Fragrance notes: How to become a Master Perfumer

With the news that International Flavors & Fragrances has appointed its second Master Perfumer, Cosmetics Business finds out what this elusive role entails from the nose himself

Dominique Ropion

Perfumery is one of the oldest arts in the world, with evidence of the earliest fragrances dating back to the Bronze age.

Even in this primitive state, behind every fragrance you would probably be able to find a ‘nose’ of some sort – a person responsible for creating the scent and ensuring that it delivers the desired effect and ambience.

Dominique Ropion was announced as the latest Master Perfumer at International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF) earlier this month.

One of only two Master Perfumers at IFF, here Ropion talks to Cosmetics Business about why he entered the world of perfumery, and what it really takes to be a Master Perfumer.

What is your first memory of fragrance?
When sniffing chalk, my childhood school opens its door again. I smell ink, or paper glue, typical scent memories of French lower-class schools, and my school playground appears, the games… my memories are scents.

It is with the scents of guimauve (a typical French marshmallow) infused with lemon or orange flower that I took my first steps. They bring me back to the mountains, a landscape where I was reborn when I became conscious of my need to smell.

I was seven years old, a young city boy exiled in the mountains as I had become very sick. I would stare at my bedroom ceiling looking for comfort, and spent the rest of my time inhaling mountain air and fresh field scents.

I had been advised to breathe in as much as my lungs could take it, I did so, breathing in scents of heights. That’s how I became accustomed to smelling the world as if my life depended on it.

What was your first job in the fragrance industry and how old were you?

Givenchy Ysatis

I owe my education in fragrance to luck, which found me an internship at Roure as I was studying physics at university.

I started with a three-year academic training followed by 3 years of on the job training to become a perfumer.

I will always remember my perfume ‘first time’. As I was a very young . . .

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