We know you’re loving our series of Perfumer Q+As on Instagram Live. Here, our Co-founder Jo Fairley chats with British perfumer Nancy Meiland, who at the time was locked down a few miles away from Jo in East Sussex, organising fragrance walks for her children while working on future, nature-inspired compositions. She talks about how she got into perfumery, her mentors – and her favourite materials.
It’s a great interview – one of a growing library that you can watch on our YouTube channel here, including interviews with Geza Schoen, Sonia Constant, Experimental Perfume Club‘s Emmanuelle Moeglin, Sarah McCartney of 4160 Tuesdays, and more…
To read much more about Nancy Meiland and her beautiful perfume creations, click here.
In our latest, music-themed edition of The Scented Letter – an exclusive benefit for our VIP Club Members (for more info click here), the fascinating composer and music producer Daniel Sonabend talks to Carson Parkin-Fairley about his scent installations at the late lamented Grand Musée du Parfum and for Cartier‘s Perfume Cloud project.
Carson also asked Daniel to share his three favourite smells – and what they sound like, to him. We didn’t have the space to squeeze his answers into the article, so we’ve featured them below…
First, though, for those who didn’t get to Paris to see the installation, a little bit about that project. The centrepiece, Daniel explained, looked like a perfume bottle. ‘There were 200 perfume ingredients which made up five perfume compositions: one floral, one Chypre, a fougère, a Cologne and an Oriental. Each ingredient was represented by a glass prism, which had a sound associated with it. As each perfume was “created”, a laser would be beamed from the centrepiece and hit the prism for a particular ingredient, playing the sound – and the result was quite mesmerising.’
He works in the most fascinating way. ‘There’s an obvious correlation between top, middle and base notes, and organic and electronic musical instruments. Once I’d figured out the language, writing the music was easy. I tweak as I go, smelling compositions throughout. I’m trying to gauge what a perfume smells like not only to me, but to other people, so when I translate it to sound, everyone can understand it. So for instance the music for the eau de Cologne, similar to the fragrance composition, had a lot of high notes and almost no base. The floral was more complex, quite feminine, melodic and sweet. A woody sound might be more bassy and organic.
Creating a sound for a note like jasmine,’ Daniel continued, ‘required a different sort of approach. Jasmine is made up of a few molecules; indole, benzyl acetate and jasmone. Each of these molecules is an individual ingredient as well, so there was a sound for each; when you combined them they created the sound of jasmine. Vetiver was interesting, too; even though it’s a natural material, it still smells modern. I played with the idea of using an organic instrument in a more modern way, so for vetiver I used an electric guitar played with a double bass bow, which made it sound quite dirty and masculine.’
As for those three favourite smells and what they sound like…? Here goes.
Clean washing when I visit my parents’ house. The sound of home? It’ll have to be warm, and intimate and calm. A kind of organic ambient bed that hugs you.
A really good, smoky whiskey. It would sound a bit like vetiver, it would be smoky, but a bit more amorphous because it’s a fluid. Quite rough, masculine and modern, created with organic instruments. But a bit cheekier.
Vintage synthesizers and old string instruments. They smell like the 70s, boxed. Old wood, plastic and electronics, like your cool uncle’s basement. Similarly, I love the smell of old string instruments, the resin you use on the bows of string instruments smells a lot like myrrh. And I love the sound of them!
Interview by Carson Parkin-Fairley
NB We also offer print copies of The Scented Letter, priced £12.50 to our VIP Club Members and £15 to everyone else. Find themhere…
For the next in our series of Instagram Live interviews with highly creative figures from the fragrance world, we’re doing cartwheels that we’ll be spending lunchtime on Wednesday 13th May 2020 with the founder of 4160Tuesdays,Sarah McCartney. (That’s a bit of an in-joke. Sarah is an excellent cartwheeler as well as a totally inspiring creator.)
Essentially a prolific self-trained perfumer who has built a huge following for her brand 4160Tuesdays on the strength of her beautiful, often wonderfully story-telling creations, Sarah McCartney is a maverick soul who’s stirred up the perfume world and acted on her dream (shared by many of us) to become a perfumer.
Here’s your chance to ask this visionary fragrance figure everything you want to know about perfumery today. Perhaps…
• After working as a copywriter, what made her want to move into perfumery?
• How did she go about training? Is this something any of us can do?
• How important is storytelling in fragrance?
• How does she see the perfume landscape after ‘all this’ is over?
And more… Simply fill in the form below, to submit your question.
We’ll be going live from The Perfume Society Instagram account – @theperfumesociety – on Wednesday 13th May 2020 at 12.30pm UK time. Make a date!
