A Dior Perfumer on Traveling (and Sniffing) the World for Work
Notes from a nose who knows.
When it comes to careers in travel, a few jobs immediately come to mind: pilot, safari guide, cruise director. But for those with a more olfactory wanderlust, master perfumer might be the position worthy of aspiration, as season after season, the art of crafting a fragrance requires near constant jet-setting.
“For me, traveling is a way to meet local partners and discover other cultures, culinary traditions, as well as little-known flowers,” explained Dior’s master perfumer, François Demachy. “My adventures across the world allow my laboratory to become a postcard for all my travels. I can be inspired by all that I've seen, heard, and felt, and let my imagination run free. Perfumes are created in mysterious ways, but there is no doubt in my mind that travel is a fundamental ingredient.”
Why travel? It reflects on the importance of terrior—a French term for the soil in which fruits and flora take hold. Take, for example, jasmine, whose allure has been documented as far back as the Song Dynasty (around year 960). The flower once used in Hindu deity worship has now become a prominent note featured in many of today’s most popular perfumes—think Marc Jacob’s Decadence and Tom Ford’s Jasmin Rouge. J’adore Dior—which launched in 1999—was the first major perfume to use Jasmine Sambac, a variety of the flower native to Bhutan and India. (The other most notable variety of jasmine in India is called Jasmine Grandiflorum, which, according to Demachy, is much more ‘delicate.’)
But more than an ingredient’s history, a deep study of a scent requires perfumers like Demachy to experience things like jasmine blossoms in their natural terroir—the soil, the land, the culture.
“We cannot begin to understand if we don’t go to a flower market and if we don’t observe. And it is important, not only just to see; it is an association between various stimuli with smells, images and colors,” says Demachy. “With a specific terroir, we can obtain different types of extracts from the same flower. It allows us to work with ‘tailor-made’ flowers and work on the nuances of each.”
Intrigued? Dior documented the journey for Youtube. Have a watch, here.