Ruth Mastenbroek: A Working Nose

‘Scent is my life.’  Says perfumer Ruth Mastenbroek. Quite simply, she explains that ‘The fragrance is the essence of my art.  It is my signature…’

Ruth Mastenbroek was born in England and graduated with a Chemistry degree from Oxford University. Having trained in the late 70s and then worked as a perfumer in the UK and Netherlands with Naarden International (who later became Quest and is now Givaudan – one of the largest perfume suppliers in the world); Ruth worked in Japan and in the perfume capital Grasse before returning to England to work for a small compan. There she created fragrances for up-and-coming brands like Kenneth Turner and Jo Malone – including her now infamously successful Grapefruit candle. But finally Ruth knew she wanted to set up her own perfumery company, Fragosmic Ltd., in 2003 – the year she became president of The British Society of Perfumers.

In 2010 Ruth launched her capsule collection of scented products featuring her signature fragrance – RM – and also became the first to use the ground-breaking micro-encapsulation technology… in a scented bathrobe!

Ruth launched her second fragrance, Amorosa, in May 2012 at Les Senteurs in London. Her range is now sold in more than 25 exclusive shops in the UK, as well as in the Netherlands and Nigeria. Her fragrances are astonishingly well composed, but more than smelling beaituful, they capture whole worlds and stories in every bottle.

We’re thrilled to be stocking this incredible discovery set of fragrances in the Ruth Mastenbroek Collection for you to try at home. From the smoulderingly sensual to the classically chic, with sunshine, smoky green unisex to travel memories and joyous moments captured in every bottle, we truly believe there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Why not treat yourself (or a loved one) to a whole new world of exploration…?

Ruth Mastenbroek Collection £17.95 for 4 x 2ml eau de parfum

Ruth has long been a friend of The Perfume Society, so we thought it was about time we caught up with her and found out exactly how she goes about making her fragrances, as part of our series of exclusive interviews with perfumers, called The Working Nose

Is there any such thing as an average day for you? What’s your routine?

Ruth Mastenbroek: It’s not quite as rigid as that. What tends to happen is that I get ideas overnight, and then I can try them out in the lab the next morning. I do enjoy writing out my formulas then, and feeling that then I’ve got the rest of the day to work through them. The way that I like to work has evolved over time. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to make a chypre, and the basic structure, but I wasn’t exactly sure what to do with it – there was a lot of trial and error and going back and forth between versions, but eventually I did get there with Signature.

With Amorosa, I knew I wanted to create a tuberose fragrance, because it was so incredibly different from what I’d done, so I wanted to explore. But it had to have something else, which became the ambery woody part of it. With Oxford and Firedance I had a starting point, but then I’d take a chunk out and try something else, to see how that affected the performance and character. It’s not as though I know exactly what’s going to happen when I put two things together. Obviously after forty years I know a lot, I have the experience, but you can never absolutely be sure until it’s done!

Do you keep a notebook with you to collect ideas – how do you keep a track of everything you imagine?

Well it honestly tends to be all in my head, the ideas are very vivid and I like to start working on them immediately, but over the years I’ve made so many different formulas, it’s all written down and I keep a note of every single addition or subtraction I experiment with. That way you have this back catalogue of things that you might not have a use for immediately, but which you know will prove vital at some point! My daughter thinks it’s hilarious that I still write everything down by hand. I still make a note of everything on the computer, but I prefer writing by hand. I do tend to have a lot of Postit notes around, scraps of paper with things that have occurred to me – an unusual combination that worked surprisingly well.

Are you inspired by pictures, textures or sounds at all?

For me it’s a very visual thing – I know some perfumers are synaesthetic and also inspired by sounds, and I can imagine that being very creative working with music, but I see them visually. I think of them texturally, too – very touchy-feely. When I think about my fragrances this way I can then sense what else I need to add to extend that feeling.

Do you need to work in complete quiet – do you shut yourself away when you’re working?

