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Meet the ‘scent masters’ on a fragrant journey

9 Nov 2022 By ANIRBAN RAY

Behind every perfume is an emotion, an encounter, and an inspiration.

From the 5th century Greek art to oil paintings of the Renaissance, the muse has been fickle and varied in every generation of perfume makers. From pleasing the spirits to camouflaging bad odours, courting mates, and sending a strong message of stature, perfumes have undergone several stages in their ascension to grandeur.

With a wide interesting history of perfumes that many are unaware of, the National Museum hosted a panel discussion titled ‘The perfume industry: exploring new frontiers’ in collaboration with the French Embassy and the Omani French Friendship Association on Monday.

The panel discussion aimed to highlight the world of the perfume industry and talk about the emerging trends in this field and the status of perfumes in France and Oman by presenting the experiences of three leading international companies in the field of perfumes – Amouage, Givaudan and Hermes.

Quentin Bisch (Right).

French fragrance creator and expert, Quentin Bisch, working with Givaudan, showcased his inspiration of three scents. Mused from Mirror, a Greek sculpture from the 5th century, Incense Shuttle L’Annunciation, an articraft from Italy from the 14th Century and Plague Nativity, a painting from France from the 16th Century, the perfumer created three notes exclusively to these work of classic art from ages ago.

Explaining the process, he said, “I imagine aromas even before they are created – I interpret different forms of art through perfume. The mirror inspired my imagination to see the beauty of a woman reflected in the mirror; I used rose, sandalwood and musk.

“The Incense Shuttle resembles a boat and an incense burner in rituals. I used a note that makes one experience fresh water and seaweed. The last has been a famous painting where the baby Jesus is being gifted by the ‘three wise men’. I was inspired with the scene and imagined the apt fragrance from the painting.”

Patricia Mourier

A brief history of perfume was also explained by Patricia Mourier, area manager of Hermes. Culturally, centuries ago, and smoke was used for spiritual purposes. In a bid to elevate departed souls, smoke was also offered in honour of ancestors. It has been an integral part of several old civilisations around the world, including Egypt, Rome, and India, she disclosed. Patrica added, “Perfumes were used for purification in the Middle Ages, also to camouflage unpleasant body odour.”

The panel discussion was part of the cultural programmes accompanying the ‘Fragrant Journeys’ exhibition, which is a collaboration between the National Museum of Oman and the Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon which has agreed to showcase a selection of perfume related artifacts.

The ‘Fragrant Journeys’ exhibition started on October 17 and will run till May 7, 2023, at Bayt Greiza located in the National Museum.

The event was held under the auspices of Sayyid Khalid bin Hamad al Busaidi, chairman of SABCO Group, and with the participation of H E Veronique Aulagnon, ambassador of France.

“Already, prestigious perfume houses such as Amouage work closely with French perfumers and producers. But we could certainly go even further in our exchanges of expertise and cooperation, given the sultanate’s desire to develop this sector within the framework of Vision 2040 and France’s leading role in this sector,” H E Veronique said.

Marco Parsiegla, CEO, and Renaud Salmon, Chief Experience Officer of Amouage, shared Amouage’s experience and global reach over the past 40 years.

Renaud Salmon (left) and Marco Parsiegla

Salmon said, “The chord, in perfumery, is an almost magical combination of many very different raw materials to create a unique blend. The chord makes it possible to transmit a message without being a perfume. At Amouage, which is a subtle word of Amour, it makes one fall in love. The dream of our perfume started almost four decades ago, and we have successfully maintained and experimented with exclusivity and uniqueness of the notes for generations.”

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