Contemporary fragrance houses flying the flag

Who can lay claim to being ‘the birthplace of perfumery’? France and Italy regularly duke it out for the title, but British scents have been going strong since 1730 – with whispers of Yardley London‘s heritage in fact going all the way back to the reign of King Charles I, supplying royalty with lavender-scented soaps. Sadly, these records were lost in 1666’s Great Fire of London, but many British houses have archives bursting not only with records of their fragrant wares, but the customers who bought them – including royalty, film stars and prime ministers along with the many millions who flocked to their historic doors.
We chose to dedicate the latest issue of our award-winning online magazine, The Scented Letter, to these Best of British. (It’s available digitally to V.I.P. Club Members as a membership benefit as well as in print form.)
The emphasis is on heritage houses who have made our name and are still some of our favourites to this very day, with a selection of newer houses mentioned – including Miller Harris, Angela Flanders, Ormonde Jayne and Floral Street – all of whom have their own boutiques, where you can visit to stock-up on their perfumes, both historic and ground-breakingly new. The streets of London may not be paved in gold, but they’re filled with delicious perfumes…
To be frank, the feature was practically an entire book’s worth of material, and we still didn’t have room for every single one we’d have like to mention – which goes to show how many we have to be proud of. Also, we are thrilled that so many contemporary houses are continuing to fly that fragrant flag, being sold online and stocked in independent perfumeries that stretch the entire globe.
What better time, then, to continue our celebration of the diversity, ingenuity and creativity British fragrance houses display, and share with you a list of some contemporary houses your nose should definitely get to know…?

Ruth Mastenbroek

Born in England, graduating with a Chemistry degree from Oxford University, Ruth trained and worked as a perfumer in the 70s – both in the UK and Netherlands with Naarden International (which later became Quest and is now Givaudan – one of the largest perfume suppliers in the world…) Ruth then went to work in Japan and the perfume capital Grasse before returning to England to work for a small company, where she created fragrances for up-and-coming brands like Kenneth Turner and Jo Malone – including her Grapefruit candle. Setting up her own perfumery company, Fragosmic Ltd., in 2003 – the year she became president of The British Society of Perfumers, it was in 2010 that Ruth launched a capsule collection of scented products featuring her signature fragrance – RM – the first to use advanced micro-encapsulation technology in a scented bathrobe…!

Still creating bespoke fragrances for brands, Ruth’s own fragrances allow her to bottle memories, she says, ‘…of childhood in England and America – chocolate cookies, fresh earth, blackberries… Of Holland – lilies, narcissus, hyacinth and salty sea air… Of France – orchids, roses and wild herbs… Of Japan – cherry blossom, lotus and green tea…’ Believing that fragrance can uniquely move us, and with a wealth of knowledge at her fingertips; Ruth distills olfactory flash-backs into perfumes that everyone can enjoy and form their own, highly personal connections with. And with her latest, the sulty, smoking rose of Firedance, shortlisted for Global Pure Beauty and Fragrance Foundation Awards this year, we suggest you allow yourself the pleasure of connecting with them, too…

Quintessential scents Just launched, you can now indulge in a newly-chic box of emotionally uplifting scents. From the sparkling secret-garden fruitiness of Signature, through the romantic, rolling landscape of Umbria captured in Amorosa. A furtively-smoked Sobranie with notes of jasmine and cashmere evoke the dreaming spires of Oxford, while a classic rose is transformed with hot leather in Firedance, to become quite swaggeringly swoon-worthy. Have a chaise-lounge at the ready…
Ruth Mastenbroek Discovery Set £17.95 for 4 x 2ml eaux de parfum
Available now in our shop

