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Sustainable Scents

By: Jeb Gleason-Allured
Posted: August 26, 2008, from the September 2007 issue of GCI Magazine.

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Toulemonde explains, “What is unique to this company is the fact that we are able to use specific techniques that enable us to deliver unique products.” Focusing on every step of the process, including the sourcing of high-quality raw materials, is what Toulemonde believes distinguishes IFF naturals. “Very often you achieve a superior quality not by a unique technique, unique technology or unique people—you just need to have the best technology, the best people and the right commitment.”

From Field to Fragrance

IFF’s naturals facility is often approached by perfumers who may like an essence but would prefer it without one or two notes. The company also employs new solvents and equipment in the expansion of perfumers’ palettes. In addition, there are teams in the fields and jungles of the world—Vietnam, Laos, Africa, Europe—seeking out new crop material. These novel botanicals are taken to the lab, extracted and sent to a perfumer for evaluation. If the perfumer is sufficiently happy, then the viability of cultivation is assessed. Here, Toulemonde stresses environmental responsibility. “It has to be sustainable,” he says. If the process sounds daunting, that’s because it is. “We have about 200 [botanical] candidates per year,” he says.

But is there anything really new out there to find? Toulemonde answers this way: new tones of paint are released each year, though no one would ever argue that they are actually new colors that break out of the red-yellow-blue-white-black mold. But indeed, there are new notes to be had. For example, basil verbena from Vietnam.

“It’s in the family of basil,” says Gavarry. “It smells like soft basil notes, but in a verbena connotation—citron, citronellalike, lemon.” The material has found use in 2005’s Euphoria (Calvin Klein).

Smelling Session

Labbé and Gavarry sit at a conference room table and direct a smelling of Euphoria and some of the LMR-derived materials used in its creation. Formulated by IFF perfumers Carlos Benaim, Loc Dong and Dominique Ropion, the scent features notes of pomegranate, persimmon, champaca, black orchid and mahogany. The first blotter to make the rounds is the ambergrislike labdanum, derived from the plant’s branch sap. Labbé says she likes the material’s ambery, leathery notes. Next comes galbanum, which Gavarry describes as fresh-smelling. Next, during the smelling of a decolorized patchouli molecular distillate, Gavarry notes that he likes the effect of combining patchulol and patchouli. “They compliment each other,” he says.