Jo Fairley on Desert Island Discs

We’re so thrilled that the iconic BBC Radio 4 programme Desert Island Discs – now superbly hosted by Lauren Laverene – managed to catch up with our co-founder of The Perfume Society and editor of The Scented Letter Magazine, Jo Fairley; and we’re not quite sure how they managed it, because she is (to put it mildly) a busy woman.

One minute she’s putting pen to paper about scented subjects, the next she’s giving a talk to encourage small-business owners, putting together another volume of The Beauty Bible book, or jetting off to Australia with Green & Black’s chocolate (which she began with her husband, Craig Sams). Throughout every venture, Jo has believed in listening to her gut feelings, and going with what she’s passionate about (which is why perfume and chocolate feature so highly!)

Jo was over-the-moon to be asked on one of her all-time favourite radio shows, and says that ‘it was an absolute joy and a hoot to do,’ revealing that the team were ‘drinking tea and nibbling Green & Blacks while the back room crew got completely and joyously wired on their bars!’ Before listening to the show, Jo said, ‘I will probably break the Guinness World Record for breath-holding while listening (from behind the sofa)’ and comments over all the years of listening, she must have ‘mentally composed my playlist 1000 times (haven’t we all?) but let me tell you, when it comes down to it, selecting just eight tracks is REALLY HARD.’

We’re sure you’ve got a list of tracks you’d sail away with, so have a listen to Jo’s selection – and the fascinating interview with Lauren, all about Jo’s background, how she started in magazines and her advice for anyone starting a business…

By Suzy Nightingale

So you think you hate… Oudh

There’s no doubt about it: oudh divides opinion. It’s one of those ‘Marmite’ perfumery ingredients, which people either swoon over or clutch their pearls and scream while avoiding at all costs.

But if you think you hate oudh – or any one of the other fragrant materials we’ll be discussing over the coming weeks – get ready to have your perfume preconceptions challenged, and allow yourself to experience some of the newer scents using it as more of a background note. Think of it in the same way you’d use a seasoning, like salt, in cooking. You wouldn’t want the whole dish to be dominated by it, but a judicious sprinkle can utterly alter the way the other ingredients behave and react with one another.

So, let’s go back to basics before we plunge in to the perfumes you should sniff out.

What is oudh?

When we blithely say ‘oudh’, we are actually referring to agarwood – the resinous heart-wood from fast-growing evergreen trees – usually the Aquilaria tree. The agarwood is a result of a reaction to a fungal attack, which turns this usually pale and light wood into a dark, resinous wood with a distinct fragrance – a process that can take hundreds of years.

From that ‘rotten’ wood, an oil is produced, tapped from the tree like maple syrup, and then blended into perfume. The aroma of ‘natural’ oudh is distinctively irresistible and attractive with bitter sweet and woody nuances: seriously earthy and, in small quantities, supremely sexy. Depending on the type of oudh, how long it’s been aged and the quantity used, it can be smooth as velvet, smell like fresh hay drying in sunshine or like a particularly busy barnyard on a rather ripe summer’s day. Just like anything else used in a fragrance, it depends entirely on the expertise of the perfumer, how much they are using, and in conjunction with which other ingredients.

A key ingredient in old and new Arabic perfumery, renowned for centuries as an element within high-quality incense in Arabic, Japanese and Indian cultures, oudh has gone from a ‘trend’ ingredient we saw emerging a few years ago on our scented shores, to now having definitively crossed over to the west as something you can find everywhere – even in fabric conditioners and deodorants. And yet, true oudh is rare, seriously expensive and even endangered: as it’s become more popular, high-quality oud is becoming difficult to source.

Collection of agarwood from natural forests is now illegal under CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endanged Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), but some is now beginning to be plantation grown in Vietnam. As an alternative, many perfumers have turned to synthetic oudh, although highly trained noses will tell you it can smell less nuanced, still woody and leathery, but without the warm, balsamic qualities.

So now, we want you to challenge your own nose and seek out some of our favourite fragrances, below. We’ve chosen scents that use oudh as that ‘seasoning’ we spoke of – a way of subtly adding depth, smoothness and velvety plushness within a perfume. Go on, even you oudh naysayers, we double dare you: and bet at least one of these will become a firm fragrant favourite in your collection…


Here we travel to the land of Assam via the richly resonant aromas of the East. Cinnamon leaf oil and nutmeg make for a lively opening with the heart notes giving way to the wonderfully exotic citrus-fresh elemi oil so prized by perfumers. Black tea accord marks our fragrant journey with its smoky tendrils slowly opening to the deeper base and that sweet, wet earthiness and smooth wood played out with notes of oudh and vetiver. Honey is drizzled to sweeten the mix but never becomes sickly, the stunningly smooth tobacco accord putting us in mind of freshly-rolled cigars and dense canopies of greenery outlined against mountains beyond.

