By Hanan Haddad, 27 December 2017
"This is where niche perfume houses come into the picture. In recent years, we have seen an incredible spike in popularity and demand for niche perfumes as more and more people are discovering unique scents that speak to them, beyond just crowd-pleasing fragrances. Everyone wants to be distinct in every aspect.
These are the niche fragrance brands that you might never have heard of before but should totally get your noses on. Their artistic and one-of-a-kind scent offerings will leave a memorable trail that’ll linger in the air for you and others to enjoy."
For full article, please visit here.
Cosmetics companies and market research have put two and two together – insert requisite double-double reference here – and coffee has made its way into fragrance, from the mass market to the department-store prestige counter and luxury niche.
millennials are now the largest living generation (and a demographic that consumes more coffee than any other). And they started drinking coffee at a younger age – those born after 1996 typically started consuming it in their early teens.
That same 18-to-34-year-old demographic is a critical one for the fragrance market, and especially right now.…
And Civet, the award-winning scent in Canadian creator Victor Wong’s Zoologist range, is an animalic leather and dark coffee – black, no sugar.
Calfeurebon's Best of Scent 2017
A dried-fruit laden spiced wonder with a soft furry purr, Camel is a contemporary homage to classics like Arpege and My Sin and you will wonder how you lived without it, it’s just that good.
A truly beautiful extrait-strength parfum that merges vintage and contemporary aesthetics and the result is an Arabian-inspired dream scent that is approachable, eminently wearable, and ultimately one of my favorite fragrances of the year to date.
Taking One Thing Off
Despite the orientalism of its composition and ad copy, Camel avoids every cliché inherent to the genre, particularly the cheap rosy feel of most modern oriental releases. Its soapy (but dirty) jasmine, musk, and civet combo imbues what might otherwise have been a heavy “souk” amber with weightlessness, as well as a certain French je ne sais quoi.
This really is the smell of a caravan traveling through the Arab desert as I imagine it where the smell of the pack animals and the smell of the marketplace, where exotic treasure of all kinds have been bought, sold and traded, are now being moved across the desert, all mingle together in the desert air.
Now Smell This
"I associate Zoologist Camel with Morocco. Its complex mix of notes reminds me of early-stage Serge Lutens perfumes, but Camel is sheerer."
Australian Perfume Junkies
"I have sampled a few Zoologist offerings, and they’ve been fun and unique, but this is the first one that has me breathing deeply with ecstasy!"
"Camel seems familiar (woodsy amber oriental) but it’s unlike anything else that I’ve worn from this genre. It manages to be dense but airy. It’s sweet but sour. It’s fresh but dirty. I guess, Camel never bores me, so I love wearing it."
"Camel brightens with cinnamon, becomes drier thanks to the perfect dose of vetiver, and even has delicate traces of orange blossom and jasmine. It exudes a fur-like dry warmth on the skin and is a truly refined fragrance. Camel is, in a word, perfection."
I met Christian in May, 2016 at the Los Angeles Hammer Museum, where the Art and Olfaction Awards hosted their awards night. Christian is a perfumer, but also an “ambassador” for his family-owned company, Carbonnel, in Spain. While we were both competing for the award in the Independent category, Christian approached me (and other perfume houses) to talk about his company and the perfumery services it provides. In the end, it was a double win for Zoologist – Bat won the award, and also a collaboration opportunity with Carbonnel.
Christian works fast and professionally. It took us about three months to complete the Camel perfume project, but I didn’t launch it right away. I asked him if he was interested in redesigning Panda (the original scent artistically pleased a rather small group of people), and he obliged. The project was also completed brilliantly, in a short time.
We met each other again in March 2017 at the annual perfume trade show, Esxence, in Italy. He was there to showcase a few perfumes he’d designed for another brand. I caught up with him briefly for this interview.
Above: Victor Wong and Christian Carbonnel, at the 2016 Art and Olfaction Awards Post-ceremony Party
Your grandfather, Maurice Carbonnel, founded Carbonnel 1925. Can you tell us more about the company?
Yes. Carbonnel is a family business, as you say. My grandfather was a French perfumer who moved to Spain to produce essential oils. In the beginning, we were based in Alicante, but were only there for a few years, from 1921 to 1925. Now our company is located in Barcelona, and the business is in its third generation with me. The fourth is coming.
How big is your company now, and how many perfumers does it employ?
We have 50 people working in the company, and 17 of those are perfumers. We don't need more because we now put our investment focus on equipment, robots and technology. Now our size is more a question of space. As a family business, we want it in one place for quality control; we don't want branches all over the world.
It strikes me that your company is now very modernized. Everything is computerized from start to finish. Was the modernization a gradual process, or did your family decide one day to make a big investment to make it the business more competitive?
We have been adding high-tech equipment for the last 10 years. In fact, yesterday we just purchased a new robot for production. We like to reinvest our income in technology.
What kind of robot is it?
It's a new Roxane, and it's going to be my toy. It can blend 100 ingredients very accurately and efficiently. That is going to help me speed up my projects.
