Skip to main content

EXCLUSIVE: Sound Sampling for Fragrance Set to Launch

A sound sample was created to evoke the same sensations and emotions as Viktor & Rolf’s Spicebomb Infrared scent.

PARIS — An innovative new fragrance sampling technique, using sound instead of scent, is poised to launch on Oct. 4.

Executives from Viktor & Rolf Fragrances and fragrance and flavor supplier IFF grappled with how best to enable people to sample perfume without physically sniffing it, as the introduction of the men’s scent Spicebomb Infrared was being readied during the coronavirus crisis.

It’s a challenge all perfume-makers and sellers have been facing, even pre-pandemic. Fragrance is not photogenic like makeup and skin care are online, and it is more difficult to explain to consumers.

Viktor & Rolf Fragrance executives met with those from IFF to come up with the “spiciest, most seductive, hottest Spicebomb,” said Guillaume de Lesquen, global president, international designer brand fragrances at L’Oréal, V&R’s fragrance and beauty licensee.

Related Galleries

Then the health crisis hit. “We said, ‘If all the sales are shifting to digital and the perfumeries are closed, how are we going to make people smell and feel [Infrared]?’” de Lesquen said. “When the idea is to create the scent that turns up the heat, you have a big problem.”

You May Also Like

By chance, he and colleagues met with IRCAM Amplify, a subsidiary of the Institute for Research and Coordination Acoustics/Music, or IRCAM.

They decided to work together, and de Lesquen said the objective was “to create a sound that brings the same emotions and sensations as the fragrance, [then] to prove it scientifically.”

The first step for perfumer Jean-Christophe Herault, who co-developed Infrared with Carlos Benaïm, was to create a common langue to make the connection between olfactive sensations and emotions and sound sensations and emotions.

Herault told IRCAM Amplify sound designer Romain Barthélémy what he had in mind in creating the fragrance — the scent’s notes, including the hottest pimento, plus a woody accord. After three months, the sound they had crafted was inspired by elements such as a person’s breath and heartbeat, and incandescent fire.

“It was super interesting,” said Herault, emphasizing that the resulting sound is not an acoustic illustration of the feeling Infrared brings on.

IRCAM’s methodology to test sound’s effects includes the likes of words, imagery and measurement tools, according to Barthélémy.

“Sound is so universal, like smell is so universal,” de Lesquen said.

“It’s a revolution, because this is based on science, on data,” said Christophe Villeplée, president of IFF’s scent division, of the audible sample.

He explained that for the project, IFF brings its long-culled data about fragrance-related emotions, while IRCAM Amplify contributes its data regarding sound.

“It’s really moving [emotion through fragrance] to the next level,” Villeplée said. “It opens so many new fields — so many new ways of creating, going further into the emotional [realm] and closer to the consumer.”

“We move from sensation to ‘soundsation,’” explained de Lesquen. “We have something that breaks the barrier of smell online.

“Hearing is the new smelling,” he continued, adding V&R designers Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren are keen on the sample’s originality.

“They love to be innovative in terms of textures, shapes, presentations — they’re very disruptive in the way they do fashion. This is a very disruptive approach to fragrances. Second, they love the fact this approach is very universal; the language of sounds is the universal language,” de Lesquen said.

The new Infrared audio sample will go live on Viktor & Rolf social media channels on Oct. 4. Infrared, the fragrance, was launched in June.


IFF Names New Scent Division President

Makeup, Fragrance Brands Drive Sampling Evolution

How Beauty Sampling Will Change After the Coronavirus