Christopher Sheldrake’s Favorite Perfumes

Grant Osborne of Basenotes features a terrific interview with Christopher Sheldrake, the nose behind many Serge Lutens fragrances and perfumer and director of research and development at Chanel. The piece first ran a couple of weeks ago, but it’s such a great interview that I couldn’t resist sharing it. If you haven’t read it, please do!


What’s your favourite Chanel? Outside Chanel as well? I love No.5 Eau Premiere. For me it’s probably the most feminine fragrance available on the market today. Very modern, very contemporary. I love No. 22 because that’s something for people who think their fragrance doesn’t last long – it has a fantastic trail, and is a fantastic retro fragrance, very elegant, very feminine. I also love Coco Noir because it’s so soft and sensual and it’s in that beautiful bottle as well. A lot of people, when they see the bottle, they think its going to be very heavy and difficult, but in fact it’s a very easy, very young feminine sensual soft fragrance.”

“And outside Chanel, I love Mitsouko by Guerlain – a classic chypre. I used to wear it myself, although it’s a women’s fragrance, it’s a wonderful smell on women and men. And there’s something in the Amor Amor by Cacharel, something in that accord which I absolutely love. It’s very feminine and gustative – you could eat it – or the person that’s wearing it!” To read the rest, please click here.

Photograph: Christopher Sheldrake (left) and Chanel perfumer Jacques Polge (right).



  • Bela: Oh, thank you for drawing our attention to this interview, V! I hardly ever visit Basenotes and would have missed it.

    Very interesting indeed. June 27, 2013 at 8:38am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m glad that you liked it! He comes across as a very interesting person, and I appreciated his honesty. June 27, 2013 at 11:18am Reply

  • george: Very interesting article, thank you. Great to see that maths physics, art and architecture background; always good to see interests much more expansive than just that of perfumery and the next perfumery job (although the latest chanels have not particularly been for me, they still don’t feel like hackwork, but rather fragrances that I am not interested in but which in their own way are great). I’ve never computed how much of a Sheldrake junkie I am; but this article has made me look at my favourites, and I truly am, and as La Fille de berlin is going to be the next bottle to extract money out of my pocket, it seems like an ongoing addiction. June 27, 2013 at 8:58am Reply

    • george: Oh and doesn’t he have a great face! June 27, 2013 at 8:59am Reply

    • Victoria: I believe that the best perfumers came from such eclectic backgrounds. It’s too bad that the industry now insists more and more on the same chemistry degree (although there are still internal schools like IFF’s or Givaudan’s where that’s not required; they look more for imagination and interesting experiences). June 27, 2013 at 11:21am Reply

  • Annikky: Thank you for this, Victoria! Fascinating interview, it did actually feel genuine – which is not that common an occurrence in today’s beauty journalism/marketing.

    Sheldrake is no doubt the nose that is best represented in my (still small) collection and I love or like almost everything he has done. Admittedly, I’m not familiar with the fragrances he created for Space NK. By the way, have you already tried the new Lutens? I heard it has been presented to the press and I am really, really curious about that one.

    (As a side note: is it mandatory for perfumers to say that Mitsouko is their favourite :)?) June 27, 2013 at 9:40am Reply

    • george: I have just found a base notes thread from back in december which reports that Shiseido has registered the name La Fille de Berlin, Laine de Verre, and la Vierge de fer. As the first has arrived, and the last is said to be about to arrive as a Palais exclusive (a lily fragrance named after the medieval torture instrument the iron maiden), does that mean that Lutens is going to produce a fragrance named after fibreglass insulating material. I do hope so! because I love a bit of perfumery envelope pushing, and I don’t think anyone does it better! June 27, 2013 at 10:14am Reply

    • Victoria: I confess that I rarely read perfumer interviews, because most of them feel canned, but this one is excellent. Sheldrake clearly took time to respond to all of the questions and his responses are genuine, as you noted, and thoughtful.

