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An odour of much more than sanctity

Press launch for 'The Diary of a Nose' by Hermes perfumier Jean-Claude Ellena, interviewed by Josephine Fairley.Jean-Claude Ellena is a famous ‘nose’ for Hermes, and in this book, he keeps a diary of a typical year in his professional life

The effect of the book on this reader is that  I immediately wanted to book a flight to Monsieur Ellena’s magical workshop. He is, by this book, a reflective, modest, philosophical and creative person, weaving in interesting debates about fashion, trends, capitalism, botany, chemistry and much much more.

I LEARNED so much from this beautifully written, slight but profound book. For example, though I work with some of the original ingredients of perfumes – essential oils and absolutes (before aromatic molecules began to be synthesised and invented in the lab) I did not realise quite how precisely chemistry changes, month by month, when expressing the oil of bergamot – Ellena effortlessly scatters fascinating snippets, almost like little meditations upon all sorts of topics, integral or tangential to perfume. So he is as fascinating about what might act as a creative catalyst to the creation of a perfume – the look and sound of an Arabian garden, rather than specific plants of the region and trying to recreate their odour notes – as he is about rough drafting chemical notes as a jotting or initial sketch for a perfume.

Morrocan architecture

There is something curiously akin to Zen about his journey, which he describes at times in terms of emptiness, the spaces between odour notes and accords. He seems to be journeying towards a simplicity and a precision. It is all very far from loud marketing or team creation, his immersions and meditations with aroma. There is something quite wonderfully LISTENING in his developing of a perfume. Yes. I think he is making a piece of art.

Having read this book, initially offered as an ARC by Amazon Vine I immediately bought Ellena’s The Alchemy of Scent

Diary of A Nose Amazon UK
Diary of A Nose Amazon USA