Written by Pauline MALLAT.
Meeting Jean-Denis Saisse is much more than gathering the unique testimony of a world-famous and totally passionate creative perfumer, it is opening the book of the great history of French perfumery. To do this, the appointment is given on the heights of Grasse , where everything began. From his history to his creative process, including the composition of En Terrasse, a fragrance he designed, and which would tend to make us dream particularly these troubling days, he tells us everything. And we love it! Let’s take you along.
Find out the perfumes signed by Jean Denis Saisse: Villa Simone, Tellement Bleu, En Terrasse from the French Riviera Collection and their Absolus Parfums.
Perfume, more than a vocation, is it a family affair?
Absolutely, because we have been in the perfume business for 7 generations! In 1785, the family business was established in rue de la Fontette, in the historic centre of Grasse - the cradle of French perfumery - in the midst of the tanners and glove makers-perfumers. At that time, the company was specialised in Neroli, fine lavender, rose, jasmine and tuberose. Even today, on the land of Caussols, we still have more than 300 hectares of lavender. And I must admit that I am very proud of this heritage, and particularly of my paternal grandfather. He went from being a salesman at Cavallier Frères to the head of this beautiful company, building a real empire at the beginning of the last century. It remains a tragedy for me that the company had to be sold in the 1960s, but this did not prevent the perfume from continuing to flow in my veins!
Is this heritage reflected in your creations?
I grew up surrounded by tuberoses giving off those special notes of orange and cupcake; as a teenager, I took part in the picking of the May rose, with its incomparable scent; for my first job as a creative perfumer, I took the road to Monaco every day, along the cliff corniche, with that extraordinary smell of Mediterranean bush... I am obviously imbued with these scents and so many others, typical of our region. Moreover, when I close my eyes and imagine myself on the Terrace, these are the scents that resurface: you can smell the sea, the citrus mixed up with the scent of pine trees, the smell of resin heated by the sun... We are here, in the heart of this very special landscape, between the sea and the mountains, with all these scents that immerse you into a state of... contemplation. This is the magic of perfume: to make us live intensely the present moment.
So, you just need to close your eyes to create a perfume, didn’t it?
That is exactly what it is! At first, you have to let your imagination run wild. I think a lot and when I feel that everything is there, I write down the formula on paper. I work on it and rework it, revising certain dosages, adding, deleting, rebalancing... Note that at this stage, I don't feel anything: only the formula exists. It's all a question of intuition. And once it's finalized, I know I won't be touching it anymore. I never do any testing. And the perfume, thus created, is always the perfect translation of the olfactory music I had composed.
"En Terrasse" is available in Absolu parfum and soon in Eau fraîche (fresh water), Which means?
Each new version is a rewriting of the original formula. Whatever one chooses to wear, “En Terrasse” keeps the same initial inspiration. For example, for the Absolu parfum, it was a question of keeping only the essential - the freshness and the woodiness - and revealing it in all its quintessence. For this, I used what are called absolutes, obtained by extraction. Very little diluted, they offer the perfume in its strongest concentration. This makes it a particularly precious juice. For the Eau fraiche (fresh water) the intention is different. The aim is to make the formula lighter, fresher of course. To do this, we take aromatic notes that we associate to the neroli, to the grapefruit and that we make play with the nutmeg and a note of mandarin... And it's the imagination that takes off! Because even if the intention remains the same, each variation calls for a new formula, a new creation, faithful while being different from the first. Very exciting!
For you, what is an ideal perfume?
It is the one that is made with the heart, with passion and above all, by taking its time. Perfumery is an art, and you cannot compose a work without thinking. And that's what delights me about Alex Simone, who shares the same vision of perfumery: with exceptional raw materials, time and patience, you can make great things.