Daniel Visintin Creates Products Using Globally-Sourced Natural Ingredients
A highlight of visiting Provence and the French Riviera is definitely a sojourn in Grasse, with its splendid 19th-century villas, grand townhouses, 11th-century cathedral and old town centre. But more than that, it is the gorgeous flower fields in the countryside that draw tourists and locals alike to the region. For this town in south-eastern France, where several international luxury brands also maintain their fields of flowers, has been considered the perfume capital of the world since the 17th century.
Fragrance and flavour company Robertet has had its headquarters here since 1850. One of their master perfumers and native Grassois Daniel Visintin, who’s been in the business for 45 years, has utilised his elevated sensory instincts to create a wide range of products using natural ingredients from all over the globe. During a quick tête-à-tête, Verve gets a whiff of what it takes….
What got you interested in perfumery? Could you tell us a little bit about how you developed your expertise as a ‘nose’?
In the world of perfumery, you learn something every day. What has kept me fascinated through these years is the fact that I am able to interpret a feeling through fragrance. I learned from a master perfumer, who gave me all the elements necessary to formulate something that expresses my inspirations. Before I became a master perfumer myself, I worked for 25 years creating perfumes in the company’s natural division.
Grasse, to an outsider, is most commonly associated with fields of roses, jasmine and lavender. Which floral scents are most evocative for you?
The queen of flowers, the rose, is by far the one that evokes many memories and emotions in me. I am Grassois, and very attached to my city; I have always loved to walk in the heart of the rose fields and feel all the facets of this bewitching and charismatic scent.
Do your heightened olfactory sensibilities affect other sensory experiences?
Of course! I am always looking for new kinds of sensory experiences. But I particularly like to cook, and much like with scents, I develop new flavours by modifying existing recipes and seeing how they evolve.
Could you tell us how to process flowers for a perfume?
There are currently two major methods of extraction; one to obtain essential oils and the other for extracting absolutes. For the essential oils, we put the flowers directly into an apparatus known as an alembic, and we use water for the distillation process. Here, the solution is heated and the steam captures the fragrant elements. The oil is then collected through condensation.
For absolutes, there are two steps. We first put the flowers into an apparatus with an appropriate solvent, and the scent-carrying parts dissolve. This leaves a paste-like residue, but it is not soluble. In order to be able to use this paste in our perfumes, we make it soluble through a new extraction process with alcohol, from which we obtain the absolute by evaporation.
What sort of shifts and trends have you witnessed in the industry?
A good fragrance formula is, above all, a perfect balance between synthetic notes and natural notes. But there is an increasing shift towards the use of natural raw materials; indeed, more and more consumers are looking for them in what they purchase. Their market knowledge and digital tools provide them greater access to information, and this has also encouraged brands to create more natural products. I’m also seeing gender lines being blurred — there are women’s fragrances that are woody and ambery, and more floral, sweet fragrances for men.
Could you tell us about your involvement with the Indian market? What are your favourite natural Indian ingredients to work with?
I am very attached to Indian culture, and I have had the chance to be able to work regularly with local perfumers since 2005. My favourite ingredients are sandalwood and saffron — the former because it represents calm, peace and strength, and the latter because, for me, it represents India.
When do you know that you have finally found the right blend?
Perfumes are linked to emotions, and each one is unique and personal. It is always exciting to translate the emotions of our customers through our fragrance blends. For me, the biggest difficulty is finding the precise balance between the client’s request and my own interpretation. The creation process varies depending on our customers and the brand universe; there is no single rule. Sometimes, we have to rework a note for several months before it is in line with the vision of our customers, and other times it might take only a few days.
Many people may not be aware that the ‘noses’ who create perfumes for affordable mass brands also make products for well-known luxury houses. How does the complexity of the fragrance notes differ between the two if at all?
The creative process is very similar — we have to compose a perfume with the raw materials that meet the expectations of the customer. It is true, however, that for a luxury brand we have a wider spectrum of raw materials, because we are provided with a bigger development budget. This gives us the opportunity to work with more natural ingredients.
Robertet, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of fragrances, flavours and raw materials, has been owned by the Maubert family since 1850 (in fact, their plant in Grasse was designed by Gustave Eiffel in 1893). Focusing on premium, organic, natural ingredients for the perfume, health and beauty and F&B industries, the company prides itself on being involved in every step in the fragrance-manufacturing process, with their patented Seed to Scent method. Their highly trained ‘noses’ have created perfumes for top luxury houses as well as more affordable or emerging indie brands. Prioritising sustainable practices, Robertet ensures the development of local communities and ecosystems at their manufacturing units across the world and is conscious of lowering their carbon footprint. Last year, they launched 100 Bon, an in-house brand of all-natural perfumes made with 100 per cent botanical ingredients that come in recycleable bottles and packaging.
Although founded as a small family-run business, the Robertet group has, over five generations, scaled up globally. In India, the Robertet Flavours & Fragrances offices are situated in Mumbai and Chennai, and in 2017 the group joined forces with Goldfield Fragrances and established a production factory in Goa. Another Indian connection is with the Bengaluru-based Phaladaayi Foundation, for lemongrass and palmarosa oil.
Guerlain — Mitsouko (1919)
Gucci — Gucci Rush Pour Femme (1999)
Chloé — Chloé (2008)
Etro — Jacquard (2014)
Bottega Veneta — Parco Palladiano VI (2016)
Edition One — IIUVO (2017)
Byredo — Eleventh Hour (2018) (Winner of the Indie Fragrance of the Year at the Fragrance Foundation Awards.)
Petite Histoire — The Originals Collection (2018)