We are blown away by how the fragrance industry has risen to the challenges of Covid-19, whether it’s pivoting from perfume production to making hand sanitisers (companies like Louis Vuitton, Guerlain and Lalique) or giving a slice of profits or takings to excellent causes. Frankly, it makes us proud to be working in the perfume world.
Another heart-warming initiative now comes from British perfumer Ruth Mastenbroek, who has just released Gratitude and Hope, two limited edition candles created to benefit the charities behind Our Frontline, a new mental health initiative for key workers including NHS workers, carers and blue light emergency service workers.
The candles are £14.95 each, with 100% of profits going to this great cause. The first – which expresses the Gratitude we all feel for our key workers and NHS carers – is a beautiful, calming scent of amber and tuberose. The second, Hope, is inspired by ‘all those feeling alone or anxious’, explains Ruth, and is infused with ginger and lemongrass. They have a 15-hour burn time, blend natural coconut, rapeseed oils and paraffin wax, and have been hand-blended and poured in the UK by the Mastenbroek family, who are isolating together.
As Ruth says: ‘I think many of us can probably relate to our mental health having been affected recently. My family and I have been especially concerned about the impact this pandemic is having on our keyworkers, who bravely go to work each day to keep our country going. We felt it is now our responsibility to ensure they get the support they need with their mental health, both now and in the future. Our Frontline is providing round the clock support to keyworkers and so we wanted to raise funds and awareness for their brilliant work.’
Also supported by the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge, Our Frontline brings together leading mental health charities including the Samaritans, MIND, Shout, Hospice UK and The Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. As the Duke said, to launch the charity: ‘Over the past few weeks, millions of frontline workers across the UK have put their physical and mental health on the line to protect us all during the Coronavirus pandemic. Every day they confront traumatic situations at the same time as having to contend with their own worries about the risks to themselves and their families. That takes a real toll, and as I’ve seen for myself through my work with the Air Ambulance, without the right support at the right time the challenges they face will only be greater.’
We still don’t know when all of this will start to ease.
But meanwhile, literally, a flicker of Hope. (Not to mention Gratitude.)
£14.95 for 50g (including P&P – although please be aware that as with many deliveries at present, you may need to be a little more patient than usual)
During our Instagram Live series, we recently had a fascinating chat with Emmanuelle Moeglin – and now you can watch the full one-hour interview with our Co-Founder Jo Fairley, over on YouTube.
A trained and experienced perfumer, Emmanuelle has created one of the most talked-about new fragrance concepts in the past few years, the Experimental Perfume Club, which began in the groovy East End offering fragrance workshops. With no ‘live’ events currently allowed, EPC is now offering courses online – and it’s such a cool way to use this ‘Great Pause’, we think. (For more about these fascinating courses, click here.)
Experimental Perfume Club has also now developed into a sublime collection of layerable fragrances (see below). And, before #lockdown changed everything, we were enraptured by EPC’s in-store boutique at Selfridges, offering an extraordinary personalised blending experience.
Watch the film below… And why not subscribe to our YouTube channel – click here – where we’ll be adding to our library of founder and perfumer Q+As, tapping into our Little Black Book of scent contacts.
Meanwhile, you can find the Experimental Perfume Club Discovery Set here on our site – so get set to start layering…!
One of perfumery’s hottest ‘stars’ – Sonia Constant – took part in the latest of our series of Perfumer Q+As on Instagram Live this week.
One of perfume house Givaudan’s biggest creative stars, Sonia juggles her role at the fragrance house with creating her own collection of adventure-inspired fragrances, Ella K – and at the moment, she’s also juggling this with homeschooling her two children in Paris, as she explained during a completely fascinating interview.
Find out… how she learned that vetiver smells like a sack of potatoes.
… about a fascinating Givaudan app called ‘Sphinx’ which enables her to create from home.
… her thoughts on the future of perfumery, in a fragrant landscape that has perhaps been changed forever by Covid-19.
Bars of hand soap are having a massive revival right now – firstly because many of us are trying to find plastic free ways to live, and secondly, because of worldwide concerns over hand hygiene following the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak.
It’s also a great time to take a look back at the fascinating history of Colognes – and why we refer to fragrances as eau de toilette – scroll down for more…
We think bars of soap were well due a revival, anyway – they are an economical (they last way longer) and far more environmentally friendly way to wash, still recommended by the NHS as the best way to thoroughly clean your hands, and there are so many fabulously fragranced ones out there to choose from! Did you know many of your beloved perfumes have matching fragranced soaps, too?
