Today we know Ernest Beaux first and foremost as the creator of Chanel No. 5, but he was also responsible for Bois des Îles, Cuir de Russie, No. 22, and many other early Chanel perfumes. His style is elegant and graceful, but with a strong character. Soir de Paris, a fragrance he created for Bourjois, doesn’t just skip from one note to another; it shimmers, revealing in one moment a peppery citrus and green leaves, and in another a velvety rose and wood shavings. As it turns out, Beaux was not only a great perfumer; he was also a good writer, and his candid observations remain relevant today. In partnership with the Osmothèque, I offer you an excerpt from Memories of a perfumer (Souvenirs d’un parfumeur), a 1946 magazine article by Ernest Beaux published in Industrie de la Parfumerie.
The article gives a glimpse into what Beaux considered to be the greatest perfumes of his time and his thoughts on the art of perfumery in general. “If our thoughts are but fantasies, such fantasy finds, thanks to the talent of the perfumer, a possibility of fulfillment,” he writes, and I cannot agree more.
The article comes from the archives of the Osmothèque, a French non-profit institution whose mission is to preserve fragrances in their original formulations. The current regulations make it impossible for Chanel to offer No.5 as Beaux intended it to be, but the Osmothèque features it in its collection, which is open to the public. You can also discover there the fragrance masterpieces Beaux mentions in the article: Houbigant Cœur de Jeannette, Houbigant Fougère Royale, Houbigant Le Parfum Idéal, Houbigant Quelques Fleurs, Piver Le Trèfle Incarnat, Roger & Gallet Vera Violetta, Guerlain Jicky, Guerlain Après l’Ondée, Guerlain L’Heure Bleue, Coty La Rose Jacqueminot, Coty L’Origan, Caron Le Narcisse Noir, Lanvin Scandal, and Lanvin Arpège.