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A recent Women in Flavor and Fragrance Commerce (www.wffc.org) event provided a rare glimpse into a master perfumer’s mind. Symrise’s Maurice Roucel sat down with P&Fnow editor Jeb Gleason-Allured for a one-on-one discussion of this craftsman’s work, creative process and perspectives on today’s business climate.
Roucel is an accomplished perfumer respected throughout the industry. His creations include Tocade (Rochas), 24 Faubourg (Hermes), Guess for Women (Coty) and Envy (Gucci). Though a serious creative force, Roucel is also a thoughtful interviewee, a wry wit with an understated intelligence and humor. When asked where he finds his inspiration, Roucel jokingly held up his glass of wine.
During the discussion, the perfumer revealed that he always creates from his mind, not his nose. After all, he laughed, he was a longtime smoker. So, if Roucel’s scents often originate as abstract concepts in his brain, how does he translate them into concrete fragrances?
“I don’t know for other perfumers,” he says, “but for myself, I don’t know, maybe it comes from the sky.” Doubtful. In fact, this master perfumer’s ideas often take years to form from a single spark of inspiration, such as a flower. In the case of Envy, the flower in question was hyacinth. Spotting this flower in May of 1984 (Roucel can still clearly recall the exact moment), the perfumer was moved. However, the notion that would become this fresh floral scent required 13 years of incubation. “Because of perfection,” Roucel explained. “For Envy, the perfume arrived in 1997, but I’d worked on the idea since 1984.”