scent . music . culture

  • 23rd August
  • 23

Spotlight: Francis Kurkdjian (courtesy of Monsieur Gaultier)

The Montreal Musuem of Fine Arts is a place I frequent often. I saw a wonderful Exhibition on Cuba a few years ago, and the interactive Yves Saint Laurent exhibition a couple of months later, just to name a few.

Currently, there is a Jean-Paul Gaultier exhibition on display. I decided to check it out a few weeks ago. It was thought-provoking, interesting, wacky and at times, random. Just like JPG!


One thing I didn’t see much of was his fragrances. It makes sense that there would be an emphasis on his fashion and the inspiration behind it all. Maybe it’s just me, but I wish the actual exhibition was scented. Just to bring about another perspective and to compliment all his great work. All I kept thinking, was “whoa! I wish I could smell Le Male right now, I mean the picture of the ad is right here!”

Either way, I’m here to tell you about the man behind many of JPG’s fragrances. 

Francis Kurkdjian is a powerhouse. A man who describes his style as having no style, meaning he is versatile, unable to stay within the box (lucky for us!) and always pushing boundaries. 

His career as a perfumer has been an inspiration to me. He is now a member of an elite group of perfumers who have worked hard to get to where they are today. Working for Quest, after finishing his studies at ISIPCA, he has impressed with his ability to think quick, giving us proof of his raw talent and his determination. 

He is the mastermind responsible for Le Male which was an instant success and continues to be a popular scent among men now. It has an undeniable staying power and has been synonymous with the JPG brand for years. Can’t hurt that it smells delicious too (bergamot, lavender, orange blossom, vanilla, cinnamon and sandalwood- I’m here to set the record straight: yes, women love it.) 


JPG had asked Kurkdjian to create a masculine scent that didn’t correspond with what was out at the time; strong orientals for example, heady, heavy and opulent (think Opium pour Homme.) He created an a-typical scent that pushed boundaries and varied from the norm, all at the age of twenty-five!

He has gone on to make Fragile, Fleur du Male, Gaultier2 (I love this one, made to be unisex), Ma Dame and Monsieur Eau du Matin.

Let’s not forget Classique and Classique X (I’ve been craving this one all summer) both floral feminines, both created by the chameleon Jacques Cavallier.


He created Narciso Rodriguez for Him, a few for Kenzo and Juliette Has a Gun (Lady Vengeance anyone?) as well as the divine Acqua di Parma Iris Nobile alongside the great Francoise Caron (she is probably most well-known for creating the amazing, too good for words Ombre Rose for Jean-Charles Brosseau, among many other incredibly crafted creations.)

Most importantly, he has come out with his own bespoke line Maison Francis Kurkdjian. This is his crowning achievement. Both Lumiere Noire pour Homme and pour Femme are so well done, it’s hard not to see what all the fuss is about. If you’re a fan of the Mediterranean and unisex scents, then Absolue pour le Matin is for you and if you’re willing to go darker, then Absolute pour le Soir is just breathtaking. 

If you get a chance to smell any of these, let me know! It’s such a treat, and I hope to one day meet him in my perfumed journey. It is always so inspiring to see someone like him out there, doing his thing, and bringing so much light into our scented experiences. So well done Mr. Kurkdjian, we eagerly wait for more of your scentscapes! 

  • 13th July
  • 13

Spotlight: Sissel Tolaas

I was breathing in the air and then I started thinking: Air cannot just be something abstract. It is out there so it must contain molecules and information. So what happens if I start to analyze the invisible?

— Sissel Tolaas, Mono.Kultur #23

She calls herself a ‘professional in-betweener’, defying all supposed logic of what smells good and what doesn’t. She turns heads and captures noses and makes you think outside the box. She has a background in chemistry and languages, with a healthy dose of art. All fields that have really helped her get to where she is today.

