Interviews Gunpowder and Flowers: Spyros Drosopoulos of Baruti Perfumes, Part 2 of 2

Gunpowder and Flowers: Spyros Drosopoulos of Baruti Perfumes, Part 2 of 2

05/30/16 11:09:30 (2 comments)

by: John Biebel

We began a discussion with Spyros Drosopoulos of Baruti Perfumes in Part 1 of Gunpowder and Flowers. The story continues as Spyros and I talked about the way he moved from his initial perfume venture Magnetic Scents into his latest one, Baruti.

As he has changed circumstances, such as ending his first perfume company and starting another, so have the scents themselves evolved, or were reborn with new names to reflect their new settings. The perfume Berlin Im Winter, for instance, shares some genetics with Indigo (like perfumed relations).  He says of Indigo, “It is the color in the spectrum closest to ultraviolet, and nearly imperceptible. When you look at it, it is very, very dark, saturated. Almost black,” and yet when light is added to it, it becomes almost a periwinkle blue. This wide expandability of space from darkness to light reflects the huge range of moods in the perfume. It’s cool (mastic), warm (olibanum and amber), flowery (hyacinth). It’s a distinct scent that refers to the varying shades of color from the sky, but seems most about the paradoxes of temperature. Berlin im Winter pushed some of the ideas of Indigo further along, into a deeper space, a more voluptuous one, with fruits like plumb and cassis. Although sharing a common ancestor, it’s like the perfume’s uncle, so he’s a distinct individual unto himself. This is a boozier, darker affair, deeper into the brandy glass and sweeter, perhaps more contemplative.

Berlin im Winter: the skeleton is the same. The stars are lavender and cassia with coffee and tonka,” and here Spyros gets up to take out one in a series of fascinating samples of molecules to smell. He explains the unusual pairing of coffee with cassia, the often razor-thin line between the loveliness of cassia and other people’s perception of “cat pee,” the wonders of lactones, particularly those from whiskey, which have a particularly lovely quality. The smelling is an amazing adventure with Spyros, and you feel that you’re right there with him in the middle of the chemistry. A discussion about the relative merits of different cedar oils continued for a long while. He brings out a beautiful oil of incense, and an oil of cannabis, which we both agree smells a bit like fish cooking.

With NOOUD, he had a very distinct idea. “Earlier on I was thinking how much I really wanted to smell oud.” He’d been using oud blends in his work, or oud reconstructions, but as is the case with most of Spyros’ work, he says “I want to know what I’m cooking. One of the problems of working with pre-blended ingredients is that you don’t really know what you’re getting inside there.” So he began experimenting with his own oud blend or reconstruction. It was when he was absently looking at some empty bottles on his desk that the word play came together. “I was actually thinking of adding some real oud to this perfume, but then, I began thinking of skin, skin scents, nude, and then I thought ‘there’s something interesting here…’.” And from a “no oud” blend came NOOUD. It is a remarkable perfume for its realistic imitation of the precious wood. He makes a fascinating study of it, and yet it holds itself as a full perfume in its own right, with sweet and creamy quality unmatched in some of the harsher oud perfumes on the market. NOOUD remains Baruti’s bestselling fragrance.

Since we’re speaking of oud, and precious materials, I ask what his thoughts are about materials in this world battling between naturals and synthetics. Specifically, what are we to think when faced with the problem of overharvested plant materials?

He takes out a sample of Firmenich’s Clearwood, a remarkable molecule that smells almost exactly like a light patchouli. However, it’s actually a natural product created through a process of bio-reactions from bacteria on sugars, an idea first mentioned in the popular press around 2012, such as in this Wired magazine article. But Spyros keeps himself aware of the general scent-sourcing climate. “Two or three years ago, sandalwood was scarce; it’d been overharvested in India, and now it’s finally coming back to sustainable models for growth. Most sandalwood that you buy now will probably come from Africa or Australia. But when I buy any ingredients, I buy small, and just enough for what I need.”

Spyros loves material, and it’s in this love of material that he made a decision to outsource some of his production. “I produce everything in my perfumes up until you add the alcohol. I outsource the filling. I used to do this myself, do everything myself, but then I’d see tiny bits of this or that floating in the perfume, and I decided I’d not want to do it this way, if it was just slightly cloudy, and then I’d be working on doing this, the bottling, all day. The problem of course is that you have to then rely on others to get this done,” but we agreed that sometimes it’s better to outsource and let others take care of certain things.

