NOTES : PIERRE KURZENNE
Our latest edition of Notes features Pierre Kurzenne, the perfumer behind our enigmatic 1020. Influenced by scents from a young age, Pierre decided to pursue his passion by becoming a perfumer. He has a rich olfactive memory and a great sensitivity for scents, traits that make him a master perfumer today. He loves working with natural raw ingredients, particularly sandalwood for its milky, sensual dimension, which he believes works well in perfumes.
Pierre at our launch in October 2016
Could you tell us a little about your journey towards perfumery?
Since a young age, I was very passionate about scents & smells. I was lucky to grow up in the Loire Valley region, a woody area, and we had a big garden where my father planted hundreds of different flowers.
From the beginning I wanted to do something with scents.
After a few years in university I had the chance to meet the right people at the right time!
Let me mention Master Perfumer Guy Robert who gave me the opportunity to work and learn with him as his assistant for 5 years; he was the creator of well known Dioressence, Madame Rochas, Hermès’s Calèche and Equipage.
Ever since then, I have been working as a Perfumer in leading multinational Fragrance companies, still passionate about smell, raw materials and fragrances…
What’s your strongest olfactive memory?
Oh I have plenty strong olfactive memories and I guess it is the same for most of the perfumers as this is our main task, building bridges between what we smell and our memory.
Actually everybody could became a Perfumer, only a question of training and learning, It take time but if you have the passion, time doesn’t count!
More seriously, yes I have one stronger olfactive memory, it is related to one of our raw material ingredients called Cashmeran. When I smelled first that chemical, right away I remember a holiday time in the Esterel in the South of France where I was spending all my holidays until 18, it is on the coast, a little point on the sea shore when around noon you get a mixture of the musky warm rocks, a dry pine tree and the sea… you have to smell it to understand.
Esterel in the South of France. Source.
Perfumery is a scientific art – could you talk to us about instinct versus science when you sit down to create a fragrance?
For art, there is probably a passion for “beauty”, much apprenticeship is needed, because work never ends in the quest for art perfection. For slog, let’s work. For passion, it frequently means being able to see the intimate interest of the work. But for beauty, the issue is huge.
In the kitchen, “good” means « beautiful to eat »; for music, it means beautiful to hear (we don’t care if the pianist is well dressed or not). And one can easily understand that for scents, the issue is to make “beautiful scents” as well, which means scents that we admire.
Art is based on intuition, experience, personal emotion, the desire to communicate…
If a scientist wants to move toward art, he or she has to get away from science into technology, whereas the artist who would like to move toward science has to go through technique.
No relationship between art and science… but rather relationships between the applications of sciences (very different from sciences) and the technical component of art (very different from art, even if it is needed).
When it comes to ingredients, it is often noted that Naturals have a more positive public connotation as compared to Synthetics. Could you break down the importance of these ingredients in perfumery?
True, and I understand the public, if you are looking for authenticity, nothing can beat nature! Is there something better than travel around the world and have wonderful olfactive discovery experiences?
But on the hand, when you are smelling something natural, what do you think you’re smelling? it’s “only” a creation of mother nature, a well done composition of several chemical molecules!
When we are using chemicals in our creation, we are not doing more than the nature – well, some of our chemicals don’t exist as it in the nature but most of them do.
There is no way today to have only 100% natural fragrances on the market, first, simply because the natural raw material market will not be able to supply the consumption and in term of art evolution it will be like reversing to the fragrances 200 years ago! When you smell such a fragrance today, it actually smells “old” !
I mentioned in a past interview that the best Rose Absolute you could find on the market actually doesn’t smell a natural dewy rose flower as you could imagine it in the morning, for that composition you will need maybe a trace of the absolute to bring an incomparable richness and the rest will need the art of the perfumer with an excellent chemicals composition.
Could you advise us on how to choose a fragrance correctly?
I think it is very personal, each person can find his own way and in different conditions.Technically I will refer to our Pyramide description, that means having a particular interest to the different moment of the fragrance evaporation, at first you smell the most volatile components which composed the top notes and really give the hook of the composition, then you enter the heart of the fragrance when all the floral characters are developing, then much later, after more than an hour, you can appreciate the dry down, what you will keep on the skin for the rest of the day…
Which one is your favourite Bombay Perfumery fragrance?
Difficult to give an answer different than the one I created with Manan for BP
Objectively I very much the 1020 I did but I have to say I also like the Chai Musk for its chai reinterpretation.
What are the smells you associate with comfort? travel? love?
Comfort is softness, tenderness, milkyness, I will go to oriental accord with soft sandalwood woodyness, Musk that can give cotton aspect, and vanilla for its neverending mildness.
Travel is discovery, I wish I know the next unknown smell I will discover in my next travel..will it be fruity, exotic, a flower, exotic again, a precious wood, or maybe a special extraction technic which open to new raw material ranges…
Love: oh too difficult ! “un peu, beaucoup, à la folie ..” smells of love are smells of happiness, the smell you keep in memory the first time you met a person you loved …