At the Pitti Fragranze in 2010, the Norwegian Tolaas introduced us to the concept of taking the world in from the perspective of the nose. In a society dominated by visuals, we forget to experience things in any other way. She first started focusing on areas where there wasn’t much to see but there was a lot to smell (back alleys, pot holes, sand, sewers among others)

Tolaas is a smell collector, around 6,730 in her library so far, and her inspiration? Reality. Nothing more. As she puts it; “I expose and reproduce reality.” I associate myself with her philosophy; it is important to be curious, that need to know what something smells like. She uses all kinds of tools to analyze scent, including a scent communication device to test scents outdoors.

She has created cities in a bottle (Berlin for example), these are not re-imaginings. She takes the scent of the pavement, something seemingly unattractive, and finds the beauty in its scent.  Garbage, all types of pollution, paint, people, whatever it takes to capture the essence of a place. Her ability to analyze her surroundings is incredible.

And what did Sissel Tolaas teach me? I learned that abstract smell molecules need to be learned, that we only use 20% of our smell memory. That it’s important to express yourself through the sense of smell (because we smell before we see) and that most of us have incredible smell biases, therefore it is imperative to understand that tolerance starts with the nose.

Each odor artist or perfumer at the exhibition had their own installation. Sissel Tolaas had a very interesting one, this is because of two things. 1. she wasn’t presenting any type of perfume per se, and 2. it was interactive (there was strange music playing the background and you could come up and touch the presentation) There was a white wall with numbered columns, each with a different smell.

Using headspace technology, every scent emanated off was that of a different man’s body odour. It was pungent to say the least, especially all together, up close. THAT’S what she’s talking about! See? I had made a judgement right off the bat! My nose could not possibly tolerate the stench, only because I wasn’t used to it, I was being prejudiced and didn’t even mean to.  If you’d like to read more on this project, here it is! It’s called The FEAR of Smell — the Smell of FEAR at MIT’s List Visual Arts Center, introduced in 2006.  


What is wonderful about Sissel is that she is trying to bring awareness to the nose and sense of smell more specifically. She has created an Academy of Smell of sorts for children (she travels all over the world), to teach them to appreciate all types of smells from when they are young. In order to understand the world around them better. We have to let go of social biases! We have to learn accept everything as it is, and I think that pertains to much more than just scent, it’s everything, really.

These are the type of people we need more of in our industry, people who want to bring awareness to the craft, the function and the importance of the sense of smell has in our world. Watching her speak was hella inspiring. I am very grateful for her and many others and hope to be one of those people one day.

  • 5th May
  • 05

Spotlight: Konstantin Mihov

Here is a man who seems to find inspiration in everything. Whether it be fiction, photographs, people in general and the stories of their lives.

He is a photographer and a talented one at that. An intellectual, who’s love of literature has expanded into a love for perfume. He is inspired by colour and nature, two things you can definitely find in whatever he creates.


His perfume creations are a play on words, inspired by a specific novel. It is another way of bringing a story to life. Through scent, he tries to embody the characters and the setting they are in.

He chose the word ‘imperfiction’ for his line to showcase the aspect of illusion in novels, not directly representing reality, which is what perfumes are too. Inspired by reality yet stretched out to fit another mold, becoming a uniquely new idea.

It’s always interesting to see how someone’s mind works, and it’s even more reassuring when someone makes something that makes sense to you. Every creation he has had, I wish I had made.

Alice in Wonderland is a fairytale scent. It is ethereal, mysterious and playful. It has notes of carrot seed oil, mint oil and bergamot. White florals including Jasmine and lily of the valley. Some artemisia, or wormwood as some might call it (such a clever choice of material), with a base of cedarwood and vanilla. Falling into another world, indeed.                                                                                        

O Alquimista, inspired by Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist is my favourite. I’ve always wanted to create something inspired by this book because it really did change my life. I read it at exactly the right time, when I needed it most, and nothing has been the same since.

Mihov uses amber, rose absolute, dark plum, tobacco absolute with a hint of Atlas cedarwood (from Morocco.) This just makes sense, it’s exactly the way I had pictured it to be.

He lets himself become impartial to his himself somehow. Even though he acknowledges that nothing is perfect, including his point of view, he creates something highly imaginative, and here is the result. Something original and classic at the same time, a joining of different worlds, something that is his own.

