Desperately Seeking Sunshine? Try These Orange Blossom Scents!

Did you ever sleep in a field of orange-trees in bloom? The air which one inhales deliciously is a quintessence of perfumes. This powerful and sweet smell, as savoury as a sweetmeat, seems to penetrate one, to impregnate, to intoxicate, to induce languor, to bring about a dreamy and somnolent torpor. It is like opium prepared by fairy hands and not by chemists.

Guy de Maupassant, 88 Short Stories

Orange blossom is beloved by perfumers in light-filled ‘solar’ scents – a newly emerging category, and a word I’ve found increasingly used for fragrances which aren’t merely fresh, but attempt the alchemy of bottling sunshine. And these fragrances are more welcome than ever when the season’s change means the darkness hits early, the days seem unnaturally shortened, yet somehow endlessly grey. As such, I urge you to seek out these orange blossom scents – SO right for right now!

 

It’s the bitter orange tree we have to thank for these heady white blossoms – one of the most benificent trees in the world, for it also gives us neroli, orange flower water and petitgrain – all utterly unique in smell, from verdant to va-va-voom depending how they are distilled and the quantity used in a fragrance.

Originating from Asia, the bitter orange was introduced to North Africa by crusaders of the VIIth century, and now it’s just six villages in the Nabeul region of Tunisia that provide the majority of the world’s crop. Women do most of the harvesting, the pickers swathed in headscarves climbing treacherously high-looking ladders to reach the very tops of the trees, typically working eight hours a day and gathering around 20,000 (approximately 10kg) of flowers.

 

 

When the blossoms are hydro-distilled – soaked in water before being heated, with volatile materials carried away in the steam to condense and separate – the extracted oil is neroli, the by-product being orange flower water, while petitgrain is the essential oil steam distilled from the leaves and green twigs.

Long steeped in bridal mythology, when Queen Victoria married Prince Albert in 1840, she chose orange blossom to decorate her dress, carried sprigs in her bouquet and even wore a circlet of the blossoms fashioned from gold leaves, white porcelain flowers and green enamelled oranges in her hair. It firmly planted the fashion for ‘blushing brides’ being associated with orange blossom – but this pretty flower can hide a naughty secret beneath its pristine petals…

 

 

While the primly perfect buds might visually convey a sign of innocence, their heady scent can, conversely, bring a lover to their knees with longing. In his novel The Leopard, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa chronicles crossing an orange grove in full flower, describing ‘…the nuptial scent of the blossoms absorbed the rest as a full moon does a landscape… that Islamic perfume evoking houris [beautiful young women] and fleshly joys beyond the grave.’

 

It’s the kind of floral that might signify sunshine and gauzy gowns or veritably snarl with sensuality. Similar to the narcotic addictiveness of jasmine, with something of tuberose’s potency; orange blossom possessses none of that cold, grandiose standoffishness of some white florals: it pulsates, warmly, all the way.

 

Perfumer Alberto Morillas associates the scent of orange blossom with his birthplace: ‘I’m from Seville, when I’m creating a fragrance, all my emotion goes back to my home,’ Alberto told me, talking about his inspiration for his Mizensir Solar Blossom fragrance. ‘You have the sun, the light and water – always a fountain in the middle of the square – and “solar” means your soul is being lifted upwards.’

Oh, how we need that bottled sunshine when summer fades; an almost imperceptible shifting of the light that harkens misty mornings, bejewelled spiderwebs and sudden shivers…

Why not swathe yourself in these light-filled fragrances to huddle against the Stygian gloom? I love wearing them year-round, to remind me sunny days will return, that things will be brighter, presently. I promise.

 

 

Packed full of the brightest orange blossom, swathed in a cloak of earthy moss, soft musk and smooth sandalwood – the creaminess is an addictive layer of warmth. One to swish through leaves while wearing, grinning joyously.

EAU.MG Flor Funk £95 for 50ml eau de parfum

 

 

 

 

A shimmering haze of Moroccan magic, the orange blossom diffused by dusk, a languid sigh of inner contentment that resonates for hours – soothing, weaving its way around your soul and making for a blissful beam of happiness with every spritz..

Sana Jardin Berber Blonde £95 for 100ml

 

 

 

 

 

Waves of orange blossom-infused warmth giving way to fig tea sipped beneath the shade of whispering trees, the memory of laughter, and of bare feet on sun-warmed flagstones, fingers entwined, forever dancing, giddy on sunshine.

