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Quite recently Hermès announced that nose Christine Nagel would be joining Jean-Claude Ellena as new nose to create new fragrances together for this legendary luxury brand. It was interesting news for many reasons. One is that Jean-Claude Ellena has been alone in his role for a long time (a decade) and it is hard to distinguish what is Hermès and what is master Ellena in an Hermès fragrance. Each fragrance is permeated by his artistry and endless choices down to the most detailed detail. Some were surprised by the choice. I am not familiar enough with Christine Nagels character as a nose to say anything about it other than that it is obvious that taking in a new nose to work with Ellena at Hermès must be a very particular process since everything about this brand is an homage to detail and perfection. So I am curious to discover what this new phase will bring and what Christine Nagel will bring to it. She is the nose behind many Jo Malone fragrances and Narcisco Rodriguez For Her so not at all a typical French haute parfumerie artist but more contemporary in her style.

Photo of Ellena and Nagel in The Cut.

Photo of Ellena and Nagel in The Cut.

The Cut recently did an interview with the new nose team that includes some really interesting statements. Direct and art-focused, just like the fragrances that monsieur Ellena makes.

I do recommend you to read the interview but let me share some highlights. The description of their collaboration is something many creative professionals can relate to and be inspired by. It’s great to hear a master such as Ellena describe their differences as an asset and then their generous way of working as a strength of their team work. They describe progressing together and surprising each other.

The discussion on luxury is also very interesting, this is really a core question in today’s market and zeitgeist I believe. We are becoming more globalized and more ethical consumers which leads to a decreasing interest in show-off luxury items in informed markets. Consumers want something else than a shortcut that mainly signals affluence, the “specialness” in luxury has changed. Jean-Claude Ellena says: “There is no scent that is luxurious. It’s what we do with it that makes it luxurious. Otherwise, how will we know when something is luxurious? The supreme luxury is to take time, and we have time at Hermès” and adds, “the thing that is important at Hermès is that it is the perfumer who decides whether the perfume will go on the market”. He concludes, “this is really the luxury, the freedom”. There is another perfume house characterized by this rule, Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle. A much anticipated launch can be delayed because the perfume is not ready. If this is considered luxurious working conditions for the perfumer, than how luxurious is it not for the person who wears the perfume to know that this is the level of dedication and ambition behind it? Does this mean that these perfumes are better? If I look to myself, definitely these two perfume houses take up more space in my perfume collection than other ones and I made many of those selections before knowing these facts behind them. Not surprising of course that Malle’s fragrance range includes two creations by Jean-Claude Ellena.

Jean-Claude Ellena's photo from his lab. Photo used in The Cut.

Jean-Claude Ellena’s photo from his lab. Photo used in The Cut.

For Hermès fans it should be interesting to read the description of Hermès as a day and afternoon brand. To be honest I had actually never thought of this aspect. When I think about it though I realize that in fact I never wear Ellena perfumes in the evening or night, it never felt right. Voyage, Bigarade give me fresh air and energy as I embark on a new day. Ambre Narguilé comfort for an afternoon that closes circles. There is one exception though, Poivre Samarcande, this one I love for a dinner with conversations about life and travel!

I will not reveal more, read the interview. It’s great. And then you will also find out what smelled of vanilla and mold.

For more Ellena I suggest this interview at Perfume Shrine and this one or even better, reading monsieur Ellena’s own books.

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Synaesthetes will get this immediately – smells are like different instruments. Vetiver is a guitar, or cello if it has that hard to get coarseness. Vanilla is a soft drum. When it comes to perfumes, M for Puredistance, to me is one single clear sound. A bit surprising, even to me, as it is obviously a complex composition. This is haute parfumerie. You embrace the effect of the fragrance it is hard to grasp what kind of chemistry, poetry and magic led to this particular full-bodied gathered sensation. You can read about the notes, yes, but this is a bit like when professional communication people talk about how planning is just not the same thing as research or insight or business intelligence. Planning is connecting the dots and not only drawing a new map, but in fact creating a new destination. M is like this to me. It is Perfume with capital P and I almost feel like it does not want to be dissected. It is what it is.

