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Mr Zimmermann, you are the long-standing perfumer for WALA’s brand of natural cosmetics, Dr. Hauschka. This must not be an easy job to explain, given that we cannot see, hear or even touch fragrances ...
That’s right. We live in a society that’s all eyes and ears – and we allow ourselves to be guided through the world by the vivid images and loud sounds that surround us. But we are also constantly surrounded by fragrances, which we often only take in unconsciously simply through the act of breathing. However, we can understand a lot about a fragrance if we stop and pay conscious attention to it. We can even discern its personality.
Fragrances have personalities?
I work with natural substances – essential oils distilled from plants. These substances reflect, in their own particular way, the nature and will of the plants they come from. So when I create a new fragrance, I create a new being – and with it, a personality that communicates with us beyond scent.
So, as a perfumer, it’s your job to give Dr. Hauschka’s creams, lotions and body oils a “voice”?
Yes, and an authentic one. Natural cosmetics continue to be a massive trend, with new brands appearing all the time. As pioneers with many decades of experience, we want to stand out from the crowd. That is only possible if we stay authentic and forge our own unique path. Anyone who smells our cosmetics should immediately know: “This is Dr. Hauschka.”
How do you succeed in giving the products this typical “Dr. Hauschka scent”?
As I always work with several essential oils, I have the opportunity to bring certain aspects to the fore. In each composition, I use head, heart and base notes. Head notes are immediate and dynamic, like lemon or bergamot. Heart notes are so named because they affect the heart region and give the fragrance body – these include rose and lemongrass. The heavy base notes, meanwhile, include vanilla and tonka, and are perceived in the lower abdominal area. The successful interplay of the individual fragrances creates a holistic experience.
Perfumer Jörg Zimmermann gives Dr. Hauschka creams, lotions and oils their unique fragrance.
So we don’t just smell with our noses?
The nose is the “gateway” into the world of fragrances. As it inhales the surrounding air, it also takes in scent molecules that send energy impulses to the limbic system. This is a very old part of the brain that is responsible for processing feelings. But this emotional core is not only located in the centre of our brains – it also runs down the spine and into the lower abdomen. This is why we may also experience something of a physical sensation when we smell a certain scent. For example, the warm, enveloping notes of the Almond Soothing Body Cream appeal more to our introverted and sensual side, while a zingy citrus fragrance like that of the Shower Cream with lemon and lemongrass is immediate and direct.
Can you always determine exactly which “fragrance language” the products will speak? And how they will be received and understood by the person using them?
Perfumers create personal associations to all fragrances. The more familiar a substance is, the better the feel for it becomes. So I can intuitively predict how long a substance will retain its scent and how it will change over time. With this intuition, I can create a fragrance purely from my imagination and “feel” what it will be like in the future. It’s about revealing the essence of memory and finding the ideal form with which to humanise it. When I have completely devoted myself to this task, the result embodies an archetype that can be experienced in the same way by many people.
Does that mean that you personally dictate the scent?
The truth is, I express myself according to my nature. Of course, I also have to focus on the product to find out where it fits. Context within the product groups is important – the idea is that the products build on each other and embody an eloquent and cohesive language. Every single product needs a personality that communicates everything it can do, whereby the aesthetic added value and the joy of the product is not neglected. After all, it’s about entering into a close relationship with a product that should enrich our lives. Let’s take the new Stone Pine Sea Salt Cleansing Gel as an example: This toning body cleanser activates body and mind, leaving us more alert throughout the day.
I use this statement as a guideline and work on translating it into a fragrance. I also consider the texture of the product and the scent of the natural ingredients. Then I adapt the fragrance in line with these considerations. So to complement the high-mountain character of the Swiss stone pine, I used other substances that strengthen and cool – like rosemary and eucalyptus.
Can you tell us how you manage to compose a single, harmonious fragrance from so many different scents?
My work makes full use of nature in all its rich abundance. We feel a very particular happiness when we are surrounded by nature – that probably goes for everyone. Nature elicits this response because it is directly connected to our soul. Perceiving nature through scent, experiencing the very complex and subtle transitions and nuances, leaves us feeling content and enriched. And because our soul is itself part of nature, we like complex things. Therefore, I believe that it is important to create fragrances that are as sophisticated as possible. When the various fragrances merge, from head to base note, and carry us with them in their olfactory flow, we feel happy.
That sounds wonderful. It’s just a pity that even the most beautiful fragrance experience must come to an end and the scent must disappear...
That’s true – natural fragrances are constantly evolving. Ultimately, fragrances are many moving images that, in their transformation, allow us to experience an idea and then slowly fade again. All that is beautiful shall pass. But we always want to experience fond memories again – humans are nostalgic. The limbic system, with its many connections, collects sensory impressions together with the associated feelings and ideas. As a result, if we encounter the same impulse in the future, we can recall everything related to the initial impulse – down to the last detail. A previously experienced fragrance can make us feel like a newly-in-love 20-something all over again. And this reveals something truly amazing: It is proof there is a part of us that never ages.