Renowned perfumer Aurélien Guichard talks about realising Hero—Riccardo Tisci’s first men’s fragrance for Burberry—and the intention of blending three different cedarwoods into one.
Esquire: How was the theme of Hero conceptualised? Did you work alongside Riccardo Tisci to come up with this vision?
Aurélien Guichard: As a perfumer, I start a project when there’s a brief. I obtained that at the beginning without formally meeting Tisci but it was a brief from him. Submissions followed after and Tisci picked those that he liked the best. That’s how I knew that I got picked. As we moved forward, I kept on working on the fragrance while Tisci smelled and made modifications to it. Eventually, he picked my fragrance—which was a dream come true.
ESQ: What made you pair a woody scent with bergamot to best convey the essence of Hero?
Guichard: I wanted to create a fragrance that was, to me, translating the textures when wearing a garment like a trench coat. I also pictured someone for this fragrance. And it was Tisci. Not limited to his work, but also the way he is as a man to me. I always had, in my mind, a way to translate texture with cedarwood and write a formula that reflected Tisci’s personality as someone who goes forward and is physically strong. There’s both strength and softness at the same time.
I decided to represent this theme with cedarwood. Hence, I created an ingredient made out of three different cedars. I wanted to bring freshness with some British elements into the fragrance. There’s juniper because it reminds me of gin. It’s a beautiful ingredient because it’s spicy, fresh, bright and also a bit woody. The thing with Hero is that it smells woody right from the top, middle to bottom. The intention was to have a kind of simplicity but with beautiful ingredients. Even when you look at the bottle design, there’s something stable and steady about it.
ESQ: It does look and feel grounded. The key highlight, as you mentioned, is the fusion and layering of three different cedarwoods. Have you employed this process before?
Guichard: The work of a perfumer sometimes sublimates nature and uses what nature gives [to them]. The reason why I chose to do this is that the symbol behind cedarwood was obvious for this project: power, freedom and strength. But I wanted to create an almost perfect cedarwood. I combined the three different cedarwood oils because they have different olfactive profiles; they have molecules in common but also different ones. Atlas cedarwood oil is soft and emery while the one from Virginia in America is dry and vibrant. So [there’s] this impression of going forward and rising.
Finally, a cedarwood from the Himalayas; this one is more animalic deep dark that brings a different dimension to my cedar. This process is interesting because it took me almost about 100 modifications, just to combine three cedarwoods to obtain the right balance.
ESQ: Which ingredient was a surprise or a unique discovery for you when making Hero?
Guichard: I would say the discovery of this ‘perfect cedar’. The fact that with three different cedars you create a new one. That was a challenge I never did before. Tisci liked this kind of textured, masculine olfactive impression. The fact that I combined and united cedarwoods from Asia, Africa and America to create something was, at least, inspiring to me.
ESQ: What keeps you motivated and constantly innovative in creating this new cedar from three individual cedars?
Guichard: Creating is like playing. I don’t create perfume thinking I want to be innovative. Because each time I start a new collaboration, it feels like a dream come true. Working with Riccardo Tisci was a dream come true. It was the first time I came up with something that I feel will reflect the brand I worked for because I truly believe a perfumer’s work is at the service of a couturier and the fashion house. I try to do things differently each time, and yeah, so I would say it’s a lot about the collaboration with the people I work with. That’s what keeps me going.
ESQ: Which characteristics of Hero do you identify with?
Guichard: I would say the cedarwood oil from Atlas has the characteristic of a hero who cares about nature. It’s a real trait that a modern hero cares for nature and the environment. Also, Virginia cedarwood oil is about strength and comfort that you want to see in the inner hero—reassuring but strong at the same time. And juniper reflects the British heritage of Hero.
ESQ: How can we use Hero’s versatility to showcase an individual’s personality upon applying it?
Guichard: If someone doesn’t have any personality, it’s not the fragrance that’ll give him one. It’s like clothing. It becomes ‘alive’ when you wear it. Burberry Hero has three main aspects [and] I think [there’s] something very universal about it. Because it’s a woody fresh fragrance, it’s very masculine. But it’s unique not just by the scent; it’s unique because when it’s warm it leaves a special trail, a special sillage, a special texture. It will reflect feel-good confidence that is important when you wear a fragrance.
Burberry Hero is now available at all Burberry boutiques and select retailers.