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Louis Vuitton Master Perfumer Jacques Cavallier Belletrud in Grasse, France Atelier

Louis Vuitton’s Jacques Cavallier Belletrud Infuses Perfumes with Emotion in Grasse

The fourth-generation perfumer Jacques Cavallier Belletrud let's us in on the scent-making magical landsacpe of Grasse. Named Louis Vuitton's Master Perfumer in 2012, Belletrud sources the top ingredients and is inspired by a myriad of experiences—included a collaboration with Frank Gehry—to create fragrances that spark your imagination and memory.

Pearl Fontaine

12 January 2024

Since Louis Vuitton relaunched its perfume collection in 2016 for the first time in 70 years, its fragrances have represented the pinnacle of olfactory excellence, continuing to inspire awe with scents that create an encompassing experience unique for each wearer. Crafted under the care of Master Perfumer Jacques Cavallier Belletrud, every scent is made with the finest ingredients and extracts in the world’s perfume capital of Grasse, France, where the house has situated its whimsical fragrance atelier. Located in the perfect climate just miles from the Mediterranean, the atelier’s most noteworthy feature is a vast garden filled with hundreds of herbs, fruit trees, flowers, and other plant varieties—some of which are exclusively cultured for Louis Vuitton perfumes. 

Introduced in 2021, the house’s “Les Extraits Collection” saw the fourth-generation perfumer Cavallier Belletrud working in collaboration with the architect Frank Gehry, who conceived a stunning sculptural bottle for the suite of vibrant, concentrated perfumes. Joining scents like Stellar Times, Cosmic Cloud, and Symphony, the sixth and newest extrait, Myriad, is perhaps the most special to date. Enclosed in Gehry’s glass container, which is capped with a silvery top invoking the movement of air, the perfume’s identity centers something so rare, it’s known as black gold: oud wood. 

Louis Vuitton’s New Fragrance, Myriad

Inspired by nature and made with the intent of invoking pure emotion, Myriad’s rich berry hue is the first thing that its wearer will notice. The scent that follows is divinely complex, with the strength of the woody oud—sourced from an exclusive supplier in Bangladesh—complemented by a certain airiness, achieved through the inclusion of floral notes like jasmine and rose, as well as hints of saffron, cocoa, ambrette, and white musk. Curious about a fragrance that is described as both light and dark, Whitewall spoke to Cavallier Belletrud, who was at the atelier in Grasse, where he shared more about Myriad and the creative process behind it. 

Louis Vuitton Master Perfumer Jacques Cavallier Belletrud in Grasse, France Atelier

Courtesy of Louis Vuitton.

WHITEWALL: What was the starting point for the latest in “Les Extraits Collection,” Myriad? Is there a way you begin each new fragrance?

JACQUES CAVALLIER BELLETRUD: It’s different every time; each time it’s a new story. This collection is very particular because I wanted to address a new style for perfumes. We launched “Les Extraits Collection” in 2021, and the purpose is to deliver a different mood, different than the previous collection at Louis Vuitton. 

Each family has a different starting point. For Myriad, the starting point is of course Middle Eastern; it’s an oud. This oud is full of secrets and olfactory surprises. I’ve used it for five years now. It’s just because it is a fantastic raw material, which is woody, deep, spicy, ambery. I wanted to create a Les Extraits because the price of the oud is the same price as gold. It’s something really exceptional, and I wanted to build and to work on the ultimate oud perfume.

WW: So, you built the perfume around oud.

JCB: Absolutely, that was the idea. How could I magnify the oud raw materials in a perfume, an extrait, with all the sophistication, all the allure, and the signature? 

Myriad is the Result of a Three-Year Journey

WW: What about oud makes it so unique in the art of perfumery?

JCB: What creates the originality of this essence is that you don’t have any equivalent in the woody notes family. It’s just because it’s different from sandalwood, it’s different from cinder wood. It’s even more unique than patchouli because it develops ambery tones. And in the fragrance, it brings a very strong signature. 

This is a legendary material. The reason why we did not use it too much during the last century is just that the availability of the essence is very poor. And it took me three years to find the right essence in terms of scent. I was looking for the right balance between the woodiness and the enigmatic notes. 

Louis Vuitton Master Perfumer Jacques Cavallier Belletrud in Grasse, France Atelier

Courtesy of Louis Vuitton.

WW: What did you want to unlock in oud? How did you want to “pierce it with light” as you described?

JCB: Louis Vuitton perfume is built on contrast. I love to work the black notes and the white notes at the same time. The black notes make the white notes very deep and the white notes make the black notes very ivory and full of light. 

The idea was to associate oud with rose. There are some other flowers around it, but the major theme is rose. I love to play with spices, with fresh notes, with musk, of course, but the idea was to express the oud in the right way. It has the sophistication that I love for Louis Vuitton, which is creating something unique.

WW: The rose brings out the oud. What else is included?

JCB: After we have saffron, cocoa. I wanted to use cocoa because it fits so well with the oud. Cocoa smells like chocolate, of course, but at the same time there is something very sensual, like velvety skin. And it’s producing something fantastic and the link between the rose and the oud, it’s making the rose darker and it’s making the oud more tactile. When someone is wearing this perfume, it has to be his or her own signature making the accents of the scent of this perfume something strong. 

