An unretouched image of Damn Rebel Bitch Nina Mdwaba to accompany her piece ‘My Black is Infinitely Beautiful’ for REEK Perfume's blog platform 'Bitches Unite.'

A Scent of Disruptive Women

A Scent of Disruptive Women

Alex Musgrave – Silver Fox

Germaine Cellier

Germaine Cellier

Germaine Cellier

Sophia Grojsman

Sophia Grojsman

Sophia Grojsman

Lyn Harris

Lyn Harris

Lyn Harris

Mona di Orio

Mona di Orio

Mona di Orio

Mandy Aftel

Mandy Aftel

Mandy Aftel

To mark IWD18, Perfume expert, Alex Musgrave, who blogs as The Silver Fox, writes about the contribution and struggle of talented women in the perfume industry –  those damn rebel bitches. 

for all the nameless lost wise women who used odour across centuries to heal, nurture and bind; I salute you… Foxy.

This skin game, the scenting of us, is a strange and arresting thing; a search for an odiferous counterbalance to our physical weight in the world.  It feels glossy, alluring and romantic, aspirational and transformative. The reality is one of cynical million-dollar marketing campaigns, explicit demographics, ruthlessly tested formulations and perhaps some small consideration to the scented juice itself.

The veneer is tantalising, an intoxicating collision of fantasy, artistry, business and passion. There will always be the discussion about whether perfumery is an art from. Everyone has an opinion on it.  Like Wong Kar Wai vs. the Twilight franchise or Cy Twombly vs. Jack Vettriano, there is snobbery, but both sides are necessary as light needs dark to shine brighter and darkness needs light to form shadow.

There are perfumers who flourish in relative anonymity, working for the big scent companies formulating candles, room fragrances, detergents, car, mall and hotel scents. Then there are others, arguably the artists and rockstar perfumers, who use perfumery to hurl us into memories of love and old classrooms, mother-love, dissent, heartbreak, fucking and betrayal.  For decades most of the auteur or dominant names in perfumery were men – strange considering the predominately female skin the juice would adorn.

The scene now is weighted differently. There are many more female perfumers making a panoply of compositions at all levels of the industry.  However much it may have moved from being a masculine-dominated world, there is still an underlying tremblement of women still having to prove their right to inhale the same rarefied air as the men. The title Master Perfumer is generously and to my mind, unnecessarily bestowed on male perfumers when they are assumed to have achieved a certain status.  It is a title of peers rewarding peers. It is also uncomfortably applied to female perfumers that the industry deems worthy. The feminine version mistress is too tainted by BDSM leering and TV home wrecker portrayals to be used and yet Master Perfumer reeks of patriarchy and Fifty Shades of Uncomfortable.

I have written extensively on both male and female creators, brand directors and perfume designers. Looking back through my archive I realise I have an unconscious bias toward the female nose although I can’t claim this is deliberate. I prefer the female cry and roar in music and my taste in literature has always been one of trusting the female voice. Thank you Charlotte Bronte, Margaret Atwood, Anita Brookner, Elisabeth Smart, Emily Dickinson, Sharon Olds, Helen Dunmore, Susan Cooper, George Eliot, Sarah Waters, Mary Renault, Jane Austen, Candia McWilliam, and Shirley Jackson. I have never felt the need to apologise for my need to search for beauty amid molecular moods. All we can ask of perfumery at the end of the day is that it smells good and that our skin is a primed canvas for the creations of the men and women who choose to follow the strange and some might say sanctified calling of odour.  

I have pondered the role of nurture in perfumery, sensing in certain strains of natural and artisanal work the shadows and whispers of ancient Wicca and witchcraft in the expert manipulation of herbal lore and essential oils.  There exists a desire to illuminate the skin as sun nurtures the leaves. The mixing of medicines, poultices, philtres and poisons is loaded with the sensual symbolism of scent, regarded suspiciously as the domain of outsiders, witches, nuns and misfits. I don’t think it’s entirely fair to claim that one gender is better than the other when it comes to the arrangement of materials and presentation of odour but I feel there is difference; shades of interpretation, vehemence and sensitivity in the catalogued work of female perfumers.

