Part of what makes Morillas exceptional is his unique — and no doubt indispensable — ability to translate intangible emotions, memories, and sensations into the aromatic personality of his perfumes. “You have this version, this story, of a new emotion. The first step is to start with the name,” he says.
Goldea, The Roman Night, is no exception. “You might buy Goldea in Los Angeles, but you need to feel the emotion of Rome in the perfume, because when you see the advertising, you see the beauty of the Roma,” he says. “I have tried to have the same emotion in the perfume.” Morillas describes his latest creation as “a new style for Bulgari — it’s fresh, it’s mysterious, it’s very young, it’s luminous, but the luminosity of the night, it’s maybe a little bit dangerous. You know, when you wear this perfume, maybe you’ll have some surprises!”
Don’t be deceived by Morillas’ poetics, though. The professional nose’s craft is strenuous, and requires a thorough grasp of chemistry and some biology. Moreover, the nose has constantly to protect the instrument of their craft, and one’s sense of smell is more delicate than one might suppose. It is easy to imagine that a highly developed sense of smell might also be an inconvenient attribute in myriad modern environments. Imagine sniffing out wet dogs, smouldering ash, or stagnant water with unbearable acuity.
Still, Morillas seems to love what he does, and has consistently been lauded as a master of his craft. He has won a clutch of awards in recognition of his creations, including the prestigious François-Coty prize for the best perfumer in 2003. “He has always said that his main inspiration comes from travelling,” Pärn-Voldoja recalls, musing on the source of his considerable success. “He has journeyed through much of the world — his favourite destination is India.”
Pärn-Valdoja regards Morillas as something of an exception as far as perfume noses go, insofar as his profession is not a family legacy. “For many of them, it is like a family tradition, especially for those who have been born in the South of France, in the so-called perfume capital of the world, Grasse,” Pärn-Valdoja says. “For example, Oliver Polge is the son of the legendary perfume maker Jacques Polge, who has done a lot of great Chanel perfumes; the younger Polge studied history, and wanted to become a pianist, before he decided to step into his father’s shoes, and now he is the perfumer at Chanel.”
The world of perfumery has also, historically, been dominated by men, so nose-enthusiasts such as Pärn-Valdoja are heartened to note that women are gradually infiltrating this industry, and with great success. “I am a huge fan of Christine Nigel, who is an exceptional woman and makes perfumes — one of her most famous creations is Dior J’Adore. There are also Amandine Clerc-Marie, who has worked for Chloé; Daniela Andrier, who works for Prada; Sophia Grojsman; and my personal favourite, Marie Salamagne, who made Sensai The Silk and Azzedine Alaïa’s perfume,” Pärn-Valdoja says. “And let’s not forget Germaine Cellier. She was one of the first female perfumers in the world, and her legendary fragrances Bandit and Fracas were once the favourite scents of Marlene Dietrich.”
South Africans will be pleased to know that talented perfumers are beginning to emerge locally. Agata Karolina, the Cape Town-based talent behind the recently established House of Gozdawa, is just one of many young South African entrepreneurs with a passion for perfume production, and it’s lovely to imagine that, soon, we might boast an Alberto (or Alberta!) Morillas of our own.