Noses to Know: The World’s Renowned Perfumers and their Top Creations

The noses behind some of the world’s most popular perfumes deserve more recognition than they get. In this feature, we list some of the world’s greatest perfumers and their most lauded creations.
Reading Time: 9 minutes

To create a fragrance that would make a lasting impression requires more than good taste–it takes years of experience, talent, knowledge, and a deep understanding of notes and elements. 

When you know your perfumer well, you’re able to recognize their creations by mere sniffing. Many of them (some unknowingly) leave their signature in the perfumes they create albeit from different houses or brands, which makes the character behind every fragrance all the more special and personal. 

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The Nose: Olivier Polge

Olivier Polge

A native of Grasse, the perfume capital of the world located in the South of France, Olivier Polge inherited his father’s executive role as Chanel’s head perfumer in 2013. Olivier has created modern cult followings for the brand like Gabrielle Chanel and Chance while keeping the flagship perfume, Chanel No. 5, at the heart and center of every new fragrance. 

Polge is the winner of the 2009 Prix International du Parfum for his artistic achievements in the fragrance industry and authored best-selling fragrances for other designer houses like Viktor & Rolf (Flowerbomb), Balenciaga, and Dolce & Gabbana. Among his finest creations for the House of Chanel is the Les Eaux De Chanel collection, inspired by the travels and places memorable to Coco Chanel throughout her career.

Through his work, it is Olivier’s priority to make people realize that the fragrance they wear is almost like a language, similar to the way that they dress, move, and speak. Ultimately, it’s a language that tells something about them.

The Creations: Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb, Chanel Chance Eau Tendre, Jimmy Choo For Women, Dolce & Gabbana The One For Men, Balenciaga Florabotanica, Boy Chanel, and N°1 de Chanel L’Eau Rouge Chanel

The Nose: Francois Demachy

Francois Demachy

Before turning over his title to Francis Kurkdijian in 2021 as head perfumer for the House of Dior of 15 years, Francois’ career is clad with an impressive portfolio of over 200 fragrances including his creations for Fendi, Givenchy, Acqua Di Parma, Emilio Pucci, Emmanuel Ungaro, and Tiffany. Many of these have become archetypes in the perfume market that we love today. 

Demachy looks to the fertile lands and waters in Mediterranean climates for inspiration, and has a strong appreciation for Japanese and Italian cultures. Complemented with his superior knowledge for the finest raw materials and his olfactory expertise, Demachy has made excellent contributions to the fragrances for the House of Dior.

The Creation: Dior Sauvage , Dior La Collection Privee (Feve Delicieuse, Gris Dior, Lucky, and more), Fendi Furiosa, and Givenchy Dahlia Divin

The Nose: Christine Nagel

Christine Nagel

As a perfumer, fragrance is Christine Nagel’s entry point. Whether it’s for Jo Malone London, Armani, or Hermes, where she is currently the in-house perfumer, it is her personal obligation to contain all the values of the houses she represents into a bottle. 

Unlike her contemporaries who are either a son of a perfumer or was fortunate to grow up in Grasse, Nagel credits her skill to being well entrenched in the industry, her sense of curiosity, discipline, and putting her whole heart (and nose) into any fragrance she creates.

“To appreciate a fragrance, you just have to follow your instinct. When a fragrance touches you, tickles your sensitivity, it means that the fragrance is for you,” she says.

The Creations: Giorgio Armani Si, Twilly d’ Hermes, Galop d’Hermes, Dolce & Gabbana The One, Jo Malone London Wood Sage & Sea Salt, Jo Malone London Amber & Patchouli, and Jo Malone London English Pear & Freesia

The Nose: Thierry Wasser

Thierry Wasser

In all of the 190 years of the House of Guerlain, Thierry Wasser is the fifth perfumer for the house, and the first perfumer outside the bloodline. Trained at the Givaudan Perfumery School, Wasser embraces the unique practices of the house, which is far from the traditional techniques of the industry. Guerlain perfumers require a hands-on approach with the origin of their ingredients. Yearly travels near or far to touch, smell, and observe cultivation before taking them into the laboratory, whether it is a vetiver field in India or bergamot in Calabria, Italy.  