Above: Roxane Filling Robots
What about the material sourcing aspect of the company? There are many essential oil companies in France, how do you make Carbonnel more competitive?
There are many essential oils that come from Spain, but the French say they come from France, because we are supplying them, if you know what I mean. We produce typical Spanish essential oils, and we supply to the world. There are a few ingredients that must be grown in Spain – for example, labdanum, and different grades of lavender and citrus that are endemic to our land. Each essential oil company has its own quality and unique products. We invest in lands in the Far East. We have our oud oils, for example.
In the perfume industry, 5 or 6 aroma chemical giants design and supply most of the designer fragrances to the world. My perception is that they are not interested in dealing with small indie houses, and even if they do, their minimum perfume compound order quantity is set prohibitively high. In my opinion, Carbonnel is a mid-size company that has accounts with some notable designer perfume brands, but also designs and compounds perfumes for smaller indie/niche perfume companies like Zoologist.
One of the main concerns of an indie brand is the problem of growth. You will face challenges if you want to produce your perfumes in larger quantities. But keeping the quality… that’s why you want to find a company like Carbonnel to help and support you. Unlike other bigger aromachemcial suppliers which close the door on you because they see you a small indie house, Carbonnel likes to give them a chance and see what happens. We try to push them and give them the same opportunities, for sure. We treat each customer the same. A small customer can be big one day, so you need to give them the same chance as everybody else. Naturally, it's nice to work with the big ones, but we also love to help or to be part of the small ones that one day could become big. So there is no separation between big or small. We try to give our best to both and help them to grow.
I first met you in 2016 at the Art and Olfaction Awards show, and we were both competing for the same award in the independent category. But before the show we were actually talking about a collaboration! So tell me: what’s your role in Carbonnel, besides being a perfumer?
Besides designing perfumes, I'm doing everything – public relations, I'm the marketing guy, I'm the son of the owner. It's a family business, so I do everything. I even answer the mail. I'm a normal guy.
I find it interesting that when we were developing the perfume, you often had to pause to travel.
Above: Christian and his father
I love to meet people. One thing I learned from my dad is that Carbonnel needs to be in contact with the brands. Visiting customers is a great way to nurture a business relationship; it’s like growing their business together with the people behind them. It's not like Carbonnel is just a brand, and that's all. We like to put the face to the products. So, yes, I like to design perfumes, but I am also the brand ambassador. A customer is more like a partner to us; we are in the same part of the business.
In fact, I design perfumes even when I'm traveling. My staff always ask for my schedule and itinerary, and they send me work-in-progress samples. In fact, with Camel, I was in Thailand. The samples were waiting for me in my hotel. I evaluated those samples, and I refined and formulated them from a distance with my software, and sent the formula back to them. They would then prepare new samples based on the new formulae, and determine where to send them based on how long I would be staying in that location. So that’s how I create perfumes while traveling.
How many perfumes do you usually design every year? Do you get a lot of freedom when it comes to design? Can you tell me some of the perfumes you’ve designed that you’re most proud of so far?
I never count…
Or maybe more. But I don't like to create too many for niche brands, because I don't want to become a mainstream perfumer. If I do, my perfumes will start to smell the same. So from time to time you need to stop for inspiration to come back.
Some brands will come to you with a direction you need to follow. Sometimes I am required to rework a classic, and I will give them some ideas and start playing modeller with them. I will build some of accords and do different combinations; it’s like a puzzle. There are some other projects I can do whatever I want. But typically I get a lot of freedom when it comes to perfume design. I can work with an open formula from customers, I can work with a briefing. With Camel, you had given me a lot of freedom. I presented what I liked, and you picked what you liked. After that, we did a lot of polishing. I'm very flexible, and I think I love all the different ways to design a perfume. In the end, each perfume is like a baby to me.
Are some perfumes you designed more memorable to you?
For sure, some of them are more memorable. I'm not going to mention their names, but I can tell you that they were made initially for my wife and my daughter - in fact, one became worldwide bestseller for that brand. Recently, a brand released my very first fragrance, which I created a long time ago. One day he came to the office and smelled a sample of it, and he loved it so much he decided to launch it for his brand. This year, here at Esxence, he's presenting it. That perfume is like one of my first kids, so I'm proud.
When I go to Fragrantica.com and search for perfumes designed by you, I don’t see many. You mentioned before that you actually use a different name. Why is that? Did your client ask you not to use your own name?
I'm using both at the same time; it depends on the brands. Christian Carbonnel and Chris Maurice are both my real names; Christian Maurice Carbonnel is my full French name. There are some brands who want to use Chris Maurice because they think “a perfume designed by Christian Carbonnel from Carbonnel” is a bit too much. I suggested removing one Carbonnel – but Chris can be anyone, so I included Maurice.
Let’s talk about Camel! What came to your mind when you knew the perfume would be named “Camel”?
I really liked it, because camels are often associated with the Middle East, and I like oriental perfumes. And the way you wanted Camel to smell was really very suitable to, let’s say, my character. It is quite opposite to the technique in most “French Oriental” perfumes, because often it means vanilla. For me, Oriental is Arabic, and Camel is very, very Arabic.
