Interview – Andy Tauer of Tauer Perfumes

Today at Chemist in the Bottle Café I have with me a special guest – mister Andy Tauer whose perfumes indulge our senses since his line launched in 2005. Andy is a perfect example that you don’t need to graduate from a perfume school or undergo a perfumers training to be able to create fragrances that are widely loved in the PerfumeLand. I’m meeting with Andy today as this summer he will be re-focusing on Cologne du Maghreb which was originally launched in 2011 as a limited Holiday edition. I decided to investigate a little bit – hence this interview. Hope you enjoy it.

Why have you decided to re-issue Cologne du Maghreb?

Why re-issue (or another word: why re-focus) again on the Cologne du Maghreb? I happen to have a lot of interest for this Cologne, especially in the summer months, where it fits perfectly. Initially, when presenting it as a holiday special in 2011, it was just an experiment. An experiment not in terms of the actually formula, but in terms of whether there is interest for an all natural cologne at all.  There is interest, but I sort of forgot about it, up to the moment when I presented it to Jeffrey Dame a while ago. He got very curious about the background, the old style packaging, and the scent. Thus, I realized, it is time to properly take care of this baby of mine…

Is the 2014 version any different from 2011 formulae? Or is it the very same fragrance?

No. The formula is 100% identical. You have – especially when working with naturals – fluctuations in quality, of course, but I don’t think there’s a difference that you can actually detect based on this.

Is creating an all natural fragrance more difficult than crafting a non-natural blend?

The answer is yes, and no. I would use the term “mixed-media” for not pure natural blends. It is my impression that the palette of possiblities provided by naturals, as broad as it is, is limited. This is especially true when working all natural but without using so-called isolates; single molecules, isolated using physical-chemical techniques to isolate pure molecules. There is an intrinsic limitation of what you can do. Thus, if you have a particular fragrant image in mind that you wish to reach, you might be in for troubles, using all naturals only. In that sense, all natural scents are a challenge and more difficult. On the other hand, a lot of naturals are very forgiving, and it is actually quite simple to create a nice smelling scent starting with a central construct of sandalwood, rose, and bergamot; adding a bit of labdanum, benzoin in the base, a bit rose geranium, a whiff of lavender maybe, hints of bay or clove, and a dash of rose oil and ylang will make you happy.  But for me, that cannot be the goal.  A cologne, all natural, on the other hand, is easy, I would say: Get the best neroli oil you can get. Do not be shy to use tons of bergamot and lemon oil in your construction, add a herbaceous twist with lavender and clary sage oil , and you’re almost there. The rest is decoration and – as always – the secret of the perfumer.

From the formulatory point of view, is a natural fragrance tougher to compose, taking the IFRA regulations into consideration?

Hmmmm (thinks for a while): Yes, I guess so, if you take IFRA seriously. First, you really, really want to make sure that you only work with natural materials from a supplier that is 100% trustworthy and a supplier that provides you with all the certificates and analysis of ingredients in order to comply with IFRA and EU regulations. I know that sounds like logical but it is really key, right from the start. Let’s take an example: Cinnamon bark oil. It gives wonderful effects in natural compositions by its warm woody metallic notes. My supplier’s certificate tells me that the following components are to be IFRA or EU regulated (either restricted or to be declared on labels): Limonen, linalool, Safrol, cinnamal, eugenol, cinnamyl alcohol, coumarin, benzyl benzoate.

The limiting ingredient is cinnamal and with a cinnamal content of about 60% and an IFRA limitation of cinnamal (cinnamic aldehyde) of 0.05% in the final product (class 4, IFRA QRA Restricted Standards – 47th Amendment to the Code of Practice) you get the idea. Again: The problem with all naturals is: You cannot compensate certain limitations with single molecules that are man-made and not provided by nature. Having said this: Ifra restricts the use of synthetics, too. Like Lyral. Or damascenones. Maybe, we have to admit, that by taking IFRA and the EU regulations seriously, you add another limitation and another complexity to creating perfumes, be they natural, be they mixed media scents.

I have tried a couple of natural perfumes so far and I noticed that their longevity is a bit shorter than “mixed-media” (as you called them) perfumes. Is it due to them not containing special fixatives, or containing less of them?

The longevity: There are two answers here. First: There are wonderful natural fixatives: Sandalwood for instance. Vetiver is another one. Cistus extracts. But the amount of vetiver that you can or want to use in a mixture is limited by the intense scent of vetiver and how it affects the overall form that you have in mind for your fragrance. Thus, as great the fixative power of vetiver might be: it easily takes over the entire fragrance.

