The history of perfume is made of travels and discoveries, but also and above all of some great perfumers and chemists who have considerably influenced its history. From the Renaissance until today, some great noses have marked their time and their work still influences today the perfumed essences and the way we wear them. Let’s take a look at these very talented noses!
The historical noses
From Florence to Paris…
If perfume has always existed since antiquity, its rise as a refined product really goes back to the 14th century in France. At that time, a beautiful Florentine woman called Catherine de Medici was about to marry the Duke of Orleans, the future Henry II, and besides King of France. The very coquettish young sovereign will take with her her personal perfumer, Renato Bianco, who will be renamed René the Florentin.
He introduced the trend of the perfumed glove and the pomander. Very quickly requested by every nobles of the high society, he inaugurated the first Parisian perfumery at the Pont Saint-Michel. This place of meeting of all the bourgeoisie will pave the way to many other stores thereafter. He sold all sorts of compositions as well as perfumed lingerie, the height of refinement at the time. René the Florentin will really influence the way perfume is perceived. Beyond hiding the nauseating odors synonymous with disease, it became an elegant accessory that said a lot about the wearer’s social status and wealth.
From the Renaissance to nowadays
René the Florentin inspired other great noses such as Simon Barbe, the first glover-perfumer in Paris and probably the most famous of his time. Creator of essences, he wrote several “technical” works on the manufacture of perfumes. His book Le Parfumeur François (1693) “which teaches all the ways to extract the odors of flowers and to make all forms of perfume compositions” will cross borders and eras to create vocations of nose!
At this time, another creator began to make a name for himself with a completely new kind of composition. Giovanni Maria Farina was an Italian perfumer living in Cologne, Germany. Fan of fresh fragrances, he developed in 1709 what would become one of the biggest successes of perfumery through the centuries: the eau de Cologne. This invigorating water based on alcohol and citrus fruits will meet an immediate craze and will be highly appreciated for dry toilet. It will thus diffuse a true wind of olfactory freshness which will last until our days. Today, perfumers still create colognes based on this formula dating from the 18th century.
But perfumery was not built only thanks to talented noses. Chemists also had a major role in the modernization and democratization of fragrances. The year 1868 will be marked by a small discovery for the man but a very big one for the perfumery! The English chemist Sir William Perkin developed for the first time a process to synthesize molecules. He managed to achieve the first synthesis of coumarin (a compound of the tonka bean). This work revolutionized the composition of perfumes, by introducing synthetic molecules into the palette of the nose. Synthetic coumarin is still a favorite ingredient in many fragrances.
In 1906, the perfumer and chemical engineer René-Maurice Gattefossé published the Practical and formal guide for the modern perfumer, which will considerably improve the stabilization of synthetic perfumes. Chemists still have a primordial place in the elaboration of new odorous molecules, and it is also thanks to them that our noses can be tickled by a multitude of scents impossible to capture in nature, or to protect animal species like musk.
These pioneering and inspired noses
Since the advent of modern perfumery in the early 1900s, many great houses have made a name for themselves. But behind each perfume is an inspired nose, to whom we don’t often pay tribute. However, they are the ones who invite themselves in your daily life thanks to their audacious or timeless creations. We can of course mention Aimé Guerlain, perfumer of the house of the same name. With his creation Jicky, unveiled in 1889, he was the first to use synthetic ingredients in a composition. More than transcribing the smell of nature, Aimé Guerlain wanted to tell a story around his creation and thus upset the established order by mixing natural ingredients, animal notes and synthetic molecules.
In another register, how to forget Ernest Beaux, this chemist of formation become perfumer for the famous Gabrielle Chanel. He will create for her the mythical N°5 in 1921. It is the first perfume which integrates aldehyde notes in overdose revealing clean, airy but also metallic nuances. This olfactory facet has been a staple of perfumery ever since. It would also be impossible not to mention François Coty, the father of chypre perfumes, who created a new olfactory family on his own! More recently, many great noses with unlimited creativity have also marked the history of perfume. This is the case of Olivier Cresp who democratized the use of gourmand notes, with the etyl-maltol in particular. It is a synthetic compound with sweet caramel facets.
And at Carrément Belle?
Of course this list is not exhaustive and we could not name all the great inspired perfumers as they are so numerous. Over time, the noses have faded behind the names of the big houses and many of them now work in composition companies. These were historically located in Grasse, but many of them are now based in Switzerland, Germany or the United States. At Carrément Belle, we trust the Grasse know-how since our beginning. All our fragrances are developed in the world capital of perfume. Then, they are assembled by hand in our workshop in Nîmes. By the way, you can find the interview of Claire, the nose behind our creations for many years.
Did you know these great names in perfumery?
Discover our fragrances