Stories No.1 £75 for 30ml eau de parfum

 

 

 

Perfumer Chris Maurice swirls delectable butterscotch and a ripple of dark chocolate through this orange blossom soaked scent. Vibrating with an amber-oudh glow in the base, it’s a scent that will surprise and delight you throughout the dullest of days.

Sarah Baker Gold Spot £145 for 50ml extrait de parfum

 

 

 

Suffused with a stillness that tingles expectantly, there’s a silvered gleam of a wooden boat gliding over a lake – the orange blossom darker here, sweetened a touch with candied peel, mellow greengage segueing to a seaweed-tinged purr of myrrh.

Prosody London Whistle Moon £57 for 30ml eau de Cologne

 

Written by Suzy Nightingale

International Women’s Day – Five Fabulous Female Perfumers *and* Founders

For International Women’s Day this year, we’re celebrating some of the incredible women who are not only perfumers, but who’ve founded their own independent houses; who haven’t merely survived one of the most difficult times in living memory for small businesses, but are, quite frankly, thriving!

There’s no doubt things have changed a lot in recent years.

There are reportedly more women now joining the famous French perfumery school, ISIPCA, than men – an about-face for the time women in the perfume industry were either not employed at all, or remained somewhat faceless behind-the-scenes as their male peers were lauded as genius perfumers in gleaming white lab coats, then the respectable (and respected) face of fragrance.

The perfume world – and all fragrance fans – have many pioneering women to thank for the centuries they spent, tirelessly working their way to the top. So, for International Women’s Day, here are just a few strong, creative, amazing women we’d like to put our hands together for – and whom we should all celebrate, not just today, but every single time we spritz…

 

 

Maya Njie

Maya Njie (pronounced ‘Maia N-Jai’) has diverse familial and artistic roots, having been born in Västerås Sweden, with a West African heritage, and moving to London in her teens where she went in to study at the University of the Arts. Weaving together these threads via the medium of the senses, Maya began experimenting with smell alongside the the visual mediums of colour and photography. Gaining global fans around the world, and offering Pocket Size perfumes, we are thrilled to welcome Maya Njie at The Perfume Society, and know you’ll adore exploring her creations.

 

 

Ruth Mastenbroek

Ruth was born in England, spent some of her childhood in America, and graduated with a Chemistry degree from Oxford University. Having been classically trained in Grasse, she’d studied alongside brilliant perfumers such as Olivier Cresp, who created Angel, and Jacques Cavallier who created the Jean Paul Gaultier ‘Classique’ fragrance. Having travelled extensively, and been president of The British Society of Perfumers; Ruth launched a capsule collection of scented products before weaving scent memories we could all wear. Ruth’s perfumes are shamelessly romantic, but still with a contemporary edge, and we’re always thrilled (and proud!) to wear them.

 

 

Emmanuelle Moeglin Experimental Perfume Club

Completing her extensive training at the French perfumery school of ISIPCA, Emanuelle worked as a Scent Design Manager for various global fragrance brands, then become an independent perfumer based in London. Wanting to make the fragrance world more inclusive, she runs incredibly popular workshops which led to her own expending line of so-clever, utterly wearable (alone, or to mix your own signature) exceptionally exciting scents; and now (since lockdown) opened the world out further by crafting perfume courses online, suited to every level of experience.

 

 

Sarah McCartney4160 Tuesdays

I didn’t want to make perfume as a child; I wanted to be a witch,’ says Sarah McCartney, founder and perfumer of the gloriously unconventional 4160 Tuesdays. Having written a novel about perfumes, readers asked if she could create the scents she’d invented, ‘This turned out to be impossible – and pretty expensive – because no one was making exactly what I wanted, so I started another quest to see of I could make them instead.’ And so she rolled up her sleeves and did just that. Always inventive, collaborating with artists, appearing at festivals – here energy and creative output is astounding.

 

 

Nancy Meiland

Apprenticed to one of the UK’s experts in custom perfumery, Nancy began her career training with that esteemed perfumer and creating bespoke fragrances for private clients. Many might have stuck to that path, but Nancy dared to chase her dream and make it reality – all the while, dividing her time between town and country and raising a family. Now with her own exquisite artisanal line, and a beautiful boutique in Brighton, she has the knack of conjuring emotional responses with lyrical fragrances that are contemplative yet so effortlessly sophisticated. And yes, she still makes custom fragrances for clients, too!

