Sergio Momo Elite Living AfricaElite Living Africa speaks to Xerjoff founder Sergio Momo in an exclusive interview about his oud fragrance collection

ELA:  What was life like growing up? What are your fondest memories?

Sergio: With my family I did quite a lot of traveling, so my deepest memories are travels I guess. I also spent a long time of my childhood in the Alps, so nature has always been an integral part of my growing.  I was lucky enough to spend time with my grandparents as well and that, I believe is a wonderful advantage for various reasons.

ELA: What is your most memorable fragrance experience?

Sergio: My father had many hobbies; one of which was taking pictures of rare mountain flowers and producing books on the subject. One particular flower was an Alps Mountain orchid called “La vaniglia delle Alpi” (The Alps’ Vanilla) a very rare, small blue/black flower which grows only in particular areas and climates. The deep vanilla scent with strong woody undertone is a very fond memory of mine. 

ELA:  When did you first realise you had a passion for fragrance? 

Sergio: When I started college. I often use my father perfumes, for me it was a natural thing to do. During that time I realised I had a passion for scents and many different kinds of smell – not just bottled perfumes. The bakery in the morning or the motorbike race which I attended during the weekend; smells were part of every event, daily events and extraordinary too. Anything could have being associated with odours.

ELA: What makes oud oil so special? 

Sergio: Its complexity. For me Oud is far from any other natural ingredients used in perfumery. The good quality is rare, very rare and Oud ages well like the best wines or spirits. Only the experienced, with a good work ethic are able to extract such wonderful natural wonder.

ELA: You have a whole range dedicated to oud as do other brands. What sets yours apart?

Sergio: The Xerjoff ouds are a blend of quality and creativity. Some directions are still traditional but always with a twist of personality. Sometimes quality is not enough, a “perfume maison” must create character and distinction.

ELA: Which markets in Africa do your fragrances sell the most?

Sergio: Africa for Xerjoff is the recent success story, Africa is responding extremely well across all our portfolio of perfumes. Senegal, Nigeria, Tunisia, Mauritius and soon South Africa are the markets we are very successful with. We do look forward to expand further in 2017.

ELA: More and more people are investing in oud. With the purest kind worth more than £20,000 per kilogramme. Do you think it is a worthwhile investment?

Sergio: Yes I believe oud is a sound investment. A very deep knowledge of the subject plus a personal presence and knowledge of the production procedures are a must to guarantee the investment. Some kinds of aged oud are similar investment to the art collections; moreover the cultural and religious factor can play a further interesting role. Some Oud distillations are so precious in terms of quality, a rarity which may take years to match, if ever.

ELA: To anyone discovering oud, what advise would you give when shopping the market?

Sergio: Well, I strongly suggest a tutorial visit to some production countries to fully understand the implications of the production of Oud. The history of Oud, The Agar wood plantation and the distillation technique, the past and the present. The markets are a minefield unfortunately. One must get in touch with a well know producer and distributor in order to avoid bad surprises. There is still a very important factor: sustainability. The Oud plantations and production must be protected by certified organisations guaranteeing the territory and the future of Oud. So homework is required in order to enter in to this wonderful world…

ELA: What are your favourite and least favourite scents? 

Sergio: Well Oud of course as well as Neroli from North Africa, resins like Opoponax and benzoin. Aged Egyptian Jasmin, Vanilla and Florentine Iris ( Orris). Least favourite are the lab synthetic roses. 

ELA: What do you think about the 'westernisation' of oud - is this a real debate in the market?

Sergio: The Westernization of Oud is indeed a debate. I am not of course against it, I just would like the brand to give appropriate name to their creations. What I mean is: if a product is called OUD for me this is a statement and so it should be for the end customers. In the West few customers are aware of how really Oud smells like because of the hundreds of wrong interpretations. Is about culture, which is what perfume is about.