Isaac, I’m finding I can’t quite ‘place’ you here (New Zealand). You’ve spent more years away than here now, you have a French wife, and sons growing up speaking Portuguese in Sao Paulo. A lot has been said about the importance of “Home” this year! Where is home and what does home mean to you?

You can take the boy out of New Zealand but you can’t take New Zealand out of the boy. Home for me will always be Aotearoa [New Zealand] and more specifically the Waitakere ranges where I spent my “early” formative years…

Do you think this manifests itself in your work?

For sure. We take the New Zealand scentscape for granted but it’s truly unique! Just as the light is different, so is the scent. From our fresh water, to the bush, to the sea… I’m permanently in olfactive debt to New Zealand!

I saw on instagram recently that your sister is a painter and your father, a poet. I know you play the flute. Safe to say you come from creative blood. As an artistic perfumer (who I know to be a perfectionist), how do you balance the technical and the creative when working on a scent? 

Being creative requires getting off the beaten track and imagining a new path… Technique is your compass and without it you will probably get lost. For me keeping the two in harmony is what it’s all about!

You had coronavirus earlier in the year and I was worried (very selfishly) at the time about your sense of smell. You surprised me by saying your olfactory memory is strong enough that we could continue to work on our new scent even if you lost your sense of smell. Once again my mind was blown by the capacity of the classically trained Nose. Do you have a Sherlock Holmes style mind (scent) palace….?

If you can close your eyes and perfectly recreate a place you know well then you have great visual memory. Beethoven was able to compose even after he lost his hearing. Here, the same principle applies except for smell. Basically being a perfumer I am so familiar with my palette that I can “visualise” what is happening in my head without necessarily having to “hear” it…

Luckily you didn’t lose your sense of smell anyway and we could continue to work uninterrupted! We’re not talking about this new fragrance yet… but if we were, what would you have to say about it?

I don’t want to give much away then! Let me just say that it’s an incredible case of “the parts are greater than the sum”… It’s definitely one of the most surprising and fulfilling fragrances I’ve worked on from a perfumery perspective… everything just clicked!

Thanks Isaac, great to have you back on the Abel journal and I’m excited about sharing our new baby with the world… all in good time!