A perfumer like no other – and a charming one at that – we spoke to Carlos Benaïm at the launch of his newest fragrance Spirit Of The Brave for Diesel.
Carlos is a ‘veteran’ of the fragrance industry, with so many scents to his name; from the infamous Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb, Clavin Klein Euphoria, Ralph Lauren Polo (and many more) to the highly anticipated fragrance from Diesel with Neymar Jr, Spirit Of The Brave.
The newest addition to Diesel’s Only The Brave Range, Carlos’ nose holds no bounds. Spirit Of The Brave was announced as a game-changing fragrance that was designed to ‘encourage men to reach their full potential, pushing through fears with energy and confidence’. A sophisticated, yet fresh fougère fragrance and we’ve been eager to identify the nose and creative process behind it.
We met at the beautiful launch location in Paris, drinks in hand and atmosphere electric.
TFS: What a lovely location for the launch! How are you feeling?
CB: So far so good! Busy day, but very good.
TFS: Are you as excited as we are for today’s launch?
CB: Yes, very excited. This is something new for me – we don’t usually have things like this. I have done a lot of press launches but never one like this. There is just so much excitement about the fragrance!
TFS: Let’s talk about the fragrance: how long did Spirit Of The Brave take from initial concept right through to completion?
CB: The Neymar fragrance took over a year.
TFS: Wow, and how do you feel now that it’s done?
CB: Very proud, of course, especially because Neymar himself liked it. When our teams went to visit him in Brazil and he smelt it, the first thing he said was “this is really me”, and that was something that made me really very proud.
TFS: With Neymar the face of Spirit Of The Brave, how did the notes in the fragrance come together to represent him?
CB: It becomes your own imagination and in my case, it was getting the inspiration for Neymar’s spirit and his Brazilian routes. To me Brazil is always fun and full of nature, so it was always about nature, water, the forest…
TFS: And what notes do you think bring that whole ‘nature’, ‘fun’, ‘forest’ element together?
CB: To me the two most important ingredients, important elements, are the cypress and the fir. Those two notes together remind you of the forest of Brazil.
TFS: Spirit of the Brave – the newest fragrance, the newest launch – how does that fragrance differ from everything else in the Only The Brave range?
CB: They’re all different; they all have their own signature and characteristics, but they all have that audacious, brave scent and sensuality behind it – and that’s key. When you look at Neymar, you have that sense of a man with tremendous presence and at the same time a sensual presence.
TFS: So in a few words, how would you describe the scent ‘Spirit Of The Brave’.
CB: A a woody, green, sexy scent.
TFS: It took you guys a year to get it to completion, what was the turning point that you said “It’s done. It’s ready”?
CB: You never get to that point unless someone tells you – you could go on forever. You keep on trying.
TFS: In the world of fragrance, what makes a scent luxurious to you?
CB: I think to me it’s the right proportions of ingredients and mainly of natural ingredients. I think natural ingredients are super important in fragrances.
TFS: For you, you were initially a chemical engineer – what made you then go into the world of fragrance to become the ‘infamous nose’ that you are today?
CB: Well it was totally accidental! When I was doing my training, I went to Grasse to do a stage with a perfume company that makes ingredients for perfumeries. I was supposed to work with the chemist there and train to be a chemist during the summer but it was August and the chemist went sailing. So, they didn’t know what to do with me and so they put me in a room with all the ingredients in front of me and I smelled all those ingredients for a month… and that was the beginning of it.
TFS: So you fell in love with fragrance from the very beginning.
TFS: And what’s your journey been like so far?
Well the journey has been pretty incredible. Honestly for someone who never though they were never going to be a perfumer when they was 13, to this!
TFS: You’re considered to be one of America’s greatest living perfumers – how do you feel to have such an accolade?
CB: Well it’s a wonderful place to be in. I need a little company!
TFS: What inspires your creations?
CB: Mainly your life experiences, your childhood, your memories…
TFS: What is your earliest memory in terms of fragrance/your earliest scents?
CB: I think my earliest scents were – that I can remember consciously – it was my grandmother’s cupboard with all her homemade sweets. That to me is a tremendous memory because I used to sneak in.
TFS: And have you made any fragrances that you would say embody your grandma’s cupboard of homemade sweets?
CB: Well I’ve made a lot of fragrances that have sweetness in them, but I’d say a fragrance like Flowerbombhave sweet aspects to it.
TFS: So in terms of fragrance, what is your biggest mantra? What do you live by with all fragrance?
CB: I like the construction, the design of a fragrance. I like to be the architect of a fragrance and that architecture to me is very important – to create an impression. You feel good in yourself but you project a beautiful image to other people.
TFS: So you’re a strong believer that fragrance can help project an air of confidence to the wearer?
CB: Yes, definitely – that’s very important!
TFS: ‘Play With Your Fears’ is the tagline for SOTB – would you say you embody that?
CB: Well more and more, yes.
TFS: If you had to give one piece of advice when it comes to fragrance, what would it be?
CB: I think the main thing is to have fun with it because you have so many choices out there. It has to be something that reflects your interest, reflects you. Take your time and experiment, select something that you really like and that fits you.
TFS: That being said, what fragrance do you wear?
CB: I actually wear a fragrance that I made 20 years ago…
Carlos Benaïm, the nose behind Diesel’s Spirit Of The Brave.
Feature image: Edward Bess