ernest beaux: 10 posts

What Makes A Perfume Great

“The art of fortunate proportions” is how Edmond Roudnitska described perfumery. According to the legendary perfumer, a good fragrance has balance and an original form, a simple idea that is far from easy to realize. Roudnitska spent his career creating fragrances that exemplify perfumery at its most artistic—Christian Dior Diorissimo, Eau Sauvage, Diorella, and Rochas Femme. His compositions have elegance and character, but one of the distinctive trademarks of Roudnitska’s style is balance.

When I speak of balance in perfumery, I mean both the aesthetics and the technique. Consider Guerlain’s Chamade, one of the most perfectly balanced fragrances. From the bright green top notes to the rose and hyacinth heart and the velvety woody notes, the perfume unfolds like a silk scroll.  Similarly modulated is Dior’s Diorissimo, where the musky and spicy notes balance out the floral and green accords.

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The Scent of Empire Chanel No 5 and Red Moscow by Karl Schlogel

The Scent of Empire: Chanel No 5 and Red Moscow by Karl Schlögel

The first time my grandmother was introduced to my future grandfather, he was performing a duet with his brother. Identical twins and devastatingly handsome, the duo sang their most popular number about a girl holding a bottle of “Tejé.” This French-sounding perfume intrigued me, but despite searching for Tejé in Google and various perfumery databases, I couldn’t find any trace of it. It was not until I read Karl Schlögel’s book The Scent of Empire: Chanel No 5 and Red Moscow did I realize that that it wasn’t Tejé, but rather TeZhe. It certainly was not French. TeZhe stood for the State Trust of Fat and Bone Processing Industry, which included perfume manufacturing. It was the LVMH of the USSR, if you will, and it was under its auspices that the most famous Soviet perfume, Red Moscow, was born. Schlögel’s book is about the world of Red Moscow and its intriguing connection to Chanel No 5.

Brocard Moscow vintage poster

Schlögel’s story alternates between Moscow and Paris, Red Moscow and No 5 and the personalities that surrounded them. Red Moscow was created in 1925 by Auguste Michel, who like the creator of No 5, Ernest Beaux, was a French perfumer working in Moscow. Michel was born in Grasse and joined Rallet in Moscow in 1908, where he and Beaux were students of Alexandre Lemercier. Beaux and Michel had been influenced by the work on aldehydes done by the perfumer Robert Bienaimé at Houbigant. Beaux remained with Rallet, while Michel moved to work for Brocard, another French perfume house in Moscow.

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Perfumers on Perfume : Ernest Beaux on Fragrance Masterpieces

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.   

Ernest-Beaux

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.

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Inside Chanel No 5 : The Film

Chanel is launching a series of short films recounting the story of Coco Chanel, her legendary fashions and creations. The series begins with the film devoted to  No 5.

“Chanel opens in an unprecedented way its archives to capture the essence of this iconic fragrance, from its genesis to its muses, who have embodied the perfume since it was first created.” The film is short, only about 4 minutes. It can be viewed via www.inside-chanel.com (select your language of choice). Via press release

Fragrances That Influenced Perfume History : 100 Great Perfumes Series 1/10

roses5

Series 1 :: Series 2 :: Series 3 :: Series 4 :: Series 5 :: Series 6 :: Series 7 :: Series 8 :: Series 9 :: Series 10

My most recent project was a compilation of feminine and masculine fragrances that influenced the course of perfume history for a perfumery training course. I decided that perhaps this list might be of interest to you. There are several criteria I used to select the 100 fragrances below: they have to be responsible for setting a new trend either due to their unique character or their novel use of a raw material and they have to be recognized as trendsetting by industry professionals, namely, perfumers.

While my list includes many legendary fragrances, it does not include every grand parfum. For instance, my list is missing Chanel Bois des Iles, Caron Nuit de Noël and Guerlain Nahéma, which are great fragrances, but their impact on the fragrance market was less profound than that of other less unique perfumes. While it is by no means a definitive list—even 100 is bound to exclude some remarkable fragrances–I hope that it provides a glimpse into the development of perfumery, from the late 19th to the early 21th centuries. With each entry, I include an explanation as to why I selected it as well as to demonstrate how its influence on the fragrance market is felt today.

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