4160 Tuesdays

If we live till we’re 80, we have 4,160 tuesdays to fill, and so the philosophy of copywriter-turned-perfumer Sarah McCartney is: better make the most of every single one of them. Having spent years writing copy for other people’s products, and writing for LUSH for 14 years, Sarah wrote a novel about imagined perfumes that make people happy, with such evocative descriptions that readers began asking her to make them. Ever the type to roll up her sleeves and take on a new challenge, Sarah explains she’d ‘…tried to find perfumes that matched what I was describing, and they still weren’t right, so I set off on my quest to make them myself. I became a perfumer!’
Proudly extolling British eccentricity, the ever-increasing fragrances include Sunshine & Pancakes, which Sarah made to evoke a typical 1970s British seaside family vacation, opening with a burst of sunny citrus, with jasmine to represent sun-warmed skin – alongside honey and vanilla (the pancakes element). The Dark Heart of Old Havana is based on a 1998 trip to Cuba: brown sugar, tobacco, rich coffee, fruit, warm bodies, ‘alcohol, exuberance and recklessness,’ as she puts it. Maxed Out and Midnight in the Palace Garden were both shortlisted for the coveted Fragrance Foundation Awards 2016 in the ‘Best Indie Scent’ category, and an army of devotees now relish every day, scented suitably eccentrically.
Quintessential scent  Named for a comment made by a Tatler beauty editor who smelled it, a dash of bergamot, a soft hint of creamy vanilla, velvety smooth woods, musk and ambergris make for a dreamily decadent ‘your skin but oh, so much better’ affair. Like wearing a magical potion made of lemon meringue pie and fancy pants, if they don’t fall at your feet after a whiff of this, they aren’t worth knowing.
4160 Tuesdays The Sexiest Scent on the Planet Ever (IMHO) £40 for 30ml
Buy it at
Pssst! Breaking news: Fans of 4160 Tuesdays are a passionate lot, and kept asking Sarah when her next crowd-funded fragrance would be available, and so she’s teamed up with James Skinner, founder and designer at Dalliance & Noble, to make a matching scarf and perfume.
The fragrance is a soft, rich, lavish blend of iris, hay, honey, apricot, tobacco, vanilla, lily, almond, sandalwood and bergamot, and as we love scenting our scarves with perfume, we cannot wait to try this one!
They met in 2017 at the artisan trade show Best of Britannia in Brick Lane, then regrouped in Sarah’s 4160Tuesday’s West London studio to choose natural and synthetic materials. The result was a collection of aromas which Sarah took as inspiration for the fragrance, and she named it Truth Beauty Freedom Love, the rallying cry of the 19th Century Bohemian movement or artists, writers and free thinkers.
James illustrated the plants which the natural essential oils came from, and the wildlife they support. In the corners of the scarf he’s placed the aroma molecules which cast a perfumer’s spell on the blend to transform it from just a mixture of materials into an elegant, wearable fragrance. He designed the scarf in two colourways, and named it Eden’s Garden – a haven for fruit, flowers and wildlife.
Crowdfunding prices:
100ml eau de parfum and silk scarf £175 (will be £300)
100ml eau de parfum £75 (will be £150)
30ml eau de parfum £40 (will be £75)
Get in on the action here – but hurry, there’s only twenty days left to secure these special prices!

Nancy Meiland Parfums

Nancy’s background as a bespoke perfumer began with her apprenticeship to one of the UK’s experts in custom perfumery, creating signature scents for those coveting ‘something highly individual and special…’ Before launching Nancy Meiland Parfums, her decade-long journey through fragrance had already included co-running the former School of Perfumery, acting as a consultant for independent perfume houses, working on collaborations with Miller Harris, and speaking on the subject of fragrance at events nationwide.
Now dividing her time between town and country (Nancy’s based in East Sussex), she explains that ‘the creative process of gathering sensory impressions and honing them into a formula is a vital one. Once a blank canvas, the formula sheet acts as a metaphor – and gradually emerges essentially as a kind of poem, with body, light and shade and a life of its own.’ It amuses Nancy, looking back, that she often had school essays returned to her emblazoned in red pen for being “too flowery”. ‘It figures!,’ she says. Thank goodness, say her extensive base of fragrance fans, in love with these portrayals of often traditional ingredients, composed with elegant modernity and beautiful harmony.
Quintessential scent  Definitely not your grandma’s drawer-liner, this is a rose in all its glory, with the entire plant evoked – pink pepper, for the thorns, stalky green galbanum for the leaves; geranium, jasmine, white pear and violet delicately sketching the tender bud. As Nancy observes: ‘I wanted to depict both the light and the dark shades of it, as opposed to this pretty, twee and girly rose that’s become slightly old-fashioned.” Rambling roses entwined with brambles, if this scent surrounded Sleeping Beauty, she’d never forgive that meddlesome prince for cutting it down…

