m starting to think that perfumed world is like Thoroughbred Breeding, the horse, the stable, the trainer, the bloodline and then the actual racing. I rushed into buying Knowing as soon as it launched and I loved it until one day, in a world of apple scented shampoo, all I could smell was apple. I’ve never worn it since but I love to hear of its provenance. Is it unchanged? I loved this article Victoria, but that is nothing new. Enjoy the sunflowers, I have to confess I don’t like the EA scent but I love to eat the seeds. July 9, 2014 at 4:43pm Reply

    • Victoria: If only someone made a perfume that truly smells like sunflowers! The flowers themselves have a lovely sweet scent, but even more wonderful is the aroma of leaves, stems and soft, still milky seeds.

      Knowing was altered (Elisa described the differences in her review), but I think that it still smells wonderful. If you love chypres, it’s worth trying, reformulation or not. July 10, 2014 at 3:16pm Reply

  • annemarie: Pauline Porizkova looks superb in that ad doesn’t she? She’s got the perfect cheekbones for a chypre. Chypres are all about structure! July 9, 2014 at 11:10pm Reply

    • Kat: I agree! Paulina is gorgeous… :) July 10, 2014 at 12:27pm Reply

    • Victoria: She is the chypre gal! I can’t think of anyone who fits that perfume better. July 10, 2014 at 3:18pm Reply

  • annemarie: Holly heck this stuff is marvellous! Finally after
    Elisa’s review, and today’s post, I got to the mall to give Knowing a proper test in skin. I think in the past I have sniffed the cap and been put off by a slightly sour note that puts me off many dark rose fragrances. But persistance pays off. I’m really loving this perfume. I appreciate the sillage more than the smell on skin so spritzing under clothes may work best for me. (Back of neck is a great place to apply sillage monsters, I’ve found.)

    And my goodness Knowing is mossy ! That can’t be the oakmoss of yore, surely? It must be a trick of patchouli ad well. But I definitely get a whiff of ashtray in there and that’s not something I expect to smell in a mainstream fragrance these days. July 10, 2014 at 3:32am Reply

    • Victoria: I love Knowing the next day on my scarf or jacket. The mossy goodness lingers and lingers. Yes, it still contains the real moss, but it’s doctored with patchouli, woods and some amber to give more richness and to replace what the regulations have attenuated. It’s a dramatic perfume still! July 10, 2014 at 3:20pm Reply

      • annemariec: That’s interesting, thanks! July 10, 2014 at 11:04pm Reply

  • Little Red: Love Knowing! He sounds like an interesting man. And now I’ll definitely have to try Wrappings. July 11, 2014 at 2:29am Reply

    • Victoria: I can’t wait till Christmas to see Wrappings in stores again. July 11, 2014 at 11:28am Reply

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