The Fragrance Historian - Part 2 An Interview with Dimitri Dimitriadis

For something so transient, perfume has the extraordinary capacity to make a lasting impression. Somewhat like a living being, it is the sum of its parts – the qualities and characteristics playing off one another, coming together, to create a whole impression. Not unlike a person then, it can comfort or repel, be bold, deep, mysterious or joyful and youthful. Within each fragrant bottle, there is history, emotion and personality. Capturing these qualities is a meticulous process. All our Grace de Monaco fragrances are carefully crafted and curated to evoke these sensibilities.

In the second part of our interview with Dimitri Dimitriadis, we explore the intricacies of perfume and the importance of cultivating an unbiased approach to fragrance, the delicate process of building a unique scent, and the dark history behind an iconic perfume. Read part one of our interview here.

Do you have a philosophical approach to fragrance? What fundamentally draws you to a scent?

Dimitri Dimitriadis: I wouldn’t say I have a philosophy per se, however I have learned over the years to cast my preconceptions aside. I now approach a perfume or brand with an open mind, whether it be a cheap drugstore release, or something that costs a king’s ransom. In the years I spent reviewing fragrance on my perfume blog, ‘Sorcery of Scent’, and even nowadays whilst showcasing scents on my Instagram page, I’ve made a conscious effort to never give a negative review. That old adage of “if you don’t have something positive to say, then don’t say anything at all”. This has drawn criticism from some, but I don’t believe in imposing a negative impression on someone... Unkind words can damage a boutique or artisanal brand, and let’s face it, perfume is incredibly subjective. What right do I have to impose such a judgment which may detract my readers from drawing their own conclusions? I simply write about the things that move me in a positive way. My approach is to always remain optimistic and well-intentioned.

What fragrance note(s) are you most drawn to? 

DD: Ambergris. Incense. Mastic. Daffodil. Freesia. Galbanum. Tobacco. Cardamom. These components feature heavily amongst favorites in my collection and are in fact ingredients I’ll actively seek out. I have been known to blind-buy fragrances based on these notes used in their respective perfume pyramids, and I’m happy to say I’ve not yet been disappointed. I am in the process of creating a series of perfumes right now, set for release in Q3 of 2023. The way in which I bring these scents to market will in fact be quite singular, and I don’t wish to give too much away, but many of the above notes are featured ingredients. Perfume making is in fact a very challenging beast... you might approach it with a very firm idea in mind, but the execution is where you need to think laterally. In trying to cast a light on one note or ingredient, you may have to use several others to bolster it and bring it forward. I’ve learned that a single ingredient smelled in isolation performs very differently when added to a blend. So, whilst I do have my favorite notes, it can take a village to make them shine!

Do you have a favorite perfumer/nose?

DD: Edmond Roudnitska. Born in 1905, Roudnitska reached adulthood during the Art Deco golden age of perfumery. He honed his craft and eventually stepped onto the world stage around WW2 where his creations for Arden, Hermès, Rochas and Dior earned him his Master Perfumer crown. Roudnitska’s work is largely regarded as the yardstick against which many other 20th century perfume greats are measured. His perfumes possess a curious balance between resolute carnality and eternal “jeunesse”... a daring push-pull between wanton and chaste, modern and conventional, and in fact many of his creations are still in production today. In the 1990’s at the age of 86, Roudnitska was lured out of retirement by Italian designer Mario Valentino to produce one last perfume for the world, ‘Ocean Rain’. To my nose, it exemplifies his incredible body of work for the most revered French houses over the preceding 60 years. It was his swansong; Roudnitska’s final gift to the world. I am in awe of his masterful blending and exquisite perfume narratives. There has never been another perfumer like him.

As a perfume historian, do you have a favorite perfume anecdote?

DD: I think perhaps one of the most surprising perfume anecdotes I've ever read was in Tilar Mazzeo's book "The Secret of Chanel No.5". Mazzeo divulges that the famed 'No.5', first launched in 1921 was made in modest quantities and reserved for the well-heeled patrons of Gabrielle Chanel's salons only, and it was only in 1924 when Chanel sought backing to take the perfume to the next level, she willingly agreed to sign over 90% of the rights to the perfume to Pierre Wertheimer, who stood at the helm of cosmetics giant, 'Bourjois'. It was a decision she woefully regretted as Wertheimer shot No.5 into the stratosphere, and she recognized her lost potential earnings. Whilst Gabrielle's 10% stake was enough to see her live like royalty for the rest of her days, Chanel - perpetually bitter and resentful - fought to claw it back until the day she died in 1971 at the age of 87. She went as far as trying to overthrow Wertheimer, but her strategy did not work; the Wertheimer descendants still retain control of the company, and Gabrielle Chanel's modest perfume has - over the past hundred years - literally made them billions. Such is the enduring legacy of perfume.

Grace de Monaco fragrances were created by Firmenich Master Perfumer Olivier Cresp. Explore our fragrance collection and discover his signature minimalism and sophistication.

Read more interviews here.

Based in Perth, Western Australia, Dimitri is a perfume historian who has written extensively on the subject. As well, he has curated exhibits, and has been asked to share his archival knowledge of fragrances for different projects and speaking engagements. We’re pleased to welcome Dimitri as a guest writer for The Reverie. His background and insight into luxury fragrances makes him a great resource to discuss and decode the artistry of perfume creation with our audience. We welcome his expertise and appreciate his unique take on all things perfume.