I very much prefer to be alone. I love working and creating on my own. Working from home a lot of the time I can do that. If you’re in a bigger office it’s much harder to do that, but I will always go and find a room where I can go and have some solitude. Otherwise there are too many distractions. I mean, sometimes it’s nice to be distracted, but I like to work methodically through something and just get it done.

When you’re composing a fragrance, are you strict about keeping everything very neutral around you? So not wearing any scented products at all?

Oh yes, you have to really. I mean you end up trying them on your skin of course, because you need to know how they perform, but other scents are very intrusive. Actually, I had one moment that really awkward – I was working for a company where they invited several perfumers to on a day trip to a bluebell wood, with the idea that each perfumer would then create a fragrance based on their personal impressions of it. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of wearing a sweater I’d worn previously had perfume on it. I just didn’t think. But when everything else is un-fragranced (and everyone else there!), boy do you become hyper aware of it. I learned my lesson that day.

What do you think of the rise in self-taught niche perfumers? Do you think it’s a shame they aren’t being trained in that strict way you were?

I think it opens up other routes. But, from what I understand, those who are self-taught are learning about ingredients they can get hold of. And actually that becomes a very limited palette. Whereas, because I had the great fortune to work for a big company, I had access to thousands of materials and had to learn them inside out. On the other hand, Im sure it’s making them really consider what they’re using and how they use it, because they don’t have that luxury. I am a great believer in training, but there just aren’t the places or opportunities for everyone to train the way I did. I guess I’m just glad I did it, you know, a hundred-million years ago, and so I can now rely on that breadth of knowledge and experience. Because in the end, that’s what colours every single fragrance I create…

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Exlusively for VIPs – 20% off at Ruth Mastenbroek!

We know our VIP Perfume Society members love to explore unusual, hard to find and niche fragrance houses producing fabulously unique fragrances, and with this in mind we’re delighted to announce that British independent perfumer Ruth Mastenbroek is giving you the chance to take a very generous 20% off all full-size fragrances!

Exclusively for Perfume Society VIPs, enjoy 20% off all full-size Ruth Mastenbroek eau de parfums.

How to use: go to ruthmastenbroek.com and choose your favourites. Enter the code below when prompted at checkout.

Code: RMPS20

Valid from: 1st – 31st May 2018

Ruth says: ‘I use the finest ingredients from across the globe to tell stories about life through perfume. Stories of freedom, love, discovery and celebration. My fragrances can take years to perfect; they offer something exciting and different. They are original and come from the heart – from me to you…’

The perfect time to stock-up on your favourites or plump for something new to try, which will you choose to treat yourself with our exclusive 20% offer…?

Enjoy, with our best wishes!

 

 

 

WIN! Signed bottle of Ruth Mastenbroek’s Firedance

We were thrilled to hear that Ruth Mastenbroek‘s Firedance perfume has been selected as a finalist for this year’s prestigious Fragrance Foundation Awards. And Ruth very kindly popped in to sign a full-size bottle of Firedance for one of our lucky V.I.P’s to win!

Scroll down for the entry form, below – closing date is 31st May 2018…

‘A story of celebration… rejoicing in each moment of contentment in life. In Firedance, Ruth presents a scorching, modern interpretation of the classic rose perfume, as exotic leather dances in surprise harmony with the main character – smouldering Damask rose. Set against a warming backdrop of oudh and patchouli, a shining amber note radiates from the skin in this memorably intimate and sexy perfume.’

Do not be scared of that ‘oudh’ word, either – this is a stunningly sophisticated interpretation, and no wonder it’s up for an award. We know you’ll adore it.

Terms & Conditions: No cash alternative to the prizes will be offered. The prizes are not transferable. Prizes are subject to availability and we reserve the right to substitute any prize with another of equivalent value without giving notice. Closing date for entry will be 31/05/2018. After this date no further entries to the prize draw will be accepted.

Good luck!

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Our Blogger of the Month is fragrance expert and superfan Stephan Matthews

We first got to know Stephan Matthews when he rocked up to one of our ‘How to Improve Your Sense of Smell’ workshops. To be honest, it was a challenge to figure out what we could teach this very knowledgeable perfume industry insider, who’s worked across many areas of the business including co-ordinating events, and acting as a highly knowledgeable in-store fragrance advisor. His nose is pretty much like a sniffer dog’s.