In the early years as with so many things the scarcity of women in perfumery was due to it being viewed as a particularly chemical (i.e. scientific) process and therefore not seemly for a woman. Why would the delicate things want to do it when there were men in the labs making beautiful scents for them to wear and of course sell in the rapidly expanding world of aspirational retail?  Female perfumers? Crazy talk. Yet within the story of perfumery there have always been women, it just depends on how your vision is filtered. From the women breaking bodies gathering millions of rose and jasmine petals, tons of orange blossom required to create neroli, harvesting iris rhizomes, wrapping soaps, bottling, packing or perhaps standing in the bright lights of a marble glittered department store persuading a hapless man that perfume will save his marriage.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, I want to write about some female perfumers that have scent-marked the air. This is a deeply personal selection; I like these perfumers and the work they have produced. Haters are gonna hate. I don’t give a fuck.  My choices resonate and for me gender does matter, female film directors make very different movies from male; ceramicists, tattooists, photographers, architects: all benefit from sleight of feminine hand. Equality is a right and on a sanguineous battlefield, any conversation will be at the edge of a sharpened word.

So…five women: Germaine Cellier, Sophia Grojsman, Lyn Harris, Mona Di Orio and Mandy Aftel; all of them incredible, all of them unique.  

Germaine Cellier

On my right arm is a tattoo of the molecular formula for iso-butyl-quinoline, a synthetic material that is now completely restricted in modern perfumery due to its highly allergenic properties. But at one time it was used in measured doses to create the sensation of textured untreated leather in green chypré compositions- like Bandit in 1944 by Germaine Cellier, created for couturier Robert Piguet with an unseemly overdose of this reckless material.  One of the most beautiful perfumes I have had the honour of reviewing was Le Sillage Blanc made by the heavenly Pissara Umavijani of Parfums Dusita, a perfume I described as ‘green forested pieces of skin’.  Pissara’s composition is a love letter to Bandit, an echo, not a copy; Le Sillage Blanc is bereft of floral notes and bitterly beautiful. Bandit was a talismanic perfume for Pissara as she grew up and it stayed with her as she became a perfumer herself.

There have been many reformulations of Bandit since the original; it is now well nigh impossible to know what it smelled like. You can sample it at the Osmothèque in Paris, the museum of odours that stores near-perfect replicas of old formulas using ingredients that are not banned.  A few obsessive (and lucky) collectors have bottles or traces and even so, the top notes may have long since evaporated. Pissara’s Le Sillage Blanc for me is the most haunting compliment by a contemporary perfumer at the height of her unique powers and I think perhaps the closest we might get to the spirit of the original Bandit.

The difficulty now is cutting through the sleeping beauty briars of myth and gossip that have grown up around the creation story of Bandit and of Cellier herself.  It is fact is that Germaine Cellier (1909-1976) was a rare superstar perfumer in an age almost entirely ruled by men. Cellier’s vision of perfumery was something genuinely schismatic and off-kilter. She was fearless. That we still reference Bandit and Fracas, which she made for Robert Piguet and Vent Vert and Jolie Madame made for Balmain, demonstrates the visceral and often discordant effects her work provoked.

Now those traits, risks and exquisitely articulated histories are viewed with wonder, awe and more than a little envy.  From Frédéric Malle’s Editions to Madonna, Cellier’s caustic ghost still hovers. Dead in 1976, wrecked from a life of ill health, too much whisky and her beloved Gauloises, her legacy is one of clash, character, determined beauty, insolence and a refusal to conform to her peers’ expectations.  Her use of pre-mixed olfactive bases at Roure where she worked led to accusations of laziness. These now legendary (and in many cases irrecoverable) bases were really perfumes in miniature, however in the hand of Cellier, over-tipping the levels of that inky hidebound shudder of iso-butyl-quinoline in Bandit or the icy verdancy of mulchy galbanum in Vent Vert they served as the most extraordinary theatrical backdrops for her perfumed signature.  

