At times of trouble, people have always turned to ritual for consolation. Which explains, perhaps, why many of us have found ourselves over the past year and a half drawn to quietly contemplative scents, at the polar opposite end of the perfume spectrum from shoulderpads-in-a-bottle or va-va-voom, ready-to-party fragrances. These blends – in the form of perfume oils – instead offer moments of meditation that stay close to the skin. This style of perfumery dates back to the 1500s and the Mughal emperors of India.
These are intense and concentrated scents – but you’d be wrong to assume that these will announce your presence at 20 paces. ‘Attars don’t necessarily land on the skin with an impactful whomp, as an eau de parfum might,’ says perfumer Nancy Meiland, whose recently-launched GAIA attar has proved a huge hit. ‘They tend to be worn closely and mingle on your skin in warm “nuzzles” that you pick up throughout the day.’ The diffusion of these scents is hushed, whispering intriguingly yet also lingering for longer. ‘They tend to be worn closely and mingle on your skin, giving off warm “nuzzles” that you pick up throughout the day.’
As trend forecaster and fragrance writer for wewerperfume.com Amanda Carr observes, though we’re only just (re)discovering them here, attars are still used in very practical ways in India:
‘Attars are used by the Muslim population in India a little like a wellness boost, and the perfumeries I visited were bustling with families buying their season scents to uplift their health and emotional happiness, also unlike an eau de parfum there is no alcohol to worry about. There are traditional guidelines as to when you wear particular botanicals, cooling vetiver for the hot summer days, along with jasmine and rose, with saffron used during the chiller months for its warming properties. The instore perfumers often gave advice – a bit like a pharmacist – as to which botanical attar could help with a particular malaise.’
Nancy explains that she felt ‘intuitively drawn’ to creating her first attar during the early days of the pandemic. ‘GAIA’s ultra-soothing concentrated blend of Calabrian bergamot, nutmeg and jasmine sambac is centred around blue lotus absolute, which traditionally is seen as “a flower that can open your mind and is powerfully protective during times of transformation.”’
So why now this plethora of perfume oils and attars making their way onto centre stage for the Western market, you may wonder? Nancy asserts it’s quite simple, really; saying [in troubled times]:
‘…we want more magic not less. It’s about working closely with the plants and flower essences and getting to know their properties and benefits. Then combining them so that they don’t crush each other while enhancing each other’s odour profile – the individual notes should sing out in their fullness and create a harmony of scent. There is an alchemy to an attar that works with nature…’
Looking for other perfume oils and attars to have a play with this season? Try some of these sumptuous examples, below: we feel sure that once you discover the delights (and definite mood-enhancing abilities) of attars, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Priced from pocket-friendly to the ultra lust-worthy treat, there’s something to suit everyone…
If your scents suddenly lack depth, add interest with this deliciously fragrant oil. An unexpected mix of spice-infused bergamot and plum with a ‘your-skin-but-so-much-better’, creamy leather dry-down, the warm tingle of amber then simmers for hours. The roller-ball bottle makes this especially useful for travelling (if you’re lucky enough!) or touching up your scent on the go.
Oud du Bois fuse ancient Arabic traditions with Parisian style in their clickable ‘perfume pen’, and stroking on a fragrant OdB balm is a wonderfully sensual way to ‘paint’ the skin with scent. Here, oudh adds a beguiling richness to a bustle of white flowers and lavender atop the patchouli, cedarwood, nutmeg and cardamom fragrance fusion in the base. A daring and vibrant oudh to wear for a boost of immediate confidence.
Fragrance du Bois London Oud Fragrance Pen£39 for 3ml eau de parfum ab-presents.co.uk
Christopher Yu and Laurent Delafon were inspired to create their Ostens collection by the incredible portfolio of naturals from LMR Naturals. Each eau de parfum comes with a ‘Préparation Oil’ which you can layer or enjoy alone. Any and every fragrance in the Ostens portfolio of scents is gorgeous in its own right, but when layered in this way, become eat-your-own-arm divine.
Ostens Rose Oil Isparta£175 for 50ml eau de parfum + complimentary perfume oil ostens.com
Strangelove – from the creative trio of perfumer Christophe Laudamiel, supermodel Helena Christensen and naturals expert Elizabeth Gaynes – put thoroughly sophisticated (and utterly addictive) fragrance oils at the very heart of their collection. We urge you to nuzzle into this hypnotically delicious blend of oudh, stimulating mandarin, purified ginger, deeply magnetic sandalwood and luscious dark chocolate for a sultry scent ritual, with the necklace a nod to traditional ways of carrying precious perfume about the body. (PS: You can also try the entire range of Strangelove fragrances eau de parfum for £60 in our shop!)
Strangelove meltmyheart Perfume Oil Necklace£195 for 1.25ml harrods.com
The LilaNur attars’ prices reflects the meticulous effort to process the precious flowers immediately after harvesting – they’re placed in oil beside the fields they’ve been grown in. Suggesting annointing the palms of your hands and breathing in before applying, it honestly feels like a divine experience – as though your feet have lifted from the ground and angels are singing. A purity and depth we’re unused to, with those few drops carrying you throughout the day.
LilaNur Jasmin Attar Absolu Perfume Oil£340 for 30mlharrods.com
Recently, the tide has turned for salty, marine-themed scents (and PS: they’re not just for summer anymore – evoking glacial lakes and Nordic fjords as well as sun-kissed beaches). But why now this sudden swell of sea-inspired fragrances, you may wonder?
There’s something about the emotional pull of the sea that is eternal. For centuries, it has led philosophers, artists and scientists to pontificate as to exactly why we’re so drawn to the ocean. The Persian mystic Rumi, ruminating on the subject in the 1200s, declared: ‘You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean, in a drop.’ He wasn’t far off, actually.
Modern science has identified that the discovering the human brain is 80% water. More than 70% of the world’s surface is covered by it (over 95% of that yet to be explored). Indeed, it’s hard to disagree with author Arthur C. Clarke, who once astutely remarked: ‘How inappropriate to call this planet Earth when it is quite clearly Ocean.’
So it’s perhaps unsurprising that water exerts such a tidal pull, in our lives. And that as we seek to calm ourselves and reconnect with the elements via our senses, water-inspired scents have been one of the biggest scent trends we’ve seen these last couple of years. These new water-inspired creations don’t simply seek to evoke the ocean, but rivers, waterfalls and deep, coolly inviting lakes. It isn’t only memories of holidays they evoke, either – as lovely as that undoubtedly is during these colder, greyer months; instead, it’s about harnessing the all-year-’round mood-boosting qualities of seascape scents, which we encourage you to paddle and then plunge into, here…
BDK Sel d’Argent
The salty kiss of warm skin, sheer orange blossom shot through with the sparkle of grapefruit and crunchy green galbanum. Think sunlight dancing on waves, somewhere fabulously expensive. £155 for 100ml eau de parfumharrods.com
Thomas Clipper Atlantic
A spirited journey across the sea, with crisp citrus melting to a fuzzy, honeyed blossom; the deeper base of spice-flecked wood and musk a wonderfully evocative nod to adventure.