 

Written by Suzy Nightingale

New fragrance trends revealed: the future smells like this…

New fragrance trends can be tricky to forecast, but a huge clue is the secret ingredients known as ‘captives’ or ‘captive molecules’.

These pioneering, sustainable captive molecules are aromas exclusively designed by fragrance creation companies, which perfumers clamour for because they cannot be used (and therefore copied) by anyone else. More than that, these unique blends bring brand new smells into the perfumer’s palate, which cannot be captured in nature, or perhaps do not even exist in nature. It’s quite mind-blowing when you think of it – the equivalent of a painter being presented with a new set of colours that nobody had ever seen before, or a musician being offered some notes that had never previously been heard.

The fragrance creation house of IFFInternational Flavors & Fragrance – are one of the world’s leading innovators of scent, and their top-name perfumers (think Dominique Ropion, Anne Flipo, Carlos Benaïm, Julien Rasquinet and so many more) create for pretty much any perfume house you care to mention. Having just revealed a selection of new captive molecules, we’re sure it wont be very long before you see these new ingredients making scent waves in fragrance trends, and popping up in a perfume near you.

All these images and descriptions are ©IFF, and we feel we can almost smell them through the screen. But which would you most like to try in a future fragrance…?

 

Aquaflora – Image ©IFF
 

Aquaflora

‘Close your eyes and imagine: a fresh smell of lily of the valley, watermelon, melon and cantaloupe.’

 

Cosmofruit

‘A complex smell reminiscent of tarte tatin, damascone, nuts, summer berries, plums, saffron and chili.’

 

 

Cristalfizz

‘It’s citrus fizzy, with orange and mandarin zest. A watery feel, crystal fresh and ozonic. It’s aldehydic and unique.’

 

 

Hawaïanate

‘Juicy and fruity pineapple, powerful tropical fruit sensation, a dash of green apple, jammy red and dry fruits. Add creamy, sweet coconut feel, a touch of spicy, salty cinnamon.’

Moresque – get your questions in for our Instagram Live event with founder, Cindy Guillemant!

We’re so thrilled to be hosting an Instagram Live event with Cindy Guillemant from the fabulous niche fragrance house of Moresque.

Get the date in your diaries now!

July 14th 2021 5pm (U.K. time) on The Perfume Society Instagram channel

We’ll be discussing the launch of TWO new Moresque fragrances on the Instagram Live event, but meanwhile, here’s a little bit more about this wonderful house…

Moresque Parfum was born from a sheer love of the intricacy of Moorish art and the passion for elegant but opulent perfumes by founder, Cindy Guillemant.

Right from the start, she says, her work has been driven by this desire to bring together Italian taste and Arabic charm. ‘I completed my MBA in International Business in Florida and built my career between Monte Carlo, Paris, Miami and Milan. I always used perfumes, but my grandmother instilled in me a real love for fragrances and provided me with knowledge that motivated me to delve into this industry.’

 

 

That familial connection resounds still in Cindy’s work, and she finds that ‘I still rediscover my grandmother’s knowledge even today with all the scents I collect from around the world through their volatile notes, essences and the most mysterious and profound flavours.’

So, what questions would YOU like to ask Cindy – about Moresque Parfum, the stunning bottles, their inspiration, her favourite ingredients…?

We so look forward to you joining us on Instagram at 5pm on Wednesday July 14th at 5pm U.K. time for this exciting event. Until then, we’ll be spritzing the scents and dreaming we could travel to all the places they’re inspired by…

Nose Dive by Harold McGee – a joyous celebration of our most under-appreciated sense

There are some books that really transcend the boundaries – appealing not only to those already immersed in the subject, but to the wider public – and Nose Dive by Harold McGee is most definitely one of the best we’ve read. So wonderfully connecting the dots between the worlds of smell and taste, it’s no wonder the Sunday Times named it their 2020 Food Book of the Year, calling it ‘A joyously nerdy study of how and what we smell, the effect on our appetites and much more.’

Having worked with some of world’s most innovative chefs, including Thomas Keller and Heston Blumenthal; McGee has dedicated over a decade of his life to our most overlooked sense, and here gives us not only the facts about the chemistry of food, cooking and smells; but widens this (and encourages us to widen our nostrils) by explaining the science of everyday life and the various whiffs we may encounter along the way.