Nancy Meiland Parfums Rosier £62.50 for 50ml eau de parfum
Buy it at

Marina Barcenilla Parfums

A rising star of perfumery, Marina Barcenilla is one of the talented ‘noses’ driving the strong trend towards natural perfumery. As the name may suggest, her birthplace may not have been in the UK – in fact she was born in Spain – but it’s where Marina chose to make her home, and to set up her now thriving perfume business. Marina recalls being intrigued by the aromatic notes in the Herbíssimo fragrances and in her grandmother’s lavender water.
Having always been fascinated and inspired by scent – when the chance came to branch out from her aromatherapy roots into the world of perfume, Marina rose beautifully to the challenge. In 2016 Marina won the coveted Fragrance Foundation (FiFi) Award for Best New Independent Fragrance with India. Against incredibly stiff competition, judged blind by Jasmine Award-winning journalists and bloggers, this prompted her to take the next step on her journey; her company – formerly known as The Perfume Garden – became Marina Barcenilla Parfums. But although the name had changed, the ethos remained the same – ‘to create the finest fragrances, using what nature has to offer.’ More awards followed, including a Beauty Shortlist Award for Patchouli Clouds, an International Natural Beauty Award, and the Eluxe Award for Best Natural Perfume Brand.
In 2017, for the second consecutive year, Marina won Best New Independent Fragrance for the opulent Black Osmanthus – which truly put her on the radar of journalists and perfumistas. From sourcing rare and precious aromatic essences from around the world to blending fragrances by hand in her own perfume studio, after years of study, Marina’s long-awaited olfactory journey to ‘rediscover the soul of perfume’ is off to a rousing start – and all from the suitably mystical base of Glastonbury. More than simply reaching for the stars, parallel to her perfumery career she’s also studying to become a Planetary Scientist and Astrobiologist, at the University of London; recently combining her twin passions by creating AromAtom – creating the imagined scents of space as a way to make space science more engaging for children – which Marina regularly tours through schools. What else can we say for this exciting house, but ‘up, up and away…!?’
Quintessential scent  Silky-smooth sandalwood is enticingly laced with flecks of fragrant cardamom, dotted with coriander, huge armfulls of rose and woven with incense for an all-natural scent that’s soothingly spiced, earthily grounding and yet erotically tempting; so you’ll be wanting to dance barefoot (perhaps comletely bare) and wrap yourself around a Maypole, have no doubt…
Marina Barcenilla Parfums India £130 for 30ml eau de parfum
Buy it at

St Giles

Rarely do founders of fragrance houses come with such experience, passion and dedication to the industry as Michael Donovan. With a career thus far helping stock the shelves of such cult fragrance-shopping destinations as Roullier White, running his own PR company, representing such luminaries as Fréderic Malle – every time we’ve met Michael, he’s been bubbling with enthusiasm about a perfume we ‘…absolutely must smell!’ or a nose who’s ‘a complete genius!’ And you know what? He’s always been right.
He’d been badgered for years by fragrance experts and enthusiasts alike to launch his own range, but the idea had tickled his brain for some decades before being fully explored as a reality. As Michael explains, the concept he just couldn’t let go of was to have a collection that truly represented ‘scents as complex as you are.’ And so, the St Giles fragrances have ‘…been created to stimulate and amplify the many different aspects of our character. This wardrobe of fragrances celebrates the parts that make us who we are, fusing the reality and the fantasy.’
And the nose he sought out to compose them just happens to be one of the greatest of our time. ‘The perfumes are made in collaboration with Master Perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour, whose vision I have long admired and whose friendship I cherish.’ Having spent many years working alongside Bertrand, but always in regard to his work for other houses, Michael admits he was ‘…extremely nervous’ about approaching him, but it turns out Bertrand was more than enthusiastic in his acceptance. The only question you need ask, now, is which fragrant character you want to embody, today…
Quintessential scent  Rosemary absolute – now proven to stimulate memory performance – adds an aromatic, drily green note while fresh ginger warmly fizzes alongside Champagne-like aldehydes, herbaceous clary sage and the uplifting, fruity zing of rhubarb. There’s a sigh of soft leather and frankincense at the heart, slowly sinking to the inky-tinged base of castoreum absolute, sandalwood, Atlas cedarwood and a salty tang of driftwood. Absolutely unique, you’ll want to cover yourself in it while seeking your muse, perhaps while enjoying a sip or three of something refreshing, wearing nothing else but a velvet smoking jacket and an enigmatic smile…
St Giles The Writer £130 for 100ml eau de parfum
Buy it at