Molton Brown Mesmerising Oudh & Gold Accord £45 for 50ml eau de toilette
Buy it at Molton Brown

This feels like an homage to the very origins of perfume – ‘per-fumum’ meaning ‘through smoke’ – this exploration of incense, made exclusively for Harrods, melding the gentle fruity notes of fresh Turkish rose petals plucked from a misty, dew-specked garden, with a fragrant drift of exotic spices. There’s a myticism, somehow, to wearing this. A pure parfum, it lingers beguilingly on the skin for many hours, waves of wamth unfurling, tendrills of smoky woodiness curling around you as you move – your own invisible velvet cloak to swirl, joyously, all day. Just as perfect as night falls, the scent swoons duskily onto the skin like a sunset kissing the earth. Sumptuous.

Atelier Cologne Rose Smoke £325 for 100ml pure parfum
Buy it at Harrods

We automatically began smacking our lips at this, even before we’d sprayed. And oh, once you do, it’s every bit as delicious as you’d hope – if it did come in a jar we’d want to spread buttered crumpets with it, and most definitely smother ourselves from neck to ankles. Probably best it’s bottled, then. With a truly honeyed note that deepens as the sustainably-sourced oudh kicks in, this is intensely nuzzle-able, and there’s nothing whatever to frighten the horses. A gourmand-esque take on oudh, think soft rose and creamy sandalwood rippled with dark seams of oudh, amber and vanilla-specked deliciousness.

Floris Honey Oud £160 for 100ml eau de parfum
Buy it at Floris

Unashamedly salacious, the Turkish and Bulgarian roses entwine the heart, bereft of thorns they mingle with the gently powdered violet – a sheer dusting bestowed from a swan’s-down puff – and the most opulently creamy vanilla base you’re likely to encounter. The evocation of luxuriously stretching out on a satin bedspread and enjoying the feel of the silky material beneath your limbs is hard to resist – add to this image a silver bowl of decadent white chocolates decorated with sugared violets, and you’ll be in seventh Heaven! An animalic (thank you, oudh) smokiness underpins the sensuously draped covers, making this the perfect after-dark fragrance for illicit encounters…

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Oud Satin Mood £200 for 70ml eau de parfum
Buy it at Selfridges

Named after a small Turkish village on the banks of the river Euphrates and famed for its intensely dusky roses that bloom so deeply crimson they appear to be black, Halfeti is certainly not your ‘blushing English rose’. A balmy breeze of bergamot wafts forth saffron’s warmth, followed by a sizzle of spices perfectly blended with a bouquet of jasmine, rose, lavender and lily of the valley. In the base there’s a flex of supple leather, sensuous oudh swirled through glowing amber, chocolate-y patchouli and finally, a smooth dry down of deliciously almond-like tonka bean, sandalwood and a gently powdered musk. Take us away, immediately…

Penhaligon’s Halfeti £175 for 100ml eau de parfum
Buy it at Penhaligon’s

By Suzy Nightingale

Penhaligon’s fascinating fragrant history

Penhaligon’s are one of the most famous fragrance houses in the world, a proudly British brand with the most fascinating fragrant history…

Hot towels and steamily scented delights were the order of the day for customers flocking to the famous Piccadilly Turkish Baths on Jermyn Street and it was here that William Penhaligon started working as a hairdresser in the 1860s. Originally from Penzance, Cornwall, his shrewd eye for business led to him opening a rival salon just down the street a few years later. There, Penhaligon began creating his very own fragrances, lotions and potions for a most discerning clientele to enjoy.

1891 saw what was then ‘Penhaligon’s & Jeavons’ move to the even more prestigious premises of 33 St James Street and 66 Jermyn Street, with the two stores linked together at the rear. They announced to the press that not only were they the sole suppliers for the original Penhaligon’s ‘hit’ fragrance of Hammam Bouquet, but that both shops boasted a new- fangled invention of… electric lighting – still a novelty at this point in retail!

Clearly a whizz with the scissors and the scents, Penhaligon was appointed Royal Barber and Perfumer to the Royal Court during Queen Victoria’s reign and by 1903 his business was granted its first Royal Warrant from Queen Alexandra. Nearly a century and a half later, Penhaligon’s has added Royal Warrants from The Prince of Wales (granted in 1988) and the Duke of Edinburgh (granted in 1956) to their regal roll call.

140+ years old they may be, but that doesn’t mean the techniques they use are stuck in a time-warp. Penhaligon’s consistently make the most of the newest fragrance technology – from CO2 extraction to Nature Print Technology and beyond – promising that ‘each bottle contains a blend of the very old and very new.’ Those distinctive bottles tap into their history, too; clear glass and brightly coloured bow-ties adorning the stoppers are a direct echo of William’s original design.

Still made and produced in England, many of the original fragrances can still be found in the current collection, including Hamman Bouquet. Lately, however, Penhaligon’s have collaborated with some of the greats noses of modern times – including Bertrand Duchaufour, Olivia Giacobetti, Olivier Cresp and Alberto Morrillas.

