Thirteen Thoughts: Perfumer Interview Series – Angelo Orazio Pregoni of O’Driù

thirteen-thoughts-v2_800_shadowThirteen 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


Angelo Orazio Pregoni of O’Driù

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. Who are your favourite perfumers or perfume houses, and what do you like about their work?

I don’t like fantasy characters!


Angelo Orazio Pregoni of O’Driù

  1. 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.

  1. 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.


“O Shame! Where is thy blush? Panty (about Peety)” signed art work by Angelo Orazio Pregoni (100/100).

  1. 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.

  1. 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!

  1. How has your work as a perfumer affected your perception of everyday smells?

I’d say the contrary!

  1. 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!


Pathétique perfume by O’Driù

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. What is the purpose of perfume?

Making money.

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!


Music and Smell: Brian Eno’s Scents and Sensibility

Bitter orange foliage, blossoms and fruit by Franz Eugen Köhler, from Köhler's "Medizinal-Pflanzen". Public Domain.

Bitter orange (neroli) foliage, blossoms and fruit. By Franz Eugen Köhler, from Köhler’s “Medizinal-Pflanzen”. Public Domain.

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…

Polly Technic


A Christmas Eve Message from Polly Technic, Featuring Vintage Christmas Perfume Ads

Dear friends and followers of Perfume Polytechnic, I don’t know what the year has been like for you, but 2014 has been a big year for me. I moved from Australia’s second-largest city to a rural town with a population of 1,600, celebrated a mile-stone birthday, learnt many valuable life lessons, and started this blog. In the three months that Perfume Polytechnic has been running, I have learned so much about fragrance and how we smell, and I hope you’ve also enjoyed my verbose posts and the information I’ve shared with you. Thank you to all of my readers for helping put Perfume Polytechnic on the map. It’s taken a lot of hard work to get things up and running, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the challenge. At nearly 2,000 views over three months, I’m very happy with how things are going, but I have to thank all of you for that: for visiting, commenting, and supporting me in this venture. Thank you. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to those of you who celebrate these holidays. I look forward to continuing the Perfume Polytechnic journey with you all next year.

To say adieu to 2014 and to celebrate Perfume Polytechnic’s first Christmas online, I’d like to share with you some vintage, Christmas-themed perfume ads. Let’s take a look together at how perfume was promoted, and what it meant historically to people, in decades past.


Caron’s Nuit de Noel, ad from 1928.

What could be more Christmassy that Caron’s classic, Nuit de Noel? I adore this fragrance, and the sublimely stylish art deco bottle is still in production today, proving just how popular it is.


A perfume made by Colgate?

I don’t know if this surprises you as much as it does me, but while ferreting around online this evening for vintage ads, I discovered this 1922 advertisement for Colgate, featuring toothpaste, a shaving stick, and… perfume! The ad claims: “Instead of being quickly tossed aside, a Colgate Gift is used for a long time, and is a constant reminder of the giver.” Maybe I’ll start giving toothpaste as gifts?


Coty fragrance advertisement

This gorgeous Coty ad shows a range of fragrances adorning a Christmas tree, and the slogan “Kindle her heart with Fragrance.” I know I’d be pretty excited too if someone special adorned my tree with fragrances. Hint, hint, Olly Technic. Oh, and I’d be happy if they were vintage Coty too.


Bourjois’ Evening in Paris advertisement

I’m guessing from the woman’s sculptural hair and the man’s military outfit that this is a war-time advertisement. Is it just me who thinks she looks a little wary as her man leans in, eyes closed, for a romantic kiss? Maybe she wanted something from Chanel instead?


Chanel advertisement

Aha! Perhaps I was right? The woman in this ad looks much happier than our Bourjois lass above, after being given the classic Chanel fragrance, No. 5. “When the world’s a Christmas valentine and it’s all addressed to you… You’re ready for Chanel.” I can hear Don Draper uttering those words.


Avon: sharing the Christmas joy in 1968.

Avon has always been reliably affordable, and they make great novelty fragrance bottles. This lucky lady seems to have a whole table-full of fragrant gifts for Christmas. Good thing they didn’t cost too much.


