Alright, alright, I admit I have not been given the opportunity for an actual conversation with Jean Claude Ellena. But, I have decided not to let that stop me from having an imaginary conversation with his book, The Diary of a Nose, and with you all.
Source: The Beauty Press
I read The Diary of a Nose when it came out in 2012, and have meant to do this series ever since. As I mentioned back then, I really admired the book, as I did Ellena’s previous book as well. There were many sections that I thought would be fun to discuss with other people who are interested in perfume. Hopefully you agree, and join in the discussion!
In his entry dated 10 November 2009, Ellena discusses movement. Some passages:
“Movement is defined by the form a perfume takes and its longevity. So a more baroque perfume is all about complexity, power and performance. Its complexity follows its evolution, enhancing each new phase. Perfumes like this are seen as elaborate, structured, rich, full and perhaps overbearing. Conversely, a cologne-type structure favors simplicity, vigour, and lightness of touch … the rapid succession of notes within them makes us think they don’t stay on the skin for long … [such a perfume] requires a very particular attention because its discretion keeps such lovely surprises in store.” (Ellena, Diary of a Nose)
One thing this section reminds me of is probably not very directly connected, but it is the idea of describing perfumes by type or even using a note pyramid. I always pay attention when people talk about categories or types of perfumes. (For example, Christos at Memory of Scent discussing Alec Lawless’s conception of perfumes having “heart, nuance, and intrigue” elements.)
Impressionistic or abstract ways of categorizing scents tend to resonate with me more than literal ways (e.g., floral, oriental). I wonder what would happen if the impressionistic descriptor became the broadest category for a perfume, and then the more literal note category followed, rather than the other way around. To take Michael Edwards’s system as an example: he currently categorizes Tuberose Criminelle as a Floral, in the subcategory of Rich. For the way I think about perfume, I’d rather see Rich as the main category, then Floral. When I go to my perfumes in the morning, I am thinking (to switch now to Ellena’s language) that I want to wear something baroque, or something sheer, or something lush. Then I think about what kind of notes I want it to contain, whether floral or herbal or oriental, for example.
This passage also gets me thinking about actual movement in the context of perfume. How often do we describe a perfume using movement vocabulary, like swirling, blasting, enveloping? Words like these say so much about a fragrance; Ellena encompasses the structure, force, and development of a perfume in the term movement. After re-reading this passage in Diary of a Nose, I am considering how the perfumes I wear “move” in all these different facets. No conclusions yet, just thoughts.
What are your thoughts? Abstract descriptions or perfume categories? What about “movement”?
Quotes from the UK edition of Diary of a Nose: A Year in the Life of a Perfumeur, published by Particular Books / Penguin in 2012. Apologies that I can’t provide page numbers: I only have the Kindle edition of the book.