An Interview with Ramon Monegal by Alfarom.

Ramon Monegal is one of the fourth generation of the founders of the Spanish fragrance house of Myrurgia. His first fragrance for the house of Myrurgia was Alada, which was launched in 1979. The house was acquired by Antonio Puig in 2000 and Monegal continued his work for the company, creating fragrances for other house brands such as Adolfo Dominguez, Aigner and Massimo Dutti. In 2007 he left the company, and now has his own line of perfumes.

The international launch of your eponymous line caught the attention of many perfumistas from all over the world. The stunning presentation of your products, the high quality of the materials involved in the composition of your fragrances and, most of all, your immense background in the perfumery industry, have all been extremely motivating points to explore your line. Since your early studies with the likes of Pierre Bourdon, Arturo Jordy Pey from Firmenich and Max Gavarry from IFF among others, you delivered fragrances for Adolfo Dominguez, Aigner, Massimo Dutti and Puig...what happened then?

My beginnings, unlike a classic training, were rebels, intuitive and random, until I begun to create the olfactory images for both designers and brands. That was the Myrurgia’s strategy. I had to develop an olfactory language that allows me to interpret the different values of the brands which I had to make the perfume. I discovered a new way to imagine perfumes, to narrate them with a script of raw materials chosen by its meaning, for relate and transmit attitudes and values with which to feel identified.

I do not criticize my past; I enjoyed a nice training, and was able to develop a wide range of olfactory images what enriched my language, but yes, it is true that my freedom to create was highly limited, and besides, I grew faster than the market.

I need a place where to apply everything that I imagined, so finally I decided to go ahead, creating my own brand and developing my current collection with all my knowledge, acquired over my large trajectory, and from the absolute freedom.

How long did it take you to build your current line-up?

I want you to know that my first collection is partially the hidden fruit of great experiences that I’ve lived, and now I have felt the need to convert them into perfumes. That said, I already had the most important; the inspiration. Once I left the Puig Group, I wrote, besides a novel, the scripts for my current perfumes, and looked for the best raw materials. Once I finished the intellectual process -the most important for me- I spend about one year to formulation, weighing, evaluation and correction processes.

Many niche brands, make their main point of strength by declaring to use natural ingredients only. You seem to swim against the stream and proudly list, among your notes, vetyverile acetate, norlimbanol, cashmeran and other aromachemicals that are often omitted (yet overused) by many other perfumers. Why this choice?

I think there is a little misunderstanding that it must be clarified. The ingredients, whether they were essential oils, molecules, naturals or synthetics, are they all the language both the perfume and the perfumer. In my beginnings at Myrurgia, I was the responsible for searching, finding , evaluating and buying natural essences, absolutes, concretes and resinoids around the world, with quality parameters equal to those that Jean Paul Guerlain used for his house. 

Each year we made infusions in pure state of tonkinese musk, beaver, amber, civet, vanilla, musk, rose, jasmine, iris, tonka for the extracts, the true an unique perfumes. That experience and high training, (there is almost no authors that have had those experience and responsibility) gave me a great mastery over the natural elements, and they are currently the basis of my language and job. But the current perfumery, from the XXI century, and its identity and reason for being, is not only the creativity according to its attitudes and moments, but also the use of high technology on the extracting processes from the plants, and the obtaining of interesting molecules for the formulation process. 

I use both the molecular distillation and the fractioned and rectified molecular distillation for obtaining unique quality of essences such as vetiver, myrrh, cedar, birch, ciste labdanum, fir balsam, patchouly, oak moss, iris on cedar... besides absolutes and concretes of extremely high quality. I use chemical molecules too, from natural essences, as the irones from Iris or the vetiverile acetate from Vetiver, as well as synthetic molecules as norlimbanol, cashmeran or ambrox because they are noble, expensive and dominant, and that is why they have to be differentiated from the “low-cost” molecules such as “iso” and “super”, hedione, lyral, lilial, dhm, galaxolide, and similar, molecules of which they are abusing a lot, so that is why most of the current perfumes smell very similar.

I think honestly that an author, with the freedom that defines his status, must use and mix all the ingredients that help him to express himself.

To me, mixing classic and natural ingredients with last-generation noble molecules is a true luxury. That is what makes me different from a XIX century author, and defines me as a XXI century author.

Your style have been often classified as transparent, sort of restrained and very sophisticated. How do you personally describe it?

