‘Rubbing Noses’ is a new series, in which I, The Candy Perfume Boy, grill the most important members of the perfume industry – the perfumers. These are the brains and noses behind the perfumes we know and love, and their unrivalled insight into one of the world’s most ancient of arts is something to be treasured, enjoyed and shared.
For my very first episode of ‘Rubbing Noses’ I am posing questions to a perfumer whose body of work includes such gems as; Etat Libre d’Orange’s Jasmin et Cigarette, Comme des Garçons’ Stephen Jones, Aqua di Parma’s Magnolia Nobile and Bottega Veneta Pour Homme. I am of course referring to Antoine Maisondieu and I think that we can all agree that his fragrant back catalogue is quite impressive, with a wide variety of perfumes that make him a perfumer that cannot be pinned down to a particular genre or style.
One of Antoine Maisondieu’s latest creations is the beautiful California Rêverie for Van Cleef & Arpels’ Collection Extraordinaire (a perfume that I’m quite smitten with of late). In our Q&A, we discuss this new fragrance, the inspiration behind it and how this talented perfumer manages to take heavy materials and make them feel as light and soft as a summer breeze. We also talk IFRA and the smell of California, so all-in-all it’s a very intriguing read with a well-respected perfumer who is undeniably interesting in a varied number of ways.
TCPB: Antoine, thank you for agreeing to answer my questions, it is truly an honor to feature you on The Candy Perfume Boy. Let’s start with your beginnings – what made you decide to become a perfumer?
AM: My dad works in natural raw materials, whereas my mom comes from a family of artists. So quite young, I was immersed in the world of scent and creation and very much enjoyed it. But it was an encounter with perfumer Jacques Chabbert, a few years later that turned out to be the defining moment that gave me the desire to pursue this career.
Throughout your career, you’ve created a huge number of fragrances, many of which were for esteemed brands such as; Etat Libre d’Orange, Tom Ford, Comme des Garçons and of course, Van Cleef & Arpels. Which creation do you look back at with the most fondness?
I actually try not to look back, when I finish a fragrance I start thinking about the next one…
California Rêverie is the third fragrance that you have created for Van Cleef & Arpels’ Collection Extraordinaire (the others being Rose Velours and Muguet Blanc). What is different about working with this brand than the many others that you have created for?
Working for Van Cleef & Arpels means you can afford the best raw materials and fully express your ideas. I worked on California Rêverie as a jeweler creating a precious gem. I used lots of very beautiful ingredients with no limits and was given total freedom to create the fragrance. This for me is true luxury.
This particular creation for Van Cleef & Arpels is inspired by the “majestic scenery of California”. What does California smell like to you?
What strikes me as interesting about California Rêverie is the fact that the materials used (jasmine, beeswax, frangipani and vanilla), have a propensity for being heady and heavy, yet in this fragrance they are the complete opposite and appear to be wonderfully light and airy. Was this a conscious choice and how did you achieve this?
Yes, I wanted to recreate the feeling of a warm, sun filled breeze, where intoxicating hints of delicious flowers catch your senses… I played with contrasting notes, both rich and airy and worked until I found the perfect balance.
If you could create a fragrance inspired by any other country, city or place, where would you chose and what would it smell like?
I am very inspired by Greece, by its aromatic odors, everlasting flowers, Incense, thyme, and Juniper berry.
What characteristics, in your opinion, make a good perfume?
Its unique signature, its elegance, and its trail.
There appears to be growing concern amongst members of the perfume industry, that tightening EU legislation will further restrict the number of ingredients that perfumers and perfume houses will be able to use. What are your thoughts on these restrictions and have they impacted the way in which you create perfume?
Not being able to use some natural materials has obviously affected my creations, but at the same time, it has forced imagination.
What is the one perfume that you wish you had created?
In all honesty, I have never thought about it.
Finally, how would you describe your ‘style’ as a perfumer in three words?
Instinctive, Inspired, Dreamer.
Antoine, thank you for your candid answers and your enthusiasm in the face of the tightening coils of IFRA. It was a pleasure to host you as the first subject of my ‘rubbing noses’ series and you have provided a fascinating insight in the world of perfume and your latest creation, California Rêverie. Please continue to make wonderful perfumes, and of course, do feel free to stop by The Candy Perfume Boy any time!
Image 1 via michelleeuperio.theworldtrace.org [edited]. Image 2 via accademiadelprofumo.it [edited].