Get to know the nose: Alberto Morillas

In this series we are inviting you to ‘get to know the nose’ – those perfumers who create the scents we adore, who bottle lifelong scent memories and span the worlds of Art and Science. In this exclusive interview, you’ll get to know none other than Alberto Morillas… 

Legend‘ is a word bandied about so often it can be rendered meaningless, but when applied to the perfumer Alberto Morillas, there can be no doubting the truth of such a statement. Creator of countless iconic fragrances – from Calvin Klein CK One, Kenzo Flower, Bvlgari Omnia, Cartier Panthere de Cartier, Giorgio Armani Aqua di Giò for women (seriously, the list is seemingly endless) – to the more recent scent success of Gucci‘s fragrances, perfumes for Penhaligon’s, and the BVLGARI Goldea scents. And then those more ‘niche’ interpretations of his art, working alongside remarkable brands such as Aedes de Venustas, A Lab On Fire and By Kilian to name but three of his extensive client list. Whatever your taste, wherever you began your quest for the perfect perfume – his scents have doubtless been in your collection and on your skin at one time or another. 

Winning the prestigious Prix François Coty in 2003 and The Fragrance Foundation Lifetime Perfumer in 2013, among numerous other awards for his creations; Morillas then set up his own house of Mizensir, initially selling candles – using the same dedication and attention to detail in hand-making these as he does creating fine fragrances. Now fans rejoice in the fact Morillas has recently expanded Mizensir in to a range of fine fragrances, too.

With so many infamous names on his client list, Alberto can pick and choose who he works with at any time, so those scents he composes are very special indeed. We were honoured, indeed, to catch up with Alberto for our regular ‘get to know the nose’ feature, and hearing him wax lyrical on his favourite (and most-hated) smells, his fragrant inspirations and for a unique insight in to this, yes, legendary perfumer’s behind-the-scenes techniques…

 

 

 

What is your first ‘scent memory’?

‘Traditional Christmas Cakes that smelled like Anis and Vanilla, made by the Carmelite nuns in my town, we would order these cakes from Christmas and pick them up at the convent, this smell is imprinted in my memory.’

When did you decide you wanted to be a perfumer/create your own perfume?

I started hearing about the métier of perfumer when I came to Geneva to study; around the same time I discovered that there was a creator behind each fragrance. I had read an article in Vogue Magazine where Jean Paul Guerlain explained how to create a fragrance. That was a revelation for me!’

What are your five favourite smells in the world?

More personally, I like everything that would evoke the Mediterranean Sea, with the deep blue water, the sun and the nature which go with it. I am very attached for example to the citruses, sea notes and flowers including jasmine, tuberose, neroli and orange blossom. They are the expression of a certain kind of freshness, a sophisticated freshness and at the same time full of joy. I’m also in love with gardens. They are my second passion. I spend a lot of time in my family garden in Geneva, it gives me a breath, a moment of dream and relaxation, and it always inspires me for my work as a perfumer. The inspiration which feeds my creation is very simple, it is everything I see in nature.’

What’s the worst thing you ever smelled. (Honestly!)

The smell of onion is really unpleasant and overwhelming. I can’t smell anything when there’s onion in the room. And it makes you cry!’

Do you feel (like us) that this is one of the most exciting times in fragrance history, because of the creativity being expressed by perfumers? Why do you think that is?

A lot of things have changed! Mainly due to an acceleration of time and pressures. In reaction to these constant pressures, people want freedom, to express themselves freely. Perfume is a world of passion, pleasure and emotions which gives a beautiful escape to everyone. The increasing number of new creations each year has not restrained the community of perfume lovers. On the contrary, men and women are becoming more and more experts of fragrances. Brands are now offering a different storytelling around creation, giving a major place to the olfactive creation and to the ingredients. I’m very positive about the future!’

How many perfumes might you be working on, at one time?

‘Oh I can be working on many, many – in over twenty directions at any time! I work on mine and for other people. I like to say yes, but only if I love the people themselves. I made Zara candles and that was an honour to me, that they wanted to have my signature. But when I finish working on something it is no longer mine, it’s not for me when it’s finished – it’s for the customer, it belongs to them. Though the formula is mine!’

Does your nose ever ‘switch off’?

‘No, never, I am working all the time – even just walking down the street I am smelling and sometimes, well quite a lot as it happens, I smell one of the perfumes I created as someone passes me. It still gives me the same pleasure to smell that on someone now as when I first created it… Perfumers never rest, no one is ever in a completely odour-free environment and it is like the brain: the nose never rests. Creating a fragrance is an art, it is very personal and creative exercise.’

How long, roughly, does it take you to create a fragrance?

‘Some are one or two years, others can be five or more. But it’s very difficult you know, because it needs to change only a tiny bit and that takes a lot longer than if it was just brand new. To alter something a little takes a lot more work.’

 

 

 

Is creating a fragrance ‘visual’ for you, as well as something that happens in the nose/brain? If so, in what way…? Is a mood-board helpful?

‘No, I can be inspired by seeing something but it automatically goes to an emotion in my head and I memorise that and that’s what I try to create. As perfumers, we use words, sounds, colours, shapes, textures to talk about smells, and get our memory working. That’s how we build up and maintain our “scent bank”, by associating a smell with another completely different sensory element. Perfume calls on our strongest instincts and our emotions. Spontaneously, we grab hold of something palpable, something we can see to give it meaning. In my daily work, I’m a very visual person, almost all my formulas are written by hand. My handwriting is my emotion. When I write the formula, I can smell the perfume. I also really like to receive images when I create new products; it is always a great source of inspiration.’

What can each of us do to enhance our appreciation of fragrance? What is your best tip for improving a person’s sense of smell?

