A year of fragrant fun! Our highlights of 2018

What a year it’s been – with more new launches than ever before, new houses causing major ripples of excitement, niche brands breaking new ground and most of all, a firm sense that the scent of optimism is the air for all things fragrant… and constantly re-affirming exactly how much we love our jobs!

But with so much to choose from, what would you say are your scented highlights of 2018? We could honestly have picked twenty things each, but when absolutely forced to choose, we asked Co-Founders of The Perfume Society, Jo Fairley and Lorna McKay, along with Senior Writer Suzy Nightingale and Head of Social Media Carson Parkin-Fairley, to list some of theirs…

 

SUZY NIGHTINGALE

Visiting the rose harvest with Anima Vinci was an absolute dream, and a day which will live on in my scent memories forever. It was such an honour to meet the people who own the rose fields, pick the flowers and transport them to be processed; to hear about how long it takes, their worries for the future of the fields in France, but most of all to follow a fragrance from field to flaçon. If I close my eyes, I can still smell those piles of petals, and am transported there every time I spray that finished perfume…

• Having my mind blown by smelling ingredients at the launch of Ostens. Using these fabulous quality LMR ingredients – and, uniquely, making them available to the public in single form or blended into eaux de parfums – Ostens are daring to do something new in the fragrance retail space. They truly give perfume-lovers the respect they’re due. I had the pleasure of following the journey of founders Christopher Yu and Laurent Delafon, finally interviewing them at their launch for The Scented Letter Magazine. Genuinely one of my favourite moments of the whole year was seeing the joy and pride in their faces – and oh my god, getting to smell that Jasmine Absolute!

• When Jovoy Mayfair opened in Conduit Street, I actually squealed a little with happiness, as this was one of my favourite shops in Paris for niche perfume – but on my own doorstep! The staff are so friendly and welcoming, and there’s so many brands there to explore, all beautifully displayed and with pots of blotters and pencils arrayed ready for your sniffing adventures. They recently celebrated their first birthday, and it was such a pleasure to see how they’ve grown, how they support smaller houses, and to be there to celebrate with them.

• The complete revamp of Les Senteurs – London’s first independent has been such a treat to witness – their gloriously dramatic floral-bedecked frontage is surely one of the most Instagrammed sights in London this year – and within, there’s a whole world of fragrant expertise to enjoy. It’s where you can find fragrance archivist James Craven – one of the nicest gentlemen you could ever meet and with a host of fragrant anecdotes to keep you entertained. I think it’s so vital to suppoort these indie businesses, now more than ever, and I particularly love their Meet the Perfumer events, where you can enjoy a glass of bubbly while sniffing something new.

 


JO FAIRLEY

• The Chelsea Flower Show launch of Floris A Rose For… What more perfect setting could there be for the launch of a rosetastic new fragrance – from Jermyn Street’s fabled fragrance name – than the Grand Marquee at event which is the highlight of the floral calendar? A-swirl with deep, velvety roses and underpinned by lashings of patchouli, A Rose For… can also be personalised with the name of the person it’s given to. (Even if it’s A Rose For… You!)

Lunch with The Lauder Family – an amazing get-together with all the members of the family whose doyenne, Estée Lauder, changed the face of fragrance with the launch of Youth Dew (originally a bath oil, that meant women could guiltlessly buy it for themselves rather than waiting for a birthday and a ‘special’ bottle of perfume). Leonard, Ronald, Aerin, William and Jane Lauder were all present – and the attention to detail was quite astonishing, from the Union Jack powder compacts which were the table gifts through to the monogrammed ribbons tied around the Christmas crackers.

A visit to the Diptyque archive in Paris – I’ve spent lots of time on Eurostar this year (file under: ‘it’s a tough job’, etc.) but a real highlight was being the first to see the beautifully revamped upstairs rooms above their boutique at 34 Boulevard Saint Germain where Diptyque stores the artwork, fabrics and other souvenirs of their 60 years in business. It was completely fascinating to see early designs for the logo and discover scents that no longer feature in the collection (but which are surely ripe for revival!) V.I.P. Club Members can read the full story in our current edition of The Scented Letterhere

The Chanel No.5 ‘Red’ dinner at Annabel’s – to celebrate this show-stopping incarnation of the iconic Chanel No.5, which got all dressed up in red for a limited edition season. The Berkeley Square nightclub was all dressed up in red, too – and it’s always fun to rub shoulders with the likes of Amanda Harlech, superstylist Sam McKnight and Lily-Rose Depp, don’t ya know?

Stepping inside the Guerlain fragrance laboratory at their HQ with Thierry Wasser. I don’t really need to add anything to that, do I…?

LORNA McKAY

Here are just a few of the fragrances which give me the ‘feel good factor’ for 2018, and while wearing them have had people actually stop me in the street to tell me how great I smelled and ask the name of what I was wearing. I think any perfume lover really lives for these moments, and it always gives me a thrill when it happens! [Lorna tells us she’s even been cuddled and sniffed by strangers who were so enraptured by her perfumes, but we can assure you it was all consensual]

• Maison Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge ALWAYS and every time.

Miller Harris La Feuille  – worn alone and adding to lots gives a personalisation and different edge to many  smells – LOVE it!

Liz Earle No 15 –  honestly, people ask me every time I wear it ‘where can I get it?’ rather than what are you wearing … big difference.

