Hunting for Honey with Coty and Firmenich

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How do you create a fragrance? It’s a simple question, but the answer – and the process itself – is anything but.

Nobody can create on an empty stomach. And even the cakes were on-brand

Think of everything a fragrance juice has to do. It has to reflect the brand universe, and sometimes a celebrity/designer’s personality to boot. It must dovetail with the entire fragrance concept, from the packaging to the positioning to the advertising. It must enhance – but not cannibalise – the existing portfolio. It must not overtly resemble anything else on the market. And most importantly of all, it must sell. Lots.

Blimey, who’d be a nose then? A job that high-pressured makes selecting a Lions Test team look like a walk through the Australian defence. That said, the role has always fascinated me. I’ve been fortunate enough to interview many noses throughout my career, and never tire of hearing how they translate their briefs (which seem to vary wildly from the esoteric to the exact) into those lucrative liquids.

Tools of the trade

Last week, in Paris, I got the chance to try doing it myself. To support the launch of Honey Marc Jacobs, Coty Prestige invited a handful of journalists to a fragrance workshop at Firmenich, hosted by consultant nose and fragrance doyenne, Ann Gottlieb.

Gottlieb talked us through the original Honey formulation, then invited us to compose our own fragrance, using a selection of notes from the Honey palette. We had just 15 ingredients to choose from – a real nose has around 2,000 – but even that amount of choice was paralysing. And the only brief we had to fulfil was to make something we liked.

Warning: Mann at work

Fortunately, I’ve reached an age where I definitely know what I like (Louboutins, dark chocolate, Puligny-Montrachet, Leigh Halfpenny – c’mon, a girl can dream). In fragrance terms, I’m harder to pigeonhole, although I do enjoy a decent chypre.

For my own masterpiece, I selected fruity/floral top notes, in the form of Apricot and Jasmine (I LOVE jasmine). I built my heart around a Floral Green Accord, accented by a half-dose of Lily of the Valley. Ambrox and Vetiver formed my base. Gottlieb herself deigned to smell my formula, and made a few expert suggestions regarding quantities, but otherwise gave it the thumbs-up. Cue fantasies of an alternative career as a world-famous nose. Finally my oversized proboscis pays dividends!

Ta-dah! The finished article

My bespoke fragrance now has pride of place in my fridge (not usually recommended, but our formulas were pure, with no stabilisers or preservatives). A huge thank you to Coty for the ultimate limited edition. My signature scent – quite literally – is now Honey Marc Jacobs by Rebecca Mann. How sweet is that?

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