Meet Master Perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena. He just may the world’s finest living perfumer. Ellena demonstrates a craftsmanship and creativity unrivalled in perfumery today.
He composes his perfumes as he would writing a song. On sheets of white paper facing the Mediterranean. For him, fragrances have form…vertical..round.
Jean-Claude Ellena, Master Perfumer
- Born in Grasse, France, the birthplace of French perfume – the son of a perfumer himself.
- Studied at the Givaudan School of Perfumery in Switzerland, the most prestigious fine scent curriculum in the world.
- Created numerous perfume classics including: First by Van Cleef & Arpels, Eau Parfumee from Bvlgari and Eau de Champagne from Sisley. Appointed exclusive perfumer for Hermes where he worked for many years.
- His style is minimalist and simple. He’s known for ruthlessly eliminating the surplus and redundant. His own style fully emerged in the 1990s after 20 years of concentrated work
I create all my fragrances in a small village called Cabris which is near Grasse. It is a beautiful place, I live in a designer house. There is a tranquility and peace there with no one overlooking me. I am wholly immersed in the world of perfume, which is essential to my life. From my office, I see the Mediterranean. Outside, it is rocky, with tall Aleppo pines. The design of the house is very modern, a little Steve Wright.
I arrive at 8:30 in the morning. I feel the compositions of the day and I start writing with just a sheet of paper and a pencil. That is all I have I my office. When creating perfumes, one must have as little as possible around you because the slightest variation will cause you to feel differently. I have a big room that is my office and the laboratory is at the end, as far as possible from me, so I am protected from the scents.
I’m very disciplined. I can write 10 to 15 times per day. I write the formula, I give it to my assistant, who carries out the mixing and brings it to me half an hour later depending on complexity. Then I feel and start again. If I am working quickly, it means a hundred trials. On slower days, it can mean 300 versions.
Perfume compositions are all in my head. This is the same intellectual process as writing a text. You will read and tell yourself, no, it’s not exactly what I mean. And you rework your sentences. It ends when you think you have said everything.
I am a watercolorist and I enjoy doing watercolors of Irish landscapes.
I live with scents. These are building materials. I know them well. I know their character, their looks, their apprehension and possible combinations. That’s how I handle the smell. For me, the sandalwood, the wood is voluptuous, caressing, soft. I see them physically, I touch them. Then you need to stage them, clothe them, there is a relationship that is both emotional, loyal and disloyal.
The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky best describes some of my scents.
I often choose Atlas cedar notes with its smell of churned, wet clay but also of human skin, of bodies after lovemaking. I like putting something human into a perfume.
When I compose I think neither man nor woman. I write for the pleasure of the smell. We need the smell to trigger an emotion, a feeling that is personal.
If I had to pick a muse for this scent it would be jazz pianist Bill Evans. I am a fan. And his way of composing is still in the tight side.
Bvlgari Eau Parfumeé Au Thé Vert: Jean-Claude’s masterpiece
This clean citrus-aromatic fragrance for her or him was created a to relax and soothe guests at Bvlgari’s luxury resorts and spas. He skillfully blends notes of green tea, refreshing bergamot, beeswax, Bulgarian rose and sandalwood. The result is a calming, gentle scent.