Inspiration for Wasser is a mental exercise more than a visual or sensory approach. Through imagining situations and emotions one may be experiencing, his fragrances create a story that is unique and personal for the individual.

The Creations: Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Collection, Mon Guerlain, Guerlain La Petit Robe Noir, Dior Addict, and Lancome Hypnose

The Nose: Francis Kurkdijian

Francis Kurkdijian

Francis Kurkdijian is a rockstar of the trade. At the age of 26, Kurkdijian gained worldwide fame with his creation for the House of Jean Paul Gaultier entitled Le Male. He is also the nose behind popular favorites from Elie Saab, Burberry, and the full collection of Narciso Rodriguez for Her. 

Kurkdijian catapulted into the highest ranks of perfumers in 2009 upon opening his own perfumery Maison Francis Kurkdijian in Plaza Vendome, Paris. Since then, his house continued to dominate the niche perfume market, and has expanded to over 300 stores around the world. Today, Kurkdijian is also the new in-house perfumer for the House of Dior. 

The Creations: Maison Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge 540, Maison Francis Kurkdjian Aqua Universalis, Elie Saab Le Parfum, Juliette Has A Gun Lady Vengeance, Nina Ricci Rose Extase, and Burberry Her

The Nose: Alberto Morillas

Alberto Morillas

Alberto Morillas is a formidable name in the industry. He has bagged the prestigious Prix Francois Coty Award in 2003 and the Fragrance Lifetime Perfumer Award in 2013, among many other honorable recognitions for his creations. 

For the Spanish perfumer, “creating fragrance is an art, it is a very personal experience, it calls on a person’s strongest instincts and emotions.” He likes to think of himself as a “mostly self-trained” nose, strongly leaning in visuals for the creation of his perfumes. From images that decorate his work station down to his handwritten formulas, elements such as these exude an emotion that spark inspiration and motivation in creating the next masterpiece.

The Creations: Calvin Klein CK One, Kenzo Flower, Bulgari Omnia, and Versace Bright Crystal

The Nose: Dominique Ropion

Dominique Ropion

One of the most versatile perfumers of our time, Dominique Ropion is praised as one of the most technically advanced perfume creators in the global trade, and for his exquisite knowledge in French perfumery. He has made outstanding contributions for leading niche and mainstream houses like Frederic Malle, Lancome, Dior, Givenchy, and Nishane, to name a few. Among these was his first success at Givenchy for Ysatis, the high fashion house’s iconic fragrance in the ‘80s. 

Ropion was made Master Perfumer at the International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF) in 2018, and is decorated with industry recognitions that are the Prix Francois Coty in 2008, the Cosmétique Magazine Oscar in 2010, and Chevalier De L’Ordre Des Arts Et Des Lettres in 2018.

While it is common for perfumers to have emotions and experiences as a reference for inspiration, Ropion starts out with a solitary ingredient for his theme. It is through developing the contours, contrasts, and volumes of a raw material that the identity of a perfume is born.

The Creations: Estee Lauder Infinite Sky Dune, Dior for Women, Calvin Klein Euphoria, Frederic Malle Portrait of A Lady, Giorgio Armani Acqua Di Gioia, and Elie Saab Girl of Now

The Nose: Anne Flipo

Anne Flipo

More and more women perfumers are making waves in the industry, and Anne Flipo is one of the first few to conquer the male-dominated space. She met her destiny while attending perfumery school in Versailles, France. Playing with a wide availability of fragrance ingredients roused a passion she devoted herself to for the rest of her life, a dedication that has earned her the title as Master Perfumer at the IFF.