Lately, a whole ‘family’ has been added to their already impressive stable of fragrances, the Penhaligon’s Portraits. Displaying more than a dash of exquisite eccentricity, we’re invited to get to know the characters, like The Ruthless Countess Dorothea, who is ‘A most ferocious matriarch, known for her sharp mind, even sharper wit and a secret fondness for the company of young men and scones.’ While described in mischievously historical tones, it’s a tingling, ginger-infused shot of oppulence on a cosy, slightly boozy base. And all the Portraits fragrances have their fingers on the button of contemporary fashions – much like the house of Penhaligon’s itself.

Penhaligon’s is a treasure trove of scents to discover – rich in both heritage and modern mischieviousness – and how many perfumeries still standing (and thriving) since the 1800’s can you think of? We love the way each boutique has its own distinct personality, too, with lavishly appointed interiors uniquely themed to suit each location.

Have you been to visit the newly re-vamped Penhaligon’s Wellington Street store in Covent Garden? We rather swooned over the decor (while sniffing out all the latest scents). Whichever boutique you visit, we’re sure you’ll love getting to know the entire ‘family’ of fragrances…

By Suzy Nightingale

Edinburgh Festival’s fragrant pop-up: Jenners host unique scent space

Jorum Laboratories are Scotland’s first fragrance-creation house, and excitingly announced the launch of their own eponymous perfume brand, Jorum Studio, showcasing scents in a pop-up perfumery at the iconic Edinburgh department store, Jenners, during the Edinburgh Festival.

Having already worked with leading brands including Penhaligon’s London, L’Artisan Parfumeur, Miller Harris and NEOM Organics, amongst many others, Jorum Studio – run by talented perfumer Euan McCall and partner, Chloe Mullen – was first established in Edinburgh in 2010, giving them a way to explore a more truly artisanal approach to fragrance creation. And also, allowing further collaboration between fellow artists and craftspeople, with local photographers, writers and even glass-blowers getting involved.

Now, because of the Jenners pop-up, the public will can sniff out these modern olfactory expressions for themselves, with six fragrances from the brand’s original Progressive Botany collection, showcased alongside three from the Psychoterratica range. And in addition, Jorum Studio say there will be samples and special offers available for customers throughout the duration of the pop-up.

With the launch of each new fragrance, Jorum Studio will be progressing the current conversation around fragrance as a craft and/or artform in itself. The debut collection, Progressive Botany Vol.1, launched earlier this year, and in the autumn, a collaborative heirloom art-work will be presented by glass artist Juli Bolaños-Durman.

Along with other contemporary Scottish businesses, it’s a chance to celebrate a new image of Scotland, because, as Euan comments, ‘Jorum Studio is a vision of contemporary Scotland, showing that our country is about far more than tartan, whisky and shortbread,’ an ethos reflected in this homegrown, artisan brand. So from now until 26 August 2019, Jorum Studio will be taking up residence in a standalone area of the world-famous store, showing visitors what contemporary niche perfumery has to offer.

The myriad links between the arts and perfumery are growing with each house and event that highlights the connections, and we are thrilled whenever retailers take this seriously – investing time and space to help showcase indie brands who are leading the way for the future of fragrance. If you’re in Edinburgh before the end of the month, make sure you stop by and try the Jorum Studio scents for yourself – and keep an eye on the exciting artistic collaborations they have planned…

The Jorum Studio pop-up perfumery at Jenners Department Store in Edinburgh is accessed via the entrance on Rose Street. The pop-up will be open from 9.30am daily until 26 August 2019.

By Suzy Nightingale

 

 

 

Castle Farm’s lavender harvest: our fragrant field trip

Lavender is having a moment in fragrance right now – according to a repot by the NPD group, sales of prestige lavender beauty products in the U.K. have increased by a staggering 552% from January 2019 to the end of April 2019. So you might have previously dismissed it as ‘grandma’s scent’, but get ready to leave your lavender preconceptions at the door…

When you think of a purple swathe of lavender being harvested for the perfume industry, your mind possibly strays to the fields of Provence. But did you know we have our own beautiful lavender farms right on our doorstop in the U.K?

We paid a visit with the British Essential Oil Association on a field trip to Castle Farm in Sevenoaks, Kent, to see the lavender harvest in action and – most excitingly – to see their very own distillery, and watch those tiny flowers be turned into the most lusciously fragrant essential oil: from field to bottle, in front of our very eyes (and noses)…

Starting our day with a glass of apple juice from the farm and a lavender shortbread biscuit, we ignored the gathering clouds and headed out to the fields to learn about the differing types of lavender they grow there, and how the oils from them are used.

The Alexander Family have been farming in the Darent Valley since 1892, when the enterprising James Alexander apparently brought down 17 milking cows on the train from Ayrshire in Scotland. Today, the farm is managed by William and Caroline Alexander, with involvement from each of their children, Lorna, Thomas and Crispin, and supported by the hard-working Castle Farm team.

