Michael Donovan not only understands the finest points of fragrance, but he can articulate what we need to know beautifully. We ask the founder of Roullier White Independent Perfumerie to help us on a scent-sational journey.
I’M SICK OF ALL MY SCENTS, AND WANT SOMETHING NEW… HOW DO I FIND THE ONE?
We are currently enjoying the second “golden age” of fragrance and there are truly exceptional new perfumes to be discovered. Finding The One takes a little time, as the most important criteria is the relationship between the scent and your skin – you may love the perfume, but it must also love you back. You will know when you have found the perfect combination because everyone you meet will tell you that you smell wonderful.
WHO ARE THE HEROES IN CONTEMPORARY FRAGRANCE CREATION, AND WHY?
Frédéric Malle has 1 set the benchmark for luxury fragrance – his collection is the finest in the world. Dominique Ropion is an olfactory engineering genius. Jean-Claude Ellena is the Monet of scent and his perfumes are painterly masterpieces, full of light and colour. I also love the work of a self-taught nose, David Moltz, the perfumer behind DS & Durga; and Alessandro Gualtieri at Nasomatto.
WHAT, TO YOU, IS THE PERFECT SUMMER SCENT FOR WOMEN, AND WHY?
Debaser by DS & Durga is the most joyful scent ever – figs and coconuts – I haven’t met a woman who doesn’t love it. It is honeyed and vibrant and has sunshine in it.
CAN YOU DEMYSTIFY A FEW WORDS FROM FRAGRANCE PARLANCE AND EXPLAIN THEIR RELEVANCE?
The “dry-down” is the story that a fragrance tells upon the skin. A good perfume is like a good book, it has a beginning, a middle, and an end – it takes you on a journey. Perfume “notes” are simply the ingredients and a good fragrance should be a combination of natural ingredients and molecules. The latter are manmade and often give the natural ingredients space to shine. Fragrances have top notes, which open the scent, then heart notes that define it and finally the warmer base notes, which hold the structure together like good foundations.
WHICH CELEBRITY SMELLS GREAT, AND WHAT IS IT SHE’S WEARING?
Alexa Chung smells divine, she wears Portrait of a Lady by Frédéric Malle, featuring Turkish roses distilled in copper, dancing across an amber base. This is elegant and sophisticated yet sensual and playful and a great balance, like the lady herself.
WHAT IS A SURE-FIRE WINNER TO WEAR ON A FIRST DATE?
Weekend in Fontainebleau by Ideo Parfumeurs. It’s fresh at the top and then gets gradually more seductive during the dry-down with Turkish roses – the most sensual rose – and jasmine over sandalwood.
HOW ABOUT FOR A WEDDING?
Narcotic V from Nasomatto; this is a Pied Piper scent and people follow you when you wear it – a creamy tuberose that is incredibly glamorous.
AND TO THE OFFICE ON A MISERABLE MONDAY?
Mediterraneo by Carthusia is a sparkling citrus with crushed lemon leaves and green tea. It is both uplifting and rather serene; made on the island of Capri, it has buckets of style.
FRÉDÉRIC MALLE OPENS A BOUTIQUE IN BROWN THOMAS DUBLIN – CAN YOU TELL US THREE KEY FRAGRANCES TO CHECK OUT?
Superstitious is Frédéric’s collaboration with the fashion designer Alber Elbaz and its combination of excitement and seamless sensuality is unbeatable. Carnal Flower is the first modern tuberose, an LBD of a fragrance, which as Frédéric himself always says, shows that you can be very sexy without being vulgar. Eau de Magnolia is fresh and zesty and a lovely summer fragrance – she is very well behaved and you can take her anywhere.
1. DS & Durga Debaser, €159.89 2. Frédéric Malle Carnal Flower, €260 3. Ideo Parfumeurs Weekend in Fontainebleau, €161.50 4. Frédéric Malle Eau de Magnolia, €175 5. Frédéric MalleSuperstitious (with Alber Elbaz), €230
Michael Donovan is the founder of Roullier White Independent.
This article originally appeared in the July issue of IMAGE magazine, on shelves nationwide now.