Making handwashing a call to arms (well, hands), we love the retro style of this newly produced, limited edition soap. Available in twelve emblematic scents – you’re in for an olfactory surprise, as they’ll choose for you. Knowing Buly, each will be equally wonderful. The soda-free, pH-neutral soap is beautifully softening, and all profits are being donated to charity, which softened our hearts…
Buly 1803 Socially Conscious Savon Superfin, €15 buly1803.com
The stunning Floris soap design dates back to the 1800s, and we love using this for guest bathrooms or simply for enjoying ourselves, and the scent is an absolute classic, too. Lily of the valley with soft accents of jasmine, rose and tuberose atop base notes of powdery musk, triple-milled with shea butter for a satisfyingly creamy, long-lasting lather.
Beautifully boxed (they make a great gift) these Penhaligon’s soaps are fragranced in honour of their matching fragrance – both dedicated to the Moon Goddess they are named for. Moonlit cool wafts of orange blossom, jasmine petals, fir balsam and soft rose make this a dreamy encounter every time you wash your hands.
We absolutely love the Kukui perfume, and were thrilled when Connock London added a matching fragranced soap to their line. The signature Kukui scent – waxy gardenia, fresh bergamot, Moroccan rose, white jasmine and calla lily atop woody amber, deliciously chocolate-y vanilla absolute and tonka bean – is infused with the highly moisturising blend of Kukui oil and Shea Butter.
Yardley London‘s soap-purveying heritage goes all the way back to the reign of King Charles I, and a number of their heritage fragrances are available in perfectly formed hand soaps to scent your every day with. A perennial favourite is their lavender soap, also fragranced with neroli and clary sage, geranium, sandalwood and tonka bean.
With all of us washing our hands more frequently than ever, these wonderful soaps are a way to keep your hands beautifully moisturised and smelling fabulous – and more than that, to turn a hum-drum exercise into a fabulously fragrant ritual to enjoy.
Indeed, the very term Eau de Toilette stems from the historic practice of washing in one’s bedroom or boudoir (before the onset of en-suites and running water). The act of of draping a cloth signified the transformation of a humble table to a dressing table. The cloth was known as the toile, then toilette and, eventually, Eau de Toilette: the very scent of a boudoir’s ablutions. Home-made soaps would have been used, but the use of Colognes were extremely popular – used for centuries as another way to keep clean and sweet-smelling (true Colognes tend to be over 70% alcohol in volume, so more beneficial to wash yourself with than un-purified water, back then).
Traditionally made with a spirit infused with a variety of herbs, usually including rosemary, Colognes are named for the hometown of perfumer Giovanni Maria Farina and date back to 1709, and were originally drunk as medicinal health-giving tonics as well as being splashed all over the body. We have a whole section of the website dedicated to delving into such fascinating historical fragrant stories, with a page revealling why Napolean ordered 162 bottles of Cologne at a time – why not saunter there now and have a scented meander?
What with the continuing global pandemic and all, we’re spending so much extra time at home, now, trying to find little nooks to transform into sudden workplaces, and perhaps even somewhere to relax and wind-down awhile (wouldn’t that be nice?) We’re here to help, with ideas of how to use fragrance to make your home a fragrant haven…
You may not be aware of it, but scent plays an important, subliminal part in how we define a space. On a large scale, you’ll have noticed that supermarkets pump out fresh baking smells to entice you to the back of the shop, and spas smell gloriously relaxing the moment you step inside; but you can use the same principles to shape your own home into individually fragranced areas.
Have a look at some of these ideas to keep you alert, refreshed, comforted and soothed….
Tip: Use uplifting scents in your designated work-space – be that the spare room, a corner of the siting room with a fold-out table or even with your laptop balanced on your knees (which is less than ideal, we know!) Keep them fresh, invigorating and aromatically stimulating to keep you alert.
Try: Diffusing rosemary oil in an aromatherapy oil burner, or soaking a ceramic disc (or cotton wool, inside a pomander) and tying with a ribbon to your radiator, or near where you’re working. Far from being ‘an old wive’s tale’, rosemary has now been scientifically proven to aid memory retention and clarity of mind. Something we could all do with right now, eh?
Buy: La Montaña First Light Candle, £36
An immediately mood-altering scent gently welcomes you to a new day, while herbaceous mountain breezes get to work on un-beffudling (is that a word? It is now) your brain. Much needed at Nightingale Towers, I can tell you! Plus £5 from every sale will be donated to the National Emergencies Trust Coronavirus Appeal.