‘If you train your nose, you’ll be able to make the difference between the main olfactive families. In fact, everyone has his own olfactive memory like a “library of scents”, made of smells you associate to people, places, travels, objects, food, moments of your life, etc. You can enrich this library by smelling fragrances in store or trying them on skin to live with them. Some are fresher, some are more sensual, try to put words on what you smell to define the different sensations. Then repeat, repeat ceaselessly. Practice by smelling in blind. Be spontaneous, say everything, feel free to write everything which comes to mind. Time after time, you’ll have your own references and you’ll be able to classify fragrances by main themes, like woody, aromatic, citrus and ambrée. Memory. That’s the most important thing. You need to smell again and again and again the same thing and then mix it with other things and see how it changes. Like cooking – you need to taste all the time to improve your palette and it’s the same with smell. I cannot say enough how important memory is, that act of memorising how something smells, what it means to you.’

If you had one fragrance note that you love above all others, what would that be?

‘Oh the rose for me, always the rose. But then the musks of course – I guess I am the king of musk! But each one is different – so there’s an Armani musk, a Cartier musk… They each have their own unique character, so you cannot simply talk of “musk” as one thing. And it’s not an obsession, but I like very much orange blossom when I’m back to my homeland in Seville, spring time is the moment for traditional processions. It smells orange blossom and incense, a wonderful smell that could inspire me in the future, who knows?’

Fragrances For… treating yourself (for a change!)

Following the whirlwind of festive treating that’s gone on, we’re betting you’ve been at the very bottom of your own ‘to do’ list (if you appeared on it at all!) It’s time now to stop and treat yourself for a change – perhaps use up some of those vouchers or consider at least making the time to wonder what you want to wear, next, and who you want to be? Perfume can be a dressing-up-box of possibilities, so try these on for size…

 

 

KYLIE MINOGUE
Darling

If this is ringing bells, you’re spot-on: Kylie debuted Darling in 2006, acquiring quite the following, who grieved when their favoured fragrance was discontinued. Darling’s making a comeback – but with a modern spin; Firmenich perfumer Ilias Eremendis has captured the ‘architecture’ of the original in a vegan formula that offers up a bouquet of freesia, lily, boronia flower, topped by juicy fruits, with a curtain call of sandalwood, vanilla and amber.
£22 for 30ml eau de parfum
theperfumeshop.com

 

 

NISHANE
Favonius
Romantically inspired, the mythology and olfactory intelligence of this niche house radiate with every spritz of their floral-swagged invitation to dream. The Roman goddess of flowers is invoked via a clarion call of bright bergamot flecked with sparkling pink pepper; a ribbon of incense twirling to the geranium heart, twisted with a dash of herbaceous clary sage. This hint of verdant greenery soon segues to a dry-down that’s grounded in sweet, musky patchouli.
£295 for 100ml extrait de parfum
harrods.com

 

 

PACO RABANNE
Pacollection Blossom Me
Pacollection has been making quite the packaging splash, via innovative, patented ‘Airmetal’ pouches, comprised of 50% natural origin materials. We now welcome three additions to the line-up: fruity oudh Major Me (Emilie Coppermann), irreverent Dandy Me, and Marie Salamagne’s Blossom Me, an ‘eccentric’ floral infusion in which soft orange blossoms, cool vetiver, mandarin and mint combine to offer a first-of-its-kind harmony, in the intriguing form of a ‘solar vegetal’ splash.
£65 for 62ml eau de parfum
pacorabanne.com

 

TOM FORD
PRIVATE BLEND ÉBÈNE FUMÉ
Palo Santo is a purifying, sacred incense wood, used in ritual, that has curled smokily though many recent creations. Here, this woody-amber incarnation is deliberately meditative; as Tom Ford says, it has ‘an almost spiritual sensuality that uplifts your mood.’ It smoulders alongside dry cade essence, resinous cistus absolute, roses, guaiac and ebony woods. The trick it carries off? This would be equally at home in a yoga class or on the dance floor.
£178 for 50ml eau de parfum
tomford.co.uk

 

 

BRIONI
Eau de Parfum Intense
A Lusciously luminous duo of citrus oils first beguiles the senses, radiant bergamot and juicy mandarin studded with highly aromatic pink peppercorn in cool opening notes. A deeper plunge into the suave world of this sophisticated fashion house’s aesthetic, Michel Almairac suffuses the base with patchouli, oudh and Ambroxan, threads of suede-like saffron woven with a swoosh of crisp apple, a fragrant flash akin to the silky moiré that lines their wool jackets.
From £85 for 60ml eau de parfum
brioni.com
 

Hello ’22! A fragrant new year (and new you) with a VERY special offer

New year, new you? Fragrance is the easiest way to revive your spirits or change the vibe (with no counting calories or impossible exercise routines or self-imposed ‘rules’ to follow!) A new scent can give you more confidence and energy or soothe the senses after a difficult time. It can also be your ‘shoulder pads in a bottle’ best friend – or a hug in a bottle, helping you feeling better about yourself every single day.

If you’re new here (hello!) and don’t know all the things we do, or just want to start the new year as you mean to go on; why not consider some of the fragrance-filled options below, and join us in the scented celebrations…

 

Treat yourself to something new (with 22% off*)

Now all the Christmas gifts have been exchanged, we think YOU deserve an extra present for getting through all of last year. We’re welcoming in the new year in the most fragrant way possible, by giving you 22% of ALL our Perfume Society Discovery Boxes (when you spend £40 or more)!

Simply select your favourite Perfume Society Discovery Boxes (*minimum spend £40, valid on Perfume Society Discovery Boxes only, offer ends 7th January 2022) and enter the code Hello22 at checkout.