£99 for 50ml Cologne thomasclipper.com
Montblanc Explorer Ultra Blue
Luminous bergamot shivers to an icy plunge of alpine freshness. The exclusive, silvered patchouli is the scent of wet stones; ambergris, dawn’s mist still clinging. From £35 for 30ml eau de parfumtheperfumeshop.com
Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue Forever Pour Homme
Intensely juicy grapefruit fizzes to a cool, shady breeze of violet leaf and Javan vetiver oil across eerily still water; the base a soft white swathe of musk and patchouli. £55 for 50ml eau de parfumboots.com
Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male on Board
Oh Captain, my Captain! Salt-licked skin tastes of sun-lotion and geranium leaves, a faintly boozy rum-like amber swirled with tonka bean. All aboard! £72 for 125ml eau de toilettelookfantastic.com
Kenzo L’Eau Kenzo Pour Homme Hyper Wave
Inspired by Japanese art’s iconic ‘Hokusai wave’, zesty mandarin invites spontaneity, soaring to the crest before resting on a bed of moss. £46 for 50ml eau de toiletteboots.com
Cartier Rivières de CartierLuxuriance
‘Life is often said to flow like a river,’ reflects Mathilde Laurent, wild botanicals rippled through rosemary, mastic, oak and geranium; a cold knife nestled on a riverbed. £104 for 100ml eau de parfumjohnlewis.com
Nishane EGE / ΑΙΓΑΙΟ
A tribute to the Aegean Sea carrying common bonds between Turkish and Greek culture; yuzu zings through violet leaves, basil and mint to the deliciously sticky olibanum and liquorice base. £275 for 100ml extrait de parfumab-presents.co.uk
Skandinavisk Kapitel 4
The herbaceous green embrace of crab-apple entwined dog rose evokes Scandinavian waterways, damp moss, rock pools and the freedom of ‘navigating with no fixed destination’. £45 for 30ml eau de toiletteskandinavisk.com
Laboratorio Olfattivo Salina
A literal evocation of the sea in all its salty glory, one imagines a message in a bottle tossed on roiling waves, a poem of pine trees and sunlight lustily sung on barnacle-bottomed boats. £90 for 100ml eau de parfumflannels.com
When you think of ‘vintage fragrances’, what do you imagine? If it’s anything musty, dusty and a little bit fusty or, god forbid, that completely hideous (and totally sexist / ageist) phrase ‘old woman-like’ you can banish such sinful thoughts from your mind immediately. What we now think of as classics were once, in their day, utterly shocking – the punk rock of perfumes, totally overthrowing olfactory conventions. Given time (something not all fragrances, sadly, are granted today); these scents became part of our perfumed surroundings, something we all became somewhat familiar with. If we’ve not worn them personally we know people who have, or we recognise the bottles and names at the very least.
There are so many vintage fragrances still around today and going just as strong, that with the annual Goodwood Revival vintage festivalabout to get into full swing, we felt it was the perfect time to reflect on some of these incredible perfumes, and urge you to seek them out to try on your own skin – all of these launched first in the 1920s and are still (fabulously) appropriate to wear in 2022. Think you know vintage? Think again…
Chanel No.5 – launched 1921 Coco Chanel wanted to launch a scent for the new, modern woman she embodied. She loved the scent of soap and freshly-scrubbed skin; Chanel’s mother was a laundrywoman and market stall-holder, though when she died, the young Gabrielle was sent to live with Cistercian nuns at Aubazine. When it came to creating her signature scent, though, freshness was all-important. While holidaying with her lover, Grand Duke Dimitri Pavlovich, she heard tell of a Grasse-based perfumer called Ernest Beaux, who’d been the perfumer darling of the Russian royal family. Over several months, he produced a series of 10 samples to show to ‘Mademoiselle’. They were numbered one to five, and 20 to 24. She picked No. 5 – and yes, the rest is history.
Why it’s still wearable:
After that infamous Champagne-like aldehydic rush, notes of jasmine, rose, vanilla and sandalwood calm the froth, but it still smells incredibly ‘abstract’ with no dominant note the wearer can really make out. It’s timeless, clean but sexy in a so-French way. Perhaps this will be the year you succumb to its charms?
Molinard Habanita – launched 1921
Molinard say that Habanita was the first women’s fragrance to strongly feature vetiver as an ingredient – something hitherto reserved for men, commenting that ‘Habanita’s innovative style was eagerly embraced by the garçonnes – France’s flappers – and soon became Molinard’s runaway success and an icon in the history of French perfume.’ Originaly conceived as a scent for cigarettes – inserted via glass rods or to sprinkle from a sachet – women had begun sprinkling themselves with it instead, and Molinard eventually released it as a personal fragrance.
Why it’s still wearable:
Honeyed tobacco notes and the aforementioned vetiver along with a supremely supple leather manage to distinctly butch up the orange blossom and fruits of the opening, with a floral heart that further ruffles the feathers of gender stereotypes – jasmine and heliotrope saucily winking atop a softly powdered amber base. Truly delightful and thrillingly illicit, it’s a crime not to have tried this at least once in your life, no matter your gender.
Lanvin Arpège – launched 1924
Jeanne Lanvin was a contemporary of Chanel’s, and – like her – began as a milliner and seamstress, founding her own millinery fashion house at Rue du Marché Saint-Honoré. Lanvin’s daughter was her inspiration for the fragrance Arpège.It was conceived for the 30th birthday of her daughter Marie-Blanche, and took its musical reference name from a comment Marie-Blanche made on being shown the first sample, created by perfumers André Fraysse and Paul Vacher: ‘It smells like an arpeggio would’. The spherical black-and-gold bottle was a nod to their love, too, with its silhouette of a mother dressing her daughter (designed by Paul Iribe) is still so recognisable – and covetable – today.
Why it’s still wearable:
A melody of florals – rose, iris, lily, lily of the valley, jasmine, ylang ylang , camellia and geranium – the lasting impression is of being wrapped in warm, white, fluffy towels, a veritable hug in a bottle. As blogger The Candy Perfume Boy observes: The truth is that Arpège has aged rather well and its supple aldehydic floral tones feel strikingly genderless today, making for a throwback floral that would feel perfectly comfortable on any perfume lover (male or female) who may be looking for something with a bit of a vintage edge.’
Guerlain Shalimar – first launched 1921, re-launched 1925
The Champs-Élysées-based perfume house had continued their tradition of launching rich, sumptous fragrances with this now legendary perfume from Jacques Guerlain, complete with lashings of the newly-popular synthetic vanillin. (It prompted Ernest Beaux himself to comment: ‘When I do vanilla, I get crème Anglaise; when Guerlain does it, he gets Shalimar!’) Said to be inspired by the Shalimar Gardens in Srinagar, part of which was laid out by the lovesick Emperor Shah Jehan, in 1619, for the delight of his wife Mumtaz Mahal (meaning ‘Jewel of the Palace’). When she died in childbirth, three years after Shah Jehan took the throne, he build the Taj Mahal in her honour, in Agra. Re-launched in 1925 at the International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts, it harkened to a growing passion for romanticised exoticism in fashion, home decor and fragrance.
Why it’s still wearable:
Oodles of uplifting lemon and bergamot are swirled with night-blooming flowers of heliotrope and jasmine and iris over other famously velvety base notes, including patchouli, benzoin, ambergris, tonka bean, incense, vetiver, sandalwood and musk. Jacques passed that love on to his great-grandson Jean-Paul Guerlain, who’s said: ‘He taught me how to love vanilla, as it adds something wonderfully erotic to a perfume. It turned Shalimar into an evening gown with an outrageously plunging neckline.’ To wear it, at any time, is to add some serious va-va-voom to your presence.
Coty L’aimant – launched 1927
First created by Master Perfumer François Coty in 1927, apparently inspired by the love of his life, Coty L’Aimant (meaning ‘magnet’ in French) has remained popular through the decades for its distinctive, timeless and delicate fragrance combining rose, orchid and golden jasmin softly embraced with sandalwood and vanilla. Fragrance Blogger Sam from I Scent You a Day describes L’aimant as ‘peachy and soapy, with the neroli providing a hint of heady white flowers,’ with ‘a creamy and warm finish and a flourish of powder puff.’
