Smell of a tender rose

One of the world’s leading perfumers lives in Minsk

By Yevgenia Bystrova

Perfumer Oleg Vyglazov is a full member of the New York Academy of Sciences. He knows just how a woman should smell to attract a man’s attention. Less than 200 people worldwide are true professionals in the delicate art of creating fragrances, with only a handful residing within the former USSR. Mr. Vyglazov tells us about Minsk’s ‘aroma’ and shares his secrets on creating fragrances for household detergents, as well as exclusive perfumes.

Oleg’s laboratory is full of bottles, jars and flasks. Your head swims at the sight of them and the aroma can hardly be described, being an incredible mix of scents, somewhere between a meadow, a wardrobe and a pharmacy. Portraits of legendary Marlene Dietrich line the walls, so we can assume that she is his muse. Some time ago, Mr. Vyglazov created eight perfumes dedicated to the actress, embodying her spirit. One formed the basis for wider production, but is only sold abroad, sadly.

“Trends have changed. Where celebrities once joined perfumers to create scents, this has fallen out of fashion. Famous people prefer to order tailored perfumes for individual use, just as they’d order a dress from a couturier,” explains Mr. Vyglazov. He has about a thousand clients and has invented five aromas for large global fashion houses. His contracts forbid him from naming his customers but leading fashion representatives are thought to be among them.

“We’re primarily involved in creating fragrances for household products: washing powders, shampoos and cremes,” Oleg says. “We seldom make perfume. An artist has the seven colours of a rainbow with which to paint and we have a similar situation. However, it’s even possible to create a masterpiece in simple black and white.” He assures us that he hardly thinks of his nose, believing that it would inspire problems if he placed too much emphasis on looking after it. However, like others in his profession, he can detect up to ten elements within a fragrance, compared to most people only being able to detect five or six. Intriguingly, he can ‘switch off’ his sense of smell, asserting that it’s good for him to rest when he’s not working. “Should composers listen to music all the time? Silence is sometimes necessary — to relax and muse on a new piece. Perfumers are the same. My favourite natural smell is that of a forest, not necessarily coniferous. Meadows also have a wonderful scent and change fragrance throughout the year. In autumn, they smell of fallen leaves, while they are filled with the aroma of wild flowers in summer; in spring, they smell of buds and melting snow. My favourite scents are those which are difficult to recreate in a bottle.”

Several years ago, Oleg created a perfume for Minsk. Just imagine: early morning, July, sleeping Nezavisimosti Avenue and the smell of linden trees in blossom. This is Mr. Vyglazov’s olfactory vision of the Belarusian capital. “Each city has its own aroma. Kiev smells of blooming chestnuts, while Minsk has linden trees. Natural ingredients are best. The well known perfumes of ‘Krasnaya Moskva’ and ‘Chanel №5’ are eternal, like musical hits; we can rearrange them but the melody remains recognisable. You might not believe me but it’s more difficult to create the fragrance for a window cleaner or fabric softener than for an exclusive perfume, as it’s so difficult to mask harsh chemical smells,” Oleg notes.

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