Cinquième Sens. Its Kingdom Of Olfaction Grows Slowly. ‘Sensibly.’

2024 . 07 . 04 | written by Laurence Arrigo Klove

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Meeting With the First Lady of the Perfume Academy.

I had the unique opportunity to meet Isabelle Ferrand on two occasions, in her Paris office and most recently at the World Perfumery Congress in Geneva where I could mingle with Cinquième Sens international partners as well. With great generosity and modesty, she gave me an intimate peek into her business and showed me around the Cinquième Sens house. I named it the ‘Kingdom of Olfaction,’ without a glossy coronation, it is striving for perfection, with a growing congregation and an abundance of emotions.

Cinquième Sens ‘Co-working’ Olfaction Lab.

A Magnificent Kingdom. Made of Scent Expressions.

While I was ‘talking shop’ with Isabelle, she shared with me her concern of the invasion of odours into our day-to-day life. There is currently an excess of scents that do not make sense, creating an ‘olfactory cacophony’ and resulting quite rightly in an intense yearning for ‘perfume beauty.’

‘I am driven by a high ambition for perfume creation to be right; a precise composition made of coherence, high-quality and beauty.’ Isabelle Ferrand, Head of Cinquième Sens.

Isabelle Ferrand at the 2024 WPC in Geneva.
Isabelle and I at the 2024 WPC in Geneva.

‘Cinquième Sens’ is about placing our ‘fifth’ sense on centre stage. It is commonplace to prioritize our senses in the following order, sight, hearing, touch, taste, and last smell. In Isabelle’s vision, smell has pole position. The thrust of the Cinquième Sens academy is to share the knowledge of fragrance vocabulary, to broaden the ‘odours’ repertoire by learning perfume composition, olfactory evaluation, and offering a variety of olfactory experiences. It is as if perfume ingredients are like music notes that one learns to play, compose, perform with, with the ultimate goal of creating authentic emotions and artistic beauty.

Performing the Art of Smelling & Making Fragrances.

Cinquième sens class materials
Cinquième Sens class in action

There are unquestionably many choices of perfume classes available in France and overseas. However, there are two specific features that makes Cinquième Sens quite unique amongst the expert schools. One, perfumers only inhabit the teaching house. Isabelle has carefully chosen her team of five expert perfumers who perform the art of developing fragrances, not only in her lab but also for independent perfume brands. Two, all the classes have a maximum number of eight participants, usually a close knit of four to six people. The idea is to heighten the level of learning intensity while creating a powerful sense of community. Usually, the alumni stay in touch amongst themselves and with the school and the strong bond continues over time.

Cinquième Sens is a registered training centre with a wide spectrum of classes designed for both professionals and lovers of fragrances alike. The program entails a vast choice of forty-eight courses, from a beginner level all the way to advanced, from a one-day class to an intensive one week, and features ingredients, market knowledge, sales, lab work, olfaction and more (precise list of courses on All the classes are in English and most of the students today come from the US, Latin America, Asia, and Italy.

When it comes to testimonials, I was totally taken aback when I read the quotes and saw the names of ‘some’ French students like Silvaine Delacourte, Aliénor Massenet, or Kilian Hennessy:

"I was trained by Cinquième Sens between 1991 and 1993. I was studying psychology and art history; I had not studied chemistry, and I did not have the typical profile of a perfumer. Cinquième Sens was my salvation... It was there that I learned how to have fun and rigour in composition". Aliénor Massenet, perfumer at Symrise

"Cinquième Sens offers a unique training programme that provides access to perfume raw materials (natural and synthetic) for all professionals who do not intend necessarily to become perfumers. At Cinquième Sens, I really fell in love with the perfume substance!

Kilian Hennessy, creative director of By Kilian.

A Perfume 'Diva'. Who Chose to be A ‘Brava’ Maestra.