Tom Daxon

Recalling his childhood and growing up ‘in fragrant surroundings,’ Tom Daxon rather understates how perfume practically ran in his blood. Lucky enough to have a mother who was creative director at Molton Brown for over 30 years, and therefore ‘would often give me new shower gels to try, fragrances to sniff’ his scented destiny was sealed by frequently accompanying his mother on her business trips to Grasse.
There he met the father-daughter duo of Jacques and Carla Chabert, who’d variously worked for Chanel, Guerlain and L’Oréal, with Jacques the nose behind Molton Brown’s ground-breaking Black Pepper and Carla creating the hit follow-up, Pink Peppercorn. Having esteemed perfumers in his life from such an early age was a connection that would bravely – still in his twenties – lead Tom to launch a brand new British fragrance house. Clearly a chap who doesn’t like to hang around when he’s got a bee in his bonnet, by the end of that same year, he was already being stocked in Liberty.
Not a bad start, all things considered, and describing the impetus behind him starting his own line of fragrances, Tom says ‘I wouldn’t have bothered if I thought I couldn’t offer something a bit different.’ Uniquely intriguing, the entire range celebrates a luxurious kind of British modernity in their pared back, clean lines, the oils being macerated and matured in England for at least six weeks before they’re bottled here. Harnessing Tom’s Grasse connections but remaining resolutely British in their spirit, it’s just the beginning for this exciting house.
Quintessential scent Lushly narcotic, it’s a hyper-realistic big-hitter – like sticking your entire face in a buxom bouquet, the better to get another dose of its lascivious charms. Using traditional, headily feminine notes like lily of the valley, carnation, rose and oakmoss might have become ‘vintage’ or even a bit old-fashioned smelling in the wrong hands, but the Chaberts and Tom vividly evoke just-bruised, silky petals with a futuristic drama that never fails to shake you out of the doldrums.

Tom Daxon Crushing Bloom £105 for 50ml eau de parfum
Buy it at
With a strong heritage behind us, and many of those houses still not only surviving but thriving, it seems British perfumery is once again blooming with a fresh crop of forward-thinking (and often self-taught) perfumers shaking up the scent scene. No fuddy-duddy fragrances, these, they’re flying the flag not only for British niche perfumery, but for the art of fragrance itself. Hoist the bunting!

For further reading, we suggest getting your hands on a copy of British Perfumery: A Fragrant History by The British Society of Perfumers/£30 including UK delivery.
Written by Suzy Nightingale

Just for our V.I.P.s – 20% off at Miller Harris

We’re delighted that from now on, our Perfume Society V.I.P.s will receive a special monthly privilege discount that we’ve negotiated for you with the most fabulous perfume websites.
So: until 30th April 2018, our very first offer is with Miller Harris. Simply visit their website and when you’ve chosen your fragrance/s, add the code PerfumeSociety20 at checkout. Hey, presto! You’ll enjoy 20% off the price of the perfume.
Longing for a bottle of Petit Grain – so perfect for a spring scent wardrobe? Been thinking about trying the new Scherzo and Tender, each inspired by a passage in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night…? Or, if you’ve enjoyed a Miller Harris in one of our Discovery Boxes, there’s never been a better time to treat yourself to a full-size bottle.
Enjoy! With love from us (and Miller Harris) to you…

The essence of Hermès, bottled

Enjoying astonishing creative freedom, Christine Nagel, the current in-house perfumer for Hermès, is the picture of happiness. We spoke to the much-admired perfumer about the ins and outs of her day, you can read our in-depth interview with Christine, here.
‘I am free’, was the overriding feeling we got from her smiling answers – and her five new scents reflect just that. Christine wanted to return to the origins of perfumery with these scents, and so created five Ambrées to add to the existing strong line-up of the Hermessence Collection. All retain the quintessential ‘essence’ of Hermès,  expressed through Nagel’s bold style. Two pure perfume oils centered around musks are the picture of elegance, whilst the three eaux de toilette are truly unforgettable. Read our thoughts on the new addtions below…

Myrrhe Églantine

An incarnation of myrrh different to any other. This love letter to an age-old precious ingredient – one that conjures images of perfume trade routes and travels through deserts – is equal parts intriguing and irresistible. Entwined with wild rosehip, the rich and enveloping myrrh only shows its true colours, on your skin, hours later. The rose is fruity and tangy and fresh, soft and sweet. A sharp jam-like scent peels away to reveal a rich resinous cave. Deeply sophisticated, yet calming and comforting, this scent lies somewhere between the experience of resting on rose-scented soft sheets, the downy cotton touching your cheek, and walking through rose-tinged woodlands with the depth of dark woods surrounding you.