Coty advertisement, 1950s.

There’s nothing I love more than a kitsch photo or illustration from the 1950s that makes women look just plain silly! Here we have a group of young, gorgeous debutantes, who form the shape of a Christmas tree. They are the tree and its decorations all at once! They are “the beauties of Christmas”!

I hope you enjoyed these ads and found them as elegant, interesting and amusing as I did. Merry Christmas all, and thanks again for your support. May all your fragrant wishes come true tomorrow…

Polly Technic


Scent Mapping: Diagrams and Aroma Wheels

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.

Jellinek’s Odour Effects Diagram

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.


Michael Edwards’ Fragrance Wheel. c. Michael Edwards

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.


Drom Fragrance Wheel

The aromachemically-literate among us might be interested in Givaudan’s very beautiful scent ingredients map, which reminds me of a stylised subway diagram.


Givaudan’s Scent Ingredients Map

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.


Ann Noble’s Wine Aroma Wheel

Below is the Beer Flavour Wheel invented in the 1970s by Dr Morten Meilgaard. wheel

And finally, Niki Segnit’s flavour wheel from her brilliant book The Flavour Thesaurus.


Flavour Wheel from Niki Segnit’s “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

Perfume Meetup at Fleurage Perfume Atelier


Perfumer Emma Leah in front of her work space

A small group of Melbourne perfume aficionados recently had a wonderful and immersive experience learning all about fragrance from botanical perfumer Emma Leah at her perfume atelier Fleurage. Back in September I created my own fragrance with Emma, and wrote about it in one of my early blog posts. We ended up with a magnificently rich and original fragrance called Karatta, a fragrance based on scent memories of my childhood holiday house at the beach. It was such a lovely experience and on the day, Emma and I discussed the various perfume groups I’ve been a part of, both online and in person. She very generously offered her space for a perfume meetup, and I arranged for a group of six of us to meet with Emma and her partner Robert, at Fleurage, for a supper meeting.


Emma talking with the group

Emma offered to talk about her practice and show us her perfume-making materials. The format of the evening took the form of a free-form conversation between Emma and all of us. She encouraged us to ask questions throughout, and it was these questions that guided the conversation. We got to hear about Emma’s own perfume education and training (traditional, botanical), her process of making fragrances, the materials she uses, her opinions of the new IFRA restrictions, the price of materials and their availability, and so on. So much was discussed that I can’t possibly record it blow-by-blow here, but it was a fascinating and very educational experience.


Emma talking with the group

Emma also passed around some of her own fragrances periodically for us to smell. These are wonderful, botanical, vintage-style creations, and I recommend anyone in Melbourne go and visit Fleurage and give them a try; they are truly beautiful and sophisticated fragrances and like nothing else on the market today. We also got to smell some of the perfume ingredients that Emma uses to make her fragrances. It was a real treat to be able to smell real iris – which had everyone in raptures. Iris is one of the most expensive and hard-to-come-by ingredients used in perfumery, so none of us had smelled it before as a discreet ingredient. Iris smells very much like violet (which surprised me), and much less “flat” and waxy than it does in the iris-heavy fragrances I’ve smelled. We also smelled several types of lotus (from memory, pink, blue and white), which were also beautiful, but the highlight ingredient of the night for many was cèpes mushroom. This unusual perfume ingredient smelled of an intensely savoury and rich combination of mushroom and vegemite. I would love to smell this ingredient in a perfume one day, I think it would be earthy and marvellous!


Gabriella sniffing the cèpes mushroom – a magical ingredient!

All of those who attended the meetup were very grateful for the opportunity to meet with Emma and have an open conversation about perfume. Being able to have an in-depth discussion with a perfumer and to have access to her fragrances and materials was wonderful. Thank you Emma and Robert for sharing your fabulous perfume atelier and your time with us!


Emma Leah’s fabulous perfumes

If you are interested in learning more about Fleurage Perfume Atelier and Emma Leah’s perfumes, you can visit the website here.