“Perfume innovation comes from new ingredients”, Isaac Sinclair, Symrise

“Perfume innovation comes from new ingredients”, Isaac Sinclair, Symrise

Born in Auckland, New Zealand, Isaac Sinclair was a pupil to Symrise Master Perfumer Maurice Roucel before graduating from the Symrise Perfumery Academy. He started working at the Symrise Creative Center in Paris before joining the team of creative perfumers at Symrise in Brazil. Now back in France, he shares his vision of fine fragrances with Premium Beauty News.

Premium Beauty News – You worked for 12 years in Brazil, as part of the Symrise team of perfumers-creators in São Paulo. What do you think are the specificities of perfume in this country?

Isaac Sinclair – Brazil is the largest global market in terms of volume and is very well ranked in value, although the latter fluctuates according to exchange rates. Brazilians are clearly big fans of fragrances. Compared to other countries, studies show that they spend a very large proportion of their income on perfumes.

Brazilians buy several perfumes and decide which one to wear depending on their mood or on the circumstances. In Brazil, people perfume themselves a lot, several times a day, because due to the climate, they generally shower between three and five times a day. This provides an opportunity to change fragrances, for example, in anticipation of a romantic moment.

In Brazil alone, 4,000 stores have opened under the name of O Boticário, and one of their blockbusters can sell millions of units. It is quite exciting for a perfumer to recognize “their” perfume on their way to a restaurant!

In Brazil, the perfumes that sell well share one feature: their “lasting power”. It determines the quality/price ratio in the eyes of consumers. In concrete terms, whether you are creating a fresh or oriental fragrance, it has to be a “bomb” and last on the skin, otherwise consumers feel cheated. Perfumers need to master this skill, and we sometimes use patchouli for this purpose. Therefore, we are not confined to a few appealing styles or specific olfactory families to meet this demand.

Another peculiarity of this vast market is that women ignore marketing categories and can choose so-called men’s fragrances simply because they like them. And this was well before the gender-fluid trend. Many women wear very fresh, but also long-lasting “fougere” fragrances, such as Kaiak Aero by Natura.

Premium Beauty News – Which of the locally-produced raw materials did you particularly enjoy working with?

Isaac Sinclair – Brazil boasts one of the richest biodiversities in the world. Many ingredients originate from this continent, even if we are not aware of it. For example, the classic tonka bean and rosewood come from the Amazon rainforest, as do cocoa and cashew nut. This country’s riches are endless.

Symrise has been developing a special programme to help communities grow aromatic plants which no longer renewed themselves, such as priprioca. Its tubers produce an amazing scent reminiscent of cypriol and vetiver. There is also palo santo: its wood is not cut, but the fruit is harvested to obtain essential oil. At first, it evokes blackcurrant, before returning to the wood smell itself. It is a very stimulating environment for perfumers. In addition to perfume plants, Head Space can be used to capture new scent profiles from fruit.

Cashew is generally known as a nut, but it is actually part of a whole, sublime fruit that can be used for perfumes. Its flesh reminds of a slightly acid tropical guava. Usually, we just use the cashew nut, but in Brazil, perfumers also use the fruit. In fact, it is featured in a delicious recipe of the national cocktail, the cashew fruit caipirinha. Thanks to the Head Space technology, we were able to recreate the smell of this delicate fruit in a laboratory. Therefore, Symrise has a Vitessence associated with it.

There is also cupuaçu, a white-fleshed fruit whose taste is similar to cocoa, and which can be used as an alternative to chocolate in milkshakes. Brazil’s biodiversity is fabulous. Plants like patchouli, vetiver, and oranges managed to adapt to the climate, although oranges remain green in the absence of cool nights, as can be seen in Spain.

Premium Beauty News – Is this botanical diversity inspiring for a perfumer-creator? Have any of your creative ideas stemmed from one of these ingredients?

