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Exposing the Perfumer

Posted: April 3, 2007

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P&Fnow: Coinciding with your article, Givaudan perfume school head Jean Guichard has allowed the partial publication of Jean Carles’ olfactive training charts. What is their historical significance and why is it important that they be displayed to the wider fragrance industry?

Krell Kydd: Jean Carles, founder of Givaudan’s Perfumery School, developed a system of olfactive study, creating two distinct charts that organized raw materials by similarity and contrast, one for naturals and one for synthetics. The method, which bears his name, is an industry standard used by all professional perfumers. The charts were practically olfactive apocrypha to people outside the fragrance business until bloggers and virtual community members started telling each other about William Irving Kaufman’s book, Perfume, which contains an old version of the Jean Carles’ charts. Used copies of this discontinued book are getting harder to find and this closes the door on the consumer.

Knowledge has an energy that multiplies exponentially when someone begins to obtain answers to their questions. The more one learns, the more curious one becomes and that makes a person better equipped to make good choices in the marketplace. The Jean Carles charts allow a person to understand the categorization of complimentary and contrasting fragrance materials, which also help one understand taste—a very tangible thing. Live olfactive classes based on the Jean Carles’ method can and should be deployed at the university level and in wine tasting courses. In addition, one cannot discount the possibility that the information provided by Givaudan will reach the eyes of future talent in the industry—something truly worth cultivating.

Lastly, knowledge turns a consumer into a prosumer, a term coined by futurist Alvin Toffler in the eighties. Prosumers have the potential to shape the future of product creation in a culture that encourages knowledge sharing, which is where we are today. The rise in chypre fragrances and more haute collections like Frédéric Malle Editions de Parfums, Chanel’s Les Exclusifs and Tom Ford’s Private Collection are proof of this. 

P&Fnow: What, if anything, do you make of the natural vs. synthetic debates taking place among traditional and self-trained “perfumers”? What is the significance of those conversations?