I remember you mentioned that your bigger clients are from the Middle East.
In the ’80s, when we decided to grow, we meant to export Carbonnel products into the Middle East. The people there are religious, and they burn a lot of fragrant materials in their rituals. They love their attars, and we proposed fine fragrance as an alternative. They loved the idea.
As we were doing this interview, Christian’s lab assistants, Blanca and Laurita, walked by to say hello.
Above: Christian and his perfumery assistants, at Esxence 2017
I have been working with my lab assistants for many years, and they provide me with valuable ideas. They prepare my samples based on my written formula, but also give me ideas and feedback. So many of my perfumes are products of a melting pot of ideas. Some perfumers you cannot work with, because they don't want to listen. With me it is very simple. I like to listen to them.
So they suggested which ingredients to use?
No, it's not just a question of ingredients. It's more about the proportions of the ingredients. Boys and girls smell differently, so it's nice to have a different point of view. It’s kind of like a duel.
Do you have a favourite perfume genre?
For me, it must be very woody, with incense. I don't like too much “freshness”. You know, there are some ingredients I really don't like… commercial things. I like heavy notes, because I've been training with my dad. My dad has been doing Oriental fragrances for the Middle East with heavy notes, and those are what I have been smelling since I was a kid.
So you would not wear a cologne or a “freshie”?
Never. I remember when I was small, my mom put a lot of cologne on me, and now on my son. I would say no, no, no, no! I understand it’s a school environment, and you want to put on a normal cologne that is standard to everyone. But I would make my son a heavier cologne that is going to be another style.
How do you usually tackle or start a project? Do you build different accords?
You know, everything has already been invented. I don’t need to build everything from scratch. I don't need to start with a base – I can go directly into the middle accord. Depends on my mood. Some days I arrive at the lab and I put four or five ingredients together, and I have my base. Then I will say, okay, now I have this musky base I want to work with, I will put in this, this, this and this. I list the items. I make a rapid formula. It’s like building the frame of a house. I cannot say all the perfumes I'm making follow the same rule. Some projects I start from scratch, from a to z. Sometimes I just play with accords based on the client’s requests – they often tell me a particular aspect of what they like or don’t like from some existing perfumes, and I will try to understand what is in common. Then I will make a base, and start building the rest.
Above: Frankincense Tree Resin "Tears"
In the ingredient list for Camel you’ve given me – there’s frankincense and incense – how are they different?
They come from two different origins. I'm using frankincense from Oman. We deal with a person in Oman that makes only three kilograms of frankincense a year. He cuts the tears from the trees and distills them for us. Very, very niche. We cannot use this ingredient for mass-marketed products, only in niche perfumes. And I'm using incense from India, so we have two grades of incense in Camel, from two different origins, two different qualities and smell. You could put them in the same family and simply call them “incense”, but I want to stress the difference.
Also, the dates we put in Camel are not “normal” dates…
Oh wait – they are real dates?
Yes, date tinctures, from real dates! They come from a farm and are grown by one of my providers. He's not selling these dates to the market, just for family consumption. I can tell you they are from the plantation area of Al Ain, United Arab Emirates.
Above: Dates Plantation in the Middle East
Camel also contains a little bit of oud, but it is never really strong or “fecal” smelling.
We source our ouds from all the Far East oud-growing countries, and each oud has its own greatness and qualities. We also have our own farm in Laos. It is our site, and we have our standard method of production to ensure the quality remains the same.
Laos oud is very interesting – it is very sweet and long-lasting, and it has a “joker” quality. Normally you bring one or two different ouds and add some Laos oud to it to make the blend more “rounded”.Finally, what are your thoughts about indie perfumes vs perfumes designed by companies like Carbonnel?
Indie perfumes are very interesting, because they are often very creative. You do what you like, and it’s pushing the art of perfumery. Sometimes big perfume companies look from afar and steal the great ideas from the indies.
Zoologist Camel will be released on December 8th, 2017
Zoologist Elephant does not smell like an elephant: it envelops one in an array of atmospherics. Victor Wong's vision of the elephant is both stark and gloriously holistic.
The Fragrant Journey
Once again Zoologist Perfumes has produced a thought provoking study on the scent of an animal, in this case Elephant, and also created a very wearable and beautiful perfume.
Now Smell This
"Elephant's sandalwood note is surprising and different; it's tart and sappy, a welcome change from the creamy sandalwood I often smell in perfumes."
Hello Chris, thank you for taking the time to do this interview! It’s been almost four years since our first collaboration (on Zoologist Beaver)! I notice that over the years you have put more focus on your perfumery ingredient distribution business than your own perfume business. Could you tell us more?
Yes, I seem to have become an ingredients supplier, more or less by accident! It started with me offering for sale materials I had to buy in much larger quantities than I imagined ever using because, quite simply, no one sold them in smaller amounts. That part of the business has grown in leaps and bounds as both the amateur perfume-making community has grown and the indie professional community has grown worldwide. As a result, I’m in the process of having major building works done, partly to fix a collapsing roof but also partly to convert areas of our home into secure ingredient-storage areas. I’m pleased that Pell Wall now supports so many up-and-coming perfumers while also supplying much more established businesses and providing access to some of the most interesting ingredients on the market. I believe I’m the only working creative perfumer who is also a major ingredients supplier, and I think that is part of the reason why that aspect of the business has been so successful. I don’t sell anything I wouldn’t use myself.
