Get a peek into Emilie Bouge’s life as a perfumer, a first hand personal recounting of her scenti tale, in the first of our new series – A Perfumer’s Diary…
The world of fragrance is firmly anchored in my personal background and family. I was born near Grasse into a family of perfume creators. One of my ancestors from the 19th century founded the company BRUNO COURT, which sold perfumes and raw materials to the crowned heads of Europe.
As I had been steeped in the world of perfumery since birth, I decided at the age of 17 that I too would embrace the fascinating and creative career of perfume design.
After training at ISIPCA I was recruited by Laboratoire Monique Rémy, where I was able to enrich my knowledge
of natural raw materials. I then joined Charabot, where
I am still fortunate enough to give free rein to my creativity, injecting spontaneity and enthusiasm into each of
At the start of my career, I had the opportunity to become totally immersed in setting up a creative laboratory located in Indonesia.
That very challenging and enlightening experience shaped my approach to creation. My time in Asia explains my particular affinity with harmonies that conjure up Oriental traditions and scents. And thanks to the ROBERTET Group’s extensive catalogue of natural raw materials, I have learnt to work with natural ingredients, placing them at the heart of my olfactory palette.
When I returned to France, I initially worked for Parisian and European perfume companies, but today I thrive on Middle Eastern projects. I fell head over heels in love with that region for its perfume-related traditions and culture.
I’m always on the look-out, always curious about everything. I draw my inspiration from everyday emotions and childhood memories. I have a particular affection for the voluptuous notes of wood and ambroxan, which enable me to create Oriental fragrances that seduce and bewitch the senses. I also have quite a sweet tooth, and often favour mouth-watering notes in my creative process. Finally, the femininity and sensuality of Bulgarian Rose captivate my senses and add sophistication and intensity to my designs.
I try to be as daring as possible when compiling my formulae, voluntarily going over the top with the wood, sugar or spice in order to explore new aesthetic dimensions. This perpetual quest for perfection and beauty has enabled me to develop fragrances that are brimming with emotion and personality.
I pay special attention to where the natural ingredients I use in my formulae come from. Each ingredient is deeply marked by where and how it was grown and the extraction technique that was used; it thus has its own story to tell. Natural ingredients give a perfume soul. But to express themselves fully, they need to be combined with synthetic ingredients. They go hand in hand. They echo and bounce off each other.
My Creative Process
I really love working in a team. When developing a fragrance I will often be surrounded by my closest colleagues – including the sales rep and the evaluator from the Middle East zone, other perfume designers and the marketing manager. Often, at the end of the day, when I’m tired from too much smelling and thinking, when my head’s about to explode, I decide to allow myself a short break and we gather together for a chat. We then sometimes come up with a wonderful and unexpected idea!
But sadly, the opposite can also be true. At the start of the day, when I am bursting with energy and ready to rise to new creative challenges, I can sometimes be at a complete loss for inspiration, or only come up with annoyingly mediocre attempts.
Happily, though, I can always count on my team – a small, close-knit and confident team of generous people. We have the good fortune to benefit from Dominique Bortoloni’s expertise, who is in constant contact from the field. This means that we have all the aces in our hand: knowledge from the field, direct contact with clients thanks to my frequent trips, head office’s expertise, and the know-how of Grasse. Working with others – at head office, backed up by a team of experts – keeps me open to the rest of the world and ever greater inspiration. I am thus able to offer solid creations to our clients.
Bakhoor, or bukhoor, is a traditional home fragrance from the Middle East. It is little-known in the Western world and when we started to work on it with the zone team we were complete novices.
We had to start out by putting in place an olfactory assessment procedure and then identifying trends by analysing products on the market. This was essential for developing future creations. Technically-speaking, the cold brick smells totally different once it’s ignited – hence the importance of carrying out multiple tests.
Our first attempts were fruitless. We all gathered around the burner to describe the notes. The first challenge was taking the time to describe the notes we were smelling whilst checking that they were harmless for eyes and throat. The second problem was that the entire floor in the company building absolutely reeked, because the process is very powerful and the scent lingers in the air.
So as not to upset our colleagues during our tests, we would regularly change room. One day, when we were right in the middle of assessing our first collections in an empty office, one of us threw the glowing charcoal directly into an ashtray, without extinguishing it first. The ashtray immediately shattered. It was a magnificent ashtray in Bohemian crystal, a gift to one of our team members from a Russian client. We were mortified.
Yet we persevered and made a host of major changes until we came up with a full collection. I remember the difficulty I experienced with one particular theme during the research phase. The goal was to recreate an ambroxan-based perfume that could convey a pure fragrance combining freshness with an enveloping sensation. It was a real challenge.
Ambroxan is a molecule I dearly love but it’s more of a base note. Yet it has to come out as a top note in bakhoor. To top it all, for this particular project I wanted to conjure up radiance
Now there’s very little we don’t know about bakhoor. We are lucky in perfumery to be learning all the time. That’s what people who are passionate about perfume find so marvellous; that’s what stimulates us. It’s a world that has rules but that offers great freedom.
A world of surprises, doubts, discoveries and, above all, shared emotions, triggered by an intangible smell that will never reveal all of its secrets.”