NOSE ON THE ROAD: IN SEARCH OF OLFACTORY ORIGINS
2020 . 07 . 24 |
What happens when two young perfumery students decide to combine their passions for scent and travel? An amazing voyage of discovery! Isabelle and Theo had the unprecedented idea of continuing their studies by going to the source to get close to the raw materials and their producers, to have an experience that would allow them to discover ingredients in an unforgettable way. Spanning the globe from Madagascar to Sri Lanka to Indonesia, to French Polynesia and Bolivia, with many other stops along the way, their trip, which will take close to 2 years, will provide them with a remarkable opportunity to hone their olfactory palettes and to build up a phenomenal memory bank, before even starting their apprenticeship programs. Learn more about this marvelous adventure in the following interview, conducted on the road, by email.
According to your site, noseontheroad.com, you were former students of ISIPCA. Is that where you met? Have you finished your studies, or did you put them on hold in order to do this trip?
Yes, we met at ISIPCA while studying for our master’s degree. We were in the same class.
We completed our program and graduated in August of 2019 and left on our olfactory journey in September. However, when we return, we will still need to spend several years working towards our objective: to become perfumers. But we truly see this round the world olfactory tour as an essential step in our apprenticeship in this incredible field.
Where did the concept for this project come from?
Both of us quickly realized that we had fallen in love with natural materials due to their richness and their complexity, by what they represent, by their history as well as by their bond with the earth.
As we considered the steps to take in our apprenticeship to become perfumers, it was essential for us to go to the source of the natural raw ingredients: to discover and smell them in their natural environment, to understand their origin and to meet the producers.
It was also the way to combine our two common passions: perfumery and travel.
How did you choose the destinations and how did you find the producers of raw materials? Was it difficult to find places that were open to your project?
We chose the countries based on where the raw materials came from, but we also selected places that we wanted to discover from an olfactory standpoint. We then made a list and studied what would and would not be possible to see. We spent two full days at SIMPPAR, the trade exhibition in Paris dedicated to raw materials. We were able to meet many producers which was a huge help for us because it’s not always easy to get in contact with them.
Throughout our journey we are constantly on the lookout for people we can meet, and sometimes we have had nice opportunities come out of these meetings.
When and where did you start your travels? Where do you plan to end the year?
We are planning to travel for two years and we started in September of 2019 with one month in Madagascar, known as the island of perfume. Then we went to Sri Lanka before spending three months in India where we began 2020.
After travelling through Asia, we will end our trip in South America.
Are you being sponsored by a company or one of the oil houses?
No, we have no sponsors, this is a personal project that we are self-funding.
However, thanks to our connections we have been able to find help in making introductions to the producers for us. Symrise, notably, helped us find contacts in Madagascar and Mr. Stéphane Piquart introduced us to many producers around the world.
THE EXPERIENCE & EXPECTATIONS
According to your site, you are currently in India. What has your trip been like so far? What moment had the greatest impact on you? What was the most surprising? The most disappointing?
Actually, we just left India to spend 10 days in Nepal in order to make a one-week trek to the heart of the Himalayas. We need a bit of a break to lose ourselves in nature and breathe fresh mountain air!
We spent roughly 3 months in India, and it was an extremely rewarding experience in terms of the olfactory discoveries that we made as well as the people we were able to meet. This is a country of incredible diversity and the Indian people are adorable.
For the moment, our olfactory voyage has started very well: in 6 months we have had amazing moments, such as the week we spent in the heart of the jungle in Madagascar in a small village with a vanilla producer and his family. Or even in Sri Lanka when we were able to follow the entire process for obtaining cinnamon sticks.
Another moment that made an impact on us – and it was surprising – was in Kannauj in India, the capital of perfumery and of the Attars. We had the good fortune to discover very ancient distilleries who produce unique products including Shamama attar, the essential oil of the Henna flower and Attar Metti where the fragrance results from the distillation of pieces of pottery.
We really haven’t had any disappointing moments so far. If we had to think of one, perhaps it would be when we were in certain large cities where it’s more difficult to find authenticity. Also, we feel much better being out in nature or in small villages where we can discover new flowers, smell them, describe them, become familiar with them and so on.
Tell me about your ambitions for the next few months. What are your destinations and which raw materials are you going to discover?
Given the current situation, unfortunately we must return to France due to the Coronavirus pandemic. We are planning to go back and spend 3 weeks in India at the peak of the flower season. In fact, we are hoping to participate in the harvest of jasmine and tuberose so we can immerse ourselves even more into these emblematic flowers of perfumery. It’s important for us to return to the land and to experience the daily life of the producers so we can better understand all the issues they face.
We will then go to Indonesia where we hope to discover patchouli, vetiver, benjoin, nutmeg and so many other raw ingredients.
Why do you think this experience will help you master the art of being a perfumer?
It seemed important to us to know the original scent of these flowers, spices, woods and so on that will be used all the time during the formulation and creation process throughout our apprenticeship. We think that by knowing the original scent of Ylang Ylang from Madagascar, or cinnamon bark from Sri Lanka or even smoked oud wood will help us in our day to day, not only to have to the original scent in mind but also to evoke stronger emotions. In essence, when in the future we smell petit grain from the mandarin tree, it will immediately transport us back to the village in Madagascar, in the heart of the jungle, where we were perspiring along with the men and women who were cutting the branches and bringing them to the vat. Or still, the Indian women in Sari, gathering hundreds of tiny jasmine and tuberose flowers to make necklaces as offerings.
These olfactory memories are full of emotions that can be translated into our creations which will then have a greater meaning coming from our many experiences.
Also, we would like to come back to France with a scent palette from around the world, these inspirational odors that we are experiencing every day. We think of the taste of an exotic fruit or even passing in front of a temple exuding the scent of resins being burned for ceremonies. All these olfactory discoveries will be a great source of inspiration in the future.
If we were to have a chat at the end of this year, what do you think you would want to tell me?
Upon returning from our trip we will certainly have many projects in mind to share our adventures with as many people as possible. We have the goal of harvesting a maximum of scent memories (such as vetiver roots, pieces of oud and sandalwood, Shamama attar, etc) and we would really like to let people smell our olfactory discoveries.
At the same time, we will try to achieve our goal and become perfumers!
To learn more, consult the website, noseontheroad.com, where Isabelle and Theo are documenting their extraordinary journey.