ernest beaux: 10 posts

The Secret of Chanel No 5 by Tilar J. Mazzeo : Book Review

SecretNo5

“The line between legend and history, however, is wonderfully—and perplexingly—malleable, Much of what is told and retold as conventional wisdom about the spectacular rise of Chanel No. 5 and its transformation into an international byword for luxury is the stuff of half-truths, confusion, collective fantasy, and sheer invention. Sometimes, the truth that those legends obscure is more fantastic than any fiction,” writes Tilar J. Mazzeo in her book The Secret Of Chanel No. 5: The Intimate History Of The World’s Most Famous Perfume.

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Inspiration in Perfumery

Perfumers

Fascinating glimpse into the creative process in perfumery (quoting famous perfumers such as Henri Robert, Andre Fraysse, Ernest Beaux and Edmond Roudnitska) excerpted from The Complete Technology Book on Herbal Perfumes & Cosmetics By H. Panda, p. 53-54.

“Different perfumers react to different stimuli. Thus Henri Robert interviewed some years ago, mentioned that he always kept an odour-diary throughout his worldwide travels. On returning to his laboratory, with the aid of these notes, he would attempt to recreate in memory the various olfactive impressions that he had received: ‘something suggested, for example, on a May morning on the Riviera or in the heat of a tropical afternoon, the impression arising from a market scene, a visit to the grand magazines or a concert.’ He might then decide to translate this or that olfactive reminiscence into a formula. … The place which he considered the most unfailingly stimulating source of odour-impressions was Paris, or to be more precise, a very small section of the Faubourg St. Honore. Here he was able to find the strongest impression of artistry, beauty and that subtle feeling of elegance so necessary to achievement in the sphere of fine perfumery.

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Ernest Beaux on Chanel No 5 and Scent of Snow

No 5 chanel

In his wonderful memoirs Souvenirs et Parfums Constantin Weriguine, a Russian emigre perfumer who worked with Ernest Beaux at Chanel shares some fascinating tidbits not just about the perfume industry of his time, but also about Ernest Beaux himself. Beaux was a man who admired Napoleon Bonaparte, searched for raspberry nuances in rose oils he used in Chanel products and had a tremendous passion for his art. Re-reading Souvenirs et Parfums on the plane last week, I noted down a passage, in which Weriguine shares a speech given by Beaux in 1946 about fragrance, chemistry and inspiration for Chanel No 5.

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From Rallet No1 to Chanel No5 : Perfumer & Flavorist Article

Rallet_no_1

“The story of Chanel No 5 begins in Moscow in 1912 with perfumer Ernest Beaux’s studies of the aldehyde used in Houbigant’s Quelques Fleurs. It continues in La Bocca and Cannes, France, and then is almost derailed by competition from an unlikely source,” begins the article From Rallet No1 to Chanel No5 versus Mademoiselle Chanel No1 by Philip Kraft, Christine Ledard and Philip Goutell.

Published in October issue of Perfumer & Flavorist, it presents a fascinating account of the birth of Chanel No5. One can learn why Beaux was interested in aldehydes and how Coco Chanel decided to launch her own line of fragrances (breaking the agreement with Pierre Wertheimer of Parfums Chanel) during the WWII. Moreover, the piece offers the reconstituted formulas for Rallet No1 parfum and eau de toilette as well as mysterious Mademoiselle Chanel No1. Available for purchase from the Perfumer & Flavorist website.

I have to mention my own small involvement in this piece, which was consisted of providing some historical materials as well as a sample of Rallet No1 from my personal bottle. I have long treasured this gem, and I was glad to finally break open the seal for the purposes of analysis. It is certainly great to see it on the P&F pages.

Russian Perfumery and Red Moscow

Lenins_masoleum

Krasnaya Moskva (Red Moscow) is a heavy carnation based fragrance, with a lemony coriander  slicing through the powdery backdrop. The base features an interplay between cool and warm notes. I cannot even review Krasnaya Moskva on its merits alone, because the associations are too strong. The moment I smell it, I am 10 years old again, being lectured on the young pioneer’s creed by some female Communist Party functionary. Since Bolsheviks deemed perfumes as bourgeois extravagance, Krasnaya Moskva is the only Soviet Russian perfume I remember, along with something called Chypre. As a child, I recall buying a bottle for my grandfather, however my grandmother vetoed the present, referring to Chypre as something that alcoholics buy when vodka was out of stock. No wonder, it took me a long time to appreciate chypre fragrances.