Why it’s still wearable:
It definitely smells delightfully retro, but somehow those aldehydes just keep on fizzing through the ages and refuse to become fusty. As Sam comments, ‘What never ceases to amaze me is that a long lasting perfume of this calibre can still be had for a song,’ while lamenting that ‘It’s a perfume that I would love to smell more people wearing.’ And for that price, you cannot go wrong. Let’s say it’s not quite you… simply spray all your writing paper (or the boudoir curtains) with it – fabulous, dah-ling!
Coty L’aimant £9.99 for 50ml parfum de toilette boots.com
At the time of writing, half the world seems to be on fire or flooding, and the political climate remains turbulent, so it’s hardly surprising increasing numbers of fragrance lovers are turning toward retro smells with misty eyes. But they don’t all have to be whimsical museum pieces, as these definitely wearable scents certainly prove. We’d love to see more men exploring what used to be considered ‘female’ fragrances, too – fragrant ingredients do not have a gender, and these should be worn by bright young (or older) things again, as we head toward 2023, stockings rolled down or otherwise…
In our continuing series scenting popular culture films, books and music, may we present: Perfuming Persuasion – matching characters from the recent Netlfix adaptation of the Jane Austen novel to fragrances we feel really reflect their characters (and, perhaps, yours…?)
It’s a two-way street, this ‘scenting of’, because describing a perfume can be so tricky to acurately convey (there being no distinct words for any smell in the English language). So, bereft of exacting language, we always seek to liken a scent to something else: music, textures, colours, places and, yes people. Then, it suddenly becomes tangible, a thing you get a grasp of and at least partly understand.
Hot on the heels of the annual Jane Austen Festival, in which participants from all over the world get together and dress as their favourite characters or in period clothing to share their love of the pereneially Persuasion is a fabulous film to do this with, because though an adaptation of a classic novel, in style it is distinctly modern, breaking the fourth wall by having characters talk confessionally to the camera as though they’re addressing us directly – think Fleabag, The Favourite and Bridget Jones’ Diary. The costumes, too, display the more contemporary mix of historically acurate and distinctly modern styles (not quite as obviously as Bridgerton, but that was a modern novel set in an almost fantasy historical setting). Allowing Austen’s socially observant humour and tenderness while reflecting the far-reaching aspects of the charcaters we can still relate to today, this 2022 re-telling of Persuasion is ripe for the perfuming we feel!
Netflix says: ‘Persuasion is a story about the one who got away. Eight years after breaking off her engagement with Captain Frederick Wentworth, protagonist Anne Elliot still isn’t over him. As the middle of three sisters, the 27-year-old is isolated and lonely in a family that doesn’t understand her. But when the dashing blast from her past suddenly crashes back into her life, she must choose between real closure or a second chance. Can she stop self-sabotaging long enough to take it? Based on Jane Austen’s final novel, Persuasion is full of quirky, endearing characters that make up Anne’s social circle. Get to know some of them below…’
Anne Elliot (Played by Dakota Johnson): Wilgermain Passion Victim
‘Sarcastic and witty, 27-year-old Anne is the sometimes flawed narrator who takes the audience through the colorful cast of characters that populate her world. When we first meet her, she’s living with her father and older sister, having turned down her big chance at love and happiness almost a decade earlier.’
Unconventionally free-spirited and often caustically socially observant, Anne would wear Passion Victim with aplomb. Not that she’s a victim (other to her darker emotions, at times); but the ‘usual suspects’ (as they put it) of vanilla, cistus and frankincense being shot through with mandarin, feel like they’re floating through motes of gold dust suspended in tendrils of smoke. Simmering with passion it tips over into being truly sublime as it throbs to the dry down.
Captain Frederick Wentworth (played by Cosmo Jarvis) – Jean Paul Gaultier Le Beau Eau de Parfum Intense
‘After being rejected by Anne on the advice of Lady Russell, Wentworth sought a life of adventure in the British Navy. He returns to England as a rich man with far better marriage prospects. But has he forgotten the woman who broke his heart?’
A fragrance inspired by giving in to temptation, this swashbuckling-ly handsome scent has something of a subdued swagger – it’s not in-your-face, but oh how it builds (and sexily so): the bergamot burnishing the exotically creamy coconut in the heart, while addictive tonka bean is enough to make you fully swoon. You feel this is worn by a chap more worldly, wearing his medals with pride rather than ostentation; an intense soul that’s been battle-scarred but ultimately readier to submit to true feelings.
Lady Russell (played by Nikki Amuka-Bird) – To the Fairest Aubine
‘Lady Russell was best friends with Anne Elliot’s late mother, and in her absence acts as a role model, mentor, and confidant. She feels guilty for having pushed Anne away from Wentworth all those years ago, and is constantly trying to make up for it. A widow, she has little desire to remarry, instead taking extended trips to Europe, where she can have sexy continental affairs with no judgment from others, thank you very much.’
A glorious celebration of honeyed light, gardenia, frangipani, and orange blossom feels gilded, as though filtered through amber glass. Embracing the warmth of sunsets and new beginnings, this stunning bouquet of brightness blossoms into something altogether honeyed, assured and humming with secret, self-assured sensuality. The frankincense and woods in the dry-down, meanwhile, offer a welcome hug of reassurance that you’ve got this: keep going!
William Elliot (played by Henry Golding) – Carolina Herrera Bad Boy Cobalt
‘Anne’s rich and eligible cousin who once snubbed her sister Elizabeth by — gasp — marrying an American is what the mothers of Bridgerton would call a “capital-R Rake.” Now, he’s back in England, single once more, and on the prowl for a new wife. Wentworth better watch his back.’
Elegantly ‘redefining a modern masculinity’, the salt-licked breeze segues to contemporarily sophisticated lavender, the heart amplified by a rosy tinged geranium. In the base, confidence abounds absolutely, with addictively moreish truffle enhancing smoked oakwood, vetiver, and ultra-smooth cedarwood. Altogether, this Bad Boy is dashing, dapperly dressed and hard to resist. And he knows it.
Mary Musgrove (played by Mia McKenna-Bruce) – Olfactive O Gourmand
‘Anne’s spoiled, selfish younger sister has a single priority: herself. Married to Charles Musgrove, she treats her husband and children much as she does Anne — as disposable creatures blessed with the opportunity to add to her own comfort and happiness.’
We feel Mary (and those like her who might, shall we say, be prone to dramatising events and casting themselves as very much hard done by) would be well-served by this utterly delectable and soul-soothing scent. It thows a velvet rug over your knees and feeds you chocolate cake still warm from the oven, honeyed rum and a hug. For indulging your every need, every single day, you can’t do better than this.
Elizabeth Elliot (played by Yolanda Kettle) – Contradictions in ILK Nonchalant
‘Elizabeth is widely known as the beauty of the Elliot clan — although it’s entirely possible she started that rumor herself. Vain and haughty, she’s her father Walter’s pride and joy, and the only one who travels with him to Bath in an effort to escape bankruptcy.’
Elizabeth’s reluctance to settle for a suitor lead to many castigating her as self-important, but we wonder if that’s not actually better than being betrothed to someone you loathe for the sake of it? In the spirit of believing in your own worth, then, let’s allow her to arch an eyebrow in this. Redolent of cast-aside love-letters and a dressing table full of fabulous fripperies, ripples of raspberry and red berries are draped in cinnamon-dusted violets and laced with labdanum.
Sir Walter Elliot (played by Richard E. Grant) – Penhaligon’s The Blazing Mr Sam
‘ “My father. He’s never met a reflective surface he didn’t like,” Anne says early on in Persuasion. That pretty much sums up Sir Walter, a spendthrift dandy whose only fatherly instinct is to instruct his children on how to be more like him.’
