A “mortifying” experience in high school was actually what solidified Quentin Bisch’s desire to become a perfumer, and thank goodness for that moment, as he is the man responsible for some of the prettiest fragrances on shelves right now. Chloé’s new Nomade scent? Yep, that’s him. Blouse by Yves Saint Laurent? Also him. Add in countless others for Ex Nihilo, Jean Paul Gaultier, Boucheron, Missoni and Bottega Veneta and its clear why Van Cleef & Arpels sought his expertise for its newest fragrance: Néroli Amara (which is his second fragrance for the brand). Here, Quentin speaks with Buro 24/7 Middle East contributor Farouk Chekoufi about his process, inspirations and what makes this scent so unique…
What or who inspired you to become a perfumer?
It’s thanks to my French teacher that I realised I wanted to become a perfumer. It was my very first day of middle school. My French teacher entered the classroom and filled the place with her perfume. I was completely captivated. At the end of the class I came to her and asked for her perfume. She had a bad reaction: I should not have asked that kind of question, she was my teacher, and I had to show her respect. I was mortified, apologised and left as quickly as possible. But she kept spreading her fragranced aura within the following courses. That’s how I realised the power of a perfume, how hypnotising it can be! It was decided: I wanted to become a perfumer.
What was the first fragrance you fell in love with?
The one my teacher was wearing. I later found out that it was YSL Opium.
Your first olfactive memory?
Impossible to say precisely. But certainly the smell of my mum wearing Shalimar. And the scent of lillies as my parents were flower lovers and I can still picture the bouquets filling the house as I was a child.
I was inspired by a beautiful story, the one of the Princess of Nerola, a strong French female character who spent all her life as an influencer in the French, Spanish and Italian courts.
Who is the Néroli Amara woman?
For me the Néroli Amara Women had to share the same values as Van Cleef & Arpels, as they both alluring with an understated style and elegance; the perfect combination between natural refinement and sophistication.
What inspired the construction of Néroli Amara?
I was inspired by a beautiful story, the one of the Princess of Nerola, a strong French female character who spent all her life as an influencer in the French, Spanish and Italian courts. She vowed a boundless love for the amara orange tree and transformed it into a fashionable fragrance ingredient. This is how I started working with numerous and diverse references that could help me tell this wonderful story; I imagined a walk through one of these fantastic gardens, the comforting warm light contrasted by the fresh breeze of the Mediterranean sea and the opulent fragrance of an orange blossom tree.
Is there one ultimate ingredient in Néroli Amara?
Neroli Amara is not about just one ultimate ingredient, it’s more a harmony of two ingredients that encounter themselves in order to evoke the radiant effect that bursts from the combination of orange blossom and bergamot integral.
How long did it take to create this fragrance?
Could you describe the fragrance?
I would describe Néroli Amara as the evolution of light during the day; at sunrise, the brilliance of citrus give way to the first lights. An enveloping combination of Bloody Orange and Pink Berries reveal the great bergamot integral, blooming in all its facets. A spark of black pepper represents the heart of the day. Thousands of orange flowers irradiate the Mediterranean with its opulent scent. When the evening comes, the cypress takes the lead, leaving the day to evaporate in a sensation of wood and resins.
What more can you tell us about this new chapter of Néroli Amara?
For this new chapter we wanted to explore the Citrus Cologne family, paying homage to the origins of perfumery, combining natural traditional hesperidic ingredients like citrus, orange, bergamot and mandarin and combining them with the beautiful floralcy of the orange flower.
What makes Néroli Amara unique?
The same thing that makes Van Cleef & Arpels unique: that perfect balance between humility and sophistication.
Can you tell us more about your collaboration with Van Cleef & Arpels?
Fluidity is the word that comes to my mind. They loved the idea of treating the Néroli in a different way, using orange blossom absolute for the floralcy and bergamot integral for the freshness.
Perfume connects people deeply. It touches everyone from inside, appealing to personal memories and emotions.
What’s the thing you’re happiest about with this fragrance?
I love its trail. It is super radiant and luminous.
Is your nose your only work tool?
Of course not. My brain plays a very important role as well. It is super important cause I need to picture mentally the mix of ingredients in order to create.
How has technology helped to shape the art of perfumery?
I think that today what really makes a difference is the wide palette of ingredients that we have in our hands; from beautiful and high quality naturals from all over the world to new innovative synthetics that helps us create a perfect balance and enhance the naturality of the fragrance.
Why is perfume a good vehicle for storytelling?
Perfume connects people deeply. It touches everyone from inside, appealing to personal memories and emotions. Therefore imagination and dreams are strongly connected to fragrances.
And speaking of Van Cleef & Arpels, discover the brand’s new Perlée collection.