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Food for Thought

By: Jeb Gleason-Allured, Editor
Posted: March 17, 2009, from the March 2009 issue of P&F magazine.
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.

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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.