I find that the more inspired you are, the easier it is to meld everything together, that way, your creation has more layers to it. I had read somewhere that the value or worth of a fragrance depended on its effect on the nose. I had also read that Mihov’s ultimate fear was the loss of passion, that fear of losing your ability to see and therefore create. The more love and passion you put into your work, the more people can feel it. The whole point of perfume is to bring about an emotion that you had seemingly forgotten about. To alter reality, by enhancing it and therefore making the most of it.

Just do what you love. It’s simple, many others say it, and yes, it’s not easy to find. But once you find what you’ve been searching for, it is worth it in the end. So don’t be afraid to express yourself in whatever way you feel is right, you’ll never know until you do it.

Don’t forget Yoda’s ‘Do or do not…there is no try’ (I know, I’m a day late, happy belated star wars day everybody!)

You can purchase Konstantin Mihov’s perfumes off his website via email request. You can also find samples of both perfumes on The Perfumed Court. It is harder to find Eleven Minutes (another Coehlo inspired creation) especially on this side of the Atlantic. Please read this excellent interview with Mihov on Perfume Shrine.

Photos courtesy of Ca Fleure Bon and The Perfume Shrine.

  • 22nd April
  • 22

Spotlight: Jean-Claude Ellena

There have been countless reviews of Jean-Claude Ellena’s life and work. So this will not be another one of those! Just an encounter with one of the greats.

I had the great honour of meeting Monsieur Ellena while I was studying in Grasse. I can safely say it was probably one of, if not, the most important and gratifying moments of my life. Even though the encounter was brief, and we had a billion questions between the twelve of us, he made a lasting impression.

His advice was simple, concise and intelligent; all the attributes you can find in his creations. We visited his cabin/personal lab in Cabris, about twenty minutes away from Grasse.                                                                       He rounded us up around a table with lazy susan style ‘levels’ where he had all his ingredients in pure form. We went straight into smelling combinations of things we never thought would go together. The magic that comes with creating perfume is that aspect of telling a story, creating that illusion that will stay with you. He told us to focus on the juxtaposition of the materials as opposed to the percentage and/or proportion in a blend.

He told us to understand our materials, know how to describe them perfectly, by using tactile words, figuring out their ‘shape’, their texture, their overall feel. Learn what they give to you and what you can give to them.

Imagination is the most important, you can create the story afterwards, the more free you are with yourself and the use of your materials, the more you will get out of them, and the better the story! He mentioned that he had made Un Jardin en Méditerranée in one week, because he had an idea and went with it. Here he put imagination, innovation and discipline all in one, and did a fantastic job! (shocking? Not so much!)

He goes to the limit of where he can go with his creations. Many of us had a problem ‘finishing’ a perfume, because we were never satisfied with what we made, even if everyone else thought it was great. I think it’s because we just want to keep doing our best. So my friend Ashley asked him ‘how do you know when a perfume is finished?’ He told us that some perfumes are finished, but not entirely, but the way to work with that is to create a connection with each creation. ‘One begins where one ends’ he said, if there were questions left unanswered from the previous perfume, you answer them in the next. It never ends really, you keep going and going, because you never run out of things to ‘say’. His goal is to be light, and to be present, that’s the most important.

I asked him about L’Eau d’Hiver (which I LOVED, almost to the point of obsession) because he created something warm within something cold, which I thought was genius. I wanted to know how he did that, but a true magician never reveals his secrets, but what he did tell me is that he loves to play. A man after my own heart! That is how it feels, when making a perfume, there is such a light playfulness that I thoroughly enjoy, and when he said that I knew I was on the right track. He put emphasis on playing with paradoxes, and to avoid redundancy at all costs.                                                                 Finally, he discussed the importance of sharing. Sharing your love for the craft, what you know, what you want to know. We need to continue to talk and write about perfume, we need to continue to learn.

He was sincere and honest, telling us if we aren’t satisfied with something we’ve made, all we need to do is start over. Keep everything you’ve created, you never know what you will need it for next, could be a good starting point to work another formula; a good reference. Or it could be your timeline, you can look back on it and see where you were all those years ago.