Cèdre Sambac
It is said that cedars ‘know history better than history itself’. This is certainly an accomplished ode to a majestic tree and a magical ingredient. Powerful jasmine blossoms coil around the hard cedar branches. An engulfing scent, the first spray offers a harsh punch of cedar, sharp and woody, swiftly softened by the creamy white petals of jasmine. The entanglement of these two ingredients feels so natural – almost as if the cedar tree began to blossom jasmine flowers.

Agar Ébène
The carnal warmth of agar wood (oudh) soothed by the light, balmy scent of fir balsam, results in a blanket of enveloping woody comfort. There’s almost a tinge of fruitiness at first spritz, but with facets of agar peeping through. A rounded smoothness evolves, creating a kind of a velvety cloak. The melding of these two woods happens in such a graceful, effortless way – Agar Ébène is like a song that both ingredients have been waiting, and longing, to dance to.


The new Eau de Toilettes come with optional leather cases, in true Hermès style

Like being thrown into a dream… Hands delving into bags of cardamom, the life of the Indian spice market bustles around you – you lose touch, you can’t hear the loud chatter, the car honks, the abrasive sounds. You smell only the sweet cardamom, once bracing and cooling, now softened by soothing musks. Then the relief of musk, giving a warmth that echoes of the comfort and sweetness of hot milk. Altogether an unforgettable adventure in warm spices.

Musc Pallida
A precious powdery iris, meets a rare musk. Tiny, delicate, sweet wisps of powder waft through this scent, while downy musks purr – rich and sensual. This is kind of hazy – cloudy with its softness – but with a feeling of clean sheets and bright fresh air blowing through. Ultimately, the bouquet of musks peppered with violet-tinged-irises creates almost a pool of liquid gold.

Myrrhe Églantine £180 for 100ml eau de toilette
Cèdre Sambac £180 for 100ml eau de toilette
Agar Ébène £180 for 100ml eau de toilette
Cardamusc £275 for 20ml essence de parfum
Musc Pallida £275 for 20ml essence de parfum
In store exclusively at Harrods and at Hermes online
Written by Carson Parkin-Fairley 