 

Take the stress out of scent shopping

Fragrance can be bewildering, and finding a new one often overwhelming – that’s exactly why we started The Perfume Society, to take the stress out of shopping for a new scent. How can you find your perfect perfume? What’s the best way to take care of it? How can you make it last longer? Where should fragrance be applied, to get the most out of every spritz? Nobody’s born knowing these things, so we’ve collated answers to dozens of the questions we’re regularly asked in our FAQ section. Simply head there and click on the question, and your answer will appear!

 

Find your next favourite fragrance

How can you find the perfect scent to suit you? It’s a question we’re asked more than any other, and can be somewhat overwhelming if you don’t know where to begin. And that’s at the best of times – let alone trying to navigate buying a new scent from your sofa, without sniffing beforehand!

We have the perfect perfume solution: our genius Fragrance Finder

You’re simply asked to type in the name of a fragrance you like already, and the so-clever algorithm does all the work for you. This is a computer system that was first set up decades ago, when our clever Co-Founder Lorna McKay had an idea how to help customers of Liberty’s perfumery seek out their next scents.

That computer program has been fully updated with key words comparing and describing hundreds of thousands of fragrances – not only the fragrance notes, but how the fragrance will make you feel, the atmosphere the perfumer has created, the character of the scent itself. All you need do is type in the name of a fragrance you already love and you’ll be given an immediate list of six scents to seek out, all at various price points and with characteristics you’re extremely likely to swoon for. Honestly, try it – they’re quite spookily accurate!

Become a V.I.P

For just just £12 per year, you can join our special VIP club and receive the following exclusive benefits for 12 months of fragrant fun…

Special Discounts:  £4 off our professionally-curated Perfume Society Discovery Boxes, you’ll hear about all the launches before anyone else. This year we will be offering even greater discounts and some fabulous 24-hour price drop opportunities exclusive to our VIPs.

Digital Subscription to The Scented Letter: You can read more about this below, but all VIPs get immediate access to our award-winning online magazine, delivered to their in-box– featuring perfumes, perfumers, ingredients and so much more devoted to all things fragrant. Psst ..we’ll send you the latest Scented Letter as soon as you sign up..!

Event Tickets: Early access to events – virtually and in real life…meeting with leading ‘noses’ and key figures from the perfume world.

Exclusive Prizes: just for VIPs.

(Please note: due to shipping restrictions we cannot send our boxes to the Republic of Ireland or internationally.)

 

 

Read The Scented Letter, our multi-award-winning perfume magazine, now FREE for everyone!

Described as a ‘must-read’ by industry insiders and perfume-lovers, we are delighted that our gorgeous and fact-packed digital magazine, The Scented Letter, is now free for everyone to read in digital format online. You can read the most recent Time to Shine issue, here. But don’t worry, if you prefer print, the magazine (and back issues) is also available to order in gorgeously printed form via our Online Shop.

Appearing FOUR times a year this utterly beautiful magazine, featuring at least 60 pages on perfume news, features and much more will take them ever-deeper into the scented world, via our Latest Launches round-up of the new men’s and women’s scents, exclusive interviews with the world’s best perfumers, stunning spreads devoted to the fascinating history and future-forward trends shaping the perfume world.

However you choose to celebrate in scent, we wish you a wonderful (and fabulously fragrant) year ahead for 2022!

What to do if you hate a perfume present? Tips & tricks to save your scent!

Well firstly, ‘hate’ is a very strong word. If you’ve been landed with the favourite fragrance of your current partner’s ex, we’re not going to pretend to make you suddenly adore it, so maybe re-gift that one – see tip #7 – and treat yourself to one of our Discovery Boxes of fragrant delights, and perhaps a new partner, instead?

But there are things you can try before you completely ditch a scent – we can’t tell you how many fragrance experts (ourselves included!) and even perfumers have drastically changed their minds about a fragrance by trying some of these top tips…

#1 – Seasonal changes
Did you know that the weather, your mood and even what you ate up to *two weeks ago* can dramatically alter how scent smells on your skin? Skin and climate temperature are vital to a perfume’s performance, so even your favourite fragrance will smell different based on the time of year. When perfumers test the scents they’re creating they often use climate-controlled booths to check how they smell in hot and colder conditions (depending what countries they’ll be selling in). Don’t re-gift until you’ve tried the perfume again later in the year, or even on holiday (remember those?)

– Similarly, strongly spiced foods can change how a perfume smells on your skin, and when testing fragrances under lab conditions, the ‘skin model’ volunteers they use are often specifically asked to refrain from eating such foods up to two weeks prior to testing, so the perfumers can smell a ‘true’ representation of the scent. Though sometimes the reverse is true: if a fragrance is to be mainly sold in a country where people eat lots of spicy foods, the ‘skin models’ are asked to replicate that diet to ensure the scent works efficiently.

– We now know that mood plays an important part in how we select a fragrance – try a scent when you’re feeling a particular way, and it colours how you feel about the fragrance itself. If you’re feeling stressed or upset, a bit under the weather or just overwhelmed, these are not ideal conditions for testing out something new. Wait until you’re feeling calmer, or simply have more time to really explore what you’re smelling. That’s when you can try to…

 

#2 – Improve your sense of smell
Absolutely everyone can benefit from this – we’ve had people from normal perfume-lovers, complete novices to industry professionals telling us how trying these techniques have changed the way they smell for the better (for good). This doesn’t mean suddenly gaining the ability of being able to detect every single ingredient within a bottle of perfume, but rather learning to train your nose the way a perfumer does: by deeply exploring the emotions it makes you feel, colours, textures, places and people it reminds you of.

