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Jacques Polge, Chanel Nose N° 3:
Creator of Chanel Perfumes since 1978

Jacques Polge: The Guardian of Chanel Perfume Heritage and Spirit

Jacques Polge (1943), who lived much of his youth in Grasse, the world's perfume capital, is the third Chanel in-house perfumer, the master Chanel perfume nose since 1978. He's signed under the creation of the originals and flankers such as Chanel No. 5 (EDP version), Allure, Antaeus, Egoïste, Cristalle Eau Verte, Coco, Coco Mademoiselle (EDP, EDT, Parfum), Chance, Les Exclusifs series, Chanel N°5 Eau Premiere, Bleu de Chanel and more. He also revived some of the lost, forgotten, discontinued or never realized Chanel fragrances.

Today Chanel perfume house is the only one1 that can claim that its every single fragrance was produced in its own laboratories by their own in-house perfumers. Luxury, indeed! Jacques Polge is the third Chanel in-house nose, after the legendary Ernest Beaux (creator of Chanel No. 5) and Henri Robert. He is also the father of another very talented perfumer, Olivier Polge, who is a perfumer behind the creation of perfumes such as Burberry The Beat, Dolce & Gabbana The One for Men, Kenzo Power, Dior Pure Poison, different Salvatore Ferragamo F perfumes and different Flowerbomb perfumes (Viktor & Rolf).

As the acclaimed perfume blogger Octavian Coifan lucidly put it, Jacques Polge is the guardian sphinx of Chanel treasures. Polge never met Mademoiselle Gabrielle Coco Chanel in person because she died in 1971, but despite that he is responsible for creation of new as well as for taking care of the quality of the existing (older) Chanel perfumes.

In an interview2 Polge admitted that creating Chanel perfumes without Coco Chanel is a handicap, but that he somehow overcomes this by having his own private dialogue with her and thus trying to maintain her spirit alive & kicking in his perfume creations. "It is my mission to reflect the style she (Coco Chanel) created, to enhance it, to make it live today. And no expense or trouble is spared," he said.3

Jacques Polge: Poet of the Wordless Language of Perfumes

What is interesting about Jacques Polge is that originally he didn't study chemistry or other more perfume oriented science, but English and literature.3 After finishing university studies he started working for an American perfumery, worked as an apprentice in a perfume laboratory in Grasse, and then spent some years in NYC and Paris creating fragrances.3 His 'poetic' background also reflects in his soft, poetical perception of the perfumes:


"For me (a perfume) - it's a poetic form... It's a very peculiar way of expressing things, of saying things without using neither words, nor image - something which is invisible... And at the same time because it's invisible it's so strong. Because for instance a woman wears a perfume than she disappears. What remains of her is her fragrance."



Jacques Polge about perfumes: "For me (a perfume) - it's a poetic form...


Jacques Polge reveals something unexpected to be heard from the master perfumer, le grand nez. He believes that a perfume nose isn't born, but made through training.2, 3 In his opinion almost anyone can become a 'nose' if trained properly and early enough whereas the perfume creation is more a gift of creativity, only few possess.


Jacques Polge about Chanel's Fragrance Development Strategy

Ever wondered how Chanel perfumes succeed in continuously retaining top sales rankings, how Chanel perfume house succeeds in keeping Coco Chanel's fashion vision and spirit alive and how they succeed in making memorable, trend-setting perfumes, not some copy-pasted flankers? Ask Jacques Polge!

In a nutshell Polge explains the secret of successful Chanel product development and marketing strategy: "... we don't want to create too many new things because often new fragrances replace the old ones... We want our fragrances to complement each other, and to last. When we create something, we're always looking to the long term, we never do anything just for the short term."1

Like with all things, quality takes time, lots of effort and ... money. But it can last - just take a look at the timeless, iconic Chanel No. 5, created in 1921!


