As you all know, one of my biggest loves and projects in recent years was this fragrance and olfaction blog, which is sadly no more, due to chronic illness and allergies stopping me from both using perfume and writing about it. During the time I wrote this blog, I submitted a piece called Four Loves to Odou magazine, a boutique magazine about olfaction. The piece was going to be published a couple of years ago, but sadly the magazine ceased production soon after my submission was accepted. For this piece, I wrote a series of four tiny short stories, each connected with a significant love/relationship of mine, from the perspective of scent and smell and their unique characteristics in each relationship. Continue reading
Thirteen thoughts from perfumers around the globe. Each perfumer profiled at Perfume Polytechnic has been presented with the same set of thirteen questions that probe into scent memories, imagination, education, history, the creative process and philosophy. How each perfumer answers these questions, and what form the answers take, is up to them. Tune in each week for a new instalment to learn more about the olfactory arts and how perfumers think about smell.
Today’s interview is the third of five weekly instalments of Thirteen Thoughts, a Perfumer Interview Series. Today’s interview is with Italian perfumer Angelo Orazio Pregoni of O’Driù. Future instalments will feature PK Perfumes’ Paul Kiler and 4160Tuesdays’ Sarah McCartney.
O’Driù – A Brief Introduction
Amongst perfume enthusiasts, independent perfume house O’Driù is often considered controversial. For example, in 2013, O’Driù released the divisive Peety, a fragrance that is supposed to be completed or personalised by adding 1ml of the owner’s urine. O’Driù’s fragrances are often filled with conceptual or imaginary fragrance notes or ingredients, including “bitter battle”, “the nightmare that reveals the pleasure” and “the hug of a woman”. Perfumer Angelo Orazio Pregoni’s work at O’Driù displays a friendly playfulness combined with the intention to shock. In combination with references to high art and culture, this combines to create a very interesting aesthetic full of tension and friction. I think O’Driù is creating some of the most interesting work out there in contemporary perfumery, conceptually and artistically.
At the bottom of this page, I reflect on my own thoughts about Angelo’s answers and O’Driù. As I don’t want to let my ideas influence your experience of this very interesting interview, I have left my thoughts until the end.
Without any further ado, let me introduce you to…
Angelo Orazio Pregoni of O’Driù
Tell us about a significant olfactory memory from your childhood.
The story would take too long to explain however as soon as my mother conceived me she was forced to escape to save my life. We hid in a trunk on the deck of a pirate ship that sailed away while my mother cradled me inside. Near the island of Serifo the trunk was thrown overboard and was recovered by a fisher named Ditti, the brother of the island tyrant, Polidette. Ditti brought the trunk to shore thinking it contained treasure and opened it. The smell of fish was so strong that it overwhelmed mother, who fainted while I cried. That is therefore the first smell I recall, fish.
What is your “origin story”? When, why and how did you decide to become a perfumer?
Being the product of incest between my mother Mirra and her father, my adolescence wasn’t all that happy! You can imagine the social bias I was subjected to. So for a while I took care of the preparation of salves to be used during sacred ceremonies, the only activity I was allowed to undertake. As my birth was considered “inhuman” so my “touch” was thought alike to that of the Gods.
Do you have any formal training in perfumery, or are you self-taught? Have there been any mentors or other personal or cultural influences on your work as a perfumer?
I think that schools are suitable only for French people, with French tastes and French formulas. No external influence will ever affect a person’s DNA, however a person is the result of accumulated experience. In this case I recall happy memories about a time in my life when I was living with a prostitute, a woman who welcomed me into her house just because she was in love with me! Rosa, that was her name, used to grease her hats with rancid butter and white flower essences and my nose was greatly influenced by this.
Who are your favourite perfumers or perfume houses, and what do you like about their work?
I don’t like fantasy characters!
Describe your brand to us: tell us about the kind(s) of perfume that you make, as well as your brand’s philosophy or ethos.
There is no philosophy at all behind my brand! I am my brand and my perfume.
How do you come up with the idea for a new perfume? For example, do ideas come to you spontaneously, do you work conceptually, or do you try to fill gaps in your range?
