scent memories

Heartbreak Smells Like Patchouli

Olivier Cresp and Yvan Jacqueline. Photo: Courtesy of Parfums de Marly

Call it the Proust effect: Memories are often triggered by smells. Scientific studies confirm that, of all the senses, smell offers the best recall. In Scent Memories, the Cut asks people about the scents they associate with different times in their lives. Next up are Yvan Jacqueline, Creative Director of Parfums de Marly, the French fragrance brand birthed from Louis XV’s Château de Marly, and Master Perfumer Olivier Cresp. One of only three Master Perfumers in the world, Cresp developed Marly’s newest scent, Sedley, a crisp, unisex fragrance that’s an unexpected but refreshing blend of citrus, spearmint, woods, and rosemary. The Cut caught up with the pair to talk flower picking, cat odors, and what scent to pack for a vacation.

My first scent memory is:

Yvan Jacqueline: Lavender in the garden of my grandparents in South Brittany in France. We had it all around the yard and every morning when I’d leave the house, I’d take just a bit in my hand and crush it, and my hands would smell like lavender all day long. Every time I see it today, I still think about my grandparents.

Oliver Cresp: Jasmine flower. I was born in Grasse, the capital of perfumery, and my parents were growing flowers at their house, especially jasmine. My father brought baby Jasmine flowers from Egypt and they bloom from July to almost November, December, and they smell gorgeous. It’s one of my first memories and still my preferred scent.

Happiness smells like:

YJ: An ingredient that’s sparkling, like bergamot, which is a smiling scent. Happiness is all about being able to appreciate the time you are living in; the moments. Most people think about what they would like to have or who else they’d like to be, but I think people should be lighter in the way they live to appreciate the moments more, to appreciate the sunshine and the simple things, and to me that’s bergamot. It’s very refined, pleasant, and light.

OC: It’s definitely not darkness and the opposition to darkness is light and lightness, so I think it’s shining, solar ingredients. It could be Tiaré flowers or frangipani flowers. When we are in Grasse and we are doing the harvesting of the rose in May, it’s early in the morning, at seven o’clock. You see the fields, you see the small church, you see the people picking up the flowers, the wind is blowing, the sky is blue: That is happiness.

Love smells like:

YJ: What is love?! It depends on how you consider love. For me, it should be something that has great intensity. It should be stronger than anything in order for it to last. So I would pick an ingredient that is strong at the base, that would last, and stay, and diffuse. I would pick the cashmere wood that is in Sedley because it is something that attracts, and love should have that same strength.

OC: Love could be romantic, and what flower do you offer to a woman when you love them? It’s roses. Now, if it’s just a sex affair, it can be anything else you want. For me, animalic ingredients such as ambergris, cumin, or oud extract combined with the ambergris on the skin, they are delicious and that reminds you of love, too.

Heartbreak or loss smells like:

YJ: When you are heartbroken, it’s violent in the moment, even though you might suffer for a long time afterward, too. So I would say something dark, like patchouli. It sometimes jumps in your face when you first smell it.

OC: Patchouli, vetiver, or it could even be incense. The dark ingredients that you have in the dry-down of the fragrances.

Friendship smells like:

YJ: A safe smell surrounding you. Something reassuring and comfortable, but calm and happy, too, so I would pick vanilla. Vanilla brings you back to childhood and calms you down, but gives you confidence and makes you feel good, and this is what friendship gives you in life.

OC: Friendship could also be musk. Musk is a second skin; a cocooning ingredient that is protecting you as well.

Regret smells like:

YJ: A bad creation. [laughs]. Like a bad perfume that will not last …

OC: Definitely.

YJ: Definitely not a Marly perfume [laughs].

OC: It’s the failure, it’s the flop. For me as a creator, it’s a big regret and I won’t forget it.

Success smells like:

YJ: A sparkling fragrance. Delina would be the perfect example of how success smells. It’s sparkling, it’s dynamic, and it’s a trade, because success in your life gives you a trade, consequences, and change, and Delina did that.

A pleasant surprise smells like:

OC: Without thinking too much, I’d relate it to a nice, well-rounded bouquet of flowers. You’re pleasing everyone with flowers.

My home smells like:

YJ: A Parfums de Marley bouquet. I have so many creations in my bathroom, in my living room, my daughter is spraying things, I have the candles as well. It also depends on the perfume I’m wearing the most, too, so it’s Layton vibes, it’s Sedley vibes, it’s Kalan vibes …

OC: I am totally reversed. I’m creating so many fragrances all day long and wearing so many experiments that when I get inside my house I don’t want any smell. I’m always looking for something clean. We have a cat in our house, so sometimes it smells like cassis, but not everywhere. I need a clean house with no smell. Like a white odor. Hygenic.

Vacation smells like:

YJ: Sedley to me, because it’s freshness, dynamism, and almost the smell of the sea. If was going on vacation in Florida, I would for sure wear Sedley.

OC: Orange flower, brume flowers, linden, Tiaré, frangipani all link me directly with vacation. All the solar fragrances made with salicylates. As soon as you use ylang-ylang, you’re on vacation.

The worst smell is:

YJ: When I started to work in the perfumery world, I discovered you cannot say you have a bad smell. Let’s take the example of civet. Civet, you know … if you smell civet it smells…

OC: Terrible. Awful.

YJ: It’s like …

OC: Like shit. Truly.

YJ: But you can use such a weird ingredient to boost a fragrance and it can be part of a beautiful creation. So I could say civet, but it could be very useful. Every smell is interesting.

OC: Personally, I don’t like jonquil and hyacinth because it’s old fashioned and they bloom in January and February, and I don’t like that season at all. I much prefer spring, summer, and autumn — winter is out.

Sunday morning smells like:

YJ: Breakfast. Orange blossom. Citrusy. When you wake up in the morning, that’s the best time to smell because it’s when you can smell the best, so you don’t want scents that are too heavy like coffee.

OC: Sweat, because I’m running early on Sunday mornings.

Monday morning smells like:

YJ: Coffee, because it energizes you and Monday morning is about intensity, excitement, and what we have to do and plan for the next six days.

OC: Definitely black coffee. It’s not running, it’s racing.

If I could have one smell on my hands forever, it would be: 

YJ: I will take Delina Exclusif. When I’m in the office working, I often spray it on my hands and I love it. It’s energetic and deep, and that’s really a smell I truly love.

OC: Orange flower water, because it relates back to happiness and my childhood as well. To me, it’s shining, it’s sunny, it’s bright. And I’m wearing this for good, you know?

What do you smell like?

YJ: We tend to create perfumes to highlight people’s personalities and the smell you project is the first introduction that, Here I am. Smell is the only sense directly linked with the subconscious. Sometimes when you don’t know a person, but after ten minutes, it feels like, Wow it’s like I’ve known them for many years — it’s this connection that’s happening through smell. This is actually a beautiful question. I hope I smell like empathy, loyalty, and passion … I hope!

OC: The smell of skin is related to musk, because skin smells milky and creamy. So probably — from what I’ve heard — I smell musky.

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Heartbreak Smells Like Patchouli