We had a brief chat with the man behind Tauer Perfumes, Andy Tauer. A chemist turned self-taught perfumer representing one of the most highly regarded independent niche perfumeries. Find out the inspiration behind his most widely recognised and celebrated fragrance, L’Air du Desert Marocain, and get a sneak peak at his day-to-day life in Zurich, Switzerland.
Perfumery is a craft that’s part science, part creative. What’s the more important of the two? Or should they always remain equal?
I have a science background (a PhD in chemistry; molecular biology). It does however feel like that happened two centuries ago. I do not experience fine perfumery as featuring a prominent science part. I guess if the science part was strong enough then we would have less total losses in mass markets; horrible creations that do not survive the next season. Maybe, you have a point in the mass market besides fine fragrances, where perfumers need to create formulas for soap additives, laundry, food enhancers or mass cosmetic products. There the challenge has a scientific aspect: production costs, sourcing, stability in formulation. There the science part might be more important than the creative part.
In the field of fine, high-end perfumery, I experience the focus to be on the creative side. Maybe, sooner or later, we will see artificial intelligence supporting perfumers in coming up with safe bets for the markets. But this methodology again might miss the creative kick that only a human brain can provide. To be seen, I guess.
What makes your practice unique?
This is a hard one to answer. As a creator you are blind. Trying to rationalise, I would guess it is: a love for and special application of natural raw materials, a focus on the creation of a perfume WITHOUT worrying about: how, at what price it can be produced, for what market, when and why…. It is a bit like painting. If you are working long enough with paints and brushes you will develop a style of your own that becomes characteristic for what and how you create your visual art.
It is also safe to say that these days there are not many left like me and my brand. We, the few, try to make a difference by being completely independent; of bank money, market constraints, distribution chains that can be destructive with their demands for products and margin. We say more NO than YES to stores that want to sell our brands because we do not aim to grow too fast, too big, and not everywhere. But by doing so we can offer products, creations, that are unique, special, speaking to perfume lovers in search of an authentic product; our product speaks to them by the way it smells, by the way it was produced and by the way it found them.
Do you have a memorable travel story where you have met or encountered a customer wearing Tauer?
I had a funny encounter in Italy, on my way back from Rome. I was queuing for the TSA security thing where you have to go through X-ray at the airport. Suddenly a security guy comes forward to me, points at me and asks: “are you Andy? Andy Tauer?” – I was very worried, like “oh my … did I do something wrong? Did they check and found something in my suitcase? Will I miss my flight? … oh…..!”
“Yes, I am”, I said. And he smiled and was proud. “I know you. I wear your perfume! Thank you so much for creating this perfume”. It was a moment of relief and a happy encounter. We continued talking a bit and then I had to go through the screening to catch my plane. This was not the only encounter with Italian perfume lovers who know me. Italy is MY market. I love them and they love my products.
L’Air du Desert Marocain is your most widely recognised and celebrated perfume. Was it conceptualised during a trip to Morocco? Was there a specific moment or day that was the catalyst for its creation?
I travelled a couple of times to Morocco before I created this perfume. Having said that this perfume is more of a panopticon, a condensate of a lot of impressions and memories rather than one particular moment. Maybe this is one reason why so many love this perfume: it is a bit like a book with many stories that develop in front of your nose.
When I was working on the creation of this perfume, I tried to start with this image of me being there, in a hotel, in the evening, on the bed, the doors to the terrace wide open and the evening wind blowing in the warmth of the desert, the spices and all the memories of a wonderful day in a wonderful country. A couple of years later, after I created L’Air du Desert Marocain, I visited Tunisia. And it was one of these evenings when the wind blows from the desert (super dry and hot) and I put L’Air du Desert Marocain on and was on my way to the hotel dining room. A man was walking behind me, stopped me and asked me what I was wearing. I told him. And he just said: “Ah….. the perfume of love.” And he walked on.
You are a keen painter in your spare time? Any other secret / underground creative pursuits?