Are you still teaching perfumery and making new perfumes? And speaking of teaching, you once mentioned that the renowned perfumer behind Mason Francis Kurkdjan had actually travelled to the UK and given talks on perfumery to other perfumers. I thought he was so busy that he wouldn’t have time to share his perfumery knowledge.
I do still run teaching workshops and take on occasional interns, though I don’t do as much of that as I’d like to. It’s an aspect of the work I enjoy. My ambition for the Pell Wall ingredients website is that it should be an educational resource as well as just a shop, so on it I include quotations from other perfumers about the materials as well as my own scent impressions and thoughts about usage. Fortunately, I also still get commissions to create new fragrances for other brands quite regularly (though few are as willing as Zoologist to have me talk about it!), and I still release new fragrances for my own brand at least once a year. I believe when I attended a Perfumer Lovers London talk by Francis Kurkdjan he was promoting new perfumes he was releasing. It was very interesting, but, sadly, no secrets of the perfumer’s art were shared!
Let’s talk about Elephant, shall we? This perfume has taken us more than a year to develop. I remember back in April 2016, when you accepted the project, we thought we could get it designed in three months. In the end, it took us much longer. During this period we both got distracted by many things, and I didn’t really rush you (I think!).
I enjoyed working on Elephant very much, despite the distractions. And no, I certainly didn’t feel I was being rushed. One of the joys of this kind of work is that there is plenty of freedom for creativity to emerge over time.
The initial concept of Elephant was a rich Indian spice/chai tea/sandalwood themed perfume, because I felt that elephants and Indians traditionally have a strong connection. By the time we had reached the third prototype, however, we changed direction – we “opened the windows” to let the air in in the new prototypes, so to speak… now, to me the perfume smells like a herd of elephant walking through a forest and foraging on tree leaves.
I think we were right to change direction, both because where we ended up was much more original and also because it played to my particular strengths as a creative perfumer. As time went on, we moved more and more away from chai and towards fresh air, greenery and leafy effects (an area I think of as one of my strengths). I spent a long time getting the tropical forest effect right and used some very unusual materials to help me do so, alongside more conventional green materials such as violet leaf absolute and Mintonat (which also has an enhancing effect on other materials by the way – many materials have more than one effect in the fragrance). Creating the illusion of fresh air sounds as though it should be easy, but it’s actually quite challenging in a perfume and it’s something I’ve spent a lot of time working on. Small amounts of material that in pure form don’t smell very nice are key to making it work, alongside transparent materials that ‘open up’ the perfume and make it sing. In Elephant, I used 6% of Kohinool to help get that effect. It’s a lovely material, with soft woody-amber and floral aspects. Plus, its name is derived from that of the most famous diamond in the world – and who couldn’t be inspired by that?
You mentioned that Elephant was your most complex perfume to date.
Yes. It didn’t start out that way. But as time went on and we added more complex accords, it finished up with hundreds of individual materials. One of the more complex accords is the sandalwood, made up of 26 different ingredients including natural sandalwood from Vanuatu, which, being a natural product, is itself made up of dozens of aroma chemicals. Almost as complex is the chocolate accord at 23 materials, including several very high-impact materials that need very careful dosing to get right and appear in vanishingly small amounts. Most perfumes I’ve created contain less than 50 ingredients, which is pretty typical for commercial fragrances. I hope wearers won't be aware of the complexity at all, except in the sense that the fragrance should hold their interest better and seem more natural. In my view, if you can pick out the individual notes in a perfume too easily, it’s not finished yet. A perfume smells like itself. If it still smells of its ingredients, then it’s still only a blend.
Above: Sandalwood forest reserve in Marayoor, Kerala, India
Many people who love fragrance say one of their favourite ingredients is sandalwood, and yet not many people have smelled real, pure sandalwood oil. Also, there are different kinds and grades of sandalwood oil. To me, the scent of sandalwood is mildly woody and creamy, definitely distinct, but not very strong. Can you tell us more about the effect of sandalwood in perfumery, and your sandalwood accord for Elephant?
Natural sandalwood is very expensive and hard to come by now, and the type widely regarded as the best – Indian sandalwood from Santalum album heartwood – is not legally available anywhere outside India. So, if you’re offered any, it’s either been smuggled out or, more likely, it’s fake. In my view, Vanuatu sandalwood from Santalum austrocaledonicum is the next best, and the government of the island began actively encouraging community farming and planting about 10 years ago. That oil, too, has become very expensive, but fortunately I bought a small store of it 6 years ago that I’m still eking out. Next would be Santalum spicatum or Australian Sandalwood, now extensively imported into India for distillation. Finally, there are other unrelated species such as Amyris balsamifera – sometimes sold as West Indian Sandalwood – which is deceiving. But despite being a completely different plant, it is possible to produce a very fine oil from it. The wood oil is widely sold, but personally I think the oil extracted from the bark is superior. Elephant contains Vanuatu sandalwood, as well as Amyris bark oil and two dozen other ingredients combined to make a convincing imitation of Indian sandalwood, but with a bit more strength and power. Many people can hardly smell real sandalwood, but almost everyone should be able to smell the blend used in Elephant.
