The Art of Fragrance: Elie Saab Essences collection

June 27

Elie Saab have really been taking fragrance to the next level with their essences collection. Last year, they launched the first four – Essence N° 1 Rose, Essence N° 2 Gardenia, Essence N°3 Ambre, Essence N°4 Oud. I spoke to Master perfumer, Francis Kurkdjian who creates the Elie Saab perfumes on the fragrances… 


What is an essence fragrance? Can you please define it?

The name Essence originally comes from the denomination of Essential oils. It is the result of the extraction by steam distillation of a natural ingredient such as rose, sandalwood, vetiver, lavender. Elie Saab, in La Collection des Essences, uses this word to create a world of exceptional and fabulous fragrances.


What makes an essence fragrance?

The essence actually takes its name from the way it is extracted from the plant or the flower. Literally, that is indeed the quintessence of a fragrance.


Why is Gardenia an important note for maison ELIE SAAB? 

Gardenia is a flower dear to Mr Saab. He has many souvenirs from the garden of his childhood. He has some of these flowers in his personal garden in Beirut. In addition, Gardenia is an iconic flower in Lebanon.


Please describe the notes for each fragrance in the range.

In Essence n∞1 ROSE, two different Rosa damascena essences bloom in the top notes: Bulgarian rose contributes its fruity fullness; Turkish rose, its vibrant spiciness. the freshness of the flower’s petals is evoked by a legendary ingredient, Rosa centifolia, also known as May rose, absolute. A powdery accord of vanilla, musk and benzoin, bolstered by a dash of cedar wood, gives this virtuoso rose the fluttering lightness of silk chiffon.


To express the seductive duality of gardenia for Essence N∞ 2 GARDENIA, I have considered borrowing facets from two of the noblest essences of his palette. An exquisite Egyptian jasmine brings radiance and fruity smoothness to the composition. The tactile richness of iris butter absolute conjures the powdery texture of the petals. Bound to the floral heart by the milky silkiness of rare Indian sandalwood, a cedar and vetiver accord magnifies the sumptuous trail of Essence N∞2 Gardenia.


In Essence N∞ 3 AMBRE, patchouli acts as a foundation. Potent yet discreet, it underpins the heart of the fragrance: a voluptuous accord of vanilla and labdanum, a resin of Mediterranean origin with black, leathery facetsÖ

Shimmering arabesques of olfactory pearls, crystals and sequins shed their radiance on this nocturnal fabricÖ  The burnished gold of opoponax, a honey-smooth, precious oriental balsam. The creamy freshness of Indian sandalwood ñ the most sophisticated quality of the sacred wood. For me,  its floral, powdery facets translate the color white into scent. Finally, a gossamer jasmine note blows a light breeze through the precious accordsÖ


For Essence n∞4, OUD, I chose a particularly sophisticated quality of oud: a tawny, honeyed note whose surprising caramelized berry accents shed light on a dusky palette of leather, spices and smoke. Then, the fluttering tulle of black pepper adds vibrancy. The cool-hot burn of cinnamon leaf gleams with a soft satin sheen. Atlas cedar, a paradoxical wood combining the sensuousness of leather with the melting sweetness of candied fruit, overlays the composition in lace shot through with flashes of burnished gold. As a backdrop, Indian sandalwood, bolstered by the vanilla unctuousness of benzoin.


Please describe the inspiration behind each fragrance.

When we initiated this collection project, I felt the need to go to the roots and explore Saab’s Haute Couture into details. I wanted to understand the specific craftsmanship that was behind it. I spent a lot of time in the Haute Couture salon observing the Haute Couture dresses: the materials, the layers of fabrics, the technics of ornamentation. I wanted to understand what was so specific to his Haute Couture, what made his work so different from that of other couturiers. While going through this process, I identified some specific creative technics that actually inspired me a lot because I thought they were like a signature of the house of ELIE SAAB.

This is when we decided that the first essences of the Collection had to be inspired from those technics as a tribute to Mr Saab’s fabulous craftsmanship.

The art of layering in Mr Saab’s creations is what inspired essence N∞1 Rose. I was thinking about those fabulous dresses and how they were made of various layers of precious fabrics. To translate this into fragrance I had to think about a flower that I would be able to use in layers, offering various facets, various origins. And when you think about flowers in perfumery there are indeed not so many of them that you can get different types of extractions but the Rose. It was obvious

For Gardenia, I was inspired by the artwork of Mr Saab in Haute Couture when you see those embroideries for example that evoke flowers and when you look closer, it’s the combination of pearls and sequins that makes out this flower. Gardenia is a flower that would not give out its natural fragrance to the perfumers. You have to rebuild it in your atelier from essences of other flowers. It’s a kind of illusion.

For Ambre and Oud, I was inspired by the Mr Saab’s talent to make dark fabric look radiant. Thanks to the genius of his craftsmanship, a black dress always looks luminous thanks to all its ornaments. That was my challenge in perfumery to translate this:  make dark and so intense ingredients and notes shine to give elegant and distinctive trails.



How do we layer these essences?

These fragrances have not been initially designed and created to be layered. They all have their own signature and uniqueness. Each of them has its own complexity even though one single ingredient is mentioned in their name.


For example, Essence n∞3 Ambre also features notes of Opoponax and Indian Sandalwood.


However, if anyone feels like using them by layering, here are some tips:


-If you want to maximize a floral trail, Rose and Gardenia is the perfect combination.

-For an androgynous trail, consider Rose and Vetiver

-A very mysterious trail can be achieved by blending Ambre and Oud

-To create a timeless twist, Rose and Oud is the best blend.

-Neroli and vetiver together would provide a unisex aura

-Last, Gardenia and Ambre is also a unique combination that would create a soft and sensual trail.



ELIE SAAB La Collection des Essences fragrances are available at ELIE SAAB boutiques, Bloomingdales (UAE) and Harvey Nichols (UAE & KSA).

#ELIESAABParfums & #LaCollectiondesEssences