Think of this as a manual to re-connect you to your nose, heightening your enjoyment and understanding of food but, much more than that – enriching every single part of your life. Along the way, McGee introduces us to the aroma chemicals that surround us, which make up our entire world and colour the way we experience it. It’s a joyous book that should be read by cooks, perfumers, fragrance-addicts and absolutely anyone who has been struck by a smell, wondered what it was and wanted to know more.

Something we especially loved was how clearly this information is laid out – so it can be easily referred to. Each smell mentioned is laid out in a chart of its name/species, the component smells to identify it with, and the molecules that create those smells. Gleefully, some have a column respresenting ‘Also found in’, so we learn, for example, that Some Smells of Cat Urine are like blackcurrant, which is caused by methylbutyl sulfanyl formate, and can also be found in beer and coffee. More fragrantly, many flower varieties are described, along with plant pongs, animals, humans, food (raw, cooked or cured) and the scent of space itself.

Managing to be both scholarly yet immediately accessible, it’s his passion for that subject that really sporings off the page and makes you want to run out into the street and start smelling things with a new appreciation for what you might find. Whether he has you bending to smell wet pavements and marvelling at ambergris, exploring the fruit-filled Himilayan mountain ranges, literally stopping to smell the roses or cautiously approaching a durian fruit… this is a celebration of something the majority of us take so foregranted – until we have it taken away from us. Witness the huge rise in smell-related news stories, during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Perhaps now the media are focussing on our sense of smell at last, and realising how important it is to our enjoyment and understanding of every day life, there will be further books like this to enjoy a wider readership than they may have previously. And maybe that will lead to proper funding for the much-needed further research we still so desperately need. Now that’s something to celebrate!

If your intrest in pongs has been piqued, perhaps you’d like to perfuse the many other books about smell and the senses we have reviewed for our Fragrant Reads bookshelf…?

By Suzy Nightingale

Frédéric Malle Perfume Summit – in conversation with the most legendary perfumers

The Frédéric Malle Perfume Summit is a gathering of some of the world’s most legendary perfumers in conversation with the man who revolutionised the fragrance industry…

It’s not too much to claim that the reason you know the name of the person who who created your favourite fragrance, is because of Frédéric Malle.

In 2000, at the turn of the millennium, Frédéric Malle launched his fragrance collection, Les Editions de Parfum Frédéric Malle. He’s not a nose – although Frédéric grew up immersed in the world of perfumery: he is the grandson of Serge Heftler-Louiche, who created the Parfums Christian Dior line.

 

 

 

Malle‘s idea was to give perfumers free rein to create the fragrance of their dreams. But what was truly innovative was his decision to put their names on the bottle. Until then, most perfumers had been well-kept secrets, working behind the scenes in their labs and – except on a few occasions – remaining anonymous, while the perfume house (or the fashion designer) enjoyed all the credit.

As part of their on-going 20th anniversary celebrations, Frédéric Malle organised a round-table Perfume Summit – a fascinating conversation with some of the perfumers Malle worked with – Jean-Claude Ellena, Pierre Bourdon, Maurice Roucel, Anne Flipo and Dominique Ropion – that takes a deep dive in to the history of their creation and the inspiration behind them.

 

 

We suggest settling down and watching this so-interesting discussion – perhaos smelling along with the film if you own several of the fragrances, or focussing on your favourite. And if you’ve yet to explore the range of fragrances – which truly are modern masterpieces and something everyone should try at least once in their lives! – then oh boy, are you in for a treat.

Even if you’ve tried several of the scents, it’s so interesting to seek out those you’d perhaps previously overlooked or don’t know so well; especially after hearing the perfumers talk about them so eloquently.

 

 

Ready to discover even more about the way Frédéric Malle works? Read the (extensive!) text messages that Malle and perfumer Jean Claude-Ellena sent back and forth while working on the Rose & Cuir perfume.

It seems incredible that not that long ago, a mere handful of us knew the names of perfumers. Now? Some of them have virtual rock-star status in the scent world. What an incredible twenty years it has been – and what will the next twenty bring for Frédéric Malle…? We cant wait to find out!

By Suzy Nightingale

The fabric of fragrance: perfumes inspired by silk, velvet, suede & linen

The catwalks have been strutted, the #FROW have gasped in delight (or tutted beneath their sunglasses) and fashion weeks in London, Paris and Milan are now in the bag – but perfumers are inspired by fabric all year ’round for their fragrant creations.

