Caroline Sabas Interview: “I Work On Anything. I’m Up For Any Challenge!”

I first started chatting to perfumer Caroline Sabas a couple of months ago on Instagram when I inadvertently didn’t credit her contribution to the creation of Britney Spears VIP Private Show EDP. Since then I’ve been wanting to interview the 44-year-old who has created a very diverse selection of fragrances over the years. These range from Etat Libre d’Orange You Or Someone Like You EDP, Elizabeth Arden Sunflowers Summer Air EDT and Narciso Rodriguez Santal Musc EDP to Rihanna Reb’l Fleur EDP and Commodity Vetiver EDP.

Caroline Sabas - Narciso Rodriguez Santal Musc EDP

Caroline Sabas grew up in the heartland of French perfumery, Grasse. Her perfumer father had a big influence on her decision to pursue the career she says she was “born into”.

In this interview, I asked Caroline Sabas questions about her work, her ultimate ambition and her favourite ingredient to work with, among others.

Where were you born?

I was born in Cannes, France, and grew up in Grasse.

Where did you study perfumery?

I studied at ISIPCA in Versailles and my apprenticeship while in school was at Chanel.

Where are you based now?

I moved to NYC a year after I finished ISIPCA, which is 21 years ago. I’ve been working at Givaudan New York for 15 years now. I love New York. It has such a great vibe and so much energy.

Caroline Sabas - Elizabeth Arden Sunflowers Summer Air EDT

SUMMER EFFECT: Elizabeth Arden Sunflowers Summer Air EDT is one of the fragrances created by Caroline Sabas.

When did you know that you wanted to be a perfumer?

As I lived in Grasse and my father was a perfumer, I can say that I was born into it. Growing up surrounded by all those amazing naturals, such as mimosa, jasmine, honeysuckle, rose, moss, just to name a few, made me aware at a very young age that my nose was a great asset. I’ve always been sensitive to smells around me and they always provoked in me a lot of emotions. Then when I was 16, I stepped into the lab of my father’s company. Working with all those gorgeous materials was like a dream. I felt like a chef or a painter. From that moment on I knew this was exactly what I wanted to do.

“Working with all those gorgeous materials was like a dream. I felt like a chef or a painter.”

What do you remember most about studying perfumery?

I loved smelling and having to memorise olfactively both natural and synthetic ingredients. Learning about the classics and how they had been created. It’s such a fascinating world and I couldn’t wait to be part of it.

Caroline Sabas - Britney Spears VIP Private Show EDP

FRAGRANCES FOR EVERYONE: “I do not want to be labelled as a certain type of perfumer. Therefore, I work on everything…. mass, prestige, celebrities, designers, niche, women’s, men’s,” says Caroline Sabas.

What’s your ultimate ambition as a perfumer?

I would like to be able to create fragrances for absolutely everyone. I do not want to be labelled as a certain type of perfumer. Therefore, I work on everything…. mass, prestige, celebrities, designers, niche, women’s, men’s, etc… I’m up for any challenge! And ultimately I am hoping that one of these creations will end up being a best-seller. Mostly because it makes me so happy and moves me when I smell one of my creations on someone else. It is the best feeling. I realise that I touched someone’s heart.

Caroline Sabas - Elizabeth Arden White Tea

One of my favourite fragrances you’ve created is Etat Libre d’Orange You or someone like you edp. How did you create this fragrance?

This was a fantastic project. A great collaboration between Chandler Burr and myself. In 2009, Chandler Burr wrote the book You Or Someone Like You. Later on, Etat Libre d’Orange approached Chandler about making a fragrance having the same title. Chandler asked me if I could be the perfumer behind it. I was more than happy to accept, as I had never approached a project with such a different concept.

Caroline Sabas - Etat Libre d'Orange You Or Someone Like You EDP

Chandler and I started to work together and tried to create what would be the perfect fragrance for the novel’s narrator, Anne Rosenbaum. She lives in LA, is reserved and is an avid reader. She is a gardener as well. Chandler and I kept talking about what kind of notes would be perfect for Anne. But mainly, the fragrance that was created for her is not a perfume. It is a scent. We do not talk about ingredients or notes as we describe it. It is an experience. It is what you want it to be. That’s how Chandler described it to me before I started the creative process.

