Monday, May 9, 2011

Learning about CREED Fragrances with Roberto Ferreira

Saturday, I was privileged to spend an hour with Roberto Ferreira, National CREED Educator and Curator of the CREED Collection. The hour passed quickly as we talked about fragrance and Roberto helped me discover a few CREED fragrances that had to come home with me.

Francesca Camacho, one of the two finest fragrance experts I've ever encountered in a department store, had invited me to her very special CREED event at Neiman Marcus at Tysons Galleria. I've been looking forward to it for months! I had read about Roberto, and I was excited to have an opportunity to sit and talk with him, rather than sit in a classroom setting with others. We could focus on the scents I like. The photo above shows Francesca and Roberto.

How would I describe him? Warm, passionate, extremely knowledgeable, charming, caring, and fun! I spent a few minutes getting to know him. Roberto shared a darling story with me because we discovered quickly we both share a love for food and fragrance. When he was in his late teens, he was the taster in his house. His mother Dominica did the cooking, but she always asked Roberto to taste as she added spices. He had a talent for scents and the perfect balance between ingredients as a teenager! Robert's mother predicted that he would have a career in the fragrance business. He protested, "I will be an artist." His mother saw his innate talent for fragrance; she is a wise woman.

I told Roberto about the CREED fragrances I already owned (e.g., Jasmal, and I told him about the types of fragrances I like: florals, fruits, and aquatics. I also told him about notes I dislike, including patchouli, which will drive me out of a room, and many spices, such as cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Then we got to work.

We talked about roses. Fleur de Thé Rose Bulgare, the first CREED fragrance I ever purchased, was developed in 1890, using a hybrid rose bred from the China and Bulgarian Roses. The addition of Chinese green tea, a natural for a Chinese-inspired fragrance, along with citrus gave it a lightness to counterbalance the heady rose. Fleur de Thé Rose Bulgare was commissioned by a future first lady, who first encountered CREED on her extended honeymoon in Europe. When she returned to America, she wrote to CREED requesting a custom fragrance made with the Bulgarian tea roses she had smelled during her sojourn abroad.

Fleurs de Bulgarie, another rose beauty, was commissioned by Queen Victoria in 1845. It's one of the oldest CREED fragrances. Made for Queen Victoria, who wore the fragrance she commissioned from CREED throughout her illustrious reign, it was made with the essence of pure Bulgarian roses - the finest in the world - over a classic musk base. Gorgeous!

I meant to purchase Fleurs de Bulgarie and bought Fleur de Thé Rose Bulgare (the one I already have) instead. I think that by the end of our hour I was intoxicated by fragrance. That could be new law enforcement lingo: DWIF.

Roberto and I tested one of his favorites, Sublime Vanilla, a soft oriental with Tahitian and South American vanilla, tonka bean, bergamot, lemon, and musk. Even though it wasn't "me," I liked it. I didn't expect to because I tend to shy away from fragrances with predominant vanilla notes. There were other surprises in store for me.

He told me about Windsor, and when he did, his passion for fragrances and the memories they evoke was inspiring. Windsor, with eucalyptus, cedar, Jamaican ginger, bergamot, ambergris, and vetiver among its notes, is his all-time personal favorite. It reminds him of his youth, playing soccer on a field surrounded by eucalyptus trees. I can appreciate how fragrances carry memories, so by that point in our conversation, we were trading memories and fragrance comparisons - one of those rapid-fire conversations I enjoy. I love talking to people like Roberto!

We sampled Millésime Impérial (1995), a green mandarin with Sicilian lemon, bergamot, iris root, orange blossom, sea salt, marine notes, and musk. I really liked it. It's considered a universal, or unisex, fragrance.

We also tried Love in White, a more recent introduction, that Roberto romantically described as deeply sensual, like two souls coming together. Love in White is the first CREED fragrance ever to debut in the United States, as opposed to France. It received an American salute second to none when it arrived from France by ship in November 2005. On the night of its premiere, the exterior lights of the Empire State Building were pure white to honor Love in White. The very first bottle was delivered to the White House. Love in White continues to have a loyal following around the world, particularly at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It is a fragrance now enjoyed by two first ladies, a rare distinction. Named for master perfumer Olivier CREED's love of sailing, Love in White is a blend of ingredients gathered from five continents: orange zest, rice husk, iris, jasmine, magnolia, vanilla, and sandalwood. I think it will be mine soon.

It was time for him to bring out the one that left me gasping. The moment he gave me the card with the fragrance, I knew I had to have it. Fantasia de Fleurs was commissioned by Franz Joesph, Emperor of Austria and king of Hungary, in 1862 for his wife. With notes of Bulgarian rose, bergamot, ambergris infusion, and iris, it's a floral lover's dream fragrance. While it's not Joy, it reminded me of Joy and my love for the classic masterpiece. I wanted Fantasia de Fleurs so badly that I purchased the flacon at $350. Someone had beaten me to the last 75-ml spray that day.