Last week we explored fragrances inspired by satin, leather, cashmere and cotton, this week we urge you to reach out and get touchy-feely with fragrances evoking the sensual textures and moods of silk, velvet, suede and linen…

 

 

Oudh-avoiders – do not recoil! This is a delightfully boozy gourmand that’s all silky smooth rum-soaked fruits slathered with cream and sprinkled with spices, so although oudh may be at the heart of each fragrance in the collection, think of it more as an ingredient added for depth and longevity. Interestingly, Amouroud is the latest evolution of the widely respected Perfumer’s Workshop, launched 45 years ago. Deliciously comforting, we’ll gladly be following the Silk Route trail (and wrapping ourselves in this along the way…)

Amouroud Silk Route £166 for 100ml eau de parfum
selfridges.com

 

Like a sweet, balmy breeze rising from the walls of ancient Palermo, the Dolce & Gabbana Velvet Ambrée Musk eau de parfum swathes you in the warm caress of the sun wherever you may be. With a perfectly blended mix of woods and spices, this unique fragrance melds to your skin with sandalwood, tonka bean and aromatic cardamom – a nuzzle of delight to bury your nose in (and equally divine on any sex who dares to wear it).

Dolce & Gabbana Velvet Ambrée Musk £200 for 50ml eau de parfum
harrods.com

 

Wearing this is like reaching out and stroking the softest, most supple suede your fingers ever dreamed of. The warm intensity of oudh, olibanum, patchouli, suede and amber at the fragrance’s core is balanced with resinous balsam, sweet praline and honeysuckle, plus dreamy white flowers, while a little pinch of spiciness from cypress, birch and pepper awakens the senses. Sueded Oud is a study in carefully crafted opposites, and we love the creamy-fresh result.

CLEAN Reserve Sueded Oud – Try a generous 10ml bottle as part of THIRTEEN fragrances in the Luxury Layering Discovery Box £19 (£15 for VIPs)

 

One of the greatest pleasures on earth is surely the joy of crisp, white, line-dried cotton sheets. This absolute classic deserves to be enjoyed afresh – it’s all billowing clean fabric evoked via the slightly soapy coolness of white flowers and a zing of verdant greenery. Bulgarian rose, violet and powdery orris atop an earthier base of vetiver and soft, dry mossiness make for true elegance, a scent to wear whenever you want to remember sunshine and happiness.

Estée Lauder White Linen £56 for 60ml eau de parfum
boots.com

By Suzy Nightingale

International Women’s Day 2019: celebrating female perfumers

As it’s International Women’s Day, can we take a moment to collectively cheer the world’s first recorded chemist – a woman named Tapputi – and a perfume maker whose existence we only know about thanks to being recorded on a 1200 BCE Cuneiform tablet, found in Babylonian Mesopotamia.

Tapputi was granted the title “Belatikallim” which suggests she was regarded as a high-ranking scientist, and her role would have held great sway in both the Mesopotamian government and their religion, because she was overseer of the Mesopotamian Royal Palace.

But think of a perfumer or famous ‘nose’ now and, chances are, the picture that comes to most peoples’ mind is a man in a white lab coat, or – if you’re more romantically inclined – a man in a velvet jacket plucking rose petals at sunrise and being struck by artistic inspiration. My point is: it’s probably still a man you’re thinking of.

In the Fashion, Feminism & Fragrance edition of our magazine, The Scented Letter, we devoted the issue to looking back to the women we have to thank for shaping the way we smell today, and focussing on the current crop of women perfumers shaking up the scent world.

Here, we pay tribute to just some of these remarkable and talented women, and urge you to seek out their work as a way celebrating International Women’s Day 2019

 

Daniela Andrier’s CV now stretches endlessly: triumphs include Bottega Veneta Knot, the daring Maison Martin Margiela Untitled and Guerlain’s Angélique Noire – but the name which continually crops up on her list of creations is that of Prada. She clearly has a fantastic working relationship with Miuccia Prada, which has brought us such blockbusters as Prada Man (2006), Prada Candy (2011), and every single one of the Prada ingredient-focused Infusion series, so widely adored by bloggers and perfume-lovers alike.