“We do not talk about ingredients or notes as we describe it. It is an experience. It is what you want it to be.”

You’ve created several celebrity fragrances. Is it different creating a celeb fragrance, as opposed to a designer or a niche scent?

I find the process a little bit different, yes. When I create a fragrance for a celebrity, I have to think about all their followers, their fans. It seems like the crowd to please is very big, so I need to make sure that it has a broad appeal from top to bottom. Whereas for a designer, or a niche brand, I can really think out of the box and pour my creativity into it, without thinking too much about who I am going to please. Here, I am inspired greatly by the designer’s vision that they seek to capture through scent.

Caroline Sabas - Sean John Unforgivable EDT

Do you have a favourite ingredient?

It is hard to come down to one ingredient when we have so many beautiful materials around us. But I will say my favourite is Vetiver.  Five years ago, I travelled to Haiti to experience the vetiver harvest. Haiti is where the very best vetiver in the world is grown.

Caroline Sabas - Vetiver

Givaudan has a very important platform of ethical sourcing, which we call Sourcing for Shared Value. We are dedicated to strengthening the vetiver supply chain, including supporting a co-operative in Les Cayes which helps the farmers and villagers to have a better life. It ensures that the vetiver producers can benefit from a guaranteed minimum price and regular technical support from both Givaudan’s and our partner teams. Our initiative aims to ensure that appropriate practices for vetiver harvesting and distilling are in place.

Caroline Sabas - Vetiver

EARTHY: Caroline Sabas loves vetiver for its many qualities.

This process produces the highest quality oil. I experienced the whole process of distillation, from the fields where the farmers uproot the plant, clean it, and then send it to the distillation factory. At the factory, the air smelled wonderful. I felt like I was wearing a blanket of warm vetiver. It is such a faceted material, woody, sensual, unctuous, golden, elegant, earthy, warm. Very addictive to me. Vetiver had been used so much in men’s fragrances. But with this quality, we can create a gorgeous woman’s fragrance as well, using a classic and beautiful ingredient that supports people and the environment.

“It is such a faceted material, woody, sensual, unctuous, golden, elegant, earthy, warm.”

Do you a travel a lot for your work?

I do travel for work and I enjoy spending time in our office in Paris and our office in São Paulo. This allows me to stay current with marketplace and lifestyle trends and also participate in various projects in places other than New York and spend time with my colleagues in other countries.

Caroline Sabas - Vince Camuto Divina EDP

DIVINE: Caroline Sabas also created Vince Camuto Divina EDP. It was released in 2018.

Which fragrance do you wish you’d created?

There are a lot of fragrances that I wish I had created. Starting with Chanel No 19, which I find exquisite. Also, one that set such a huge trend and influenced the fragrance category is Angel, which is a Givaudan creation. I am inspired by these classic trend-setters that were so different, so sensual, so disruptive for their time.

Caroline Sabas - Chanel No 19

Do you have a mentor?

My mentor is David Apel [her husband and vice-president senior perfumer at Symrise]. I love what he taught me and always value the incredible education on perfumery he shared with me: from ingredient expertise to his creative approach.  He is one of the best perfumers in the industry today.

Caroline Sabas - David Apel


Fragrance Photography Musings

Fragrance Photography - After

Two years ago, when I started my blog, my camera skills were pretty useless. I’m not counting Instagram and its various filters here. I was fortunate to be given a nifty and user-friendly Nikon camera by my sister. When I first started using it, my fragrance photography was rudimentary (not even 101). But over the last two years I’ve started honing my skills. I’m not claiming to be an expert. But I think these tips should help if you’re looking to improve your fragrance photography skills. Most of these tips work best in combination and don’t require the set-up of a photographic studio (which I don’t have). I’ve included a series of before and after images here to illustrate the various tips.

