The extraordinary bond between whisky and fragrance dates all the way back to ancient Mesopotamia. That’s where the art of distilling was developed to create perfume. Perfume, or a scented mixture, is a blend of essential oils and aromatic extractions.
As in the world of whisky, an educated nose is central to the craft of perfumery. The vitally important job of composing fragrances is known in the perfume industry as “le Nez”, the nose in French. When assessing fine whisky, a sophisticated nose is also crucial when identifying and appreciating a delicious, aromatic liquid.
It is generally believed there are only four identifiable taste sensations (sweet, salty, sour and bitter), while there are a whopping thirty-two primary aromas. So imagine what you’d be missing without your sense of smell! The nose is so important to the whisky industry that there are jobs solely dedicated to studying each spirit through the sense of smell. These “noses” are able to detect and select a wide variety of aroma compounds ranging from bitter chocolate and spicy cinnamon to fruity pear and citrus to an array of sweet, delicate floral notes.
Master blenders and malt masters are responsible for the creation and precision of their whiskies. The perfume industry has master perfumers, as well. One of the most famous is Ernest Beaux, the genius responsible for perfecting one of the world’s most coveted fragrances, Chanel No 5. Beaux was able to capture a rare opulence in his mixture comprised primarily of rose, ylang-ylang, sandalwood, synthetic aldehydes (a first) and most important – jasmine exclusive to Grasse, France. The jasmine in No 5 is so crucial that Chanel Inc., in order to preserve and protect its original recipe, purchased the land where this unique flower grows.
Attention to detail is what makes the output of master blenders and master perfumers so special. As customers, we each have our own individual nose to help guide us to make choices. For example, some people cringe at the smell of gasoline, while others find it appealing. Some diners love cilantro; others loathe it. Our differences in scent and taste often define us and lead us to legendary classics as well as new discoveries.
Undoubtedly, Chanel No 5 is the pioneer of designer fragrances, but it has always been exciting to treat my nose to exhilarating new blends. Here are a few of my favorites, past and present.
Chanel No 5
“Number five. Yes. That is what I was waiting for. A perfume like nothing else. A woman’s perfume, with the scent of a woman.” – Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel
Saks Fifth Avenue for Her
Founded in 2003 by perfume industry veteran Laurice Rahmé, Bond No 9 is an American fragrance company that pays tribute to the city of New York through the art of perfumery.
“It is all about the power of transformation. The power of every individual to turn anything into something positive”. – Viktor & Rolf