She is an icon and arguably her womanhood made her a better, indeed more revolutionary perfumer. Would she have created those extraordinary fragrances if she hadn’t kicked against the system and fought to compose work in her own cigarette, silk and steel way? Sometimes the crucible needs friction to create the right kind of fire. We can’t discuss tuberose without referencing the white buttery glow of Fracas or leathered chyprés with looping back to the knife-bristling couture lash of Bandit; such is the legacy of Cellier.

Sophia Grojsman

Sophia Grojsman will be remembered as the perfumer who stared into the soul of a rose – it looked back and whispered yes. Born in Belarus in 1945, she talked of a childhood of taste, her mother unable to tell if food was fresh, asking the child Sophia to test everything, heightening her awareness of flavour. The family moved to Poland then emigrated to the USA, where Sophia joined IFF (International Flavours & Fragrances) in New York as a junior perfumer.

Working for a fragrance behemoth like IFF means a vast array of projects from fine perfume to candles and scents for detergents and fabric softeners, a huge (and profitable) part of the fragrance industry.  It takes a determined mind to navigate the elaborate politics and nuances of the industry and Sophia is now a Vice President of IFF with some of the most iconic perfumes of all time to her name. In all probability you have worn at least one or two of her compositions.  Calyx by Prescriptives, Lancome’s Trésor, Paris, Parisienne & Yvresse for YSL, White Linen and Spellbound for Lauder, Tentations for Paloma Picasso, Vanderbilt and the original Lalique for Lalique, just to name a few. Calyx was a personal favourite of mine, marrying a deeply weird almost rotten melonic surge with crystalline verdancy and a feminine cologne sensitivity. Clinique now own the remnants of Prescriptives and sadly Calyx now smells like a disturbing imposter.

If you research Sophia her name is entwined with roses, it is the bloom that defines her and has rewarded her with beautiful results.  She is quoted as saying:

Rose is a flower of love; it is the first flower that a man gives to a woman.’

And if you think about this simple exposition you will realise how much power it contains, not just in the justification of olfaction, but in terms of chroma and psychology. It may seem like an eternal cliché but roses are laden with an enormity of symbolism all over the world with a myriad of connotations. Shape and form from tight bud to reckless loose blooming.  Somehow it is a flower that manages to reinforce and transcend stereotype and this is how Sophia Grojsman uses it, combing the overt familiarity with that yearning for romance and billowing profusion of aroma.  

Somewhere in my childhood there was Paris, an explosion of dewy exuberance amid my mother’s normal olfactory routine of Opium, Dioressence and Paloma. It was probably purchased from a duty free shop as we travelled across the Middle East and West Africa. It was radically different from the sultry ambered mysteries of Opium, a perfume my mother adored. Paris appeared in 1983 and had many of the hallmarks of 80’s heavy hitters. It’s big and sensual; the floral notes appeared hugely bright like neon butterflies flitting across the sun.

Sophia is known for overdosing materials in some of her compositions, arguing quite cogently that the fullness of the overdose would rise like cream to the top, thus providing a dramatic luxuriance to the start of the scent. Paris was a love letter to the city from Yves Saint Laurent in the form of a lavish bouquet of pink roses. A simple idea; the brief was a swatch of pink fabric from a YSL collection, but the execution of simplicity is often the hardest thing of all.  In the iconic original ad campaign, the beautiful Lucie de La Falaise, niece of Saint Laurent’s beloved muse Loulou, held her bouquet with a strange ambiguity; implying a gift of love but also implying a woman who had bought them for herself on the way home to her apartment from a flower seller near the metro exit. Her huge 80’s gold earrings and bold scarlet mouth hint at the floral dazzle within the scent.  

The great allure of Paris is the erotic anxiety between the rose and violet notes that spill out of the heart and consume the senses. Orris, jasmine, linden, lily, lily of the valley and ylang all swirl in attendance to the main duo; carnal, glittering rose and dark, emo violet. It smells vast, like a universe of floral forever, yet the control of the notes and structure is masterly. There is an undertone of frivolity as there should with any scent inspired by Paris, but the tenacity reveals something more glamourous, mature and opulent, balanced with smooth musks, cedarwood and a carefully calibrated heliotrope note. Just enough to add a hint of old-school Guérlain echo, but thankfully not enough to dose that rather sickly cherry-pie vibe that sometimes flickers alongside heliotrope.