Readers of The Scented Letter may recognise Stephan: he featured with his extensive personal perfume collection in our #ShareMyStash section. But you may not know that he also writes a very readable blog, stephanmatthews.comsub-titled ‘Putting the fun back into fragrance’.

As he observes: ‘Perfume has always been a great passion of mine and I am lucky enough to work within this fascinating industry. Every day brings new challenges, experiences and delights to a workplace that is crammed full of new releases, evergreens and fading classics.’

Ruth Mastenbroek

As a regular feature, ‘Stephan’s Six’, he interviews fragrance ‘faces’ (and ‘noses’) as well as famous figures from the wider world: Lorna Luft, actress Carol Drinkwater, actor James Dreyfus, the mysterious ‘Monsieur Guerlain‘, Chandler Burr and more.

But since we know you always like insights into perfumers, in this Blogger of the Month slot, we’re featuring Stephan’s interview with the talented British perfumer Ruth Mastenbroek.
Writes Stephan: ‘After leaving Britain at the age of four Ruth Mastenbroek’s fascination for perfumery began to show itself. This led to a career creating fragrances for many famous companies, before she took the decision to release her own range of perfumes. Taking a clear influence from classic styles, but with a modern interpretation, what would she reveal of her own perfume history during “Stephan’s Six”?

What is the first smell that you can remember?
My Grandpa would never have worn fragrance or aftershave, but I will never forget the smell of his shaving soap. He used to use one of those old-fashioned shaving knives, and he often used to have bits of tissue stuck to nicks, which was fascinating. The smell was slightly fresh, but also sweet, and with the benefit of hindsight predominantly lavender. The memory of it makes me feel nostalgic, and a bit sad. We left for the States when I was four, leaving my grandparents behind.
Youth-Dew-Vintage-Ad1-1What perfume do you remember your mum or dad wearing?
My mother adored perfume, and her favourite was Youth Dew by Estée Lauder. I wonder if it epitomised the liberation she must have felt, leaving England and everything she had ever known? Just a whiff of it, even now, transports me back to visions of her wardrobe of 1950s-style party dresses, full skirts of taffeta with velvet bodices. My mother would also have her hair done once a week, so the scent of Elnett hairspray also featured large.

What was the perfume of your twenties?
In my early twenties I was a sales manager in the perfumery department of Selfridges. Can you imagine how many perfumes there were to tempt me? I had already discovered Guerlain Mitsouko as a teenager, with its promise of experiences like those of the chic women who had worn it, and a tiny dab would surely make me a woman of the world! For everyday, I wore the carefree, just-minted Charlie by Revlon. So seventies, so hip!

rochas_1980_mystere vintage perfume ad
What was your biggest perfume mistake?
I started training as a perfumer at Naarden International in Northampton and in January 1979 set off for Holland to continue my studies. My Northampton colleagues asked me which perfume I would like to take with me. Rochas had just launched Mystère, and at first I liked it a lot, but in time I began to find its sweetness too cloying. It didn’t have clean enough lines for me. I wish I had chosen a better fragrance to remember my early perfumery years and my colleagues by.

If you could only choose one perfume?
My Signature fragrance is the essence of me, in its creation as well as in its execution. Since falling in love as a teenager with Guerlain‘s Mitsouko, I knew I wanted to translate it for myself into my own perfume. I could wear this fragrance day or night, it is such a happy fragrance. It lifts my spirits and makes me feel like a whole woman – it’s indispensable!

What perfume should I try?
I created Oxford to appeal to both men and women. It starts out with top notes of basil and galbanum, then mellows a bit under the influence of clary sage, before softening as the vanilla warms and melts. Oxford started out as a homage to my days at the University, when I first noticed the piquant notes of Gitanes wafting from some subversive undergraduate’s room. It could express and enhance any woman or man’s desire to be subtly different.

www.stephanmatthews.com

Follow Stephan on Twitter: @StephanTweets