THE MOLECULE: Coumarin
Call it the primal scream of perfumery. Coumarin was the very first molecule that allowed perfumers to cut loose from the past and venture into modern abstraction. First used in the groundbreaking 1882 Fougère Royale, this synthetic marvel ignited a new era of artistic expression. Named after kumarù, the word for the tonka bean tree in Tupi, an Amazonian language, coumarin is not only the primal source of modern perfumery, it is still a primary material in the fragrance industry. .
THE SCENT: Primal Modernity
To rebirth coumarin and bring it back to its original modernity in psy_cou, Frank Voelkl had to cure it from its compulsive desire for sugar in order to let its deepest psyche break free. Rather than focusing on its almondy aroma, he drew on the molecule’s true nature: the scent given off by fresh-mown hay. Cool, sparkling juniper berries and cardamom and creamy Palo Santo wood – used as incense in sacred Ecuadorian rituals – shed a ray of light on the bucolic bale. Then flamboyant saffron sets it ablaze, releasing burnt notes of coffee, incense and oud, unleashing psy_cou’s darkest instincts. Like souls, perfumes are made of shadows and light.
A consummate cosmopolitan whose first calling was diplomacy, the German-born, New York-based Frank Voelkl grew up in the Netherlands and France. It was in his grandfather’s farm in Germany that he discovered the scents of nature. During his teenage years in Paris, he was drawn into the world of fine fragrance, spending all his weekends happily sniffing away in a parfumerie on the rue de Rivoli. But it was his wife’s birthplace, Tahiti, which inspired his first composition in 1997, Tiaré by Chantecaille. Frank, who has been working for Firmenich since 2005, thinks of scents in terms of colors, melodies and musical movement. In his compositions, he strives for “perfect imperfection”—to him, it is those very imperfections that yield beauty and emotion. For Nomenclature, he signs adr_ett, efflor_esce, lumen_esce, holy_wood, para_iso and psy_cou.