Fragrances & Memories, with Julien Pruvost, Creative Director of Cire Trudon
“Memories are often triggered by smells,” explains Julien Pruvost, the Creative Director of Cire Trudon and Maison Trudon Parfums. It’s a scientific fact that our sense of smell has the ability to offer us the best recall, transporting us back in time to specific moments, memories, places, and people.
As the Creative Director, Julian currently works with a lineup of fragrances that go back to Cire Trudon’s classic scents, the long-standing French candle-maker founded in 1643. There’s an exceptionally extensive creative process that goes into making each Cire Trudon candle, as the brand holds a beautiful history. Cire Trudon famously made candles and fragrances for many celebrities and historical figures, such as the royal court of Louis XIV. This winter, Cire Trudon released two new fragrances. We chatted with Julien to hear more about the new scents, his inspiration behind the candle-making process, the history of Cire Trudon, and some of his personal scent memories.
22H: There’s such an art that goes into candle making. Are Cire Trudon candles still made exactly the same way as they were first made decades ago?
JP: Scented candles represented a very small portion of production during the Royal Wax Manufacture years ago. Today, they represent the vast majority of candle-making. There are no historical documents on the manufacturing of scented candles—there’s only a small amount of written proof of their existence. Today, manufacturing is a complex process that includes both technology and highly qualified craftsmanship.
22H: Tell us about the process that goes into making a Cire Trudon candle.
JP: We collaborate with renowned perfumers to create elaborate scents based on specific fragrance briefs. We test all new fragrances in our lab to control the throw and burn quality, as each fragrance will influence differently the burn. Previously a wax formula was made, and we work with the same formula throughout the classic line of Cire Trudon. The two influential parameters that change are the fragrance and the wick type. Some fragrances hinder the burn, while others entice the burn so you have to adapt accordingly. There are 15 elements in a single Cire Trudon candle. We have more than 40 direct and indirect quality control points for each candle, from the reception of the components to the final product. Candles are poured in rows and automatically wicked, but the wicks are hand centered and cut. They are entirely packaged by hand. Mechanization is important to guarantee a certain level of standardization and quality. Everything that is done by hand is done that way because no machine has been able to surpass that level of competence.
22H: Cire Trudon has an exceptional history. Do the longstanding traditions inspire the candle’s all-natural ingredients?
JP: Cire Trudon seeks and attracts the best perfumers and artisans who understand the brand's heritage with the passion to uphold the artistry of scented candles. There is no such thing as a candle manufacturing school. We have built our own know-how through our own experience.
22H: What’s the inspiration behind some of CT’s most well-loved fragrances?
JP: Royalty, religion, and a sense of revolution. In the case of religion, it is purely inspirational.
22H: Which are the most popular candles of the group?
JP: Cyrnos, Ernesto, and Abd el Kader.
Cyrnos: Its aromatic citrus garden, the sunny Cyrnos villa, welcomed the flamboyant upper crust of early-20th century high society. Queens, poets and artists met in the shade of fig trees and parasol pines. They enjoyed a fabulous view, and the easy life so typical of the blue Mediterranean shores. The villa benefited from Roquebrune’s air of scented lavender mixed with the dry aromas of Provence.
Ernesto: In a hotel of Havana, under the fixed sun of the Revolution, the fierce and partisan overtones of leather and tobacco meddled with the paneling’s waxen silence. In the cool dimness, fawn grimaces shimmered along with the smoke of cigars and the barrels of guns.
Abd el Kader: It’s a gust of freedom blowing from the Mascara coast and the mountains that picks up on its way the green scents of fresh mint, the rashness of fights, ginger’s hot and peppered air and the perfume of tea and tobacco from the Ouled Nail tribe.
22H: What is the process behind making these scents & what inspires each fragrance?
JP: It varies precisely according to our different lines. In the case of our classic candle line, we conduct historical research and work in regards to different historical characters, places, and even times. We then provide our perfumers with all of the thorough information that they can use to select from and become highly inspired by.
22H: What do you love most about making candles and fragrances?
JP: For me, I love finding a language that a perfumer can understand. A non-perfumer is roughly an ignorant in comparison. It’s so important to find a language that both you and the perfumer can understand, in order to properly communicate.