Jacques Polge about Chanel No. 5 Perfume, the Time-Transcending Icon

If you're interested in the history of the most famous, the most iconic perfume of all times, Chanel No. 5, supposedly sold every 30 seconds somewhere around the world, listen to Polge, what he has to say in the following short movie Chanel N°5, Story of an Icon. This short movie was prepared as part of the latest Chanel No. 5 advertising campaign, starring Audrey Tautou.

From his legendary executive black leather chair Jacques tells about Gabrielle Coco Chanel and her view of perfumes, about the creation and ingredients of No. 5, how Chanel takes care for the quality of raw perfume materials (Grasse jasmine that goes into Chanel No. 5 is hand-picked!), the position of Chanel No. 5 in popular culture and art and about different interpretations of No. 5. "There is a mystery behind 5, and that mystery is very important in a fragrance," said Polge in the interview for The Scotsman.1


Jacques Polge in 'Chanel N°5, Story of an Icon': "What also explains the timelessness of No. 5 is a balance between a presence and a mystery."

Jacques Polge about Perfume Creation and Bleu de Chanel, His Latest Perfume Creation for Gentlemen

In the next video you enter Chanel perfume laboratory and take a sneak peek into how contemporary perfumes are created. Yes, it is still an art, but also a cutting edge chemical technology. He also explains in what order perfume ingredients or better said their notes are 'added' to the perfume composition. Very interesting, indeed:


Gaspard Ulliel, the spokesmodel for Bleu de Chanel perfume, interviews
Jacques Polge, the perfume creator...


In the last video, Jacques Polge talks about Bleu de Chanel (2010), the latest of Chanel perfumes for gentlemen, the big winner of 2011 FiFi Awards (perfume Oscar). Jacques' ambition was to create something honest, direct and pure in a masculine fragrance without embellishments.

So, if you have some extra time to kill, head to the nearest perfume shop or department store and check it out for yourself if you can smell an honest & pure Now-Man in the bottle of Bleu ;).


Bleu de Chanel TV ad was directed by Academy Award winning American director Martin Scorsese and it is almost a dream come true ;) perfume commercial for yours truly as it includes her favourites: a rebellious Frenchman (Gaspard Ulliel), The Rolling Stones, NYC, trick question and a Chanel perfume. Oh, oui!

Interesting Perfume Quotes by Jacques Polge, Chanel In-House Perfumer

In closing, here are some more intriguing quotes by Jacques Polge, collected from various interviews (please see the notes with links to interviews):

... Olfaction is most definitely the most 'wild' of our senses - smell being directly linked to primitive instincts such as sex.2

A nose is made, not born. I haven't got a 'better' nose than you. It's just that I have had a certain training.2

I liked the idea, the poetic idea that fragrance is a kind of language. It doesn't use words. It doesn't use images. It's invisible. All these attributes, for me, made sense," he says.1

I am a lover of poetry. What would reality be without its poetic dimension? Even if you do not read poetry, it plays an important role in everyday life. I am a lover of fragrance, and fragrance is a form of poetry. It doesn't speak, but it gives so much.4

Curiously enough, the longest part of the process is to find a name for the fragrance because more or less every name has been taken.1

People often ask me what makes a beautiful perfume. To which I reply it's the perfume which the woman you love is wearing.2

It (his favourite among the scents he has created) is always the one I am working on at the moment. The best perfume is always the next one.3

I tried to talk him (his son Olivier) out of it... But then I thought about it and concluded that I didn't have the right to do any such thing. I can't say that I will be able to make a great nose out of him. That's impossible. But of course I hope that one day he too will become the nose of Chanel. Because for someone passionate about perfumes, there really is no better position in the world.2



Sources:

1 Jacques Polge interviewed for the The Scotsman.

2 Jacques Polge interviewed for the artofsmell.tribe.net.

3 Jacques Polge interviewed for the The Telegraph.

4 Jacques Polge interviewed for the Vanity Fair.


Return from Jacques Polge Chanel In-house Perfumer to Chanel Perfumes for Women

Return from Marilyn Monroe Endorsement of Chanel No. 5 Perfume to Women's Perfume Reviews




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