“I Smell With My Brain” Jean-Claude Ellena’s Point Of View

There was an interesting article about Jean-Claude Ellena, the journalist’s most favorite perfumer, in Spiegel Magazine last week that I’d like to share with you.

I read Ellena’s book “The Diary of a Nose: A Year in the Life of a Parfumeur” and I can’t say I have been overwhelmed. This could have been a great book, if only an editor had taken an interest in it…

But in general I like Ellena and his way of seeing the world and his way of creating. Although I don’t necessarily share his asceticism.

I like what he says about IFRA regulations: I take that as a challenge to think in a different way. Picasso once said: “If I don’t have green, I’ll use red.” Voilà tout. That’s all.”

What about you? Did you read the book? Do you like Ellena’s perfumes? What do you think about the interview in Spiegel Magazine?

Thank you Sandra for the heads-up!
Image source: timesonline.co.uk
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33 Responses to “I Smell With My Brain” Jean-Claude Ellena’s Point Of View

  1. masha7 says:

    I read this article in Spiegel a few days ago, and thought it was very interesting. But I question whether 200 ingredients is enough?? I like some of Ellena’s older, more complicated creations better than the newest ones. Maybe it’s a personal challenge for him, but I think when an artist has the technical virtuosity to use 500 or 1,000 ingredients in new and exciting ways, they should! 200 is enough for hobbyists and newbies, but I think when he restricts himself so severely, it is a waste of a rare talent. Just my opinion, though.

    • Tara says:

      Marla, I was also surprised. I understand he likes to create his perfumes with the minimum number of ingredients necessary, but I wouldn’t have thought he’d so greatly limit the palette he has to choose from.

    • Olfactoria says:

      An artist has to do where his muse leads him, and if JCE feels he needs to restrict himself to be happy with his work, there is nothing we can do…
      I totally see your point, but his art reflects his attitudes, his philosophies and his beliefs, and the man does not seem to be attracted to excess. ;)

  2. Suzanne says:

    Thank you, Birgit, that was a fascinating interview. I enjoyed reading much of what JCE said, particularly his answer to the question, “Do you wish to liberate the perfumer’s work from the sphere of capital?” His response (“I’m not ashamed of the fact that perfume is a luxury product and that people earn money from it. Please! Those are jobs being created”) is very similar to how I feel.

    No, I haven’t read his book yet, but many of his thoughtful replies in this interview make me want to read it now. I’m curious about your comment in which you say that it could have been a great book if only an editor had taken an interest in it. Does this mean that you found it sort of unedited in a way that it lacked focus? Just curious … I should go look up the reviews on Amazon.

    • Olfactoria says:

      The book definitely lacked focus in my opinion. The Ellena we know, the public persona, so open and eloquent about his work is completely missing in the book. Only the introspective, melancholy Ellena is there (and in a quite confused, unstructured manner too). The book would have profited from a combination of both sides of this fascinating man.

  3. Right in the middle of the book Birgit. I’m enjoying it immensely. it’s just diary entries made into reading material, quite a voyeurs dream. I also enjoyed his other littler book. I like his take on fragrance and most of his body of work too and through this book I feel that i understand a tiny, microscopic bit of who the perfumer is. It helps with my connection to the Jardin series which I am currently exploring.
    Portia xx

  4. Tara says:

    I haven’t read the book but thanks for the link to the article. I enjoyed reading Parts 1 and 2 during my tea break and lunch hour.

    I’m currently contemplating a Hermessence travel set with maybe 3 of Osmanthe Yunnan and 1 of Ambre Narguile. Need to try Vetiver Tonka first though…

  5. lucasai says:

    Yes, I like some of Ellenas perfume. No, I don’t read those books. They’re not available in Poland.

  6. Melis says:

    I’ve not read the book, but most likely will in the near future. Thank you for linking the article, it was an interesting read. I’m not very well versed on all things JC Ellena but of the scents I have tried, First and Rumba (earlier work) most appealed to me. Due largely in part to my love of heavy florientals. Jardin sur le Nil is undoubtably a beautiful perfume. Just not something I would wear, though I do find it transportive. As if I am in a garden he has created.

  7. Yep I reviewed it on the blog haha – I thought the book was utter crap haha. Slated it.
    I don’t enjoy Ellena’s work at all though (I know that’s a gross summary and there are one or two that are tolerable but general his recent style is not at all to my taste) – so maybe that contributed towards my hatred. Generally I just wanted to throw my book at the wall, luckily I kept it in pristine condition and returned it the next day after reading :)

  8. Lindaloo says:

    Haven’t read the book, but in the interview I was amused to read that he doesn’t have the ingredients to create passionfruit — a benefit, in my opinion, to having a palette of only 200 ingredients.
    I also found interesting his understated, yet revealing, description of his parents’ relationship.

    • Olfactoria says:

      Haha, yes, I found that funny too about the passionfruit. ;)
      I felt almost uncomfortable to read these comments about his mother, as you say, he didn’t say much, but revealed a lot.

  9. Dionne says:

    Thank you for the link, that was fascinating! Although I find some of Ellena’s work too ephemeral even for my scent-glue skin (yes, Osmanthe Yunnan, I’m talking to you), I appreciate how eloquent he is. And the comment about Roudnitska’s dog just made me laugh.

  10. laniersmith says:

    I have not read his book yet but I have read the Chandler Burr book. I really enjoyed the interview in Spiegel. Thanks for sharing that.

  11. Civava says:

    Well I admire him for being able to compose such good perfumes with so little ingredients. It is not important how many ingredients perfume has, the end product is important. Most of the people don’t even recognize more than few. Ellena’s perfumes are “zen like” to me. Great but “too light” to me. I wouldn’t mind having most of them but my finances are limited.

  12. martha says:

    I’m wearing his perfume right now. I have fallen in love with it. It’s the L’eau D’hiver one. I will buy anything he sells once I get a job. He’s brilliant

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