Top Notes

Paris correspondent Elisa­beth Franck-Dumas speaks one-on-one with Hermès’s parfumeur-in-residence Jean-Claude Ellena, the man behind the Hermèssence fragrance line. Here he talks about his seventh creation, Brin de Réglisse.

What is your earliest scent memory?

JE: The Nivea cream my grandmother used.

What is the most original scent you have used in perfume?

JE: That of a tropical plant called Ruizia cordata. It smells like flour.

How do you start a new fragrance?

JE: My inspiration ranges from works in progress in the lab to things I smell when I walk down the street. The difficulty is not to have an idea; it’s how you tell the story.

Which one says home?

JE: L’Eau de Campagne by Sisley. It smells like tomatoes.

What are the best-smelling places?

JE: The island of La Réunion, even its flowers and plants, reminds me of mangoes and papayas. And Japan smells like ambergris or dried fish, the green tea like algae, and the sake and soy sauce have fish nuances. I’m always happy to smell Japan.

Why did you create Brin de Réglisse?

JE: To rehabilitate lavender. There is no nobility in it anymore—it’s too reminiscent of detergent. I decomposed the molecular structure, then took out the hygienic whiffs and married the result with licorice.

Why licorice?

JE: Intuition, mostly. But a lavender field in the winter is black, a deep, intense black, so maybe it’s no accident.