The robot nose, the smell of you


Celebrity journalist Chrissy Iley had lost her sense of self in Lockdown. Azzi Glasser’s high tech bespoke perfume sorcery – as worked on Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter – brought it all back for her

The robot nose, the smell of you

Apparently, I first met Azzi Glasser when she created the fragrance for Agent Provocateur.  For many years this was my signature scent. It made me feel sexy and I would enter planes and the flight attendants knew I had arrived.  I made it my own. Obviously scent smells different on every skin, but I always believed this had been made just for me. One of the more subtle tragedies of Lockdown is, you can no longer define yourself by where you go or even what you do – you become a husk of a person, a ghost.  I think that is partly why I was so attracted to the idea of this edgy and clearly brilliant perfumery discovering my scent; my fragrance DNA with her perfume robot AI.zz

It has been designed and built to be a version of Azzi herself and asks you questions to get to the essence of you. If she was making a bespoke perfume for the likes of Johnny Depp, Cindy Crawford, Helena Bonham Carter – as she has done – it would usually take months.

Helena Bonham Carter has had one made that is as exhilarating as she is. She had one made for her portrayal of Miss Havisham, it smells of cracked soap and powdery lace

The robot gave me multiple choices. What are my passions? Art, travel, film, music, fashion, books? All of those but I had to pick just three. Do I like “for her”, “for him”, or unisex? Do I like woody or floral? There are a lot more, but the robot came up with the idea that my fragrance DNA is a scent called Build and Destroy.  It is a passionate, animalistic scent that says I have arrived.  I wear it and feel who I am again. It is easy to see how a scent can take you on a journey into another soul. Depp has his own bespoke scent which smells like sexy rock and roll. He usually has one made to help him step into any new role, be it mad hatter or vampire. Helena Bonham Carter has had one made that is as exhilarating as she is. She had one made for her portrayal of Miss Havisham, it smells of cracked soap and powdery lace. Her one for Edith Blyton smells of a bygone era – the late 1940s.  When you smell Elizabeth Taylor you feel you are inside her own mink coat. It is heavy and late night. The scent she used for the portrayal of Princess Margaret in The Crown is based on a scent that the Princess wore – Diorisimmo. It is floral, lily of the valley, heady and sweet.

Azzi at work, by Karlina Vitolina

I talked to Azzi in her perfume den and workshop, surrounded by hundreds of bottles, old and new. Her house smells of uplifting incense. In the front room is a perfume pyramid, an art piece that was once in the Saatchi Gallery, and now sits above her fireplace. It was made for Build and Destroy. So inviting. All of her scents are specific and transporting. Mystere Vetivert smells of a tweed jacket in an Aston Martin. The scent called C makes you feel more of yourself. Fever 54 is a rush of disco madness but with notes of innocence. Old Books smells of a trip to an attic with ancient pages of old journeys being reenacted and is a favourite of Stephen Fry and Orlando Bloom. I took the perfume robot’s test for my mother and her scent is Twisted Iris. It is floral with a twist of pandemonium, in a good way. Walking down the street wearing Build and Destroy is a different experience to walking down that same street without it. It gives you confidence. It makes you feel alive to smell this exquisite. And just as the scented journey is a way into a role, it is also a way into yourself and I think we have all forgotten who ourselves might be. This is a most beautiful aid to memoir.

The way Azzi works, getting to the essence of a person, finding out who they are and recreating them as a scent is very similar to my own process of the celebrity interview but what it really means is that I really love to know who I am and more, who other people are. C