• Highlight of the year –the amount of times I have used Fragrance Finder to solve a person’s search for their next fragrance or one they can’t buy anymore. People are amazed it really works! It thrills me when people discover the world of perfume .

• I have great pride in being part of The Scented Letter Magazine, which I know perfume lovers all over the world read, as well as many industry professionals and perfumers. I have a little cry when I see each issue in print!

CARSON PARKIN-FAIRLEY

• The launch of Tonka 25 by Le Labo – I’ve never had a signature scent, and probably never will – too much choice, too many wonderful smells, and why would I limit myself? – but if I did, Le Labo’s Tonka 25 would be pretty close to it. Never having thoroughly delved into the brand, I was invited to interview one of the founders this summer, and was utterly delighted by their latest scent, Tonka 25. Don’t be fooled, this is no tonka scent, no sweet nuttiness here. All dark Cedar Atlas, rich resins and addictive woods. It feels shadow-like, smouldering, inky. And I love it.

•  The Anya Hindmarch diffuser – nothing brings a smile to my face quite like the Anya Hindmarch candles. I remember going to the first launch, discovering their irreverent ingredient lists (teenage romance and regrettable tan lines feature amongst Italian bergamot and Tunisian Orange Blossom) and being blown away by the fun of it all. So you can imagine how my heart leapt once I found out there was diffusers. Housed in a funny-faced pot with reed diffusing sticks that look like pencils, they are the most covetable item that’s come by my desk in a while.

• Interviewing Christine Nagel for Hermes – A personal highlight was interviewing the perfumer of my teenage fragrance love, (Narciso for Her by Narciso Rodriguez) Christine Nagel. Not only was she an absolute pleasure to talk with but I came away being sure she had the best job in the world. In her role as in-house perfumer for Hermes, she has complete freedom in the scents she creates, she seemed so happy, so content. I often think about perfumers as a kind of artist for hire, and so seeing one who creates freely is not only a rarity, but also a immense pleasure.

• The Beautiful Mind Series event for The Perfume Society, which we hosted with Geza Schoen at Jovoy Mayair, provided me with countless insights into both the fragrance world and the mind of this maverick perfumer. His answers were thoughtful, witty and composed. He was approachable and affable and it’s always refreshing to meet a legend who is as nice as pie. But most of all it was a pleasure to be surrounded by so many engaged and interested perfume people. Fragrance is a small world full of big passion and it is a wonderful feeling bringing people of mutual appreciation together.
By The Perfume Society Team

It’s still Happy Birthday, Guerlain!

2018 marked Guerlain‘s 190th anniversary – an incredible achievement for any perfume house, in the fickle world of fragrance. With plans recently unveiled to open 100 dedicated perfumeries around the world – we have everything crossed for London! – we wanted to celebrate Guerlain’s iconic status before the year was up, dipping into their heritage via the Guerlain perfumers and some of their most fabled creations…

Pierre-François-Pascal Guerlain – Guerlain Perfumer 1828-1864

‘Make good products, never compromise on quality. Have simple ideas and apply them to the letter.’

With a love of scents that was kindled by the spices sold in his father’s shop, Pierre-François-Pascal became a perfumer-chemist, opening his first store in 1828. Guerlain’s fragrances soon began to enchant Parisian society, with customers including the Countess of Castiglione, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Berry.

 

His most famous customer, however, was the wife of Napoleon III, Eugénie, who awarded him the title ‘Patented Perfumer to Her Majesty’ for Eau de Cologne Impériale, the fragrance he created to mark her marriage to the Emperor. It was luxuriously decanted into a bee bottle (created by Pochet) that was a tribute to the Napoleonic empire. It became one of the symbols of the House of Guerlain. This ultra-classic Cologne, with its notes of rose, neroli and jasmine, endures in the collection today  – and how many scents can we splash on that were once worn by emperors…?

 

Aimé Guerlain – Guerlain Perfumer 1864-1890

‘Every woman must have her own fragrance if she wants to be different.’

Aimé Guerlain inherited his father’s talent for perfumery – and was steeped in the family philosophy that there must never be a compromise on quality. Among his most famous creations was Jicky, a revolutionary fragrance which blended synthetic notes with naturals to enhance its fougère construction.

 

Jicky’s key ingredient was coumarin, an isolate from tonka bean, which had been developed by a chemist called Perkin in 1868, changing the course of perfumery. Its name? It’s subject to conjecture: Jicky was the nickname of Aimé Guerlain’s nephew Jacques (who at fifteen was already passionate about perfumery, and who would ultimately follow in Aimé’s footsteps). But it was also the name of the perfumer’s first love, an Englishwoman who he met while studying in London and is said never to have forgotten.

 

Jacques Guerlain – Guerlain Perfumer 1890-1955

‘A good perfume is one whose scent corresponds to an initial dream.’

The most prolific of the Guerlain perfumers, Jacques’ rein lasted for an astonishing 65 years. He took over from his uncle Aimé in 1890 and was responsible for creating the ultimate signature of Guerlain, the Guerlianade: an accord which blends vanilla, bergamot, balsams, tonka bean, iris, rose and jasmine, and has been at the heart of (almost) every fragrance since 1921. His most celebrated creations include L’Heure Bleu, Mitsouko and the astonishing Shalimar, which remains one of the bestselling fragrances in the world.