As originality is not my strong point I try to participate in as many fairs as I can to steal some hints from other perfume houses. I often go to perfume shops and if I find something good, that is the so-called best sellers, I just copy them.
What element of your perfume making process do you think readers of this blog would be interested or surprised to learn about?
Everybody will be surprised to know (no doubt) that none of my perfumes contain urine! For the rest I use casks from King Arthur’s time to perfect the perfume (though I have no idea of their purpose). In my living room I do the distillation of essences from my neighbour’s trees and flowers. Each perfume is magically tied to the memory of a dead person and is inspired by the thought of a celebrated writer! I often work at night, drinking rum and experiencing feelings that not even Baudelaire ever felt.
What are the current challenges you face as a perfumer, both creatively and in regard to manufacturing, distributing and marketing your perfume?
My current challenge is destroying the world of perfumery and rebuilding it in only three days!
How has your work as a perfumer affected your perception of everyday smells?
I’d say the contrary!
Many ingredients that are edible are also used in fragrance (chocolate, vanilla, coffee and rose, to name a few). If you could reverse this process and turn any perfume ingredient into an edible ingredient, what would that be? Which fragrance ingredient do you think would taste nice as a flavour?
As a matter of fact we eat stupid things and we use stupid perfumes! Now this scent “Stupidity” is used as much in food as in perfumery. As far as I’m concerned we could cook a very good dish using the most famous raw material widespread in perfumery: the Pathetic! We could cook a beautiful heart-shaped cake, with strawberries and cream, add grandmother’s secret touch and a sprinkle of Pathetic. Wow!
If you had a time machine, which historical period in perfumery would you like to go back to and work in as a perfumer?
Immediately after my death.
If you could invent a new olfactory gadget, tool or technology, what would it be and how would it benefit perfumers and/or society?
A vanilla-flavoured anal vibrator! I’m sure that using it most critics could discover how precious vanilla becomes when blended with fecal notes.
What is the purpose of perfume?
Reflections on Angelo’s answers and O’Driù
I must admit that the morning I received Angelo’s answers to my questions, I was in a grumpy, pathetic mood. After reading these answers, I found myself smiling, and in a much better mood for the rest of the day. Angelo’s answers seem to embrace the same kind of spirit expressed by the Dadaists, an art movement I have always been particularly fond of. Dada, an art movement that sprang up in Europe during World War I, was an “anti-art” movement:
Many Dadaists believed that the ‘reason’ and ‘logic’ of bourgeois capitalist society had led people into war. They expressed their rejection of that ideology in artistic expression that appeared to reject logic and embrace chaos and irrationality…
According to Hans Richter [one of Dada’s key artists] Dada was not art: it was “anti-art.” Dada represented the opposite of everything [that] art stood for. Where art was concerned with traditional aesthetics, Dada ignored aesthetics. If art was to appeal to sensibilities, Dada was intended to offend.
(Text quoted from Wikipedia)
Is Angelo Orazio Pregoni channelling Dada in his work? Is his perfume “anti-perfume”? I don’t know; but the playfulness of all that Angelo does and his rejection of the conventions of perfumery remind me very much of the Dada spirit. These ramblings are only my interpretation of Angelo’s creative answers to my standard set of thirteen questions. All I really know for sure is that Angelo’s answers put a broad smile on my face the day I read them and reminded me not to take life, or myself, too seriously. Life became lighter for me.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the third instalment of Perfume Polytechnic’s Perfumer Interview Series with Angelo Orazio Pregoni of O’Driù. Hearty thanks to Angelo for his fun and lively answers! If you’d like to find out more about O’Driù and Angelo’s perfumes, visit O’Driù’s website. If you’re interested, you can also read a previous blog post of mine in which Olly Technic and I blind-tested and reviewed a sample set of O’Driù perfumes. O’Driù’s fragrances are listed on Fragrantica.
If you’d like to catch up on last week’s instalment of Thirteen Thoughts with perfumer Mark Evans of Evocative Perfumes, click here. Emma Leah of Fleurage was interviewed in week 1 of Thirteen Thoughts. To read Emma’s interview, click here.