Some scent watchers say that many of Sophia’s creations have a similar feel, leading to discussions in perfume forums on the Grojsman Accord, believed to be equal parts Galaxolide, Hedione, Iso E Super and Methyl Ionone. Galaxolide is a clean sweet musk with gentle woody tones; Hedione is a gorgeous white-metallic, citrus-imbued isolate of jasmine; Methyl Ionone is an iris-tinted woody material and Iso E Super is a hugely popular booster musk and the main ingredient in the hugely successful cult scent Molecule 01 by Eccentric Molecules, created by German perfumer Geza Schoen. Placed in her formulae, particularly with large doses of rose, this kind of clean, cool musk combo deliriously exalts the floral body of the perfume and amplifies the tenacity on skin.  

Sophia’s importance as a composer of voluminous immersive perfumes cannot be overstated. Her commitment to the world of olfaction and mastery of different styles is exemplary. As a female perfumer she has created a repertoire of complex romance and smart storytelling that continues to influence perfumers today.

Lyn Harris

In 2000 a young English woman called Lyn Harris launched Miller Harris a London-based brand with four perfumes: Fleur Oriental, Citron Citron, Feuilles de Tabac and Coeur De Fleur. It was the culmination of years of training in Paris and at Robertet in Grasse.  It was a brand of memory, romance and the seduction of personal experience. Compared to the clamouring fragrance noise on the high street, there was a sense of elegant quietude to Miller Harris emitted by a clever signature mix of British natural materials like blackcurrant, moss, ivy, gentle woods and smart floral notes mingled with touches of French aromatics like basil, bright citrus notes and figs from the Mediterranean coast.  These hung like voiles over souvenirs of stillness, memories of Scottish childhood, the love of a French man and the smell of salt on a beloved’s beach skin.

One of my favourite writers has always been Elizabeth David who flooded British post-war cuisine with the vibrant colour of Mediterranean food. I read the copies my mother gave me over and over. The pages are falling out and stained from attempts to capture the essence of the books. Her descriptions of wine-soaked daubes, venison, shellfish, artichokes, fresh herbs, olives and oil-drenched aubergines enraptured me. You must remember that in this day of image-obsessed culture where we seem incapable of reading three sentences of instruction without an image; Elizabeth David’s books were published without pictures.  Her gift with words was enough.

I mention David because Lyn’s perfumes with their deeply emotive riffing and referencing on location and olfactive textures remind me of David’s writing. Both women have the ability to conjure up places, smells and sensation by using a carefully chosen palette or recipe of words. I can only imagine how fascinating an encounter between them would have been in real life.

Lyn’s catalogue was always tight and beautifully controlled and my pick is L’Air De Rien, the beguiling and affecting perfume she created for Jane Birkin in 2006.  It is one of a series of signature scents that have signposted my life. There are times when I crave it like a drug. It is a smudged and contemplative take on a musky vanilla scattered with dust motes, dissolving antique books, smuts of snuffed out candles and a moreish scent of body heat, an odour that stills us in silences where heartbeats sound like bombs.

L’Air De Rien translates as much as possible as nonchalantly, but even its literal translation, a sense of nothing, suggests the ambiguity at the heart of this Birkin/Harris collaboration. Its very unexpectedness makes it sublime. Jane Birkin is the keeper of the Gainsbourg flame and the most celebrated interpreter of his songs. In the UK we have never acknowledged the talent of Serge Gainsbourg. His relationship with the young and English Jane Birkin created a scandal in the 60s.  But it was a complex and fascinating love story. Controversy, talent, cinema, song, beautiful women, cigarettes, self-doubt, celebrity, love, sex and death. Such is the magnetism of the Gainsbourg legend.

