Montreal perfumer evokes the city's smells with new line of scents
At first whiff, the traffic and grime of Montreal's busy downtown may not seem like the best inspiration for a luxurious perfume, but Claude-Andre Hebert begs to differ.
In honour of the city's 375th anniversary, the Montreal-based perfume maker has launched five scents, each inspired by a different area of the city.
One evokes the essence of bustling Ste-Catherine street, while others try to capture the romance of Old Montreal, the grandeur of old churches, or the scent of the grass on Mount Royal.
And how does one capture the scent of a city? Hebert says it starts with a story.
"I always start with a blank page and write a story, and every word that's important in the story is transformed into an ingredient," he said from behind the counter of his St-Denis street boutique.
For the scent inspired by Old Montreal, Hebert said he created a "vintage" perfume with hints of cardamom and cinnamon that brings to mind velvet and lace, the dust of the city streets and the smell of the nearby St-Lawrence river.
The floral-scented "Metropole" incorporates tobacco and hops -- a nod to downtown nightlife -- while the perfume named after Mount Royal includes pine and hints of the incense that wafts over from nearby St-Joseph's Oratory.
Hebert, 47, said he started his own line in 2002 after realizing that most perfume makers focus more on ingredients than on inspiration.
"They talk about the top note, the base note, the patchouli... it's like a recipe" said Hebert, who previously worked for labels that include Aramis and Thierry Mugler. "For me a perfume is much more than that."
Hebert orders his ingredients from a company in Grasse, France.
Once they arrive they are mixed with corn alcohol to create a ratio of 20 per cent raw materials, 80 per cent alcohol and about one per cent water.
He says he eschews chemicals when possible, opting for 95 per cent natural ingredients. The perfumes then sit for about a month before they hit the shelves.
The finished product sells for $185 for 100 ml -- a testament to the cost of the ingredients and the steps involved in the process.
But Canadians don't seem to be put off by the price of what is undeniably a luxury purchase.
Although there are no precise Canadian sales figures, the fragrance industry is estimated to have grown four to five per cent in 2016, according to the Canadian Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association (CCTFA).
So called niche fragrances like the ones Hebert sells -- ones available through a limited number of channels -- are a small but growing category in that market.
Hebert says scents are important because they can help create or trigger memories and give people a little boost when they want to feel sexier or more energized.
"If all your chakras are perfect you probably don't need perfume," he said. "But the perfumes are there if you need a little touch, a little push."