L’odeur est un mot, le parfum est la littérature / Odor is a word, perfume is literature (7). In brief entries dating October 29, 2009 to October 13, 2010, Journal d’un Parfumeur reveals a year in the life (or, rather, the mind) of perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena, and celebrates the connections between language, contemplation and perfumery. Ellena offers a selective self-portrait via bright anecdotes, thoughtful vignettes and philosophical musings, blended with a hearty dose of opinion and a splash of high-brow name-dropping. Places and dates anchor the journal entries, along with brief titles, many of which would would make terrific perfume monikers: Plaisir; Nébuleux; Juxtaposition Toujours la menthe; Classique; Clin de nez; Bill Evans; Bricolage; Moleskine; and Shazam (yes, as in the iPhone app, and yes, related to identifying smells on the streets of Paris).
It turns out that language plays a vital role in Ellena’s creative process as well. Le nom est un son qui doit accrocher tous vos sens, il est le premier contact avec le parfum / The name is a sound that must capture all the senses; it is the first contact with the perfume (40). Describing works in progress — perfume formulae that may never be produced — Ellena explains that names help him to organize and track his creations. Féminin H, Vétiver de Calèche, Cuir de Bel Ami, and Fleur de Porcelaine could have been assigned numerical codes, but only words hold keys to each perfume’s histoire (which fittingly means both history and story in French). My favorite of these draft names, Eau de mandarine bleue, evokes Surrealist writer Paul Eluard’s poem, “The earth is blue like an orange…”