For the French, Birkin is La Veuve Gainsbourg. Their daughter Charlotte is now an icon in her own right, an angular haunted beauty who combines Serge and Jane in startling shards. She is an acclaimed singer/songwriter with a voice that channels her father and mother and yet is distinctly her own mournful disco expression.  As an actress she has forged an unapologetically bleak and raw pathway as a muse for Lars Von Trier in Antichrist, Melancholia and the disturbing Nymphomaniac. All of this is wrapped around the Birkin/Gainsbourg narrative.  The images of Serge and Jane from the 60s are a mix of naïve sex kitten and louche cigaretty old lounge lizard with English country girl abroad and a shy musician deeply in love with his muse.  Yet with L’Air de Rien, Lyn chose to focus on the silence, the moments away from all of the paparazzi bulbs and headlines.

Jane didn’t wear scent and wanted something that would capture the scent of old books and her brother. Smelling it each time I am always amazed at how beautiful it is, how odd the pieces are as they coalesce. The after-years of memory, the vocal echoes, a whiff of cold wax and dust in the empty hallways of the mind. It feels incredibly feminine to me, deft and tender with a secretive ache somewhere in that slide down to vanillic dirt. Personally I think it is something only a woman could have composed; Lyn Harris is a genius with close up, personal composition. She moved on from Miller Harris in 2014 to found Perfumer H in Marylebone where she combines bare, fine raw materials with astutely observed memory rotating around concepts such as Moss, Snowdrop, Charcoal and Rain. It is as if the mood has become the essence.

Mona di Orio

The death in December 2011 of Mona Di Orio at the age of 42 from complications following surgery sent shockwaves of grief through the tightly knit and obsessive fragrance community.  For someone who has not worn her perfumes and experienced the profound beauty of composition and insight that Mona painted into her work, it is perhaps hard to understand the enormity of her light being extinguished so suddenly. For her devoted and loving partner Jeroen Oude Sogtoen, left surrounded by her scented legacy, he had the painful challenge of moving forward through the sticky sands of grief whilst trying to navigate a different route for the House that would both honour Mona’s memory and allow new perfumers to respectfully follow in her footsteps.

Each year on the anniversary of her death, those of who us who connected to her so urgently and vividly through her work join Jeroen in a moving tribute on social media to remember a woman who was one of a kind; a perfumer who developed a chiaroscurist language of her own, dazzling and erudite in its analysis of classic materials.

Mona was determined to be what she became, a psychological artist of olfaction, and a painter of the internal machinations of materials. From the spellbinding odours revealed to her in a street as a teenager as she impatiently opened her first bottle of L’Heure Bleue by Guerlain, through the rigourous and scholastic sixteen years apprenticeship with Master Perfumer Edmond Roudnitska in Cabris.  She was his last pupil and in many ways his finest work; he instilled in her a unique desire to see the living world, approaching plants holistically, imagining a soul and tasking her to envisage how that might smell. But she was far from being just a student, though she learned extraordinary things with Roudnitska and you can sense the master’s hand guiding some of her work. How could Mona continue without Roudnitska’s voice echoing quietly through weather and shadows?  But ultimately she was her own creation; a woman who understood that perfumery was alchemy to disrupt and alter our lives.

The early compositions including Carnation, Lux, Nuit Noire, Jabu and the glittering Chamarré were eventually discontinued as Mona pursued an ambitious dream of perfect things. Les Nombres D’Or is a sensational collection, one of the most beautiful and eloquent produced by any contemporary perfume house. The compositions, rich and searching explorations of key materials such as Vanille, Musc, Vetyver and Cuir are near perfect and utterly unorthodox portraits of difference and classicism. These were inspired by the mathematical concept of the Golden Ratio and demonstrated the purity and acumen of Mona’s accumulated methodology.

After her death, Jeroen took time to grieve. To go forward surrounded by the personal reminders of olfactive and personal love was a tough call and I’m not sure some of the perfume community really understood how raw his experience was. In the end he unveiled a sensual updated version of the House, central to which was Mona’s trademark perfumed chiaroscuro, manipulating her materials akin to the light and shadowed nuances of Vermeer.  The House was in her name and she was perfumer and muse. Watching, we waited to see how Jeroen would manage and after a fumed and mournful start with Melanie Leroux’s Myrrh Casati, inspired by the sensational smoke and mirrors eccentricity of Luisa, Marchesa Casati Stampa di Soncino, Jeroen found a oddly perfect echo of Mona’s sunlight and Cabris languor in the boreal Nordic reflections of Swedish perfumer Fredrik Dalman. His Dōjima last year, a perfume infused with the delicate mysteries of rice as currency, sacred drink, face powder and dust was utterly sublime.