 

The flacon is almost as fascinating as the fragrance inside. Sometimes described as the ‘bat’ bottle (we hadn’t until now quite realised it resembled outstretched wings!), it is also said to resemble a basin that could be admired in the Mughal gardens in India, and was designed by another talented Guerlain, Raymond, with a dark blue stopper chosen to evoke Indian starry nights. The bottle won first prize at the Exhibition of Decorative Arts and Modern Industry in 1925.

 

Jean-Paul Guerlain – Guerlain Perfumer 1955-2002

‘Perfume is the most intense form of memory.’

Jean-Paul Guerlain served his apprenticeship alongside his demanding grandfather – the family ‘nose’ skipped a generation, but in 1955 Jean-Paul worked alongside Jacques to create Ode, an ‘Impressionist’ floral garlanded by notes of rose, jasmine and iris. Although one of his most famous fragrances is the masculine classic Habit Rouge, Jean-Paul is said to have ‘dreamt of women in fragrance form’, confecting fragrances to celebrate their beauty and freedom – most notably, Samsara.

Jean-Paul created Samsara for his wife, the love of his life – who didn’t wear perfume. (How ironic is that?) She did, however, like sandalwood, South Asian woods and jasmine, so Jean-Paul embarked on journeys to India to acquire the purest sandalwood, found a jasmine previously reserved for religious offerings, and even had a factory built to distil it. Its name means ‘eternal rebirths’, in Sanskrit – and the deep ruby red of the bottle is the sacred colour of Buddhism.

Thierry Wasser – Guerlain Perfumer 2008-

‘I have always had within me this pressing thirst for the elsewhere, to go even further in search of new scents’

Thierry is the first non-Guerlain family member to have held the title ‘Guerlain Perfumer’, chosen to carry the family’s fragrant flame into the future. More than any Guerlain perfumer before him, he travels the world to meet and work with growers and producers, ensuring the house has access to the highest quality ingredients on the planet through these sustainable-in-every-way relationships. His most celebrated creation to date, Mon Guerlain (seen below with its ‘face’, Angelina Jolie), is an ode to the the historic notes of Guerlain, a-swirl with jasmine, vanilla and lavender – among other ingredients sourced on those travels.

 

As Thierry told us recently, ‘My travelling begins in the spring in Calabria, at the end of the bergamot harvest – which began in November – because we need to ensure we get the perfect blend of all the oils from that season. Then it moves on to Tunisia and the orange blossom and the petitgrain, to Bulgaria and Grasse for the roses, Provence for the lavender, the Comoros for ylang ylang, Madagascar for vanilla. Now that Guerlain is growing sandalwood in Australia, I need to make a trip there once a year, too. Altogether it’s about four months out of the year, on the road, away from my lab, away from creating perfumes. And then there are the launches, around the world, travelling to speak to the Guerlain sales teams and to journalists.’ (And we’re so glad he takes the time to do that!)

Our V.I.P.s, meanwhile, can read all about Thierry Wasser‘s day in ‘A Working Nose‘ in the current edition of The Scented Letter, the award-winning downloadable magazine for our Club Members.)

We are lucky enough to have smelled many of the historic creations of this house at private ‘archive’ sessions in the Salon at 68 Champs-Élysées, Guerlain‘s flagship boutique. (If you get a group together, you may be able to do the same – for a price, of course.) We can honestly say those experiences were among the most spectacular we’ve ever had, in this most special world we are lucky enough to work in – a true immersion in what makes this house so special.

So let us take the opportunity to wish Guerlain the happiest of birthdays – and to thank the five perfumers for the way they have delighted the senses of men and women for nineteen decades.

And all we can say is: perfume-lovers everywhere are looking forward to the next 190 years.

guerlain.com

By Jo Fairley

 

The perfect winter wedding perfumes

Viola Levy picks some fabulous scents for those planning on saying ‘I do’ during the chillier season.

There’s something quite unusually nice and atmospheric about tying the knot in the colder months (you’re not pinning your hopes on sunshine for one thing!).

But of course you have to do things differently. You probably wouldn’t choose to wear a sheer, strapless gown or have a garden marquee – and the same mindset can be extended to fragrance. In contrast to the typical delicate floral scents that characterise summer weddings, in the winter you may want something with slightly more punch that will cut through the cold. Here are five that hold their own when temperatures reach sub-zero. Spritz now, or forever hold your peace!

FLORIS A ROSE FOR…

As much as the world of perfumery likes to experiment with weird and wonderful ingredients, few things say romance like a classic rose scent. But this doesn’t mean you’re stuck with a summery accord – this flower lends itself particularly well to smokier wintery notes such as incense and patchouli. All three star in Floris’s latest beguiling concoction, and as an extra bonus, you can complete the title with your own name (in case anyone had forgotten whose special day it was). Truly ‘A Rose For… YOU’!
£160 for 100ml
fortnumandmason.com

ORMONDE JAYNE TSARINA

Anyone who’s read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe will remember the classic scene where The White Witch first appears through the snow in her reindeer-drawn sleigh. Donning a fur coat and crown, she offers Edmund a box of Turkish delight which he is too mesmerised to resist. If you wish to exude such formidable glamour on your big day, then this is the winter bridal scent for you. Tsarina wastes no time in announcing itself, with an enveloping bouquet that pays tribute to the no-holds-barred bling of 19th Century Russia, with ornate notes of vanilla, leather, musk and cassis.
£295 for 120ml eau de parfum
ormondejayne.com

