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Interview with Ilias Ermenidis – Principal Perfumer at Firmenich

“If I had a middle name, it would be Ambrox, the sexiest molecule alive,” says Ilias Ermenidis with characteristic humour.

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This ability to see the lighter side of things has served the perfumer well in his career that spans more than three decades and several countries. 

Ilias Ermenidis was born in Istanbul, Turkey, and was exposed to the world of perfumery at his father’s factory in Athens, Greece. 

After graduating from perfume school and joining Firmenich (the Swiss fragrance and flavour business), he spent 10 years living between Paris and Geneva. He then spent two decades in the company’s New York office before returning to Paris in 2021.  

In this time, he’s earned the respect of both the industry and fragrance fans with his finely tuned technical and creative skills in a variety of genres. His résumé of creations includes:

Fernweh Editions Fern & Petals Candle

  • Byblos EDP (1990)
  • Oscar de la Renta So de la Renta EDT (1997)
  • Givenchy Pour Homme EDT (2002)
  • Avon Treselle EDP (2003)
  • Vera Wang Princess EDT (2006)
  • Gucci by Gucci EDP (2007)
  • Jay Z Gold EDT (2013) 
  • Lancôme Oud Ambroisie EDP (2016)
  • Yves Saint Laurent Cuir EDP (2016)
  • Calvin Klein Obsessed For Men EDT (2017)
  • Amouroud Oud Tabac EDP (2018) 
  • Nishane Ege Aigaio Extrait de Parfum (2020)
  • Kayali Invite Only Amber 23 EDP (2021)

Between the perfumer moving back to Paris and a business trip to Moscow, Russia, Everfumed chatted to him about his career, how he works, and recent projects. 

You worked at your father’s fragrance and flavour factory as a young man. How did that prepare you for the world of perfumery? Was it a given that you’d become a perfumer?

No, it wasn’t. I knew I wanted to work in the fragrance industry later, but it wasn’t until I did my first internship at the Firmenich compounding facility in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1981. And it was immediately after I started studying perfumery that I decided to become a perfumer.

Where did you study? And what do you value most from that experience? 

I studied at the ISIP (Institut Supérieur International du Parfum) in Versailles, France. This was one of the most defining events of my life – not only did it spark my passion to become a perfumer, but I also met my future wife there.

What was your first perfume and how does it reflect your style?

My first fine fragrance, Byblos, launched in Italy in 1990, still reflects my love of transparent- and Mediterranean-style notes

How do you prepare for a perfume project? 

With enthusiasm and in search of new emotions to share with inspiring clients that allow you to create something beautiful together.

Even with all your experience, what aspect of perfumery do you struggle with most?

It is by far one of the most competitive métiers in the world. You need some humour, some philosophy and thick skin most of the days.

Tell us about a Firmenich captive molecule [an aroma chemical for exclusive use by a fragrance company] you’re particularly excited about and how you’ve used it in one of your recent creations.

There are so many that I cannot talk about, but if I had a middle name, it would be Ambrox, the sexiest molecule alive. My most recent creation where it’s part of the addictive signature is Kayali Invite Only Amber 23 EDP.

Did your Greek heritage help in the creation of Nishane Ege Aigaio Extrait de Parfum, which is inspired by summer holidays on the Aegean Sea? 

Of course, absolutely. Anything and everything that has to do with my Hellenic heritage and my birthplace of Istanbul is close to my heart and an inexhaustible source of inspiration. 

Ilias Ermenidis Interview - Nishane Ege Aigaio EDP

But I must admit that the ingredients I imagined for this creation are less typical, more unexpected.

I see from your Instagram you’ve recently finished working on the relaunch of Kylie Minogue Darling. How is this one different from the Thierry Wasser original from 2006? What can you tell us about the star’s perfume preferences?

The new version, although olfactively related to the original, is significantly more woody, ambery and intense with a touch of modern gourmandise. 

The only thing I can tell you is that Kylie, just like me, adores Ambrox!

You have lots of experience with Brazilian and Middle Eastern clients. What are the key developments in these major markets?

These are two very different markets by olfactive standards and the number of clients present, much more numerous in the Middle East. Both markets are booming since September, with the Middle East super booming.

What gets you through a particularly stressful project?

I feel grateful to practice my beautiful craft every day surrounded by trusting colleagues and clients. Confidence is my fuel to keep good spirits through some of the most stressful and particularly long projects.

How do you celebrate your successes?

I send a picture of the bottle to my family as soon as I get one in my hands, and nothing beats that moment.

Follow Ilias Ermenidis on Instagram @iliasermenidis.

Interview with Ilias Ermenidis - Principal Perfumer at Firmenich

Richard Goller is a fragrance and grooming blogger. His blog is called Fragroom. A senior editor with 20 years' experience, his blog allows him to combine two of his passions: engaging content and the always-intriguing world of fragrances. When he isn't blogging, you'll find Richard indulging in his newly found passion for balcony gardening.