Fragrance Notes: Making Scents of the World
It's that time of year again for planning your summer escape, and whether it's to be trekking in Bhutan or visiting your grandmother, chances are your plans will involve an airplane. While I personally don't find airports to be especially inspiring, that's evidently not the case for Parisian perfumer Gérald Ghislain, who takes his nurturing where he finds it namely in the departure lounge.
Ghislain is best known for Histoires de Parfums, an intriguing, and expensive, collection of fragrances inspired by great icons of style. His perfume 1876, for instance, is named for the year Mata Hari was born. For his new collection, The Scent of Departure, Ghislain pays tribute to the world's busiest airports, and at a fraction of the cost: for a bottle from the Departures series versus 5 (and up) for one of the Histoires.
When I talked to the globetrotting perfumer earlier this week at the The Scent of Departure launch at Henri Bendel, he told me the creative process was sparked by the sight of a luggage sticker; later, at a hotel bar after a few gin and tonics, he had the whole thing mapped out. "I was always trying to think of what to give as gifts," he says, "I thought, Why not try to capture a city in a bottle?"
All of the scents are named for airport codes and cleverly packaged in bottles that look like luggage stickers. But don't mistake them for cheap souvenirs. Ghislain's sophisticated scents are not meant to be a direct link to the cities themselves, but rather "an idea, not so literal," he says. My favorites from the 19-scent collection are AUH, for Abu Dhabi, which mixes amber and vanilla, evoking the complexity of a spice market; and VIE, for Vienna, which recalls a delicious pastry, with a hint of mint.
In general, Ghislain says scents representing European cities "are more urban" in character, the Asian cities "are transparent, but also musky", and for the U.S., "anything goes!" And one of the perfumes, KEF, for Keflavik, Iceland, barely has any connection to its namesake at all, he admits: "It was only just a layover," he says with a laugh.
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