This is why we developed our so-popular How to Improve Your Sense of Smell Workshops, which we have regularly held in London and, sometimes at independent perfumeries around the UK. We’ll be adding new dates as soon as we’re able to hold face-to-face workshops again, and plan to make a video available online.

Meanwhile, here are a few simple tips to try every day:

Spray a scent on a blotter, preferably; close your eyes and keep sniffing for several seconds, then take the blotter away, inhale deeply, and re-sniff the blotter again. Repeat this for a minute or so, and then begin writing a few words in a notebook. It doesn’t have to be a description, and it shouldn’t ‘list’ notes – try to use words that make you think of other things. For example…

If this scent were a fabric, what would it be? What colour? If you made someone an outfit from that fabric, who would they be, where would they be going?

If it were a piece of music, what instruments would be playing? Is it classical, rock music, pop, rap or jazz?

Really attempt to get past thinking ‘I don’t like this’ and focus instead on the mood it’s creating. Is it too deep or too fresh or floral for your personal taste? Give it time and then, if needed, move on to one of the tips, below…

 

#3 – Layer up!
Layering fragrances used to be seen as a scent sin, but we’ve all gotten over ourselves a bit (well most of us have). You don’t have to do this to a perfume you already love on its own – why would you need to? – but there are brilliant ways of beefing-up a sadly flimsy fragrance, or adding a zing to something that’s a bit too dark or cloying on your skin. Give it a go, because, as we always say: perfume isn’t a tattoo – if you don’t like it, you can wash it off!

Add power: ramp it up by adding more base notes like patchouli, labdanum, vetiver, woods or musk.

Add freshness: look for citrus notes like bergamot, neroli, lemon, lime or ‘green’ notes such as galbanum, tomato or violet leaf, green tea, marine/aquatic accords (synthetic recreations of sea-like, watery smells) and aldehydes (often desribed as being like Champagne bubbles).

Add beauty: find a scent too ‘harsh’ or clinical? Look to layer it with decadently velvety or lusciously fruity rose oils, the sunshine-bottled scent of orange flower, a heady glamour of tuberose or a luminescent jasmine; try an apricot-like osmanthus flower, the fluffiness of mimosa or the powdery elegance of iris/orris.

Add sweetness: vanilla and tonka bean can ’round’ a perfume, making it swoon on your skin (and addictive to smell), as can touches of synthetic notes described as ‘caramel’ or ‘dulce de leche’, ripe fruits, chocolate or even candy floss. Try to add less than you think you need, as adding more is always easier than taking away, and a little of these can go a long way!

For layering any of these, you can either try layering over other fragrances you have in which the above notes dominate, with a single-fragranced ‘soliflore’ (one main note) fragrance oil or spray, or try layering the scent you don’t currently like over a differently perfumed body lotion or oil (see below or the added benefits of doing this…)

 

#4 – Boost the lasting-power
If the reason you don’t like a perfume is because it just seems to ‘disappear’ on your skin, you’re not alone. We often find those with dry skin have this problem, and it’s even thought genetics and things like hair colour may play a part. Scientists are still finding this out, but while they do, there are ways you can make perfume last far longer:

– Try using a body oil, rich body balm or moisturising lotion before you put any fragrance on (and even afterwards, too), as scent takes longer to evaporate on nourished skin. This helps the fragrance ‘cling’ to your skin more easily, and so you get to actually smell if for more than a few minutes without frantically re-spraying.

– Spray pulse-points you might not usually think of. Behind your knees is a good example – it’s a warm spot that, once spritzed, will mean you leave a fragrant trail…

– Spritz the perfume at the nape of your neck, even into your hair and on clothes – BUT do check by spraying a tissue first that it isn’t going to mark your hair or fabric a strange colour, or leave an oily residue! We adore this way of wearing perfume, as hair and fabric are porous without heating up as much as your skin, allowing the perfume to stay all day.

Spraying a fragrance on to a scarf is a particularly good idea if you want…

#5 – A part-time perfume
There are days we feel the need to try something completely different, but perhaps don’t want to be stuck with that scent all day, so what to do?

– Consider spraying a scarf (preferably not silk or a light colour, unless you’ve patch-tested it as above, first!) with this perfume you’re unsure of, that way if it gets a bit ‘too much’ or you want to wear something different, you can simply take the scarf off and you’re not stuck with it on your skin all day.

Nope? Tried all that and still struggling? All is not lost, don’t give up yet…

 

#6 – Scent up your life
We all have certain scents or fragrant ingredients that, for one reason or another, we might not wish to wear but do like to smell if it’s scenting something else.

– Why not try spraying off-cuts of pretty wrapping paper or tissue paper, and using this to line your lingerie or sweater drawers?

– Or, how about being utterly fabulous by spraying your note paper and insides of envelopes (the fancy ones lined with tissue paper are particularly good for this), and writing a few actual letters or thank you cards to loved-ones you’ve not seen for a while. Everyone loves getting proper post!

– The truly decadent could try scenting table linen – again, PLEASE patch test, as above – for lavish dinner parties to rival Marie Antoinette – spraying on cotton wool and putting inside a deocrative ceramic or pottery vase, on wooden ornaments or ceramic discs you hang over radiators to scent the whole room as they heat.

We so hope you can find a way to try this poor perfume again and give it some love, but if all else fails and you still can’t bring yourself to use it, well at least you tried! Why not…

#7 – Have a perfume-swapping party / re-gift
Um, remembering not to invite the one who gave you that particular perfume… otherwise, major awks. Or, if you’re looking to re-gift, have a look at our brilliant Fragrance Finder.

