2 weeks ago
Barnabé Fillion is many things — a dashing Frenchman, a talented photographer, a bonafide foodie, and a jet-set world traveler, but he’s perhaps known best for his nose. Yes, Monsieur Fillion is one of the most sought-after perfumers in the world and has had a hand in designing fragrances for the likes of Paul Smith, Comme des Garcons, Hermès and Aesop. To add to his talents, he’s also served as the creative advisor to Royal Salute, the Queen of England’s preferred Scotch whisky house, since 2015.
“There are so many parallels between nosing whisky and the fragrance world,” Fillion told RealClearLife. “The most important and interesting part for me is the discovery of the ingredients. When working on a concept, it’s key to understand the roots of the elements that will go in the fragrance, meeting the people that make these ingredients, in their natural environments.” Much like a chef and their recipes, Fillion approaches his multi-sensory experiences a “discussion” among the facets at play.
During a recent visit to New York — in honor of British Polo Day, naturally — Fillion was tasked with creating this discussion altogether by pairing a suite of coveted Royal Salute whiskies with a five-course dinner and a sampling of fine-tuned scents that complimented the experience, billed as the Olfactory Studio. “It’s not so much about pairing my perfumes with the Royal Salute expressions; it’s about stimulating the whisky with elements of perfumery and showing how to experience the blend with different sensorial features,” Fillion told us. The experience does, indeed, encompass most of the senses, and requires lots of smelling, tasting, and even touching time-honored items like a radiometer and a 20 million-year-old fossil. In all, the three-hour experience served as an homage to the time that goes into each bottle of Royal Salute, which exceeds most others, and the continuity of its product.
“The experience we had in New York was based on time, which is the most important ingredient of Royal Salute, given it starts where most other whiskies end, at 21 years old,” Fillion explained. “So my Olfactory Studio was a celebration of this time and I tried to get everyone thinking about the incredible craftsmanship and passion that goes into creating and recreating something that is matured for at least 21 years. Because when you think about it, the Royal Salute you’re drinking in a bar or buying in-store has come from whisky that was laid-down so long ago yet it always tastes the same – this has always impressed me and blown my mind.”