The Life of a “Nose”: One Perfumer’s Story

Viktoria Minya. Photo possibly by Cseh Gabriella. Source: Viktoria Minya FB page.

Viktoria Minya. Photo possibly by Cseh Gabriella. Source: Viktoria Minya FB page.

What’s it like to be a professional nose? How difficult is it to become one? How does one deal with the restrictions inherent in perfume creation, whether IFRA/EU-related, a client’s brief, or basic price constraints? And why do so many perfumes smell the same?!

Those are a few of the questions I posed to Viktoria Minya, the award-winning perfumer and owner of Parfums Viktoria Minya. She’s a rare creature in the industry for a few reasons. First, she’s one of the few professionally trained female noses who also runs her own perfume house. Second, she’s both an insider and, in many ways, an outsider as well. She’s not part of the stable of perfumers hired by the big companies like Givaudan, IFF, or Robertet, but she was one once. Now, she’s independent but, unlike Bertrand Duchaufour, she’s not a nose for hire in the typical sense and she works primarily on her own creations. Her closest counterpart might be Patricia de Nicolai, but the latter is arguably a part of the establishment, whether through her presidency of Osmothèque or her membership in the Guerlain family.

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Sammarco Vitrum & Alter: Vetiver Forests, Jasmine Fields

The last two fragrances in Sammarco‘s collection are Vitrum and Alter. The former is an impressive and mesmerizing vetiver that showcases its main note in all its many facets, accompanied by streaks of incense and, occasionally, a delicate pink rose. The latter is an indolic jasmine joined by woody myrrh, civet, and, for a short time, a heady mimosa, fruity rose, and something resembling honeysuckle. So, let’s get straight to it.

Photographer: Gwyllm Llwydd. Source: Facebook.

Photographer: Gwyllm Llwydd. Source: Facebook.

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Sammarco Ariel: Chanel Meets Guerlain

Artist unknown. Source: pinterest.

Artist unknown. Source: pinterest.

The past and present both run through Ariel, a very feminine floral fragrance from Sammarco that consistently evoked thoughts of the two great bastions of classical perfumery, Guerlain and Chanel. Ariel’s structural core echoes legends from the past, like Chanel’s clean green florals or Shalimar, but it’s fleshed out by equally strong echoes of the present, whether it’s fragrances like Angelique Noire or Misia, or modern elements like herbal sweetness. The result is a fragrance that exudes modern chic and a cool polished elegance before taking on elements of a soft, fluid, purely floral femininity that called to mind Pre-Raphaelite romanticism then ending in a grand finish of golden lushness. Luca Turin recently described Ariel in his admiring review as “neoclassical perfumery, played out on original instruments,” and I agree.

But it’s also not quite as simple as that. Ariel is a complicated fragrance, in my opinion, and one that is not easy to characterize. For one thing, it doesn’t fall into any one single genre but covers a range of different fragrance families. For another, I was startled to see that not one single account of Ariel was the same. Not one. Five different reviews give five different descriptions of the scent, and they have little in common beyond the most simplistic summation of “citrusy, spiced floral.” My review basically amounts to a sixth version, which should tell you just how difficult it is to confine Ariel to a single box and why you should try it for yourself if any of the descriptions intrigue you.

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Sammarco Bond-T: The Promised Land Beckons

We all have a promised land in perfumery, one where we gambol and cavort with our favourite olfactory notes, all combined in such a way that the pleasure, comfort, and joy amounts to a sense of a perfect fit, ease, or even the feeling of being “home.” There are many promised lands, each falling within a different genre, each so difficult to find that it’s as though we’re searching for the Holy Grail. (At this point, I’m convinced that my personal Vanilla Valhalla does not exist.) The difficulty stems from the perfection that is implicitly involved in such a magical creation, the coalescence of personal, subjective factors to form one perfect bouquet like no other.

Source: wallpaperup.com

Source: wallpaperup.com

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