A master perfumer is a highly skilled professional who has undergone extensive training and apprenticeships to perfect their craft. They possess a deep understanding of fragrance chemistry and the ability to blend various notes into beautiful and functional scents. It may take ten years of work to reach this level of expertise, and some perfumers spend even longer honing their skills. However, with passion, commitment, and a willingness to learn, a perfumer can begin their journey towards becoming a professional master perfumer.
Perfumery schools are the foundation of any journey towards becoming a perfumer. These institutions offer specialized training, post-secondary programs, and courses taught by renowned perfumers and specialists. The knowledge and skills gained from these schools are crucial to the perfumer’s craft, allowing them to create custom scents that are unique and beautiful.
Grasse Institute of Perfumery: This school is based in Grasse and offers a wide range of programs in perfumery, including an intensive six-month course for professional perfumers.
ISIPCA: This institution is located in the prestigious city of Versailles, just outside of Paris. ISIPCA is associated with Osmothèque, the world’s largest scent archive.
Givaudan’s Perfumery School: This school is a part of Givaudan, one of the largest and oldest fragrance and flavor companies in the world, with a history that dates back to 1895.
Becoming a perfumer takes a lot of dedication, hard work, and patience. There is no one set path to becoming a perfumer, but here are some common steps that many perfumers take to achieve their goals:
Working in the fragrance industry is another way to gain experience and build a career in perfumery. Entry-level positions in the industry include jobs such as fragrance evaluator, fragrance sales representative, or fragrance chemist. Many fragrance companies, such as Givaudan, IFF, and Firmenich, offer entry-level positions for those interested in perfumery.
Crafting a private label fragrance is a delicate balance between creativity and knowledge. It requires a deep understanding of the intricate chemistry of aromatic molecules and the unique properties of each fragrant compound. And the journey to mastering this craft begins with learning about the following components that form the foundation of the perfumery world:
The fragrance world is categorized into families, each with its unique olfactory identity. From floral and woody to spicy and oriental, a perfumer must understand how families can blend with each other to create a harmonious scent. This knowledge is gained through education and training, both at perfumery schools and under the supervision of a master perfumer.
Creating famous fragrances requires a perfumer to have a deep understanding of both natural and synthetic ingredients. Natural ingredients are derived from plants, fruits, and flowers, while synthetic ingredients are created in laboratories. The synthetic nature of modern perfumery allows for the use of aromatic molecules that are not found in nature, giving perfumers a broader palette of scents to work with.
Perfumery accords are combinations of aromatic molecules that create a specific scent, thus forming the building blocks of a fragrance. A perfumer must acquire knowledge of how aromatic molecules interact with one another to create an accord.
For example, the amber accord is a central leathery note for many oriental fragrances.
Chanel’s No. 5 is a great example of a breakthrough using synthetic ingredients to create a unique accord. It was the first fragrance to incorporate synthetic aldehydes that evoke a fresh, musky and clean scent. The aldehyde accord brought a modern twist to the classic floral fragrance, marking a turning point in the world of perfumery.
In the world of perfumery, becoming a true master of the craft takes years of practice and dedication. It involves a delicate balance of artistry and science, combining creativity with a deep understanding of ingredients and accords. Start by learning:
Sauvage by Dior: This fragrance is created by the legendary perfumer Edmond Roudnitska and has a woody aromatic scent. Its main notes include bergamot, ambroxan, and vanilla.
Baccarat Rouge 540 by Maison Francis Kurkdjian: Perfumer Francis Kurkdjian created this fragrance using jasmine, saffron, and cedarwood. It has a fresh floral scent with hints of woodiness, evoking a warm and grounding quality.
Chanel No. 5 by Chanel: This iconic fragrance was created by perfumer Ernest Beaux and has a floral aldehyde scent. Its main notes include ylang-ylang, jasmine, and rose.
These fragrances show the diversity in scents and highlight the importance of a perfumer’s knowledge of blending different ingredients to create a harmonious and unique scent.
In the world of fragrance, there are two main types of perfumers: designers and niche perfumers.
While designers and niche perfumers work with the same basic ingredients, the approach and philosophy differs significantly. Designer perfumers focus on creating mass appeal for a commercial brand, whereas niche perfumers are independent and enjoy a higher level of creative freedom.
Here are some examples of perfumers from both designer and niche categories:
Designer Perfumers: Olivier Polge, who has created fragrances for Chanel, and Francis Kurkdjian, who has created fragrances for Jean Paul Gaultier and Burberry.
Niche Perfumers: Mandy Aftel, who runs her own artisan perfumery, and Frederic Malle, who created his own line of niche fragrances.
Ultimately, the choice between becoming a designer or a niche perfumer comes down to personal preference and the opportunities presented to you.
Francis Kurkdjian is a renowned French perfumer who has created some of the world’s most iconic fragrances, from the masculine Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male to the feminine Narciso Rodriguez for Her. In 2001, he was awarded the prestigious Prix François Coty, the highest honor a perfumer can receive in France, for his contributions to the industry. Today, he continues to innovate and push the boundaries of perfumery as the co-founder of his own luxury fragrance house, Maison Francis Kurkdjian.
Jean-Claude learned from the legendary perfumer Edmond Roudnitska, creator of some of the most famous perfumes perfumes like Diorissimo and Le Parfum de Therese. In 2004, he joined Hermès, where he worked as their exclusive perfumer, creating several iconic fragrances such as Un Jardin Sur Le Nil and Terre d’Hermès. Later, Ellena joined Editions de Parfum Frédéric Malle, where he continued to create innovative and distinctive scents, including the highly acclaimed Bigarade Concentree. His contributions have solidified his place as one of the most respected and sought-after master perfumers in the industry.
Calice Becker is a female master perfumer who was the director of Givaidan’s Perfumery School. She has created some of the most iconic fragrances, including J’Adore by Dior, Tommy Girl by Tommy Hilfiger, and Hugo Boss Deep Red. Becker is also known for her collaboration with Kilian Hennessy, the founder of the luxury perfume brand By Kilian. Working with rare ingredients and very fine accords, she created several successful perfumes such as “Intoxicated“, which was inspired by a cup of smooth dark Turkish coffee.
Creating fragrances that captivate the senses and evoke emotions is a skill that comes with time. And the most celebrated perfumers are those who have mastered this craft, infusing their creations with their unique vision and style.
Remembering the words of Jean-Claude Ellena, the master perfumer behind some of the world’s most iconic scents: “To create is to be responsible for your own universe.”