Fragrance Photography - Before


Sorry, I don’t use a cellphone for my blog photography. From experience, I get great joy from my Nikon V1. It has lots of useful features, without getting too complicated, and comes with a 10-30mm lens. You can buy it from for new for $899.00: here.

Fragrance Photography - L'Envol de Cartier EDT - Before


If you’re really set on a cohesive look with little variation, then sticking to one kind of flat surface is for you. However, if you want to vary your images (while still having your own look), you need to become a seasoned surface-hunter. Whenever I’m out and about, I’m always on the lookout for new surfaces to shoot on. Friends’ homes never look the same again.

Fragrance Photography - L'Envol de Cartier EDT - After


Another good way to improve your fragrance photography is to use a variety of backgrounds, whether indoors or outdoors. You’ll be surprised to discover how even seemingly ugly backgrounds with the right lighting and editing can add to your look. So don’t overlook even the “ugliest” of drainage systems.

Fragrance Photography - Surfaces and Backgrounds



While on the lookout for surfaces and backgrounds, keep accessories in mind, too. These can take the form of statues, jewellery, coloured glass, flowers, plates – the options are limitless. Whatever you do, make sure these accessories are clean and don’t take away the attention from your bottle. I keep a prop box to store things like pieces of ribbon, cute toys, chains and textured place mats (for backgrounds). You never know…

Fragrance Photography - Bleu de Chanel EDP - Before


How you use lighting, whether while taking pics or in post-production, will heavily influence the outcome of your fragrance photography. Beware of shooting in too much direct sun (lots of glare) or in dingy interiors (which can make images look “dirty”). I like to use lighting effects such as shadows (which can hide some fingerprints and specks of dust), contrast and highlights to create “moody” images.

Fragrance Photography - Bleu de Chanel EDP - After


You don’t have to be a Photoshop whizz to treat your images to essential post-production editing. I use some very basic photo-editing software to transform some quite average-looking images to striking images that most people would not believe have been processed through Microsoft Photo Editor.

Fragrance Photography - Yves Saint Laurent Kouros EDT - Before


Whenever I’m struggling to get a shot and I need to eradicate any unsightly blemishes or specks, I apply water splashes or even a full glass, depending on what’s required. I probably over-use this effect, but that’s because it’s such a versatile solution. And often creates (super-pleased with myself) reflections. Even better, just make sure to wipe your surfaces and bottles (including tops) and double-check with your zoom-in facility that you haven’t left any nasties behind.

Fragrance Photography - Yves Saint Laurent Kouros EDT - After

Fragrance New Snippets Edition 3 – Grasse’s Unesco Recognition, Narciso Rodriguez’s 2019 Launch Schedule, Acqua di Parma’s Double-Digit Growth, Frédéric Malle Gets Colourful, Emilie Coppermann Bags The Prix François Coty

Fragrance News Snippets - Grasse Unesco Heritage

GROWN IN GRASSE: Grasse’s micro-climate makes it especially suitable for the growth of flowers such as tuberose, jasmine, orange blossom, Madonna lily and violet, among others. Image: Musées de Grasse.

Welcome to the last edition of Fragrance News Snippets for 2018. If you’d like to share anything for inclusion in the next edition of Fragrance News Snippets, please pop me a mail at

Fragrance News Snippets - Frederic Malle Limited Editions



The heartland of French perfumery, Grasse, has been awarded World Heritage Status by Unesco. Grasse’s importance in international perfumery has declined in recent years. So adding the centuries-old traditions and skills of growing flowers, processing raw materials and creating fragrances in the area to Unesco’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list is very important. “Unesco’s world heritage status guarantees that we can safeguard Grasse’s collective savoir-faire and natural ingredients for generations to come,” says Armand de Villoutreys, Firmenich’s President: Perfumery & Ingredients.

Original source for more info: here and here.

Fragrance News Snippets - Grasse Unesco Heritage.