Christine Nagel, in-house perfumer at Hermès

Taking over from the revered Jean-Claude Ellena, Christine Nagel embodies the creative freedom so cherished by Hermès , where she joined the team in 2016. She has already ‘signed’ both the playful and uplifting Twilly, along with the salty, shimmering Eau des Merveilles Bleue, in her time there – and we spoke to her at the launch of five brand new (and utterly unforgettable) additions to the Hermessence Collection. (Read about those beguiling scents here.)
My nose is better in the morning. When it is fresh, it’s at its best. Come around 5 pm in the afternoon, I am less productive, because I am tired.
To understand my day, you need to start with how I finish it. After I return to my home in a car, I spray a sample of what I have been working on in my car. I close the door and go back to my room for the night. Then in the morning, when my nose is very fresh and very precise, I open the door to my car. I am alone with the perfume. I smell the scent with my fresh nose, and sometimes I don’t feel anything, but other times, it’s very interesting.
When I arrive in my atelier, I have some blotters on my desk, and I’ll choose three or four samples of a scent that I’ve been working on. I smell again, fresh, and then I select two or three samples. It is then necessary for me to put it on the skin – the sensation I have from it being on the skin is very important. Then I take a long time to decide what’s the best next step. I might like it, but need a modification. I write up the new formula, give it to my lab assistant – and then after the modified formula comes back, I smell again. This is a cycle, a process.
After that, I might do smelling exercises – where I smell ingredients, and I have to identify them by guessing. It’s like training in sport.
All my day, I smell. And not only all my day; all my life, I smell. It’s impossible to cut off your nose, to stop smelling. I find it impossible to close my nose – but it’s possible to close my mind, to shut it off. This only happens when I am truly exhausted, though.
I need inspiration, and my first inspiration is the Hermès house. The history, the leather, the silk, the fashion. The story is so marvellous; I feel like I have an entire playground to play within. Other things I like to be inspired by are exhibitions. It’s necessary to be very receptive to all art.
I work in a city near Paris, called Pantin. When Pierre-Alexis Dumas (Creative Director of Hermès) hired me, he asked: where do you want to work? My response was that I would like to work in Pantin. He replied, ‘are you sure’ Because the city of Pantin is not nice!’ But, for me, in Pantin lives the heart of Hermès. This is where all the artisans work, where all the workshops are, and it’s important for me to be in the middle of the creation/ creative area. We have the leather production labs and the Conservatoire – the archive of all the Hermès creations – and it’s the story of Hermès.
I work on the top floor, with a garden. I am very lucky because Pierre-Alexis Dumas offered me a wonderful place to work, in a building from the 1930s. In my top floor office I work alone with my lab assistant; it’s very tranquil and quiet. I have different rooms – but the little office where I work with my computer was Jean-Louis Dumas’ first office [the man credited with turning Hermès into a global brand]. It has a very special floor, which looks like wood but is made out of leather. It was a prototype that never made it to production, from 20 years ago. It’s very soft to walk on, and very sensual. I have a big room with a large table – and some furniture pieces from Hermès, but not all Hermès. I have many paintings on the walls; it is like my apartment, my sanctuary. Very simple, quality, quiet, and chic – just like Hermès. I could work in the middle of Paris, or by the sea, but for me it is so important to stay within the creative zone.
I love working on different projects at the same time. Some perfumers prefer working on one at a time but I like working on different things – like a painter who might start working on different landscapes. I release myself from a creation, and might find inspiration for another. But with Hermès I have a gift: I have time. And time is a marvellous thing. I may be working on, say, five ideas at the same time, but they’re not always in the same direction. It’s possible I’ll be working on a fresh note at the same time as an Iriental, or Chypre. I like the difference in them. Sometimes it might be two or six ideas, but I am free. I am free and I have time. I am a lucky perfumer!
The first idea for a fragrance comes from the mind and the heart. It’s a question of mind and emotion. After I’ve thought about it, I prepare. The first decision is a name; I chose a working name. It’s very important, like the title of a book; I can’t start a project without a name. After that, I write a formula. I love working on computers, I am half-Swiss and half-Italian and they appeal to my organized (Swiss) side. I love to be very precise with my formulas. After I print my formula, then my lab assistant will weigh the formula out – but if I have an idea to modify it, I may write that by hand. It’s a mix of the artisan and technology.
I don’t have just one source of inspiration. My first inspiration is, of course, the house of Hermès. Hermès is versatile, and excellence shines through in so many areas. The second inspiration is the natural. Nature is very important – but it’s not always a garden; it can be a flower growing in the asphalt, or a nice woman in India, with colour and elegance, or it could be a fruit. Ideas come from everywhere. I am like a sponge.