      The new Lutens is out in September, so I look forward to it very much.

      Mitsouko is the perfumers’ favorite, it really is. I can’t count how many people name it if asked for a favorite perfume. Either Mitsouko or L’Heure Bleue, and it’s not surprising given their technical perfection. June 27, 2013 at 11:28am Reply

  • Caroline: Sheldrake is an engaging interviewee–thanks for sharing. And at last, confirmation that
    31RC in extrait is not to be (sobs) June 27, 2013 at 10:08am Reply

    • Victoria: I admit that I was disappointed to read that. Sigh… June 27, 2013 at 11:29am Reply

  • Nina Z: I really liked this quote: “What I like most is that when somebody likes a fragrance that I’ve made, and they close their eyes, and they smile. And I think that really is a sign that it’s doing something. And I think fragrances do affect our emotions. It’s not just a nice smell.”

    Sheldrake’s understanding of the emotional effects of perfume must certainly be one of the reasons his work is so extraordinary. And it must be so wonderful as a perfumer to watch someone be transported by or even swoon at the smell of a fragrance that you have created. (As a writer, I’ve had a similar experience watching someone cry or laugh out loud reading something I’ve written.) June 27, 2013 at 12:12pm Reply

    • Victoria: It’s a terrific quote, and I liked it too. Many of his fragrances, especially the ones for Lutens, certainly do that to me. June 27, 2013 at 4:54pm Reply

  • Dao: Hi, thanks a lot for the professional and vibrant insights, very relevant and interesting reading indeed! Have been following your posts for a long time but today an amazing concidence happened as I just posted a recipe dreamt/derived from Mitsouko.. So wanted to share .. In case you’d like to have a look? 🙂 June 27, 2013 at 12:51pm Reply

  • Sariah: Great interview, thanks for posting. I love what he says about Douce Amere. It was my first niche fragrance purchase. Makes me feel like I have good taste 🙂 June 27, 2013 at 1:01pm Reply

    • Victoria: It was one of my first Lutens too! I don’t wear it as much as some others, but I still have a strong sentimental attachment to it. June 27, 2013 at 4:55pm Reply

  • Austenfan: It was a very nice read, thank you for posting the link.
    I can never make up my mind about which Lutens is my favourite. Douce Amère is certainly high on that list.
    It is interesting to read that, in the past at least, people came to the job through all sorts of routes.
    Another element of the interview I really liked is where he explains that when he was younger he was more willing to shock people than nowadays. Most of us mellow as we get older. Also he seems very honest which is good. June 27, 2013 at 6:37pm Reply

    • Victoria: I also have difficulty picking a favorite, especially since at different times, I gravitate toward different perfumes. I went through a A La Nuit phase, Tubereuse Criminelle phase, Bois de Violette, etc. Lately, it’s been La Fille de Berlin. But I still return to all the other ones. June 28, 2013 at 1:01pm Reply

  • kaori: Thank you for sharing with us. It is fantastic! I didn’t know he created Melodrama which I liked to get a full bottle but it was impossible to order from here:(

    Kaori June 27, 2013 at 10:37pm Reply

    • Victoria: I will check SpaceNK the next time I’m around one, but here, I haven’t seen it either. June 28, 2013 at 1:04pm Reply

  • theperfumeddandy: Dear Victoria
    Thank you for bringing this splendid interview to our attention and congratulations to Grant for capturing what feels like a open and informed conversation.
    As others have said it is so refreshing to read something so seemingly free of PR puff.
    Nothing short of illuminating.
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy June 28, 2013 at 5:42am Reply

    • Victoria: Exactly! I also found it free of PR puff, as you put it well. June 28, 2013 at 1:05pm Reply

  • Orris: Thanks Victoria for sharing this wonderful interview. I agree it is very rare to have a open and candid interview from a perfumer. Most of the time it is only PR as theperfumedandy mentioned.

    Many thanks once again. July 31, 2013 at 3:44am Reply

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