 

LALIQUE MON PREMIER CRISTAL HIRONDELLES ABSOLU DE PARFUM

Perfumer Nathalie Lorson pays tribute to one of the most seductive ingredients in perfumery, namely jasmine, in this special creation for Lalique. This bewitching brew contains a triple shot of Indian, Egyptian and Grasse varieties, which together with vanilla and musks is enough to compensate for the most dreary wedding weather. What’s more, the bottle is hand painted in 23-carat gold making it the perfect bridal keepsake (we wouldn’t expect any less from a company whose founder pretty much invented the perfume bottle).
£870 for 80ml absolu de parfum
lalique.com

L’OCCITANE x PIERRE HERMÉ 86 CHAMPS FIG & ROSE

A must for anyone with a sweet tooth, this bouquet is a result of L’Occitane’s recent collaboration with macaron maestro Pierre Hermé. There’s something about fig-based scents that are so addictive and moreish in wintertime and this one is no different, underscored with a rich base of cedar and pretty notes of rose and geranium adding a final ceremonial flourish.
£85 for 90ml eau de parfum
uk.loccitane.com

 

THE BEAUTIFUL MIND SERIES VOLUME 2, PRECISION & GRACE

Precision & Grace is another scent with a Russian link, this time its muse Muscovite ballet dancer Polina Semionova, whose talent caught the attention of perfumer Geza Schoen (his Beautiful Mind series was created to celebrate bright and brilliant women). The notes of pear and plum – reminiscent of Seminova’s childhood – make for a rather icy and suitably wintery accord. And while this is a scent that can withstand the chill, it still remains as delicate as tulle fabric. Ideal for those who aren’t fans of anything too rich or cloying.
£96 for 100ml eau de parfum
jovoyparis.uk

 

Panic perfume shopping? STOP! Use our easy Fragrance Finder…

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Why not have a look now, and see what our Fragrance Finder suggests for you…?

Ireland as a ‘muse’

We know that perfumers often talk about people, as muses. But places…? Kate O’Brien explores the role her home country, Ireland, has played in inspiring perfumes (and indeed, new perfume houses…)

Growing up on the rugged west coast of Ireland during the 1970s and early1980s, the haunting lyrics of French singer Michel Sardou’s Les Lacs du Connemara resonated deeply: ‘Burnt earth in the wind, stone moors around the lakes, it’s for the living.’ These words that captured this raw, wild landscape so evocatively will stay with me forever. I vividly recall my intrigue as to how a celebrated French singer could feel so inspired by my little corner of our great big world and often questioned what it was it about Ireland that so inspired writers, singers and creative folk. As I grew older, I realized the answer was always there, right in front of my eyes.

While our writers, poets, singers and artists travelled the world, think Yeats, Synge, Beckett, Joyce amongst many others, the country has always remained a powerful muse. Back in the 1980s and 1990s anyone with a desire to follow their dreams was compelled to travel, as the opportunities for making a living at home were few. John Molloy, CEO and co-founder of MEMO fragrances, is one such export. Reared on a farm in the midlands of Co. Tipperary, he had big dreams, leaving home1993. He now lives in Geneva, yet remains firmly bound to his Irish roots. ‘Storytelling is what we do. We even have a word – seanchaí – for traditional Gaelic storytellers, who acted as important custodians of history at a time when nothing was written down. Perfumers, like the seanchai, are storytellers, capturing memories and emotions in an olfactory form. Perhaps it’s the power of these combined that lends Ireland to being a muse for perfume-makers.’

 

 

MEMO Paris was founded by Molloy and his Parisian wife, Clara, in 2007; one of their bestsellers is Irish Leather Eau de Parfum, inspired by the untamed Irish spirit, and created by perfumer Aliénor Massenet in 2013. ‘That raw, intense greenness of Ireland, its rugged shores and freedom is what we wanted to capture in Irish Leather,” Molloy explains. “There’s something leathery, lavender, fresh mint and something grassy and green that seems to melt together and smell like an extremely clean barn – saddles and hay and old wood and just a hint of freshly-washed horse.’

Filmmaker Margaret Mangan, meanwhile, founded Galway’s Cloon Keen Atelier on the Wild Atlantic Way in 2000. Her Castaña perfume is the first Irish fragrance to receive the coveted ‘Five-star Masterpiece’ award by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez in their much-discussed book Perfumes The Guide 2018. ‘We have amazing mythology in Ireland – our literary culture, our music and the culture of our diaspora. Ireland is so romantic too, which fits well with the ideals of perfumery.’

To bring her latest creation Róisín Dubh to life, Mangan chose a fellow West-of-Ireland native, Meabh Mc Curtin. Originally from Co. Clare, McCurtin is an award-winning trainee perfumer at the IFF (International Flavors and Fragrances) in Paris, where her mentor is one of the industry’s finest, Dominique Ropion, creator of the legendary Portrait of a Lady, among many other fine fragrances.

