Words by Nicholas Goodman
Elise Pioch Balzac: Maison Balzac
In memory, everything seems to connect to scent. More sensitive than taste, more direct even than sight, smell has the power to transport you to the deepest and most vivid reaches of the imagination. It is our most intimate and individualistic sense. None other is as visceral, nor able to evoke a time, place and emotion as forcefully. Certain scents become signatures—inextricably bound to who we are, where we’ve been and who we’ve loved. You can encounter thousands and feel nothing but the moment you come upon one from your past, the experience is transformative. Which is why it takes a supremely creative individual to make them.
Elise Pioch Balzac, the sensory architect behind Maison Balzac, has been wise to all of this since she was a child in the South of France. For the last seven years she has made a name for herself—and furthered that of her eminent family—creating scents that are an ode to their home in the mountains of Casteles. The fragrances conjure an earlier time in her life, stirring feelings and memories that are intensely personal for Ms Pioch, yet communicated in a way that feels natural to discerning women everywhere. But how does one translate something so metaphysical as a memory into scent? The answer eventually came to her: A line of candles spun from her own roots and taste and suffused with the fragrant images of her life in Casteles.
Each of them has been crafted with the same quality of intention and richness of detail we’ve long associated with the name, Balzac. From La Rose to Le Soleil and La Plage, Pioch’s candles are reflections of the fullness of her life. They draw you in slowly, surfacing warm memories from one’s own past just as they were made from the blissful experiences of her own. What makes each of them distinctive is their complexity. At first light, they smell natural and clean and wild—a mix of florals and fruit trees, salty air and summer days. But the candles share something unique to each of us, something more personal. They are a glowing reminder that a life is not well-lived without engaging the sensuality of smell.
La Plage Candle by Maison Balzac x Matteau
Elise by the pool
Left to right: Elise with her dad at Lac du Salagou / Salvador Dali's home in Cadaqués / Lithography by Georges Braque / Inside Elise's home by Alexandra Nataf / Jean Cocteau by Man Ray / The G Carafe and Glass by Maison Balzac / Elise's mother at age 26 pregnant with Elise on the Costa Brava / The Costa Brava by Elise Pioch / Pierre Soulages in his Atelier in 1968 / Elise's home in Murviel Beziers / By Pierre Soulages / Home in Cadaqués by Peter Harnden and Lanfranco Bombelli from the Matteau Archive
Elise's living room. Photo by Alexandra Nataf.