 

 

Christine Nagel says the first time she met a ‘nose’, that’s what she knew she wanted to be. So she trained as a research chemist and market analyst, and in Paris, in 1997, launched a seriously distinguished career that’s included creations like the blockbuster Narciso Rodriguez for Her (with Francis Kurkdjian), Jimmy Choo Flash and Guerlain’s Les Elixirs Charnels collection. After several years at Jo Malone London, Christine joined Hermès, to work alongside the legendary Jean-Claude Ellena in 2014. When he retired two years later, Ellena named Nagel his rightful successor, and she took her place as the esteemed Head of Perfumery. Nagel’s pared-down style with innovative twists has composed Eau de Rhubarb Ecarlate, Galop d’Hermès and the much-admired recent addition of Twilly d’Hèrmes – some of the Hermès’ most critically acclaimed and commercially successful fragrances to date.

 

 

Mathilde Laurent is widely considered the ‘rock ‘n roll superstar’ of contemporary perfumery, having been encouraged to become a perfumer by a family friend who noticed from a young age she’d been ‘encountering the world nose first, whether to describe a plate of food or the atmosphere of a new house,’ as Laurent puts it. Trained at ISIPCA after gaining a degree in chemistry and physics, she put in a call to Jean-Paul Guerlain himself, asking for an internship. After three months, she was offered a permanent position and stayed for the next 11 years. Joining Cartier to become their in-house and bespoke perfumer, Laurent has tirelessly worked to promote the creative use of quality synthetics in modern perfumery, in order to ‘shatter the idea that the result had to be hard, abstract, aggressive.’ Her work is by turns contemporary with a classic touch, surprising yet ultimately, sublimely wearable.

 

 

Camille Goutal studied Literature at ‘A’ Level then took courses in art, photography and design at the Louvre Museum School. It led to a career in photography, but it was scent that ultimately beckoned. Her mother, Annick, had founded the now renowned house in 1981, being joined by equally talented nose Isabelle Doyen in 1985 and watching as the name spread like wildfire around the world. By the 1990s, the collection was in the ‘top five’ in leading department stores like Saks and Nieman Marcus. When Annick sadly passed in 1999 aged just 53, Camille – who’d been the inspiration for both the inspiration for both Eau de Camille, and Petite Chérie – the baton was passed from being muse to Aromatique Majeur: honouring her mother’s legacy while continuing to drive the house – now re-branded as Goutal – ever onwards, to the delight and relief of millions of fans worldwide.

 

 

Alice Lavenat was a young perfumer working for Jean Niel in Grasse. Entering the prestigious French Perfumers Young Perfumer of the Year Competition in 2014. Inspired by her family’s wine business, and creatively interpreting the brief of using blackcurrant bud, the judges’ decision was unanimous: Lavenat was awarded first prize. One of Jean Niel’s clients was Marie Lise Bischoff – founder of the perfume house, Nejma – and she’d not only smelled Alice’s fragrance and fallen in love with it, but was determined to nurture the talent of this young perfumer. Naming the creation Parfum d’Alice, her talents have developed Nejma’s incredibly successful fragrance collection, including a collaboration with a French rap star for KoEptYs, and an exclusive range of Extrait for Harrods.

 

 

Fanny Bal is apprenticed to none other than Dominic Ropion – regarded by many as one of the greatest perfumers of our time – who says her approach to perfumery is ‘curious, tenacious and bold’ and predicts she has ‘all the best qualities to become a great perfumer.’ Another ISIPCA alumni, going on to work at IFF, Bal’s currently storming the expectations of the fragrance world with Sale Gosse for Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle (inspired by a mixture of bubblegum, cheeky ‘enfants terribles’, old-fashioned sweets and ‘doodles on the blackboard’). According to Malle, Fanny Bal is known for ‘constantly surprising her seniors’, and having recently smelled her utterly majestic (homage to) Hemmingway for Masque Milano (a trio of vetiver that had us swooning for hours), we say: watch this space. The name Fanny Bal will soon be on every fragrance fan’s lips, and her scents surprising your nose for years to come…

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Speed Sniffing with IFF-LMR & the British Society of Perfumers

When you’ve been obsessed by fragrance for some time, you might think you have a good idea about how ingredients smell. I reckon I’d know a patchouli or pepper from a few yards away, for example. But suddenly, presented with an array of natural ingredients in the form of a ‘Speed Sniffing‘ game, my sense of smell was turned upside down. And I wasn’t alone…

In the august surroundings of Burlington House in Piccadilly, the British Society of Perfumers met at the Royal Society of Chemistry, where we’d been invited for an evening of exploring fragrance ingredients by IFF-LMR Naturals. The LMR refrers to Laboratoire Monique Rémy, which IFF (International Flavors & Fragrance) took over in 2000, continuing and evolving the incredible, groundbreaking work Monique began. Indeed, the company have recently rebranded with the slogan Pioneering Nature – a phrase that encompasses their ethos of always pushing the boundaries of what we can expect from natural ingredients: the way they are grown, harvested and processed; the wellfare of the those who produce them, and sustainability of the environment at large.

