If you have read the book of Patrick Susskind: “Perfume” or seen the movie, you will probably remember the main character Jean-Baptiste Grenouille and his quest for the ultimate perfume. He even murdered virgins and tried to capture their scent by distilling them.
My hero never went that far, he just got into balloon flying over the Amazon rainforest, standing and lying on a small platform attached beneath it while trying to capture the scent of flowers. Flower never seen and maybe never smelled before by humans, since they are invisible from the rainforest floor and too high up the trees.
Many of these plants unfortunately will probably be extinct before any human smells them, simply because we did not discover them in time.
His name: Roman Kaiser, the Swiss scent-expert, now retired, but still obsessed by scents.
A large part of his work he spent hunting exotic scents. He caught the molecules that normally hit our nose, in a special glass tube around the flower (head space technique). He then took the captured molecules to his lab for chemical analysis and exact molecular composition.
|Roman Kaiser at work
These scent-expeditions or Scent-Treks, on assignment by his employer, fragrance producer Givaudan, often brought him to the most exotic and remote places on the planet. What Jean-Jacques Cousteau did for the oceans and its inhabitants, Roman Kaiser did for scents and plants.
Roman Kaiser as I learned to know him, is an incredible nice, well-read and humble person and an interesting author. I already possessed two of his books and just finished his third and last one. His books show us the unbelievably complex evolution and survival strategies of flowers and plants. A special and unknown world opens for you when you read his books, when you are able to read between the chemical formulas and terminology.
He analyzed the scents of hundreds of orchids (wrote a beautiful book only about this subject., “Vom Duft der Orchideen” (The Scent of Orchids)), but he also analyzed the scents of roses, apples, wines and many other plants on the brink of extinction.
Roman Kaiser, the scent hunter, a very special man, although he does not think so himself.
If you like plant, flowers or scents and perfumes, his books are well worth buying or getting as a gift for your birthday or Christmas. Well written and with many beautiful color pictures.
Vom Duft der Orchideen. Roche, Basel, 1993, ISBN 3-907946-87-1Meaningful Scents around the World. Olfactory, chemical,biological and cultural consideration Wiley-VCH, Weinheim, 2006, ISBN 3-906390-37-3
Scent of the Vanishing Flora. Wiley-VCH, Weinheim, 2011 ISBN 10-3-906390-64-0