Creation of a Perfume

Chandler Burr in The New Yorker:

On a sunny afternoon last June, the French perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena arrived at the offices of Hermès, the luxury-goods maker, in Pantin, just north of Paris, to present his first essais—or olfactory sketches—for the company’s next perfume. Ellena, who is fifty-seven years old, had recently been named Hermès’s first in-house perfumer by Jean-Louis Dumas Hermès, the chairman of the company. Dumas Hermès wanted to fix a delicate problem: Hermès had an elegant perfume collection that included classic scents like Calèche and 24, Faubourg, yet they sold only modestly. Chanel, one of Hermès’s chief rivals, made ten times as much money on perfume. (Led by its eighty-three-year-old warhorse, Chanel No. 5, the company’s 2003 sales totalled $1.2 billion.) It might be possible for Hermès to make one of its older scents chic through advertising, but the family had chosen a more daring strategy: it would adopt Chanel’s approach, and set up its own perfume laboratory.

More here.