Simply put the name of the fragrance into the search box, and it’ll suggest six scents that are similar in character and style, or share a number of significant notes – this way you can see if anyone you know already has one of these, and it means they’ll very likely love to receive this one from you.

Genius!

Written by Suzy Nightingale

What would Santa smell like…?

Responses to the question ‘What would Santa smell like?’ have revealed a wide range of answers from children all over the world, depending on their age and where they live. Perfumer Penny Williams took the most popular answers and turned them into a fragrance that teachers can use to engage school children in discussions around their sense of smell…

Lisa Hipgrave, Director of IFRA UK, who undertook the research, says ‘We are working with a group of people across the fragrance industry to develop ways to help people understand and benefit from a greater awareness of their sense of smell. Whilst this is a lighthearted approach to get us all in the Christmas spirit which we hope people will try at home, it is part of a wider piece of the work of that group. We have created a new website called fragrancematters.org to help people find out more about the importance of their sense of smell  – from new and quirky facts, to taking a deeper dive into the world of olfaction through highlighting wider research, activities and events.’

So, what were their answers? ‘Soot and sweat’ was a popular response, while others answered ‘leather, boot polish and velvet’ and ‘pine trees, from brushing past them on his journey, and from Christmas trees as he places presents under trees in hopeful homes.’ More poetically inclined children decided he might smell of ‘nose-tingling magic and moonlight’ or ‘starry nights from his journey through the night sky’ and even ‘like space, perhaps with a little whisky’. Contributions from the USA included ‘the New York night sky just before snowfall’, and Canadadian children said ‘the first snow of winter on the pine woods’, while responses from Australia included ‘countless beach barbecues’.

 

 

Unsurprisingly, food and drink was a major theme, with cinnamon, gingerbread and mince pies appearing most often. Many children think that Santa smells of milk and biscuits, until they reach around 14 years of age, when Santa’s snacks switched to ‘sherry or brandy and mince pies’.

 

British perfumer Penny Williams, Chairperson of the IFRA UK working group, Vice Chair of the IFRA UK Technical committee and founder of Orchadia Ltd, says: ‘The human sense of smell is incredible. We take around 20,000 breaths a day and each one is an opportunity to learn about our surroundings. Inside our nose are olfactory bulbs, which are linked directly to our brain and create a memory link. That is why our sense of smell is so important to our wellbeing and feeling connected. Through our noses, we can also sense temperature and humidity. Both also affect how well we can smell – and smell is also the flavour of food. The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted how losing our sense of smell can make us feel disconnected. Our sense of smell isn’t just about the present, it’s about the past and can create feelings of happiness and nostalgia.’ She continues:

‘We want to bring back that innocent joy, comfort and sense of happiness to pupils in the schools we are working with. However, this is such a fun experiment for anyone of any age, so we are inviting people across the UK to spark up the discussion with family and friends. Using everyday objects and a few Christmas treats you can quickly get your olfactory sense working. Our nose is connected to a part of our nervous system which is responsible for detecting heat (chilli) and cold (menthol). So, menthol, found in peppermint and often in toothpaste, has a physical cooling effect that we can feel and mince pies might create a feeling of warmth. The different sensations and feelings evoked by our sense of smell comes from many places and somehow comes together in a wonderful way: rather like Christmas.’

Using these responses, Orchadia created a special fragrance that follows Santa’s journey with a mixture of 48 traditional and modern ingredients that have made an intriguing and bold scent. Most noticeable on first spray are smoke and ozone –using the uniquely woody smokey scent of vetiver and an ingredient that smells like fresh water. Menthol hints at snow flurries in cold air. Also featured are pine needle and davana oil, which is reminiscent of Christmas pudding. There’s even the leathery scent of reins next to reindeer fur, accompanied by earthy patchouli oil. The fresh forest notes are extended with cedar, eventually fading to vanilla and soft moss. 

Victoria Osborne, Teacher at Hinchingbrooke School in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, says ‘The children are going to have so much fun discussing what Santa smells like as part of their STEM learning. It is a really lovely way to get them to use their own personal experiences and memories whilst also learning about the science of smell. We are going to have a science lab that smells like Christmas has come early as we will be taking time to properly breathe in the different layers of smells in mince pies and to take time to notice if something created a warm or a cooling smell.’

Children respond amazingly and often explain smells in the most creatively imaginative ways, so if you find yourself desperate for a way to entertain the kids during the holidays, why not gather together some ingredients from your pantry (and toothpaste from the bathroom!) to create a sensory station in your own home, where children can explore their sense of smell?  Ask them to smell each ingredient and describe how it smells. you can use questions we ask people to think about at our How to Improve Your Sense of Smell Workshops:

If this was a material, would it be velvet, suede, linen, fluffy towels…?

If this was a musical instrument, which would it be?

Would it be loud or quiet? High or low-pitched? Fast or slow?

What colour would this smell be?

And… which of these would Santa smell of?

 

Fragrances For… feeling calmer at Christmas

Christmas can often be a stressful time for many – perhaps moreso than ever these past couple of years – so we’re turning to the scents that make us feel cosy, soothed, like wearing a hug in fragrant form. All of the below are recently launched and well worth your while seeking out for some quiet moments of bliss, just for you…

 

 

BARBOUR
For Her
Misty mornings beckon, mellow light and stillness, winter sunshine and crisp air reflected in this so-evocative scent that sings of British meadows. Picture rolling, heathered hills, spiderwebs jewelled with dew drops, invigorating citrus soon segueing to the soothing floral heart. Wisps of summer memories are married to a snuggle-me-closer tonka and orris base that is softness personified. Fresh and classic all at once, and we’re loving the on-brand hipflask-esque bottle.
£49 for 50ml eau de parfum
barbour.com

 

 


LE LABO
Thé Matcha 26

The Japanese tradition of drinking matcha tea is far more meaningful than a quick sip, and similarly Le Labo says this is ‘much more than a scent to us. It is a moment of introspection.’ Take time for yourself as the powdery tea accord embraces you with a creamy hint of fig and textural cedar in the base. There’s sweet orange to revive, a whisper of vetiver, too, providing extra grounding comfort.
£141 for 50ml
lelabofragrances.com

 

OSTENS
Cedarwood Heart
Fragrance lasts less well in the central heating system, which is drying to the body, because perfume needs oils in the skin, to cling to. So Alexis Dadier’s Cedarwood Heart eau de parfum creation for Ostens has a complementary fragrance oil, for layering on to turbo-charge this exquisite, dressed-up creation, a-swirl with ingredients from fabled LMR Naturals including galbanum, cedarwood heart, orris, ylang ylang, ambergris, moss and patchouli. What a divine duo.
£135 for 50ml eau de parfum (and matching oil)
ostens.com

 

 

INITIO
Oud for Happiness
Exploring the believed ‘psychoactive and spiritual’ facets of the world’s most precious wood, joyous bergamot greets you like a dear friend, a surge of ginger really awakening the senses before cedar smooths a path to the main feature. When the oudh hits it’s like a bear hug of harmonious happiness; this is  definitely one to spritz on sluggish mornings when the duvet refuses to release you from its plump embrace.
£280 for 90ml eau de parfum
escentual.com

 

MOLTON BROWN
LABDANUM DUSK
Of the little flurry of Molton Brown’s new launches, this rich, Ambrée-woody strikes us as the most masculine, with Nathalie Koobus honouring the traditions of Middle Eastern perfumery via sustainable oudh. ‘I imagined a Middle Eastern palace, where hazes of hookah incense drift into the sunset. This fragrance modernises fascinating labdanum, pairing it with earthy woods to celebrate its smoky facets.’ The long-lasting, leathery trail will ensure you’re noticed – and maybe followed…?
£110 for 100ml eau de parfum
moltonbrown.com

 

 

 

Kingdom Scotland whiskey and perfume pairings for festive, fragrant fun

What could be better than whisky and perfume pairings? We’re here for them! And who better than Scotland’s first niche fragrance house, Kingdom Scotland, to bring some festive fun (and their expert knowledge) to exploring the fascinating relationship between the two?

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) wanted to treat their members to a sensorially immersive way of bringing together the aromatic worlds of whisky and fragrance, so they reached out to Kingdom Scotland’s founder, Imogen Russon-Taylor. No better person in the world, in fact, to offer her advice, because it was only after a distinguished career in the world of Scotch whisky, that Imogen went on to create her own fragrance house – the very first to be based north of the border.

‘Both whisky and perfume are produced by traditional distillation methods,’ she explains. Both evoke a complex sensory experience and both rely upon the innovative use of ingredients or flavours to distinguish themselves from competitors.’

The Kingdom Scotland scents chosen were Metamorphic and Portal – each of them expertly paired with SMWS Flavour Profiles of Lightly Peated and Juicy Oak & Vanilla, and the Society hopes ‘The collaboration will bring to life Society guests’ olfactory systems, igniting the senses at Society venues across the UK this festive season.’

 

 

METAMORPHIC paired with LIGHTLY PEATED – Inspired by metamorphic rock, Metamorphic fuses black pepper and tobacco, incense, minerals and rose absolute. As it’s warmed on the skin, the scent reveals a base of amber resin and leather. A natural fit for the Lightly Peated Flavour Profile, the scent was matched with bottling ‘Peat fire tales on Orkney’.

Metamorphic. ‘Scotland has some of the most complex geology in the world and this scent is inspired by metamorphic rock that is spectacularly woven into the landscape,’ explains Imogen. The complex, fusing black pepper and tobacco, incense, minerals and rose absolute, metamorphosing on the skin as it’s warmed to reveal a base of amber resin and leather. And in this one, you might make out just a splash of Islay malt whisky – a nod to Imogen’s own history, here.

 

PORTAL paired with JUICY OAK & VANILLA – Portal evokes a fresh, outdoorsy, gusting nose with herbaceous botanicals and bergamot, resting on a veritable forest floor of vetiver and Scots pine. Sampled & sprayed with ‘Summer garden curiosity’, a match made in heaven for Juicy Oak & Vanilla.

Portal is described as ‘a gateway to the ancient Caledonian forests of Scotland.’ It’s fresh, outdoorsy, gusting with herbaceous botanicals and bergamot, notes chosen to evoke verdant florals, resting on a veritable forest floor of vetiver and Scots pine. Kingdom Scotland’s descrition – ‘an escape to a sylvan wonderland’ – hints at its power to transport you to the shade of the tranquil forest.

Commenting on the collaboration, Imogen Russon-Taylor said: ‘I’m delighted to be working with The Scotch Malt Whisky Society. My background is in luxury whisky, so to be working with such a well-respected organisation is a dream. Your sense of smell is an incredible thing. It possesses the same characteristics as a dram, especially a Society dram, by transporting you away to great memories and special places.’ Click here to take part in this truly unique sensory journey this festive season…

Creed’s luxury leather collection launches

Taking Christmas gifting to the next level, Creed‘s luxury leather collection is one for serious scent-lovers to lust over! Think the Creed-obsessive in your life has it all? Think again, with this exquisitely hand-crafted range encompassing travel bottle holders to ornate leather trunks, Creed’s luxury leather collection has you covered no matter if you’re cruising the scented seas, traversing the globe or merely staying at home and travelling via your nose (and the sense of smell, of course).

