147 years of trading and Penhaligon’s continue to abide by their founding principles of quality, elegance and heritage. We catch up with master perfumer Alberto Morillas for an insight into the life and inspirations of a Penhaligon’s perfumer
Few brands are able to rival the longevity of Penhaligon’s. Granted, there are brands that are close in age, plenty that are older , but few have remained so loyal to their roots, with many of their products as cherished and sought after now, as they were over a hundred years ago.Established in 1870 by Mr William Penhaligon a Cornish barber who relocated to London. The brand’s first scent, Hannam Bouquet was inspired by the scent of neighbouring Turkish Baths. Penhaligon’s continued to produce iconic luxury fragrances for generation after generation and continue to do so to this day, producing in the UK using the original bottle design. We caught up with master perfumer Alberto Morillas – creator of such Penhaligon’s scents as The Tragedy of Lord George and Blasted Heath – to chat inspiration and
essentialjournal: Did you always know you wanted to work in the perfume industry?
alberto morillas: I grew up in Seville in
Andalusia. As a child I used to dream a lot and our garden, it smells and colours, no doubt influenced my sensitivity. When we left for Geneva, I knew that I wanted to do an artistic job and I enrolled at the Fines Art College.I joined Firmenich when I was 20 and right from the start I loved arriving in the morning and being surrounded by all these fragrances.
What inspired you to join the industry?
I started hearing about the craft of perfumer when I came to Geneva to study. Around the same time I discovered that there was a creator behind each fragrance as I had read an article in Vogue Magazine where Jean Paul Guerlain explained how to create a fragrance. That was a revelation for me! I rapidly got fascinated by the discipline. I read and experimented some formulas and went to libraries to research, which fed my curiosity.
What would you have done if you hadn’t of chosen this career path?
I would have become a photographer. Tell me about your typical day I confess I can hardly stop working and almost all my formulas are written by hand. My handwriting is my emotion. When I write the formula, I can smell the perfume. Like a craftsman, I have an indestructible passion for creation. All my fragrances come from this devotion to creation and have consumed all my days and nights for the past 45 years. Like an artist, I work even if I have no brief, it is an act that feeds me. I work on fragrances in the laboratory with my assistants, in my office, at home or while travelling… I can easily imagine the fragrance without smelling it. For me, perfumery is an emotion. The technic is intellectual, but every perfume has to have a soul, a story and be an emotion.
How many perfumes might you be working on, at any given time? And how long does it take to create a fragrance?
I am always involved in many different projects at the same time. Each of them is so different from the other one. Some may last several months and others may last several years.
Where do you find your inspiration?
I like everything that evokes the Mediterranean Sea, with the deep blue water, the sun and the nature which goes with it. I am very attached for example to the citruses, sea notes and flowers including jasmine, tuberose, neroli and orange blossom. They are the expression of a certain kind of freshness, a sophisticated freshness at the same time full of joy.
You have won so many awards, which one are you most proud of?
The first and very best recognition is that which is given by my customers. There is nothing that can be compared to the highly prized satisfaction of a rising success as it becomes a long lasting best-seller or an iconic fragrance in the global marketplace. The Lifetime Achievement Award I received in 2013 from The Fragrance Foundation embodies the ultimate recognition a perfumers may receive from his peers and the Industry.
You have created more than 200 scents; do you have a favourite?
Nowadays the number of my creations is close to 500. I would choose a lot of them. Some have been great successes. It’s a chance and this makes me happy to be a perfumer.
What scent do you wear?
I often wear the scent I’m working on.
What are your plans for the future?
All the new projects I’m working on let me discover, learn and create. They continue to nourish me and are part of my personal collection. It is a continuous new exciting challenge. I also cherish my family projects. My passion led me to create my own family brand, Mizensir. With my wife and daughter, we have ambitious plans to continue the journey.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
I’m in love with gardens. They are my second passion. I spend a lot of time in my family garden in Geneva, it gives me a breath, a moment of dream and relaxation, and it always inspires me for my work as a perfumer. The inspiration which feeds my creation is very simple, it is everything I see in nature. EJ