22H: What’s the most difficult part of the job?
JP: The most difficult part is probably finding exactly that language and being able to reinvent and communicate through it.
22H: Scent is often inspired by memory. What’s your first scent memory?
JP: My first scent memory is from the first time I went to my grandparents’ home in the South of France. There was one particular moment that’s still quite vivid. I can smell their kitchen and a cupboard there that still has a sort of rancid yet sweet smell to it. For me, it kind of captures all the various food smells over the years. It’s made of wood, which is why it holds and keeps scents so well. It’s kind of an off smell, but one that you grow to like and continue to go back to. Usually, when I’m there, the windows are open because it’s so freakishly hot. Sometimes you can even smell the pine-tree sap from outdoors. It’s not your Christmas tree type of pine; it’s a Mediterranean pine which smells different. Because it’s so warm, they smell strong and the scents mix all together to create a particular combo of my grandparents’ cupboard and the warm Mediterranean air.
22H: You’ve said before that emotions all encapsulate fragrances. What do you think happiness and joy smells like?
JP: Warm seawater.
22H: What about love and desire?
JP: My wife is immediately the image that comes to my brain, but how do I possibly explain why it is so immediate? I’m sure you know scent is the only sensation that’s directly related to the brain. It doesn’t travel through our nervous system. It’s fast—scent was meant for survival.
22H: What’s the fragrance of friendship?
JP: Something warm and toasty. One smell I really love is a sun-baked basketball court. The court I used to play on in Paris still exists, and I still go there every now and then. These courts are not made out of cement or asphalt. They’re made of this rubbery surface that’s almost like tires. When it heats up in the summer, something fragrant comes out of it that’s quite interesting. It’s almost like a warm wet-suit smell. Another friendship smell is anything that comes fresh out of the oven, like a warm pizza.
22H: What about heartbreak and sadness?
JP: To me, it actually smells and tastes like a bad acid taste in your mouth. It also smells like a combo of things coming up from the wrong place, perhaps like a hospital.
22H: And regret or lost longing?
JP: It’s something you missed out on, so you’ll never actually discover that scent. It’s something you were chasing after, and you weren’t able to capture it. It’s a missing link. Basically, regret is not too far from heartbreak; it’s disappointment. It’s not as brutal, but if it keeps on lingering in your mind or life, it can be damaging. But still, I’m not sure that it’s an entirely negative thing to have a sense of regret. Maybe it’s a waiting opportunity, but what exactly does that smell like?
22H: What smells do you use in your own home?
JP: Definitely Tadine, Salta, and Positano.
Tadine: In 1840 when Englishman Edward Foxhall discovered sandalwood on the Isle of Pines in New-Caledonia, it was unknown in Europe. By the end of the 19th Century, the noble spiced wood had quite a pedigree and was named ‘candana’ in Sanskrit, or ‘sandal’ in Arabic. It was used as a precious ointment for the hair and body. As a remedy against anxiety, it still billows today, seamlessly embedded into the smoke of Asian incense.
Salta: Considered by the Chinese as one of the three holy fruits with peach and lemon, the grapefruit was a symbol of prosperity and fertility. Also highly prized by the Greeks and the Romans, the hesperide has a crisp freshness and is known for its rich terroir and unique soil. The Salta region enhances the citrus’ intensity. Blended with verbena and hyacinth, the grapefruit fragrance is aromatic.
Positano: Perched above the Amalfi coast, the small village of Positano shines brightly under the Italian sun. White flowers bloom and gardenia, orange blossom, jasmine, magnolia, tuberose and lily combine in a delicate melody. This special edition candle was inspired by the particular love of the scents of picturesque Positano.
22H: If you could choose one smell to have forever, what would it be?
JP: I’m going to cheat and pick two because I have two hands. On the left hand, I’m going to have eucalyptus, and on my right hand, I’ll carry cypress balls. My grandmother used to make eucalyptus seed necklaces for me as a kid because there was a massive tree above our place, and my grandfather planted cypress next to the house, too. Also, I would like to be able to wear Révolution by Trudon in thirty or even fifty years from now.
22H: Are there any new fragrances in the lineup that are going to be released soon? What’s next to come?
JP: Yes, but it’s still too early to talk about them!