Firmenich master perfumer Alberto Morillas talks about his latest work with Bvlgari and sustainable fragrances.
For the layperson, perfumery and blending plant and animal-derived essences to magically create spellbinding scents might seem like natural alchemy. The fragrance industry though is closer to an equal combination of art and science.
Master perfumers like Alberto Morillas often work with chemists to profile and even create new scent molecules and base ingredients that expand the possibilities of fragrance creation. One such ingredient is clearwood, a synthetic scent created by fragrance giant Firmenich as an analogue to patchouli. “It is an icon of innovation, embodying a new generation of perfumery ingredients that are both olfactorily innovative and part of a responsible, sustainable approach,” shares Morillas.
The fragrance is an interpretation of culture and mirrors society.
Clearwood is produced from fully renewable sources of carbon and is entirely biodegradable, thanks to its white biotechnology production process – a rapidly expanding field of biotech where products, including scents, are synthesised with microorganisms or enzymes.
It is described as being softer than patchouli with a creamy warmth, ambery undertones and a powerful, unique woody character. In the realm of luxury fragrances, most of its prized ingredients – like oud and ambergris – are fast disappearing and innovations like clearwood are the key to the sustained creation of perfumes such as Bvlgari Glacial Essence, the third in the Bvlgari Man collection.
Like the two before it, Wood Neroli and In Black, the woody and fougere Glacial Essence was created by Morillas. The Spaniard was inspired by the natural elements to create something that was “highly masculine, but always with an unexpected flower in the heart notes – an unexpected contrast.”
Another sustainable ingredient is cedarwood Alaska extract, a woody, grapefruit-forward component distilled from the sawdust of the Nootka cypress, which comes from mills that process sustainably-logged trees from British Columbia. Meanwhile, the glass flacons for Glacial Essence are produced using 100 per cent renewable produced electricity and its outer packaging uses paper from traceable, responsible sources.
The main point of being sustainable is, of course, to ensure that there's a future for perfumery – and it's a future that Morillas readily opines on: “Post Covid-19, new scent profiles will begin to resonate more with people. Ones that offer comfort, happiness and a sense of well-being. What the future smells like to me, however, also depends on what country and region you live in. The fragrance is an interpretation of culture and mirrors society to a certain degree. It will smell different all over the world.”