La Montaña founder, Cassandra Hall, explains why she chose rosemary as inspiration for their first candle: ‘On our mountain, at first light, there’s a heavenly fragrance in the air. Before anyone starts an engine, or lights a fire, the air is clear, and still, and silent. The first breath of the day carries the perfume of wild mountain herbs: fennel, rosemary, mountain pepper and intoxicating rock rose. The alchemy of the fragrances, blended naturally on the breeze, weaves a magical spell.’
Tip: Transform your kitchen into a more intimate setting – if you’re lucky enough to have room for a table, or are finding yourself in there far more these days (cooking up a storm with leftovers, maybe whipping up a cocktail or three…), banish the clincal cleaning-product smells or foodie wafts, and pretend you’re in a romantic restaurant. (Do take the bins out, though.)
Try: Growing fragrant herbs in pretty pots on the windowsill, or bringing in some fresh flowers to enjoy their scent while you toil over the stove. Do make sure they’re strongly scented enough to smell over the competing scent of cooking, though. Or simply cook a cake with vanilla and spices to ensure hours of ‘Mmmm!’ (Added bonus: cake.)
Buy: Miller Harris Rendezvous Tabac Candle, £45
You might not think of a ‘tobacco’ scented candle as an obvious choice for the kitchen, but bear with me. This one’s inspired by the romantic brasseries of Saint-Germain, and makes your kitchen (or anywhere!) feel cosy, welcoming, somewhere to willingly linger, not *have* to be.
The Cuban cascarilla oil and pimento berries tingle their way to a heart of velvety sage and cool drifts of pine against the cosiest background of creamy tonka bean and Malay patchouli. Even if it’s once a week, treat yourself to a proper tablecloth, linen napkins, ‘the best’ china or glasses and polished silverware. It feels extra fancy, so maybe even consider wearing your best pyjamas while planning your next meal out-out.
Tip: Turn your living room into a place of scented sanctuary with opulent florals – somewhere to chill out in style while binge-watching your favourite shows, to browse your favourite magazines (including The Scented Letter, obvs) or catch-up with friends on a phone call.
Try: Find local flower deliveries at flowersfromthefarm.co.uk and fill a vase with deeply-scented flowers to cheer you (and anyone who walks past your house) up every time you see and smell them, or using a vintage jug for a fragrant display, surrounded by candles, in the fireplace.
Buy: Sana Jardin Jaipur Chant candle, £48
Opulent with real Indian tuberose essential oil, Moroccan jasmine and French narcisse with a twist of Italian lemon, this exquisite scent is redolent of exotic climes and will absolutely fill your space with floral beauty (even if you can’t get any flowers delivered, or want something longer-lasting).
Sana Jardin founder, founder Amy Christiansen Si-Ahmed, was inspired to create this scent after taking part in a Hindu devotional ceremony, where tuberose flower garlands are exchanged and play a symbolic role, connoting love, deep emotion and sensitivity. In this fragrance, the flower is given added vibrancy with Morroccan jasmine, narcisse and musk, resulting in a stunning sunshine-filled scent that will enhance your home at any time of year (and whatever the weather is doing outside).
Tip: Taking a candlelit bath with a fragrant oil while listening to soothing music is self-care you deserve. It’s difficult enough to unwind at the end of the day, when your muscles are knotted with tension from, you know, worrying about the global pandemic on top of everything else…
Try: Using a muscle-relaxing bath essence that also scents your entire house with gorgeously aromatic wafts. Aromatherapy Associates Deep Relax Bath & Shower Oil is a best-seller for a reason: it works. Soothing sandalwood, camomile and grounding vetivert will sort you out.
Buy: diptyque Paris En Fleur small candle, £30
Petite enough to be placed bath-side while you soak, this is an evocative scent to carry you away with dreams of being impossibly Parisian chic. The first Chypre for the house, a flurry of fruity rose petals merge with deeply resinous patchouli – relaxing and quite a lot sexy, all at once…
For this celebration of Paris, diptyque drew its creative inspiration from the rose and its thousand scents, such as the roses of the Bagatelle gardens or the Marché aux fleurs. To adorn the scent, they worked with the artist and friend of diptyque, Pierre Marie. Together, they created a decoration inspired by Art Nouveau, like a lattice bedecked with flowers on which roses intertwine with metallised foliage.
Tip: If you’re likely to nod off, a lit candle’s not ideal for the bedroom, but there’s a fabulous range of fragranced reed-diffusers available now. Why not change up your sleeping space with a luxurious scent and pretend you’re in a hotel (maybe change the sheets, too…)
Try: Not everyone loves lavender (yes it’s beautifully soothing, but only if you like the smell!) so surround yourself in bed with scents you adore – something that makes you stop a moment to breathe in and appreciate it better. You’ll actually feel your shoulders drop as you close your eyes.
