A Rich Tapestry of Olfactory Memories
Carlos’ earliest recollections of his childhood in Tangiers are the smells. The distinctive violet scent of his grandfather’s tobacco that Carlos’ father scented for him in his pharmacy, the pennyroyal essence that lingered on his father’s hands after a day working with medicinal herbs, the odor of the markets where Berber women would come down from the mountains to sell their wares– this rich tapestry of memories from the southern Mediterranean provides a distinctive twist to Carlos Benaim’s approach to perfume.
Carlos’ first perfume explorations came as a chemistry student, when he was sent to train with a chemist at Lautier Fils in Grasse. When he arrived, he found the chemist had gone on holiday. Left to his own devices in the lab, Carlos began to explore its contents, teaching himself the scents of the perfumer’s palette and unlocking a new world of potential.
The Beginnings of a Life’s Passion
It was not until many years later, however, that Carlos began his perfume career in earnest. Chosen for one of six manager-in-training positions from a bevy of over 400 applicants who responded to an IFF ad in Le Monde, Carlos moved to Paris and Amsterdam to explore the worlds of flavors and fragrances. In a whirlwind year that would define his life, Carlos had the freedom to learn the inner-workings of a global enterprise firsthand – creating a best-selling potato chip flavor in the UK one week, and meeting future mentor Ernest Shiftan the next. Shiftan, IFF’s leading perfumer at the time, quickly realized Carlos’ talent for fine fragrance, inviting him to give up the managerial track to study with him in New York and become a perfumer at IFF.
Carlos Benaim is a truly international perfumer. Living in New York today, his life and work have brought him around the world, while his fluency across markets sets him apart as a Senior Perfumer at IFF and winner of the American Society for Perfumers Lifetime Achievement Award. For Carlos, the art of perfume is in the snapshot, a lingering impression left in the air after its wearer has left the room, an “olfactory image” as Carlos calls it. A master perfumer and skilled painter, his meticulous olfactory renderings give presence to not just the wearer of the fragrance but to the perfume itself. Distinctly vibrant, and created with the best materials, Carlos’ scents are both elegant and contemporary.
The Scientific Perfumer
An artist of the refined, Carlos practices a research-based approach to perfume. He weaves together the intangibility of color and emotion into his creations, which he balances with a deep understanding of the scientific aspects of scent experience. Influenced by the work of his colleague and friend, the late Dr. Braja Mookherjee, Carlos utilizes the air as a fragrant canvas on which to touch his consumer. “My perception of perfumery is colored by science. Not the science applied to creation, but rather how fragrance behaves on the skin, how diffusion works.” Working in four-dimensions, Carlos is an architect of the conceptual. Balancing his own vision for the client with a deep passion for the art of it all, Carlos’ work is best considered in its own wake – the silage of diffused perfume.
After 40 years in the industry, Carlos has an impressive list of creations/collaborations to his name, from the classic Polo and Polo Blue for Ralph Lauren and the evocative Flowerbomb for Viktor and Rolf and Calvin Klein Euphoria, to Bulgari’s intoxicating Jasmin Noir and Giorgio Armani’s Code Donna. Carlos’ inspiration comes from his scientific process of discovery and his exploration of colorful scents. A perfumer of substance, a painter of beauty, and a man of the world – Carlos’ legacy is alive in the fragrant air of today. Recently Carlos Benaim was designated as Master Perfumer. This designation at IFF recognizes perfumers who have consistently challenged themselves and the company to take perfumery to the next level; they are paradigm shifters who have developed trendsetting fragrances; and they are individuals who also have demonstrated leadership within the company. This is the first such designation of a Master Perfumer at IFF and it acknowledges the cumulative performance and leadership demonstrated by Carlos over the course of his 45-year career with IFF.
(Bio provided by IFF)
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Carlos Benaim is the author of LiquidNight.