NEXT WEEK’S Thirteen Thoughts: Perfumer Interview Series will feature Paul Kiler of PK Perfumes. Make sure you visit Perfume Polytechnic again this time next week to find out how Paul answers the same thirteen questions!
I’m a composer of more than twenty years, a musician of thirty years, and an accomplished knitter. I sew reasonably well, I write, I love to cook and plant things and once had a tiny business making and selling my own felt and textile jewellery. You could say I like to make things. In fact, creativity is my life force, and it’s the thing that gets me going more than anything. That and sensuality: creativity as it relates to the senses. In order to create in any medium or art form, I feel that I really need to get to the core of an activity and find out how things work in the background. If there’s a science to it, I try to learn about it, if there are methods and practices that artists use to make their work, I find out about them and practice them. That’s what I intend to do with this blog, to really get into the nitty-gritty of the sense of smell and the art of perfume.
One of the things I wanted to do when I started Perfume Polytechnic a few months back was to investigate the connections and parallels between music and perfume. This is something else I do, and perhaps it’s because I’m a synaesthete as well as a creative person – I like to see and find the connections between things. Or perhaps it’s because I hope to use fragrance or scent or smell in an artwork I create one day. As music is the field I understand best of all, perhaps I strive to understand other creative practices by finding parallels and similarities (and also differences) between other artistic practices and it. I see other art forms through the lens of music, and my understanding of it, as well as looking at each art form as a separate entity.
I’ve only just started digging into this topic of the connections and differences between music and perfume, and in doing so, I came across a wonderful article by Brian Eno called Scents and Sensibility, published in Details Magazine in 1992. It was news to me that Eno, a well-known musician and creative polymath, is a long time fan of all things smelly, including fragrance. Eno is interested in trying to understand the working innards of perfumery and the science of smell, and in his article muses about the futility of trying to find a classification system for smells that is neat and clear and finite. He also laments the difficulty of finding a direct and clear language to describe smells that doesn’t simply rely on metaphors and similes. Eno draws some wonderful comparisons between the areas of music and scent, and how the two fields are studied and described, but I won’t spoil too many surprises by summarising any further. You can read Brian Eno’s Scents and Sensibility here.
In 1993 Eno released an ambient instrumental album called Neroli, named after the syrupy sweet, floral and heady essential oil produced from the blossom of the bitter orange tree (citrus aurantium subspecies amara or bigaradia). The perfume ingredient neroli actually got its name after the popular 17th Century Princess of Nerola (Anne Marie Orsini, aka Marie Anne de la Trémoille) started using the oil to fragrance both her gloves and bath. A lovely name and etymology for such a beautiful fragrance ingredient!
I haven’t listened to Brian Eno’s Neroli yet, but I intend to soon. Did you know that Brian Eno was interested in perfume and the sense of smell? What do you think of comparing one art form to another – can it be done, or should each art form stay clearly defined as a separate entity? Let me know what you think in the comments box below!
Until next time…
Since the Australian dollar has been strong, it’s been tempting for us in Australia to do most of our perfume shopping online in order to find the best price. While this is nice for our bank balances, it means that sometimes we don’t pay attention to all the gorgeous scented products being made and sold right on our doorstep. As Perfume Polytechnic is an Australian perfume blog, this Christmas I’ve compiled a list of fabulous, fragrance-related gift ideas from specialist Australian perfume stores and Australian perfume makers. There’s a wide range to choose from, including gorgeous fragrances, creative experiences, books and scented products for your home. Better still, there are options for perfumistas and non-perfumistas alike. I hope you enjoy this list, get some inspiration for your Christmas gift shopping, and support Australian makers and shops in the process!