The lavender farm was established in 1985, when William and Caroline went to market – Covent Garden as it happens – selling dried hops. By 1990, The Hop Shop (as Castle Farm is also known) was a major producer of dried flowers, growing over 70 different flowers and won many awards, including 5 consecutive Gold Medals at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Now the farm is a sprawling 1,100 acres, with crops of wheat, barley, rapeseed, hops, apples, pumpkins and a grass-fed herd of beef cattle. And, of course, the magnificent fields of lavender – the largest lavender farm in the U.K.

In the distillery, they had the ingenious idea of using the trucks that harvest the lavender to directly distill the essential oil from – time is of the literally essence for the highest quality yield – and so they put a lid on top of the container, in which 7 tonnes of lavender are heated to 100° in just ten minutes. From there, a huge pipe is attached to catch the and filter the steam to the tanks in a large barn.

As we stood with steam wafting around our ankles, the smell became almost overpowering – it felt like the lavender fields had been turned into a sauna, with misty swirls of mineralic steam mixing with the scent of drying hay and engine oil. A bit like being on a steam train in a dream. A truly surreal and unforgettable experience. And then, of course, we got to smell the oils themselves…

Premium Lavender Oil: An elite single origin oil – luxuriously delicate with exceptional fragrance notes for aromatherapy. Intensely pure. ‘This oil is extracted solely from our Maillette Lavender plants – and taken in the first 20 minutes of distillation only – making it the finest and most delicate of our lavender fragrances.’ With all the characteristics of a ‘high altitude Lavender Oil’ (which, we learned, has nothing whatever to do with the altitude a lavender’s grown at, and everything to do with the type of lavender and how long it’s distilled for!)

Kentish Lavender Oil: A high-grade, honeyed, gentle Lavender essential oil with antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and mild anesthetic properties. This oil is made from their Lavandula Angustifolia, grown and distilled on Castle Farm. Widely used in aromatherapy, perfumery and medicine, the pure oil is safe for use directly on the skin.

Kentish Lavandin Oil: Lavandula x intermedia is extracted from Castle Farm’s Grosso plant variety and has a strong, cleansing and refreshing scent with elements of camphor. Often used for room fragrancing, candles, as a moth repellant and to clear cold-sufferers’ heads, the fragrance is comforting but less nuanced than the others, which are more suitable for perfumery.

The oils are sold in the farm shop, and online, and also sold to private companies for use in the fragrance and beauty industry.

The Hop Shop – is open daily throughout the year, however the Castle Farm Lavender fields are only in flower from late June until late July. Lavender plants for sale from the shop from late April/early May, but they explain, ‘the Lavender season really gets underway in mid-June and the glorious scent and vibrant colour of the fields fill the valley and we start to hand cut fresh Lavender bunches. Harvesting for oil starts in mid July and continues until early August, but is obviously weather dependent.’

Of course, on the day they began harvesting and the morning of our field trip – the heavens opened. If the rain lasts too long, half the entire crop can be lost in under an hour. Luckily, it wasn’t too long before we could venture out from under the trees and take photos – Castle Farm had the brilliant idea of including an Instagram Field, complete with perfectly positioned bench, so people can take scented selfies to their heart’s content, without disturbing the harvesting. Genius!

And to show it really is a family affari, this photo (above) is of William and Caroline’s grandaughter, taken by their talented son.

Castle Farm began harvesting while we were there, ‘…but it takes us over a week to clear all the fields, and the distillery is now running daily. We completed harvest of the large field at the back of the valley on 22nd July, but our field with the Lavender Bench and viewing area will NOT be harvested until after this weekend (27/28 July). We are still running Lavender Tours until we harvest our very last field!’

You can book online for weekday tours, or on arrival at the farm for weekend tours.

We’re not sure if it was the supremely soothing smell of the lavender or how long we’d been traipsing through the fragrant fields – possible a mixture of both – but goodness, we slept well that night.

We were also enthused to seek out four of our favourite lavender fragrances and urge you to do likewise. Forget the aromatherapy benefits for a moment and focus instead on the incredible nuances that lavender can add to a scent…

Atkinsons Lavender On the Rocks
True to the cocktail-esque name, this one has a double-shot of lavender to tickle your fancy. From the bracingly fresh opening with geranium and basil to the honeyed hay-like dry down with almond, guaiac wood and saffron, every facet is allowed to shine.
£130 for 100ml eau de parfum
harrods.com

Creed Aberdeen Lavender
An Oriental fougére, absinthe is added to rosemary, bergamot and lemon before succumbing to a powdered, musky lavender ramped up with tuberose, iris and a dusky rose. Dark patchouli, smoky leather and cool vetiver make for a surprisingly sexy flourish.
£200 for 100ml eau de parfum
libertylondon.com

Milano Centro HIM
Luminescent citrus segues to a herbaceously dappled breeze of rosemary, lavender and basil. As it warms, you’re swathed in the musky warmth of smooth sandalwood and suavely sprinkled spicy notes of clove, cinnamon and amber atop a darkly glimmering patchouli base.

Want to try it for yourself? Find this in our Explorer Men’s Discovery Box – along with SIXTEEN other fragrances to explore!

Tom Ford Private Blend Lavender Extrême
Trust Tom to turn lavender sexy. Here it’s subverted into an electric floral ‘to be worn at maximum volume.’ Bergamot drenches the lavender with freshness at first, then it’s full-on delicious with wild-grown tonka and creamy benzoin swirled to perfection.
£220 for 50ml eau de parfum
johnlewis.com

By Suzy Nightingale

Cinematic scents

Many famous faces have graced the mini-films of fragrance adverts over the years – for some, their first acting role, for others a moment of evoking the ethos of the house at the very peak of their fame. But did you know several fragrance adverts over the years have also been directed by famous names?

Settle back in your velveteen seats, grab some popcorn and let’s go to the scented cinema…

Sofia Coppola (nominated for Best Director for Lost in Translation in 2003) directed this advert for Miss Dior Cherie, featuring Natalie Portman. Super-stylish, it confirms Coppola’s lifelong appreciation of haute couture, and perhaps evokes her visually stunning film Marie Antoinette in its old-world baroque splendour.

Wes Anderson and son of legendary director Francis Ford Coppola, Roman Coppola, had previously worked together on films like The Darjeeling Limited and Moonrise Kingdom. Here, they made three short adverts (comprising one longer film) for Prada Candy L’Eau fragrance. An homage to the French New Wave, the visual aesthetic is pure Wes Anderson, and were fully gripped by the classic ‘two men in love with one woman’ storyline
.

This Chanel short film for Coco Mademoiselle saw Keira Knightly and director Joe Wright teaming up for the fourth time – they’ve also worked together in Atonement, (for which, Wright was nominated in 2008 for Best Director), Pride & Prejudice, and Anna Karenina. Just so beautifully lit, the colours and cleverly composed shots look like poetry on the screen.

Renowned surrealist director David Lynch surprised the fragrance and film worlds alike by directing this advert for Yves Saint Laurent Opium in the early 90s. Spanish model Nastassia Urbano stars, with a striking resemblance to Ingrid Bergman (and her daughter, Isabella Rossellini, who was to star in his 1986 hot movie, Blue Velvet). All the hallmarks of sensuality are there, along with a visual deconstruction/seduction of a body on film.

Comic book writer turned film maker, Frank Miller, uses his iconic deliberately over-stylised look (very reminiscent of Sin City) to great effect in his advert for Gucci Guilty. Starring Evan Rachel Wood and Chris Evans, inky blackness and searing white light are juxtaposed to create a highly sophisticated homage to film noir.

Fragrance and film feature strongly in The Scented Letter‘s recent Perfume & Culture edition, too, in Lights, Camera, Aldehydes!, award-winning blogger and author Persolaise was inspired by his twin passions for film and fragrance – matching some of his favourite fragrances to the films he chose to watch. And in Perfuming a Part, I lift the velvet curtain on the actors and film directors who use fragrance as a tool to create a mood or get into a role…

The Scented Letter Perfume & Culture edition £15 / £12.50 for VIP Club members.

By Suzy Nightingale

Fume Chat podcast returns for scented Season Two

Our favourite perfume podcast took a bit of a hiatus – some scented breathing space, if you will – but now Fume Chat is BACK for a second season of fun, facts and fragrant memories!

If you’re a new listener, really all you need to know is that Fume Chat is hosted by long-time friends and fragrance experts, Nick Gilbert and Thomas Dunkley. Nick is a fragrance evaluator, co-founder of scent consultancy Olfiction, and has frequently appeared on radio, television, and in print media sharing his insights on the fragrance industry.  Thomas is perhaps better known as The Candy Perfume Boy – a multi-award-winning writer for several websites and publications along with his own blog, now working with Nick and perfumer Pia Long at Olfiction, as well as a fellow contributor to our The Scented Letter magazine.

So, between them, there’s very little Nick and Thomas don’t know about fragrance – from behind-the-scenes of creation and working with ‘noses’, to retail training and through to reviewing their own shelf-groaning collections of scent. We’re not quite sure how they find time to also work on their own podcast, but we’re awfully glad they do – as you will be when you give Fume Chat a listen.

Search and subscribe to Fume Chat on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

This second series is a good place to start for new listeners as well as long-term audio addicts, because in the first episode, our hosts discuss their perfume origin stories – how on earth they got into this weird and wonderful world of fragrance – as well as sniffing out some new scents to sniff. Later episodes will follow a similar path to the first series (which we urge you to go back and binge on) with special guests, ‘Battle’ episodes (where Nick and Thomas put two favourite fragrances up against each other and argue their case for which should ‘win’ the battle), and hours of factually interesting, inspirational and most importantly fun fragrant chat.