What could be better for Walter than this warmly woody and sophisticatedly spiced scent that was, so Penhaligon’s tell us, inspired by a gentleman who ‘…lives fast, spends freely and speaks loudly’? Brazen, bursting with confidence and living for the moment, this fragrance makes itself comfortable in the best leather chair at the club, sinking into rich seams of pepper-flecked vanilla and oodles of tobacco (which he’ll pay you back for, no he means it this time.) Smooth, utterly charming, he’s fun to be around if you’re not the one taking responsibility for his actions…
With it being the iconic ‘Last Night of the Proms’ classical music fesitval on Saturday, and having recently delighted in previously ‘Perfuming the Proms‘ for our blog; those wishing to make this a long(er) player of perfume should seek the Music & Perfume edition of The Scented Letter magazine. In it, we traced the harmonious relationship between music and fragrance to its very beginning, but here award-winning writer Amanda Carr looks at the utterly intriguing history of fragranced vinyl through the years…
Vinyl is having something of a moment, with new record stores selling both vintage and new vinyl LPs opening in all the hippest of locations. Imagine our thrill, therefore, when we discovered that vinyl is often sold scented! From Madonna to Stevie Wonder, musicians have perfumed their vinyl grooves to enhance the listening experience.
Fragrances are often inspired by a good tune. The gorgeous Acqua di ParmaNote Di Colonia collection springs to mind, with its appreciation of soaring operatic crescendos, artful preludes and glorious musical scores. On a more modern note, JUSBOX’s collection of fragrances honours musical genres: there’s Cheeky Smile, which celebrates Acid House, alongside Green Bubble, a scented ode to reggae (and yes, there are notes of marijuana in the accord). JUSBOX‘s vinyl-capped bottles can even be found for sale in an actual record shop, the delightful Olympic Studio Records in Barnes. (Disclosure: it’s owned by my husband – which is how I stumbled onto this story in the first place…)
Actually scenting the grooves is an inspired move. It’s no surprise the Queen of Pop, Madonna, dabbled with perfuming her tunes. First pressings of 1989’s ‘Like A Prayer’, were impregnated with the smell of frankincense and patchouli, reinforcing religious connections, along with song tracks such as ‘Oh Father’, and pictures of Madonna’s considerable crucifix jewellery collection. Our much-played copy of the album still carries a shadowy sillage of a rather good patchouli scent, although those earthy, incense vibes remind us more of dressing up and dancing till dawn at parties held in darkened basements rather than the cold stone and incense-heavy interiors of churches.
Stevie Wonder’s ‘Journey Through The Secret Life of Plants’, a title crying out for its own scent, was perfumed with a floral note on its release in 1979, although apparently stopped after reports that the scent – which fans of the record remember as a faint hint of rose – turned out not to be helping the quality of the sound. But technology has since improved considerably and scented vinyl continues to be pressed by modern artists. The Third Man record company, founded by uber-cool musician Jack White, bought its own vinyl factory in Detroit, where its produces top quality vinyl that is often scented. Karen Elson, ex-wife of Mr. White, released ‘The Ghost Who Walks’, in 2010, as a delicate peach coloured vinyl record which is also scented with the dewy aroma of softly sweet peach.
Less artful but still enthusiastically received by fans, the 30th anniversary ‘Ghostbusters: Stay Puft Edition’, a 12-inch double A-side single, released by Sony Music in 2014, was scented with marshmallow in tribute to the film’s giant Stay Puft marshmallow baddy. Singing along to Ray Parker Jr.’s catchy theme tune on one side and Run-DMC’s updated reboot on the other, could surely only be improved with wafts of sugary-sweet vanilla notes coming off the stylus. We can’t help thinking that other film soundtrack albums could use fragrance creatively to add to the sense of fun, for example wouldn’t ‘Mamma Mia’ be even more joyous to sing along to if it pumped out an olfactive scentscape of a sun drenched Greek island alongside the songs…?
With a different angle on the concept, Japanese fragrance house Shiseido once hired musician Hiroshi Noshimura to create a vinyl album entirely inspired by one of its fragrances as an innovative gift-with-purchase idea. The fragrance was called A.I.R (Air In Resort) so the album, which was steeped in the scent, was given the same name. The music complemented the green, forest notes of pine, earth and wood with a sound track of birdsong, the sea and field-based recordings of nature. Customers were were encouraged to listen to the record while appreciating the scent. It’s certainly a step up from the paper tester blotters we’re used to.
And artists, it seems, simply can not resist a scratch-n-sniff album cover. A quick chat on the super-informed Discogs forum, where music fans hang out to talk all things vinyl (there are many similarities between music and perfume fans) turned up a long list of album covers with scent-infused patches used to enhance the listening. The gold standard scented cover is unanimously agreed to be a 1972 release by The Raspberries, with a scratch-and-sniff sticker that smelled very convincingly of…yep, raspberries.
From Duran Duran’s limited edition ‘Perfect Day’ 7-inch single with its strawberry scented ice cream cone cover, to Spinal Tap’s The Majesty Of Rock album, with its scratch-and-sniff sleeve scented with Ye Olde Roast Beef Flavour, via Melanie’s ‘Garden In The City’ – where listeners were encouraged to rub the sticker to ‘release the magic of Melanie’s Garden’ – musicians clearly love to scent their songs.
We say: that makes for a great-smelling record collection. And we’d like to see more of this, please…!
• In Hitting All The Right Notes (above), Viola Levy looks at ways that modern perfumers use music to inspire their creations
• Ofactory consultant Pierre Aulas – who chose perfumery over a career as an opera singer – shares the secrets of his creative days in A Working Nose
• Scent gets social with Smellfie Day 2020, our celebration of International Fragrance Day – which had quite a different message in this strange year
• Suzy Nightingale invites us to enjoy A Scented Symphony, discovering a perfume house with works with instruments, artisans and musicians
• And why note create your own scented playlist? In Listening to Scent, Persolaise invites us to sit back, relax, hit ‘play’
And of course, as usual, we bring you all the Latest Launches, news, events – and so much more!
We are now able to take orders for a limited run of printed copies of the magazine, priced £12.50 to our VIP Subscribers (£15 to non-VIPs). And remember: you can now also buy an annual print subscription to The Scented Letter (six issues), here
(NB Print copies are sent out approximately 10 days after each new issue of The Scented Letter appears on the website, so please bear with us. We work right up to the wire to make sure everything is truly newsworthy!)
Following a fragrant trail, we present for your delectation a selection of the choicest scented snippets from history. You don’t have to be a history buff (or anorak – though we proudly claim that title at Perfume Society Towers!) to be bewitched by the history of fragrance. We know it’s been used to communicate with the Gods, to seduce, as a display of wealth – or for pure pleasure – for thousands of years. (And perhaps much longer, even if archaeologists can’t yet find the tangible proof through their excavations.)
Perfume’s fascinating trail leads us from Ancient Egypt to Ancient Greece, to Rome – where rosewater played in fountains – and up to France, where Louis XIV’s court was known as ‘la cour parfumée‘, with the king demanding a different fragrance for every single day…
Egyptian priests, and their Pharoahs, were entombed with fragrances – and when those tombs were opened by archaeologists, in 1897, the perfumes were discovered to have retained their original, sweet smells. Important figures in Egyptian history were buried with scented oils, to ensure their ‘olfactory needs’ were fulfilled.
Many of those ingredients are still prized in perfumery today. Jasmine, hand-picked in the morning. Frankincense resin, still gathered from the Boswellia shrub, with entire forests cloaking areas of Oman, Yemen, Ethiopia. (Egyptian Queen Hatsheput was apparently crazy for frankincense: wall paintings on her temple, showing a large-scale expedition to collect frankincense from the ancient land of Punt.) They used Nile lotus, myrrh, madonna lilies, honey…
If the art of ancient perfumery was to have a ‘face’, a figurehead, it would surely be Cleopatra. As legend tells it, she had the the sails of her boat coated with fragrant oils before setting to sea: ‘The perfumes diffused themselves to the vessel to the shore, which was covered with multitudes.’ Her idea was that Mark Antony would get a waft of her arrival even before he caught sight of her. As Shakespeare put it:
‘The barge she sat in, like a burnish’d throne,
Burn’d on the water; the poop was beaten gold,
Purple the sails, and so perfumed that
The winds were lovesick with them…
… From the barge, a strange invisible perfume hits the sense…’
(Which neatly explains the name of a niche Californian fragrance brand, Strange Invisible Perfumes, NB.)