Isaac Sinclair – Being exposed to new smells in Brazil opened my mind. Anything new stimulates the creative process. Without Brazil, I would not have got that far with certain fruit smells. When you go to Brazil, you realize there is a whole world of different tropical fruits, because at the end of the day, guava does not smell like cocoa, which does not smell like cashew apples… There are real nuances that we are not aware of in Europe or New Zealand. Over there, a whole universe opens up.

Personally, in my perfume creation process, I did not really start with an ingredient specific to Brazil, but I was able to use these materials for structures I had in mind. In my case, I would rather say I added Brazilian ingredients to my palette. Generally speaking, there are not many perfumes built around one ingredient. For example, even if a perfume is created around vetiver, it has to be dressed up with citrus fruits or other ingredients.

Premium Beauty News – How do you feel about Garden Labs, the 100% natural vegetable extracts offered by Symrise since late 2020?

Isaac Sinclair – It is exciting because, just like with Brazilian ingredients, we did not use to have access to all this potential. Ten years ago, we did not have the technology to capture these plant extracts. Before Garden Labs, if you wanted to create an artichoke, you had to create a chord which gave the impression of an artichoke. But we did not have a real artichoke or cauliflower. With theGarden Lab technology, the playing field has become bigger.

In my opinion, a large part of perfume innovation comes from new ingredients. For example, when Calone arrived, this molecule opened up a new path. Fragrances like L’Eau d’Issey (Issey Miyake) and Escape (Calvin Klein) were only possible because of it. Now we are seeing the same phenomenon with natural ingredients. At first, new ingredients are used very little. Then, over time, they gain more importance. In the future, we might see more “savoury” or even “salty” scents.

The Garden Lab range extends beyond vegetables. Symrise already has passion fruit. We did not have natural passion fruit before, so we had to use a combination of molecules. It is a great step forward, especially as it involves upcycling. Thanks to this technology, it is possible to recycle artichoke waste from the food industry to extract its smell. Or onion or cauliflower waste. In the case of passion fruit, we work with juice residues. We could consider developing a tomato Garden Lab by stepping in the juice or gazpacho production cycles… Unlike with the Head Space technology, these are entirely natural products.

Premium Beauty News – You recently joined the Symrise team in Paris. Could your experience and the use of ingredients from Brazil be transposed here and appeal to the French and global markets?

Isaac Sinclair – Why not? Innovation is always welcome. Everyone wants innovation. So, I think any of the ingredients that grow in Brazil could be very well accepted. We know that blackcurrant or passion fruit can play a decisive role in an olfactory structure. So, why not cashew apples, if certain techniques are used? I am also thinking about cupuaçu, with its chocolate flavour. The diversity of Brazilian fruits is not limited to coconut.

Generally speaking, I think that when you create successful perfumes, whether for Europe or Brazil, you have to show your skills and know how to combine the creative and technical aspects. If you are satisfied with the technical aspect and do not take into account the creative factor, you are really just a technician. You do not do anything new. But in our industry, new products also have to pass the tests of potential consumers. I think lots of proposals created in Brazil would also work here in terms of structure, if we refer to the tests that have been carried out.

Premium Beauty News – In your opinion, how will perfume creation evolve and innovate over the next few years?

Isaac Sinclair – The world is constantly changing and consumers change too. They are much more educated about perfumes than they were 20 years ago. They are increasingly aware of what they are buying. In the perfume industry, we are now seeing greater transparency, as a result of new technologies capable of revealing the ingredients found in a formula, when they used to remain secret. I am thinking of GCMS (Gas Chromatography / Mass Spectrometry), for example.

Niche brands help raise the cultural level of perfume consumers, who show increasingly sophisticated needs. It is a real challenge for perfumers.

This article was published in our special issue Fragrance Innovation, to read here.


Symrise's Garden Lab technology has broadened the range of ingredients available to the perfumer (Photo: Symrise)

Symrise's Garden Lab technology has broadened the range of ingredients available to the perfumer (Photo: Symrise)

Symrise's Garden Lab technology has broadened the range of ingredients available to the perfumer (Photo: Symrise)

Symrise's Garden Lab technology has broadened the range of ingredients available to the perfumer (Photo: Symrise)


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