I am a Mediterranean Sea lover. I like its color, light, sound, views, sun, water, culture, art, weather, vegetation, gastronomy... I consider myself as a naturalist narrator, valiant but a little unconscious, good-proportions obsessed, and I try to be sublime in the obvious, and sophisticated in the naturalness. I am neither rare nor content, but I remain faithful to a classic and timeless aesthetic made of good raw materials and better proportions. I think that a perfume has to have a nice and appealing aesthetic, because a perfume must always to add.

What are your top sellers and who is your average customer?

My customers have knowledge. They are seekers and discoverers of perfumes, good amateurs that frequently overcome the professionals. They usually get bored of the current marketing made by celebrities and designers, of the temporality, of the uniformity, and the constant flankers. They are looking for authenticity, exclusivity and quality, and internet is very helpful for them is their researches.

I think it is still too soon, because we have to give time to a perfume, but right now the bestsellers are being Lovely Day, Impossible Iris, Kiss my Name, Entre Naranjos and Ambra di Luna.

What's so special with Impossible Iris? Everyone I have spoke to that has tried this fragrance have instantly fallen in love with it. No matter if he/she was an iris lover or not. Iris can be very hit or miss for most of us but, somewhat, Impossible Iris have been able to put everybody together. What's the secret behind it?

Talk about Impossible Iris, is talking about the Iris from La Toscana, Florence, about the smell of the essence extracted from its roots. It is a unique smell, ambiguous, nondescript, with extraordinary values of balance, nobility and elegance. To me is the ingredient most difficult to work with, especially to mix it, and to domain a composition, because is highly different and expensive, and its live is quite short. It is addictive as the white truffle or caviar, and also is my preferred ingredient, both in absolute or concrete state, or distilled over cedar. I have been working with it for many years, and to do that it domains and persists for a long time has been always an almost “impossible” challenge for me.

My first bespoke perfume was an Iris, and I created it for the woman who will be my wife. It was my gift for her on our wedding day. So it was a nuptial and memorable perfume, but it was an Iris so its life was short. Since that day, my goals were learning deeply about it, as well as discover the chords that lengthen its life, without decrease its prominence.

The secret of my Impossible Iris, briefly, is mixing Iris in different states, from liquid to buttery, as well as combining it with an appealing chord of Ylang-Ylang plus raspberry, to decrease its initial roughness, and finally melting the mixture over cedar and tonka, to lengthen its life for hours.

Do you believe in gender classification of fragrances?

That is an input from the industry to diversify and so selling more. A perfume describes an emotion..., a feeling..., an attitude....., and all of that is genderless!.
In fact, it always had been so, until the early twentieth century, when the industry came into the perfumery.

Do you take your inspiration from historical brands of the past or do you have a muse?

I am very respectful with the great classics. I know them well, I learnt a lot from them, and they are always on my mind. In my creation protocol, the first to do is finding the “raison d’etre”, the soul, the emotion, the attitude, the values... And after the inspiration, the muse, the ingredients are the language, because without them, there is no script, there is no narration, there is no smell, and so, there is no perfume.

Some brands seem to lack creativity (either niche or designer). They seem to often propose what I call "old fragrances with new labels". What's your idea of creativity and what makes a fragrance novel?

They have abused too much of the word creativity. It has been idealized and vulgarized. To me, now is a confusing concept that survives on my mind, and is constantly challenging me to approach to it on my creations. To me, the creativity does not mean absolute originality. Both in music as in perfumery, the great chords already exist, they have already been created, and it is very difficult to find some news. What it makes original and genuine a creation is the way to organize the chords, it different harmony, the special nuances of the main ingredients, its valiant proportions, and its ability to surprise and transmit away from the most common ways.

The Inkwell bottle is rapidly becoming one of your hallmarks. A striking design, solid, elegant and definitely stunning. What's the story and concept behind it?

When I ended my novel and was in the full ecstasy of the development of my collection, I became obsessed by the way to bottled it. As I consider myself as an amateur architect and designer, the volume had to be strong, coherent and genuine if I wanted the flacon will become iconic, as was my desire. I was lucky when I found an old and well sized inkwell, left on a shelf in my library. Then I decided to turn it into a genderless flacon.

The Inkwell is the magical container of the ink, that through the perfumer’s imagination it becomes into any literary form. Like an Inkwell, I designed my flacon to contain any olfactory form.

by Alfarom.

This article first appeared on Basenotes.

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