‘My mother is an English teacher and our house is full of books by Irish writers. Growing up I was always hearing about Joyce, Beckett and Synge going abroad and creating this community. We wanted to celebrate the Irish diaspora and how historically they’ve been such an important part of Irish literary and artistic culture. Róisín Dubh, the little black rose, is a character in an ancient Irish song, but she is also an analogy for Ireland itself,’ she explains. She visited the cafés these writers frequented trying to understand the society they were living in during the 1920s and 1930s. ‘This uniquely Irish perfume, inspired by the spirit of some of our most famous writers is a scent with a time and place, the cool earthiness of patchouli and lightly leather rose makes it so evocative and elegant.’

Mc Curtin feels that the country’s deep, evocative history lends much to draw on in terms of inspiration and narrative for creating a perfume. “In the past two hundred years alone we have experienced famine, massive emigration, a struggle and triumph to become an independent republic, and more recently huge social change that is both energizing and uplifting. That is all reflected in our rich culture of poetry, drama, literature and music.”

Still in Co. Clare, this time a huddle of ivy-clad whitewashed cottages at the end of a narrow winding road through the Burren’s rocky terrain, where English-born perfumer Sadie Chowen has called home for the past 30 years. She took over The Burren Perfumery, the country’s first perfume house that was originally created by local poet and plant distiller Brian Mooney in 1972. Mooney’s capsules of time remain bottled in old brown apothecary glass in the Perfumery shop. Chowen has modernized and expanded the perfume range, adding organic skincare, cold-process soaps, candles, herbal teas and essential oils, with everything made right there on the premises.

 

 

The dramatic UNESCO-protected Burren landscape with its fossil-rich limestone hills, dramatic sea cliffs, rare natural habitats and unique floral gatherings, is home to 70 percent of the country’s flowering plant species, as well as abundant legacies of human settlement dating back over 6,000 years. ‘It’s the wildness, the plants, the colours and the weather, of course!,’ she adds laughing. ‘This is my recreation of the Burren landscape and I don’t think I would have worked in perfume if I lived elsewhere.’

Working with a nose based in Paris, she formulates all her own fragrances, using scents that reflect the Burren, such as organic green leaf, meadowsweet, wild fragrant orchid, nettle, fennel, mint and the subtleness of wild rose. “The west coast of Ireland is relatively unspoilt. There is a wildness that allows us to experience her raw materials. For example, Winter Woods perfume is the woodlands of the west in winter, with pockets of herbs, like rosemary, marjoram, lavender and powered iris root (for softness), all on a warm wood base.” She chooses ingredients that grow in the area, but have not been grown there (mostly) as the practicalities of producing sufficient quantities on site makes this impossible.

Danielle Ryan feels that her Irish heritage has given her a different approach to scent, being drawn more to the green sharp scents then the floral. Founder of ROADS perfumes in Dublin, Ryan is the child of a Sri Lankan mother and Irish father, so travel is in her genes. Her herbaceous scent Bitter End is inspired by Ireland’s west coast where she spent many summers as a child. ‘This area is beautiful, but barren, a place of isolation. We are a very artistic nation, the land around us informs our stories. Also being a small country we have to accept and warm to the idea of small production and craft. I think this attitude is apparent in the way we approach fragrance: Pure and very well thought through.’

 

McCurtin believes that as the global market is saturated with commercial fragrances people are increasingly looking for authenticity and artisanship on a scale that is relatable, something that resonates really well with Ireland’s beautiful landscape, strong identity and long history of skilled craftsmanship. ‘I think the fact that we don’t have a historical heritage in perfumery is in many ways an advantage – we are free to embrace it as we see fit and to make it our own.’

Mangan agrees, highlighting that while Ireland is typically not known as a source of ingredients for the perfume industry, that’s not such a bad thing either, as when we are making perfume, we are telling a story, not in a literal sense and we use ingredients to create the narrative.” This said, it is not about being nature identical. Take the fig tree growing on the grounds of a 14th Century monastery on the Corrib River in Galway. “It’s not just about the fig tree, but the ancient monasteries and how they impacted Ireland. This is our heritage and we are acting as a tour guide to our city and culture through perfume. I’m so lucky,’ she concludes. ‘Ireland is such a progressive place to live. We have our own identity. Why go abroad for inspiration when it’s all here now…?’

By Kate O’Brien

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home for Christmas: seasonal smells fragrance experts love

Christmas is undoubtedly the most fragrant time of year – smells of fir trees, crackling fires and deliciously spiced foods helping us feel cosy, even if we’re actually rather stressed and craving sunshine. Nothing uplifts and comforts us quite like being surrounded by your favourite seasonal smells, and so, we wondered, what do three of our favourite fragrance experts most associate with the scent of Christmas…?

Michael Donovan, MD Roullier White, founder of St Giles fragrance
‘There are so many – sloe gin, sprouts (it’s the only time that my family ever ate them, probably why I adore them now), and my mother made rather elaborate pomanders from oranges with cloves… Drakkar was my very first Christmas gift of fragrance! I remember the warm plastic of my favourite light-up Santa – he went in the window to welcome us home and I could smell him every time I came through the door. Apricot brandy was my grandmother’s favourite tipple and smells delicious, and we always had little fruits fashioned from marzipan. My father’s ‘Grey Flannel’ and my mother’s ‘Madame Rochas’ were worn, scent for special occasions only! The smell of a new album – the vinyl and paper of the sleeves as we always received records for Christmas  – I miss record sleeves.

