Maxence Moutte is an essential member of Team LJR. It is Maxence who brings Yuri’s fragrances back to life from the many hand written formulas that Yuri left behind. Maxence’s encyclopaedic knowledge of ingredients ensures that our perfumes remain authentic, compliant and of course, nature friendly wherever possible. We feel exceptionally lucky to have him and when you discover how our paths crossed, you may think it was destiny. Our Fragrance Lover questions are a little different this week, as you can see.
What made you want to be a perfumer?
I grew up in Provence and as a kid, I wanted to be a botanist. I thought that flowers could be invented and I loved the idea of doing that as a job. When I discovered that flowers couldn’t be designed and created, I went off the idea, but flowers and plants have always attracted me. A few years later, my ambitions changed when I discovered a world of fragrance in my mother’s collection of perfume miniatures. I even collected the advertisements. I was fifteen when I decided to be a perfumer and went to visit Grasse. I write to Givaudan in the 90s asking how to apply, and they replied. Once I was accepted, I spent several years training in different areas. The work I do for Le Jardin Retrouvé is separate from Givaudan, however.
How did you discover us?
When I was a perfumery student, I studied many companies and perfumers in the early 2000s. I found a bottle of Le Jardin Retrouvé perfume in a little boutique and wanted to know more. At that time, niche perfumery was gaining in popularity. I wrote to Yuri Gutsatz and asked if it was possible to meet him. Sadly, he was nearing the end of his life and I wasn’t able to, but I never forgot his fragrances.
Several years later, at my brother’s wedding, I met a man called Michel Gutsatz and his wife Clara. I asked if he had any connection to Yuri Gutsatz, and he told me that was his father. I told him I was a perfumer and we spoke at length.
Fast forward to 2016 and when Michel and Clara revived Le Jardin Retrouvé, I was the perfumer they contacted, and of course, I happily said yes. Between finding that bottle in the shop many years ago and creating them myself in the lab took a long time, but you need to be patient when it comes to perfume.
How do you begin a composition?
When I recreate a fragrance for Le Jardin Retrouvé, I follow the original formula to the letter. I check that the formula complies with IFRA regulations. Oakmoss is an example of how we succeeded in continuing its use and remaining compliant. Our supplier was able to produce an oakmoss that was still compliant despite some types being restricted.
Sometimes I have to make small changes for the sake of compliance, but if it doesn’t smell the same, the ingredient is changed until it does. Many of them did not need to be reworked in order to comply. I also keep Yuri’s original bottles on the shelf in the lab for reference and inspiration.
Do you wear the fragrances you make?
I always try them on the skin as well as blotters. You get to know how it behaves that way. Fragrance varies throughout the day and from skin to skin.
How important is transparency to you?
Transparency is especially important when it comes to ingredients. Being a small house, we are lucky to have autonomy over our suppliers and the freedom to select the finest and most suitable ingredients from them. Wherever possible, we try and maintain the same suppliers Yuri worked with.
Out of the ten perfumes you’ve brought back to life, which one gave you the most satisfaction?
It’s hard to pick one. It’s probably Cuir de Russie. The leathery base was hard to get right. Michel wrote to Symrise to track down the authentic ingredient. Getting the leather base right was fundamental to the finished result. Yuri didn’t use a lot of bases, but in Cuir de Russie he did.
What was your inspiration for the Mousse Mystique candle?
I created Mousse Mystique three years ago and it was a tricky balance to walk in Yuri’s shoes and bring in my own touch to it too. I was inspired by the gardens in Kyoto, Japan, and kept a picture of it near me as I worked. I wanted a green vegetal top note with a chypre elegance. The green, grassy notes came from lentiscus. The humidity and earthy dampness came from patchouli. I added a touch of incense for a Japanese feel.
Are there plans to bring back any more of Yuri’s rose fragrances?
We thought about it and we’re waiting for the proper opportunity. Yuri was very good with roses. There used to be three rose fragrances: Rose d’Opera and Rose de Mai. Rose Trocadero was known as Rose Thé. Maybe one day!
What was your favourite fragrance from the Perfume Revival Project in 2018?
My favourite was the one that didn’t get made! I was #teamgreen. However, I also love Oriental Sans Souci.
How would you describe Yuri’s style of perfumery?
Yuri’s formulas are quite short – often there are only thirty ingredients. Most perfumes have at least forty. He has a complex, Baroque style and he adds a little touch of something unexpected. For example, in Tubéreuse Trianon, he added a raspberry note. In Sandalwood Sacré he used five base notes. You could say he creates unexpected twists that add a finishing touch. He was a true original.