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On the Trail of a Scent – Perfumer says Perfumes can take between 3 months to Seven years to make


On the Trail of a Scent   NY Times

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/09/jobs/on-the-trail-of-a-scent.html?goback=%2Egde_2617877_member_5838339157654532099&_r=0

By PATRICIA R. OLSEN    

Mr. Gaurin says it can take from three months to seven years to develop a perfume. Michael Nagle for The New York Times
Pascal Gaurin, 44, is a perfumer at International Flavors & Fragrances in New York.

Q. How did you train for this career?

A. I studied at a school in France that offers programs in this field. Originally I thought I’d study economics, but I decided it wasn’t a good fit.

Did your upbringing in France influence the way you develop fragrances?

I spent summers with my grandparents in the country, in the Creuse area. I’d spend time in the forest to entertain myself. It was dark with lots of smells — the damp soil, mushrooms and flowers. I didn’t realize it at the time, but those rich smells became a fundamental part of my makeup. Beyond that, the French are exposed to fragrance from an early age and absorb it; it is part of the national DNA.

Do you develop fragrances by yourself?

I collaborate with or compete against about 10 other I.F.F. perfumers. We all want to have our idea be the one presented to the client, which would be a perfume company. Several other companies may be presenting their version of a fragrance to the client as well.

Is your work similar to that of a chemist?

Many perfumers do have a chemistry background, but we’re somewhat like architects, who have a mix of technical and creative skills. Just as architects need a sense of engineering or physics to know if a structure will support a certain amount of weight, perfumers need to know which ingredients are compatible. But the work is not simply empirical; it’s also imaginative. In my mind, I have an olfactory vision.

 What’s a typical day like for you?

I spend about half my time at my computer, choosing ingredients for a fragrance. Then an assistant compounds, or mixes them, in the lab, and I test, or smell, the result. Most of the time I go back and start again. If you can’t take failure after failure you shouldn’t be in this job. We must take calculated chances to innovate.

How long does it take to develop a fragrance you’re happy with?

It has taken me as short a time as three months, and as long as seven years. Ninety-nine percent of what I try goes nowhere; I’m aiming for that 1 percent that is my best effort. The process can be frustrating, but achieving that 1 percent is the reward. You’re chasing that smile on someone’s face, the reaction when they smell the end result.

Vocations asks people about their jobs. Interview conducted and condensed by Patricia R. Olsen.

A version of this article appears in print on February 9, 2014, on page BU14 of the New York edition with the headline: On the Trail of a Scent. 



Ancient Greek and Roman Perfume Bottles This is an amazingly delicious drink…
Ancient Greek and Roman Perfume Bottles
This is an amazingly delicious drink…

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