I also want to touch on the coconut milk and cocoa ingredients you used in Elephant. I know they’re in the perfume, because we developed the scents together, but I think most people might have a hard time detecting them. These two ingredients have a distinct strong food/smell association, and yet in the perfume it’s lightly used.
I tried to use these elements in a way that would allow them to integrate into the perfume as a whole. I remember when you first asked me to add a chocolate note – something that wasn’t part of the original brief – I said it was certainly possible. What I envisaged was a chocolate that would enhance and work with the sandalwood to give it added richness and depth. If you look for it, you can certainly find chocolate in Elephant – but if you’re not looking, I don’t think it jumps out at you as it might from something like Chanel's Coco Mademoiselle, for example. In the same way, I saw the coconut milk element acting in support of the milky, soft elements of the sandalwood core of Elephant. I didn’t want it to smell like food. After all, most people enjoy the smell of frying bacon, but few people want to wear a perfume that smells like it!
May I assume that Elephant is your proudest work? What should the wearer expect from this perfume?
I guess if you ask most perfumer-creators what their favourite work is, they will usually say it’s the one they most recently finished. I’m certainly a bit like that! I suppose part of the reason for that is that, like any artist or craftsman, I’m always seeking to improve the quality of the work I do. Elephant has benefited from all my mistakes and successes that went before it. I hope it will be a grand commercial success – but even if it isn’t, I believe we’ve created something genuinely original and I’m extremely proud of that. In a crowded perfume market, it’s not easy to come up with something that is new, beautiful and has something to say. Elephant is all of those.
Thank you so much!
Note to reader: It might seem odd that I call Elephant “the scent of deforestation”. Elephants have big appetites, and on the surface they are quite destructive to their habitat. In 2013, I watched a TED Talk by the biologist Allan Savory on the subject of desertification. He confessed that in 1950s, when he was young, his research indicated to him that in order to stop the deterioration of the land in Africa’s national parks, the number of elephants had to be reduced. The government agreed, and subsequently 40,000 elephants were killed to “stop the damage”. Later, he discovered that his research conclusion was faulty. He described it as “the saddest and greatest blunder of my life, and I will carry that to my grave.” This sparked a stronger determination to find a solution to desertification. Eventually he figured out that the constant grazing and movement of large herds is essential to the regeneration and protection of the natural ecosystem. This talk left me with teary eyes and is forever etched in my mind. I subsequently watched more videos on elephants and learned that their “purging” behaviour plays an important role in the dispersal of seeds and the clearance of areas for new plants to grow.
When I smelled Chris’ fourth revision of Elephant – the aroma of fresh air, green leaves, woody dry down – in my mind I immediately saw images of leaves and bark being stripped from trees by elephants. I knew this was the right scent direction we should move forward with. I hope you will enjoy this scent. It’s one of Zoologist’s proudest creations.
Zoologist Elephant will be available on September 30th, 2017
The exquisite insect and this evocative fragrance call to mind transience and transformation, a luminous brilliance and a throbbing love of love itself; evanescent life and fleeting passion shimmering in the sun.
This is a very intellectual creation - a cerebral one, I would say – that is surprisingly easy to wear and versatile. Even though it seems a bit aloof and startling, Dragonfly is gentle and magical.
Fragrantica Reader Review (Tiwalil)
…the scent doesn't smell photorealistically like dewy grass, woods and actual water. It smells more like a time of day (morning), a light phenomenon (twilight), a colour (cool lavender) and a weather phenomenon (mist) - and all these things together makes the mind create a picture of a landscape that matches the place dragonflies hatch and live. It's genius and a real work of art.
Easy to wear, it's a soothing release into air and water. Takes off on the lift of subtle iridescent facets, and flies on an air current created by the forces of warm and cool.
We felt that this scent would wear best during the day, and it didn’t particularly seem to lend itself to any one particular season. In a lot of ways that’s a plus point though, because year-round wear is always a desirable characteristic for a scent.
The Fragrant Journey
…the perfume is meant to illustrate the dragonfly's day: first light, mid day heat, and evening fade out. I think Mr. Perez achieved this with the perfumes bright awakening, the lazy, hazy middle, then a soft fade out with nightfall.
In a way it reminds me of one of those rosy-cheeked Mucha‘s Art Nouveau beauties. It’s like the beautiful woman’s vanity with face powder and perfumes stored in intricately designed Bohemian glass.
Perfume Do Dia
Dragonfly is somewhat challenging and intriguing, a scent that has required me some uses in order to properly understand its nature. …it is a perfume that exemplifies well the metamorphosis involved in the animal portrayed.
In celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary, EliteGen proudly presents 15 Canadian brands and the stories behind them.
