For your first collaboration with Fréderic Malle, you chose the theme of musks with the sublime Musc Ravageur. Why did you choose this theme?
Maurice Roucel - Initially, it was a creation that I had proposed in response to a brief from another client that we had not won. Like the brand and its icon, this fragrance referred to a very demonstrative, theatrical, provocative and almost sexual person. One day, Frederic Malle came to see me on behalf of Pierre Bourdon and asked me if I had a strong idea for his perfume collection. I had a lot of faith in this creation that was sleeping in a drawer, so I decided to propose it to him. After reworking it slightly, Frédéric Malle chose the name Musc Ravageur. With this perfume, I wanted, among other things, to make a real musk, animal and sensual, while also using fake musks, pushing this side extravagence and sensuality in a theatrical way.
Your creations are often very assertive fragrances, whereas musk is a soft and enveloping material. How do you reconcile musk and character?
Maurice Roucel - Although over time musk has gained a reputation as a soft, enveloping note, true musk is an extremely animal note, almost repulsive at times, and it is this facet in particular that gives character to a creation. It is often warm musks with a feline animality that have led my creations around or with musks.
The great sweetness of the musk is only affirmed at the bottom of the note by the Muscone, which gives this impression of baby’s skin. It is a chemical molecule that is naturally present in the musk to the extent of 1.7%, which gives a sweet charm to this raw material. In addition, Muscone is one of the few natural-synthetic musks that I am able to smell because I am anosmic to other musks.
Do you have one or more favorite musks and why?
Maurice Roucel - I have a particular affection for Muscone because it is a musk that I often worked with, olfactively and scientifically, when I worked at Chanel. For me, it is a musky molecule with a certain nobility that brings softness and mellowness. At Symrise, we have three musks that are quite close to it: Globalide®, Macrolide® and Aurélione®. Not to mention the fact that these ingredients are much cheaper, biodegradable, vegan and generally cleaner than animal musks, qualities that have become increasingly important to today’s consumers.
How do you see the future of musks in perfumery?
Maurice Roucel - There will always be musks because they are the pillars of creation, depending on the type of perfume you want to use them in. The only challenge is to find new qualities of musks. The latest innovations in this area are aliphatic musks, which from a molecular point of view, have a linear skeletal structure rather than a cyclic one, but the research around these ingredients is not conclusive at the moment. If they are more present in the top notes, they are less «long lasting» and therefore do not linger. For me, the future of musk is primarily in the hands of chemists!
The question of musks has often divided the greatest perfumers. Some consider musks as a bland material that blurs the olfactory construction, while others consider that musks are key materials for the character of the perfume.
What do you think?
Maurice Roucel - It all depends on the type of perfume you want to create. For me, I compose perfumes very differently depending on the client. For example, I use musks more timidly in fresher and more aqueous creations, and on the contrary, I use them in excess in compositions where I want to bring a lot of sensuality. For me musks are often essential to give an enveloping sensuality to creations.
Why do we talk about musks as a skin material?
Maurice Roucel - Simply because they are molecules that literally stick to the skin. This can be explained because musks are very heavy molecules with a high boiling point, and it is this property that gives them not only a great longevity but also a softness on the skin. It is for this reason that many musk solutions have been used in great classics such as Chanel No. 5 and Shalimar. In a way, I like to say that musks are the link between the skin, the living matter and the synthetic. Musks connect us to the natural and primitive world and our human need to connect.