Greetings, fellow Perfume Worshipers!
We are very excited to introduce NŌSE Perfumes to the US, which comes to us from Russia. I have been working with Timur Solodov (aka NŌSE) over the past year to bring his artistic, naturalistic, cruelty-free and vegan work to the US. I can't resist a perfume house that delves into perfume history (I'm looking at you, BLOCKI Perfumes!), and coincidentally I have become a bit obsessed with all things Russia in the past couple of years, so diving deep into each fragrance has been such a pleasure. I had so many questions for Timur, and he was kind enough to take some time to answer a few.
© Timur Solodov
Elizabeth: I have developed a tremendous interest in Russian history. From the last Czar to the connection to the earth and agriculture that the Russian people have had since ancient times - not to mention the vast and diverse natural beauty we can find there. It's such a beautiful culture with so much to appreciate. It's exciting to find out that Russia has a history of great perfumers that many of us perfume lovers might not know about. I'm hoping you can enlighten us a bit. Many people think of France as the capital of perfumery. What can you tell us about the history of perfume in Russia, and what distinguishes it from French perfume?
Timur: Russian perfumery has an interesting history. There was a very close cultural relationship between Russia and France. In the 19th century, the Russian elite and creative intelligentsia spoke French fluently, it was fashionable to write letters to each other in French, etc. In Russian classical literature, you can often find references to perfume as an integral part of romantic relationships, when the letters of lovers were scented with French perfumes or young girls or men of noble origin smelled strongly of perfume during balls. Russian princes were often generous customers to create individual perfumes from eminent French perfumers. The history of perfumery production in Russia begins at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries along with the arrival of several French perfumers to Russia, who saw great potential in the Russian market. They achieved great success, producing perfumes for the Russian imperial court and a line of cosmetics and soaps for ordinary people. Perfumes made in Russia more than once became laureates of international exhibitions in Paris, and some of them are still referred to in professional literature as perfumes of historical value. For example, few people know Chanel No. 5, a fragrance that has not left store shelves for about 100 years, was created by Ernest Beaux, a perfumer who was born in and who grew up in Russia.
Everything changed after the Russian revolution, when perfumery was recognized by the Soviet government as not a priority, an excess. The perfumery factories of the already Russified French were closed and converted into production for industry and military needs. The French were forced to leave Russia. During the Soviet period of Russian history, perfumery was practically inaccessible to people. The Soviet government approved the release of several local flavors, colognes and soaps throughout the country. The most popular among women was the fragrance Krasnaya Moskva (literally Red Moscow), created on the basis of the famous perfume Le Bouquet Préféré de l'Impératrice, a fragrance created in Henri Brocard's factory in Moscow in 1913. Men, mainly, could choose one of 3-5 types of colognes. There was nothing more for 70 years.
Perhaps due to such a perfume isolation, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, there is still a huge demand for perfumes in Russia. It is one of the largest markets in the world. I do not know of any other country where there would be such a huge number of perfume stores. In Russia, there are thousands of them from huge to small cities. Russians are very fond of perfumes, many of them on the shelf can find at least 2-3 bottles that people use every day.
At the same time, after the Revolution in Russia, not a single internationally recognized Russian perfume brand has yet been created. Today in Russia there are several companies that produce inexpensive mass perfumes, often created from ready-made French fragrances. NŌSE was one of the first to decide to revive Russian perfume traditions. On the one hand, as a perfumer, I rely on the original Russian olfactory experience, on the other hand, I use natural and synthetic molecules assembled from suppliers around the world. Our perfumes are complex, unlike anything else, because we create a world of smells based on authentic Russian reality.
Elizabeth: From what we see via social media, you are quite the traveler! Have you always been that way, or has your search for perfume ingredients sparked your interest in worldly adventures?
Timur: When I began to immerse myself in how the perfumery world works, I paid special attention to the search for ingredients. In Russia, they are almost impossible to find, so I began to look for various oils while traveling in Asia and Latin America, as well as ordering essential oils, absolutes, CO2 extracts, natural isolates and synthetic molecules from suppliers from the USA, Italy, France and the UK. We also work with a family in Delhi, which has been producing oils for over 200 years. Searching for perfume ingredients that will be included in the formulas of fragrances that you are sure of is a painstaking and long way to go. It took me more than two years to find perfume ingredients that could reflect the ideas that I put into every NŌSE perfume.
© Timur Solodov
Elizabeth: How do you incorporate "Russian perfumery" in your own brand? What makes your fragrances distinctly Russian, in your opinion?
Timur: Our fragrances absolutely accurately reflect my own olfactory background - to me as a person who grew up in Russia, the smells of a wet concrete walls, mushroom forests, Soviet cars, grandma’s pies, Russian flowers are much closer than lavender, citrus, coffee or croissant. I grew up on the distinctive scents that created another perfume language in which I try to communicate with perfume lovers globally.
Elizabeth: I know from talking with you over the past year or more that your perfumes have taken a lot of time and care to develop, with changes occurring at each stage. What, for you, is the indication that you have reached perfection and that the fragrance is ready for release to consumers?
Timur: It’s very difficult for me as a self-taught person to stop in the process of working on a fragrance. I experiment with new materials all the time in order to develop the fragrance as widely as possible, difficult, memorable. Only this month we will produce a large-scale batch of bottles with the final formula of each fragrance. Prior to this, every 250 ml of perfume was created manually with constant refinements in order to achieve perfection. I think there are about a hundred different iterations behind each NŌSE fragrance.
Elizabeth: It's evident in your work that you appreciate high-quality natural materials. Do you have a favorite natural material?
Timur: I really love natural perfume ingredients. You probably know that the aroma of a rose consists of about 360 different aromatic molecules. Using the absolute roses in the formula, all 360 molecules create a special atmosphere. This is difficult to achieve with a just one synthetic molecule. Natural materials add a special volume to the fragrance. I can look for the right sounding of natural material for a very long time. For example, to choose a vetiver for Lumberman, I tried to use more than ten different species from different countries and different manufacturers. However, I also have my favorite synthetic molecules that cannot be found in nature. Speaking specifically of natural materials, I would call the most favorite CO2-extract of linden blossom and the absolute of poplar buds from France, these are surprisingly delicate aromas, which are very interesting to work with. I would also call strawberry gum from Australia, cannabis essential oil and tuberose absolute.
© Timur Solodov
Elizabeth: You have been to Delhi, to the oil markets there (see video below!), where you can sniff and sample to your heart's delight. Can you tell us a bit more about the history of this market? Did you go crazy and end up buying all kinds of things you didn't go there to buy?
Timur: That's exactly what it was :) When it becomes possible to apply oils directly to the skin in the store, it is impossible to stop shopping. Two years ago, I was in Delhi and began to search on Google, where you can buy high-quality perfume ingredients there. I found a BBC documentary about a family that was the first in India to produce essential oils from plants grown on its own plantations and bought from farmers in different parts of the country. The Gulab Singh Johrimal family has more than 200 years of history, they have created fragrances for Indira Gandhi and are still the main supplier of essential oils for large international perfume and cosmetic corporations.
Thanks for answering my questions, Timur! Here is a short video of Timur exploring the essential oil markets in India. Fun stuff!!!