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Food for Thought

Jeb Gleason-Allured, Editor
Perfumer Veronique Nyberg and flavorist Willy Hajdarevic

Perfumer Veronique Nyberg and flavorist Willy Hajdarevic collaborate to cross-pollinate their expertise in the formulation of leading-edge fragrances.

“Creativity is born from authenticity, but leans on tradition. A painter will not reinvent a rainbow, but will use colors in a different way.” Fusion chef Pierre Gagnaire’s insights neatly sum up a recent IFF program that cross-pollinates the formulation and ingredient knowledge of flavorists and perfumers in the service of unique sensory and emotional impacts. Now, a handful of these formulators gather to discuss the results.

 Sitting in a conference room at IFF’s Paris fragrance center, perfumer Veronique Nyberg describes flavor and fragrance as two “secret worlds” that seek exploration: “There is much we can learn from each other.” Flavorist Willy Hajdarevic adds that, “Our job is to get close to nature.” Thus, using flavorists’ keys as a starting point, perfumers can achieve new levels of naturalness in fragrance formulations. “Being close to nature, you get new effects,” Nyberg continues. “It’s another dimension into the fragrance.”

Sharing ideas with Hajdarevic, Nyberg has created several accords and fragrances for men and women. “We sit together and go through formulas [of about 20 materials] and say, ‘Try this ingredient, this raw material,’” says Hajdarevic. “You can’t use everything because there’s always a bit of fine-tuning.” The object, he explains, is not to be literal, but rather to introduce abstract facets that remain true to the named food.

To illustrate, Nyberg and Hajdarevic show off a mango flavor in a beverage and an accompanying fragrance accord. While the flavor is true to life, the accord reflects a few key nuances. “You have the juiciness,” she says. “It has to be intriguing, addictive. It has to connect [the consumer] to something else.” The accord also has some of the astringency associated with the fruit, and placed in a feminine fragrance, it imparts an overlay of mango. The effect is anything but “wearing food.” “It’s done in a way that it’s not too sweet, too sticky,” Nyberg continues. “We tried to be very natural—you cut the fresh mango and squeeze it.”

Hajdarevic reiterates the importance of editing when translating flavors by displaying a black olive accord featuring a distinct ripeness. “When you start going into this,” he says, “you see black olive, you start to see this black pepper note, which is a part of it. That’s the specific note that you want to take out.” Nyberg explains, “It’s very sensual and intriguing in perfume. It gives a lot of texture.” The effect, she adds, isn’t always conscious. “I worked it into a fine fragrance for women and it worked very well: I recognize it without recognizing it.” Hajdarevic concludes, “It works very well in a fragrance. It has a leathery character, masculine. This is very authentic.”

Interpreting jalapeno for a fragrance, Hajdarevic and Nyberg sidestepped the pepper’s legendary heat. The accord was constructed with synthetics as a natural extract is difficult and often brings out less desirable smoky facets. “I was looking for freshness,” Nyberg says. “There are a lot of trends [calling for] freshness, close to nature. It’s a feeling, an emotion. How do we get freshness? [Jalapeno is] not a green we know already, it’s not citrusy.” Displaying the accord’s power in a male fragrance, she adds, “It’s like you cut the pepper. You have this green feeling on top.”

At a nearby table, perfumers Anne Flipo and Bruno Jovanovic exhibit a white coffee accord inspired by the named food’s orange blossom character. The combination includes neroli and broom absolute crossed with a milky accord. “It’s very feminine, yet addictive,” says Flipo. “I used the milky accord and, to contrast, I used some woody notes.” Jovanovic adds, “I don’t know a perfumer that doesn’t love orange flower. It’s universal.” And very expensive.

Next, Jovanovic passes around blotters of gentian (Gentiana lutea), extracted from a flowering plant used to produce the aromatic and bitter aperitif Suze. IFF has just recently produced a natural extraction of the root of the plant. The ingredient is so new it hasn’t yet been commercialized. “It’s a very strange material,” says Jovanovic. “It probably doesn’t remind you of anything you know. It is very close, in a way, to orange flower—the rough parts, without the flower. It’s much more masculine, earthy.”

Next up is a new blackcurrant bud extraction that has a de-emphasized catty note, followed by a black sesame extract derived post-toasting. “It’s a very powerful product,” says Jovanovic. “It gives a new kind of sweetness that is not like Angel.” Using the extraction, the perfumer has created a new kind of powdery, amber base that imparts what he calls a “new darkness, woodiness.” He adds, “It has a very rough aspect. It’s a raw material that adds a lot of texture to a fragrance. Very masculine.”

The day’s discussion represents just the first step in bringing these insights to finished formulations. While a number of materials and accords have found their way to market, many others are pending.

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Perfumers Bruno Jovanovic and Anne Flipo

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