Yes, I am a super keen painter/drawing guy. Every week, I have drawing class with a teacher, usually in museums where a group of 4-5 of us copies masterpieces, or we meet outside in a park for drawing nature, or we meet in town for perspective. I love it! And I keep on learning a lot about painting, the creative process in general and also about myself.
Painting is my hobby, like perfume creation was my hobby 20 years ago. It is my goal to become successful in painting, too. It is a bit of a personal thing: I want to be satisfied with what I create and leave behind when I part.
Describe a typical day for Andy Tauer?
I have the privilege of being my own boss and hence there is quite some variation in my day-to-day program.
I usually wake up early and stay in bed, allowing for a soft landing in the real world. Mostly, I do some reading while in bed (emails, the market news, and other news that usually do the trick of bringing me back to the world. My sleep is usually very, very deep and I need some time to get back. I start around 7 by jumping right into my trousers and by a heavy dose of coffee, as quickly as possible. I continue doing the emails while waiting for the caffeine kick and the newspaper, either on the iPad, computer or the paper edition (we have two major newspapers printed every day on the doorstep, and two digital subscriptions for other newspapers. Call me a news junky.)
Business takes over then. Online customer orders take an hour or two. We prepare these every day in the house, doing the papers and putting the orders together in a dedicated room that we call the “perfume room”. It is soaked with perfume as we send every online order with a sprayed card.
I then bike to the manufacturing rooms. A great commute, down the hill, along the river Limmat, to the other side of town where the production is waiting for me. There, my partner and I fill bottles, label, pack, get shipping papers ready; all the production stuff that you can imagine happens there.
We have rooms there in the manufactory on different levels. On the first level, there’s our office, too. With a place to relax and that’s where we play some games, during breaks. It helps to cool down. The third level, where we store most of the materials that goes into production, there I also have a creative corner with perfume raw materials and everything that I need to compose and create. And there is a place for my painting materials. Painting is my hobby and I try to squeeze in one hour every day to paint, portraits from photos mostly, before heading home again around 6 pm. I do the groceries on the way home and prepare dinner, mostly by cooking a meal from scratch. We have salad every day, too. I try to avoid processed food as much as possible. Every third day or so, I also bake a bread, too. Now, in spring and summer time, I finish the day off by doing some gardening, too. Watering the plants and finding peace among tomato plants. Usually, my partner and me round the day off by talking about the business day, by answering last emails, doing more paperwork ... it is hard to switch off sometimes. I head for the bed when I am tired. This can be anytime from 9 till midnight. I fall asleep every day immediately. I guess I have very blessed days.
How do you wear your range? Is there a methodology to it? Do you collect other fragrance brands?
I wear my creations, for instance when hitting the bars, or the gym, or meeting friends. I am spoiled: I can wear all the good stuff that we discontinued, like Noontide Petals (that I love) or very old, perfectly matured L’Air du Desert Marocain that I still have from batch No. 1!
Of course, I need to wear perfumes that I am working on and that I need to take for a test ride. This cannot happen when I work with perfume. My methodology therefore is: I wear perfume when I am not working with perfume. I buy other fragrance brands, some of them. But I would not call myself a collector (not anymore). I buy perfume when I find it interesting. But the last bottle that I bought is quite a while ago. I guess I got a bit bored by other offerings…
What fragrance do you take with you when you travel? Does the destination inform what Tauer fragrance you pack?
When flying, I reach out for my all-natural Cologne du Maghreb that is fresh, energizing but not projecting too much. I never travel without L’Air du Desert Marocain because it fits all seasons and all regions. And then: I love to go a bit wild sometimes and pack Lonestar Memories for the bars or L’air des Alpes Suisses for more serious business meetings abroad. L’air des Alpes Suisses is a very lovely office/meeting fragrance where you might get a bit closer to people and it a nice starting point for talking about Switzerland, about perfume and myself. Ha!
Have you ever been to Australia? What do you think a Tauer fragrance inspired by Australia would be called? What would be the notes?
I haven’t made it to Australia yet but rest assured, it is on my bucket list. I have been told Australia is quite big, so I guess I need some time to see it all properly. I will let you know about the notes and the name after my visit.