French perfumer Henri Robert (1899-1987) was the second chief perfumer at Les Parfums Chanel when in 1952, he took the place of Ernest Beaux, creator of the legendary Chanel No. 5. The career of a perfumer Henri Robert began in 1919 in the Chiris factory in Grasse, where he worked together with famous perfumers, such as Vincent Robert, Ernest Beaux, and Henry Almeras.
His father, Joseph Robert, who was once the chief perfumer in Chiris, was the first to develop a process for extracting fragrances using very volatile solvents that are still used today to obtain essential oils from the flower petals of the rose and lilac. He thus made a revolution, both in the perfume industry and in the production of raw materials.
A few years later, Henri Robert joined the team of Parfums d’Orsay, a perfume house with a long tradition, the oldest edition presented in 1830. Here, in 1923, Robert’s first serious perfume creation, the fragrance Le Dandy, was made. This modern floral aldehyde remained famous for the fact that, although intended for men, it became a perfume icon of many young women of that time.
After the death of the French perfumer and businessman, Francois Coty in 1934, Robert gets the position of chief perfumer at Coty’s house. Two years later (1936), in honor of his mentor, he created Muguet de Bois, a floral perfume for women. He got his inspiration from Coty’s custom of surprising each of his employees with the first May shoots of a lily of the valley from his garden.
After World War II, Robert became part of the French community displaced by the war. He moved to New York, where from 1940 to 1943, he continued to work for Coty, which, after the death of her husband, was run by Ivonne Cotnareanu. Robert took over as chief perfumer at Les Parfums Chanel, in 1952, following the retirement of the creator of the timeless classic: Chanel No. 5, Ernest Beaux. This place is where the masterpieces of this perfumer were created: Chanel’s first men’s fragrance – Pour Monsieur (1955), Chanel No. 19 (1970), and Cristalle EDT (1974).
Pour Monsieur – a perfume that many perfumers will tell you is an eternal classic of “intelligent” composition. This is a refined fragrance intended for elegant and sophisticated men. Top notes of citrus freshness are lemon, verbena, neroli, and orange. The spicy heart is a fresh-sharp combination of cardamom, coriander, basil and ginger. The base is made of oakmoss and cedar, which opens all day and plays a long and beautiful game on the skin. Pour Monsieur is one of the best examples of the perfume style of the ‘family’ known as chypre (the French name for the island of Cyprus) inspired by the scent of Mediterranean herbs and plants, whose composition relies on oakmoss. Since then, there have been countless variations of this perfume, but few have reached its beauty and uniqueness.
The testament of Henri Robert’s artistic talent remains Chanel No. 19. This perfume celebrates August 19, Coco Chanel’s birthday. There is a story that No. 19 was her scent, but that is unlikely because the perfume was composed in 1970, a little less than a year before her death. In any case, this is the last perfume launched by the famous Mademoiselle. Although Chanel 19 is difficult to classify and describe, perfume critics did not spare words of praise when it comes to it. The elegance of number 19 is accentuated by the seductive allure of its seemingly cold demeanor. A few petals of the May rose, caught among the iris roots covered with moss, cause a passionate yearning. The composition is an ideal harmony of vibrant, green notes of galbanum and soft, powdery notes of iris and intoxicating jasmine, while the very base contains vetiver, sandalwood, and leather.
Interestingly, this perfume contains Iranian galbanum, top quality oil that was made just for no 19. When the Iranian revolution broke out in 1979, production was called into question because this oil’s transportation was quite difficult due to the lack of petrol. However, no one in Chanel wanted to change the formula No. 19, so production continued despite many difficulties.
In 1974, two famous perfume masters, Henri Robert and Edmond Roudnitska created eau de toilette for Chanel – Cristalle. The name is quite appropriate because this fragrance’s image is a bright light that resembles the ideal lines of a quartz crystal. The perfume opens with clear green notes of a broad spectrum: from green hot basil to the floral sweetness of petitgrain, followed by lemon and bergamot’s intense scent. The green note of galbanum keeps the bright citrus notes together, prolonging their great melody. The heart of the composition is hyacinth and jasmine. And, while the top notes create the impression of an ice sculpture under intense sun rays, the base notes represent something completely different: oakmoss, with its sweetness, is accentuated by the moist, root-like earthy scent of vetiver. Their classic pairing gives a dark but warm glow to the composition, like a magical flower from ancient myths.
Henri Robert’s famous perfume creations are: