Class Notes

Dring Needham

Harold Williams

Robert Benson

Eugene Grisanti

Robert Mundheim

Mary Mullarky

Bill Bailey

Sandra Froman

Rafael Vargas Hidalgo

Franklin Raines

Lawrence Bacow

Jack Downey

Martha Samuelson

Brian Leary

Gary Culliss

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Making the World Fragrant and Flavorful
Eugene Grisanti ’54

Ever wonder who concocted the flavor in your soft drink, cookie filling, or fruit yogurt? Or who’s behind the fresh smell of your favorite shampoo or newly laundered sheets? The man appealing to your taste buds and olfactory sense may be Eugene Grisanti LL.M. ’54, who heads International Flavors and Fragrances (IFF), the largest producer of flavors and fragrances in the world.

IFF has flourished under Grisanti’s leadership, with sales tripling from $500 million annually in 1985 to $1.5 billion in 1997. The company has 4,700 employees, and factories and production units in 40 countries. Grisanti, who became chair in 1985, works out of the company’s headquarters in Manhattan. He was invited to join International Flavors and Fragrances as general counsel 38 years ago, after working on the merger through which the company was created.

Sixty percent of IFF’s business is in fragrances, with one-third of that in fine fragrances—perfumes as opposed to fragrances for shampoos, soaps, and household products—and 40 percent in flavors. IFF produces many of the fruit flavors for yogurts, and also creates soft drink flavors for many of the large beverage companies. Grisanti won’t tell which household products his company makes smell sweet, because these clients prefer confidentiality.

As for fine fragrances, it’s no secret that IFF makes Yves St. Laurent’s "Paris" and "Dazzling Silver," Clinique’s "Happy," Estée Lauder’s "Pleasures for Men," Ralph Lauren’s "Polo," and Calvin Klein’s "Eternity."

Perfumers, of whom IFF boasts 67, are "fine artists," according to Grisanti, "just as Monet and Picasso are fine artists." A finished perfume may have up to 900 ingredients, often including extracts of roots, flowers, wood, bark, gums, and resins. About half of fine fragrances today are made from organic synthetics called "aroma chemicals," which have "more modern notes and nuances" than perfumes of 40 or 50 years ago. A skilled perfumer is adept at creating "a top note—what you first smell in a fragrance." The top note fades into the "body of the fragrance," and three or four hours later comes "the tail note. A perfumer must make fragrances that fade into a new presence that is as beautiful as the original," says Grisanti.

Household products are a different matter. With laundry detergents, for example, the challenge is to ensure that the fragrance performs functionally as well as "hedonically"—it has to withstand the wash cycle, so a pleasing vestigial aroma remains despite the harsh chemical base of the working product.

Returning to the subject of fine fragrances, Grisanti notes that IFF creates more aftershaves and men’s colognes than any other company in the world, and opines that "a man should have a wardrobe of fragrances. You wouldn’t wear the same one to a sporting event and to a black tie event at Lincoln Center." As to his personal preferences, his lips are sealed, lest he incur the displeasure of clients not among the chosen.

Nancy Waring