Founded by Victor Wong and based in Toronto, the scents of Zoologist perfumes are inspired by the animal kingdom, yet they are free from natural animal-derived musks. The fresh woody Beaver is like breathing in the fresh outdoors, while the Hummingbird is infused with delectable fruity nectars.
由Victor Wong創立並紥根於多倫多，Zoologist 香水系列以動物及大自然氣味為靈感，卻堅持不用取自動物的麝香。帶有樹木氣味的Beaver香水，仿如置身樹林呼吸新鮮空氣 一樣，而Hummingbird香 水則充滿果香，讓人感覺 心曠神怡。
Text: Leslie Yip / EliteGen SingTao
No need to swim in it. A quick spritz of these summer scents will have you vation ready in no time.
Sylvanus Urban is a digital and print media group based in Toronto, Canada.
Hello Juan. Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. How are you?
Hi Victor, I’m fine. Thank you for inviting me to do this interview.
How’s the weather in Puerto Rico right now? Toronto in April is still a bit chilly, and bulbs have just started sprouting.
Right now the weather is moderately warm. Puerto Rico is a tropical island where extreme temperatures are very rare. Our maritime tropical weather prevents major temperature changes. The most obvious seasonal change in weather is from the dry to the wet season. However, the difference between the dry and the wet seasons is not extreme. There can be dry spells in the wet season, and it can be rainy in the middle of the dry. I live in the central mountains, and the weather here is usually cooler and more humid than the coast. The mild weather and the beautiful sunny beaches, which receive the trade winds, makes it an excellent tourist destination.
San Juan, Puerto Rico Coast
It seems like Puerto Rico is a horticulturist’s paradise!
Although Puerto Rico is a small island, we have very diverse flora. Our tropical rainforests have a very high number of plants species compared to temperate climate forests. Our year-round warm weather and frequent rainfall allow us also to grow many exotic tropical plants and flowers. As a professional horticulturist and gardener myself, the weather is perfect for growing many plants outside with little extra protection. Only some of my orchids need to be grown in a greenhouse that is protected from too much sunlight and rain.
That’s why I often see you post beautiful photos of your orchids on Facebook!
Yes! I think about 80% of my Facebook posts are about my plants. The rest is probably perfumery related. I just have a very limited backyard garden, mostly fragrance flowers, herbs and spices. Orchids are certainly the most abundant plant family in my garden. I grow and collect several orchid species and hybrids.
Would you tell us what you do?
My professional studies are in plant sciences and horticulture, but I’ve been dedicated full-time to my local fragrant bath and body product business for about 12 years. I started making scented soaps, but quickly added other products like lotions, body splashes and scented candles. Most of the fragrances of my bath and body line are just basic and uncomplicated scents. My business took a more complex perfumery approach in 2012 when I launched my first group of perfumes under The Exotic Island Perfumer line.
I first heard about you through Shelley Waddington (perfumer of Zoologist Hummingbird and Civet), who speaks highly of you! She mentioned that she, you and a few self-taught perfumers studied perfumery together.
I so much admire Shelley’s perfumery work! Her style is so unique and inspiring. I met Shelley and other fellow indie perfumers several years ago, before the Facebook era, in an online perfume-making forum. Together we started gathering and locating basic and rare aroma-chemicals and naturals, and discussing our impressions of each material, their potential uses and effects in a composition as well as safety issues. We worked with basic accords and classical formulas. Later we started exchanging our own compositions for further discussion and constructive suggestions. It was a very fun and helpful group with very diverse background experiences in perfumery. Some of us just studied perfumery as a hobby, with no particular business interest. Others, like Shelley, Paul Kiler and me, kept going with perfumery to a business level. My first perfume debut was in 2011 as a guest collaborator for Shelley’s EnVoyage perfume line. I created Nectars des Iles as part of a wedding fragrance duet inspired by the tropics. Nectars des Iles is the island floral fruity nectar counterpart to Shelley’s Vents Ardents, which is a woody amber with sweet touches of rum, citrus and tropical fruits.
Wow, that’s amazing, particularly since the Internet wasn’t mature at that time. I learned about your perfumery work through your “Exotic Island Aromas” webshop on etsy.com, and I think they are beautiful works! Can you tell us about your perfumes and styles?
In 2012, I debuted my first perfumes. Flor Azteca and Oudh Nawab were the first two perfumes I launched and were part of the Primordial Scents 2012 perfume project hosted by Monica Miller of Skye Botanicals, where several perfumers submitted various perfumes inspired by the elements Air, Water, Earth, Fire and also Spirit. Flor Azteca – a tuberose with incense, balsamic resins like copal, benzoin and frankincense with touches of piquant spices and cacao – was submitted as a “Fire” perfume. Oud Nawab – a deep, oriental resinous woody amber with precious notes of Kalimantan oud, sandalwood, cypriol, myrrh, earthy Persian spices and dried fruits – was submitted as an “Earth” perfume. Later in the same year I launched two soliflores, Magnolio de Verano and Gardenia Exhuberante.
Donna Hathaway, a perfumer reviewer in Portland, loves your perfumes. She gave you the nickname “King of Flowers”!