Public baths were The Big Thing in Ancient Rome, with the affluent classes devoted to body care. Think: balms, oils, perfumes for skin, hair – and living spaces. (Food had to appeal to the nose as well as the palate, too, through spicy aromas.) Even public spaces might be scented: Emperor Nero was so crazy about roses, he had silver pipes installed so that his dinner guests could be spritzed with rosewater. (According to legend, he once shelled out £100,000 for a ‘waterfall’ of rosepetals which actually smothered one guest, killing him. Quite a way to go.)
Marco Polo brought exotic aromatics and scented goods back to his home city of Venice. The great explorer returned laden with fragrant treasures from the new civilisations he’d discovered, on his voyage. This major trading hub flourished for a while as the centre of the perfume world. Almost everything was perfumed: shoes, stockings, gloves, shirts, even coins. Glamorous women carried or wore a silver version of the pomander, wafting trails of scent through the little perforations, as they moved, helping to block out the fetid smells of the streets and canals. Meanwhile, doctors wore long robes and bird-like masks stuffed with aromatic herbs to shield themselves against epidemics (including deadly plague).
Queen Elizabeth I beckoned Venetian traders to Southampton to offer their scented wares: it became fashionable to wear musk- and rose-scented pomanders and sachets, in particular. But soon, the epicentre of perfumery moved from Italy to France – thanks to the influence of Queen Catherine de Medici (above), who married King Henri II in 1533. Until then, French enjoyment of the scent world was mostly in the form of little scented sachets (called ‘coussines’) or moulded clay bottles (known as ‘oilselets de chypre’). But Catherine brought with her from her native Tuscany scented gloves, the perfume used to mask the unpleasant aroma of poorly-tanned leather. At the same time, her personal perfumer set up shop in Paris, where he was besieged by orders.
Those beautiful swathes of purple lavender patches that swathed the countryside might be gone – the plants are all harvested during August, the best to capture their fragrant oils – but we’ve some suggestions for true lavender scents to revive the sesnes and keep that feeling of late Summer going, year-round…
While lavender’s almost universally accepted as aesthetically pleasing and, of course, soothing to the senses; many fragrance fans unfairly discount a dominant note of lavender in perfumery as being ‘old-fashioned’ perhaps recalling scented drawer-sachets or bath salts that rarely use the high quality, perfume-grade lavender, and instead the far cheaper, dusty-old-drawer smelling low quality essential oil or even poorly made synthetic lavender. Judge not, oh ye of little fragrance faith, until you have read on!
Known in Provence as ‘blue gold’, the best lavender used in perfumery tends to be grown in higher altitudes, and often doesn’t at all resemble what we think we know lavender smells of. Pure lavender essential oil can be spicy, peppery, herbaceous, misty, smoky or green and many cannot identify the note when asked to sniff blind.
With lavender having a resurgence as a note to rediscover in contemporary fragrances we suggested you try, it is also important to appreciate those British classics that have withstood the test of time, and fragrances that cherish it as the “hero note” – revelling in their true lavender love.
You can read more about the history of lavender’s use in perfumery on our fascinating Ingredients section of the website, but in the meantime, here’s our edit of the absolute must-try lavender scents. And every time you spray, you can keep summer alive that little bit longer…
Freshly aromatic with a twist of eucalyptus and rosemary with the traditional lavender, the heart is a tender bouquet of geranium, rose and orange flower, with an earthier base of patchouli and musk for a dusky trail… Bronnley Lavender £17.25 for 50ml eau de toilette
Buy it at bronnley.co.uk
Atkinsons Lavender On the Rocks
We love the typically English eccentricity of Atkinsons, who play up to their heritage with a nod and a wink from the styling of their bottles to the fragrances themselves. 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 of lavender’s complex character is allowed to shine. £120 for 100ml eau de parfum
With a green hay-like sweetness, this is Yardley London’s signature fragrance. Beautifully elegant, lavender leaves enhance the freshness on top, then the oil is infused with neroli and clary sage, geranium, sandalwood and tonka for a smooth dry-down… Yardley English Lavender £15.99 for 125ml eau de toilette
Buy it at Boots
One of the very first flowers distilled by founder Olivier Baussan, L’Occitane uses lavender directly sourced from farmers’ cooperatives in Haute-Provence. This new aromatic tribute to their homeland is the softest way there is to soothe frazzled nerves, being further grounded by sandalwood and white musk. Simply beautiful! L’Occitane White Lavender Limited Edition £54 for 50ml eau de toilette
Buy it at uk.loccitane.com
Fragrance and literature have a scented symbiosis, a way of piercing beneath layers of logic to reach our most instinctive emotions. They tap into deep-seated memories, dare us to dream, and share the power to make us feel a certain way, even if we don’t fully understand why. Consequently, English Literature is a particularly bountiful resource for perfumes – so many have taken inspiration from the pages of novels, hoping to evoke the atmosphere of the story itself, or exemplify famous characters through the ages.
This cultural crossover allows us to indulge in our greatest fragrant fantasies, immersing ourselves further in the myriad escape routes from reality we’re beckoned toward within a library (or fragrance department); adding an extra olfactory appreciation for the world the author has created and, consequentially, giving greater context to the perfumer’s composition.
Writers frequently allude to other senses when attempting to fully plunge the reader into a plot – the most skilled wielding the sense of smell as another character, almost, or underlining that most private, inner world the other characters inhabit. On the subject of smell and literature, of course we most often think of the brilliantly disturbing Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind, but as Catherine Maxwell reflects in her interdisciplinary and scholarly tome, Scents & Sensibility: Perfume in Victorian LiteraryCulture, ‘Smell’s evocative capacity, its connection to atmosphere and memory, make it a potent means of registering the particularity of a historical and cultural moment.’ Even if it’s not actual fragrances the author refers to in their work, Maxwell explains, ‘Culture is still a factor for those more conservative aesthetes who prefer natural scents to to perfumed products; the flowers they enjoy are frequently enhanced with mythic or literary association.’
Whatever their procilvities, both author and perfumer have stories to tell: one in the words they choose to play with on the page, the other via scented chapters that slowly unfurl on your skin. Those of you who cannot suppress the almost iressistible urge to vigorously rub your wrists together having spritzed a fragrance might like to know this unnaturally warms up the top notes and makes them evaporate more quickly.
Some (rather melodramatically) say this ‘destroys the perfume’, but I prefer to liken it to flicking through the first few pages of a book – yes, you’ll still get a sense of the story, but you may have missed some vital clues to the fragrant characters within; the narrator setting the scented tone, if you will.
Nothing worse than accidentally landing on a page and finding out whodunnit before you even know who’s who to do anything to. The same is true of a fragrance – allow it to settle in properly before you make a hasty decision. Now, with that perfumed preface out the way, I’ll dismount the lectern so we can dive into the scented stories themselves, and discover which you might be best paired with, for as Master Perfume Jean -Calude Ellena says:
‘Perfume is a story in odour, sometimes a poetry in memory…’
Sarah Baker Parfums Far From the Madding Crowd
Juxtaposing idyllic pastoral scenes with simmeringly intense emotions, this fragrance references Thomas Hardy’s book of the same name, seeking to evoke an atmosphere that is, to quote Baker, ‘simultaneously exquisitely beautiful and cruelly unforgiving.’ Amidst the beautiful note of helitrope – a flower that often grows wild among ancient hedgerows – dangerous declarations and balmy evenings are poised betwixt the romantic idealism of a country picnic. Think long summer grasses, orchards filled with fallen fruits, wide meadows to run through in gauzy gowns, willows to sit beneath while passionately pining.