Creed says: ‘Inspired by his father’s oceanic travels, Olivier Creed looked to the design of the trunks that boarded the Empress of Canada from Vancouver to Kobe to develop this unique collection. After seeing photographs of his father next to the stacked trunks and delicate vanity cases, Olivier knew this would be the perfect way to store some of Creed’s most treasured fragrances with exquisite objets d’art. A repeat pattern that is reminiscent of the elegant styling of the time is prominent as these exquisite hand-crafted Italian leather accessories become the perfect travelling companion.’

 

‘The first trunk fits two 100ml fragrances, the second is designed to fit three 75ml Royale Exclusive bottles and the third, an ode to travel, fits two 250ml from the Heritage and Royale Exclusives collection, including a Creed leather travel-friendly atomiser. Beautifully crafted candles are available in three formats 220g, 650g and 1680g, in the delicate scents of Birmanie Oud and Vanisia.’

 

 

‘Inspired by Olivier Creed’s travels around the globe, they are presented in a brand-new glass vessel and dressed in burgundy leather for the medium and large size formats. A sublime leather perfume sleeve completes the collection and is the perfect travel companion for a 100ml fragrance or best-selling female fragrance, Aventus for Her (75ml) – adding an extra special thought to seasonal gifting.’

Creed’s luxury leather collection is priced between £150 for the 75ml fragrance sleeve (fragrance to be chosen by you and purchased separately), to the ‘Santa, I’ve been VERY good’ heights of £1,900 for the largest of the leather trunks (which fits two 250ml fragrances of your choice purchased separately) – which are available from the Creed Boutique: 99 Mount Street, Mayfair, W1K 2TF.

Let Us Spray… frankincense infuses perfume’s past and fragrance’s future

Frequently thought of as one of the shoddiest Christmas presents in history, in fact, frankincense and its perfumed counterpart of myrrh were worth more than the weight of gold, also gifted to baby Jesus. Once exclusively reserved for kings and queens, frankincense has been used in burial rituals for centuries – the highly aromatic scent slathered on skin for embalming and mumification, its extraordinary protective properties preserving skin for millennia. Still burned today in Catholic and Anglican high church ceremonies, the smell of frankincense is perhaps most often associated with these religious rituals.

 

An overwhelming olfactory swoon induced by the hushed reverence of sacred spaces, or the collective evocation of flickering candlelight, gilded altars and smoke-infused pews? 

 

As a result, frankincense can be a love-it-or-hate-it ingredient, rather depending on whether you were forced to sit through endless sermons and hymns in chilly churches on Sundays, or made to confess your ‘sins’ and therefore burdened by an invisible, fragrant holy ghost of guilt whenever you smell it. Others feel excessively soothed by frankincense – a spiritual rather than religious experience which can even feel (whisper it) sensual; fragrance writer Alice du Parcq often refers to frankincense-soaked perfumes as her ‘Sexy Church’ scents. An overwhelming olfactory swoon induced by the hushed reverence of sacred spaces, or the collective evocation of flickering candlelight, gilded altars and smoke-infused pews?

 

Boswellia sacra tree

 

‘Crystal tears that taste of grief came out of the trunk and people scattered them on burning coal to turn it into pure smoke with a scent that heals the sick and with a bitter taste that grieves for lost love.’

 

Also known as olibanum, frankincense is a resin from the Boswellia sacra tree, which grows in the Dhofar area of Oman, as well as Yemen. At harvest times, gashes are slashed in the trunks, the milky, scented resin slowly oozing from the bark. Exposed to sunlight and air, frankincense dries and hardens to golden, teardrop-shaped nuggets, perhaps giving rise to the many myths surrounding its existence. Reem Al-Kamali beautifully describes one such story for Alarabiya News:

A legend has it that a girl from jinn fell in love with a human boy. Since this love was a violation of the jinn rules, they decided to punish her and transform her into something else. She cried for a long time and after they insisted that she must be punished, she chose to become a tree. Thousands of years passed by and this silent and hurt tree that’s called frankincense continued to shed tears in the form of resin that solidified into white particles which smell of musk. It is therefore a girl in the shape of a tree weeping over her beloved. Crystal tears that taste of grief came out of the trunk and people scattered them on burning coal to turn it into pure smoke with a scent that heals the sick and with a bitter taste that grieves for lost love.

There are forests of these frankincense-laden trees in northern Ethiopia – although ecologists report production could decline by half, over the next 15 years, as those forests are systematically cut down to make way for agriculture. While its impossible to precisely pin down an exact molecular composition for frankincense, explains a report in Chemical & Engineering News, ‘Because factors such as geography and climate affect plant biochemistry,’ scientists have discovered ‘frankincense contains five-ringed triterpenoids called boswellic acids, as well as an array of mono- and sesquiterpenes that contribute to its scent, including α- and β-pinene, limonene, and 4-terpineol.’

 

even if it’s not full-on Fleabag’s Hot Priest, its spirit could, rather fittingly, be present without you even knowing it.

 

Those of us who flunked chemistry classes might prefer to concentrate on the supposed pain-relieving and psychoactive porperties of frankincense, apparently due to a compound called ‘incensole acetate’, which has been shown in studies to help depression and dampen anxiety attacks, while it simultaneously ‘activates an ion channel involved in warmth perception in the skin.’ One wonders if these powers partly explain not only the proclivity for using frankincense in religious ceremonies, but also fanned the flames of the rather [ahem] warm feelings viewers devloped for Andrew Scott’s iconic portrayal of the apocryphally named character ‘Hot Priest’ in Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s multi award-winning tragicomedy, Fleabag? I may have to watch all the episodes again while smelling frankincense fragrances. Y’know, for research purposes. Perhaps the aromatic triterpenoids will help dampen the agony of its ending [no spoilers, but *sob*].