Donna is a lover of plants and flowers, just like me, and was one of the earliest reviewers of my work. As a gardener and plant collector since childhood, my initial interest in scents was via fragrant flowers and herbs. My first perfumery projects were decoding the constituents of some of my favorite flowers, like gardenia, tuberose and plumeria, and making my own versions of them. I enjoy making reconstitutions of flower scents a lot, but I also enjoy deep woody and balsamic orientals. Currently I have some ongoing projects in these genres. I still struggle with heavy animalic notes and patchouli, but I’m learning to appreciate them more with time.
Let’s talk about our collaboration, shall we? I remember we had no struggle agreeing on naming the fragrance “Dragonfly” and starting the project right away. I knew you would make an excellent fleeting aqueous floral scent.
Sure! I’m very honored to be a collaborator for a Zoologist fragrance, and yes, I remember you asked me if there’s a particular animal that I’d be interested in. I quickly said a bird or an insect, but an insect quickly got your attention, and the name “Dragonfly” was your almost immediate suggestion. I liked it a lot, and we quickly discussed possible notes for the perfume. We also considered “Swan”, but thought a “Dragonfly” would be more fun or unusual.
What perfumery notes did you immediately conjure up in your head when designing Dragonfly? Did you draw any inspiration from classic perfumes for this project?
When I think of a dragonfly, my obvious thoughts are a pond, water lilies and lotuses, iris and water reeds. Beautiful pastel watercolor paintings of lilypads and dragonflies perching over iris flowers. I’m sure many people think the same when they think of a dragonfly. So I wanted to incorporate all those elements in the perfume, but not in the traditional “aquatic spa” set of notes we often find in perfumes inspired by these elements. As for classic inspiration, one of my inspirations for Dragonfly was Guerlain’s Apres L’Ondee, the way such a beautiful perfume conjures up the idea of a garden after the rain, without using the traditional modern concept of “aquatic”, which not available by the time the perfume was originally made. Although it was not a direct or obvious citation, Apres L’Ondee was an initial inspiration for the Dragonfly’s watery surroundings.
I think a lot of people associate dragonflies with “carefree flight” and joy, but what fascinates me most about them is that they need to live near a water body. They spend half their life as nymphs underwater, and emerge to undergo a metamorphosis. I want to make a perfume that evokes the beauty of ponds and aquatic flora. There are two particular perfumery notes, rice and papyrus, that I have always wanted to use, and in Dragonfly you have brilliantly incorporated them.
Appearances can be deceiving. Behind what appears to be a light and carefree existence, frittering away time over the pond in joyful flight, lurks the much darker reality that dragonflies are efficient and ruthless predators, veritable dragons of the insect world, always alert to the opportunity to catch unwary prey. They are in a constant hunt for small insects like mosquitoes and other small flying insects. They perch on the taller reeds, looking for prey. The nymphs, out of the water, look weak and defenceless, but when one sees them in their habitat it becomes apparent that they are equipped with a nightmarish set of jaws that can open wider than their head and gives them an alien and frightful look when they attack their prey. They are fully as cold-blooded predators as the adult form.
Yes, I think rice and papyrus was a very nice choice of notes from you, considering both plant species grow near aquatic environments or bogs. But initially it was also challenging to make them work in the formula. Both notes have their own particular effects through different stages of the perfume. When you told me about rice, I brought you a cooked rice note, which wasn’t the exact note you were looking for, so the original outcome was more like stale rice in a muddy pond and quite strong. Something similar happened with papyrus. The initial direction for papyrus was focused mainly in cypriol or nagarmotha (Cyperus scariosus), which is a close relative of the Egyptian papyrus (Cyperus papyrus). The oil obtained from the nagarmotha plant is very rich and exotic, very dry and woody, with vetiver and peppery facets. It’s often used in oud accords. Such deep dry woody note was difficult to incorporate in the formula, but later the use of a less dense cypriol extraction combined with other green ingredients did the trick for the Papyrus accord we were looking for.
Another aspect of Dragonfly I find fascinating is its three distinct phases of scent development – they paint a living picture of an Impressionist pond painting. The opening is airy, moist, and mildly sweet, like the morning mist. The middle is strong and green, like the afternoon sun beating down the greens, and the ending is peaceful and tender – like a quiet night. Can you tell us how you achieve that?
Yes. Dragonfly has various facets through its development, where many of its ingredients are interconnected and complementary in multiple accords at different stages. You get the fresh and airy opening, where the almondy heliotrope has a fresh flower quality supported by a sparkling “solar accord” of salicylate-laced florals and a touch of aldehydes. As the fresh opening fades away, the anisic sweet elements of the heliotrope accord with a very special French mimosa absolute rearranges, complementing the aquatic green floral heart focused in the lotus flower, which also is naturally soft and anisic. This heliotrope-mimosa-lotus trinity intertwines with iris/rice powder and green stem notes, then making a transition to mossy woods, mineral earthy notes and amber, wrapped with white musks. Although it’s a fragrance inspired by life in a pond, it’s not a typical aquatic composition at all. It’s a very rich fragrance with many contrasts; it can be airy, it can be dense, sometimes fresh aquatic, sometimes dry and earthy. The richness of its woody base and the use of ingredients that can be “drying” – like cypriol, iris and the slight powderyness of mimosa – prevents the composition from becoming a transparent aquatic composition.
