How do you create a fragrance brief?

How do you create a fragrance brief?

At Thomas Clipper we believe in radical transparency. That means pulling back the curtains and letting you in to the secret world of fragrance, scent and what it takes to bring an aftershave to life.

In this new blog post series, we talk you through the process of how we've developed our fifth cologne: Atlantic. There's also an accompanying podcast you can check out whilst exercising, chillaxing or trying to ignore the kids in the house.

 Atlantic floating island

Why do we care about scent?

Let’s start at the beginning.

The first single celled organisms didn’t have eyes or ears. But they were able to sense changes in the chemicals in their environment so they could find food and avoid predators. This, in a nutshell, is what smelling is: though some magic that we only barely understand, we’re all able to pick up tiny chemical changes in the air.

If that sounds amazing, well, it is. The source of the word 'inspire' (Latin, obvs) literally means ‘breathe in'. Some of the earliest religious rites involved burning scented herbs, spices and barks - indeed perfume means ‘through the smoke’ and comes from this root.

At a physiological level, scent is unique. It’s the only sense to connect directly to the limbic system in the brain. The limbic system shapes mood, memory, behaviour and emotion.

All our other senses are pre-processed before arriving, but not scent. It goes in like a firehose, often leaving us in no control of our reaction. We’ve all experienced the feeling of being transported to a memory by a scent, quite by surprise. Or feeling suddenly ‘at home’ when we smell the scent of fresh bread.

Scents leave us with a memory that never goes away. They enrich our lives. The French writer Marcel Proust, in his epic seven-part novel 'In Search of Lost Time' published in 1927, beautifully articulated the power of smell to evoke powerful and distant memories. For Proust, the scent of madeleine cakes conjured an overwhelming sense of memory and nostalgia for his life gone by. 

Subsequent researchers and scientists have tested Proust’s theory and and found it to be true. A study at Utrecht University in the Netherlands demonstrated how memory recall was enhanced when cassis was pumped into a room showing footage to participants.

This makes complete sense: we know what we smell and how we smell is one of the incredible human experiences.

Atlantic - keep discovering

How can a fragrance capture the magic of scent?

In this first post, we explore what it means to create a fragrance brief. This is the very first thing you do when creating a scent.

For us, it all starts in Grasse, France, where we develop our scents and this time, with a Zoom call with our nose there.

The nose, slightly confusingly, is an industry term for the person who develops scents. Or more precisely, the person who leads the team that develops scents: in most cases there are half a dozen people who have a hand in the development of our fragrance shortlist before we even get to sniff the first prototype.

We briefed our nose with the task to create Atlantic. We asked for two directions. The first was a sort of mid Atlantic deep water direction. We wanted a salty rugged feel anchored in a deep base note. For the men’s fragrance lovers amongst you, we were asking broadly for a balanced, sophisticated amber.

The second was drawing more on the origin of the word Atlantic: the straits of Gibraltar, the edge of the world as held up by the unfortunate titan Atlas. This direction focused more on that fresh, sunny and citric interpretation of Atlantic. Our references were mostly neroli forward.

If you’ve got no idea what amber or neroli are, don’t worry. All of these descriptions are so limited anyway that until you smell the scent you’re in the dark. But suffice to say, they’re fairly different scents. The amber is generally fairly animalistic and musky while neroli is orange blossom, so scents based around that are fresher.

Matching the brief to the range

The final bit we needed to add to the brief was that it had to sit well in our existing range. We’ve currently got four colognes under the Thomas Clipper name - City, Coast, Country and Mountain. All four represent different styles, but are joined together by the fact that they take classic men’s scents and give them a modern twist. So we wanted to make sure that the new scent didn’t step on too many toes, so to speak.

Brief briefed, the team in Grasse set about working hard to develop, refine, compare and shortlist between 5 and 10 fragrances.


In the following blog, we'll reveal what happens next...


If you've enjoyed reading this and want to hear the sound of our voices, check out our podcast 'Behind the Fragrance' now.


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Some of our favourites...

Handmade men's fragrances, available direct in the UK and USA.

As seen in The Guardian, Wallpaper, Monocle. Recommended in British GQ's 'favourite men's fragrances' 7 years running. Read our reviews.

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