Legendary Indie Perfumer and The Road to Scented Candles

Swiss based Andy Tauer is something of a legend in independent perfumery. Not only was he one of the first successful, indie perfumers with his Tauer Perfumes brand. But his second commercial fragrance L’Air du Desert Marocain, became a best selling, cult classic loved by all, even Luca Turin (Perfumes The Guide by Luca Turin and Tanya Sanchez gave his fragrance five stars).

He’s built a thriving brand since its launch in 2005, adding fragrances, attars, soaps and candles to the range. We asked him, at a recent catch up, how he came to be a perfumer, did he always want a perfume brand? “At the beginning of my journey, I stumbled into perfume creation as a new hobby. I had no thoughts of a business at all. My job at the time was very intellectual, working with research scientists and I needed a creative outlet as a release.“

“I‘d read Mandy Aftel’s book Essence & Alchemy on holiday,” he recalled, ”where she describes how to make perfumes and it was a revelation. I came back from vacation, bought some raw materials and started to compose. I began working with naturals, and I’m grateful now I didn’t start with synthetics, even though I have a PHD in molecular biology, because naturals educate you, they are very demanding but they also give a lot back. There’s also an aspect of hunting down the best ingredients, the best quality jasmine, the best producers of patchouli etc, that appealed to the collector in me.”

It could have stopped there, with Andy’s perfume hobby making him the best smelling guy in Zurich, but fate intervened. “There was a little crisis in my life,” he continued, “I quit my job and had some free time. My friend, who has a book store, asked if I could create a perfume for his shop. He sells Moroccan rugs and crafts in the shop as well as books so I created Maroc Pour Elle, and then L’Air du Désert Marocain to sell. At this stage I made and organised everything, the fragrance, the labelling, it was very basic. It was an adventure really, my first batch was around 20 bottles. They didn’t sell that fast, but it was fun.”

“I’m a very relaxed person but I’m also ambitious and I wanted better sales. I built a website in 2005, started the blog in 2006, then I sent Luca Turin a sample because I thought I had nothing to lose. He was so nice about L’Air du Désert Marocain and his review was a super-turbo boost to the shop and the website. As the business became more successful I realised if I did it right, I could make a living out of it.”

We’ve probably all had dreams of turning our hobby into a business, but how hard was it in reality?

“Well, at this point I started to focus” he said, “There is probably no mistake that I haven’t made because I did everything. I had little experience in business, although I had my friend Vero Kern, from Vero Profumo, who was a great help. She lived close by and we shared, discussed and evaluated each other’s work. More than once she would say “Andy, this one is ready to go, you can stop working on it”. She sadly passed away and I miss her input.”

“Although I made many mistakes, it was important to make them because each one helped me to better make the next step in the creative process. Lots of people now ask for advice, but I always say there is no easy way, if you want to be successful you need to put in the hours and work hard.”

One of the strengths of Tauer Perfumes is the artful composition of each scent, where does the inspiration come from? “It’s not easy to pinpoint why you went a certain way with a fragrance, because its not entirely rational” Andy continued.” Sometimes I dream about fragrance, I don’t get a solution, but the brain is busy making different connections to when you are awake. I’m sure that it helps.”

For example, “Lonestar Memories, was inspired by classical birch-tar-rich perfumes of the 1930 and 40s. I love birch tar, but it’s not an easy materiel to work with. Inspiration came from my love of the outdoors and hiking in nature, in particular I love to barbecue sausages in the woods. I love that moment when you come back on the train and your clothes smell of the trees and that lovely, smokey sausage smell.

Sometimes it’s the raw materials that form the inspiration. Incense Rose, uses a fantastic quality frankincense which is very long lasting, it was perfect to build a perfume around.”

What’s your process, once inspiration has struck?

“In a nutshell it’s trial, error and time. I build the fragrance shape in a simple way to start with, to get a ‘picture’ around what I want. Then you have to refine many different aspects, is it long lasting? Or is it too loud? Sometimes you change one little thing in the heart note and everything changes, you have to motivate yourself to keep going to find the best version.”

“Then I’ll leave it. I wont look at it for maybe a year, coming back to it with fresh eyes and mind. Often a fragrance is better than I remember, consequently I think time plays an important role in the process.”

How different is making candles from making fragrance?

“Its a huge difference making fragrances for humans over homes, it’s like a different world. With candles, you can have a perfume formula that burns badly or reacts with the wax, sometimes the flame burns to hard, or too low, it’s very hard to get it right! When you perfume yourself, in the worst case you can simply wash it off, but with a candle, when you fill a room with perfume you are breathing it in, so it needs to be good.

What made you want to try a home fragrance ?

“For years I produced perfumed soaps. Initially,  I produced them only for the X-mas holiday, as special gift for friends, family and perfume lovers. Many cherished them a lot and sooner or later I ended up producing them regularly. They are heavily scented and perfume a bathroom by just sitting there. From there it was a small step (but a big step for me) to try home fragrance, in the form of a candle. I wanted to have a something similar, a wonderful small object the perfumes the room, but with the warmth of a flame burning, with the rituals of lighting a candle and watching it, like an alive object changing continuously. There’ s nothing that compares…”

Do you think it’s a natural progression for a perfume brand ?

“It can be but the thing is: the world of candles and room fragrances is different. Not everything that works on skin works in wax and it is a fine balance of a variety of factors that make a candle burn neatly and a scent work as a fine room fragrance. I find it much easier to produce perfumes for skin than for rooms.”

What advice would you give to any perfume brand thinking about home fragrance?

“Very good question, thank you for this. You have to go with  a pro producer of candles who knows what they are doing. Just think about the sourcing of the wax, the burn tests, the health aspects: you want to be in good hands.

I was very lucky to find Parks, because you need a strong partner who knows what they are doing. Parks were very professional and very serious about every aspect of development and production. The natural wax was also very important, it’s sustainably harvested which is very important for me."

So what’s next at Tauer Perfumes?

“Since I started this business I’ve always said I’m in ‘consolidation mode’. There’s always something that needs working out! But over time, when you’ve gone through a couple of crisis moments and you’ve survived, you get a bit calmer and you’re more zen. If problems happen, they happen, you learn it’ll probably all work out.”