Denyse Beaulieu lives in Paris where she writes a blog, Grain de Musc, and teaches perfume story at the Ecole Internationale de Marketing du Luxe. In her new book, The Perfume Lover (Penguin Canada), there is magical combustion: perfume passion and crackling writing. The Perfume Lover tells the story of bringing to life the orange-blossom scent Sev'lle à l’Aube with niche fragrance house L’Artisan Parfumeur and perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour inspired by an experience Beaulieu had. It’s part intimate memoir and part riveting lesson on the history and evolution of perfume, including today’s challenges in making the next, artful scent. Beaulieu writes provocatively. ‘Perfume is to smells what eroticism is to sex” is just a hint.
Here are a few questions that I asked this Canadian encyclopedia of fragrance knowledge when I met with her recently in Toronto during her book tour.
What are scent-wearing etiquette rules, for example in an office setting?
‘Spray one shot on your décolleté under your shirt or sweater. Really, the only people who should be able to smell your fragrance are people who come very close.’
What’s another way to wear fragrance?
‘If you have long hair, put it here,’ she said, demonstrating the nape of the neck [Beaulieu, by the way, rocks gray hair past her shoulders]; when the wind blows it will cause the perfume to unfold in the air, she said.
Some say you should have a wardrobe of scents, others extol the idea of a signature scent. What are your views?
‘If you wear only one scent all the time, you’ll stop smelling it, you’ll tune it out, and you’ll put on too much as a result. It’s always nice to change it up.’
Do you think scents should be described by ‘families’, which traditionally has been a way for consumers to discover their favourite scents?
‘No, because no one knows what designations like fougère [typically a men’s fragrance designation] or chypre are anymore. I prefer the idea of a personal ‘scent map’. My zone in the scent map is around the creamy-milky notes, like the milky-fruity-apricot in Bottega Veneta Eau de Parfum. Also the tuberose in Frédéric Malle Carnal Flower, which has creamy-‘coconutty’-peachy aspects. For another person it might revolve around citruses, or green.’
Should you wear a scent for yourself ‘ or for your mate (sometimes not one and the same)?
Our meeting over, the answer to that, like the secret formula behind a great perfume, remained a mystery.
What do you think?