There are many, many synthetic molecules that act as fixative and that are easier to use in larger quantity without actually destroying a fragrance, or being overpowering. Let’s take an example: Okoumal or Ambroxan. Both last on paper more than a month. You can use them in  low doses, where both add a subtle effect, but where they still act as great fixative and increase the longevity of a fragrance and bring out some middle notes perfectly. If overdosed, Okoumal will make a scent last for a very, very long time. It is like a glue, sort of. And contrary to overdosing for instance with  vetiver essential oil, you can still see delicate flowers in the heart of a fragrance when overdosing with Ambroxan. Let’s answer your question short and concise: Synthetic base notes come with great fixation power and great longevity, with less impact on heart and headnotes than your average natural extract. Sandalwood might be an exception, though.

In the last year or so the niche perfume market noticed a growing interest in natural fragrances and some of artisan perfumers decided to give the naturals a try. What do you think about this trend?

I think that the trend towards natural fragrances (and cosmetics) is here to stay, but on the other hand, this trend should not be overestimated. I see that the larger volume of the market is still dominated by the wretched oudh trend, and probably also by concept trends that are not nourishing on “natural” but on other elements, such as history (of brands), geography, or other ideas. There, where the dollar flows, there is not much room for real flowers, to put it into clear words.

I feel, on the other hand, that this trend is nourished by an unease with the often uninspired, unsensual “eau’s” and that perfume lovers are in search of the real thing, again. I hope that the future will also see more sustainably produced natural raw materials, on both levels: produced with limited impact on the environment and with a positive impact on economical situation of the people producing them.

Lately I’ve been studying the sales numbers of the perfume industry in 2013 and earlier years and it showed that citrus/cologne scents have the lowest share in the total quota. Do people underestimate colognes, or find them too simple, light?

Maybe! To be honest: I do not know. I tend not to read and think about these statistics.  The other day I was in a duty-free shop and learned that Chanel’s Bleu is still the number one selling scent there. So there you go! Draw your own consequences based on this number.

I hear from sales channels that the consumer is a complex being. On one hand, modern consumers expect perfumes to last for hours and hours. Perfumes, created 100 or 70 years ago worked differently. On the other hand, modern consumers wish summer scents to be light and airy. And yet, I was also told that the client of niche and designer fragrance demands “value for his buck”, meaning: Scents that are present and somewhat dominant.

And then, adding to the confusion, there are “colognes” on the market that aren’t really colognes. A cologne is a fragrance that is low concentrated (think 3-4%), that is not made to last for hours and that has the purpose of refreshing you and enchanting you in the moment, and maybe the next 30 minutes. So there you go: A couple of parameters that play a role when it comes to colognes and their selling power. But to be honest: If there is one rule for a particular fragrance then there is the rule that you do not know how it will do on the shelves. Thus, I do not worry, at all, about the question how a scent will do, saleswise.

But yes, I think Colognes are under appreciated.

What is the story behind the name “Cologne du Maghreb”?

When I started working on the cologne, I started with the idea of creating a classical cologne with a twist. I wanted to bring in elements, notes, that are special. A twist in the basenotes of the cologne. I decided to go with a theme that links the classical western cologne with hints of oriental notes, such as cistus (cistus ladaniferus extracts, I used ambrein and cistus oil), vetiver from Java and cedarwood from the High Atlas. I was thinking of it as a mariage of two worlds. What would be closer than the “Maghreb”, this region in the north-west of Africa, bridging since ancient times the orient and the occident? Thus, I decided to call it Cologne du Maghreb.

I think I said once “I wanted to point out that the lands of the orient sun bring us more tones than just oudh and dark woods.”

Could you reveal a little bit about Cologne du Maghreb creating process? What did you enjoy most about composing it? How long did it take from the idea to the final product?

The starting point for me was neroli, the steam distilled essential oil from orange blossom. I do not know whether you have ever smelled it in its pure form: It is heaven on earth, expensive to use, but worth every drop. In the heart of every real, good cologne is neroli oil. I love neroli oil, and one fine day -as it can happen- I was smelling neroli and said to myself “I want to have a cologne!”. Being a creator of fragrances, this is my privilege: If I want a fragrance, I can get it , sooner or later….

