Voyages of discovery
Stephane. Perfumer and musician.
The first time I visited Scandinavia was to answer a brief from a new fragrance company based in Denmark. The task piqued my interest since it was a region I knew little of, and olfactory knowledge about the Scandinavian region in the perfume industry of Grasse, France – one to which I have been wedded for almost thirty years – was similarly limited. “Isn’t it all just pine and snow?” joked one of my associates.
Since that first trip I have returned many times, to many different corners, exploring the many facets of the raw landscapes and everyday life, all in search of inspiration for new fragrances. These journeys have renewed my passion for perfume and rekindled the anticipation and joy that I relish in the process of discovery and creation.
For our latest expedition, the fjords of Norway provided the most visceral experience yet. The beauty of fjordland is truly inspiring for a perfumer, not only the individual flora, but the overwhelming drama of the landscape. It reveals the balance of extremes in Scandinavia that I find so compelling, and it is accompanied by a third dimension, an acoustic background of melting snow and rushing water.
When I visit other places I am happy to return home once the task is complete, but when I leave Scandinavia it always leaves questions in my mind.
On the one side of the fjord we experienced all the blossoming of life, of the fruit trees, grasses and flowers nestling below the forests. In the middle we rowed upon the placid green fjord water. On the other side, we had the sheer, dark cliffs, crashing white waterfalls and an otherwise absence of life. Something very romantic on one side, and something very dramatic on the other. All perfectly soundtracked by the watery reverb, everywhere you go, that gives depth and distance and which envelopes you inside a ceaseless exhibition of nature’s power and beauty.
Elsewhere in the world, it is usually just one or the other. But in the Nordics, it is never 100% one way, there is always a proximity between poetry and tragedy. This influences me to always strive to create balance and avoid exaggeration, to write notes for Skandinavisk fragrances in a different way. To find the space in the middle, the character.
Edvard Greig? Perhaps it wasn’t by chance that he composed such dramatic and romantic music in Hardanger. The essence of life is here.
All photographs are taken by Niki Brantmark