Creed Aventus. We’ve all heard of the decade-defining fragrance. But it’s only recently that its creator, Jean-Christophe Hérault, is being acknowledged for his part in its phenomenal success.
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Read our interview with Gabe Oppenheim, author of The Ghost Perfumer: Creed, Lies, & The Scent of the Century (Solicitude), for more on that scented saga.
Jean-Christophe Hérault deserves all the credit he’s getting for that 2010 release that’s spawned a mini-industry of clones, dupes and smell-a-likes (Oppenheim’s book again provides admirable detail here).
But, as the summary below of some of his creations shows, there’s so much more to the Paris-based perfumer than Creed Aventus.
- Balenciaga Florabotanica EDP (2012)
- Comme des Garçons Amazingreen EDP (2012)
- Karl Lagerfeld For Him EDT (2014)
- Viktor & Rolf Spicebomb Extreme EDP (2015)
- Boucheron Ambre d’Alexandrie EDP (2017)
- Mugler Alien Man EDT (2018)
- Azzaro Wanted Girl EDP (2019)
- Paco Rabanne Lady Million Empire EDP (2019)
- Dolce & Gabbana The One For Men EDP Intense (2020)
- Roberto Cavalli Paradise Found For Men EDT (2020)
- Coach Open Road EDT (2022)
- Valentino Uomo Born In Roma Coral Fantasy EDT (2022)
- Jacques Fath Vetiver Gris Parfum (2022)
While his father produced concentrates for the fragrance industry and Jean-Christophe Hérault initially pursued an internship in fragrance control after studying chemistry, his life took a dramatic turn when he met Pierre Bourdon.
The legendary perfumer (creator of Yves Saint Laurent Kouros EDT, Davidoff Blue Water EDT and Creed Green Irish Tweed EDP, among others) noticed something special in him and took him on as a trainee perfumer.
This involved reading Marcel Proust’s classic six-volume novel In Search of Lost Time (Le Temps Perdu) before learning any of the technical expertise of the profession.
Early creations of Jean-Christophe Hérault include Canali Men EDT (2005), Grès My Dream Hommage à Marlene Dietrich EDP (2008) and Canali dal 1934 EDP (2009). They saw the perfumer playing with the pineapple note he perfected in Creed Aventus.
In this interview, the senior perfumer at International Fragrance & Flavors talks about the influence of Pierre Bourdon, his fondness for smoky, leathery notes and the power of wonderment.
You grew up between Paris and Oise (north of Paris) and your father produced concentrates for the perfume industry. Did you know from an early age that you wanted to become a perfumer?
Since childhood, I have always been attracted to scents and perfumes. Perfumes are olfactive stories that move people on a different scale, much more profoundly and durably than other perceptions.
I initially worked in quality control for Fragrance Resources in Grasse. Working in Grasse opened my senses; smelling perfumery ingredients, raw materials and fragrances produced at the factory was truly mesmerising.
Then I was fortunate to meet Pierre Bourdon, who helped me write my life’s next chapter.
That must have been a life-changing experience…
Being mentored by Pierre Bourdon was the most rewarding, beautiful, and complex experience of my life.
It was a true gift from God to be trained by a perfumer I admire so much for his talent, choices, erudition, intelligence and articulacy.
He is a creative visionary and is able to beautifully share what he has seen, heard, or felt through fragrances. He taught me a lot about creation and becoming a professional creative.
What do you remember most from your time with him?
Before Pierre Bourdon started training me, he encouraged me to smell flowers. When you come from Paris, you do not know the smell of mimosa, jasmine, centifolia rose, lavender and lavandin cultivars.
Even aromatic herbs are a discovery when you smell them in the heat, in the Mediterranean garigue. It fuelled my imagination and my passion.
He also encouraged me to look at chromatographs [the technique of separating a mixture into its individual components] to learn and memorise how a blackcurrant base, a rose essence, or a jasmine absolute are composed. He told me to use that time to learn as much as possible.
Do you still ask him for advice?
I don’t really ask him for advice anymore. I believe a relationship with a mentor always has a beginning and an end.
Davidoff Cool Water Parfum is one of your recent creations from 2021. Pierre Bourdon created the 1988 original. Did you feel additional pressure taking on this project?
Not really. I was proud, though. As Pierre Bourdon’s former trainee, I immensely enjoyed working on this project. I wanted to ensure the continuity of the Cool Water story in an impressive way.
How would you describe your style of perfumery?
It is always difficult for a perfumer to describe their personal style.
Fair enough. What do you hope to achieve with your creations?
Time hones your technique; you store tons of information, which helps you make shortcuts. We are only free once our knowledge is broad enough to play around with all the information we have in our minds.
But you have to keep that technique and knowledge on a leash, keep it at the right distance to preserve the freshness and the time spent daydreaming about the simple pleasures of childhood, which are so authentic and powerful, and resonate with so many people.
You must force yourself to continue seeing things with a child’s eyes, unencumbered by logic. That wonderment is what I give in my compositions. It’s the springboard to conveying emotions.
You’re getting recognition at last as the creator of Creed Aventus. What thoughts come to your mind when you see this super-successful scent?
I’ll never forget the Creed Aventus project. I worked directly with Olivier Creed and was given free rein. It was a true creative journey.
Have you read Gabe Oppenheim’s book? Your thoughts please.
I have received a copy, but still need to take the time to read it.
Do you have a favourite ingredient? Could you give an example of where and how you’ve used it?
I am very fond of smoky, leathery notes suggesting the smell of an open fire. There is a leathery note in Alien Man by Mugler expressed in smoky notes extracted from beech. In Aventus by Creed, I also used smoky notes.
I like highly evocative ingredients, even when they are only present in trace amounts. Those fireplace and leather notes conjure up an entire world – a season, the countryside, the mountains, a new school bag, shoes and my mother’s fragrance, Shalimar by Guerlain.
What perfume project have you just completed and what can you tell us about it?
Kenzo Memori Poudre Matcha is a gentle and nostalgic fragrance, the embodiment of a happy memory, reminiscent of the Japanese tea ceremony. It is a beautiful cloud of matcha tea, velvet rose and white musk.
What gets you through a stressful time?
Taking a stroll outside has always helped me to relax. We are fortunate to have a beautiful park next to our offices, one of the largest company parks in Paris.
There’s no doubting your perfume skills. What are your other passions?
I have always loved literature. Pierre Bourdon asked me to read In Search of Lost Time by Proust before I started working with him; it was part of our “contract”.
This masterpiece shows that there are aesthetic forms everywhere that can touch and inspire us. An encounter, a feeling, be it love or sadness. This book helped me accept myself as a creative.
I am fascinated by art history, which led me to take classes at the Beaux-Arts de Paris. The subject has immensely contributed to my inspiration for perfume creation.
I am also fond of anything to do with culinary arts. There are many bridges between perfumery and cuisine, and I believe there are many more to build; the possibilities are endless.