Olivier Gillotin

Senior Perfumer, Givaudan

What is your most memorable fragrance experience? 

Many of my fragrance experiences are souvenirs of the past, taken from distant places, journeys and life experiences. One of my most memorable came from a journey when I was nine years old; leaving my birthplace by the sea and arriving at a boarding school in the mountains close to Grenoble.   Coming from the seashore, the odor of the mountain surprised me. The verdant density of the pine forests, the resinous sap of freshly cut spruces and firs, and the coolness of the mountain in the spring time. I still remember it; I don’t even need to close my eyes to remember. As humans, the scent of the journey is one of our greatest souvenirs.

What inspires you?

My inspiration comes from many different paths, more than often I can find it within nature, but also in a piece of art or in a culinary experience. Overall, I think the most important way to come about inspiration is to have a good sense of observation. I find that it is essential in our field of creation.

Is creating a perfume like creating a work of art? 

A perfume is a piece of art, where the harmony of the perfume has to work within a space and time. It must have a direct effect on a person who wears it, giving a positive experience. And similar to other arts, the final perfume has to be superior in quality and beauty than each ingredient in the fragrance would be on its own.

Is there a particular scent or aroma you dream of capturing in a perfume?

I wish I was able to give an odor to happiness, can you imagine a perfume that makes everyone happy just by smelling it?

From a philosophical point of view, how would you describe yourself…nose, perfumer, composer?

Certainly not as a nose! My dogs and alpaca have much better noses. Creative perfumer is an explicit way to describe my work, but philosophically speaking a composer of mood would be a better description. However, in the complete opposite to music, where a piece can have the ability to make people cry and still be beautiful, making a perfume that brings people to tears is not a good intention! It still has to be pleasant.

What is your favorite smell?

I don’t have a favorite smell, but there are odors which touch me, pieces of my life, from the simple and comforting to significant life moments. The odor of a freshly cut wheat field in the summer, the odor of the ocean during a summer storm, the odor of a newborn, the odor of new shoes when they are made of good leather, and the odor of fire in the winter. All of these and more conjure time, places and spaces I have been.