Beyond the scents of wine
In a wine, scents are important. They give us an idea of the grape variety, of the territory, of the process that led to the birth of a bottle. Recognizing the scents in a wine, therefore, is a very important exercise that requires sensitivity, study, and a strong olfactory memory. Anyone who has tasted wines, professionally or out of pleasure, knows this very well. And so do those, like perfumers, who have turned scents into a profession.
So we asked Violaine Collas, who has been working with MANE since 2011 and recently created The Only One and Dolce Garden for D&G, to tell us about the aromas and scents from an unusual point of view, explaining the role of the perfumer, also known as a “nose”, and how a perfume is born. The result is the following piece, which appeared in Birth. As for the wines of Tenuta Luce, during her tasting, Violaine Callas noticed in Luce some notes of red fruit and blackberry jam, and scents of leaves; and in Lux, aromas of underwood, of musk after the rain, and earthy scents of patchouli.
To become a perfumer, on top of studying the subject, you need a real talent, a refined nose that will help you recognise each primary note, and you also need an excellent olfactory memory. Then, like a pianist, you should start playing your own chords and be curious of what surrounds you, paying attention to every new scent, all around the world.
Perfumers usually work for companies that make perfumes or food aromas. In each company there are many perfumers or “noses” who work based on a brief or a list of brand’s specific features. To give an appropriate response to the brief, and find the creative inspiration for the new perfume, the perfumer will need to dive deep into the universe defined by that brand.
Initially, the idea takes shape from a “chord” of some primary essences (around twenty, more or less). If, for instance, I decide to work on the association between a tuber and cherries, I’ll use both the pure essence of that tuber, and the natural or synthetic primary essences that smell of tuber. I may do so in order to recreate a specific aroma of tuber that I recall smelling in India years ago. Clearly, my result will be completely different from that of a fellow perfumer whose inspiration is his own personal memory. However, anyone smelling one interpretation or the other, will recognise a tuber in both cases, because both lead to that essence. The same happens for cherries: I will work on an acid chord of cherries that reminds me of the smell from when I would pick cherries as a child, at my grandparents’. Another perfumer, on the other hand, might work on a harmony inspired by the early Burlat cherries…
Creating the palette of a perfume is an infinitely rich process, since the perfumer is capable of recreating the aroma of a flower or a fruit based on his sensorial experience, on his olfactory memory full of precious traces… with the possibility of adding synthetic or natural molecules (primary essences). When memorising the composition of a scent, perfumers will immediately analyse it, and then place it in a corner of their memory: when necessary, they will list its components in the shape of a recipe, and indicate the same primary essences as the ones smelled years earlier, in the same way that a musician can write down the score after listening to a piece of music. Once you’ve found the right chord, you must turn it into a Perfume. The initial chord will be the spine, its distinctive feature.
Compared to wine, it’s like the grape variety. At first, I’ll work on the topnotes, which can be perceived in the first few minutes: they are made of very volatile molecules and give the first impression of a fragrance, attracting the attention and creating the desire to find out the identity of that perfume. I believe in a wine these are the equivalent of the scents perceived on the nose. Secondly, I’ll work on the base notes, which evaporate slowly and can persist on the skin at length: these are the ones that stay on clothes and will recall you a fragrance even after a long time. This persistence is also called texture. The formula of some fragrances (which is like the recipe for a great chef) can be made of fifty or more primary essences, in very precise proportions and quantities, as small as parts per million.
Like in wine, the ageing and evolution potential is crucial for the success of a fragrance. And like in wine, fragrances must also mature and stay in alcohol so that the primary essences can penetrate each other and fully express themselves. Perfumers, moreover, must consider the evolution of the public’s taste and adapt to different markets – taste can be very different, around the world.