1. Kleins Perfumery’s Moor Street Gardenia Eau De Parfum
If you’re a Melbourne person, you will already know and love Kleins – the legendary little store on Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, stacked literally to the rafters with an eclectic and exquisite range of high-quality niche perfumes and beauty products. Relatively new to the scene is Kleins’ own range of fragrances, including this gorgeously realistic gardenia fragrance, Moor Street Gardenia. Fitzroy locals will know Moor Street (located only a few hundred metres from Kleins), and may even know of the very gardenia bush that inspired this fragrance. Imagine buying this for a local! Adding further kudos to this Australian-made product, Kleins’ fragrances are created using distilled grape alcohol from the Australian Barossa Valley. The fragrance is richly creamy and heady, and is perfect for summer.
Moor Street Gardenia comes in Eau de Parfum strength and you can buy a 50ml bottle for $110, online at Kleins, or wander in and buy in store, if you’re a local.
2. One Seed Scent Bar Fragrance
One Seed, based in Adelaide, is the natural fragrance company of perfumer Liz Cook. One Seed’s fragrances contain 80% organic materials, use recyclable packaging and are cruelty free. As well as making a range of wonderful fragrances and offering a bespoke fragrance service, One Seed offers a Scent Bar Fragrance service to appeal to the creative soul lurking in all of us. The Scent Bar service is a satisfyingly easy process in which you choose the top, middle and base notes (single ingredients and accords) of your handcrafted fragrance. Perfumer Liz Cook then does all the hard work, blending these ingredients to create a beautifully balanced creation just for you. Make a custom fragrance for a friend or loved one, and try your hand at making a fragrance!
At $29.95 for an 8ml bottle, it’s a steal. Scent Bar Fragrances can be purchased online here.
3. Create Your Own Perfume Experience at Fleurage Perfume Atelier
If you know a creative type or perfume enthusiast who is keen to make their own unique fragrance from scratch, under the guidance of a trained perfumer, then the Create Your Own Perfume experience at Fleurage Perfume Atelier in South Melbourne is the perfect gift. Readers of this blog will know that I was lucky enough to be gifted with a Create Your Own Perfume experience a few months back. You can read more about that experience in this blog post, and also here. I can’t recommend it highly enough! This two-hour, one-on-one experience is a great introduction to perfume making. Best of all, you end up with a one-of-a-kind fragrance, and you can order refills once you’ve used it all up! Master perfumer Emma Leah, who also creates sublime, botanical, vintage-inspired fragrances, will guide you through this process.
The experience costs $250; for that you receive 2 hours of personalised, one-on-one attention from Emma, and take home a 40ml bottle of fragrance. You can read more about the Create Your Own Perfume experience and make bookings here.
4. Siberian Fir Perfume Oil and Eau de Toilette by Evocative Perfumes
We all love the smell of a Christmas tree, don’t we? Adelaide-based perfumer Mark Evans’ camphoraceous yet surprisingly rich fragrance, Siberian Fir, will satisfy all longings for that wonderful smell, while offering a fragrance that is much more interesting and complex than that. Siberian Fir is a rare variety of fir from Russia with an unusual complexity and richness, and has a green fruitiness that adds sweetness and depth to any cool, camphoraceous notes that one usually expects from fir. The fragrance is balanced out beautifully with notes of Poplar bud, Australian Buddha Wood, chamomile and rose. Siberian Fir is a great fragrance to wear in both warm and cool weather. The cool, green freshness of the fir, while evocative of winter, snow and Christmas, is refreshing on a warm day too.
You can find Siberian Fir online here, priced at a very reasonable $40 for 12ml of perfume oil, and $50 for the newly released Eau de Toilette.
5. Mud 01 and Mud 02 Scented Candles by Ainslie Walker
Ainslie Walker really knows her stuff: she is a Jasmine Award winning writer, fragrance journalist and perfumer. A recent collaboration with Australian ceramics company Mud has resulted in two scented candles created by Ainslie and encased in Mud’s serenely clean and minimalist porcelain vessels, in a range of edible colours.
Mud 01 features tuberose, along with notes of green ginger, jasmine & tolu balsam. This lusciously creamy and narcotic fragranced candle is available encased in either red, slate, or milk coloured porcelain, and refills are available. The candles are 100% hand blended and poured in Australia.
Mud 02, released only two days ago, features a warm blend of amber and woods, complemented with animalic notes of leather and musk, heady neroli, fresh orange and sun-dried hay and herbs. Divine! Mud 02 is available in the following colours: bottle, plum and dust. Refills are also available.
