Almost every one of us has read the book or seen the movie. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süßkind. Impressive. Opulent. Magnificent!
It was also the first book Yogesh Kumar read in German, I am told, while visiting the perfumer. I have always been interested in how a fragrance is created and this is why I looked up the address of “Das Parfum – Duftgalerie” on the WIEN PRODUCTS website and embarked on my journey to the 7th District, where I am awaited by an entire cosmos of information in a small shop on Kirchengasse.
Yogesh Kumar grew up in India – in Delhi, more precisely. Already obsessed with chemistry as a child, he set up his experiment kit on the family’s dining table in the living room. Fragrances have always played an important part in his life, he says. He could smell everything, even lies.
What almost sounds like a fairytale is a special skill or gift. Smell is an important human sense – if we were not able to smell, we would only be able to taste maybe half of what we eat. When strolling through a city, we walk through a plethora of odors and most of us are already so used to this that they hardly smell anything. Nature makes it easy for us – following rainfall the air smells like it has been washed, we can smell when it starts to snow and, yes – there are unpleasant smells everywhere.
Each thing and every human has its or his/her own special scent, Yogesh Kumar explains to me. He has memorized thousands of fragrances and is at home in the world of essences.
There are hundreds of bottles and vials in rows above us – each one labeled neatly denoting its content. Where do all these essences come from? I am curious. The perfumer looks at me and says – from around the world – some of them have become extremely rare, others have already been replaced by synthetic fragrances.
I remember the movie and imagine how to catch fragrances…
Yogesh Kumar laughs – well, you need some imagination in life, otherwise it’s only half the fun.
How do you become a perfumer I ask… Kumar smiles and replies that this is not a job as such, but more a special talent, a skill and knowledge – in particular, of chemistry. This is something he has learned from his own experience. There is no definition for this profession as such and it took a while to get licensed. Meanwhile, he has been working as a perfumer in Vienna since 1997 and is very successful. He has carried out fragrance projects for several companies. Some brands favor a very special fragrance and have had Yogesh Kumar create it.
How does this work?
Well, it differs from customer to customer, says the expert – when I compose a fragrance for a brand, I sit down with the people responsible and we discuss what makes the brand – this is all about defining characteristic features and their emotional equivalent. Each attribute has various scents, essences. Finally, we will find the fragrance together, following several meetings and samples.
However, when I create an individual fragrance for a person, I first smell the person because everyone already has his or her own individual smell and this scent is very different from person to person and depends on hundreds of details.
Customers who come to me have often thought about their own nature and are curious. They often tell me their very own personal life story, even though I don’t ask them… Fragrance is emotion, life, experiences. I then begin to prepare the basic direction of the fragrance in my laboratory based on this information and my own experience and keep refining it more and more. The fragrance should accompany the person, highlight his or her positive sides, and support them.
I am fascinated. This is where the words “smell” and “fragrance” get a brand new meaning.
Just now, the master bottles a fragrance that he has been creating over the past 10 weeks – the perfume bottle is slowly filled with a bright, amber-colored liquid. Finally, the atomizer capsule goes on and it is sealed by a special machine. Yogesh Kumar explains to me that he built the machine himself – the commercially produced version was too expensive for him at the time. He starts to turn a crank and the clasp is pressed onto the bottle neck – the machine makes a quiet and harmonious noise.
The atomizer will be labeled later and received in anticipation by a pleased customer.
I say goodbye and leave the shop. I think I might attend one of the seminars about fragrances that Yogesh Kumar has recently began to offer in his office in the 1st District. There will be diggers excavating the tunnels for the new U5 subway line here in Kirchengasse during the next few years. So, it is good to have a more quite place to go to. The quality of “Das Parfum – Duftgalerie” is definitely worth a walk!