I knew I liked Jasmine Imperatrice Eugenie, one of the first fragrances created after CREED moved from London to Paris. It was commissioned by Empress Josephine, who urged the company to relocate to France because it was "where the action was" in the world of fine fragrances. I got a laugh out of that; it reminded me of the competitions Maryland, DC, and Virginia stage to attract the top companies in the United States. This is one of Kathy Shoreman's favorite CREED fragrances (along with a few of my favorites), and she gave me a sample. That's the legendary Kathy above right with Roberto. She's a fragrance expert too.

We also tried Royal Delight. The story of Royal Delight is a story of romance and escape. A year after the death of the King of Spain, his widow commissioned a fragrance from CREED for the new man she would marry in secret, a royal guard. In those days, royal widows were not to remarry. Royal Delight is a leathery-floral fragrance the Queen’s new husband loved and wore. With this gift of scent, the couple lived happily ever after, although news of their marriage caused a scandal and forced the Queen to abdicate her throne.

I saw Zest Mandarin Pamplemousse on the table and was attracted by its citrus title. I learned that it was the first fragrance Olivia Creed created by himself - in 1975 at the age of 32. Its notes are bergamot, mandarin, and grapefruit, tempered with white flowers. It's a great fragrance for zesty citrus lovers.

Did you know CREED makes home fragrances too? One of my best friends gave me an incredible candle for Christmas. It's so pretty, I can't bear to use it.

We sampled many other scents, and as we did, I learned about each. Most of CREED's fragrances have a fascinating story. We could have spent hours. I need another one of these sessions! Roberto kindly gave me his contact information, and I will be picking his brain. I hope he won't find me to be a pest.

I'll close with the surprise. I told you at the top of this feature that I despise cinnamon - I really despise it. I have to leave a room when someone is eating food laced with cinnamon. My nose starts to close up. We sampled Ambre Cannelle (1949), a fragrance of the '50s based on amber and cinnamon. It's soft, powdery, oriental - and I loved it. I don't even like orientals. Go figure! The notes are berry, rose, cinnamon, coriander, amber, and vanilla - for the most part, not me. I found it soft and sensuous. With that stunner - one that led me to question assumptions - we said our farewells and planned for our next meeting, hopefully later this year. Even though I scribbled notes furiously, I couldn't capture everything I heard and learned. I can't wait to see him again.

I want to thank Roberto for the generous amount of time he spent with me. If you ever get an opportunity to meet him, go! I owe my Saturday treat to Francesca Camacho at Neiman Marcus Tysons Galleria. If you live in the DC area, you must visit with her. Roberto agrees that she is one of CREED's most knowledgeable and passionate product specialists. Another person you should meet is Valerie Davidson, the regional account executive. I'm looking forward to seeing Valerie again too. She might turn up at Neiman Marcus sooner than Roberto does.

Fragrance and candle photos courtesy of CREED and Neiman Marcus


Eileen said...

This was a delightful, fanciful, and informative read this morning. It sounds like you had a great time surrounded by all those brilliant Creed creations; not to mention having a knowledgeable and personable guide to take you through history. How very special! And Creed's back stories are so much more interesting than, for example, the silliness that the Jo Malone SA's are required to parrot.

Scent plays such an important role in our everyday lives from the practical (Yum! That smells good!) to the personal (A woman walks by and one whiff transports me to a summer day in Corsica, 1967). To borrow phrase, one scent is worth a thousand words.

lovethescents said...

Sounds like you had such a wonderful time, Charlestongirl! Equally perfect that they provided champagne, which I'm sure was a very clever marketing strategy :-)

I used to wear Fleur de The's a very polite rose. Can you not exchange it for the Fleurs de Bulgarie that you're after?

Re: Sublime Vanille. It's pretty, I agree, but, not don't fall over, it reminds me so much of Fresh Sugar edp, particularly in the opening and the heart. The base is the part I like the least since that's when the crispness of the citrus dissipates. Vanillas need a little lift from becoming too cake shop, no? :-)

Enjoy your new purchases!

Charlestongirl said...

Hi Eileen,

Thanks, and you are so right. That one hour was amazing - and special.

Roberto was so passionate about how scent evokes memories. He's right, of course, but some "feel" it more than others. :)

Charlestongirl said...

Thanks, Lovethescents,

Oh yes, we have the exchange worked out already. My mistake!

I am just not a cupcake wearer. While I liked Sublime Vanilla, I would never select it over one of the CREED florals. Those are the sublime ones. :)