When starting composing, I was starting with the central theme of every “real” cologne: Citrus with herbs. The citrus chord turned out to become pretty complex. Instead of chord, I might rather say: blast! Lemon, Bergamot being central, but other citrus notes add more sparkles to the blast: Clementine, grapefruit, mandarine oil, litsea, and petit grain, although petit grain, being the extract from citrus leaves, actually is already leading over the neroli theme, that I supported with orange blossom absolute. The other central theme in a cologne: The herbaceous contrast to the citrus. Here, I was experimenting with a couple of extracts. Camomille did not work, lavender did, of course, rosemary, too. The biggest hurdle for me was to bring in the woody notes in a harmonious way, the ambra notes from cistus, and balancing them inside the cologne, making sure that they are not a separate entity, but that they are harmoniously introduced and fit. Therefore, I added clary sage in the head notes. Clary introduces the balsamic and woody notes, and I added a delicate rose bouquet to the cologne heart. Rose oil and rose absolute, whereby the absolute softens the construction and the rose oil adds a spicy, metallic, airy twist, lifting the ground of the cologne that would otherwise, after the citrus blast, be too dark and muggy. And it goes perfectly with the sweet balsamic cedarwood.

Finally, for the woody part inside the cologne, I faced no big issues. I knew that I wanted cedarwood in there and the cistus and vetiver extracts were a “logical” choice for me. Having said all this: I do not want to give you a wrong idea. What you read above is the interpretation of what happened more or less intuitively. It is a rationalization of a process that is highly irrational.

What does the future hold for you and your brand? What are your plans and dreams?

I do not know what the future holds, Lucas. But I have my ideas and work on them. A couple of fragrances wait in my pipeline. As folks say in the orient: Insha’Allah, I will bring PHI -une rose de Kandahar back late 2014. I want to launch the first scent from my series “Sotto la Luna”, beautiful flowers under the moon. My first one is a gardenia, blooming under a bright moon, and it should be coming in September. I want to see Hyacinth and Tuberose following in this series in 2015 and 2016. I really want to offer my perfume loving friends exceptional scents in a nice packaging for a reasonable price: With the new rectangular metal box and a nice cardboard around it, the bakelite top, great labels, and a few more details I have really reached a point where I do so. Thus, I am moving on and plan to bring more colognes in 2015: But then in my pentagonal flacon. I really love the pentagonal flacon, but I appreciate the rectangular flacon, too. It Is almost symbolic for my roots.

It was a real pleasure for me to chat with Andy for the last 2-3 weeks and to hear all these awesome, super detailed answers he provided. Isn’t he a really honest and direct person? Thank you Andy for the chance to get to know you a little better. Dear readers, keep your eyes open for the review of Cologne du Maghreb and for a draw – all will happen this week!

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30 thoughts on “Interview – Andy Tauer of Tauer Perfumes

  1. What a wonderful interview with the man who has to be the most approachable and friendly indie perfumer in the world! You can see from this interview the breadth of his expertise and knowledge and well…what can I say? I’ll always be a Tauer fan.

    • lucasai says:

      It’s very easy to talk to Andy and his answers are always very honest, he doesn’t colorize things, just describes them exactly how they are.

      Glad you like Tauer perfumes so much and that you enjoyed the interview 🙂

  2. Great interview Lucas…I love Andy’s candor and I can’t wait for the release of Sotto la Luna…beautiful flowers under the moon sounds like my kind of perfume… Yummy!!!

  3. Holly says:

    Absolutely awesome interview, Lucas … I’m squealing with delight! I truly appreciate Andy for his thoughtful replies, and even more so you for your insightful questions. I’m sure this process has been a very special experience for you and a profoundly meaningful inspiration for what you aspire to in your own life and career.

    • lucasai says:

      Squeee! Thank you. Happy you enjoy it.
      You like the inquiring-mind style of question I asked? Good.
      It was a lot of fun to exchange emails with Andy for a couple of weeks to develop this interview.

  4. hajusuuri says:

    Wonderful interview, Lucas! Andy is such a fascinating perfume personality…self-taught (if I am not mistaken) and was able to make his eponymous brand a force to contend with on the strength of the quality of his work/passion. I get my fill of his creative thought process through his blog which I read in marathon spurts. I look forward to the Cologne du Maghreb re-issue as well as the launch of Sotto la Luna; I’m happy it is based on gardenia!

    • lucasai says:

      Thank you my dear scent twin!
      Yes, Andy is a self-taught perfumer.
      A lot of people admire him but there are also many who highlight his lack of official perfumer training. Kind of like a double-edged sword.

      You like his perfume, I know, is PHI your favourite?

      Be sure to jump in for a special draw later this week!

