Two weeks ago I attended an incredible conference at the Hotel de Caumont; it is an arts center in Aix en Provence and is a beautiful, cultural venue. The title was L'Art du Parfum, Carte Blanche - (the art of perfume, complete freedom) and was given by highly esteemed perfumer and house nose for Hermes, Jean Claude Ellena. He also happens to be my number one favourite and creator of my treasured and beloved Vetiver Tonka.
Jean Claude Ellena is an accomplished speaker and story teller, be it via perfume or with words and there lies his genius. I was carried away for nearly two hours into his magical and privileged world. He is rightly proud of his "carte blanche" - Hermes are one of the few houses who allow their nose complete creative freedom and do no market testing whatsoever. A marketing man in the audience was dumbfounded to hear this which was fun to hear. Despite this and the great commercial success stories Jean Claude Ellena has brought to Hermes, he remains full of integrity and humility. He explained to us that he would never take on a bespoke perfume for an individual, no matter what the price tag. He finds the idea narcissistic and artistically it does not interest him.
When working on a new fragrance the creative process can be fast or slow. For example the first Jardin, Un Jardin en Mediterranee was completed in three days and a recent Hermessence, Cuir d'Ange took him ten years. The average time taken is perhaps nine months (Terre d'Hermes for instance). Jean Claude Ellena can create a fragrance in his mind as he knows the molecules by heart, this is a skill that takes about twenty years to perfect. Maybe longer, perfume is in Jean Claude Ellena's DNA, his father was a perfumer and he grew up in the perfume industry.
We watched a little film about the inspiration for Le Jardin de Monsieur Li, you can watch part of it here:-
We also had the opportunity to ask questions and I was there with my hand up like an over-eager Hermione Granger.... my question; since Jean Claude Ellena doesn't wear perfume which perfume does his wife wear? The answer; she is wearing the Hermessence he is currently working on. As she was in the audience I cheekily approached Mme Ellena and asked if I could have an avant première sniff of the new Hermessence; she graciously and obligingly offered me her neck to smell. Sadly it had worn off, what a disappointment but I guess I will just have to smell it as soon as it is released.
I bought a copy of Jean Claude Ellena's Journal d'un Parfumeur (Diary of a Perfumer). He wrote a beautiful dedication to me:-
"For Rebecca and her passion for perfumes. Thank you! Jean Claude Ellena 3/2016"