A big part of my inspiration is art. When I see a fine painting or sculpture, it inspires me. For example; I love Camille Claudel, and Rodin, and when I see a sculpture by them I am impressed by the details. The hands and feet are larger than normal, irregular, but when you see this sculpture in front of you, it looks so natural, like they are living. If I transfer this to the way I work, sometimes I may overdose an ingredient, that shouldn’t be normal, but it smells more natural, more elegant that way. Some painters work with little touches and when you stand afar you see something very sensual, a very clear painting, but when you come up close, you cannot understand it.
It’s important that you understand that I am totally free. One day is never the same as the other. It depends, if I’m too tired to smell, I use my mind and I might go to an exhibition, to have ideas. I am totally free and I work with my instincts, just this. No routine. There is only one point to remember: I work, I work, I work and I smell, I smell, I smell. It’s just an exercise. It’s like when you see a ballerina dancing, it looks easy, effortless, but actually she has worked for years perfecting her moves. When you see me, you might think, ‘Oh, she smells’, but it’s a lot of work.
I’ll only take a fragrance home if I’m ‘upset’ by a creation. This is usually when I’m finding it hard to achieve my goal. And if I’m upset, when I get home, I’ll spray it on my arm, I’ll put it on my pillow, I’ll smell constantly. It’s an obsession. I try to think about why I can’t understand the construction.
I must be calm to work. I cannot work if I am in pain;  it needs to be peaceful.
I’ve worked on many brands, in the past. But I think when you are becoming a perfumer for a specific house, it is important that you have had a life before. When you work for a brand like Hermès, you work alone – but this is fantastic, and I love it. However, with working alone comes a lot of responsibility. I’m free, I have time, I have money, because there’s no limitations, I have the possibility to choose my ingredients from all over the world. And it’s even possible for me to ask them to create a particular special extract, should I need one. Everything is possible.
For Hermès, it’s all about the raw materials and the ingredients. Like the leather they use for their bags, it’s the principle subject and of great importance. The attention to ingredients is number one at Hermès, and it is the same in their perfumery.
We don’t do market research. Hermès never, ever, test a perfume, and this is a marvelous gift. When you test a perfume, a lot of people smell it, and give their feedback, and after you remove any extremes that challenge people. You’ll have a nice perfume – but in the middle ground, for mass market. The decision to choose and produce a perfume at Hermès is made by three people: Agnès de Villers (the General Director of Hermès Parfums), Pierre-Alexis Dumas and the perfumer, me. It’s fantastic, but it’s also a big responsibility. Fingers crossed I don’t make any mistakes.
With each creation, I put my heart into it. I think it’s very important for perfumery that I try to work outside the box, that I don’t stick to the norm and that I’m not afraid to take risks. A lot of perfumes can smell the same, so I have a responsibility to create something different.
When I arrived at Hermès, I didn’t have to learn my job, I knew it already. I worked alongside Jean-Claude Ellena, for a while, who is a marvellous perfumer. When I talk about Hermès, I describe it as a tree – a tree that has its strength with the roots, the history of the house. And all the branches are the different perfumers who have worked with Hermès: Edmond Roudnitska, Jean Claude Ellena, and me. And my role, is to create new ‘leaves’ each year. When I arrived at Hermès, I received another gift: the gift of time. That time was a space in which to understand Hermès, to immerse myself, and that time was also given to Jean Claude to leave the company. It was a very special time, because normally when you change a perfumer in house it is very swift. But we had this special time together.
I didn’t learn my job from Jean-Claude. We are different perfumers and this is why they chose me, for my difference. But when I observed Jean- Claude, I wanted to understand how he captures the essence of Hermès, and how he creates a fragrance with this style – and I observed this. This audacity. When you talk about Hermès, people say: ‘it is classical house, with a lot of serious scents.’ But really Hermès has a lot of audacity, a lot of modernity. I discovered this – the colour, the fantasy, the audacity – when I started to work here. But perhaps Hermès’ most audacious move was to hire me after Jean-Claude, because we are so different. But Pierre-Alexis Dumas, said ‘You are Hermès, just perhaps a different part of Hermès, more tactile. Jean-Claude Ellena was Hermès, Edmond Roudnitska was Hermès.’ Hermès is a rich brand; it is not just one person.
There is no answer to how long it takes to finish a fragrance. It could take three days, three months, three years, or never.
I love music but I am very open with it. I like very different stuff. Sometimes I love to listen to Bach’s violin, or Bob Marley, or Pink Floyd, or Deep Purple, when I’m working. It depends on the moment.
Images can sometimes be helpful when creating a fragrance. Sometimes, I have an obsession. I’ll cut many things out of newspapers or magazines, and I’ll put them in a book, just an image I love. But, really, it’s been about a year since I last touched my books.  
Sometimes, I can create a perfume and do 500 modifications.  But then I still return to the first formula. It’s complicated, it’s not a question of numbers because sometimes I work, and I go too far, and then I need to return to a simpler scent.
My perfumer’s palette is very special. Because in a perfumer’s normal palette, they have maybe 1200 ingredients. I prefer to have only 300-400. My palette is small – but if I ever need something, anything is possible.
I have the best job in the world. And for this reason, I am so happy.
By Carson Parkin-Fairley

