The Tonka bean of Venezuela

Hot, gourmand, vanilla… the adjectives struggle to describe the enchanting scent of the tonka bean, one of the most precious natural ingredients of luxury perfumery. This heady almond comes from the fruit that produces a tropical tree, which grows only in South America: the Cumaru. The tonka bean is a rare raw material whose aromatic richness has captivated great perfumers for over a century.

The most sought-after tonka bean is found in a remote area of Venezuela, where the harvest season is expected every year with apprehension, because the plant is capricious, and no one can predict whether from one year to another the harvest will keep its promises. The tonka bean is today not only an economic issue, but also an environmental issue in this region of the world where the extraction of gold and the exploitation of wood are often more valuable than the delicate perfume of an almond.

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The Sandalwood of New Caledonia

New Caledonia is one of the places in the world where the natural environment is still remarkably preserved. The archipelago has been classified as a hot spot of biodiversity, due to the richness, the originality and above all the exceptional endemism of its plant species. Of all the species that naturally develop here, there is one that has accompanied and inspired men since the dawn of time: sandalwood.

The wood of this small tree is now one of the most expensive in the world. Associated with many traditional religious practices, its perfume has always attracted such fervor that it is now on the list of species threatened with extinction in several regions of the globe. Here a real renaissance is going on, around the safeguarding of sandalwood, two universes that were once divided have now joined to work together. A Kanak engineer, convinced that a responsible exploitation of this natural resource is the best chance of saving the species, and creators of fine perfumery, anxious to be able to preserve, on their palette, the unique notes of a fundamental ingredient.

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The fine Lavender of Provence

The fine lavender is the emblematic plant of the landscapes of the south of France. Perfectly adapted to the Mediterranean climate, it has flourished since forever in the rocky and sunny region of Provence. Its flowers release a fresh and light scent that has fascinated men ever since.

By distilling it, one obtains a refined essential oil which is included in the composition of the greatest perfumes. Following the path that leads from the flower to the bottle, we are going to rediscover lavender, a plant unknown and today threatened – whose perfume is inseparable from the landscape of Provence.

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Tous les Parfums du Monde

This December 2016, Arte broadcasted a beautiful documentary series: Tous les Parfums du Monde (All perfumes of the world). The series takes us on a trip around the globe to discover four emblematic raw materials of perfumery, which are unfortunately today finding their existence threatened. Their cultural, economic and environmental importance makes us aware of the fragile environment in which they operate, but also the essential role to be played by the players of the fragrance industry. It is a superb, eloquent series, involving perfume and traveling; which I hope will lead to many more…

Throughout the world, the biodiversity of plant species is at risk. Among these species at risk includes the fragrant plants: many natural essences are now disappearing or denaturing, and with them is all the richness of the perfumes of the world that is also being threatened. Around the preservation of these fragile and unique resources, projects of a new kind multiply: they associate indigenous populations and great names of perfumery, ancestral knowledge and scientific expertise, sustainable exploitation and fair trade.

Thus, through these episodes, the series highlights a common problem to each precious plant: the threat of its disappearance and with it, the risk of disappearing original odors. And yet, these odors contribute to the memory of people, their history and therefore their identity. That is why, from France to Venezuela, through New Caledonia and Comoros, men are fighting to preserve both a part of their heritage and a part of themselves.

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