“I love producing the concentrate of the perfume, this is what excites me. I can’t ever imagine outsourcing this part of the job. As for making the perfume, it can stay here – so the raw notes, the rose oil, different tinctures or elements, quality, I’ve made the creation and I approve of it. I don’t think it has to be this romantic idea of doing every single thing ‘in house’, when some things can easily be done outside, and probably done better that way.”

He goes on to explain how he’d employed standard filtering techniques before, but pantomiming the kind of awkwardness involved. “You see, I’d be holding up a large container like this,” he has a huge aluminum canister cradled in his arms, straining to pour it diligently into a small glass, “trying to get filtering done this way is just too complicated, and I was frustrated that I might spill something!”

Tindrer, the perfume that was such a draw for Fragrantica writers recently, is indeed a curious perfume. Such a bright scent of grass! This is a green, bracing, tingling perfume with a sublime sparkle. It flies in the face of overly serious, stuffy, cloaked and mysterious niche offerings. This is sunshine and flowers in a bottle, unisex in its appeal, delightfully unlike anything I’ve smelled before.  It also features a facet of perfuming that is a particular skill and fascination for Spyros, and that is the reconstruction of flowers. In this case, he made a reconstruction of violet.

“I took a long course on perfuming, and one of the things we had to do was reconstructing flowers. The violet was one of the first ones I did,” and he took down a large container of his violet. Spyros was dismissive, saying it wasn’t particularly fresh, but the dab of oil sample on the blotter paper was a beautiful, crisp, young violet. He explains his inspiration for Tindrer, the first perfume recently reborn as a Baruti scent:

“I was listening to a song with this name, it’s performed by a Danish band called Under Byen. And the sounds of the percussion in particular, it is soft, then crisp. Soft, and crisp. It’s the feeling of rain. It becomes very visual for me, it’s like a storm, that comes in and out, the rain coming in and out.” He puts on the music and the delicate melody seems to climb over the drums, which are almost scraped or brushed in a methodical sweep. It has a lullaby quality, much like the perfume, and very much like a dream.

Music has a special connection for Spyros, as he has played in bands and is a percussionist himself. Musicians make for particular kinds of perfumers, those with a sense of staccato, vibrato, piano: all the nuances of the musical moods that instruct the sound generator. But beyond such romantic comparisons, Spyros is an utterly open book about his work. In his words, “It is all out in the open. What you see here, what you see in the lab – this is what I do. This is what I use, what I’m working on. It’s all part of what I do. There are no secrets here, anyone can come and look.” And you can feel his earnestness – As we take photos about the room, nothing is hidden away. He only makes sure to put a photo of his lovely daughter on the screen of his computer.

As for future plans, Tindrer will be officially released within the next week or two of the publishing of this article. He’s also working on a perfume that evolves around the idea of the “Queen of Hearts”, and would have a “vintage lipstick quality,” but at any given time, he has 10-15 different perfumes in “the pipeline.”

“One problem with niche perfumes today, the perfume houses try to be as versatile as possible. This is important, but not to the point of appealing to genres and sub-genres. I do try to make different scents. But I’m not particularly interested in establishing my ‘signature’ in scent right now, but trying to expand my palette as much as possible. At the same time, perfumes should really be wearable.”

As I realize that I’ve taken up most of an entire afternoon from Spyros, I begin to gather my things to leave. I’m about to fly back to the US the next day. We’re talking about the creative process generally, and how some things can manage to work out in the right way for us, though it may not be obvious at the very beginning. “Some projects move faster than others,” he says, “and some just can’t be ready immediately” as we wait for other things to fall into place. Regarding certain set backs he’s experienced, he says that there are unexpected benefits – or, extra time “helps to make for better ideas.” No evil without good.

Baruti perfumes are available at Indiescents, the Baruti website, and shops worldwide.

Read Part 1 (link back) of the interview.

 


John Biebel
Writer
John Biebel (johngreenink) is a painter, musician, writer and software designer currently living and working in Boston, MA. He is a graduate of the Cooper Union in New York City where he studied fine art, and he currently works as a software and web interaction designer specializing in human factors. He is a student of the scent sciences and takes particular interest in the history and chemistry of perfumes, and created his first perfume in 2015 under the name January Scent Project.

[email protected]

 

 



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Angela Agiannidou
Angela Agiannidou

I have set my sights on the Baruti line for some time now thanks to the the amazing notes combined. I like Spyros Drosopoulos's involvement at all stages with his creations and his vast knowledge. I would love to own NOOUD.

May
30
2016
chayaruchama
chayaruchama

Janusz, I've enjoyed this interview with Spyros!
What a pleasure.

May
30
2016

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