Mud candles range in price from $100-120, with refills costing $50. Mud 01 is available at the Mud Australia website and directly from Ainslie at her website. Mud 02, which is brand new, is currently only available in store. See the Mud stockists page for details.
6. Fragrances of the World 30th Anniversary Edition by Michael Edwards
Not strictly speaking an exclusively Australian item, but as Michael Edwards’ legendary book, Fragrances of the World, was conceived and born in Sydney in 1984, and his publication team is still based here, I am claiming it as Australian! Edwards, an Englishman, now divides his time between Sydney, New York and Paris. This year marked the 30th anniversary edition of Edwards’ now legendary Fragrances of the World, an industry guide-book suited to perfume retailers and enthusiasts alike. Fragrances of the World classifies thousands of commercially available fragrances into categories as defined in Edwards’ equally famous fragrance wheel. Retailers can use the guide to recommend new fragrances to customers, based on their existing preferences, however the guide is also an invaluable tool for perfume enthusiasts to help them learn about fragrance families and classification, and their own tastes. A must for any perfumista!
Fragrances of the World 2014, 30th Edition, can be purchased online for $195.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this list and got some ideas for your gift giving this year. What do you want from Father Christmas this year? Are there any Australian fragrances or perfume-related goodies on your wish list? I do hope you feel inspired to shop locally and support Australian perfume talent!
Merry Christmas everyone!
Scent mapping tries to make sense of the smells in the world around us by mapping them in a variety of ways. This can take the form of various diagrams, tables, and aroma wheels. Usually such diagrams contain categories that classify and group individual smells, but they can also tell us other things, such as how we relate smells to gender, and also how similar or dissimilar certain smells are to one another. They can also tell us something about how we react – both physically and psychologically – to certain smells. There are a number of famous scent maps, including Paul Jellinek’s odour effects diagram, and Michael Edwards’ fragrance wheel from his Fragrances of World book. In this post I’ll be introducing you to some of these wheels and diagrams, which are fascinating to look at in their own right. In a future post, I will be discussing some of the findings of a study by Manuel Zarzo and David Stanton, in which they compared various odour databases, scent maps and wheels and drew some interesting conclusions about our perceptions of scent. Paul Jellinek’s odour effects diagram (a later version here has been modified by his son Joseph Stephan Jellinek and Robert Calkin) originally dates from 1951. Jellinek’s map proposes various categories or types of smell, and also the various effects that such smells have on us, e.g. stimulating, erogenous, calming or fresh.
Michael Edwards’ fragrance wheel, from his Fragrances of the World book, comprises a number of fragrance categories, showing the relationship between one category and the next. In Fragrances of the World, which is released every year, Edwards groups thousands of commercially available fragrances into these categories. The book is intended for industry use so that sales assistants can recommend new fragrances to customers, based on similarities with a customer’s favourite perfumes.
Mandy Aftel’s Aftelier Natural Perfume Wheel consists of categories of scent families, sub-categories within these (like Jellinek’s diagram, labelled with subjective descriptors such as fresh and heavy), and individual notes/ingredients within the sub-categories. The Drom Fragrance Circle is similar to Aftel’s, complete with subjective descriptors, and aligning some scent categories with gender.
The aromachemically-literate among us might be interested in Givaudan’s very beautiful scent ingredients map, which reminds me of a stylised subway diagram.
There is a well-known connection and cross-sensory interrelationship between the senses of smell and taste, so the following wheels are provided for your interest and comparison with the fragrance-specific diagrams provided above. It’s interesting to me how much overlap there is. First up is Ann Noble’s Wine Aroma Wheel, originally devised in the 1980s.
And finally, Niki Segnit’s flavour wheel from her brilliant book The Flavour Thesaurus.
What do you think of scent mapping? Do you have a favourite map, diagram or scent wheel that I haven’t included here? Does scent mapping help you to understand smell, fragrance ingredients and fragrance better? I’d love to hear what you think – let me know in the comments below! Until next time, Polly Technic