Oranges are not the only (fragrant) fruit…

We whooped for joy when the 2018 Jasmine Awards Finalists were announced, with several features from The Scented Letter magazine on that list!
We are sharing those pieces with you over the next few days – exclusive content which subscribers to the print and online editions only usually get to read.
This feature concentrates on one of the most important ingredients in perfumery (and one of the most misunderstood) – a tree that in fact offers several vital materials to the perfumers’ palette. But do you know your neroli from your petit grain? Senior Writer Suzy Nightingale went on a quest to find out…

The launches we're loving this week

On Mondays, we share with you news of newly-unveiled fragrances that are worth sniffing out – starting with these fab fragrant ‘finds’…

We were astonished to discover that gentlemanly perfumer Carlos Benaïm is celebrating his 50th anniversary at fragrance house IFF – because this proves he’s still absolutely at the top of his game. Utterly transfixing, Music for a While delivers on its promise ‘to lift us up like an eternal melody’ – a crescendo of wonderfully contrasting notes that include lavender laced with patchouli, amber, vanilla and musk, with ethyl maltol and pineapple delivering gourmand moreishness. Encore, encore, Carlos!
From £132 for 50ml eau de parfum

All aboard for a collaboration with graffiti-inspired Parisian artist André Saraïva, the collectable limited editions re-interpreted with his subversively cute ‘Mr. & Mrs. A’ characters. Pink stripes and a smiling, cartoonish face adorn the curves of Classique, the fresh breeze of the Bahamas beckoning with an addition of sugarcane juice in the ginger and lemon sorbet mix. Tiaré flower, orange blossoms and jasmine tea overflow from the heart to a labdanum, vanilla and musk base. (Scroll down for news of the men’s counterpart.)
£77.50 for 100ml eau de toilette

Calice Becker has streamed even more sunlight through the original Terre de Lumière, introducing armfuls of peonies to this limited edition, graceful floral. L’Occitane describe it as ‘the scent of daybreak, when the sun’s rays emerge gently over the horizon’, with pink pepper and bergamot to remind us of the crystal-fresh dawn air, before those peonies unfurl their blossoms. Finally, bitter almond essence, white musk and tonka tether this ethereal scent on the skin.
£65 for 50ml eau de toilette

Oh, lucky, lucky One Million lovers. (And there are probably way more than a million out there.) You’ll be taking no chances with this latest to join Paco Rabanne’s blockbuster line-up: an almost sherbet-y rose (as opposed to Lady Million’s original white flower heart), sitting alongside juicy raspberries, then wrapped in sandalwood. As ever, the bottle is a showstopper: like a diamond, with the golden juice twinkling through the facets. We say: place your bets, please, on another hit.
From £46.50 for 30ml eau de parfum

Dressed like a sailor who definitely knows all the coolest bars in a graffiti-inspired stripy design by Parisian street artist, André Saraïva, collectors and fragrance fans alike will be adding this to their stash. Gaultier describe the scent as ‘a sexy fabric softener,’ – bring forth the snuggling, because you’ll want to get cosy with neroli and a minty breeze of fresh air before the comfortingly clean heart throbs with sage, sandalwood and moreish vanilla/tonka base.
£60 for 125ml eau de toilette

Just for VIPs: win Anna Sui Fantasia – signed by Anna herself!

Not long ago we hosted a fascinating event with designer Anna Sui at the Museum of Fashion & Textiles in London’s Bermondsey. She was smart. She was funny. She was stylish. And Anna Sui signed the box of her latest fragrance, Fantasia, for one special Perfume Society VIP to get their hands on…
The floral juice inside the bottle is bright, breezy, cheerful – and very wearable, created by star perfumer Jérôme Épinette around pink pepper, pink grapefruit, blackcurrant buds, blue cyclamen raspberry, praline and Bulgarian rose, resting on a woody bed of cypress and cedarwood.
But oh, that bottle! One of our favourites from the last year of launches, with its unicorn top.
Anna signed the box (too challenging, in this case, to sign the fluted bottle!). The 50ml fragrance would normally be £45 – but Anna Sui’s signature makes this a truly priceless prize…
And all you have to do to enter the draw is fill in your details, below. And wish upon a unicorn…

Oops! We could not locate your form.

Prize draw closes at 10 a.m. on Tuesday 1st May 2018. Entry only open to Perfume Society VIPs. There is no cash alternative to this prize. We need your phone number only to contact you if you win, and your contact details will not be used for any other purpose or shared externally. Good luck!

A wonderful offer from Marina Barcenilla for our VIPs…

If you’ve ever been interested in learning how to make your own fragrance, then listen up!
The lovely, and incredibly talented, natural Perfumer Marina Barcenilla is offering our VIPs a 10% discount on all of her perfumery courses. They range from a look inside Ancient Egyptians perfumery to week long intensive courses, covering everything from blending fine fragrances to creating a matching body oil to the cosmetic legislation you need to know before selling.
She’s an award winning perfumer with her brand MB Parfums, is incredibly knowledgable and generally an all-round lovely person. We highly recommend her workshops, should you wish to book with your VIP discount, just use the code: PERFUMEVIP at checkout.
You can find links to her courses on our Events page here.

Scents of Place

Planning a perfume pilgramage to London? Here’s a fascinating route for your nose to follow, as described by our very own Carson Parkin-Fairley in Scents of Place – a piece that has thrillingly been nominated as a Finalist for the 2018 Jasmine Awards!

Originally published in The Scented Letter Magazine, we are happy to be sharing this exclusive content with you – along with several other of the nominated pieces we’re so honoured to have in the Finals, so look out for those over the next few days…

The awards are announced on April 19th, so until then, make a cuppa, put your feet up and enjoy your fragrant read!