“The inventor of the most treasured name in perfume”
Ernest Beaux; a French Russian perfumer boldly declared; “for me, perfumery is an art and the true perfumer must be an artist” and an artist he was. Famous for a creating style that was elegant and graceful, but with a strong character. In 1902 Beaux started his apprenticeship with Alphonse Rallet & Co. of Moscow, then the foremost Russian perfume house and purveyor to the Imperial courts; qualifying as a senior perfumer in 1907.
Beaux’s first big hit was ‘Bouquet de Napoleon’ in celebration of the Battle of Borodino, the turning point in Napoleon’s Russian ambitions. Followed by ‘Bouquet de Catherine’ honouring Catherine the Great; marking the tercentenary of the founding of the Romanov dynasty.
1920 marked the beginning of a very exciting and successful career when Coco Chanel contracted Beaux to create a perfume for her fashion house. Beaux was initially perplexed that Coco chose the number 5 out of samples marked 1-5 and 20-25. Asked what the creation should be called Coco responded with; “I present my dress collection on the 5th of May, the fifth month of the year; we shall thus leave the number with which it is labelled and this number 5 shall bring it good luck.” It was more than just luck as today Chanel No 5 is still the highest sold perfume in the world.
Asked what contributed to this success Beaux announced; “If our thoughts are but fantasies, such fantasy finds, thanks to the talent of the perfumer, a possibility of fulfilment.” Beaux was also greatly inspired by art, music and poetry. The house of Lubin, Guerlain, Caron and Houbigant is said to have a marked impression on Beaux.
During the war, Beaux had been led on a campaign to the northern part of Europe beyond the Arctic Circle at the time of the fantastical midnight sun, when the lakes and rivers release a perfume of extreme freshness. Beaux retained that note and replicated it for Chanel No 5, not without some difficulty, as the first aldehydes (a fresh synthetic compound) he could find were unstable and of an irregular production.
Beaux was also responsible for creating Chanel No. 22, Cuir de Russie, Gardénia, Bois des Îles, Soir de Paris, Kobako, Mademoiselle Chanel Nº 1, Mademoiselle Chanel Nº 2 and Premier Muguet.
In 1952 Beaux was questioned on what he predicted for the future of perfumery. As an innovator and pioneer of his time he shared; “We’ll have to count on chemists to find new substances if we are to make new and original notes. Yes, the future of perfumery is in the hands of chemistry.”
Beaux officially retired in 1954 from a very successful and admirable career as a perfumer. As a tribute to his fragrance legacy the church where his funeral was held in 1961 was showered with roses.