I would like to put the limelight on Isabelle as she usually prefers to be in the shadow. I found out that she attends the most prestigious events and awards as a member of the jury, or acts as an organiser for the Fragrance Foundation Awards France; she contributes to the precious work of l’Osmothèque as a personal donor; she works on the most prestigious client projects like the creation of the Céline perfume collection or the release of a new BDK perfume or the launch of a new candle brand Bagal... Her olfactive expertise is well-recognized and is never out of date. She follows the trends, constantly on the look-out for new fragrance formulations or new ingredients... it will come to no surprise that the Cinquième Sens olfactive evaluations (offered at a fee) are so popular. There are done with the most rigorous ‘blind test’ process.

What better way to display the house creative talent than by inviting clients (at large) for what Isabelle called ‘The Creative Week’? Like ‘The Paris Fashion Week,’ Cinquième Sens highlights its new perfume creations from the olfactive briefs to the end compositions in a bubbly atmosphere.

2024. A Special Anniversary of Acting Independently.

2024 is an important year for Isabelle as it marks her 20th anniversary of running Cinquième Sens independently and her 40th anniversary of joining the business. The history of Cinquième Sens goes back to 1976 when Monique Schlienger, a creative perfumer at Robertet, decided to find her own company with the idea to transmit the knowledge of perfume culture. For twenty years, Monique and Isabelle happily worked together and significantly grew the activity. Isabelle decided on a clear strategy divided in four pillars: training, perfume creation, corporations team building events, and consulting. The growth strategy in her mind also had to include the expansion to other geographical hubs.

From Paris With Love. A United World of Fragrances.

Cinquième Sens Location by The Tour Eiffel in Paris

For Cinquième Sens, the first natural step was to open a centre in Grasse with the precious collaboration with Claire Lonvaud. And since 2008, Isabelle embarked on an international expansion; the olfactive trail takes us from Paris to New York City, Singapore, Italy, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Korea, Netherlands, Mexico, Australia, Brazil, Israel, Columbia, and Hong Kong. The map of the world now shows a stronghold on every continent with fourteen robust partnerships. Each centre is based on a strong human connection and a license sharing proprietary information with Cinquième Sens Paris. While each partner has developed its own client audience and classes configuration, the most popular course remains the perfume creation foundation and the olfactoriums are truly precious. Here are a few partners’ description and geographical location:

Serendipitee* NYC is a woman-owned boutique specialized in fragrance development and education. An expert duo, Tami Katz’s, and Kathryn Balcerski, run the show of fragrance creation. Paralela Escola Olfactiva is a Brazilian fragrance school, led by Alessandra Tucci, dedicated to teaching perfumery to both professionals and individuals. Being ‘parallel’ means being free to think and to feel differently. In Mexico, Ars Aromatica is a popular destination with the Cinquième Sens courses certification. In Italy, MOUILLETTES & Co, founded by Maria Grazia Fornasier in 2004 is the exclusive partner offering perfume training courses as well as ad hoc consultancy services. In Indonesia, Rancang Harum’s foundation is to provide a unique knowledge perfume education based on an expert and structured method. Rezeen** Academy in Malaysia is a specialist in aromatherapy and perfumery inhabited by a deep sense of gratitude for the essence of the plants, full of vitality and grace.

*serendipity means ‘good luck in making unexpected and fortunate discoveries;’ very appropriate I think when it comes to adventuring in the perfume world.

** ‘rezeen’ is inspired by the Chinese word Rui En 蕊恩 meaning the grace of the flower’s stem.

Serendipitee NYC class
Ars Aromatica in Mexico
Rancang Harum in Indonesia class materials
Rancang Harum Students Class in Jakarta
Rezenn Malaysia School Class


Cinquième Sens. Making Sense of Our World.

A Moment of Calm. The clock stops when stepping inside the House of Cinquième Sens, whatever the time and place it is. The outside world disappears while engaging with their powerful universe of the senses. One feels compelled to indulge without moderation into the olfaction experience. Right here and right now, everything makes sense. It is like a happy obsession and a headline repetition:

‘Stop. Smell. Awake. 5èmeSens.’