So saffron, cocoa; ambrette is a class at Louis Vuitton. It’s a clear top note, and very musky soft. 

WW: Scent has such an emotional connection to memory. Were there specific emotions you were trying to bring up with Myriad?

JCB: Well, for me I’m always seeking for addiction [in] what I’m creating. Perfume has to be something different, creating a lot of emotions for the person who is wearing it, because smelling the perfume and wearing the perfume is a direct connection with yourself, with the deepest part of your personality, emotions. 

WW: Is it more of a personal experience?

JCB: It should be. I have built all the Louis Vuitton perfumes since the beginning in this spirit. 

I want to reunite the love affair between the person and their perfume. I think that if you want to last in success, you have to produce strong emotions for people. Good emotions or bad emotions, that I cannot predict, but definitely, I create my perfumes in this spirit. 

Jacques Cavallier Belletrud and Frank Gehry Collaborate on Les Extraits

WW: This new fragrance stems from a collaboration with architect Frank Gehry, that began in a meeting in 2021. What was it like working together?

JCB: Well, Frank for me is an inspiration. It’s always easy to work with geniuses. You know? They make your life easier. Because of the pleasure we have together, it’s not really working. 

I asked him what he thinks. Of course, he is not an expert in perfumes, and I am not an expert in architecture, but we are practicing the same art—producing things that develop emotions, we hope. We share the pleasure of breaking the rules together—and having a look at things in a different way to show our clients at Louis Vuitton that perfume can be different from what they know already.

It was a lot of talk, a lot of admiration from me for him. What I love is that he is 95 years old, but in his mind he is 15 years old. It’s fantastic. It’s dynamic, it’s optimism. Wow, it’s really a privilege to share this kind of experience with a guy like him.

Louis Vuitton Master Perfumer Jacques Cavallier Belletrud in Grasse, France Atelier

Courtesy of Louis Vuitton.

WW: You’ve discussed movement being at the heart of this connection, the wind, specifically. What led you to try to capture something as ephemeral as the wind?

JCB: The inspiration for me as a perfumer is, of course, all of the atmosphere created by the wind that carries the many, many different tones of May roses, with the leaves, the freshly cut grass notes . . . I tried to capture those moments, because it makes me very emotional when I smell it—even if I’m used to this kind of scent. I consider that if I have emotions still, my clients who love the bottle will also find these emotions.

WW: You often collaborate with different creatives, including Frank, Marc Newson, and Alex Israel. What’s the best part about these collaborations for you?

JCB: What I think is fantastic, even if we are not speaking the same language, is that we are speaking the language of creation. This language is international. It’s not feminine or masculine, it’s universal. There is always respect between us, and I’m always amazed. What is fantastic is that when I see those people, I see the children they were and the children they are. They consider things without any thinking before. They discover things for the first time as we did when we were children. 

WW: What’s the most special part about the atelier in Grasse?

JCB: For almost five centuries, people in Grasse have been focusing on how to transfer the scent of a flower, a seed, or a wood, as a liquid, in a perfume. That’s the main reason Louis Vuitton is here. We are the only luxury brand creating our perfumes in Grasse.

We have a garden with 400 different plants. It is always green, even in winter. You have flowers in winter, you have fruits in winter, you also have flowers in spring and summer. In fall you still have flowers and fruits. It’s, of course, for me an inspiration garden. 

Louis Vuitton Master Perfumer Jacques Cavallier Belletrud in Grasse, France Atelier

Courtesy of Louis Vuitton.

Jacques Cavallier Belletrud’s Family Tradition of Olfaction, Creation, and Passion

WW: What is a typical day in the studio like?

JCB: The first thing is to cross the garden. I will view all the flowers, fruits, and these kinds of things. All morning is dedicated to olfaction. We smell every morning with my daughter. She’s beginning her seventh year at Louis Vuitton, and she’s working as a perfumer. 

Then, after, we meet about the productions of Louis Vuitton perfumes, we smell raw materials in the blind. Each morning, five different raw materials in the blind that we have to recognize, as a game. The afternoon is more dedicated to the creation itself. 

We have lots of discussions on how it feels. What is important is the balance between the emotional side, which is the creation, and becoming rational again, in terms of the way you can evaluate what you have done. 

WW: You mentioned your daughter is now working with you and you also come from a line of perfumers. How did this become your family’s profession?

JCB: It’s a tradition in my family. My father was a perfumer, my grandfather was a perfumer, the father of my grandfather was a perfumer. My daughter has been passionate since she was very young; ten or eleven years old. Step by step, I was bringing her some knowledge through a game.

Transmitting what I know, it’s all the techniques and all that you can learn. Everybody can learn it if you are passionate. The most difficult part of the job is to reveal your own creative personality. I didn’t want her to be a clone of me. A point of view in creation is what’s unique, and she’s daring in her creativity. That’s the most important thing for me. All of the other things you can learn. But creativity is a mindset. 

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