During this last week at Grasse Institute Perfumery we could bring perfumes from the market to class and I chose to bring this one. It is a perfume I like, admire and wear and I enjoy the enigmatic feeling it gives me. I have read about the thoughts behind the creation but I am not quite able to connect with the leather and Aston Martin that is described. So I thought it would be fun and interesting to hear the thoughts of my classmates and our teacher.


M makes me think about this: what is luxury? What is “luxury” in a global and globalized market, in 2013, in an age of brands and concepts, in a business where profound artistry and hungry prestige keeping mixing their choreographies… In an age where the chase for what can be bought sometimes goes all bulimic only to give birth to businesses that offer what cannot be bought, such as the feeling of holding time for a moment – what is luxury? Is there any objective luxury? What exactly is it that discretely communicates it when you can’t see material or feel texture? How do you get to the feeling that what you are smelling is something that did not give up, yield or lean back but kept refining itself until it was really special.


I avoided reading about M or Puredistance before trying it. Did not check reviews, not prices, not noses or notes. I was not at all prepared for the sensation that awaited me.

I am quite fascinated and intrigued by what it is that makes this perfume feel so very refined. When I wear it I feel like it is jewellery. It is the kind of accessory that frames everything in a kind of unquestionable elegance. There are things, they can be bracelets or shoes. Maybe a bag, but I prefer an example that has skin contact. Items that accentuate something sublime in the character of a person, and make them belong anywhere you want to. Not like a mask but like an aesthetic firmness that I believe has to be carried by something inside you but accentuated by something on the outside. It is not about price (have we not seen to many of those misconceptions walking around the various catwalks of life), to me it has much to do with clarity. Like a good handshake that does not try or want to disguise anything. Sashimi. A perfect white t-shirt. But in this case – olfactory art.

Puredistance is about to launch a new perfume soon, Puredistance BLACK, I am very curious about it. From what I know it will be very close to the skin and I think there will be some interesting raw material choices though it seems these in line with the concept for the perfume will be kept secret. The nose is French perfumer Antoine Lie.

If you want to read more about the nose behind M, it is master perfumer Roja Dove. Recently he wrote a diary for FT How To Spend It that it is very nice and entertaining reading.

For more on perfume and luxury I also recommend this excellent interview on perfume blog Eyeliner on a Cat with natural raw materials master Mandy Aftel. Mandy’s eloquence is as striking as her creations. In the interview Carrie captures the Aftelier way perfectly: “Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes is known for having the soul of an alchemist that deftly guides her hand in the creation of her perfumes. Her aesthetic is mesmerizing and her taste uncompromising; Aftelier final products typify of artisan luxury, from concept to execution.” For some of my reflections around Mandy’s work I invite you to read this post.

All images and quote in title from Puredistance

Some time ago Désirée M, a never-ending source of things inspiring, sent me this article from Interview Magazine. It includes a guide to finding the right fragrance with 10 smart tips from Dawn Goldworm, cofounder and scent director of olfactive branding company 12.29 and the personal nose of perfume house Coty. Swedish readers of this blog will recognize some things from my post ‘Att köpa parfym 1A‘ and ‘Köp inte parfym på lunchen och noterna’, for example the importance of avoiding hasty decisions. Goldworm also mentions osMoz fragrance guide tool which you might find helpful on your fragrance quest.
Photo from the article in Interview Magazine
So, tiger or butterfly?


Some time ago Désirée M, a never-ending source of things inspiring, sent me this article from Interview Magazine. It includes a guide to finding the right fragrance with 10 smart tips from Dawn Goldworm, cofounder and scent director of olfactive branding company 12.29 and the personal nose of perfume house Coty. Swedish readers of this blog will recognize some things from my post ‘Att köpa parfym 1A‘ and ‘Köp inte parfym på lunchen och noterna’, for example the importance of avoiding hasty decisions. Goldworm also mentions osMoz fragrance guide tool which you might find helpful on your fragrance quest.
Photo from the article in Interview Magazine
So, tiger or butterfly?