We have two warnings, though….

1: be prepared to have your scented shopping list grow exponentially.

2: be prepared to have the catchy theme tune in your head for the rest of the day/week/month.

The main thing for Fume Chat is to make the world of fragrance accessible for everyone – something we at The Perfume Society wholeheartedly agree with and constantly work towards – and oh guys, it’s good to have you back!

By Suzy Nightingale

Buly 1803 at the Louvre

Eight masterpieces have inspired eight world-famous perfumers to create fragrances for L’Officine Universelle Buly 1803 – the ancestral beauty, fragrance, home and lifestyle brand revived by Ramdane Touhami and his wife and business partner, Victoire de Tallac.

Buly 1803 invited The Perfume Society to a private view of the fragrances alongside the artworks within the Louvre. Yes, a private view – no jostling crowds or security guards moving you along, just a small group of journalists wandering the magnificent building, the hallways echoing to the sounds of our footsteps, the smell of beeswax a clue to the wooden floors being polished, our voices hushed, reverential, as though we were in church.

Before we entered the sanctuary of art – and now, scent – we asked Victoire how the project had come about, and why, with the greatest respect, the Louvre had asked a (still relatively small) niche company to create the perfumes, when they could have had any number of famous French fragrance houses beating a path to their door. ‘I think they really wanted to collaborate with us because they’re still interested in working with modern artists, to show the power that art still has to inspire,’ she explained.

Inspirational indeed, when one considers the artworks arrayed here represent some of the most famous pieces in the world. As we walked by faces looking out at us from the golden frames or perched atop marble plinths, it felt strangely like visiting a gallery of dear friends, glancing in our wake.

One by one, we were led to particular pieces the perfumers had chosen as the inspiration for their fragrance. An art historian explained each work in great depth, with the perfumers standing by to explain their process, and of course to let us smell their final creations.

Describing how they had worked together, Victoire said that ‘Ramdane had a very clear idea of what he wanted to do, allowing the perfumers to pick the artwork and creating a perfume based on it. They had completely free reign, they could choose anything.’ Perhaps unsurprisingly, none of them chose The Mona Lisa – it would have been a bit obvious, it’s become the one painting most people in the world could probably name as being housed at the Louvre. And really, as you will see, there are far more beguiling oeuvre to become enamoured by…

Conversation in a Park – interpreted by Dorothée Piot

Gainsborough’s painting of courtly flirtations within an idyllic landscape inspired the perfumer, Piot, to add sharp, cooling touches of peppermint and bergamot to an imposing bouquet of Ottoman roses. One can almost hear the laughter, the stiff rustle of shot taffeta, a snapshot of shared intimacy that’s thought to be Gainsborough himself, with his wife.

Buly say: ‘Behind the green, sylvan curtain of a theatre of the tender touch, a ray of sunlight, redolent of berries and citrus, illuminates the temple of the soul. On a carpet of peppermint, the silky petals of the dress unfold like the heart of a rose; a flush rises to the cheeks. In the air, sweet nothings float.’

The Valpinçon Bather – interpreted by Daniela Andrier

The luminescent skin of Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres’ Bather just glows from the canvas, and perfumer Andrier translates the glorious textures using a stimulating burst of citronella and orange blossom, embellished with rich patchouli and a smoky drift of incense.

Buly say: ‘Steam rising from marble sluiced with waves of heated water, dampened muslin wraps the shining limbs, delicately soaped; susurrations of the hammam. After bathing, resting on fresh sheets, the skin, still beaded with moisture, is chafed with lavender and orange blossom; now refreshed, its velvety pallor like an iris petal pearled by a mist of incense and musk.’

The Venus de Milo – interpreted by Jean-Christophe Hérault

Here, Héreault reconstructs the languid sensuality of the female form using an intoxicating combination of mandarin, jasmine and amber – a quietly imposing blend that seems to swoon on the skin rather than merely be applied.

Buly say: ‘Gentle white of jasmine, of neroli, of the matte and polished petals of magnolia, amber and sacred wood. Eternal, without past or present, the beauty of the marble goddess, elusive and notional, lifts up the soul with timeless bliss.’

The Lock – interpreted by Delphine Lebeau

Fragonard’s much-discussed painting provided Lebeau’s fragrant muse, seeking to evoke the sexually charged possible danger of the scene juxtaposed by the opulent velvet drapery, with a combination of lily and musk to create her bewitching scent.

Buly say: ‘Scent of the apple on the table, fruit carried to the lips like a kiss, to the neck, the breast. Ardent desire entangled in linen sheets, tousled hair, traces of the teeth on tender skin, its white musk scorched scarlet by love’s burning touch; the heady thrill of an illicit rendez-vous.’

Saint Joseph the Carpenter – interpreted by Sidonie Lancesseur

Georges de La Tour’s tender depiction of Joseph’s weather-beaten face, lit by candelight and looking with concern at the infant Jesus, is demonstrated by Lancesseur with a deep, resonant thrum of cedar wood suddenly illuminated by verbena, pink berries and vetiver.