My grandparents ran a small grocers – ‘Donovans’ – and at Christmas they made individual Christmas lunches for sale, which was great for those who were on their own or were on a budget. The turkey was, consequently, so enormous that it wouldn’t fit into the industrial oven and the door had to be tied, half-closed, with string. The bird was cooked on a very low temperature for about 8hrs overnight and the smell permeated every corner of the building and was utterly delicious. I am a long-time vegetarian but I still remember it as my most delicious smell and laying in bed, salivating…’

If you’d rather smell of something more appealing than sprouts, might we suggest the magnificent St Giles fragrance, The Writer (well it would be our favourite, wouldn’t it?) With gloriously fresh ginger and rosemary absolute amidst a fizz of aldehydes, clary sage and rhubarb, the resinous heart wraps frankincense in leather and a darkly inky base resounds with castoreum absolute, creamy sandalwood, cedarwood from the Atlas mountains and driftwood. So perfect for a fragrant pick-me-up at any time, but most especially right now, don’t you think…?

St Giles The Writer, £130 for 100ml eau de parfum
Try it at Selfridges or stgilesfinefragrance.com

Viola Cserkuti: perfume & cosmetics history curator, student perfumer, skincare & beauty specialist
We first met Viola at a vintage fragrance event in London, where she showed her extensive (and endlessly fascinating) collection of perfumes. Being obsessed with history, vintage clothing and all things fragrant, she told us her childhood scent memories of Christmas (pictured, above)…

‘Growing up in Hungary and celebrating Christmas with my family holds the most vivid scent memories for me. In my early childhood, I remember the potent smell of sparklers, the satifying smoke after they glittered away, and the occasional burnt fir sap as they were attached to the Christmas tree. Also, paraffin church candles and our special Hungarian Christmas chocolates – Szaloncukor – had such distinctive scent. They came in many flavours but the original retro ones were filled with fondant icing. The icing for the Szaloncukor had a cold, sweet, alcoholic scent with a vanillary chocolate and fake fruit aspect that filled the room with an eccentric medley of fragrant delights, coming from the church candles, burnt chemicals and cheap victorian era confectionary…’

Carlos J Powell: aka mega-successful perfume vlogger Brooklyn Fragrance Lover

Carlos is known for his passionate reviews about perfume, sprinkled with in-depth knowledge delivered in a down-to-earth completely approachable, and often humourous way; and for his adorably cheeky cats, ‘Jean et Claude’, who can often be found knocking fragrances off shelves and chasing them around the apartment floor. His views recently topped 6 million, with over 35k subscribers around the world tuning in to hear his weekly updates. So, what are the wafts of Christmas that transport Carlos the most?

‘The smell of Christmas for me growing up was Pernil – Latino roasted pork shoulder with tons of garlic – and… lasagne! I am Dominican, but grew up with an Italian stepfather. So I wish you Feliz Navidad y Buon Natale!’

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Ostens’ colourful creativity

Ostens have burst into the olfactory world by offering a unique concept in perfumery: granting perfume-lovers not only the right to at last smell exquisite ingredients in their own right (something only industry insiders had access to), but to buy them off the shelf (previously unheard of!) or try them in eaux de parfum, composed by some of the world’s top perfumers, to perfectly showcase that main ingredient’s charms…

‘I love that it’s you we’re speaking to about how all this started,’ smiles Christopher Yu – Managing Director of United Perfumes, one of the world’s most prestigious fragrance distribution and development companies, and now, co-founder of exciting niche fragrance house, Ostens. ‘You were there, at that LMR event we did with The Perfume Society…’ he continues, referring to an afternoon in which we’d invited VIP Club Members along with renowned journalists to experience the mind-blowing beauty of Laboratoire Monique Rémy – one of the world’s leading producers of natural ingredients for the high-end perfume industry, part of IFF, International Flavors and Fragrance.

Laurent Delafon is the other guiding force behind Ostens – CEO of United Perfumes, long-term colleague and like-minded friend of Chris, together they came to the realisation that something needed to change within the fragrance industry, because consumers deserved something more.

Offering a direct line from supplier and perfumers to people who crave exquisite quality perfume – a unique concept – was the propelling force for Ostens, making heroes of the ingredients and getting people excited about smelling them, in splendid isolation and then used within completely differing interpretations as part of an eau de parfum.

Tapping in to the current hunger for transparency in the beauty industry, Ostens explain, ‘In an age where we all want to understand better about craftmanship and provenance, Ostens gives you access to ingredients previously unavailable to consumers. Our aim: to celebrate and bring access to ingredients which lie at the heart of so many perfumes and to create sensory wonderment, open to all.’

And what wonders there are to explore! Smelling their Rose Oil Isparta / £65 for 9ml perfume oil – the highest concentration available – is like diving head-first into a mountain of freshly plucked petals, the vibrant, fruity scent declared by none other than Dominique Ropion as ‘the highest existing quality of rose oil.’ Used within the Impression Rose Oil Isparta eau de parfum / £145 for 50ml eau de parfum, Ropion has swathed those petals with labdanum, patchouli and Cashmeran, offering a velvety lick of alluring darkness. Fancy ramping up the rose to its fullest possible potential? Simply layer with that Rose Oil – or any of their other oils – to add your own unique signature or change up the character acording to how you feel that day.

