|image: Andy Tauer|
In the third and final instalment of this exclusive interview, Andy Tauer talks about innovation, the blogosphere and formal perfumery training. For part 1, please click here and for part 2, click here.
Persolaise: I'm fascinated by the fact that the perfume was finished a long time ago. What's it like talking about something which, for you, was concluded and completed two years ago? Do you feel sufficiently distanced from the project to be objective about it? Or is it actually difficult to put yourself in the mind-set of the person who made that perfume?
Andy Tauer: A good question. Yes, I feels sometimes strangely disconnected when working on the launch activities for a scent that was finished years ago. I usually go back to the scent, wear it for a while to connect again. It is even more strange when years after a launch perfume lovers get in touch with me about a particular scent, asking me how I did it and why I did it the way I did it. They might have just discovered it. For me, it has become a logistics issue, but it is a thing of the past. Lucky me, I write my blog. There, you and me find a lot of information. But I guess, the same is true for an author, an actor or a painter. You move on, leaving your creation behind you and start worrying about your next venture and projects...
P: Personally, I see a link between Gardenia and your last two scents for Tableau De Parfums, especially Loretta. It's something like an edge... a sense of bared teeth... a refusal to succumb to mere prettiness... a vanillic base which isn't at all sweet. What would you say to that? Is it just a coincidence? Is it because gardenia and tuberose share some facets? Could it be because you were working on Gardenia and your TBD scents at the same time?
AT: Loretta and the Sotto La Luna Gardenia: Hmmm... (silence) I think, they are not strongly related and one was not influenced by the other. You know, I finished Loretta, and then, before working on the Gardenia, I worked on a couple of other scents, Noontide Petals, for instance, and two, three unreleased fragrances. Hence, when starting to work on the Gardenia, Loretta was not on my mind. To be honest, when I started working later on the Tuberose for Sotto La Luna (launch planned for autumn 2016; yes, yes, I know, we plan a lot in Tauerville; too much maybe!), then I had a look at Loretta again. Just to double check a couple of lines. But I learned very soon that Loretta does not help me there, as the inspiration and the theme was totally different. Thus, in 2016, you will be amazed how different Loretta and my Sotto La Luna Tuberose are. One last word: you know, my launch dates of scents do not always reflect the order of when they were finished in my Excel file. And, yes, tuberose and gardenia have something in common. But, I think, feel, smell, that they are a bit further apart than what we might think.
P: It seems to me that with your Gardenia, you've created a fragrance which operates across a wide span of physical space. By that I mean that its sillage smells subtly, but markedly, different from how the perfume smells close to the skin. The outer circumference of the perfume is intriguingly different from the nucleus. Is this something you wanted to achieve consciously, and if so, how did you do it?
AT: Ah! (sigh) I wish I had 10 years more experience. Maybe you need to ask me this again in 2024. These days, I am a bit helpless why this is. I found the gardenia to be a bit different every time I smell it. It is like a big stand of these 3D postcards. Everytime you look at the stand, you see different images. But then, sometimes, when I am painting, I see a particular effect happening right before my eyes, not planned, really, but suddenly it's there. The challenge is then to know when to stop and to accept what popped up there, even if it wasn't planned. An example is the watercolour sketch below. I used too much water, the wrong paper, was not focused (I painted during my lunch break in the factory) and ruined what I had. But by doing so, something exciting happened. I shared this picture on Facebook, and realized that it speaks to people out there. Thus, I used it in my communication the Gardenia.
|image: Andy Tauer|
P: Is it at times like these that you wish you had some formal perfumery training? Do you think such training might have helped you wield greater control over these technical matters?
AT: As I have never attended a formal perfumery training, I have a hard time imagining what it would be like. I am pretty sure that on one end, it would help me in a lot of situations. But then, I have my doubts. Would a formal training make me a more innovative perfumer? Would it have allowed me to start it all like I did, naively, joyfully? Or would it have paralyzed me, knowing the industry from the inside? I love ‘what if’ questions. If I went to perfumery school, would it influence how I do things? I do not know, it is a hypothetical question. A hypothetical answer: yes, it probably would have changed the way I create. To the better? I don't think so; I am talking about myself, not the quality of schools.
Maybe the best answer is that formal training would have helped in some situations, but after turning 30, with a degree from university, having spent 4 year as a student and 5 years for my PhD, I am pretty sure that I wasn't willing any more to learn stuff in a school or university environment. It never, ever seriously, came to my mind that I need to go to perfumery school. There was no suffering strong enough to get me to that point. Having said that: mostly you go to perfumery school through the industry, working your way up, being selected, having to fit in there. I don't think I would have fitted 15 years ago. Another aspect is: I have friends creating perfumes, too. They act as mentors.
