If I knew anything about sports, I would try to make some pithy joke, like,”If perfumers had baseball cards, Jean-Claude Ellena’s would be [insert really desirable baseball player’s name here].” But…I don’t, so I won’t. BUT of all the many perfumers I’ve been lucky enough to meet over the years, Ellena, the in-house perfumer for Hermés, is definitely one of my favorites. I once potted roses with him in a makeshift garden on a rooftop overlooking the Atlantic Ocean; he’s quite a gardener. On another rooftop, this time at Hermés HQ in Paris, we shared a tea (at Hermés, even the sugar cubes are “H” shaped) and discussed our love of travel. In short, he’s rad. And he’s also about to launch his latest project—this time, a book called The Diary of a Nose (Rizzoli). It’s about a year in his life, working, traveling, and doing what he loves, which is making amazing perfumes. Here are three of my favorite quotes:
On being a perfumer: “As a person, I take pleasure in receiving and sharing. As a perfumer, I like showing and convincing…. I’m quite simply following the trajectory of an artist, someone who seeks and, sometimes, finds.”
On the future of perfumery: “The future does not really lie in discovering new fragrant raw materials…. In order to endure, haute perfumery is therefore condemned to inventing new olfactory promises…to finding a new form of expression.”
On the competition: “My visitors say they noticed perfumes from different companies in my fridge, and ask what I need these for. I explain that they are mainly there as historical benchmarks of quality, below which I must not and would not want to fall.”
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