What’s more, the oils aren’t meant to only be used with Ostens products. Chris and Laurent are realists, and they know people don’t live like that – how deadly dull it would be if we only ever wore one brand. They actively want to encourage people to experiment using them with perfumes they already own, and to tell them what combinations they’ve found really work. Thrillingly for us perfume lovers, Ostens want an ongoing conversation with the person who buys their wares, asking them what they’d like to see and smell next, what, exactly, is missing from their fragrance life, rather than dictating ‘trends’.

Ostens currently have a pop-up space in London at 62 Blandford Street, W1U 7JD, where they’ll be in residence until 28th February 2019, and we cannot urge you enough to visit while you’re able. There’s a reason fragrance experts and journalists have been buzzing since the launch, with several highly respected people we know, commenting to us that this was their ‘launch of the year’ and ‘the most exciting things we’ve smelled for ages…’

In their space, Ostens showcase one of the Préparation oils (currently Rose Isparta) on a plinth, with colourful synaesthetic backdrops of artwork created by their internal Creative Director, Mark Wilkie*. Stepping inside you are bathed in a coloured light that further represents the interpretation of the fragrance, and it feels like walking into the very heart of the scent itself. Walking through to the back room, you are then able to smell all of the ingredients and Impressions (eaux de parfum), trying them on your skin, layering as you please or simply smelling and delighting in them alone.

The whole experience is joyously like being a kid in a sweet shop once again, and if you’re looking to re-ignite your passion for perfume, or to explore and appreciate the world through your sense of smell, this is most certainly the place you need to be…

Having followed their fragrant journey from the very beginning, I was so delighted to interview Chris and Laurent at length for my Ostens feature in the just-published Stardust issue of The Scented Letter Magazine; so do go and indulge your senses fully by reading all about Ostens’ fragrant universe – most certainly sprinkled with something magical – and then smelling for yourself what all the fuss is about by visiting the boutique?

If you’re a VIP Club Member, you can download the entire issue for free by logging in to your account. Print copies can be purchased here, and we also offer International Subscriptions on electronic versions, for only £20 for a full year.

Written by Suzy Nightingale

*[In The Scented Letter, we mistakenly attributed the Ostens artworks to another artist, Philippa Stanton. In fact Philippa was the artist for a gin company also featured, elsewhere, in the magazine, and the two sections were accidentally mixed up. We do apologise for this editorial mistake – and we swear we hadn’t been at the gin!]

A magnificent five!

We thought our wishlist was complete until we discovered these five new perfume launches…!

DIOR
J’ADORE ABSOLU
When creating this new twist on Dior’s iconic J’adore, perfumer François Demachy recounts: ‘I wanted the full intensity of jasmine to shine through. It is animalic, fruity and brimming with sunshine.’ So he fused jasmine sambac with sun-drenched Grasse jasmine, garlanding the duo of white flowers in in orange flower and rose, for ‘more nectar-like, lush accents’, adding a whisper of magnolia absolute. (Do watch out for the fah-bu-lous Charlize Theron ad, too.)
£81 for 50ml eau de parfum
dior.com

ESTEE LAUDER
BEAUTIFUL BELLE
Beautiful Belle is ‘inspired by today’s modern bride, who challenges tradition, making her own rules in love and life.’ We’d say the first rule to break is that you need to be a bride to plight your troth to this addictive floral Ambrée, effervescing with lychee, rose petals, pear blossom, mimosa, orange flower and gardenia, closed by layers of Ambrox, orris absolute, a blush suede accord and an unexpected twist in the tail of marzipan musk.
From £52 for 30ml eau de parfum
esteelauder.co.uk

TIFFANY
EAU DE PARFUM INTENSE
This is a richer – and yes, more va-va-voom – version of 2017’s long-awaited Tiffany launch, now a global bestseller. In the same diamond-faceted flacon, it echoes the original with notes of green mandarin, pink peppercorn and fields of iris, summoning its strength from the pulsing sensuality of benzoin and amber which underpins the construction. What else makes this special – and seasonally perfect – is the option to personalise the bottle with custom engraving, exclusively on the Tiffany website.
£57 for 30ml eau de parfum intense
tiffany.co.uk

VALEUR ABSOLUE
HARMONIE ESSENTIELLE
Inspired by cherished memories of childhood, this sways around the joyous central note of neroli, an ingredient renowned for its simultaneous ability to soothe and uplift the senses, harmoniously blended with bergamot and a deeply addictive vanilla. Harnessing the belief in the beneficial properties of amethyst stones to further calm the soul, fans of Valeur Absolue’s vegan scent collection will be thrilled to learn the new Valeur Absolue trio – in which this features – is organically-certified, too.
£66 for 50ml eau de parfum
valeurabsolue.com


ÉDITIIONS DE PARFUMS FRÉDÉRIC MALLE
DAWN
The counterpoint to Frédéric Malle‘s Night – which was first unveiled exclusively in the Middle East, where its oudh-iness went down a storm – Carlos Benaïm now turns his attention to the start of the day, again using that traditional Arabic note as the pivot point. The signature agarwood heart is ‘orbited’ by pink pepper, cedar, labdanum and frankincense, with a sea of Turkish rose offering ‘an ode to dawn’s rich colours’.
£550 for 50ml eau de parfum
At Harrods

Acqua di Parma Barbiere – Selfridges open new male grooming experience

Acqua di Parma have long been known as the go-to for stylish gents who wish to be wonderfully fragranced, and now Selfridges add to the experience by opening a brand new Acqua di Parma Barbiere space, for an exquisitely scented grooming experience – and just in time for Christmas, too!

