Friday, October 19, 2007

Interview with a perfumer: Jean Jacques

It is always a pleasure to come across a young person who is entangled in the web of perfumery. Jean Jacques is such a young frenchman who has been immersing himself in scent to piquant effect, all the more so because he is what the French call nez; a nose ~that is a perfumer.

Jean Jacques however begun his career as a musician (as did another nose, Annick Goutal), much as I myself did; albeit with classical studies, in contrast to his jazz inclinations. I have thus always felt that the world of music is not that far off from the world of perfume: similar language of notes, chords, accords and rhythm balance each other in both realms, where beauty and innovation reigns supreme ~or should, at any rate. Both worlds antagonistic, one acclaimed professional outdoing the other in agilité and power of expression. This common ground makes me somehow feel a kindred spirit in Jean and prompted me to seek out his views.

He was already an accomplished pianist by the age of 16. And then one of those milestone incidents happened, as it so often does in life, when a friend of his mentioned ISIPCA, the Versailles school of perfumery. Jean was competing for a place both in the Conservatory and in ISIPCA, but the latter won his heart in the end. His artistic inclination found fertile soil in the fragrant universe and he likes to play with materials like puzzle pieces that nevertheless leave an indelible print in our memory.
After securing his degree in Biochemistry he entered ISIPCA and practiced at Quest International, alongside revered noses Pierre Bourdon and Maurice Roucel in 1993. From then on, next year found him at Kao Corporation, learning to create formulae and ameliorating his technique, while finally at 1997 he came to Takasago group, one of the great perfume companies today, producing his intriguing and diverse creations: Balmya for Balmain, Absolutely Givenchy, Ted Lapidus Pour Homme,Colors of Love for Guerlain, the Masaki Matsushima line, Oriflame Divine and Amethyst Fatale(collaborating with Francis Kurkdjian on the latter), L'or de Torrente, Silver Shadow Altitude for Davidoff and Lacroix's C'est la Fête; as well as the more utilitarian but lovely fruity, beachy scent of the Gamme Solaire Expertise (sunscreen range) for L'Oreal. Let's not forget that Takasago is a flavour and scent company, producing myriads of aroma-materials for various products.

Asked on the future of fragrance notes for the upcoming seasons, he said:
"Given the number of new perfumes, l'd like to think that maybe ingredients will take more importance, as Dior Homme's success is showing us. The question is money: will clients give us the means to use expensive materials? Also, dont forget brands need to sell: fruity notes have proven addictive and they will certainly continue to be used a lot for our pleasure."
This might come as a disappointment to perfume lovers who have had enough of fruity notes, but he does have a point, I guess.

But, now a little playful game cum interview to shed some light into this dark and fetching Frenchman's tastes!

What is your most cherished fragrant memory?
My mother's nightgown which I used as a sheet to sleep on when I was little.

What's your favourite spice?

Your favourite colour?
The primaries: red, blue, yellow.

What music to prefer to listen to?
Keith Jarett and The Koln Concert.

Your favourite season?
Has to be summer.

Favourite time of the day?
Morning, around 10 o'clock.

Which country do you like best?
I love France.

And what city, if at all?
It's Tokyo. {this came as a surprise!}

Do you have an everyday indulgence?
Yes, as a matter of fact; driving while listening to great music.

Which alcoholic beverage do you prefer?
I drink champagne.

And your favourite dish?
It's fillet mignon.

Do you have an idol, someone you admire a lot?
I idolise Rachmaninoff.

Who wouldn't ask a perfumer what perfume he hasn't created himself he admires a lot...So which is it?
Aromatics Elixir by Clinique.

Do you have a dream you hope it gets realised?
They are too many to even mention, surely.

Ending on that note, I hope his dreams get realised and that we are the lucky recipients of his fragrant ones, incarnated in sprites coming lithely out of crystal bottles.

Next week we continue with the Chypre Series: we tackle feminine and masculine propositions, as well as an important material.

Pic of Notre Dame by Conor McGowan/flickr
Pic of piano by Doug McPherson/blog.


  1. I have to admit that his creations to date haven't been my cup of tea, but any man who loves Keith Jarrett is bound to produce something I'll love eventually. Great interview!

  2. Although they were not my cup of tea either, as you know (the ones I had tried at least, among them, in the past), you have a point, dear M!
    And having Rachmaninoff as an idol can't hurt in the beauty-producing stakes :-)


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