Ralf Schwieger

Perfumer, MANE

What is your most memorable fragrance experience?

I remember vividly a close encounter with a sloth in Costa Rica. It was an animal that had been wounded, living on an animal rescue farm where it was nursed back to health. Someone gave me the sloth to hold, or rather, it held onto me. Its greasy, fragrant fur was a pure olfactive pleasure – somewhat like musk, skin, leather, hair and hay all in one. Perhaps not to everybody’s liking, but I was overwhelmed, positively!

What inspires you?

Anything can inspire me if I open up to the world surrounding me and stay receptive and curious. People, of course. Life.

Is creating a perfume like creating a work of art?

A perfume can be considered a work of art if no concessions are made in the creative process. That is a rare pleasure.

Creating a commercial perfume is in most cases a collaborative effort, the fragrance is conceived by many and put into form through subtle shape shifting, it is an artistic process but rather artisanal in aim and better summed up under design.

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

I am still striving to achieve the ultimate floral fragrance. It is a daunting task to capture the smell of flowers  – I consider it the ultimate refinement in perfumery. Naturally I am rather drawn to woody, citrusy or spicy notes, readily available on a perfumer’s palette. On the other hand, floral notes have to be diligently constructed as the natural ingredients are either too expensive or very far removed from the actual scent of flowers.

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

The nose is just the receptor and not an appropriate description of my profession. I do not even need the nose to create a fragrance. I personally use the word ‘perfumer’ and do not like ‘composer’ as it is too closely related to music. I rather compare building fragrances to architecture – or cooking.

What is your favorite smell?

There are so many but what I really like is the expectation of a scent. A summer rain – that moment before the first raindrops fall on hot asphalt, the special, hard to describe scent is already in the air. A walk toward the dunes at the beach, expecting that salty, sandy herbal note. Or smelling a flower, approaching my nose, eager to experience it again: that incredible intoxicating fragrance of a rose. But what a disappointment to come upon a beautiful rose without a scent! A sphinx without a secret.