Renowned for her androgynous pen name, Sand was ‘the incarnation of the first modern woman’, and forms a central part of the brand’s literary leanings (which include an intriguing voyage via their 1828 Jules Verne and the rather more risqué 1740 Marquis de Sade). This vibrant throb of a scent tempts the senses with succulent pineapple before lavishly decorating with tall vases of white flowers and coming to rest on the warm, ambered sensuality of the spices that ripple throughout. If ‘fruity’ fragrances have previously made you recoil, come back into the fold with this utterly grown-up and bosomy embrace.
A writer, traveller and strong yet gentle man who spent a lot of time in Paris, this fragrance was not only inspired by one of his poems, the office he wrote in and the materials he used – it radiates a sense of his poetic soul. A refined and ultra smooth blend of sophisticated spices are seamlessly stirred through orris butter, rose and Oud Palao. Ah, but this is a sheer, spacious and uplifting oud that speaks of wooden desks, piles of papers, the gentle scratch of a fountain pen on parchment and writing as the sun sets. An elegantly comforting scent that feels immediately timeless, how perfect for perfumer Pissara Umavijani to honour her literary father in this way, and what an honour for us, the wearers, to share it.
Author Claude Farrère was a close friend of Jacques Guerlain, so when Farrère included a Guerlain fragrance in his novel Opium Smoke, describing ‘Jicky poured drop by drop onto the hands blackened by the drug’, Jacques was thrilled at the symbiosis and returned the favour by naming one of his greatest ever creations after a character in Farrès novel La Bataille. Conjuring romanticism as see through a woman’s eyes, this scent is a complex unfurling of cinnamon infused, milk-lapped plump peach skin, the oakmoss trail that lingering beguilingly for hours. The masterful current reformulation by Thierry Wasser is as close as we’ll get to the original, thanks to oakmoss restrictions, but oh it’s a must-sniff for literary and perfume lovers alike.
In a turnaround of the usual perfume inspiration process (fragrances based on books), here’s one that began life as a scent that only existed in a novel, The Scent of Possibilty, written by the perfumer and founder of the house, Sarah McCartney. Finally realeased as a fragrance it shimmers with all the mystique of a Marrakesh Medina – an ultra classic amber base of dark labdanum balsam and soft vanillin that blooms in the heat to encompass ‘a whole spice market.’ Puncuated by fizzing pops of pink pepper, an aromatic breeze of juniper berries and basil, the scent invites an imaginary bird’s-eye view of the scene it’s set in, ‘swooping low over the bustling square, Jemaa el-Fnaa’, freshly-squeezed oranges and all.
In Henry James’ eponymous novel, protagonist Isabel Archer sulks her way through immaculate gardens, burdened by blessings of too much beauty, intelligence and wealth [#thoughtsandprayers] while James himself seems to scamper behind, awed by her melancholy and reflecting that ‘a visit to the recesses of one’s spirit was harmless when one returned from it with a lapful of roses.’ Dominique Ropion’s fragrance leads the wearer face-first into that lap, a rambunctiously sexualised and swaggeringly confident portrait of the woman she might have been, perhaps; the shadier bowers ravaged for ripe berries, lips stained vermillion from their juice, petals torn as velvety pocketfulls of roses are ripped from their stems. A page-turner on the skin, for sure.
The Sandman is currently Netflix’s number one show – topping the trending and most-streamed charts, delighting the majority of fans of the original comic books (an occurence so rare even Neil Gaiman surely couldn’t have dreamed it) and reviving the shrivelled black hearts of mostly-ex-goths (such as myself) the world over. There’s a cultural significance to this resurgence of the Sci-Fi / Fantasy genre taking over new generations, a yearning for other worlds, for escapism. Seeing as the most instantaneous escape route is through our sense of smell – it being directly plugged into our limbic sytem, the part of our brain associated with memories, emotions and survival intincts – it seemed only natural to continue our series of perfume pairings with a spolier-free scenting of The Sandman…
To truly do justice to the multiverse intricacies of The Sandman storyline(s) would take many more thousands of words than I have room for here, so for those of you not familiar with either the comic book series or the Netflix adaptation, I would suggest you just start watching or reading, along with a perusal of The Sandman Wiki on fandom.com if you want to explore more. Basically put, in the Wiki’s words:
‘When Dream is unexpectedly captured and held prisoner for a century, his absence sets off a series of events that will change both the dreaming and waking worlds forever. To restore order, Dream must journey across different worlds and timelines to mend the mistakes he’s made during his vast existence, revisiting old friends and foes, and meeting new entities — both cosmic and human — along the way.’
I would suggest for full immersion, you should burrow down various rabbit holes of your own, The Sandman has always been a springboard for further research and I promise your time will be well-rewarded.
Before we get to the wafting of various fragrant suggestions, I should address the fact that, on first hearing a live-action adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics was being made, I shrank like a salted slug.
For me, and countless others like me, these weren’t merely comic books or entertaining tales cleverly told, they were part of what made me who I am. That sounds increbibly melodramatic, but from being enthralled by the stories, venturing in various dusty comic book shops around the country and causing a sensation in some (a GIRL had crossed the threshold), through to following the threads of literature, metaphysical mythology, philosophy and history woven throughout; they proved transformational.
With every newly published edition, an increasing passion for gaining goth attire that might be accquired from boutiques within the vicinity of Tunbridge Wells (no mean feat), lashing on liberal layers of black eyeliner and a quest to burrow down the endless rabbit holes of research burned within my soul. I hold Neil Gaiman and the artists he collaborated with at least partially responsible for constructing the weirdo that sits before you, typing this.
So yes, along with everyone who’s ever endured the prospect of a favourite book ‘coming to a screen near you’, I shrank, somewhat aghast the televisual types might RUIN it. And by ‘ruin’ of course I mean not do it exactly as I never even knew I wanted.
I should have known better.
With Neil Gaimain himself firmly at the helm of the adaptation as Executive Producer, his creative fingers involved in every pie – casting, writing, filmography; hell, he might even have personally coiffured the actors’ hair for all I know (in fact that was veteran makeup and hair designer Graham Johnston, but you get what I mean) – the first two main Sandman storylines, Preludes & Nocturnes and The Doll’s House, have been intricately merged to form a single, breathtaking story. Due to the myriad complexities of entwining two full stories, and the often abstract, metaphysical way those stories are told, of course some changes had to be made, but the true spirit, the unique aesthetic, is unmistakably omnipresent and seeing the characters on the screen feels like meeting dear old friends again.
Now, if you’ve got this far, well done, and thank you for indulging this intermingling of my interests. But you might be wondering what the point is of matching perfumes to anything, let alone a TV show. It is this: fragrance is famously an invisible entity that’s tricky to convey in any format to someone who’s not yet smelled it for themselves. You must navigate the emotional maze of instinctively cultural and personal associations while attempting to clearly explain the concept without merely relying on a list of fragrance notes – which is as useless as a shopping list is to tasting the finished meal, or the names of paints are to understanding the deeper meaning an artist is hoping to project. In writing it becomes trickier still, the fact being there are no words ascribed exclusively for smells (other than negative connotations) in the English language. A bit of a stumper for writer and reader alike, then.
So, we fragrance journalists grasp at allusions and similies – colours, textures, tastes, places and people to conjure the spirit of scent in your imagination. Not exactly as though it had just been sprayed in front of you, more like you’d just woken from a dream in which it figured, and the scent of it still lingered on waking, like motes of dream dust glinting in the first golden fingers of dawn.