Buly say: ‘The golden orange blossom and incense ignite in the amber night, humming with vetiver and cedarwood. In a censer, spices and dry herbs smoulder to keep the spirits at bay. A gesture is arrested, suspended in the face of epiphany. The divine aura illuminates the heart of the initiate, and banishes the darkness.’

The Winged Victory of Samothrace – interpreted by Aliénor Massenet

The emotional power of the iconic statue – found in hundreds of pieces, she was put back together like a jigsaw – has been given life in olfactory form by Massenet’s rich harmony of tuberose, magnolia and jasmine, enhanced by the warmth of myrrh.

Buly say: ‘Blown by a gale scented with citrus, in the perilous rush of the straits, the white bouquet of the salt-encrusted drapery wraps around the victorious effigy. At her marble feet, the waves, the incantations, the roses, the ocean of History and all her conquests; at her feet, the foundered hearts of heroes.’

Nymph With the Scorpion – interpreted by Annick Ménardo

Somehow making marble seem as supple as the female form, Lorenzo Bartolini’s sculpture does what it says in the title – the naked nymph perhaps regretting not donning a pair of shoes and she reaches for her freshly bitten foot. And Ménardo’s enticing bouquet of heliotrope and jasmine also sizzles with amber and musk.

Buly say: ‘The bitter kiss of the sting of almond prickles on the naked skin massaged with amber. Like quicksilver, the venom floods the veins, arrests the maiden’s glance, frozen in marble. The heart clouds with toxins, like the bloom of algae in a clear pond.’

Grande Odalisque – interpreted by Domitille Michalon-Bertier

The licentious gaze of Inges courtesan is reflected in Bertier’s alluring trail of exotic incense and pink pepper enhanced with intensely musky notes, to represent the reach-out-and-touch me textural deliciousness of the sitter’s pale skin and the luxuriously delicate draperies.

Buly say: ‘The musky, chilly satin of a shoulder, the sinuous curve of a hip or breast, gleaming in an alcove chased with brass, an Orientalist’s shrine, a dream of Eastern Promise. The pink pepper of the cheeks pricks the heart and, beneath the silken scarf, a perfume of incense suffuses the hair.’

We were so sad not to be able to include this incredible Buly/Louvre collaboration in the Perfume & Culture edition of our magazine, The Scented Letter – the project didn’t launch until after it had been published. But it certainly shows our fingers are firmly on the pulse of this artistic fragrant revolution. Get a huge dose of glorious artistic interpretations of perfume through the ages – from cinematic scents, to actors using fragrance to fully ‘become’ the parts they play, and a jaw-dropping collection of perfume art flaçons recently auctioned in America (one of which graces the cover). Along with your regular scent shots of news, interviews and all the latest reviews, the 60-page print magazine is available to purchase here.

What a complete honour – and how overwhelmingly emotional – it was to walk the hallowed halls of the Louvre in such a private party, and to smell such wonderful evocations of the artforms. In Eau Triple formulation (milky, hydrating and skin-friendly water-based), each truly pays perfumed homage to the iconic artworks. It was an experience we will never forget, and which we urge you to take part in by visiting the Louvre, and trying the scents on your own skin having seen the magnificent pieces yourself.

The Buly 1803 shop will sell all eight fragrances at the Louvre for one year only, along with candles, scented soap sheets, and fragranced postcards for the most chic ‘wish you were here’. So if you’ve always meant to go there, or hanker after another look at the Louvre’s incredible collection, then now would be the perfect time for fragrance and art fans to pay them a visit…

L’Officiene Universelle Buly 1803 €150 for 200ml Eau Triple

By Suzy Nightingale

Rakes Progress launch magazine with Harvey Nichols

We’ve long been fans of the ultra-gorgeous, very modern (and arty) take on gardening that is rakesprogress magazine – a publication that goes beyond the garden gate to explore life and style of interest to ‘urban gardeners.’ Some time ago, we hosted an event with Rakes Progress and niche British perfume brand, Parterre – live-distilling plants at a pop-up in Covent Garden. Since then, Rakes have been increasingly fascinated by fragrance and adding more regular scented content in to the body of their main magazine.

Now, fragrance fans can read a dedicated bi-annual rakes SENSE magazine – this first in association with Harvey Nichols and launched at the same time as the London store’s new ‘Scent Installation’ (as we reported a few days ago).

It was rather a thrill for The Perfume Society team to read, especially as our Senior Writer Suzy Nightingale and Head of Social Media, Carson Parkin-Fairley, both had articles featured, along with another regular contributor to our Scented Letter Magazine, Amanda Carr from We Wear Perfume.

Creative and Marketing Director at Harvey Nichols, Deb Bee said: ‘The Harvey Nichols and rakes SENSE magazine is the first publication that truly celebrates the art of fragrance combined with the art of gardens, plants and flowers. With contributors such as Kate Finnigan and the cover shoot by renown independent photographer Robin Broadbent, we know our customers will love it.”

