Bestselling author, an award-winning television presenter, regular presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Gardener’s World and now somehow finding time to be the Ethnobotanist for Liz Earle, there can be no doubting that James Wong is a very busy man.
(Oh, and in case you were wondering, ‘Ethnobotany’ is the study of the relationships between plants and people.)
Since joining the team at Liz Earle, James can often be found trekking to exotic climes in search of unusual and powerfully active ingredients, and along the way he’s meeting some of the world’s greatest perfumers and giving his nose brand new material to smell and explore, too.
‘When I was at university, I remember being hugely impressed when I saw an advert for an in-house botanist at Liz Earle. There’s no other role like it in the beauty industry, which really proves their commitment to sourcing the highest quality botanicals. Fast forward, and now I’m the lucky botanist who’ll be out in the field, researching the latest science behind new botanicals, and getting to know the story of the people who grow our ingredients. I love being out in the field, researching the latest science behind responsibly sourced botanicals, while getting to know the stories of the people who grow our ingredients,’ James enthuses. ‘For a plant fanatic like me, you could call it my dream job!’
Liz Earle say:
‘A prestigious scientist and green-fingered guru, Kew-trained James lives and breathes the same passion we share for sourcing plants that aren’t only the best for your beauty regime – but the environment and our suppliers too. As well as working on our top-secret product launches (coming to a bathroom near you soon), you can also look forward to learning James’ fascinating tips on everything from how to grow beauty fixes in the garden, to the botanical brilliance behind your favourite Liz Earle products…’
We were delighted to catch up with James and find out – with all hese exotic plants at his (green) fingertips, just what are his five favourite smells in the world…?
1. Vetiver – Oh, let’s talk about vetiver! I discovered how much I loved it on a trip with Bertrand Duchafour. I was pretty sure I knew what vetiver smelled like, but then he opened up a bottle of it, and I couldn’t believe the difference. It was one of those flash-back moments to your childhood where you’re suddenly stepping into your childhood self again. I grew up in Singapore and Malaysia, and to me it just smells like a combination of old, rickety wooden jetties and green forests mixed with fresh seaweed. I actually went out and have since purchased lots of vetiver based scents based on that experience! I would say I really like the essential oil best, it’s so complex you could almost wear just that as a fragrance on its own.
2. Citrus – I love the smell of citrus-y scents, but the more unusual kind. So, yuzu and grapefruit rather than orange and lemon. Not the fruit pastels kind of citrus, in other words.
3. Pink Peppercorns – It’s the woodiness of it, especially when mixed with sandalwood. It’s so warming and gently spicy, and it seems to mix really well with lots of other things, too.
4. Cumbery-green-melon-y scents – I can’t think of a better way of describing this, sorry! It’s far more prevalent in Japanese and North-East Asian cultures than in the West. It’s halfway between cucumber and an elderflowery muscat grape note. Clean, fresh fruity florals like they use in Kenzo perfumes, rather than the very sweet fruitiness you can sometimes get in fragrances.
5. Jasmine Sambac – I know it’s really odd for me to say this, being obsessed with plants, but the only floral scent I really like smelling and always have is jasmine. Though now I can add rose to it, when it’s done in a modern way and mixed with a lot of natural woodiness like the new Liz Earle Botanical Essence No.20.
Written by Suzy Nightingale