I must mention that we’ve spent one year developing the perfume. Initially, we both thought the concept was clear and it would take three months to design, particularly when we agreed it was going to be a floral heavy scent (which is your forte)…
We wish it would be that simple, but in perfumery things do not always work the exact way we wanted or planned. There are many factors that influence how fast a perfume is finished. Besides the distance and the time it takes for you to receive my prototypes, perhaps one of the factors that influenced me the most was figuring out how each of us think. For example, when you told me you wanted a “rice” note, my mind thought of the scent of cooked rice, which wasn’t exactly what you expected. Later we found that it was really the fantasy scent of rice face powder. And when you said “iris”, I gave you a very abstract earthy orris note, completely different to the classic powdery accords rich in floral ionones that you were expecting as “iris”. I guess I took it too literally. Another issue was making the cypriol work in the papyrus accord. The first cypriol source was too dense and earthy, and it was quite difficult to blend it without overtaking the formula. Finally, another grade of cypriol which is greener and not as dense, did the trick. It’s not uncommon for a perfume to take longer than expected to develop. Some of my perfumes took more time than Dragonfly to get finished. It took me a couple years to have the tuberose accord the way I wanted it in my Flor Azteca perfume. Sometimes I take a very long pause in certain perfume compositions until I find the right ingredients for it.
So do you think this perfume is very ambitious? Is it a simple or a complex perfume, in your opinion? Who do you think is the target audience?
The composition has about 60 individual ingredients, so I think Dragonfly is quite a complex formula full of contrasts. I think anyone can wear it, but I think people who enjoy green floral perfumes, or love reading fantasy stories, might find Dragonfly particularly mesmerizing. The scent has a dreamy, impressionistic-painting, fantastical quality.
Do you think you would consider more collaborations with other clients?
Of course I would! It’s the second time I’ve done a collaboration project, and I really enjoyed the process in both. It gets me out of my comfort zone to experiment with new ideas.
What is next for you?
I’ve been in sort of a pause. I still need to make some improvements to my perfume line. As for new perfume creations, I’m currently working on two new perfumes. One is a more masculine aromatic/gourmand woody that I expect to release by next fall. The other fragrance is a floral that I expect to release probably by late winter/early spring. There are more ideas and projects in mind, so stay tuned!
Thank you for taking the time to do this interview! I wish you the best and good business!
My pleasure. All the best to you too!
Zoologist Dragonfly will be available in late June 2017.
We are currently sold out of all our full size 60ml deluxe bottles. Our bottle manufacturer is working hard and we expect our new shipment to arrive in late June. At the meantime, please check out other stores that carry our brand, and they are listed on our "Stockist" page. We apologize for the any inconvenience caused.
The Hindu, April 8th, 2017
by Surya Praphulla Kumar
In 2012, a burnt-out video game designer at a Toronto-based toy company found his calling in a hotel room, after smelling a musky bottle of Le Labo hand lotion. Wong recalls coming home later to trawl the message boards of popular perfume sites, Basenotes and Fragrantica. “People told me I should learn perfumery and design my own scents, but I knew it would take years of practice to become good at it,” he begins.
So when he decided to launch his own perfume line, Zoologist, he put out an open call. British perfumer, Chris Bartlett, answered it with the idea to capture the essence of a beaver — smelling of wet fur, musk and felled trees. The scent, bottled with a picture of a beaver in Victorian clothing, came out in 2014. And though the perfume blog, CaFleureBon, named it one of the best scents of the year, Wong admits “it was too challenging for many people”. So the duo revisited the formula, adding more “fresh air and river top notes”, and relaunched it successfully late last year.
Today, his menagerie of scents includes Bat, Civet, Panda, Hummingbird, Rhinoceros, Macaque and Nightingale. “Fragrances that are notorious for smelling very animalic get a lot of attention, but I wonder if it’s ‘all talk and no sales’. The challenge for me is whether to bring a strong scent to the market for a small group of people — for the name (and fame) — or something less aggressive for sales,” says Wong, who is working on a scent that will remind the user of walking by a pond.
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Covey, the founder of Olympic Orchid, a US-based brand of handcrafted scents, teamed up with Wong’s Zoologist for Bat, which won the 2016 Art & Olfaction Award (independent). “I didn’t want to make a perfume that literally smells like a bat, but one that represents the cool, earthy, damp limestone cave where they live, the fruit they eat, and the clean, musky smell of their fur,” explains Covey, who trekked through the jungles of Jamaica in search of bat caves.
Though she believes working with animalics isn’t more challenging than any other scent — “it’s all a matter of balance — she believes this niche trend is in the forefront, with the mass market slowly catching up. “The early part of this century was dominated by scents that were ‘clean’ and ‘light’. The resurgence of animalic scents is just the fashion cycle coming back around,” says the perfumer, who is currently working on a scent inspired by a musical composition, which will have animalic notes.