These natural ingredients go on to be used by the world’s top perfumers and flavourists, in every major and niche fragrance house you care to name, and there’s no doubt you’ll own many scents and have eaten all manner of foods that include them. 

Esteemed members of the BSP mingled with representatives of IFF-LMR and fragrance-loving members of the public alike, and we were led into a room of eight tables for the fun to begin. Think of it as a combination between speed dating and an intense gym workout for your nose.

In groups, we moved our way around the room, being given only five minutes at each table – a bell ringing when time was up – and with an expert from IFF-LMR in place to guide us through what we were smelling. My group began at the ‘New Ingredient‘ table, and we first had to solve a word puzzle to make up the names. These were Pepper Sichuan Absolute Extract LMR and Cocoa Extract 12% PG. We might think of pepper as being punchy, up in your face and almost aggressive in character, but here we smelled something more reminiscent of citrus, with a vibrant, fruity/floral facet that astonished us all – and remember, there were professional ‘noses’ at this table, equally enthralled by what we were smelling. It was a tickle to the senses, and unlike any pepper I’ve previously experienced. The cocoa, too, was a revelation. Usually used in the flavour industry, this one is silky, nutty, warm and dry rather than overly sweet and sickly.

Resisting the urge to suck the blotter, we moved on to smelling fragrances – one without the central ingredient, one with, and this process was repeated at each table we visited. How fascinating to explore the way even a minute amount can utterly alter a finished fragrance – adding complexity and elegance, boosting the surrounding aromas or softening the edges for a comforting snuggle of a scent. I can only liken it to the difference between a landscape painting completed in oils or watercolour – the scene might be the same, but the translation, mood and emotional response has changed.

At the beginning of the Speed Sniffing we’d been given a bag containing a notebook to jot down our thoughts, along with collecting specially designed playing cards at each stage of our fragrant journey, each card explaining the IFF-LMR ingredient and what makes it so special. So here, briefly, were my thoughts on what I found to be some of the most exciting ingredients we sniffed…

Organic Notes: Ginger Oil Fresh Madagascar ORG
Produced by hyrdodistillation, this smelled of all the piquant freshness of ginger root, without any of the earthiness or almost rubbery notes that can sometimes accompany this ingredient. Their secret? A far shorter time between harvesting and distilling.

Peru Balsam Oil MD
This is harvested from wild grown plants, and was the first to achieve ‘Fair Wild’ certification. For this, they must adhere to strict standards of sustainability criteria, ensuring the continued use and long-term survival of wild species, while supporting the livelihoods of all stakeholders and respecting their cultures. To me, it smelled of heaven. Soft, creamy, comforting and cocooning – if there was a vat of it, I’d have jumped in (though this could upset their certified status, so probably best for all concerned the opportunity wasn’t presented).

Healingwood BLO
This is patchouli with 99% of patchoulol (an alcohol found within patchouli, and one of the organic compounds responsible for the smell). But it’s not the patchouli you’d recognise – banish any lingering horrors of “hippie” scents, for this was an ethereal, wraith-like smell, a whisper of woodiness without the funk.

LMR Hearts: Patchouli Heart No.3
IFF-LMR’s best selling Patchouli Heart note, and it’s easy to smell why. There’s a silvery clarity that smells like bliss personified, with a touch more earthiness that the Healingwood, but it’s still not muddy. Think of a forest floor during a light Spring shower, water diffused through greenery, a shimmering transparency that’s used to ‘…bring differentiation and personality to any formulas.’

‘Blockchain’ Notes: Vetiver Heart
A Blockchain guarantees transparency throughout the supply chain, with every single step of a process being virtually stored. This way, an ingredient can be traced from being grown, harvested and processed from start to finish, with the information visible for all (other companies buying the product, right through to consumers buying a fragrance that ingredient has been used in). The Vetiver Heart we smelled was a revelation – fruity, highly complex, it was practically a perfume in its own right. Because of that complexity, if a perfumer uses this within their formula, it makes the finished fragrance far harder to copy. Win-win.

