Iberchem Senior Perfumer María Ángeles Santiago Discusses Exciting Trends & Timeless Formulations

María Ángeles Santiago, senior perfumer, Iberchem
María Ángeles Santiago, senior perfumer, Iberchem

Name: María Ángeles Santiago

Title: Senior Perfumer, Iberchem

Current location: Murcia, Spain

Perfumer & Flavorist+ [P&F+]: What led you to the fragrance industry?

María Ángeles Santiago [MAS]: My arrival in the fragrance industry came as a complete surprise. After graduating in chemistry, I was not sure what field I wanted to focus on. While I was considering my options, Iberchem was looking for chemists for its analytical laboratory and contacted the Chemist Association of Murcia. A few days later, I received a call from Iberchem, a company I had never heard of before. I still remember the smell of the room for my first interview; a mixture of ionone and aldehyde, which to my inexperienced nose was like the smell of toilet soap, delicate and feminine. That smell stayed with me forever. That was over 21 years ago.

 P&F+What are some of the current trends that are exciting you at the moment?

MAS: I love perfumes that reflect elegance without excess. Something in line with the actual trend of quiet luxury. I am also fond of unusual and unexpected combinations that really stand out as subtle and discreet perfumes, not at all invasive or extravagant. I like to create formulas that are simple yet striking.

On another hand, I really like the field of neuroscience and how it becomes more and more intrinsic to the fragrance industry. Fragrances and emotions are tightly linked in my opinion. Finally, we have a scientific approach to demonstrate it.

P&F+Are there any formulations you would consider timeless? Why?

MAS: In fine fragrance, the idea of a scent that gives a sense of cleanliness is timeless. In women's perfumes, this translates into formulations that revolve around green tea. They are a cascade of light, optimism, energy, happiness and well-being.

In men's fragrances, it is not a specific raw material but an olfactory family, fougère (fern in French). With its moist, fresh, woody and green notes that mix sweet and bitter notes, it evokes the sensation of a good shower, of feeling clean, fresh and full of energy.

P&F+Advice for people coming into the perfume field?

MAS: I would say to prepare your memory skills! The first thing when you start as a perfumer is to discover and remember the smell of the raw materials at your disposal. At first, this is the most complicated part, as we are talking about more than 2000 different materials. To start creating my own olfactory archive, I found it very useful to associate smells with personal memories from my childhood and everyday life. All these smells that I could associate with something familiar were easier to store in my olfactory memory and served as a foundation to build up, over the years, the remaining raw materials.

P&F+Are the types of projects you're working on changing over time? How are the creative demands of the job evolving?

MAS: Market trends influence our daily lives. Not so long ago, it was rare to find perfumes with a fragrance content of more than 12% or 15%, but today, this has increased to 20% or even more. The same goes for the trend of amber (oriental) perfumes. Today almost every major brand has joined this trend.

As far as creative demands are concerned, niche perfumery is highly appreciated. Unique, exclusive perfumes made from high-quality raw materials that tell a story, from the fragrance to the branding of the perfume itself, created especially for a certain niche of people.

More in Fine Fragrance