Interview with Bertrand Duchaufour
Perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour, he of Avignon, Jubilation XXV, Paestum Rose and Timbuktu, does not need an introduction. Not in our perfume-maniacal circles anyway. Non-perfume people treat rock-stars and actors with the kind of excitement I felt when meeting Bertrand. Have you seen videos of girls squealing and fainting at Elvis' and Beatles' concerts? Well, I did have to fight an urge to squeal and faint. Cutting to the chase, here are Bertrand's answers to our questions, some of them asked by you and some mine.
M: What career would you have chosen if you had not become a perfumer?
BD: Photography, painting.
Bertrand Duchaufour has been paiting for many years, landscapes as well as portraits. He compares his earlier art to that of Francis Bacon, powerful and violet. He believes that his creations became softer, although they still possess strength and emotion.
M: For which of any of your creation do you feel most affection?
BD: One of the favorite ones might be Dzongkha, because of its story, of its connection with Buddhist world, with Himalayas, Tibet and Nepal. I feel an affinity with Buddhism, with its spirituality. I also feel close to Africa, to its art, to a special way of thinking that is closer to truth than ours, and so I feel connection to Timbuktu. But the best perfume that I did so far is Sienne d'Hiver for Eau d'Italie. It is a story of Tuscany during winter. Its complex accords and harmonies are the apotheosis of sophistication. Its creation represented the perfect dialog between brand owners and a perfumer.
M: Are there notes that you are always drawn to, like to explore?
BD: Yes. Davana, patchouli, tuberose. I like karo karounde, but it is rare. I like woods, cypriol. I like flowers, narcissus, rose and jasmine. I recently re-discovered mimosa, it is amazing.
Having his own lab (L'Atelier de L'Artisan Parfumeur) became a turning point for Duchaufour, a re-birth of sorts. His experience at Symprise was that of working with concepts; as a perfumer, he did not touch the ingredients, he created formulas, and assistants measured and mixed for him. He admits to having felt a loss of connection to his ingredients. These days he has a hands-on approach and feels that he is back in touch with raw materials and perhaps his craft in general.
M: Related to the question of notes... do you believe in signature accords, that perfumers have signatures? A reader noted that she have picked up your signature accord, which reminds her of freshly cut chilly peppers, spicy hot yet coolly green. And perhaps when Luca Turin wrote about you having created a new transparent floral-woody accord, he meant the same thing. Can you comment on that?
BD: Yes! There are signatures. There are a couple of chemicals that I put in my perfumes, one rooty and earthy, another green and peppery, which very few perfumers use, they could be considered my signature.
Duchaufour notes that having a signature has its down side. It is convenient to have a couple of signature accords to fall back upon. That makes one's life easy but also a little boring. He thinks that time has come for him to look for new ways of expression, for new accords. That is his challenge, the one he appears eager to accept. With his newly found connection to ingredients, in search for new materials and styles, Duchaufour seems to me to be a perfumer re-born, a perfumer on a brink of something new and exciting.
A bonus question, asked by Masha:
What brief were you given for Lalique's Flora Bella and what were your inspirations for the scent?
BD: A concept of pure solar flower, of sun. It represents the island way of living, an easy way of living, sea, beaches, tiare, frangipane, sensuality. A perfect flower.
And a parting snippet of trivia. When asked if he wears perfume, Duchaufour replied that mostly he has to be perfume-free, but that there are some perfumes that he likes, and sometimes he enjoys wearing Dior Homme, which has a nice orris accord.
Images are mine. The first pictures Bertrand Duchaufour with Pamela Roberts, L'Artisan Parfumeur's Creative Director.