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From the Note a Symphony is Born

By: Jeb Gleason-Allured
Posted: February 2, 2010, from the February 2010 issue of GCI Magazine.

Firmenich perfumers Annie Buzantian and Harry Frémont.

  • Perfumers face increasing time constraints, forcing them to work differently than in past decades.
  • Communication is very important, and there’s always something to learn from a consumer wearing the fragrance.
  • The perfumer’s job is to interpret what is being asked for by the brand owner and to find what needs to be fixed in the formula to execute the idea. A finished scent is a result of a partnership.

Of the perhaps 3,000 novel aroma molecules created, assessed and vetted by Firmenich’s perfumers and R&D staff each year, perhaps as few as three will make their way onto the company palette.

“For a perfumer to discover a new material, it’s almost like a painter discovering a new color,” says master perfumer Harry Frémont, considering a blotter of the material. “Imagine what the artist could do. We use the new materials in different contexts, giving new effects.”

“The palette is so important,” says master perfumer Annie Buzantian. “You can use the same note over and over again in different contexts, but when you have something special in particular that you fall in love with, it gives a fragrance a soul.” These sorts of “exceptional notes,” she adds, can in many cases serve as founding inspirations for fragrances.

“When you have something that is exclusive to your company, it gives you a sense of confidence in what you do and what you show to the client,” says Frémont. “You feel you have something special. As a perfumer, it’s important to have this kind of confidence.” “We are a very much like architects,” says Buzantian. “We are influenced by new raw materials—a new construction material. It inspires you.”