P: When composing the scent, did you have any favourite gardenia scents (perhaps some vintage scents?) which you used as a reference?
AP: Here's the truth: none. There is no gardenia scent in the house of Tauer. At least not your classical soliflore, or gardenia dominated scent. I smelt some in perfumeries, but... none was inspiring enough to take it home for further inspection.
P: Did Tauer The Business Manager have a shock when he saw the price per kilo of Tauer The Artist's Gardenia?
AT: He’s got used to the artist's exuberance. I think these days, he's more worried about margins.
P: As we all know, only the likes of Givaudan, IFF et al have access to new aromachemicals; they keep these to themselves for years. So they are effectively the guardians of new smells, of odours which the world has not yet experienced. Therefore, would you agree that only these companies are capable of creating perfumes which are truly innovative? Perfumers in a position such as yours cannot create something really new. A controversial statement (and not one with which I necessarily agree myself) but I'd be interested in your response.
AT: Innovation comes through ingredients? Yes. This is one aspect. But it is not sufficient. Of course, the new oudh molecules gave rise to new perfumes, that are launched these days, ‘white oudh’ is an innovation. But after 5 new perfumes with an overdose of ‘white oudh’ (or any other molecule) the innovation lies somewhere else. Then, the creation, the way how you combine molecules (or naturals) makes the difference. Sometimes, when working on scents, not moving forward, I go through the catalogues, in search of molecules that I do not own. Yet usually this is futile. When a creation does not work, just adding another molecule won't save you. They can help, but mostly it is a trap.
Would I like to get access to some of these proprietary molecules? Yes. Would I use them? I am not sure about that. I am biased, of course, but I think that I have done a few scents that are innovative, in their own way, using ingredients that have been around for 20, 30 years or more. I am convinced that even these days, you can create something ‘new’, as you put it. The universe of fragrances is wide, very wide. There are galaxies out there that haven't been visited, uncharted territory, and we can get there with roses and jasmine.
P: What would you say is your most innovative perfume?
AT: The most innovative perfume... hmmm, you might guess I'd say one of the Pentachords. It would be a logical choice. Probably Verdant. Yes, I guess Verdant is pretty innovative. Why? Because it's the concept, and within the concept, it is the composition that makes it innovative. Wikipedia defines ‘innovation’ this way: "The term innovation can be defined as something original and, as a consequence, new, that ‘breaks into’ the market". Is Verdant original? Yes, it is, I think so. Did it break into the market? Hmm, I am not sure about that.
P: For Gardenia, you've adopted a policy of discussing the perfume with only one writer (yours truly) prior to its release. I was wondering if you could share the thinking behind this. Do you perhaps not like the direction in which online perfume writing has been heading?
AT: One fine day, I woke up, Persolaise, and asked myself, "Who buys my scents?" The answer was: my distributors, my retailers, my perfume loving fans. And then, I asked myself, "Why are my retailers, distributors and my perfume loving fans, who actually buy, always served last?" I wanted to show my clients the respect that they deserve. Thus, before sending one sample out to bloggers, or the press, I have sent samples, full bottles, pictures, text etc. to my business partners. The Gardenia Sotto La Luna, full bottle, will start selling September 9 - which will be another super full moon - and then, when the product is in stores and ships, and when my perfume loving fans had the chance to get their samples, then we are going to talk to the media. And then, all will be back to normal and we are all looking forward to talking and sharing. You know: I really appreciate all the support that I get through the online media as special and important.
In order to answer your second question, we might need to discuss where online perfume writing is heading to. I am an outsider, but I think I see more online writing and talking on more channels (from blogs to Twitter, to YouTube etc), bringing diversity, bringing the most interesting pieces of writing about scents and the sense of smell, and banalisation (flattening/leveling). The media is the message. So the answer is: no, I do not mind the direction in which online perfume writing has been heading. But, I learned to say "No" to some writing and talking folks. You know, there are a lot of ‘aqua banalis’ out there, and hence you can expect some ‘scriptura banalis’ too.
P: Please complete the following sentence - I will be very surprised if, in 5 years’ time, the perfume industry...
AT: ...is better off than today.
P: And finally, is there anything else you'd like to say about your Gardenia which we haven't covered yet?
AT: Yes. I am proud of Gardenia, but the best is yet to come. :-) That's the cliffhanger statement for autumn 2015.
Please come back tomorrow for my own review of Sotto La Luna Gardenia.
Please come back tomorrow for my own review of Sotto La Luna Gardenia.