How did you choose your last fragrance? At an airport, with one eye on the departures board? In a department store? Online, without even smelling it first…? (Not something we ever encourage, at The Perfume Society.) Alternatively, was finding your most recent perfume a soothing, sense-drenching experience, almost as self-revelatory as  session on an analyst’s couch – only comfier? (And with an espresso or even a glass of champagne thrown in.) Then maybe you’ve already stepped inside the Illuminum Fragrance Lounge on London’s increasingly swanky Dover Street.

Although Illuminum‘s fragrances are increasingly widely available around the world, and in department stores (including Henri Bendel, one of New York’s top perfumery destinations), there’s no doubt that if you want to explore them in depth the very best way is through a session with one of their ‘Sensory Guides’. As Illuminum explains, ‘Our beloved fragrances are so precious to us that we create our own way of introducing them to the world. Perfume needs a new approach,’ they add, ‘as it brings us so much joy and touches our imagination just like a piece of fine art.’

Heralding a new chapter in British perfumery, Illuminum launched in January 2011 as a contemporary, fine fragrance concept, with the emphasis placed firmly on the quality of ingredients, seeking out rare and precious elements from around the world. As the Beyond Bespoke website explains it, ‘Each scent shines a spotlight on eight star ingredients using a supporting cast of molecules and aldehydes to help them sparkle’.

Within the Illuminum collection currently you will find 37 fragrances. The first 17 are in the Vaporizer collection, at an indulgent eau de parfum strength, ensuring the journey which a scent makes on the skin unfolds from dawn till dusk.

In this collection, you’ll find Ginger Pear: sparkling pear and citrus, warmed by wild ginger, with tea blossom in the blend – and a sweetness, on the skin, from musk and creamy sandalwood. Or Piper Leather, in which (as they put it) ‘the dark, demonic whipcrack of leather is central to this fragrance’. Nose-tingling black pepper and coriander give a spicy sensuality while at Piper Leather’s base, frankincense, civet and musk simply smoulder.

The fragrance which has had so many beating a path to Illuminum’s door, however, is White Gardenia Petals – the fragrance, so we’re told, which Catherine Middleton wore for her wedding to the Duke of Cambridge. And certainly, a more wedding-perfect fragrance it’s hard to imagine: like a vase of white flowers, summery with gardenia, ylang ylang, lily of the valley and jasmine, underscored by amber and precious woods.

But Illuminum also offers a second luxurious collection – ‘Haute Perfume‘, as they put it: a collection of opulent scents at the highest concentration possible, ‘extrait’ strength, with 30% of oils from precious ingredients, to linger all the longer on the skin. These highly extravagant fragrances have been described as ‘premier cru’ fragrances (akin to the finest champagne), featuring prized woods, resins and blossoms from the four corners of the globe. Moroccan Tuberose, for instance: potent and creamy, opening with Turkish rose, alongside the heady white flower, and rounded by earthy notes of cedarwood.

And tapping into the trend for all things musk, a quartet of OUD fragrances from Illuminum. There’s Black OUD (spiced with cloves and with an animalic base of civet, alongside patchouli). Vetiver OUD (in which Madagascan and Javanese vetiver are woven into notes of bergamot, myrrh and a touch of tuberose, as well as the East Indian oudh). Hindi OUD is exotic with frangipani, gardenia and osmanthus, purring with musk at its base, while Indian OUD delivers on its Eastern promise with soft vanilla, jasmine sambac, oakmoss and sandalwood, around a Madras oudh heart.

Exciting times indeed for this unique perfume house. But we can’t encourage you enough to embark on your own ‘Sensory Journey’, at the flagship Illuminum boutique, which has been described as a ‘spa for the nose’. Your senses will thank you for it…

Illuminum Fragrance Lounge, 41 Dover Street, London W1 4NS/+44 (0)20 7018 2000


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