Born into a great family of perfumers, 32-year-old Valentine Pozzo di Borgo has trained her nose to pick out the aromas around her. However, one of her earliest memories of growing up in a world of different scents was too complex to decipher.
Pozzo di Borgo recalls: “The smell that I couldn’t quite define as a kid was the one coming from my grandfather’s lab. The place was a mixture of a lot of different smells.”
Her grandfather was none other than Leon Givaudan, co-founder of the major fragrance firm. Many classic fine perfumes, including Poisonby Christian Dior and Opium by Yves Saint Laurent, owe their signature scents to Givaudan’s fragrance scientists.
Pozzo di Borgo’s mother also owned a perfumery. Having refined her skills, young Valentine could easily note Sandrine Givaudan’s gardenia-laced perfume of choice: Fracasby Robert Piguet. “As soon as I smell that particular fragrance, I knew [my mother] was going out,” says Pozzo di Borgo.
As these scents trigger strong memories, she decided to keep them alive by creating her own eclectic range of olfactive offerings at just the tender age of 24.
Almost a decade later, her game-changing creations comprise a new family brand of perfumes, each bearing the birthdate of a relative. The concept of personalities in perfumery is evidently vital to Pozzo di Borgoas she artistically matches an eau with the characteristics of a family member to create unique aromatised portraits.
Further evolving the idea of how fragrances should be both functional and experiential, Pozzo di Borgo also crafted an olfactory calendar. Launched in 2011, under her boutique brand Quintessence Paris, 12 scented candles and glass containers are exclusively designed each year by different well-known artists or personalities to illustrate the feeling and mood of a particular month.
More importantly though is that the proceeds from these candles are given to a yearly selected charitable association. For every calendar box sold in 2011, Quintessence donated €24 to La Voix de l’Enfant, a French organisation that helps abused children. The organisation also designed the year’s candle for January: a light, strawberry-lemon scent inspired by traditional French candies. Last year, €2 from each candle was given to Mécénat Chirurgie Cardiaque, an association that enables children with heart malformations to undergo surgery in France.
The annual project is something Pozzo di Borgo holds dear. “I love working with creative people. The calendar was a way to explore new ideas and new scents. For example, we worked with Sebastien Bras, a famous French chef. He introduced us to a plant called Cerfeuil des Alpes that my perfumers had not heard about. So [Bras] sent us some of the plant and we recreated its scent.”
Each candle tells a story. Pozzo di Borgo adds: “That is what I love about the olfactory calendar. Once, we even worked with a street artist named Nasty on the smell of tar!”
For 2016, Quintessence collaborated solely with French singer-songwriter Julien Doré, who has chosen to support the JustWorld International organisation. Funds received from each candle sale will therefore go to support basic education, health and hygiene, nutrition and cultural development programmes for children in impoverished communities in Cambodia, Guatemala, and Honduras.