Yet, prior to the Russian revolution, perfume production was flourishing, starting with A. Rallet&Co. factory, which was opened in Moscow in the summer of 1843. The perfume factory was eventually headed by Edouard Beaux, a father of Ernest Beaux, a legendary creator of Chanel No.5. No, I am not going to say that Chanel No. 5 is actually a perfume Lenin commissioned while in Finnish exile for his lover Inessa Armand. Ernest Beaux, however, was born in Moscow in 1881, subsequently inheriting his father’s business. After the Russian Revolution of 1917, Beaux escaped and settled in Paris, where most of his famous work has been done.   As for A. Rallet&Co. factory, Bolsheviks renamed it Soap and Perfumes Works No.7 in 1918 upon nationalization. The name was changed to Svoboda (Freedom) later.

However, A. Rallet&Co. was not the only important perfume factory in Russia. Henri Brocard was one of the famous European perfumers at the time, with one of his factories based in Moscow. Brocard came to Russia from France in 1861, and it is his factory that purportedly created Krasnaya Moskva fragrance, even though at the time was known as The Empress’s Favorite Bouquet, referring to Tzarina Aleksandra, unfortunate Nicolas II’s wife. In 1918, Brocard’s factory was nationalized and given a typically Soviet no-frills name, Soap and Perfumery Factory No.5. Molotov’s wife, Polina Zhemchuzhina was the factory director until Stalin’s suspicions led to her arrest for treason in 1948. Its current name, Novaya Zarya (New Dawn) was given to the factory in 1922.

Is Krasnaya Moskva really a legendary Brocard’s creation? I have found little information to verify this claim, other than to discover that even if it were made by Brocard’s factory, it must have been after his death. Digging in the past to discover one’s aristocratic origins has become a fashionable thing after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Indeed, if one is to believe everyone who claims to be associated with Romanovs, the royal family would have been the largest one in the history of monarchies, putting European royalty to shame. Therefore, I hold a skeptical view on Krasnaya Moskva’s aristocratic roots.

One thing is certain, however. I will never be able to lose the association between its heady carnation scent and the memories from my childhood. I can envision perfectly its two-toned red box, marked with the Soviet seal of quality. Krasnaya Moskva is still produced by Novaya Zarya, along with a few other fragrances. Recently, I had a chance to sample extrait de parfum, and it was sweeter and heavier on carnation paired with rose than I remember it to be. Listed notes: bergamot, coriander, ylang-ylang, rose, jasmine, iris, vanilla (carnation is definitely there in one form or another). Krasnaya Moskva is still available here, for a very socialist price of $10, for those who would either like to make a trip to the past or to discover Soviet exotics.

Reference: Veniamin Kozharinov, Empress’s Bouquet, or Red Moscow. The Moscow News.

Picture: Red Square, Moscow.

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  • Aurora in Recommend Me a Perfume : November 2021: Hello Ellen, yes I agree Edwardian Bouquet is foremost a floral, Floris is known for its florals. Guerlain has the most famous chypre Mitsouko and there is the green chypre… November 30, 2021 at 11:18am

  • Aurora in Recommend Me a Perfume : November 2021: Hello Valentina: Your tastes are diverse. Maybe an amber would suit you? it’s a popular choice for winter. Serge Lutens Ambre Sultan is a sort of benchmark, or the lesser… November 30, 2021 at 10:57am

  • Potimarron in How to Find the Right Perfume and Seduce Yourself: 4160 Tuesdays have made some non-pudding ones I think. If someone could make a fragrance that smelled like basmati rice cooking I’d love it! November 30, 2021 at 10:34am

  • Aurora in Recommend Me a Perfume : November 2021: Merci Katherina de partager ta découverte, l’idée dune ‘version plus crémeuse de Cuir de Russie’ est très séduisante. November 30, 2021 at 10:33am

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