AnOther Magazine published this interview today.
Olfactorialist forensically explores the world of perfumery with an unprecedented scrutiny. A relatively new blog online since March 2010, it’s written by Berlin-based editor Lena Brombacher, whose interest in sophisticated perfumery transcends fashion and major brands by giving honest and in-depth insights into to some of the best niche fragrances on the market. We spoke to Lena about her about her favourite smells.
What inspired you to start the blog?
I have been in love with perfume ever since I can remember. I was searching the internet for an inspiring blog but everything was so cheesy or simply too much information so I decided to create my own website, in a magazine style, sleek and pure. And I decided to concentrate on niche perfumery, on the ‘crown jewels’ so to speak. The name Olfactorialist is a play on words, ‘olfactory a-list’. The name is a little complicated but I loved it from the moment it came to my head.
What kind of perfumes are blog-worthy, and which aren’t?
There is so much mediocrity on the market. A lot of big brands try to sell their product as the ‘most amazing stuff ever’. Of course I try everything on the perfume market but I don’t write about the mainstream. Niche perfumers are free to create whatever they want – even if it’s a perfume about tiger balm, or about revolution – with blood, sweat and tears. I cherry-pick the really great ones and I write about new releases and classics. I want to inspire. What I don’t like is to talk something down because smell is highly subjective. So for the moment I am concentrating on the things I love. But after a phone conversation with the perfume critic of The New York Times, Chandler Burr, I am also thinking about writing about things I don’t like.
Have you had any formal training about the manufacture of perfumes or is it all from your own research?
I have a hypersensitive nose; I smell everything – perfume, flowers, food, people, apartments, streets, cities… I smell if a person is already in the office when I enter the staircase or I smell fire before anyone else does. I store all these smells in my brain and I can smell them without having them under my nose, just from my memory. I have a huge perfume archive in my brain and of course hundreds of fragrances in my office and I always consider the whole product line and the perfumer behind each scent. So you get a really good overview of the whole market. I never had any formal training but I train my nose every day smelling everything I can. My grandmother had a wonderful garden with all the flowers, fruits and vegetables you can imagine and in my childhood I spent a lot of time outside. To engage yourself in nature, food and travelling is the best way to train your nose.
Has the blog led to any interesting commissions or jobs?
Yes, indeed. I just came back from Florence – olfactorialist.com was the official media partner of the famous perfume fair Pitti Fragranze. People from all over the world are contacting me to write something for them or to give lectures. I got in contact with really famous perfumers and some of them even asked me to test their new creations before they launched them.
Is it hard to convey what a perfume is like online?
My friends told me that it is impossible to write about smell. But there are so many perfume blogs and people love to communicate and get inspired. There are also blogs about wine and you can’t taste it there either. What I try is to create an image of the perfume.
What is your favourite perfume?
That’s a difficult question. My whole life I was looking for the one and only perfume until I realised that I would never find it, because I love to be captivated by new perfumes every day. I am like a butterfly that sits on a really beautiful flower and sees another beautiful flower. I am always on the scout for new fragrances, always searching for the next great perfume. If you asked me which was my current favourite perfume I would say Bois Naufragé by Parfumerie Générale – by the way Pierre Guillaume is one of my favorite perfumers. Bois Naufragé is a wonderful fig scent with woody notes and a whiff of Fleur de Sel from the Limited Edition series. It is really uplifting – perfect for grey autumn days.
What new perfumes have impressed you recently?
I met a really wonderful perfumer in Florence – Libertin Louison. His brand is called Technique Indiscrète. He’s a genius, his perfumes are amazing and the stories behind the scents are just wonderful. I especially love the perfume Délivre moi; it is about honey and beeswax. The story behind it was that Louison went into the countryside and saved a beehive – the queen bee was sick and he rescued her – and because of that the whole beehive survived. Next to his perfumes he showed me a candle scented with black olives – the smell of tapenade was just gorgeous.
Text by Laura Havlin
Laura Havlin is a writer specialising in arts, fashion and culture. She has written for titles including Dazed, Ponytail, Drapers, 125 Magazine and Re-Bel