Master perfumer Alberto Morillas is the nose behind some of the world’s most iconic scents, including ‘90s phenomenon CK One by Calvin Klein and more recently, the delightfully floral Gucci Bloom. We caught up with Morillas to learn about his most recent collaboration with Creative Director Alessandro Michele to create Gucci’s first fine fragrance collection, The Alchemist’s Garden.
How did you begin experimenting with scent-making?
“I started hearing about the metier of Perfumer when I came to Geneva to study; around the same time I discovered that there was a creator behind each fragrance. I had read an article in Vogue magazine where Jean Paul Guerlain explained how to create a fragrance; this was a revelation for me and it was then that I decided that this was what I wanted to do with my life. After completing L’Ecole des Beaux Arts [The School of Fine Arts] in Geneva, I joined Firmenich as a Junior Perfumer in 1970 and was fully trained in-house; at the time no independent perfumery schools existed. Succeeding as a perfumer is a long process that requires time, dedication, hard work and perseverance. You also need to be passionate, sensible, and curious.”
You’ve created close to 7,000 fragrances in your career—what is your biggest source of inspiration when creating scents?
“It could seem paradoxical for a perfumer but I’m a very visual-oriented person in all areas. Aesthetics from various universes inspire me like fashion and different forms of arts like music, sculptures or painting. Words, lines, symbols, and colours help me to express emotions and allow me to imagine the construction of the perfume. With experience, visualizing the ingredients in my mind is enough to know how it smells. I don’t really need to smell it. I also use my olfactive memory as a ‘library of scents’. Inspiration can come from everywhere and I need to be able to write a formula without being at my desk. Developing The Alchemist’s Garden has been based on this exercise of ‘memories chase’. Alessandro has been sharing with me souvenirs—we talked and I created fragrances to reach those olfactive emotions.”
Can you describe how you and Alessandro came up with the idea of The Alchemist’s Garden?
“Alessandro Michele is passionate by the science of alchemy, and he wanted to reimagine the path of transformation from lead into gold with the art of fragrance making. We used pure natural plants and flowers layered with modern molecules. Every fragrance and every formula is created as an unicum, telling the story of a place, a moment, a season, and a smell of memory.”
The collection contains 7 perfumes, 3 scented waters, and 4 perfumed oils—how does your process for creating scents differ depending on the medium?
“Those three categories of products are different in their essence. While the Eau de Parfum are the base of the collection, the oils and acque profumate can be used as layers to create an individual statement and personalize a beloved scent to build a unique sillage. Each oil and acque profumate of the collection can be layered with perfume. Therefore, I did not create the fragrances the same way. The oils were developed to be really more powerful with strong notes and a lot of dry-down, while the acque profumate feature lighter notes—they are more airy with powerful and diffusive top notes.”
Can you talk a little bit about the difference between scented waters and perfumes?
“Scented waters are light and delicate—they allow a splash of freshness, reminiscent of a classical and ancient invigorating gesture. They will revive with refinement the vitality of the fragrances.”
You’ve said each fragrance in the collection is linked to a memory—did you attempt to create scents linked to memories that are universally experienced rather than specific to an individual?
“Alessandro Michele shared with me his own souvenirs that I interpreted through my own history. What is amazing is that starting from personal memories we created fragrances that will be reminiscent of different souvenirs to the people who smell it, depending of their lives, the place they live, or their culture—this is the true and unique power of scents.”
Do you have a favourite scent or product in the collection?
“I truly cannot choose a favourite. Each fragrance tells a story, has a complete universe—they are all very different, and depending on my mood, my feelings, and on the sensation that I want to feel, I preferred one or another.”
Swipe through the gallery to see the luxury collection. The Alchemist’s Garden is available online and exclusively at select Holt Renfrew locations starting February 1 at Holt Renfrew Yorkdale and February 8 at Holt Renfrew Vancouver.