It is the second week in August when our plane touches down in Paris. Of course, it is pouring with rain. There had been unnerving turbulence on the 2 hour jaunt from Bratislava, and my nerves are shot; my stomach a writhing pit of serpents. For this fellow - whose fear of flying often gets the better of him - the feeling of terra firma underfoot as we briskly cross the tarmac to reach the main building, is nothing short of a blessing. My wife and I push through the passengers at the baggage carousel, skim past customs and exit the arrivals area. Frédéric Sacone, Junior Parfumeur (and assistant to Guerlain master perfumer, Thierry Wasser) is there to meet us. He snakes through the crowd and greets us warmly before his eyes drop to the bulky case I'm wheeling. I can see a crease forming in his brow. We have never met, and a few awkward moments of silence hang in the air before we make our way through the rain to his car. "Zees way", he says with a spectacular French accent, ushering us toward a parked navy blue Beetle convertible.
"Oh!" I exclaim, measuring the size of my case to the size of his trunk with my eyes. The same wrinkle I'd seen on Fred's brow earlier, I could now feel criss-crossing my forehead. But in the deluge the three of us work fast to stow it in the back seat, with a few grunts and laughs. As we pull out of the car park, the car windows have fogged as a result of both our physical exertion and the rain in our clothes. With wind-screen wipers thrashing to and fro, Frédéric navigates the spiralling roads and roundabouts around the airport and I begin to feel giddy again. We curse the European summer and laugh as we enter the freeway and make our way towards his home in Picardy. We chatter all the way.
The ice had been broken.
* * * * *
Frédéric Sacone - the youngest of three brothers - grew up in the Montparnasse district of Paris. A happy child, albeit somewhat withdrawn, Frédéric nurtured a love of animals and plants, and was intrigued by the healing properties of aromatherapy. As a young adult, this urged him to take on studies in Pharmacy and Biology so that he could learn how aromatherapy functioned on a cellular level. Finally as a new graduate, in 1993 his studies into biochemistry opened the door at Takasago, an international corporation that develops flavours, fragrance and aromachemicals. There, he spent over 8 years as a laboratory sample coordinator and perfumer's assistant... time spent arming him with the experience and practical know-how that would see him transition to the global giant Firmenich in October of 2001. There, he worked just a few months before he met someone within the organisation who would impact upon the course of his career forever: Parfumeur Thierry Wasser. By January 2002, Frédéric had become Wasser's assistant, and the pair struck a special working relationship that has endured to this day. In October 2008, when Wasser was invited to leave Firmenich to step into the shoes of iconic nose Jean-Paul Guerlain, Wasser insisted Frédéric join him.
Fred didn't have to think twice.
"Travel stimulates my olfactory creativity", he affirms. "But more important than beautiful postcards of these places, are the people there who've touched me the most".
When one comes to know Frédéric as a person, one has a greater understanding of how he approaches his work: with integrity, passion, exactness and love.
* * * * *
(These experiences will be detailed in parts 2 and 3 of this Sorcery of Scent series).
* * * * *
If the truth be told, Frédéric's name was virtually unheard of until earlier this year when Thierry Wasser decided to retrace the steps of Aimée and Jacques Guerlain by reprising a series of vintage perfumes that are now featured exclusively at their flagship store in Paris. Wasser and Sacone spent many hours leafing through the antique texts, resurrecting old formulas so that we, the public, might peer through a small window at 'the golden age' of Guerlain. Their tireless efforts have resulted in the recreation of 27 scents to date, each of which appear precisely as they would have up to 134 years ago.
If asked "Who the *** is Frédéric Sacone?", I have the honour and privilege to respond:
"My friend. A man whose loyalty to his boss and mentor is unwavering, and whose efforts in his role as Junior Parfumeur and support to Wasser at Guerlain are nurturing faithfulness, beauty and luxury for the brand".
A figure who would likely rather avoid the spotlight than step into it, Fred is as humble as one can imagine.
"Scent creates an emotion. For me, it's not the perfume but the people who smell and enjoy our creations that move me the most."
NEXT WEEK: GUERLAIN CHRONICLES Part II - "Maison Guerlain - A Paradigm in Retail Exactitude".