  • 8th April
  • 08

Spotlight: Yosh Han

Let me tell you something about Yosh, she is a perfumer from California and she is one of a kind. She’s gentle, welcoming, and always polite. She’s also remarkably talented. Her creations are clean, honest and very fulfilling.


What’s great about Yosh and what she does, is that she makes every perfume personal. By making custom-made compositions she reads a person’s aura and feels one’s vibrations. She can also find something in her collection that fits the person seeking the experience. She feels her creations, and she feels the person who wants to wear it.

Her philosophy is so layered; she believes in simplicity (she mentioned how she prefers to have a smaller collection instead of giving us too many things to choose from.) She believes in the power of scent, and it’s ability to evoke memories and finally, finding a way to understanding the self through the psychological, physical and emotional process that scent entails. Each perfume has a numerical value matched by the fragrance family it fits in to.

I instantly felt better when I sat down with her in Florence, she was open and gracious and left me with a lasting impression. Her perfumes capture mood and have the ability to alter how you are feeling for the better.They take you somewhere else, somehow helping you understand your surroundings, and they enlighten you.

A perfumer who is invested in making her clients feel special, and makes excellent perfumes, in the smartest and most nurturing way. What more could you ask for?

My favourites include White Flowers 1.41 (I knew it was meant for me instantly, she did too.) U4EAHH! 2.43 (this is fun and breezy, aquatic too) and Omniscent 0.96 (heavy, opulent, dark and beautifully rich.) These are all part of the Evanescent Collection. Here she combines perfumery with aromachology, as well as Chakra and numerology.

Ooh ooh! One more; Trompeur. I love this. It feels like a dance. It has a primal character that I cannot explain, all I know is that it is strong (in its tenacity and its message). It has such wonderful layers that when I smell it, I react instantly. I feel like I need to move. There is a great fig note that seems to move around the sandalwood. The sweetness of the vanilla gives it a wonderful warmth, like a bonfire almost. There is a delicious bitterness to it that stays in place, almost giving all of these ingredients a base to move around on. On my skin, I smell a damp earthiness that I really enjoy because it reminds me of the skin of almost-aged figs.


Oh and p.s..She’s made a (No.1) for the Untitled Collection on Luckyscent!

Please read more about her here:

  • 18th March
  • 18

Spotlight: Lorenzo Villoresi

I’d like to pay more attention to perfumers just as much as the fragrances they create.  Artists who have dedicated themselves entirely to the craft of perfumery. Some people (the same people who claim that fragrances don’t deserve to be copyrighted, read this) say that it doesn’t take a lot of skill to make perfumes. If you really know what goes on in terms of the inspiration and the process, then you would think differently.

So. As I’d mentioned before, I went to Florence in September of last year. It was my first time in Italy, and it was wonderful. The Pitti Fragranze exhibition was filled with talented niche perfumers, wacky perfumes and a very awakening atmosphere (I just found out I’m in the intro clip on the site, happy dance!)

Anyway, one of the very well known Italian perfume brands had a booth; Lorenzo Villoresi. The perfumer behind this namesake brand is highly respected in Italy and the niche perfume industry. A winner of the François Coty prize in 2006. I wasn’t actually aware of him until my fellow perfumery student and friend; a gorgeous, saucy Italian, told me about him.

So please check him out, I was attached to him instantly because his journey partially started in the Middle East, so it is easy for me to relate. He placed great emphasis on custom made fragrances, which for one, shows he’s a great listener. Secondly, that he’s talented enough to bring about other people’s ideas and satisfying their needs, while remaining true to his own creativity. He has such an interesting story, and it’s always great to see someone inspired by their home. One can definitely say that Villorezi’s creations are a part of Florence, and that Florence will always be his muse.

My favourites are Sandalo (yumyumyum) Incensi, and from the fantasy collection Iperborea (which came out recently, in 2010). He’s better known for Teint de Neige. And, and! He’s got a big collection based on olive oil!!  

                               It’s hard to find a lot of his creations on this side of the Atlantic though. The Perfume Shoppe in Vancouver carries some and LafcoNY in New York. Also, you can get samples from The Perfumed Court.