17 NOVEMBER 2001, Page 38

Sour scent

From Mr Arthur Burnham Sir: I was very disappointed by the sour note in Jo Johnson's piece (Nose to the grindstone', 10 November) in your otherwise pleasant and positive luxury-goods section.

I have been a creative perfumer for 35 years and Jacques Polge has been one of my closest friends and colleagues for the same time. We undertook our ten-year apprenticeship together. This is very painstaking and tedious, but is as necessary as the learning of any vocabulary. Thereafter, one must be blessed with a creative imagination of the most lateral kind to create perfumes of interest and innovation that are also wearable and comfortable.

As M. Polge points out, a creative perfumer's duty is not to be an encyclopaedic reservoir of every fragrance made, but to create new accords which may please.

To add insult to injury, Mr Johnson had the impertinence to present one 'cloudy' sample as an attempt at a solution in water. Fine fragrances only work in a solution of ethyl alcohol.

I had the honour and pleasure of creating last season's two Paul Smith fragrances, and I reckon I'm just about good enough to sit at M. Polge's feet. Mr Johnson, with his attitude problem, is not good enough to lick them.

Arthur Burnham

Ipswich, Suffolk