Edmond Roudnitska (1905 - 1996) was a French perfumer primarily known for his classic Dior creations. He was also a prolific writer, authoring several books and numerous articles on perfumery as late as the 1990s.
Born in Nice, he began his training in Grasse at the age of twenty-one. Ten years later, he founded the firm Art et Parfum, a small laboratory devoted to creating high-quality fragrances. It is still owned by his son, the perfumer Michel Roudnitska.
It’s You, Roudnitska’s first recorded perfume was launched by Elizabeth Arden around 1938. The bottle for the first edition, designed by Baccarat, was in the shape of a woman’s hand holding a Victorian bud vase and was allegedly inspired by Gone With The Wind. By 1940, Arden introduced a collection of more affordably priced products to compliment the range, including a nail varnish, lipstick and dusting powder.
In 1944, Roudnitska created his first great commercial success, Rochas Femme. The original composition is considered masterpiece of refinement with notes of aldehydes, ripe plums, woods and moss held in perfect tension and balance. Femme was reformulated in 1989 by Olivier Cresp, who added more sweetness and replaced some of the original lemon and aldehyde top notes with cumin.
Diorissimo was created in 1956 for Christian Dior himself, who considered lily of the valley (or “muguet” in French) his lucky flower. This was no small undertaking by Roudnitska - no fragrance oil can be extracted from the flower, so he faced the challenge of recreating the smell with synthetics. Famously, he planted a patch of lilies in his hillside garden (which stands to this day) and spent hours smelling them to solve the mystery. He eventually triumphed when he discovered that the aroma chemical hydroxycitronellal could be used to recreate the elusive scent.
In 1966, Roudnitska struck gold again with the creation of the classic Eau Sauvage. Reading the note list, one could be forgiven for the assumption that it’s just another citrus-herb masculine. The secret to its continued success is Roudnitska’s pioneering use of the molecule hedione. Alone, it has a faint aroma of lemon and jasmine, but used in a fragrance, it produces a radiant effect which some describe as “lighting up” the composition. Despite being sixty years old, Eau Savage still stands as one of the most innovative fragrances of the twentieth century and has a cult-like following among perfume-lovers.
Roudnitska continued to produce fragrances for Dior throughout the sixties and seventies, always focussing on the quality of his work instead of the quantity. After his death in 1996, Frederic Malle persuaded his wife Thérèse to release the formula of the perfume he created exclusively for her. Although it was first made in the late fifties, Roudnitska continued to make small adjustments to the composition for decades after. It is sold today under the name of Le Parfum de Therese and stands as another example of Roudnitska’s innovative style. Ostensibly a tangerine and plum fragrance woven through with cedar and dry leather, it also contains a heavy dose of a molecule called Calone, which imparts haunting aquatic notes. Calone is mostly associated with nineties blockbusters such as CK One and L’Eau d'Issey - once again, Roudnitska proved a pioneer of his industry.
Interestingly, Roudnitska is one of a handful of perfumers featured on the astrology website astro.com. His details can be found here (link) should you wish to cast his chart.