ON THE MAP: Grasse is situated in the south of France. Image:


There are exciting new launches coming up in 2019 for fans of Narciso Rodriguez’s musc-infused fragrances. These include: Narciso Rodriguez For Her Pure Musc EDP, Narciso Rodriguez Rouge EDT and Narciso Rodriguez Oud Musc EDP.

Fragrance News Snippets - Narciso Rodriguez Rouge EDT


Exact figures have not been given, but Acqua di Parma has revealed that its business would experience double-digit growth in 2018 and 2019. “We’ve enjoyed incredible, double-digit growth for 20 years, with the exception of 2008, when everyone suffered. And, there are still so many, many people worldwide that have to discover all the beauty of Acqua di Parma,” says CEO Laura Burdese. The sizeable niche brand, now owned by LVMH, is renowned for its fragrances, candles, bath, body and leather lifestyle products that celebrate Italian sophistication and vivacity.

Original source for more info: here.

Fragrance News Snippets - Acqua Di Parma


Christmas is the time for fragrance limited editions, but some are more covetable and worthy of inclusion in Fragrance News Snippets than others. Exhibit A: The translucent-coloured limited editions of seven of Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle’s classic fragrances. These include: Portrait Of A Lady by Dominique Ropion, Carnal Flower by Dominique Ropion, Musc Ravageur by Maurice Roucel (picured below), Lipstick Rose by Ralf Schwieger, Bigarade Concentree by Jean-Claude Ellena, Iris Poudre by Pierre Bourdon and En Passant by Olivia Giacobetti.

Original source for more info: here.

Fragrance News Snippets - Frederic Malle Limited Editions

Emilie Coppermann Bags The Prix François Coty

For more than 20 years, perfumer Emilie Coppermann has produced stand-out fragrances for a variety of brands. These range from The Different Company After Midnight EDT, Oriflame Eclat Mon Parfum EDP and Comme des Garçons Serpentine EDP to Sonia Rykiel EDT, Givenchy Play EDT and Carolina Herrera 212 VIP Men EDT. According to Perfumer & Flavorist, the Symrise master perfumer was awarded the prize based on an anonymous smelling of a fragrance created by her a year prior to the award taking place.

Original source for more info: here.

Fragrance News Snippets - Emilie Coppermann

IMAGE: LinkedIn.

Powerhouse Fragrances: Antonio Puig Quorum EDT, Elizabeth Taylor White Diamonds EDT, Lancôme Trésor EDP, YSL Opium EDP, Chanel Antaeus EDT, YSL Kouros EDT

Powerhouse Fragrances - Chanel Antaeus EDT

Clean and reserved fragrances certainly have a place. But sometimes I just want to reach for one of the classic powerhouse fragrances from previous decades that leave an indelible trail wherever you go. These powerhouse fragrances are probably OI (olfactorily incorrect) in these times of open-plan office sensitivities. So finding the right time and environment to wear them is crucial.

Powerhouse Fragrances - Elizabeth Taylor White Diamonds EDT

This list of mine is just a snapshot of possible powerhouse fragrances. What are your favourite powerhouse fragrances? Do you have the vintages of any of these?

“These powerhouse fragrances are probably OI (olfactorily incorrect) in these times of open-plan office sensitivities.”


Originally launched in 1981, Quorum packs an old-school power punch with dominant notes of oakmoss, leather, tobacco, artemisia and sandalwood. This bargain fragrance is super-masculine stuff, irresistibly earthy and is as far from generic as you can get. It’s not often you will find quality at this price, so hunt it down now. R245 for 50ml and R360 for 100ml.

Powerhouse Fragrances - Antonio Puig Quorum EDT


If you think celebrity fragrances lack staying power in both sense of the phrase, you need to wear Elizabeth Taylor White Diamonds EDT. Launched in 1991, it takes me back to a time of big-time glamour (big hair, lots of hairspray and smoke). It’s a white floral and the aldehydes-o-meter is turned up very high. Bold and audacious! R750 for 100ml.