Victoria Gaiger, Editor & Creative Director of rakesprogress said: “We are thrilled to partner with Harvey Nichols to produce our first ever fragrance magazine. We hope it portrays some of the sheer variety and excitement to be found in the world of perfume.”

rakes SENSE ‘The Art of Fragrance’ magazine, in association with Harvey Nichols, is now available free of charge, exclusively in Harvey Nichols Knightsbridge. And rakesprogress will be sending the magazine to their subscribers with Issue 10.

The publication really does look great, and we wholeheartedly welcome a new audience of plant-and-perfume-obsessed people waking up to the world of fragrance!

 

Bloggers’ choice: scents of the summer

We asked some of our favourite fragrance bloggers which scents they’ll be reaching for throughout the summer. Do you automatically switch up your scent game when the season changes, or are there some fragrances you reserve only for the most sultry of days (or to use on holiday?) Let’s have a rifle through their checked luggage…

Thomas Dunkley The Candy Perfume Boy

‘This summer I’ve been obsessed with the zesty, tart and refreshing note of ginger because it’s an unconventional way to cool down on a hot day. My two go to picks are Guerlain’s Aqua Allegoria Ginger Piccante, which is soapy and spicy, with a hint of rose, and Mizernsir’s Eau de Gingembre – an ice cold eau de cologne with an invigorating blast of freshly sliced ginger.

On the hottest of days, when I can’t take the heat and I need some olfactory refreshment, I’ll usually reach for Atelier Cologne’s Orange Sanguine because it’s like diving into a swimming pool filled with juicy oranges. Who wouldn’t want to do that?’

 

Katie Cooke Scentosaurs

‘I am no sun-seeker, preferring climates that need a summer coat rather than shorts and sandals, so as it gets hotter I reach for perfumes that evoke cool shadows rather than tropical beaches. I’ll retreat to the old stones, incense, and clear air of Oriza L. Legrand Reve d’Ossian, or hide in the chilly crypt of Serges Lutens Iris Silver Mist and the dark, smoky underworlds of Papillon’s Anubis. Or Chris Rusak’s 33, where the balance of vetiver, orris, and angelica feels like sitting by an open window in the shady corner of an old library.

I do love the way some lusher scents bloom with warm skin and humid air, though. I am smitten by the heady florals of the night gardens conjured up by St Clair Scents’ Casblanca, and while I’d not inflict it on the sweaty confines of the London Underground, the spiced rose and ambergris of Encens Mythique is amazing, if a little antisocial, on a hot day.

If all else fails, Guerlain Vetiver, or vintage Dior Eau Fraiche give the illusion of ironed linen even when I’m a crumpled sweaty mess.’

Nicola Thomis the-sniff.com

‘I go one of two ways with summer scents: either light, breezy and carefree, or dark and dangerous. When the temperatures rise, it’s easy to pick a stereotypically summery scent – like Pierre Guillaume’s Sunsuality. This to me epitomises the joyful vibe of sunny holidays, and it’s a great pick-me-up for when the British summer isn’t quite going as planned.

At the other end of the spectrum, I also like darker and more smoky scents when it’s hot. I enjoy the way that increased temperatures reveal new facets and dimensions to the fragrances and they often have the extra oomph and staying power needed. This comes in handy during the summer months when I live under a constant sheen of SPF. I’ve been reaching for Embers, by Rouge Bunny Rouge to satisfy that craving a lot recently, and Nanban by Arquiste.’

Sam Scriven I Scent You a Day

‘As a freckly redhead, the only thing I like about heatwaves is that my beloved green mossy chypres really come into their own. You’ll find me in Chanel Cristalle and 4160 Tuesdays Paris 1948 most days. I also like to keep a few fragrances in the fridge in this weather and in my opinion, 4711 or Elizabeth Arden Blue Grass are hard to beat when sprayed on a hot cleavage. Speaking of all things blue, I’ve just discovered Merchant of Venice Blue Tea and it’s utterly divine for summer. It makes me feel freshly showered with a hint of butterflies.’

It doesn’t always strictly feel like ‘summer’ in the UK at times, and of course there are places where it definitely isn’t summer at this time of year. So let’s jet to Australia and see what they’re wearing in winter…

Pep The Scentinel

‘June in the southern hemisphere equates to single digit overnight temperatures, and the shortest day of the year. What have I been favouring? Two masculine classics, both firmly entrenched into my all-time favourites: Dior’s (2012) Eau Sauvage Parfum and Guerlain’s Heritage eau de toilette.

The beauty of these two is that with some thoughtful application, and timing, they work wonderfully well in the summer too. Well on my skin anyway. Each have significant depth to chisel through the icy air, and enough fizz, sparkle, and spice for hazy summer evenings.’

By Suzy Nightingale