Jean Carles (1892–1966) was a French perfumer who worked in Roure (now part of Givaudan) in the early 20th century. He was the founder of the Roure Perfumery School and served as its first director in 1946.
Despite becoming anosmic towards the end of his life, Carles created works such as Ma Griffe (Carven) and Miss Dior (Christian Dior) using only his memory of odours to guide him. His condition was only known to his son Marcel Carles, who assisted Jean by smelling and commenting on his creations. Due to this remarkable feat, Jean Carles is often compared to Beethoven who continued to compose music after becoming profoundly deaf.
Carles also devised a training technique bearing his name (Jean Carles Method) for learning about natural and synthetic perfumery materials. Sixty of these odourants are arranged in a table format, which is organised by classes. Students first learn the contrasts between classes of odourants; floral, woody etc which are arranged in columns. They then proceed to compare and contrast the materials within each class, which are set out in rows. For example, in the floral column there will be rose, jasmine etc, and in the row for rose, its constituents such as phenyl ethyl alcohol, geraniol etc will be listed.
This is the most well known technique for memorising and understanding perfumery materials. It and its variants are still widely used to train novice perfumers.
Method of Composition
Jean Carles was the first to set about composing perfumes on a rational basis. Instead of the trial and error method he had observed as a student, he conducted many trials with pairs of materials to see how they would combine.
Carles carried out numerous trials with oakmoss for example, combining it with different materials and in different ratios. This might involve, say, oak moss and patchouli mixed in the ratios of 1 oakmoss to 9 patchouli, 2 moss to 8 patchouli, 3 to 7 etc right up to 9 moss and 1 patchouli. One of the blends, say 3/7 oakmoss to patchouli, would be selected to form the basis of another series of experiments, which might be with vetiver for example. In this way a perfume would be composed in increments, and not all at once on a haphazard basis, as was often the way at the time.
The relative volatility of perfumery materials was also investigated by Carles, and this allowed him to refine his method of perfume composition by building a structure from the bottom up. First the base notes are blended, and then the process continues through the middle notes to the most volatile and fleeting top notes which are found at the head of a perfume, and which are the ones immediately smelled when a perfume is first sprayed.
His creations included:
- Miss Dior (1947) – Christian Dior, with Paul Vacher
- Ma Griffe (1946) – Carven
- Shocking (1937) – Schiaparelli
- Canoe (1935) – Dana
- Tabu (1932) – Dana
- Elle...Elle... – Lucien Lelong
- Indescrit – Lucien Lelong
- Orgueil – Lucien Lelong
- Tailspin – Lucien Lelong
- Tout Lelong – Lucien Lelong
- Jean Carles (1892-1966)
- KERR, ALISON (1 April 2006), Channelling chanel, The Scotsman
- Burr, Chandler (2003), The Emperor of Scent: A Story of Perfume, Obsession, and the Last Mystery of the Senses, New York: Random House, ISBN 0-375-50797-3
- Kydd, Michelle Krell (May 2007), "Exposing the Perfumer", Perfumer & Flavorist, 32 (5): 38–44
- Jellinek, Paul (1997), "Perfume creation and odor sensation", The Psychological Basis of Perfumery, Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands, pp. 101–106, doi:10.1007/978-94-009-1567-1_12, ISBN 978-94-010-7200-7