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Speed-Smelling IFF – Post Modern Collection 2017 - Dominique Ropion Kyphi


Post-Modern building - Dancing House, Prague - designed by Frank Gehry

What is Speed Smelling? 

It’s something I discovered at Luckyscent last fall, and I’m so glad I succumbed to a self-indulgent whim and bought The Speed Smelling* IFF Post-Modern Collection, It’s been pure fun exploring fourteen original and rare off-the-grid fragrances in this discovery set. 

IFF is International Flavors and Fragrances, a global leader in flavors and scents, the ones we experience every day in our favourite brands of food, household, personal, and beauty products. The artistic in-house talent at IFF is prodigious, but the work they do and the degree of their creativity is pretty well under the public radar. To showcase their artistry, in 2009 IFF created their annual Speed Smelling* event, a scented variation on speed-dating. The way it works is this: With no creative or budget restraints, IFF perfumers, including celebrated noses such as Dominique Ropion, Anne Flipo, Bruno Jovanovic, Sophie Labbé, etc., each create an original scent for the event, then personally present it at Speed Smelling: 

“...over the course of an hour 14 perfumers have less than 7 minutes to seduce the most exacting of juries – the best fragrance editors and bloggers in France…their creations must surprise, seduce, be acknowledged, be memorable. This event allows perfumers to veer off beaten paths, cut loose and shake up the codes of their trade…and to speak about their art…”

For the 2017 event, the creative brief was to “use irony, a characteristic of the Post-Modern movement, breaking codes to better reconstruct them.” The roots of modern perfumery go deep into history, and there are accepted methods of matching and balancing various notes and materials which haven’t changed much for decades, but with new technologies and materials, perfumers can explore new creative paths. 

IFF perfumers have a lot at their disposal. For example, IFF has created new materials through: Living Flower Technology which uses Head Space techniques to isolate then recreate specific facets of a smell; new synthetic captive molecules such a CosmofruitTM and AmbertonicTM; super realistic distillations of natural smells through CO2 extraction; heart or fractional distillation to remove undesirable aspects of a note. The company also sources ultra high quality natural materials from their in-house naturals facility LMR (Laboratoire Monique Remy) in Grasse, which controls the entire process from the growing fields to the distillation of the essential oils. With so many tools and materials, and cost removed from the challenge, the creative horizon is infinite.

For example, in Speed Smelling Post-Modern, the scent created by Sophie Labbé is an Eau de Cologne and the ironic twist is that it’s made without hespiridic notes – no citrus! She uses ginger instead, but a ginger oil fresh from LMR which has a freshly grated rhizome effect. Coriander seed essence replaces bergamot, she adds pink pepper and elemi and vetiver heartLMR for a fresh chypre effect in the dry-down – she describes why she loves the vetiver heart: “It has the gorgeous distinctive note of vetiver without its rooty smoky facet, and with a refreshing grapefruit hint.” – the missing citrus! And AmbertonicTM gives her new-age Eau de Cologne a stronger sillage and a long-lasting waft, another departure from traditional Eau de Colognes. It’s Eau de Cologne like you’ve never imagined – it’s fabulous!

My favourite in the collection is by Dominique Ropion, he of the full-bodied classic-style scents, lush, dense, elegant, all with sillage to die for as well as great staying power. We own several: from Frédéric Malle - Carnal Flower,  Portrait of a LadyGéranium pour MonsieurUne Fleur de CassieVetiver Extraordinaire ; the extraordinary Kenzo Jungle L’Éléphant; his newest, And The World is Yours, a white floral epic from A Lab on Fire

M. Ropion went right back to the beginnings of perfume to the very first scent for which we haveh a note list, Kyphi, best considered as a type of incense.  Its ingredients are engraved on the walls of Egyptian temples Edfu and Philae, it was used later by the Greeks and Syrians and, according to historians, Kyphi not only played an important role as a sacred fragrance in many ceremonies but was also used as a remedy for ailments. Recipes varied through different time periods and cultures but common to all were raisins, wine, honey, myrhh, mastic, pine resin, camel grass, mint, sweet flag, cinnamon. Kyphi has a beautiful, full-bodied, rich multi-layered bouquet with a warm, relaxing, sweet, spicy and sensual aroma. Source

A few years ago, Dominique Ropion researched the ancient Kyphi composition in order to create an alcohol based version, guessing about the proportions not found in the Egyptian hieroglyphics. It’s this form of Ropion’s Kyphi that you can experience at the Grand Museée de Parfum in Paris, a new interactive museum on rue du Faubourg St. Honoré that is dedicated to the history and art of perfume, and it’s this version that he used as the base for his Post-Modern version.

Kyphi "2.0" opens with a light resinous honey beeswax accord which soon sweetens with the mellow yellow-floral sweetness of broom – both natural LMR absolutes which are perfection. Soon spices expand the honeyed floral – musty dusty saffron, aromatic cardamom, and tingling ginger add a layer of sensation, and the base begins to unfold, releasing transcendent notes of soft myrhh plus sugary notes of ripe fruits. Is it wine or is it plump purple grapes I’m smelling? It’s CosmofruitTM, a new note in the recipe and a sensual balance to the honeyed spices. In the dry-down Kyphi becomes more expansive, releasing a woody earthy accord of cypriol and oud, an accord which tempers the sweet and which for me has a very grounding effect. 

Ropion’s Post-Modern Kyphi doesn’t speak to me of gods and temples and Afterlife. It speaks to the Now, to living in the real world, and savouring the scents of all things that sustain me. I have no idea if Kyphi is Post-Modern, or if my reaction to it is Post-Modern, and I don’t care. It smells very beautiful, and very real.

Note: The fragrances in Speed Smelling Post Modern Collection 2017 are not named, the small bottles are identified by the name of the artist. So I’m naming this…..

Dominique Ropion IFF 2017 - Kyphi is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $6.00 for 1 ml.

*Speed Smelling is trademarked by IFF. 

Image - - by Dino Quinzani, August 6, 2008