Our newest fragrance, Améline, is not your grandmother’s rose perfume. Like femininity itself, this rose has been updated for the modern era. In the case of our fragrance, that means adding hints of sandalwood, patchouli and sparkling Italian bergamot, even a little violet, for a resulting scent that’s fresh and floral, earthy and watery. All to make a scent that embodies both Old World style and 21st century womanhood, and channels classic French style filtered through an American lens.

We spoke with the perfumer, Nathalie Benareau—a thoroughly modern French woman who now resides in America—to find out how she did it.

PHLUR: In the original fragrance brief, Améline is described as “a thoroughly modern statement of feminine intelligence, grace and glamour.” How did you translate that into scent?

Nathalie Benareau: The brief had a lot of pictures that resonated with me. Grace Kelly, peonies, beautiful women, soft flowers. The effortless femininity. Something very bright and open.

I was looking for something that would mean maximum femininity, and something that is based on rose, which is the queen of all flowers. There is nothing more feminine than rose, and it comes in all colors and textures and forms.

P: Makes sense. So where did you go from there?

NB: For this, I wanted to have a pink rose because it’s more delicate and glamorous and graceful. I built this very simple rose—there’s something very glamorous and straightforward about it. I didn’t want it to be too frou-frou—the message should be very clear and straightforward.

P: How did you go about getting that across?

NB: I built a simple rose. Rose and violet work very well together, and are very classic, but there’s a way to modernize them. The brief is very classic, but the colors were very modern. The pictures, the jewelry, definitely some modernity there. She seemed like the kind of woman who would work—a more modern woman.

I also mixed it with a facet of modern violet. Usually violets are a bit powdery, but I wanted to use the more watery bit of violet. It’s more cucumber-y for that freshness. Once I had that accord, and that core of the fragrance, I dressed it up to take me to this woman. Grace Kelly. Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca. Beautiful, classy, but also very mysterious.

P: Totally.

NB: I do a lot of associations and it took me to Casablanca and Morocco, which takes me to orange flower, which comes from there. Jasmine and orange flower. I put it in there to get a bit more depth and a darker femininity. And from there, I worked a bit with adding some contrasts. Things that are a bit more woody, so the contrast would make the top come out more. I added a leathery note, too.

P: Ah, so that’s what that is.

NB: The first few versions smelled too clean, too tight. They were too put together. Anne [Serrano-McClain, our scent advisor] saw that this woman is put together, but maybe it’s in the middle of the evening and she’s had a bit more fun already. [We needed] something a bit more animalistic, more dirty, more human. Adding this leather note helps a lot. Patchouli helps a lot, and gives it depth and background. Vetiver definitely helps a lot.

Some of the pictures took me to a darker place—there’s one where she’s wearing a black turtleneck.

P: Mm-hmm.

Nathalie Benareau, perfumer for Hanami, Olmsted & Vaux, Hepcat, and Améline | Photograph by Nina Westervelt

NB: Another thing I like to do is add something a bit more expected, so I added a crunchy peppery note, which works well with rose, but adds a more sparkling note and makes it a bit more bright. Pink peppercorn, which is a very expensive material, for me it added a quality to the fragrance. It works well with watery notes too.

It’s a very short formula. And I think that’s why I like it. There’s nothing extra that’s hiding something. It breathes. It has a lot of sillage, that cloud that you leave all around you. That for me is the power of the woman, her strength. It’s not strong in a way that it’s dense, but it’s bright and it’s all around you.

P: It’s sophisticated.

NB: Yes. Absolutely.

There’s a family in fragrance called chypre, which means cypress in French. These fragrances were all based on patchouli and moss, and were for the sophisticated woman in the early 20th century. It’s a bit old-fashioned.

This doesn’t have that structure, but it has that feel and volume and sophistication. It’s almost like a shadow of a chypre. Coty came out with the first one in 1917 or something like that. It’s a structure that’s very abstract. It creates a whole that speaks to sophistication.

P: You mentioned the colors in the brief—white, camel and pink. Somehow I can smell all of them in Améline.

NB: Definitely. That soft pink, that soft peony. The woman who has that dress that looks like silk and has movement. I love that contrast of colors, and you can see that in this scent.

“Rose is the queen of all flowers.”

P: And the song from the brief, “Jabuticaba” by Bebel Gilberto? How does that factor in?

NB: I just put it on in the background, so it definitely puts me in a mood and it takes me to a place. I used to listen to her a lot. That whole soft and sultry Brazilian music takes me to that place.

P: What’s interesting to me is the song is not French.

NB: That’s true! But the way she sings, her voice is so… the softness of it takes me there. If it had been French, that would’ve been cliche.

P: Speaking of France… you’re French, as I am sure you are aware. Did that make this feel more personal in any way?

NB: Yes. Because it’s the notes that I really like, definitely more European notes. I definitely used my European sensibility in developing these types of notes. The brightness and sophistication. Nothing sweet or fruity about it [laughing].

P: I understand the rose inside this rose has a special story.

NB: I used something called rosa bourboniana. It’s a rose absolute from India that hadn’t been used in perfumery, but Symrise sent a team a few years ago into the fields and they smelled this rose that was unbelievable—heavy and bright and colorful. And they decided to create an absolute that is built around this rose. So now in our palette we have this specific rose that no one else has. It’s very hard to have a rose absolute or oil that smells like a real rose, but this one is much more clean and feminine. That was something that was amazing to use for this.

P: How many iterations did it go through?

NB: I want to say 30? Maybe a bit more. We had two that we really liked. And we had consumers letting us know what they thought and that was fun. Sometimes we’re looking at really small details and we’re moving it a little, little, little, little….

P: How would you describe it? What makes it special?

NB: For me, she’s this beautiful sophisticated woman that’s very well put together, but is not pretentious at all. She’s bright, she’s open, she’s confident. But she’s also humble. She’s confident, so she’s not afraid of wearing a scent that others might think is too classic. It is a classic scent, but twisted in a modern way. It has a modern sensibility. She’s the woman of today.

P: Do you identify with her?

NB: I wish I was her! I would like to grow up to be her.

P: Well, to us, you already are.

Interested in trying Améline? Get started here.