Working in-house with Guerlain since 2014, alongside master perfumer Thierry Wasser, Delphine Jelk has developed some of the French house’s most intriguing modern compositions. Her latest bottle, an addition to Guerlain’s haute perfumerie collection, L’Art et La Matière. Néroli Plein Sud EDP is a play on contrasts, with spicy ginger, turmeric, and cinnamon warming up the namesake neroli and Tunisian orange blossom heart, and a base of sandalwood and vetiver. Inspired by the adventurous world of Antoinede Saint Exupéry and his classic novel, Southern Mail, the fragrance explores Morocco’s lush orange tree orchards and dry desert landscapes. Jelk shares with Vogue Arabia her Moroccan inspiration for the new luxury perfume, launching today in Guerlain boutiques.
Tell us about the orange blossom you chose for L’Art et La Matière Néroli Plein Sud.
It’s very fresh, it’s crispy green and floral. It’s close to the orange flower water that we know very well and use in cooking. It’s something that I love because it’s soft and fresh, it’s almost childish. There is something very emotional about it.
This orange blossom was sourced from Morocco, can you tell us more about the harvest there?
So, my inspiration came from this moment I spent in Morocco in the fields south of Rabat. It’s an amazing place, you have the fields with the orange trees with all the blossoms, and you harvest the flowers in April. This work is really amazingly done, especially by the woman there. After you separate the flower from the leaves and from the wood, you can obtain a real neroli with very floral notes. I love this idea of having like a journey above those fields exactly like Antoinede Saint Exupéry had when he used to travel to the South.
Describe the mixture of the neroli and then the Arab spices, how do they interact?
There is this freshness, and at the same time, the sensuality of the spices because I’ve blended the neroli with different spices and especially turmeric which is quite new. That’s a a raw material that I didn’t know before, a special extraction very close to what turmeric smells like in real life. As it is so good in your juice mixed with ginger, I wanted to do it this way for the fragrance. So it’s about this crisp neroli, and the sensuality of the turmeric ginger trees, and going on to the Sahara’s hot sands. It’s about the vitality of the flowers and the power of spices and the warmth of the South.
Guerlain’s L’Art et La Matière is about creation, duality and contrast. How does this concept reflect in the new fragrance?
For this new perfume, my idea was to have this big contrast between the freshness of the sky, freshness of the air, and the warmth of the earth, made of desert sand. It felt like it felt like a fragrance you’d wear in very warm, very hot weather like we have here in the Middle East. This collection is about surprising, and I think Néroli Plein Sud does this.
Will orange blossom fans enjoy the release or will it take them somewhere different?
Usually people know what to expect from neroli and orange blossom. In France, for example, the orange flower is really the smell of the baby. It reminds you of like infancy and of youth and it’s a very comforting fragrance. So here the spices change the soft feeling neroli is usually giving. I think a lot of people associate spices, especially like cinnamon, like these warming spices, with fragrances that should be worn in cooler weathers, like ambers and those kinds of spice-infused fragrances. Here, the spices make the neroli more exotic.
Did you intend to create something a little more mysterious or sultry than an orange blossom would be normally?
So there’s a code name for each fragrance while I’m working on it. The code name this time was Monarch, which means my angel. Because my angel can be your baby, but it can also be your man. Néroli Plein Sud takes this newness that is so pure, so innocent, while at the same time, those spices make the fragrance very sexy and sensual. There’s a duality.