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Vogue Adria

Celebrating 70 years of Belgrade's most enchanting aromatic mystery

by Kristina Mikulić

In this era of yearning for nostalgia in the search for authenticity, we all strive to find that something special to stand out. Sometimes, this desire for uniqueness springs from the need to retain that part of our personal universe that is unique to us wherever we go. Personal fragrance has always been the medium through which we aim to bring a moment of authenticity, one that is uniquely ours. This nostalgic quest for craftsmanship and originality, which was once a standard in parfumeries, has led us to Parfimerija Sava.

Upon entering the Belgrade address at Kralja Petra 75, we were greeted by a special feeling. In 70 years of creation, nothing has changed. Parfimerija Sava is a space that breathes nostalgia, with authenticity at its core. The passion for the art of perfume creation in this family-owned perfumery is passed down through generations. Such a long tradition is certainly impressive, but even more so is the fact that this passion for creating fragrant compositions has been inherited generation after generation. Perfumery  demands a special blend of imagination, chemistry, and respect towards the final creation. To me, making perfume is an art form. No other art form is as personal as the olfactory experience. Scents carve themselves into our memories. We often remember life moments through specific scents, and upon reencountering them, these scents act like a medium transporting us to a specific moment. Being objective in creating something as personal as perfume is challenging, yet this form of art demands just that. This is why I am fascinated by longevity that the family behind Parfimerija Sava has managed to preserve with such a unique tradition of handmade perfumes.

Getting perfume advice and recommendations from the Nose who created the perfume is a true rarity today. I believe comparing this experience to buying a haute couture dress is warranted. Choosing a perfume with someone so passionate and meticulous in their craft is a special honor. How to truly extend the life of a perfume and which is the most special perfume ever to come out of this unique perfumery is revealed by Nemanja Jovanov, the fourth-generation perfumer of Parfimerija Sava.

This year you celebrate 70 years of perfume making? Do you plan to commemorate this with a special perfume?

Of course! The plan is to spontaneously create scents, naming them after the “Lamour” line our perfumery used in the 1940s. We’re not yet sure how many scents will mark the anniversary, but we can reveal it won’t just be one or two.

Since the 1950s, when Parfimerija Sava has existed to today, the cosmetic industry has changed considerably. Are there notes you no longer use but wish to return to?

People’s fragrance preferences change. We don’t want to judge whether this progress is always good or not, but it’s essential that change occurs. We try to keep up with this change. On the other hand, our commitment to freedom as a small artisan producer is what makes us unique.

What is your favorite perfume note, and which do customers most often reach for?

It’s hard to say Parfimerija Sava has a best-selling scent. Certainly, there’s a most famous one. The one probably everyone has heard of. That is Belgrade Night. We’ll reveal that it is the most famous, but certainly not the best-selling perfume. (laughs) We leave the statistics of best-selling/most popular to the large conglomerates that keep track of such things. We just make scents.

What are your recommendations for making a perfume last longer?

On this topic, we believe a solid-sized manual could be written. But for starters:

  1. The skin must be clean and slightly moist
  2. The fragrance should be applied in two passes. First, apply a few sprays with the atomizer on warm and slightly moist skin
  3. Do not touch the application First, apply a few sprays with the atomizer on warm and slightly moist skin
  4. After ten to fifteen minutes, if necessary, top up the spot with another dose.
  5. Do not get nervous or stressed. Stress significantly shortens the fragrance’s longevity on the skin.

Do you still possess the first perfume that was ever made? What does it smell like?

Parfimerija Sava has existed for seventy years, but the first perfume was made, probably in ancient times. It’s hard to determine what the first perfume was. Scents are closely connected with the timeline of fashion, style, and trends. Significant milestones that have eternally founded certain eras of human creative striving reset that moment over and over. There’s no first and last scent, everything is a complete circle that repeats after more or less years.

Are there perfume notes you dislike using?

When designing scents, we try to take an objective position. However, as it’s a highly subjective impression, occasionally one of us might find a scent less or more appealing. When a significant form of such an impression occurs, we resort to professional mechanisms to detach from the subjective feeling. We must overcome this, as what is shadow to one side, is light to another.

What, in your opinion, is the most special perfume ever to come out of this perfumery?

Generally, every scent has its magical story. This is another topic that could fill a lengthy book. From the perspective of someone living and growing in a perfumery family, everything is intertwined with “scented” stories, which on the other hand we directly involved sometimes take for granted. Interestingly, I made a scent for my wife, which later received such positive approval that we included it in our regular assortment. I must be honest, it wasn’t planned from the start.

This region is full of aromatic herbs. Do you ever use perfume notes that are indigenous to the Balkan region?

Essential oil refineries race to grab an original variety suitable for further production of essences. Of course, in that complex equation, profitability is also considered, so most widely spread plant sources are taken from locations that are economically feasible. When a region gives a special signature, it’s insisted that a certain series is made precisely from “this and that” source. Hvar lavender has had a special place in the perfume industry for decades due to its unique island climate.

The perfumery has existed and been successful for 70 years. Is there a reason in your process and approach to work why you have never decided to expand and open more branches?

Our uniqueness lies in the fact that we both create and sell fragrances to end customers. We present them in our dedicated ritual in which we want to help customers choose something that truly suits them. People today are full of prejudices. We are all massaged by marketing mechanisms that almost always prioritize the well-being of only one side, often not the user’s. Our mission is to keep customer satisfaction at the forefront, and we can only do this if we meet with customers “mano a mano.” We won’t deny that we have considered options for remote sales, which have almost surpassed traditional ones. But that would lose the essence of our unique way, which we stubbornly preserve. We must note, to the surprise and wonder of many.

What is the most beautiful part of your job?

The most beautiful part of our job is that everything smells. People who visit us come with the intention of making themselves or a dear, loved one happy. They don’t have to come to us. Yet if they decide to, we gladly and dedicatedly accept to help, explain, and offer our opinion. Often it’s encouragement or a guide in a completely unexpected direction. Our sincere mission is for people who entered our Perfumery happy to leave even more satisfied and fulfilled. That is the most beautiful part of our work.

Finally, which perfume note do you recommend for this spring?

For this spring, we recommend wearing a scent that adds an extra millimeter to your smile. An inner joy that will, by its very definition, start to spill over to the surroundings. If we infect you with this germ of self-satisfaction, that wave will spread to others. A little from one side, a little from the other, it will become at least a bit nicer for everyone. Now, since we are all different, one note will elicit a smile in one person, and a completely different one in another. Come to us this spring for a piece of smile, and which note will elicit it, we will find out when we meet you.

Living in the world of perfumes is a dream for many. What particularly amazed me is the dedication to customers cultivated by the Jovanov family. In selecting a perfume, there’s a complete commitment to the customer with the goal of truly finding that unique and special blend that exactly matches the person. Perfume is worn as part of one’s identity, and Parfimerija Sava seems to be built with this in mind. I believe that anyone who decides to scent themselves with this piece of cosmetic history can expect a truly special experience and finally find their perfume identity.


Photos: Vogue Adria