Powerhouse Fragrances - Elizabeth Taylor White Diamonds EDT


So your mom might have worn this back in 1990 when it was launched. But please don’t let that “mature” label put you off this sweet floriental that could teach most of today’s fruity-florals a thing or two. It features a large and luscious rose note at is heart. Little wonder it has spawned over 20 flankers and limited editions. R1 350 for 50ml.

Powerhouse Fragrances - Lancome Tresor EDP


It’s not a coincidence that so many powerhouses were released in the 70s and 80s. Those decades were not a time for shy, reserved fragrances. YSL Opium EDP is one of the perfect examples of this “big is best” is philosophy. Although this spicy oriental may have lost some strength between the 1977 and 2009 versions, the latter is still an elaborate oriental staple for any perfume-lover’s collection. R2 030.00 for 90ml.

Powerhouse Fragrances - Yves Saint Laurent Opium EDP


This is one of the classics of modern perfumery. All perfumers looking to create a new masculine fragrance beyond today’s formulaic releases should study this one. Macho yet sophisticated at the time, it’s one of the best male powerhouses around, even 18 years after its original release. Unashamedly woody and smoky, it’s animalic a-go-go. R1 600 for 100ml.

Powerhouse Fragrances - Chanel Antaeus EDT

YSL KOUROS EDT (pierre bourdon)

Another big-hitter from the 80s with seductive musky and animalic overtones that’s still going strong almost 40 years later. Featuring 20 listed notes, it’s a complex thing of beauty, with standout notes of coriander, patchouli, aldehydes, honey, musk and leather creating a powerfully seductive effect. R1 330.00 for 100 ml.

Powerhouse Fragrances - Yves Saint Laurent Kouros EDT


Christmas Fragrance Shopping: To Give Or Not To Give

Christmas Fragrance Shopping - Chloe Nomade EDP

Whether you’re looking for some Christmas fragrance shopping to up the festive ante, or just want to know what’s new on counters, this extended post is for you. There’s a little bit of everything here, from the ubiquitous fruity floral to the not-seen-nearly-enough floral chypre.

Chloe Nomade EDP (Quentin Bisch)

What a gorgeously green citrus opening to this flora chypre! We don’t have enough of these on the market. Chloe Nomade keeps on giving after that special intro of Mirabelle, lemon and bergamot. The heart features notes of freesia, jasmine, peach and rose. Oakmoss dominates the base, with notes of patchouli and amber in support. Officially, one of my favourite fragrances of 2018 and a top recommendation for your Christmas fragrance shopping list. Congrats, Monsieur Bisch! 30ml for R910, 50ml for R1 345 and R1 655 for 150ml.

Christmas Fragrance Shopping - Chloe Nomade EDP

Oscar de la Renta Bella Blanca EDP (Harry Fremont)

Fragrances specifically designed for weddings are a growing trend. While you won’t see me walking down the aisle any time soon, I can appreciate this one for being well thought out. Pretty and elegant, it features standout notes of pear, jasmine sambac and sandalwood. The ornate bottle alone will ensure it does a brisk trade at a counter near you. R1 005 for 50ml and R1 410 for 100ml.

Christmas Fragrance Shopping - Oscar de la Renta Bella Blanca EDP

Diesel Bad Intense EDT

Judging from the bumf for this fragrance, Diesel Bad Boy Intense is a stronger version of the bad boy you can’t get enough of. And with listed accords like tobacco and caviar, this EDT sounds promisingly wayward. Not that this is a, er, bad fragrance, but sometimes he’s too much of a wholesome boy-next-door. R1 350.00 for 125 ml.

Christmas Fragrance Shopping - Diesel Bad Intense EDT

Boucheron Quatre en Rose EDP Florale (Quentin Bisch)

From the first whiff of this fragrance, rose is very prominent, plus there’s a hint of artimesia. It’s a sweet kind of rose, but appealingly so. As a fruity floral it features a variety of notes, including black currant, mandarin orange, jasmine and peach blossom. Although it’s sweet for sure, it’s fairly sophisticated stuff. R1 310 for 100ml.

