Perfumery may have its roots in the Middle East, but when the history of perfume is written hundreds of years from now, the founder of The Fragrance Kitchen will have done its bit to keep that fascinating, scent-centric part of the world a focus of its ongoing story.
After a pop-up appearance a couple of years ago, The Fragrance Kitchen is now back at Selfridges with a more permanent spot in the new Fragrance & Candle Space – and its founder and driving force, Sheikh Majed Al-Sabah, will be making an appearance there tonight (21st July 2016) between 8–9.30pm.
The super-cool sheikh is the grandson of the 10th emir of Kuwait, who became the darling of designers the world over via his fashion boutiques. A few years back, he decided to move into perfumery – a life-long passion – putting a very 21st Century spin on scent.
Few perfume houses are as active on social media as TFK; when Sheikh Majed Snapchatted a video of himself at a previous personal appearance in the Oxford Street department store, the counter was rammed. (On Instagram, TFK also has a pretty wowzer 17,000+ followers.) But while he may be something of a ‘pop star’ of perfumers, his passion is 100% real, and goes all the way back to childhood.
‘My grandmother taught me how to blend oils when I was a child,’ he explains; that’s where his passion for ingredients like oudh and rose can be traced back to. ‘She was a very humble lady, who just passed away,’ the sheikh told us. ‘She was a very good cook and I always say: good cooks are good noses, and if you know what goes with what, perfumery needn’t be scary…’
Growing up, friends and family would ask the sheikh to create fragrances for them – and later, Tom Ford (whose designs he had very successfully distributed) did the same: Arabian Wood, the fragrance Sheikh Majeed created for the designer, is apparently a bestseller in that range around the world.
The pace of The Fragrance Kitchen – whose inspiration is ‘East Meets West’ – is as fast as it gets in fragrance. Imagine a new launch, every six weeks or so, somewhere in the world. ‘We experiment. Some fragrances become part of the permanent collection, others are more fleeting.’ The fragrances are blended at home in Kuwait and ultimately produced in Grasse, where he travels several times a year: this is fine French perfumery, but from a Kuwaiti brand.
Each stockist for The Fragrance Kitchen – and here, that’s exclusively Selfridges – will offer perfumes that are nowhere else in the world; the Oxford Street store’s first ‘TFK Special’ was the woody-leathery Spike Odyssey, inspired by the David Bowie song. Right now, among the 60+ scents on The Fragrance Kitchen’s counter, you’ll find two new exclusive additions created to mark the celebration of Eid. You can read the evocative stories for Bindi Ballet and Bindi Twist below. (On our scent wishlist, meanwhile, are Naughty Patchouli and Amber Alert…)
But when the Sheikh breezed into town a little while back, we asked him to share with us his five favourite smells – always a very revealing exercise. Before we share with you the story of his new fragrances, here’s what Sheikh Majed Al-Sabah shared with us…
1. Fresh bread – ‘specifically, French bread from bakeries in France, where I spent a lot of time as a child and a teenager; any time I pass by a bakery, I’m lost…’
2. Brewed coffee – ‘I love the smell but ironically I don’t drink it; I’m very much a tea person, but I love the smell of fresh-ground or fresh-brewed coffee.’
3. Ta’if rose – ‘I went to Ta’if and did research into the unique roses there, and it’s fascinating; what makes Ta’if rose unique is the process of making the oil, which is still the traditional, old way using the old copper alembics.’
4. The forehead of a newborn baby – ‘I have three daughters (Noura, Fadila and Miriam, who are 18, 16 and 12), and I just love the smell of babies. It’s the most amazing smell in the world.’
5 Arab Spring – ‘It’s the fragrance I am most proud of for The Fragrance Kitchen, and also one of the most popular, a fusion which includes many different flowers which bloom in the most challenging desert conditions…’
And now, those two new unveilings…
Top notes: bergamot, lemon, pink pepper
Heart notes: myrrh, heliotrope, amber, styrax
Base notes: patchouli, musk, moss, cedarwood, solar notes
‘His head lay on her stomach and she stared at the leaves on the tree above as she eased back into the wild grass. The breeze enveloped them in a cocoon of warmth and it was days like these she wished would last forever. He rolled over to face her and stroked her arm with the tips of his fingers. She closed her eyes and concentrated on the light pressure his fingertips made as they moved across her wrist and into the palm of her hand. Her began using two fingers to mimic the stride of a person walking up and down her arm. She giggled as the childishness of the act, but she enjoyed this light-hearted side of him. He began to move is fingers into a dance and they skated up and down her arm. Eyes closed, she imagined a nimble ballet dancer, floating lightly over the boards of a stage, casting shadows under the glare of the theatre lights. The tiny dancer on her arm twirled and moved as the pressure increased and decreased. She could see the glistening of the dancers face, the expressions of her body moving as she flittered about like a sparrow. Whirling and falling gracefully like a sycamore leaf coming to earth, the ballet dancer’s feet traced a beautiful and peaceful pattern all the way from her shoulder to the tips of her fingers. She felt the ballet dancer twist and turn and played out a wondrous world in a glamorous theatre under that tree. She would always remember this afternoon enveloped in natures warm blanket relishing the dance of her imaginary performer, unable to be touched by anything in the outside world.’
Top notes: green notes, bergamot, aldehydes, peach
Heart notes: jasmine, rose, white flowers, basil, citrus
Base notes: pine, solar notes
The air was as crisp and biting as the night was dark. The wind took her breath away as a strong gust blew across her face and her cold bitten hands clutched tighter at her coat. The river rushed below her feet as she made her way across the bridge. There was no one about, the city was sleeping and she felt as she were the only person in the world awake. She wasn’t ready to go home and leaned over the railing to watch the water crashing below. In the distance she heard the bellowing of ship and she strained her eyes in the dark to detect the direction of the sound. In the distance she could see the red and gold lights of the fishing boats twinkling against the blackness of the night. The dancing lights were mesmerizing as the bounced back and forth on the currents. Her thoughts were suddenly lost and the lights blurred. Her eyes began to see the lights as jewels and colours, dancing on the fabrics of dresses as the swirled around the feet of dancing women. She heard the drums, the beats of her native India, and she was swept up in the rhythm. The jewels turned and plunged and were taken into the music in her ears. She could feel the humid air on her face and smell the dust kicked up by the movement. The beat intensified and her eyes followed the glistening jewels until suddenly they were extinguished by the blackness of the night. Brought back to reality, she reached her icy hand up to her cheek, still flushed with memories of her faraway home.’
The Fragrance Kitchen from £110-220 for 100ml eau de parfum
Find them at Selfridges
Written by Jo Fairley