What inspires world class perfumer Nicolas Beaulieu

A portrait of a man who enjoys the good things in life, and passionate about wine, cookery and history.

Certain encounters can change your life. When he was only fourteen and wanted to become and archaeologist, a career guidance counsellor suggested that Nicolas Beaulieu follow an olfactory path, an indication that suddenly became resoundingly obvious.

THE EFFECTS OF CUT GRASS

Brought up in a house with a large garden, young Nicolas spent his Wednesday afternoons cutting the grass or watching flowers grow, lulled by the operas his parents loved so much. However, neither his family circle nor his Parisian suburb environment predestined him to become a “nose”.

“I spent most of my time smelling the things around me,” he remembers. “The fragrance of the garden, my mother’s too but also the enveloping smell of my grandmother’s house redolent of Arpège by Lanvin.” Having never heard of perfumers, passionate about ancient monuments and history, he decided to become an archaeologist until the day he met the guidance counsellor who told him about Isipca, the French school of perfumery. Nicolas visited the school at the occasion of an open day and came out wanting just one thing: to become a perfumer.

THE IMPLACABLE DEMANDS OF LAUNDRY SOAP

As a student at Isipca, the nose in the making started a chain of olfactory experience internships at IFF. Just after he obtained his diploma, he left France to go to Ireland as a raw materials quality controller for IFF. He then joined the IFF perfumery school and settled in Holland where he learned the language of washing powders and textile softeners. “The restrictions of functional perfumery are far more important that for fine perfumery, says Nicolas, You have to master a formula from the opening of the bottle in a store right up to when the clothes are ironed and put away in a wardrobe, not forgetting taking damp clothes out of the machine, all the while trying to reduce the prices. A method he still uses on a daily basis. Expatriated to New York, then to Shanghai which he remembers as very exuberant, Nicolas Beaulieu returned to Paris in 2008 to embark on new creations.

A FAILING FOR ALL THINGS SWEET

As a child, he made cakes and mixed spices according to his desires. Since then the perfumer has always continued to cook. “In all modesty”, he insists. “I love marinated raw fish but I also like to try out new savours like Koulibiac for example, a Russian dish which is a millefeuille of rice, dill, salmon and cream in a crust of flaky pastry!” Gourmet that he is, his face lights up at the very suggestion of the recipe and his mouth starts to water just by listing the ingredients.

A TASTE FOR WINE

He goes to oenology workshops whenever he can, and is an informed wine amateur, very fond of talking with wine specialists. “We use the same vocabulary except that oenologists are much more subtle. For example, when they say a wine is woody, they talk about humus, not patchouli.”

Delicate nuances which nourish his inspiration as a perfumer and make him want to work with wines. Crazy about Burgundy and Meursault in particular, what he likes most is their almost smoky vanilla base, and their light note of tonka bean.

OLFACTORY PALETTE

Greatly influenced by his training at the Laboratoires Monique Rémy (LMR, an IFF subsidiary), Nicolas Beaulieu remembers well the roses harvests in Grasse, or the narcissus ones in Lozère as unforgettable emotions. But this doesn’t prevent him from adoring synthetic materials like aldehydes or others that remind him of raw nature. Sharp, harsh greens, from violet leaf to scented cut grass, from galbanum to triplal that he uses with extravagance. “I’m fascinated by powerful fragrant trails, short and simple formulas which get straight to the point” admits Nicolas.

ABSOLUTE MYTHS

Among the perfumery monuments that he would have liked to create, he instantly mentions Azzaro for Men that he wore for several years as well as Egoïste by Chanel which he describes as sublimely opulent“. Fascinated by the perfect balance of Eau D’Issey, he is also very impressed by the olfactory volume of Flower Bomb by Viktor & Rolf and the splendour of Féminité du Bois by Serge Lutens. More discreet but also phenomenal in his eyes, Eau d’Orange Verte by Hermès is also part of his hall of fame.

MOLECULES OF THE FUTURE

No doubt because he dreamed of becoming an archaeologist, Nicolas Beaulieu is very interested in the research of unknown plants: “the distilling of new raw materials with a fragrant power no one ever even suspected is the adventure of tomorrow” he says with enthusiasm. Much aware of the work done by chemists, he also dreams of new synthetic materials made by man. Everything he needs to nourish his imagination for the years to come.

Read more about his latest creation for Montblanc, Lady Emblem Elixir.

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