Who was the greatest perfumer of all time?


Charles Darwin

If you and I were to go out for supper and share some wine and an after-dinner drink, we might get on to some of my favourite “parlour games”.  For instance, I’m likely to ask you who you think were the two geniuses of the 19th century and we’re likely to agree on at least one… Charles Darwin.  But my second choice is often controversial.  For me, Sigmund Freud would be the second, hands down! But a girlfriend of mine was shocked by my choice.  “Freud?  No way!  He was so anti-woman!”  Her choice?  Karl Marx!  Of course, the great German egalitarian.

Most of my friends are not interested in perfume and so to speak about the greatest perfumer of all time would not likely generate much conversation.  For so many years, I would have said François Coty.  He, singlehandedly, was responsible for the creation of two perfume families… the chypre and the amber families.  And, his Coty empire revolutionized the sale of perfume.  Yes, he made mistakes in his private life but for the most part, he was the great innovator, but far from the perfectionist.


Jacques Guerlain

However, on any given night (and with enough wine), you could convince me that the greater perfumer was his rival, Jacques Guerlain.  His creations read like a hit parade and most are still available today having withstood the test of time… Après L’Ondée, Shalimar, L’Heure Bleue, Mitsouko, Mouchoir de Monsieur and Vol de Nuit.  And even as I write this post, I’m convincing myself that Jacques Guerlain really deserves the title.  I still wear his creations today.

But what about Ernest Daltroff?  Fleurs de Rocaille, Narcisse Noir, Nuit de Noël and Pour un Homme!  Or Edmond Roudnitska?  Or Ernest Beaux?  Or even, Germaine Cellier?

It’s a tough one.  I’d love to hear your opinions.

Leave a comment


  1. Mario Fournier

     /  April 9, 2018

    Ernest beaux, jean robert, j-c ellena

  2. Andrea

     /  April 10, 2018

    I agree. Coty was a great innovator but Guerlain. Ahhhhhh! Magic!

  3. FiveoaksBouquet

     /  April 10, 2018

    Okay, I’ll play! 😃 For two geniuses of the 19th century I nominate Thomas Edison and Florence Nightingale. Edison’s inventions laid the groundwork for just about every technology we use today and Florence Nightingale introduced the practice of simple hygiene into the medical profession and daily life, no doubt saving countless lives then and into the future. The idea of handwashing alone is front and center advice today, for preventing illness. These types of geniuses appeal to my mind because their brilliance translated into practices directly applied to our everyday lives even after more than a century.

    The greatest perfumer—that’s harder. Subjectivity plays a great role in this choice no doubt, depending on one’s tastes in perfume, but as seen in my above choices, I tend to zero in on a person who initiated a concept. Coty was for sure rhe groundbreaker here. He not only created the perfume categories that held through a century and introduced commercial packaging but he also democratized perfume usage by making it available to the masses.

    Although the nod would have to go to Coty for those reasons, there are other perfumers whose specific creations I like better, more than one: Ernest Beaux, Ernest Daltroff, Jacques and Jean-Paul Guerlain, Isabelle Doyen and a nose for whom I could only find one perfume credited, Christian Vacchiano (Nina 1987).

    • I love your suggestions and I see from where you are coming. I’m more of a theoretician… I did extremely well in college calculus but could never apply the correct formula to real-world problems, as in statistics! So, developping the origin of the species… well… that speaks to me directly.

      As for perfumer, we agree. I prefer Jacques Guerlain’s creations to what we have left of François Coty, although those perfumes have been reformulated so often, one can only imagine how lovely they must have been. I could be convinced for Ernest Beaux… such a pillar of French perfumery.

      Thanks for the comment!

  4. XIX century geniuses… I’d go with Louis Pasteur for his work in the area of the Germ theory of disease and Dmitri Mendeleev for Periodic table.

    With perfumers I have to go with Ernest Beaux and Jacques Guerlain: even though I cannot wear either No. 5 or Shalimar, I think that perfumers who created these perfumes, popularity of which cannot be explained just by the brand, marketing or anything else not directly related to the scent itself, were perfume geniuses.

    • You guys are a tough bunch! I thought for sure that Charles Darwin was a slam dunk! 😉

      Yes for Louis Pasteur and Dmitri Mendeleev. I guess I conveniently forgot about him (ha ha).

      Yes, Ernest Beaux would be one of the greats… top three in my books. You know, I read that on your blog that you cannot wear Chanel No. 5 nor Shalimar and it intrigued me. I always thought they had universal appeal but, you know, if I’m really honest with myself, I’m not a big fan of L’Heure Bleue. I tire of it within the hour.

      Thanks for the comments.

      • Ha! You’re one hour ahead of me on LHB: I can’t do it at all either 🙂 And believe me – I tried approaching all of them, on multiple occasions and with all possible vintages.

  5. Nathalie Boivin

     /  April 19, 2018

    Moi aussi ça serait Jacques Guerlain, l’auteur de l’un de mes parfums préféré Vol de nuit. Je dirais aussi Germaine Cellier parce qu’elle fut l’une des premières nez féminins. Sinon, la première.

  6. Anonymous

     /  June 29, 2020

    It seems to me that games about the greatest this or that are more of the love-cry variety than of the analytic, rational persuasion. Yet we try to defend and argument those same choices….
    Keeping that in mind, and despite my love and admiration for Jacques Guerlain and his work, my emotional and spiritual guts would make me go for Edmond Roudnitska. His perfumes display such charm, such humanity….and an incredible balance of sensuous pleasure and esthetic purity, genius.

    • And, I have such a soft spot for Edmond Roudnitska. Such a genius. Had it not been for the war, he probably could have done even more! Thanks for the comment.


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