The nose knows: Master of scent to nail down Cambodia’s essential smell

Christophe Laudamiel has worked with brands such as Ralph Lauren, Abercrombie & Fitch and Clinique.
Christophe Laudamiel has worked with brands such as Ralph Lauren, Abercrombie & Fitch and Clinique. Athena Zelandonii

The nose knows: Master of scent to nail down Cambodia’s essential smell

French master perfumer Christophe Laudamiel was in the capital this week to take in some aromatic inspiration for his latest fragrance, designed to capture the scent of Cambodia

Christophe Laudamiel is kind of a big deal in the scent business. The French master perfumer has worked with brands such as Ralph Lauren, Abercrombie & Fitch and Clinique, and his work is exhibited in the International Perfumery Museum in France and the Cleveland Museum of Art in the US.

Now he is turning his nose towards Cambodia to create a signature fragrance for the luxury Rosewood Hotel, due to open in the Vattanac Tower at the end of this year.

Laudamiel spent this week taking in the aromas he believes capture the essence of Cambodia, collecting samples to take back to his lab in New York. While on a tour of the Royal Palace and Wat Ounalom, Laudamiel took in the heady smoke of incense and the perfume of the native jasmine (called malis in Khmer).

“It is a very rich jasmine, which is different from the French jasmine,” he said. “It has jasmine notes, very fresh, fruity, green and dewy, but there is a little tuberose note that is not in the normal jasmine which gives more power to the flower. It also lasts longer, which makes it perfect for beauty products.”

Laudamiel travelled to Kirirom National Park to take a whiff of the pine trees. The Kirirom pine offers a softer, lighter scent than European pines, which he says will lend a woody elegance to the fragrance.

The signature aromas of Cambodian cuisine will also play into the creation of the fragrance, opening up new possibilities of aromatic combinations.

“First when I arrived I noticed there were quite a lot of citruses, specifically lime,” he said. “Limes and kaffir lime leaves are used in cooking, it is a very interesting note, very fragile.”

Pepper is also used in a number of fragrances, and Laudamiel will take a sample of Kampot pepper with him to see how it interacts with the other aromas.

“The pepper here is quite unique, it’s quite fruity and less sharp with a nice woody twist,” he said. “But pepper makes or breaks between fruity notes and herbal notes. So I need to see how it will fit. So I will try, maybe it will give it a little je ne sais quoi.”

Laudamiel will return to New York to infuse the ingredients into his uniquely Cambodian fragrance, which will be used in the amenities – soaps, shampoos, conditioner, body lotion – in Rosewood’s rooms. Because some of the scents are unfamiliar to him, he doesn’t know yet what shape it will take.

“These are not usual combinations that you would see in perfumery,” he said. “I cannot predict, I cannot see in my mind the smell it is going to have, because I have never seen these combinations.”

He added that the fragrance needed to appeal to guests from around the world, so his creation would be distinctively Cambodian, but universally appealing.

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