For the launch of our collection of eight new Eau de Perfumes Rituals collaborated with the world´s finest and best Perfumers. But who are the people behind this exquisite form of art? We sat down with Elise Benat, fine fragrance Perfumer at Firmenich in Paris. Elise created two of the exclusive women´s perfumes from our new Oriental Essence Collection. Meet the wonderful woman who has enchanted your senses of smell with a composition of beautiful accords, notes and ingredients.
Who is Elise Bénat?
I am 34 years old and I was born and raised in the South of France. I started my studies in biology at the university of Montpellier.
How did you end up in the perfumery industry?
I completed my studies with a Master in Fragrances and Flavors at ICAP in Montpellier where I discovered the art of perfumery for the very first time. Since then the objective to become a perfumer has been a driver in all my choices. I spent some time with Firmenich in Neuilly and Argeville near Grasse for my interships. Then I started my career with CPL Aromas where I could develop several skills in perfumes analysis and a proper understanding in formulas. I joined Firmenich in 2009 where I started as a trainee perfumer before I was officially named Perfumer in 2014.
Where you always interested in scents and perfumes?
From a very young age I have always been smelling and sniffing at just about everything. I have always found smells and scents fascinating. Whether it be unpleasant smells or ones that instantly feel good to you personally; that special scent in the church, the wild lavender in the area where I grew up, food, flowers, cities, you name it and I put my nose in it.
How do you become a nose?
You become a perfumer after about 10 years of training. Experience is key. For this reason, it is important to be coached by a mentor who will share his experience with you. At Firmenich I was very lucky to be trained in Paris by Master Perfumer Olivier Cresp and in New York by Master Perfumer Harry Fremont.
How many noses or perfumers are there in the world?
There are not that many if you consider the amount of perfumes being created every year.
Worldwide maybe only 1000 perfumers are working for the fragrance industry and only 400 work exclusively on fine fragrances. That is quite incredible and when I think about it I feel very lucky.
Can everyone be trained as a nose?
When I consider my own experience and compare it to my perfumer colleagues we all have one thing in common: passion. But you will also need a good olfactive memory, patience, tenacity and excellent listening.
What are your favourite ingredients to use?
The Firmenich palette offers the most beautiful ingredients of the Industry. Cistus is one of my favourite ingredients. It’s a flowering mediterranean plant with a unique and wonderful scent. To me it contains very warm accords. I also like Jasmine for its two contrasted facets; the pure and clean fresh petals evolve into a heady warm animalic and sexy background. Bergamot also is a favourite of mine due to its wonderful freshness. Unfortunately I cannot list all the exclusive molecules I get to experiment with at Firmenich everyday but to name a few: Muscenone, Cascalone and the very new Clearwood which was launched last year as the first Biotech ingredient.
How many ingredients does a perfume normally contain?
There is no set rule actually. Formulas from Classic perfumery of the last century can take up several pages. As of the ‘80s a modern perfumery direction evolved, with short formulations, clear and direct olfactive stories, including the overdose concept. But I have also heard about classic formulas that were very short as well.
How long does it take to compose a perfume?
It really depends. Nowadays the team of perfumers handle numerous projects at the same time as there are roughly a 1000 different launches each year. The average time for a project is one year but it can last anywhere from 6 months to 3 years. All the projects we are working on are very different.
What fragrances from the Oriental Essence Collection did you create?
I created Fleurs de l’Himalaya and Eau d’Orient.
What makes the fragrance Eau d’Orient from Oriental Essence Collection so different and compelling?
The challenge of composing a feminine fragrance with a dominant ingredient, incense, that is usually perceived as masculine was very exciting. Soft sensual facets of lilac and vanilla bring the delicate femininity here. This unexpected contrast makes this fragrance unique.
What was the inspiration for the fragrance of Oriental Essences? And your own inspiration for creating Eau d’Orient?
The Rituals brand is very aspirational to me and I am very sensitive to its refinement and authenticity. It has a very positive effect on me as I feel good as soon as I am immersed in its universe. I spent beautiful moments looking for the olfactive expression of well-being. It relaxes me. And the Oriental culture fascinates me. Its ancestral heritage is timeless and represents a fantastic source of inspiration.
What are the core values of this fragrance from your point of view?
Sophisticated, chic, sensual yet invigorating, even stimulating.
When and where should Fleurs de l’Himalaya and Eau d’Orient be worn?
Fleurs de l’Himalaya is fresher and more dynamic. I can imagine the daytime would be a more obvious choice, while evenings may be more suitable to Eau d’Orient. But from my point of view this is your own personal choice. The only thing that really matters is how a perfume makes you feel.
Are there any other famous fragrances you have composed?
My most recent success is Happydisiac Woman by Oriflame created with Master Perfumer Olivier Cresp as well as Loewe Aire Allegro and Individual Blue Casual for Him by Avon. I am also proud of Intemporel by Faberlic, which I created with my colleague Vincent Schaller and So Dupont by Night for Women created with Master Perfumer Harry Fremont.
What is the best way to apply perfume and where?
From my point of view this should be absolutely free. The way of wearing a perfume is as personal as choosing it. Everything is allowed. I personally have several different rituals. I like to live the experience of fragrance. For example I sometimes spray some on my hair to better experiment its trail when shaking my head.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
The pleasure a perfume offers to the wearer. To me that is just fabulous. I like the idea of the happiness and well-being it provokes. This is certainly the reason why I feel so comfortable working for Rituals. This notion is very much embedded in the concept of the brand.
What is the difference between an eau de perfume, an eau de toilette and a Cologne?
There is no strict regulation but there is often a clear difference of dosage between the three, the Eau de Parfum contains the highest concentration and the cologne is the lowest.
How many fragrances do you own?
I used to wear Cologne by Mugler but more often now, I wear the fragrances I work on.
Do you have any special rituals when it concerns perfume?
The sensual emotion linked to the perfume is essential to me. I like to apply a touch of fragrance in my neck before I go to sleep at night.
And lastly: what is your all time favourite Rituals product and why?
I love the Tao scrub. It has such a caring scent and the Hammam cream is also one of my favorite.