The most wonderful part of the Maison evolution was the wise return of Lux, a scent that in many ways encapsulates the essence of Mona di Orio.  It took me a while (i.e. years…) to get it, the reflecting of Cabris zenith light with resins, amber and a smoky, powdered vanilla that dissolves like dawn. In my essay on Fredrik’s Bohea Bohème I described Lux as ‘a bare white bulb swinging in a stark, empty room’. I’d revise that now by adding that it would reveal a vase of sunflowers and a bowl of orpiment-shaded lemons. Lux was a personal project for Mona and it feels private, almost autobiographical in the way it combines her emotional connection to the terrain of her apprenticeship but also demonstrating the necessary awareness that all light needs shadow to create rapture.  

As a perfumer she brought immeasurable beauty to perfumery, a haunting fusion of Roudnitska’s rigourous ideals and her own innate sense of how our skin should project the light of odour. Mona may no longer be with us and this in itself has sadly charged her work with a certain mythology, but she survives in the molecules and compositions she left behind and in the gracious grief of Jeroen Oude Sogtoen who keeps her shadowed flame gently alive.

Mandy Aftel

California-based Mandy Aftel is one of the most influential and sage perfumers working today. Does the fact she is a woman matter when it comes to her beautiful and profoundly imagined output? I think it does.

I wanted to capture the feeling of how the past is alive in the present but transferred into beautiful, shadowed feeling of layered richness and sensuality.’

These words are a mantra, a rhyme and rhythm of creation for Mandy.  She has written two vital, thrumming books on scent, odour and most importantly a textured history of materials and practices that allow her to place herself within a rich tapestry of perfumed life.

Fragrant: The Secret Life of Scent’ (2014) and ‘Essence & Alchemy (2001) are important reads about the soul of perfumery, not just creation and the simple smell of things but the compelling human why and how our lives have been addictively entwined with a multifarious cacophony of odour and sensation for millennia. Her gathering of perfume books, pamphlets and documents to research her own publications provoked a need to create.  Her original work as a weaver, collecting natural ingredients to dye her own threads allied with her training as a therapist, has enabled her to enrich her place in the world by understanding the fugitive layers of the past. We should be grateful for this, her work, composed from materials sourced exclusively herself are unlike anything else. For me she is sacred and wise, an incarnation of healer, witch, midwife, priestess, matriarch and parfumeuse.  Her work thrills me; it has a rare ability to connect to an emotive part of self that still surprises me with each delicious revisiting of her perfumes.

I reviewed Palimpsest for my blog, an astonishing scent built around Firetree essence from Australia, chthonic and resinous, that I can smell on my skin without even wearing it.  It is such an important perfume for me, preoccupied as I am with ink on skin, reworking tattoos, re-inking new designs and leaving visible traces of the old beneath. Many of us live perfumed lives like this, writing stages of our existence in scented molecules on flesh. One of the other perfumes I wore as I was working on my Palimpsest piece was Vanilla Smoke and recently, I have been wearing this a lot as heavy snow fell across the city where I live.

Vanilla Smoke received amazing reviews when it launched. So many purported vanilla scents come and go it is hard to keep track or even care when the word vanilla pops up. Even as a diehard vanilla lover, I sometimes succumb to fatigue. I noted the launch and the word smoke and thought I must try it. There are only a few perfumers who understand the low feral anima of vanilla. Vanille, Mona Di Orio’s take on it was a wooden ship awash with booze and vanilla pods, the woods soaking up the juices. It is an incredible scent; added into the mix is the barely perceptible spoor of a wild animal, a snarling cat roaming the sticky, swirling decks.