Christmas Fragrance Shopping - Boucheron Quatre En Rose Florale EDP

Salvatore Ferragamo Uomo Signature EDP (Alberto Morillas)

If Salvatore Ferragamo Uomo EDT is all about tiramisu, the third addition to the range is all about leather, coffee and tonka beans. There are also patchouli, cinnamon and cardamom notes at work here. As you can imagine the effect is one of warm, smooth and seductive sophistication that’s probably best suited to cooler weather and evenings. Well worth sniffing out for your Christmas fragrance shopping. R1 140 for 50ml and R1 580 for 100ml.

Christmas Fragrance Shopping - Salvatore Ferragamo Signature EDP

Bulgari Goldea The Roman Night Absolute EDP (Alberto Morillas)

With notes of black plum, orange blossom, jasmine sambac, Madagascan vanilla, black musk and crystal moss, this EDP almost ventures into exotic territory. Like its predecessor, it smells expensive, seductive and luxurious. But this one is richer and denser. Too potent for modern, sensitive offices, it’s a great choice for elegant nights out. (Random fact: I recently read that Alberto Morillas has created over 480 fragrances in his lifetime.)

Christmas Fragrance Shopping - Salvatore Ferragamo Signature EDP

Carven Vetiver EDT

Vetiver is one of my favourite notes, so I was keen to try this one. Imagine my surprise when I picked up a very real note of lemongrass in its opening, which confused me a bit. But once I decided to go with it, I started to enjoy this fresh EDT. Notes of bergamot and grapefruit complete the citrus opening theme. Lavender is prominent in the heart of the fragrance. The smell of vetiver comes through in a big way fairly soon. It’s deliciously earthy and dry stuff! An intriguing fragrance that would make for an adventurous choice in your Christmas fragrance shopping. R1 295 for 100ml.

Christmas Fragrance Shopping - Carven Vetiver EDT

Mugler Alien Man EDT (Jean-Christophe Herault)

I had huge expectations of this one, as I love the female Alien fragrances for being so unapologetically bold and surprising. I like this woody-leather-aromatic EDT, but I can’t say I love it, because it almost seems to be holding back. And Alien fragrances are never reserved. Methinks (and hopes) that the EDP version, when it makes its appearance, will unleash the full potential of this fragrance. R1 090 for 50ml and R1 390 for 100ml.

Christmas Fragrance Shopping - Alien Man EDT

ALIEN LIFE: Is Mugler Alien Man special enough to make your Christmas fragrance shopping list?

Lanvin Eclat de Nuit EDP (Fabrice Pellegrin)

The fruity-floral trend shows no signs of letting up. This fragrance’s cute pink bottle makes me think this EDP is aimed at a younger market. It features notes of lemon, black currant, red apple, jasmine and orange blossom. The base covers another big trend, gourmand, with notes of praline and vanilla. Too sweet for me, but its target market will love it. R1 295 for 100ml.

Christmas Fragrance Shopping - Lanvin Eclat de Nuit EDP

Coach Platinum EDP (Bruno Jovanovic)

Launched in 2016, Coach For Men became a popular choice due to its versatility and everyday appeal. Coach Platinum EDP, no doubt, will be equally popular, as it’s just as easy-going. A fresh oriental, it opens with notes of juniper, black pepper and pineapple. Sage adds an aromatic aspect and the notes of cashmeran, leather and sandalwood bring an undeniably smooth luxury to the proceedings. Nice one! R1 055 for 60ml and R1 435 for 100ml.

Christmas Fragrance Shopping - Coach Platinum EDP

Bulgari Man Wood Essence EDP (Alberto Morillas)

The 10th addition to the Bulagai Man range opens with notes of cedar and cypress setting the scene. There are also smatterings of coriander leaf and citruses  in the background. Vetiver is at the heart of the fragrance and it accentuates the woody opening, which eventually gives way to benzoin. Even if it’s not the most original fragrance around, it’s solidly masculine and elegant. R1 220 for 60ml and R1 640 for 100ml.

Christmas Fragrance Shopping - Bulgari Man Wood Essence EDP