Located next to the Men’s Beauty Workshop in their Oxford Street store, Barbiere promises to be ‘…an intimate and refined yet relaxed space where the modern man can indulge in the ritual of a traditional Italian shave, pick up his grooming essentials, and discover the Acqua di Parma fragrant universe.’

Marrying the brand’s signature yellow in soft furnishings with luxurious woods and that innate Italian style – we think it looks distictly Wes Anderson in character – it’s a welcoming place to take a few minutes to unwind, be pampered and experience for yourself some of the wonderful (and heavenly scented) products they offer. Even better: to have someone else do all the hard work for you!

Services will include a proper Italian Traditional Shave (£45) which takes 30 minutes and involves cut-throat razors, hot towels and a soothing Colonia aftershave; a Prestige Shave (£59) for 50 minutes, with facial and eye massage, full consultation and double-shave (for ultra-smooth chops!); various hair-cutting / beard-wrangling options and any number of fabulously indulgent treat packages.

The perfect way to ease yourself into the festive season, have a pre-NYE spruce-up or to give as a thoughtful gift idea, the Acqua di Parma Barbiere experience will be open from 17 December 2018, at Selfridges, 400 Oxford Street, London.

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Last safe posting dates for Christmas? PLUS gift-guide round up

We know you’re likely caught up in a flurry of fairy lights and mild festive panic, but this is a gentle reminder that The Royal Mail have suggested the latest recommended posting dates before Christmas this year – something to keep in mind if you’re ordering online and want to wrap and post the presents to loved ones…

Tuesday 18 December – 2nd Class / Royal Mail Signed For 2nd Class

Thursday 20 December – 1st Class / Royal Mail Signed For 1st Class / Royal Mail Tracked 48hr

Friday 21 December – Royal Mail Tracked 24hr

Saturday 22 December – Royal Mail Special Delivery Guaranteed

Do check with other postal service providers for their last-posting dates, and consider ordering and sending your gifts well before the final deadlines, as there’s always a last-minute rush, and nobody wants to be disappointed at Christmas!

We’ve made ordering online a complete breeze, with a number of handy gift guides suitable for every age, fragrant taste and budget. Have a browse through some of them now, and get your gift list checked off at the click of a button…

How to buy fragrance at Christmas
Let’s start at the very beginning (as the song goes) – because trying to work out exactly what will suit whom best can be a bit of a headache, we know. That’s why we’ve done all the leg-work for you and curated selections of scents with particular types of people in mind, and perhaps with a little something to tempt you, too. One to point bewildered relatives at when they demand to know what you want!

For perfume-lovers who have everything
We’re SO delighted to have got the Master Parfums Pocket Quiz £11 in stock in time for Christmas – it’s a brilliantly addictive card game developed by a former professional fragrance trainer, with questions on each card in differing categories and ideal for any level of knowledge, from complete beginner to absolute addict. This will definitely liven up the dinner table!

Luxury Gift Boxes
If you know your loved one adores fine fragrances, and always likes trying something new, have a look at this list of ultra-luxe boxes you can buy at surprisingly affordable prices. There’s genuinely something to suit everyone here – masculine, feminine and gender-neutra – the ideal way to discover a new house, with lavish perfume gift sets from only £14!

Stocking-fillers
Pocket-friendly options for smaller gifts to stuff the stockings of lucky people – from perfume-related jewellery to mini-sizes of scents they love or would like to try. There’s even suggestions of must-have gifts that no self-respecting perfumista could do without (and which everyone would thank you for being thoughtful enough to buy), with prices starting from just £5

Overseas
Sadly, due to postal restrictions on fragrance, we can currently only ship products within the United Kingdom (we do not ship to The Channel Islands), BUT do not despair – scent lovers living abroad can be gifted a full year of award-winning fragrant reading for only £20, with an International Subscription to The Scented Letter Magazine.

Let them choose
A fuss-free solution for those uncertain about what to buy that perfume-loving someone, The Perfume Society Gift Card is available in denominations of £15, £25 and £50 and can be redeemed across any item in our SHOP section of our website: our magazine or copies of The Perfume Bible, VIP Subscription, Discovery Boxes and more. Includes FREE UK DELIVERY!

Still confused?
If you just can’t decide, or have just left it a bit long to send them something yourself – buy them a VIP Club Membership, a £25 gift that last all year! You get unrivalled access to exclusive perfume events, a year’s free electronic editions of The Scented Letter magazine, a fabulous Discovery Box to choose from, monthly VIP offers from top fragrance houses and incredible prize draws only Club Members may enter..

Whatever you send loved ones – or treat yourself to for a change – we hope you’ll agree we’ve managed to put together a great selection of gifts with everyone in mind. It really is our pleasure to seek out and gather together hard-to-find, unusual and brand new scented offerings each year. Fragrance is a joyful, mood-lifting and constantly thrilling thing, so no wonder it makes a perfect (and so thoughtful) gift to show you care.

Happy scent-sharing season, everybody!

Written by Suzy Nightingale