Fragrance Notes Issue 2, 2019 | Page 9

FEATURE It’s sunrise over Provo Canyon. Clusters of broad-backed mountains snake along the river beneath a low lid of sky. The air is clear, tinged with the salty smell of freshwater from Bridal Veil Falls and the musty odor of surrounding trees and rocks. The morning is silent but for steady puffs of breath and the furious whir of pedaling. Seated atop a bike, a solitary man can be seen setting out to cover miles of trail under the pulsing morning sun. Despite the sweat on his brow, the expression he wears is serene, at peace with the freedom to be and embrace all that he is. EYES ON THE SKY “A cardboard box and a steak knife was nirvana… because I’d carve them up into forts and cars and build things… There was always an engineer in me.” One of three sons born to hardworking parents, Kenneth “Ken” McAlister, Vice President of Sales, Technology, and Innovation at Intarome Fragrance Corporation and Secretary of Fragrance Creators Association’s Board of Directors, grew up in Jacksonville, Florida. “Smell was all around us then,” he says. “We had a large hedge of gardenias near the house. I can remember just going out there and smelling that captivating, sultry scent. I also remember driving through the orange groves and smelling the neroli blossoms in the spring, which is just fabulous… I was always attuned to scent.” His father had served as a World War II B-17 Bomber Pilot and his mother was a piano teacher and homemaker. “It was a typical 1960s childhood,” he says, recalling key events of that decade—the Kennedy assassination and Vietnam. Growing up in Florida, Ken had a front seat for the activity around NASA’s moon shots—he remembers watching the Saturn V rockets, which launched the Apollo flights to the moon, pass over his family home. These early years sparked a life-long interest not only in the space program but in how things work. “That’s part of my geeky, nerdy, engineering side,” he says. From an early age, he says he was always building things—TINKERTOYS, ERECTOR sets. “A cardboard box and a steak knife was nirvana for me, because I’d carve them up into forts and cars and build things like that. I loved building models. There was always an engineer in me.” FAST FACTS: –– CURRENT ROLE: Vice President of Sales, Technology, and Innovation, Intarome Fragrance Corporation FAVORITE SCENT: “Gardenia, Jasmine, Neroli—I love florals.” PERSONAL HERO: “Leonardo Da Vinci—A true genius who mastered both engineering and art.” WHO WOULD YOU CAST TO PLAY YOU IN A MOVIE OF YOUR LIFE? “Split between Richard Gere (many folks have said I look like him) and Steve Martin.” BEST ADVICE YOU EVER RECEIVED: “You can always sell somebody something. But, if you solve a problem for somebody, they’ll remember you forever.” WHAT’S ON YOUR WORKOUT PLAYLIST? “Lots of electronic dance music (or, EDM) stuff leftover from my spinning instructor days but one of my favorites is “Hartseer” by Bart Claessen. Also, “Once Upon a Night Volume 1” by Ferry Corsten—the entire album is great. I love it because I can just ride to the beat and let my brain check out.” Although he had his sights set on attending the Air Force Academy, after his parents’ divorce, Ken lacked the resources and guidance to navigate the rigorous application process. “It was just not in the cards for me,” he says, “but, luckily, things turned out pretty good for me anyway.” His older brother, Steve, seven years his senior, helped him find another path. “He said, ‘Look Ken, you like chemistry and you like math, why don’t you become a chemical engineer?’ I didn’t know anything else, and he was basically my dad at the time, helping to guide me, so that’s what I chose.” After securing loans and grants, he set off to the University of Tennessee, where he stayed active in the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity and Judo team and earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree in chemical engineering. LEARNING THE ROPES “There’s nothing that’ll make you fall in love more than a 3:00am job making peanut butter, right?!” Ken recalls that in Jacksonville at that time there were two chemical companies that took turpentine and fractionated it into aroma chemicals. Steve worked at SCM- Glidco Organics, which is now part of IFF, and got him a co-op job at the plant after he had a year or two of schooling under his belt. “That was my first exposure to aroma chemicals…as a 19 year old!” he says. Over the course of his four years there, he learned the basics of terpene chemistry, terpene hydrocarbons, how to do the organic Ken with his wife Virginia, daughter Sarah, and son Heath Issue 2, 2019 | FRAGRANCENOTES.ORG | 9