New Platforms: Sandalwood Oil New Caledonia
By ‘Platforms’, they mean new places in the world they’re now sourcing materials. Sandalwood has traditionally been sourced from Australia and India, where illegal distilling plants, smuggling and unsustainable usage have caused huge problems for the fragrance industry, and the legal growers and producers in those cultures. By using this astonishingly smooth sandalwood from New Caledonia, IFF-LMR offer a delightful new ingredient for perfumers to incorporate in their fragrances – the one we smelled had an almost milky, gourmand aspect to it.

There are many more ingredients I could mention and swoon over at length, but suffice to say, we were all left with a buzz of excitement about the future for the naturals it’s now possible to use in fragrance, and with minds officially blown. What an honour to have smelled ingredients only the noses of major perfume houses usually get to play with. Speed Sniffing with IFF-LMR resulted in my relationship status with naturals being firmly reinstated.

Interested to smell more? The BSP offer a number of exciting events each year, so make sure you check the website for other fragrant happenings.

Wish you could have been there? Then you must join us at our Perfume Society Ostens Event on 12th February! Using IFF-LMR Ingredients, this future-forward house are revolutionising the perfume industry by offering some of these incredible materials in their highest allowable, singular form within an oil Preparation, or as hypnotically enticing eaux de parfums created by some of the world’s top perfumers around that central, natural ingredient. We’ll be smelling the ingredients, learning how they’re processed and sniffing the divine results…

By Suzy Nightingale

Experimental Scent Summit & Awards 2018

The heart of artistic perfumery throbs strongly in Los Angeles, home to the Institute for Art and Olfaction since 2012, and as founder Saskia Wilson-Brown explains, the pulse for perfumery is changing, too.

‘New, self-educated perfumers are thriving, the scents themselves are becoming progressively more audacious, and the art of perfumery as a whole is going through a deep re-examination.’ With this in mind, she launched the IAO as a means of support for perfumers and artists working in and exploring this medium, with the aim ‘…to highlight the innovation and artistry in perfumery, to instigate greater engagement with the art and science around scent, to juxtapose it with other creative practices, and to bring it into the big bad world.’

With an on-going diary bursting with creative, interactive projects, talks and workshops, each year the IAO celebrate independent perfumery with an awards ceremony – the fragrances blind-sniffed by an array of knowledgable judges – and the awards themselves (known as ‘The Golden Pears’) handed out at a differing city each year.

The Art and Olfaction Experimental Scent Summit: London 2018 [Photo by Marina Chichi]
This time, celebrating their fifth year, it was London’s turn to host the awards, and you can see the list of the winners, below; but we were especially thrilled to attend this year’s twist – an ‘Experimental Scent Summit‘, which saw guest speakers from all over the world coming together to talk about their artworks dedicated to exploring our sense of smell. A full two days of talks, performances and discussions, you can read about what went on in greater detail here, but suffice to say we left truly inspired, and buzzing with ideas!

Do take time to have a look at the winners’ websites, and see what your nose might have missed…

Artisan Category Winners:

Chienoir by BedeauX     
CD/Perfumer: Amanda Beadle

[P.S: We must admit to cheering extra loudly for this one – Amanda’s a Perfume Society V.I.P Member! She’s visited us at two of our How To Improve Your Sense of Smell Workshops – one in London, and one in Hastings – and we shall be interviewing her shortly to find out the full story of this incredible win, so watch this space…]

Christophe Laudamiel holding his ‘Golden Pear’ Award [photo by Marina Chichi]
Club Design by The Zoo     
CD/Perfumer: Christophe Laudamiel

Independent Category Winners:

Eau de Virginie by Au Pays de la Fleur d’Oranger  
Perfumer: Jean-Claude Gigodot
CD: Virginie Roux

Nuit de Bakélite by Naomi Goodsir
Perfumer: Isabelle Doyen
CD: Naomi Goodsir, Renaud Coutaudier

Sadakichi Award Winner: Under the Horizon by Oswaldo Macia
Perfume: Ricardo Moya (IFF)

Aftel Award for Handmade Perfume: Pays Dogon by Monsillage (Canada)
Perfumer: Isabelle Michaud

Contribution to Scent Culture: Peter de Cupere (Belgium)

Winners, judges and organisers of the 5th annual Art and Olfaction Awards [photo by Marina Chichi]