For painting a lyrical portrait of a fragrance, focussing on people (or, in this case, beings) to liken them to can be incredibly useful because just as we might feel beckoned by a particular character in a book or on screen, matching a fragrance to that character can help us understand something of the perfume’s own personality. It’s a shortcut to a common understanding. Each fragrance has, I believe, a scented soul, if you will, which means we can immediately feel at one with it or, conversely, borrow a perfumed persona utterly unlike our own to wear as a cloak of concealment or a shield of bravery as required.
The characters in The Sandman are perfectly suited for perfume-pairing, in my (admittedly weird, geeky) opinion, so I’ve attempted to do that with some of the cast here; but even if you’re not already a fan, I hope at least one of the following will beckon to you…
Lord Morpheus, Dream of the Endless (played by Tom Sturridge) – edeniste, Dream Lifeboost®
With the world on his shoulders as he poetically mopes his way through centuries of catastrophies, it’s definitely time for ol’ Morph to soak up the soothing nuances of this aromatic herbal musk. The house worked with neuroscientists and two of the world’s top perfumers – Aurelien Guichard and Jérôme di Marino – to ensure the perfume ingredients properly hit the spot. Spanish labdanum essence reminds you of warm skin and cuddles (which he could probably do with) snuggled in the softest white musks evoking that feeling of sinking into a plumptious feather bed. Promising to ‘foster peaceful dreams’ and advising the wearer to ‘open yourself to a pure, soothing vision of the world surrounding you, and let go’ he should probably have it in an IV drip. FYI: You can read more about this revolutionary wellbeing brand on our page dedicated to edeniste.
Death (Played by Kirby-Howell Baptiste) – Papillon, Anubis
Usually personified as some tall dude in a medieval hoodie who’s either ominously looming about the place or playing chess, Gaiman’s Death is rather lovely. Sweet-natured and caring, with a perceptive understanding of human nature, she carefully eases poor souls into her realm when she can and is the much-needed counterpart to her younger brother’s perplexed moping. This fragrance would suit her wonderfully – being inspired by the Egyptian God of the afterlife, Anubis ’embodies the sacred mysteries of Ancient Egypt’ with sultry swags of jasmine enrobed in rich suede and smouldering swathes of woody incense. Rippled with the ambered hay-like notes of immortelle, speckled with pink lotus and saffron, it’s a scent that leaves you feeling sheerly veiled in magnificent mysteries.
Desire (Played by Mason Alexander Park) – Memoize London, Black Avaritia
The twin of Despair, Desire is irresistibly glamorous with a streak as cruel as they are beautiful. You might say they have ‘issues’ (more issues than Vogue, darling). Riddled with something of a younger-sibling complex, revelling in their complexities, even; Desire often attempts to meddle in Dream’s affairs for their own gain. You might want to dislike them, but there’s something that speaks to the lust in our souls that cannot help but fall in love. True sensorialists will adore revelling in their own decadence with this scent, then – a perfumed plunge into ‘the essence of indulging all of your wants and needs in abundance.’ With a honeyed grapefruit warmth that doesn’t feel so much sun-kissed as full on snogged with tongues, the sumptuous violet / oudh smokiness twists into an addictive woody vanilla base that will have you yearning for more, more, MORE.
Despair (Played by Donna Preston) – Contradictions in ILK, Devious
The twin of Desire, we don’t get to see a huge amount of Despair in this first season, much of their time being spent marvelling at humans at the end of their tether. Extremely close to Desire, the two spend much time scheming against their elder brother (poor Morpheus). There’s a fabulously seductive urge to lean into one of our darkest depths within this scent – a hugely liberating invitation to ‘delve into the forbidden thoughts that whirr silently without sensor.’ Drowsily lulling the senses with a boozy cherry liqueur, the sweetness is stirred through with bitter almond and a dry hiss of spices – nutmeg and cardamom seguing into sticky vanilla beans, nutty tonka and creamy sandalwood. I imagine wearing this while reclining on a chaise in a boudoir, reading tear-stained love letters tied in frayed, scarlet velvet ribbons and delighting in my own sulkiness.
Lucienne(Played by Vivienne Acheampong) – The Perfumer’s Story, Old Books
Chief librarian, guardian of The Dreaming and perhaps the most trusted confidant of Dream himself, Lucienne has rather more responsibilities than issuing fines for late returns. A reminder of how useful librarians can be – and how vital libraries are to the human soul – anyone who proudly counts themselves a bibliophile or even (*whispers cautiously*) a book-sniffer, should immediately file this fragrance under Most Wanted. Hushed incense curls through motes of dust dancing on hazy, sepia-toned memories, as properly earthy patchouli, amber-veined vetivert and cooling cedar slowly evanesce. It speaks to those who relish nothing more than rifling the depths of slightly dank basements filled with ancient manuscripts, of climbing Edwardian wooden steps (the ones that slide) and finding the whole experience deliciously, subversively sexy, somehow.
Lucifer Morningstar (Played by Gwendoline Christie) – Robert Piguet, Bandit
User reviews of Bandit online range from ‘a bit scary’ to ‘a beastly mechanical terror.’ I kind of get what they’re saying – this leather and smoke scent is like wearing a whip’s kiss. It hisses at you, all airy aldehydes popping in the manner of a shaken Champagne bottle, darkness and light personified as burned rubber and the hot, greased chains from a motorbike suddenly unravel to reveal preternaturally pristine white flowers. Hugely sophisticated yet beguilingly unsettling, one can only imagine the gasps of terror when this was first launched in 1944; it’s one for outcasts, those with a reputation that precedes them, and who’d like their perfume to as well. If you’re not aware of Germaine Cellier, the deliberately devilish perfumer who composed it – look her up. She would have approved this pairing. It can be tricky to source the original, so for those less overtly Luciferian, try the newer Bandit Suprême, which glowers less gloatingly.
Johanna Constantine(Played by Jenna Coleman) – Eris Parfums, Scorpio Rising
Swaggering with all the sass one would expect of Johanna, a dry smouldering of spices sizzles to an ambery explosion of incense, smoke, and leather. ‘Like the astrological sign it’s inspired by,’ they say, it’s ‘beautiful but dangerous, magnetic but formidable.’ Dangerously spellbinding, this scent feels like it grants you extra powers, which Ms Constantine will certainly need on her chosen career path as necromancer and demonologist for hire. If you’re casting out otherworldly entities and dealing with Morpheus’s moody mumblings as a day (or night) job, you’d certainly require something emboldening to the soul. This fragrance does the deed in a bewitching performance that radiates ravishingly for hours.
John Dee (played by David Thewlis) – Calvin Klein Eternity for Men
John Dee unwittingly echoes the bleak words of Larkin’s This Be the Verse, ‘They f**k you up, your mum and dad. / They may not mean to, but they do. / They fill you with the faults they had / And add some extra, just for you.’ I feel he should cleave to the comfort of a scent that’s become a timeless classic since its launch in the 90s. A soapy froth of lavender, lemon and lily of the valley becomes sharper as it grows, a harder, metallic egde slicing through the cleanliness via the piquancy of juniper and geranium, while the base is wreathed in white floral notes – lily, jasmine, orange blossom, which ‘reject the notion of love as nothing more than whirlwind romance, choosing to focus instead on the timeless power of eternal commitment.’ Though Dee might want to reflect on that phrase and consider chasing its more romantic notions rather than an overhwhelming obsessiveness (I nearly chose Klein’s Obsession as an alternative), there’s no doubt it’s a scent you’ll want to keep going back to.
