Jean-Claude Ellena

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Portrait of Jean-Claude Ellena

Jean-Claude Ellena (born 1947, Grasse, France) is a retired French perfumer and writer.


At an early age, Ellena picked jasmine with his grandmother in Grasse to sell to perfumers. Beginning with menial jobs, he became an apprentice at the factory of the essential oils maker Antoine Chiris in Grasse at the age 16 working on the night shift. He has reminisced, “Among other essential oils, we made a lot of oakmoss, and after I’d put the distiller on, I’d lie down on a bed of it and sleep.”[1]

In 1968, he became the first student at what was at the time the newly formed perfumery school of Givaudan, one of the oldest perfume factories, in Geneva, Switzerland. He left Givaudan in 1976 with two others perfumers for Lautier in Grasse. In 1983, he joined Givaudan Paris as chief perfumer and Roure-Givandan and then he worked at Haarmaan & Reimer in Paris (which merged in 2003 with Dragoco to form Symrise). In 1990, he became one of the founding members of the Osmothèque, an international scent archive based in Versailles.[2]

Ellena has been profoundly influenced by pioneering perfumer Edmond Roudnitska, particularly by his article, “Advice to a Young Perfumer”, in a magazine given to him by his father.[3]

Since 2004, he has been Hermès's exclusive in-house perfumer,[4] appointed by Jean-Louis Dumas and Véronique Gautier. He has created fragrances for several major perfume houses including The Different Company, which he founded before joining Hermès. His daughter Céline Ellena now creates for The Different Company.

In 2005, Ellena created Un Jardin sur le Nil for Hermès. The story behind the creation of this fragrance was the subject of the book The Perfect Scent: A Year in the Perfume Industry in Paris and New York by Chandler Burr.[5] In addition, the story in a limited form and accounts of other scents as well as his autobiography has been published in Perfume: The Alchemy of Scent. He is also a writer of "The Diary of a Nose: A Year in the Life of a Parfumeur."


Ellena retired from the industry in 2016. Swiss-born chemist and perfumer Christine Nagel, re-placed him as in-house perfumer for Hermes, she has worked with numerous commercial companies, and is best known for creating perfumes for British brand Jo Malone[6] Ellena's final fragrances for Hermes were Eau de Néroli Doré and Hermèssence Muguet Porcelaine.

For Bulgari[edit]

  • Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert (1992)
  • Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert Extrême (1996)

For Frédéric Malle[edit]

  • Angéliques sous la Pluie (2000)
  • Cologne Bigarade (2001)
  • Bigarade Concentrée (2002)
  • L'Eau d'Hiver (2003)

For Hermès[edit]

  • Hermèssence collection (exclusively in Hermès stores)
    • Rose Ikebana
    • Osmanthe Yunnan
    • Brin de Réglisse
    • Vétiver Tonka
    • Vanille Galante
    • Paprika Brasil
    • Santal Massoïa
    • Ambre Narguilé
    • Iris Ukiyoé
    • Poivre Samarcande
    • Épice Marine
    • Cuir d`Ange
    • Muguet Porcelaine
  • Rocabar (1998), with Gilles Romey and Bernard Bourgeois
  • Un Jardin en Méditerranée (2003)
  • Un Jardin sur le Nil (2005)
  • Elixir des Merveilles (2006)
  • Terre d'Hermès (2006)
  • Kelly Calèche (2007)
  • Un Jardin après la Mousson (2008)
  • Kelly Calèche Parfum (2008)
  • Kelly Calèche Eau de Parfum (2009)
  • Eau de Gentiane Blanche (2009)
  • Eau de Pamplemousse Rose (2009)
  • Eau Claire des Merveilles (2010)
  • Voyage d'Hermès (2010)
  • Un Jardin sur le Toit (2011)
  • Voyage d'Hermes Perfume (2012)
  • L’Ambre des Merveilles (2012)
  • Le Jardin de Monsieur Li (2015)
  • Eau de Neroli Dore (2016)

For L'Artisan Parfumeur[edit]

  • L'Eau d'Ambre (1978)
  • La Haie Fleurie du Hameau (1982)
  • Ambre Extrême (2001)
  • Bois Farine (2003)

For Van Cleef & Arpels[edit]

  • First (1976)
  • Miss Arpels (1994)

For The Different Company[edit]

  • Bois d’Iris (2000)
  • Osmanthus (2001)
  • Rose Poivrée (2001)
  • Bergamote (formerly Divine Bergamote) (2003)


Personal life[edit]

Ellena's father, brother, and daughter Celine are also perfumers.[3] Known for his signature white shirts, Ellena himself never wears perfume or cologne. His daughter Celine designed the Hermès Home Fragrance Collection.


  1. ^ Alexandra Marshall, “A Hermes Perfumer.” The Wall Street Journal, 5 March 2009.
  2. ^ Ellena, Jean-Claude. “Classification et Osmothèque – Séance Société Française des Parfumeurs (17 December 1990)”. Osmothèque: La mémoire vivante des parfums. Paris: Comité Français du Parfum. 1990. Print.
  3. ^ a b Jean-Claude Ellena, Perfume: The Alchemy of Scent. New York: Arcade, 2011. ISBN 1-61145-330-5 (English translation of Parfum. Collection: Que sais-je? Paris: Presses Universitaires de France - PUF, 2007. ISBN 978-2-13-056082-1)
  4. ^ Weil, Jennifer (13 December 2013). "Perfumer Christine Nagel to Join Hermès". WWD. Retrieved 13 December 2013.
  5. ^ Chandler Burr, The Perfect Scent: A Year Inside the Perfume Industry in Paris and New York. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2008. ISBN 0-8050-8037-6
  6. ^ "Hermès's First Female Perfumer Talks About Breaking Into the Male-Dominated Fragrance World". Retrieved 22 April 2017.

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