His shellfish risotto is sublime and one finds Jean-Christophe Herault as passionate about art and literature as he is about perfume
Food, art and literature – it’s practically impossible to separate the three when Jean-Christophe Herault talks about what he does. Read on to know more about this perfumer, who already has quite a fascinating career behind him.
His olfactive awakening
Born in 1973, Jean-Christophe grew up in the world of perfumes. His father manufactured concentrates but never really involved his son in what he did. Yet perfume was still very much a part of his life. While in his teens, his father gave him Joop for Men, a fragrance he has never forgotten. “This perfume wasn’t very well known in France at the time and very different from the current trend. People stopped me to say how much they liked it and I was fascinated by its effect both on me and on others. This was definitely the first time I ever fell in love with a fragrance.”
Creating his own fragrance notebook
While Jean-Christophe studied chemistry without much conviction, his father sent him to Grasse as a trainee in a control laboratory. The perfumer asleep inside him was instinctively attracted to the fields of mimosa, to jasmine and tuberose absolutes… But the real turning point in his life was when he met Pierre Bourdon, creator of his favourite perfume Joop for Men. He agreed to take him under his wing on one condition – that he read Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time in its entirety. “This monumental work is the ideal handbook for the small creator. It’s the story of a vocation, of an artist, a writer.”
A year later, once he had read all seven volumes, Pierre Bourdon began to teach him everything he knew with the method he had inherited from his own mentor: Edmond Roudnitska. To create his own language, Jean-Christophe started a notebook where he wrote down what image each raw material conjured up for him.
After the vocabulary came the grammar and his first olfactive paces came with the reproduction of harmonies and the imitation of major perfume in order to understand the sensations they create on the skin. Because his training was similar to drawing he decided to study the history of art at the same time. Indeed, it was a necessity for him in order to enrich his future as a creator. “Pierre Bourdon left me the liberty to explore territories I would never have discovered if he had supervised me closer”. Extremely grateful, Jean-Christophe now considers his eight years of training a priceless gift.
His favourite smells
Among the smells that he totally succumbs to are – the earth after the rain in summer and the smell of privet flower which reminds him of vacations in Normandy as a child. “A lot of people don’t like this smell but for me it conjures up a very singular emotion and immediately puts me back into a very comforting past. Ozonic, rubbery, watery, airy, green and fresh: its perfume is like spring since it is honey sweet. It also possesses an orange blossom twist which I’m really fond of.”
A weakness for good food
Just as at ease with essential oils as he is in a kitchen, Jean-Christophe admits to a weakness for good food. “When you are an amateur of perfume, you are always very interested in food,” he says with a smile. Inspired by his work, he often tries out various combinations of spice when he is cooking just as he does with his perfumes. He loves to share and very much enjoys preparing shellfish risotto with tarragon or a panna cotta in the purest of Italian tradition.
Because he wants his perfumes to leave their mark, Jean-Christope is naturally drawn towards eloquent raw materials from different olfactive families. “I like cypriol because it is an almost virile type of wood, and smells of skin and fallow deer. I also like aldehydes for their metallic facets as well as benzoin and all the balsamic notes. And even if it might seem a bit of a paradox I love hedione. It is not one of the most expansive of materials but we all have our contradictions.”
SOME OF HIS PERFUMES:
Enchanted Golden Absolute by Chopard
Luxure Masculin by Otto Kern
Enchanted by Chopard
Florabotanica by Balenciaga
Amazingreen by Comme des Garçons
Opium Vapeur de Parfum by Yves Saint Laurent
Arabian Nights by J. Del Pozo
Captivating by Ghost
Donna Soir by Luciano Soprani
Essence Noire by Braccialini
Swiss Unlimited by Victorinox Swiss Unlimited
Groovy Life by Esprit Woman by Esprit
Canali Dal 1934 by Canali
My Dream: Marlene Dietrich by Grès
Bayres by La Martina