  5. jilliecat says:

    A thoroughly enjoyable and informative read, Lucas. He seems to be such a thoughtful man and a true talent. He is also honest, which is rare. Thank you for giving this insight.

  6. Mary K says:

    How wonderful that you have interviewed Andy Tauer and provided all of us with the interesting details! I like all of his creations and it was fun reading about Cologne du Maghreb, which I must sample. Sounds like he has plans for many other good perfumes in the coming months/years, too. I am sure you really enjoyed talking to Andy,

    • lucasai says:

      All those positive reaction for the interview make me really happy 🙂
      Cologne du Maghreb is fab. Maybe it doesn’t last very long time but it provides the refreshment and a moment of fun, just as Andy wished it to be 😀

      Sotto la Luna project seems to mean a lot to Andy, he’ll provide many beautiful flowers in this series I think.

  7. aimtx says:

    What a treat – thanks for that lovely interview. And oh, I CANNOT WAIT to smell his gardenia.

  8. rickyrebarco says:

    Wonderful interview. Lucas! That was great the way he described the neroli essence as the impetus behind the idea for Cologne du Maghreb. This is the only Tauer fragrance I have not tried so I look for ward to trying it. Thank you, Lucas for sharing this wonderful conversation with Andy with all of us!

    • lucasai says:

      Thank you!
      Andy totally made me want to smell a pure neroli oil. I didn’t try a few more of them…
      I’m sure you’ll enjoy Cologne du Maghreb. It’s easy to love.

  9. shellyw says:

    What a long interview, really great to get so much info

  10. SallyM says:

    This was an interesting and inspiring interview with one of the most honest and forthright gentlemen in the fragrance industry. I have never seen anything but positive feedback about Andy from those who have had the pleasure of talking with him. Knowledgeable, enthusiastic and candid – your excellent questions highlighted all of those aspects. I particularly liked his response to your question about IFRA/EU regulations.

    • lucasai says:

      Yes, Andy truly is a person that I think is impossible not to like. His attute make people like him and his creations.
      I liked that IFRA question too, and the answer Andy provided.

  11. Undina says:

    Lucas, I enjoyed reading the interview – thank you both: you – for asking interesting questions and Andy for explaining different aspects of the perfume making.
    I still wish there was a brand who could afford to say: “Screw IFRA, I’ll make the perfumes how I envision them and sell where IFRA doesn’t have a say” – but I understand that it’s a dream.

    • lucasai says:

      Thank you Undina! Glad you liked the questions and the answers provided by Andy.
      The world without IFRA is kind of a dream. I wonder if “home perfumers” (for example those selling at etsy) do stick to all regulations…

  12. Ania says:

    Such an interesting interview! I always admire people who make turns in career to follow their dreams. I got interested in Andy’s creations after learning that he’s a molecular biologist, as me 🙂 and I became a ‘rose convert’ trying few of his rose-based fragrances. Andy runs such an ‘user friendly’ company. Other especially friendly brand is Atelier Cologne.

    • lucasai says:

      Thank you!! Yes, Andy wasn’t afraid to change his career 180 degrees and I think it paid off. He’s such a lovable person and his own blog allow you to be even closer to his brand.
      You don’t have to tell me about Atelier Cologne, I love them 😉

  13. Laurels says:

    Very interesting interview! I’m looking forward to finally trying some of the legendary Tauer perfumes soon.

  14. Thank you for sharing this interview with us, it’s such a compelling read! It’s fascinating to read Andy’s explanation of the process he went through to compose the cologne. I know he says it was all intuitive for him, but I’m glad he rationalized it for the rest of us. It’s so cool to get a peek into the creative process like that. And now I’ll have to seek out Cologne du Maghreb!

    • lucasai says:

      I’m very happy Andy took the time and efford to describe a bit of how he was creating this fragrance.

      I think Cologne du Maghreb is now, or soon will be available at Tauer e-shop and at luckyscent, Indigo Perfumery and so.

  15. Tara C says:

    Lovely interview! I have had the pleasure to meet Andy in person and he is very kind and gracious. My favourite perfumes from his collection are Incense Extreme, L’Air du Desert Marocain, Une Rose Vermeille, Orange Star and PHI Rose de Kandahar. I am really looking forward to his Sotto la Luna collection!

    • lucasai says:

      I’m sure it’s even more exciting to meed Andy in the flesh. Maybe one of these days I will be lucky 😉
      Phi is also my favourite, and Reverie au Jardin too.

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