Buy: Ruth Mastenbroek Firedance Diffuser, £30
We absolutely love this for the bedroom (or boudoir) because it feels like a 5-star scent even if your space doesn’t quite live up. It’s incredibly long-lasting (so excellent value – we’re talking months of scented contentment, here) and smells utterly unique. Divinely smoky rose smoulders beguilingly on the rich, woody base, and if your bedtime routine’s not exactly petal-scattered sheets and romance, you can dare to dream!
Rejoicing in a moment of true contentment was perfumer Ruth Mastenbroek’s muse for this so-sultry modern interpretation of the classic rose perfume, as exotic leather dances in surprise harmony with the main character – smouldering Damask rose. Set against a warming backdrop of oudh and patchouli, a shining amber note radiates in this scent which is perfect for anywhere in the home (especially anywhere you’d like to smoulder, yourself…)
However you’re coping (or otherwise) with re-arranging your house/routine/life in this current climate of uncertainty, while filling your home with designated scented spaces might not magically make everything better – I absolutely guarantee that it WILL help.
If you don’t happen to live in a mansion with a wing for every member of the household, or spare rooms that can be converted into handy separate office spaces – it’s essential to divide up what space you do have into areas that feel like passing from one phase of the day into another, that split up the many roles you may be juggling – for your own sanity, not merely a pleasant perfume to smell. And home fragrance is the easiest way of doing that, subliminally. It genuinely can change an atmosphere instantly, and, therefore, your mood/how your day rolls out.
We’re living through times we’d never imagined, that nobody knows how ‘best’ to deal with. So treating yourself to a little scented luxury is important – perhaps more now than ever before. You’re worth looking after, too, you know…
The dynamic perfumer Geza Schoen – who’s just unveiled his latest pair of fragrances, Molecule 05 and Escentric 05– just took part in a fascinating Instagram Live with The Perfume Society‘s co-founder Jo Fairley, the latest in our series of perfumer interviews.
It even afforded a sneak peek inside his at-home laboratory (because working from home in Berlin is nothing new for Geza…) PLUS we got to see his little daughter Anna, who made a cameo appearance. (Currently being home-schooled, of course, like all German children.)
On our YouTubechannel, you can view the entire one-hour Q+A in which Geza talks about his career, about the magic of molecules, the challenges of creativity in the age of corona, and more.
It is pretty easy to forget right now that there are other big issues facing the world than this pandemic.
So today, Earth Day, we will be thinking about some of the long-term challenges that face the planet and those of us who are lucky enough to live on it.
With the rise in recycled packaging, refillable bottles and sustainable projects to source fragrance ingredients, there’s already a definite shift in the fragrance world’s axis, in terms of environmental awareness. And at the same time, many brands are getting involved with really worthwhile initiatives – something we’re never, ever cynical about. Sustainability is a journey of a thousand steps.
Giorgio Armani, however, has taken quite a number of steps on that journey, since setting up Acqua for Life in 2010, an initiative which focuses on water projects. As the designer himself observes: ‘Water is perhaps the element I feel closest to. For me water represents life and regeneration, but also calmness and serenity. Access to clean water is undoubtedly one of the greatest challenges in the 21st Century.’
Quite so. And for 2020, as part of this focus on delivering universal access to water in water-scarce regions, Acqua for Life (who’ve previously partnered with WaterAid) has now teamed up with Water.org, a global non-profit which helps people in the developing world access safe water and sanitation.
Thus far, Water.org has enabled more than 25 million people in 16 countries, and through this partnership will work to transform the lives of 18,000 people in Tanzania through access to clean water, hygiene and sanitation. Since the dawn of Acqua for Life, 413 water systems have already been established, helping 217,000 people in 15 countries across three continents gain access to safe water.
Now, for the second, time, acclaimed Dutch artist and photographer Viviane Sassen has collaborated with Acqua for Life – in this instance travelling to Nepal to create a film and taking photographs that capture the transformative power that clean water has in birthing centres and other healthcare facilities, celebrating (quite literally) the connection between water and life itself. You can some of them below, or enjoy the whole portfolio here.
And watch the wonderful video, below…
We take so much for granted about our ability to flush a loo or turn on a tap. (Which we’ve been even more, lately, with all that hand-washing.) Though our minds may be preoccupied with another global challenge right now, we will today do our best to remember the REALLY big picture, and think about what we can all do to help.
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