The Corinthian(Played by Boyd Holbrook) – Serges Lutens, Dent de Lait
You know those people who can assume the expression of slightly alluring approachability by smiling with their eyes in selfies (‘smizing’ as Tyra Banks memorably put it in America’s Next Top Model)? Well, meet the ultimate smizer: The Corinthian. The problem of scenting him was solved on remembering this little number. It’s suitably charming at first, a toothsome softness recalling happy childhood memories of eating a paper bag full of milk chews from the newsagents. But then, there’s a creeping realisation of the name’s true meaning as it settles on the skin. Translating as ‘milk tooth’, its inspiration, says Lutens, was the memory of a child losing its first tooth. Yes indeed. And if that concept disturbs you, don’t watch the campaign video. Fusing the electric crackle of aldehydes with almond milk and incense, right at the end there’s a metallic sharpness you can’t quite place. But don’t worry, it’s not your teeth The Corinthian is after. He’s all about the eye contact…
Cain(Played by Sanjeev Bhaskar) – Boy Smells, Tantrum
Most siblings have felt the urge to murder each other at least once a week, it seems, but Cain notoriously (and repeatedly) scratches that particular itch. Residing in a darling little cottage with said sibling in the Dream Realm, he’s not without his niceties – a softer side revealed in his love for their pet gargoyle – so something with an edginess that nevertheless manages to be secretly lovely is called for. Bring on Boy Smells fittingly named Tantrum, which is better behaved than the name suggests, but still strikes out with a punch of peppercorn splintering the woodiness of cedar. There’s oodles of grounding vetiver infusing the base, thank goodness, as senses are further soothed by the addition of powery orris. Embracing the ethos of ‘better out than in’ might not always be advisable, but I say spray this one with abandon.
Abel (Played by Asim Chaudry) – Bruno Fazzolari, Corpse Reviver
Created by perfumer and synesthetic artist Fazzolari, this ominous-sounding but actually utterly delicious scent was created as an addictive antidote to rouse the hungover back to the land of the living. Rather fitting, then, for poor, frequently buried Abel, who could do with some instant reanimation on a regular basis. Rosemary-flecked blood orange and a welcome shot of warming whiskey awaken the forest-y shadows of cypress, while a fragrant feast of dark chocolate and the salty, animalic purr of civet are swirled through the calming creaminess of vanilla. I feel this would infintely appeal to his sweet tooth (he’s fond of a reviving cuppa with a side of cake to calm his nerves, after all), and really a fabulous fragrance is the very least of what he deserves.
Matthew the Raven(Voiced by Patton Oswalt) – 4160 Tuesdays, Court of Ravens
Matthew is Dream’s emissary and can travel between worlds as a handy observer / advisor. Not that Morpheus listens to him as often as he should. Matthew is a wittily sarcastic cynic, as well he might be, having once been human and, as the Sandman Wikki explains, ‘had a car accident and is tricked into being possessed by his wife’s evil shapeshifting uncle.’ Well these things happen, and because he dies in the dreaming he becomes part of that world. Why, apart from the name, is this his signature scent? It’s got all the dryness of a Chypré’s oakmoss mixed with singed rose petals and incense, to which perfumer Sarah McCartney added Yakima peppermint, French lavender, cumin and pink grapefruit: ‘To bring glossy black glints of ravens’ wings, shining as they catch the light.’ A handsome devil, and knows it.
[Addendum]: I wrestled with including Roderick Burgess – the embodiment of ‘be careful what you wish for’ – in this, because his story is central to the first few episodes, and the decisions he makes are central to, well, everything. But for the sake of completeness, instead of describing his character and risk spoilering (which should be reclassified as a cardinal sin), and because a friend on social media asked what my pairing would have been for him and I immediately knew; I shall add my answer here in full:
Roderick Burgess (Played by Charles Dance) – Commes Des Carçon, Series 3 Incense Avignon
I would choose Commes des Garçon Series 3 Avignon for Roderick Burgess. There are lots of other options, but my mind kept circling back to this. It’s actually based on Catholicism, the ‘bells and smells’ parts, but like much of what Burgess does – it’s a cleaving, amidst the darkness, for comfort. For certainty. Avignon is old, cold incense. It’s snuffed candles and dusty cellars. It’s charred church pews and chalk circles, a trembling silence that throbs through the centuries.
It was with great sadness that we learned Issey Miyake had died today, August 9th, 2022, at the age of 84. The word ‘iconic’ is often attributed to designers and fragrances alike, but rarely have we seen such a designer who seemed to effortlessly span both worlds, becoming legendary in his own lifetime while greatly contributing to the innovation of each.
Known for his masterclasses in ‘simplicity’ (in fact, so intricately designed fabric seemed to want to naturally fall in the shapes he sculpted from them), the fragrances from the house of course followed suit – these are scents that seem to drape the skin in softness, nature tamed to match his purity of vision within each perfume.
The most beloved of these has to be L’Eau d’Issey, first launched in 1992, with Jaques Cavallier composing a seamless silkiness via a silvery ripple of aquatic notes – Miyake’s inspiration being a scent that smelled ‘as pure as a waterfall’ – atop delicate, dew-dappled blossoms such as lotus flowers and powdery peonies.
Even the bottle has become iconic in its own right, for the design of which, say Issey Miyake Parfums, ‘he imagined a sharp and slender silhouette, whose lines recall a suspended drop. The metal cap, topped by a ball, evokes a personal memory: a night in Paris where the moon was shining at the top of the Eiffel Tower.’
For L’Eau d’Issey Homme, meanwhile, which launched in 1994, Cavallier crafted an herbaceous breath of fresh air that floated freshly crushed leaves of lemon verbena, tarragon and sage within a wave of juicy citrus; notes of water lilly melding with a misty woodiness that married this more masculine version with that of the original fragrance. Again, a scent that wasn’t just ahead of its time but feels timeless to wear.
Juxtaposed with the tail-end of those shoulder-pads-in-a-bottle fragrances that had swaggered their way through the 1980s, it was clear (as a waterfall) that Miyake had drawn a line under excess, marking a new era of paired-back perfumes that still resonates and feels fresh to this day.
Our Co-Founder Lorna Mckay spoke about his innovation, and more than this, the importance of Issey Miyake’s vision of truly entwining the worlds of fragrance and fashion:
‘Issey Miyake was an icon of cool and creativity in fashion AND fragrance. L’Eau d’Issey was groundbreaking in 1992 for its fresh aquatic smell in a simple and stunning bottle, reflecting water and waterdrops as well as being a “uniscent” fragrance loved by so many. His fine Japanese culture resonated with so many people looking for something different from the hedonistic culture of the 80’s. So many happy memories… and I am still a fan of wearing the fragrance and clothing today! Thank you Issey Miyake for your stylistic contribution to the world of fragrance and fashion.’
Fellow Co-Founder Jo Fairley had the honour of being present at the press launch of L’Eau d’Issey, meanwhile, and recalls:
‘It was a pinch-me moment as a fragrance writer to be at the very launch of L’Eau d’Issey, at a breakfast event hosted in the basement of Issey Miyake’s store in Brompton Cross. Perfumer Jacques Cavallier was there, as was the hugely inspiring Mr. Miyake himself, and what we smelled was like nothing that had gone before. Airy, liquid, seemingly ephemeral, it lasted on the skin: cool, woody, truly gender-neutral – and in the most exquisite bottle. Issey Miyake proved that less really can be more…’
As for tributes, we can think of none more fitting than to wear one of the Issey Miyake fragrances you love most, or perhaps to seek one out and try it for yourself if you’re yet to discover them. We’re certain they will still be talked about, worn and treasured for many years to come.
Save your cart?
We save your email and cart so we can send you reminders - don't email me.
By browsing our site or closing this message, you agree to store Cookies by us and third-party partners. Cookies enable certain functions on our site, let you access your account, place orders, allow us to analyse website traffic and usage, and personalise content. We also share certain information about your usage of our site with analytics partners. Find out more.