For Flipo, creating fragrances is a brainstorming experience. She first visualizes odors in her mind before immersing herself in the lab to play with resources that stimulate the five senses, from smells, textures, flavors, and even sound. Her love for gardening and all things botanical also play a signature role in her perfumes. 

The Creations: Jo Malone Herb Garden Collection, Chloe Love Story, Jimmy Choo Illicit, Frederic Malle Synthetic Jungle, and L’Interdit Eau de Parfum Givenchy

The Nose: Jacques Cavallier

Jacques Cavallier

When you’re a perfumer and you come from a long line of perfumers that date all the way back to the 15th century, you’re most likely to create institutional fragrances that many look up to or attempt to duplicate. That’s exactly what Jacques Cavallier is to a multitude of perfumers around the world. 

Born and raised in Grasse, Cavallier learned the art of perfumery at a very young age, such as how the importance of fundamental raw materials like jasmine, agar wood, and orange blossom can play a significant role in perfume-making. Today, he is the Maitre Parfumeur of the House of Louis Vuitton and authored 36 perfumes in the Les Parfums Louis Vuitton collection.

The Creations: Jean Paul Gaultier Classique For Women, L’eau D’Issey by Issey Miyake For Women, Les Parfums Louis Vuitton (Afternoon Swim, Coeur Battant, California Dreams, and more), and Maison Martin Margiela Beach Walk 

The Nose: Jo Malone

Jo Malone

If there’s any perfume brand that is deeply synonymous with simplicity, the name would be Jo Malone. From the beautiful bottle architecture, branding, and fragrance, Jo Malone emphasizes classic minimalism with every atom. It is also in this emphasis that the character of the notes come alive. Apart from Annick Goutal, Jo Malone is another perfumer that made her claim by working with no other house and name but her own.  

Even after leaving and selling the Jo Malone London brand to cosmetic giant Estée Lauder, the perfumer simply wasn’t done yet with her career. Malone returned to the industry with her second brand Jo Loves, a brand determined to capture a newer and younger audience with its gender neutral facets, innovative perfume technology, and unique and universally appealing fragrance blends. 

The Creations: Jo Malone London (Nectarine Blossom & Honey, Lime Basil & Mandarin, and more), Zara x Jo Loves Fragrance Collections, and Jo Loves by Jo Loves

The Nose: Olivia Giacobetti

Olivia Giacobetti

Frederic Malle describes the first woman in his exclusive circle of perfumers as someone with a “rare ability to create an ambiance, to capture an atmosphere, like a great photographer.”

Giacobetti believes that a great perfume does not just rely on technique and aesthetics. But rather, a great perfume is a potent idea first that “caters to an unconscious collective desire,” using them as her compass in measuring the volume and power of each fragrance that she creates. Best known for her iconic niche perfume masterpieces like Diptyque Philosykos, her creations are often categorized as ethereal and imaginative, made to withstand the test of time. 

The Creations: Diptyque Philosykos, Frederic Malle En Passant, L’Artisan Parfumeur, and Hermes Hiris

The Nose: Carlos Benaim

Carlos Benaim

The smell of spices, bright plump fruits of peaches, oranges, and melons at the marketplace in his South Mediterranean hometown of Tangier, Morocco, awakened the olfactory senses of a young Carlos Benaim to a world he would later dominate in life. 

In 2013, Benaim was named as the first Master Perfumer of IFF, and has been awarded with the highest recognitions in the perfume industry. Among these are the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society of Perfumers in 2004 and a Perfumer Of The Year Award from the Fragrance Foundation in 2014. 

A stickler for refinement, his creations are a combination of a scientific approach from his chemical engineering background combined with the impalpable presence of a mood, color or visual. The very qualities that a fragrance is all about. 

The Creations: Calvin Klein Eternity For Men, Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb (with Olivier Polge, Domitille Michalon Bertier, and Dominique Ropion), Polo Ralph Lauren, and
Elizabeth Arden Red Door
Edited by NICOLE MORALES. Images courtesy of brands.

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