Vanilla Smoke proves that Mandy Aftel is one of the perfume world’s great vanilla manipulators; you know by the tactile inhalation of the Madagascan vanilla that she doesn’t settle for any old vanilla absolute. Why would you? Like a colour tone or lux of light, it is about the search for personal interpretations of materials. The vanilla absolute in Vanilla Smoke is rich and chewy, with an oily wood-panelled back-taste to it, its beauty dramatically enhanced by a blueish Lapsang Souchong note, the tea smoked over pine needles. This has imparted a faint yet discernable terpenic nuance to the mix, counterpointed by saffron and a lovely soft touch of yellow mandarin at the top of the scent. The sensual joy of the perfume is to be found in the glorious drawn-out fade of vanilla on your skin.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day it is vital to note how far we have come in terms of women working as perfumers within what was once regarded as a man’s game. Despite this I can’t help feeling that something is still off, an underlying prejudice of masculine science vs. the emotional impact of feminine spirit. Though this should be celebrated; all of the perfumes I have described are technically brilliant, however they are illuminated and in some cases fireworked by the female hand and the emotional commitment that sometimes seems lacking in men working at the same level. There are men like Bertrand Duchaufour, Julien Rasquinet, Rodrigo Flores-Roux, Hiram Green, Rodney Hughes, Fredrik Dalman, Cristiano Canali, Bruno Fazzolari, Hans Hendley and Quentin Bisch who relinquish affecting aspects of themselves into their work allowing us to connect perhaps tenderly.

This is a personal view, formed by writing for many years on many different styles of perfumer and maker. I have gravitated subconsciously toward female perfumers as a buyer, writer and wearer; could I distinguish masculine and feminine work in a blind test? Probably not, but that is not my point – my reasoning is to celebrate some of the extraordinary women who have left a potent olfactory sigil of individualism in the past, present and future of scent. Germaine, Sophia, Lyn, Mona and Mandy; thank you. And thank you as well to my female roll call of skin…

Alexandra Balhoutis • Alexandra Carlin • Alexandra Kosinski • Alexandra Monet • Aliénor Massenet • Amber Jobin • Amélie Bourgeois • Anais Biguine • Angela Ciampagna • Anne Flipo • Anne-Sophie Chapuis • Annick Ménardo • Annie Buzantian • Anya McCoy • Calice Becker • Caroline Sabas • Cécile Ellena • Cécile Zarokian • Charna Ethier • Christi Meshell • Christine Nagel • Corinne Cachen • Dana El Masri • Daniela Roche Andrier • Dannielle Sergent • Daphné Buguey • Dawn Spencer Hurwitz • Delphine Jelk • Delphine Thierry • Domitille Michalon-Bertier  • Dora Baghriche Arnaud • Dortothée Piot • Ellen Covey • Emilie Copperman • Evelyne Boulanger • Florence Idier • Francoise Caron • Hildi Solani • Honorine Blanc • Ineke Ruhland • Jeanne-Marie Faugier • Jeannine Mongin • Jennifer Botto • JoAnne Basset • Josephine Catapano • Karine Dubreuil-Sereni • Karine Vinchon Spehner • Laura Tonatto • Laurie Erickson • Liz Moores • Maria Candida Gentile • Maria McElroy • Marie Duchene • Marie Salamagne • Marie-Aude Couture-Bluche • Martine Pallix • Mathilde Bijaoui • Mathilde Laurent • Mylène Arlan  • Nathalie Cetto • Nathalie Feisthauer • Nathalie Koobus • Nathalie Lorson • Patricia Choux • Patricia de Nicolaï • Pissara Umavijani • Randa Hammami • Ruth Mastenbroek • Sandrine Videault • Sandrine Videault • Sarah McCartney • Shelley Waddington • Shyamala Maisondieu • Sidonie Lancesseur • Sonia Constant • Stephanie Bakouche • Tammy Frazer • Vanina Murraciole  • Vero Kern • Veronique Nyberg • Victoire Gobin-Daudé • Victoria Minya • Violaine Collas • Yosh Han

Bandit (Piguet 1944)
Paris (YSL 1983)
L’Air de Rien (Miller Harris 2006)
Lux (Maison Mona di Orio 2006)
Vanilla Smoke (Aftelier 2015)

Alex’s blog, a scent of elegance is here: http://www.ascentofelegance.com/