 

A scene from Fleabag, written by (and starring) Phoebe Waller-Bridge

 

Whatever your feelings, perfumers have long loved adding frankincense to their compositions – apart from fabulous lasting-powers on skin, it works brilliantly as a fixative for other ingredients: around 13% of all perfumes apparently contain at least a trace of frankincense, so even if it’s not full-on Fleabag’s Hot Priest, its spirit could, rather fittingly, be present without you even knowing it. While some frankincense-rich scents can evoke memories of Christmas past, its diverse character can be freshly herbaceous (some varieties smell similar to rosemary), remind you of frosted fir trees or be burrow-some and earthy, with a dark, honeyed throb of woodiness.

Devoutly sacred or deviantly sensual, fragrant worshipers please be seated. And now, let us spray these

 

Creed Angelique Encens
Incense traditionally smoulders, but Creed’s is surprisingly shot through with Champagne bubbles. Sheer and transparent in the opening (definitely more organza than velvet, at this stage), Angelique Encens’s warmth emerges on the skin, kindling notes of pepper, sandalwood, patchouli and cinnamon. You shall not only go to the ball wearing this, meanwhile, but perhaps find yourself partying way beyond midnight wrapped in its enduring musk, vetiver and incense embrace. (Usually a Mayfair boutique exclusive, this party’s online for a short while).
£275 for 75ml eau de parfum
creedfragrances.co.uk

 

ånd fragrance Frånk
There’s a message of hope contained within each bottle of ånd fragrance, which showcase well-known and much-loved ingredients, but in an utterly unique way. Within ‘Frånk’, as the name may suggest, it’s frankincense – but not, founder Simon Constantine pithily assures us, ‘dark, churchy dusty incense and smells of a dodgy pipe smoking priest’s frayed robes.’ Instead, it’s the fruitier, even verdant, head-clearing-ly green characteristics he explores, while ‘supporting a series of small-scale community nurseries growing hardy frankincense trees for the future.’
£69 for 50ml eau de toilette
andfragrance.com

 

 

Perfumer H GOLD
The twice-yearly unveilings of Lyn Harris’s newness are a highlight in the perfume writer’s calendar. Autumn/winter’s accomplished quintet includes Angelica, Rose Oil, White Smoke and Tobacco – all exquisite, whether or not you swing for the £200 Michael Ruh blown glass flacons in which to house them. If we could choose just one, though, it would be Gold, which contrasts shimmering, fresh citrus with smouldering patchouli and gilded frankincense, via a geranium and lavender heart.
From £110-350 for 50ml eau de parfum
At Perfumer H

 

Boujee Bougies Gilt Candle
Continuing their clever wink-wink wordplay from the brand name to those of their candles, Gilt dabbles with the double-edge sword of actual guilt, and the gilded, golden gleam that frames a candle’s flame in sacred settings. Perfumer Pia Long brilliantly evokes ‘the quiet, contemplative nature of rituals seen through smoke.’ Cold flagstone floors, ancient pews burnished with beeswax, curls of frankincense drifting through air stilled by breath anxiously held – exhaled in a grateful gust, ready to sin again.
boujeebougies.com

 

 

Ella K Rose de Pushkar
Perfumer Sonia Constant adds to her olfactory travelogue with this shareable Rajasthan-inspired offering, capturing the visual opulence of this so-colourful corner of India through armfuls of rose, swirling in a heart of oudh, sandalwood, patchouli and white cedar. It opens with saffron, black pepper, that resinous thread of frankincense contrasted by lush lychee, concluding with leather, tonka and cistus absolutes, amber and musk – the juice as deliciously pink as Rajasthan’s fabled palaces. Mystical travel in a bottle, indeed.
£175 for 70ml eau de parfum
jovoyparis.uk

Written by Suzy Nightingale

The Scented Letter magazine ‘Time to Shine’ Christmas edition has landed!

We’re delighted to launch the latest 52-page edition of The Scented Letter – and as we close the year, it’s a celebration of all things fragrant – the gifts to give, the celestial scents to spritz and the aromas of this very special season.

We’re also celebrating something VERY special: a hat-trick of Jasmine Awards in The Fragrance Foundation, with two for our stellar writer Suzy Nightingale, and a Judges’ Special Recognition Award for one entire edition of the mag, ‘A Life in Scents’, published earlier this year.

Scroll down for a preview of some of the articles, which you can read online here in flickable format, recreating the sense of reading a real-life mag.

Alternatively, we are now able to take orders for a limited run of printed copies of the magazine, priced £12.50 to our VIP Subscribers (£15 to non-VIPs), here. And you can now also buy an annual print subscription to The Scented Letterhere

  • Heaven Scents: The Christmas 2021 Gift Guide A stellar selection for everyone on your list – that’s a tick, tick, tick!
  • In Memories, Dreams & Reflections, leading astrologer Shelley von Strunckel shares a lifetime in fragrant recollections
  • The ever-brilliant British perfumer Ruth Mastenbroek gives Suzy Nightingale the low-down on her creative working life
  • Agony uncle James Craven answers your seasonal scent-selection and present-choosing conundrums
  • Perfumers are looking to the night sky for inspiration to compose fragrances that sparkle, charm and dazzle, reports Suzy Nightingale in Celestial Scents
  • Founder of Perfume Walks London, Olga Petrouchenko, time-travels to a Russian childhood and a snowy winter holiday
  • Plus as usual, we bring you all the Latest Launches, news – and so much more