Scenting Sargent – matching portraits to perfumes

The opening of Tate Britain’s Sargent and Fashion exhibition is more than an opportunity to view some of the most famous portraits in the world: it’s an invitation to spend time with people who began as acquaintances – faces you recognised, who played a perhaps minor moment in your life – and leave having made several roomfuls of dear friends.

There are so many connections between other art-forms and fragrance – music and literature being the most usually cited – but pairing portraiture and perfume was an emotional connection impossible to resist. It’s because (as those of us obsessed with fragrance readily understand, and which anyone can feel deep inside when a certain smell triggers an emotional response within them;) a scent can communicate with such aching, soul-baring intimacy; telling complete strangers things about ourselves that we’d never otherwise overtly express.

Partly, the intimacy one feels in Sargent and Fashion comes from seeing the paintings up close and in person. The way these people (mostly women, in this exhibition) meet your eye, often challengingly, or sometimes deliberately evading your gaze. Intimacy, too, in the way he painted them – mostly these people were very close friends within Sargent’s social circle, and this fact absolutely leaps off each canvas in the vivacious vibrancy and liveliness with which they’re depicted. There’s tenderness at times, and humour, too. A vulnerability or a twinkle in the eye that can only be achieved through decades of a deep bond between painter and sitter.

 

John Singer Sargent in his studio (Madame X in the background)

 

We, as visitors, get to feel truly included in this partnership while viewing the exhibition. And the shortcut to our deeper understanding of the people behind the paint is partly thanks to the clothing and accessories displayed alongside the portraits. Many of them are the very outfits the sitters were wearing while he painted them, and we learn from the exhibition notes and signs beside the displays, that not only did Sargent keep costumes and props in his studio, but that on numerous occasions Sargent designed many of the outfits himself – in collaboration with esteemed couture fashion houses such as Worth. It wasn’t a case of ‘come as you are’ when turning up to Sargent’s studio to be painted. It was far more ‘let’s show these people who you REALLY are.’ As the introduction to the exhibition guide states:

 

‘Sargent and his sitters thought carefully about the clothes that he would paint them in, the messages their choices would send, and how well particular outfits would translate to paint. The rapport between fashion and painting was well understood at this time: as one French critic noted, ‘there is now a class who dress after pictures, and when they buy a gown ask ‘will it paint?’’’

 

At this point I have to allow myself a rant. Not about the exhibition – which I adored, and which I shall think about for many years to come – but about some of the reviews by art critics I’ve read since attending the Press View. In their opinion, the extraordinary artefacts detracted from the portraits and were entirely unconnected to our understanding of Sargent or the sitters. They describe the clothes and accessories, variously, as ‘old rags’ and ‘glittery baubles’, or ‘belonging in Miss Havisham’s attic’. And the undercurrent of these reviews very strongly comes across as ‘these are women’s fripperies, therefore utterly bereft of meaning or importance.’

To arrive at this conclusion is – quite apart from being disgustingly misogynistic, and in the same patronising lineage as literary critics dismissing Jane Austen’s work as historic ‘chick lit’ because it dares to document the lives of women – to miss the point of the exhibition entirely. The clue was in the name, after all: Sargent and Fashion. The clothing was even capitalised in the title to help them.

Women have always been especially judged on what clothes they wear, and in this exhibition the point is made – again and again, if you care to comprehend – that the sitters and Sargent liked to subvert this power play in the colour and cut of the clothing, in the positioning of their bodies. They were judged for these choices contemporarily, too – several of the portraits causing shocking scandals and what we’d now understand as ‘being cancelled’. Most notably with the famous (and swoon-worthy) portrait of Madam X, for which, as this brilliant Varsity article on the infamous portrait explains:

‘Sargent initially depicted Gautreau in a tightly silhouetted black gown, with chained straps doing very little to conceal her pearlescent shoulders and décolletage. In fact, originally, Sargent chose to drape one strap down Gautreau’s arm; this inadvertently caused further outrage. To spectators past, it was a brazen attempt to barely veil Gautreau’s body, suggesting that if one strap can breezily slip, so can the rest.’

The clothing has nothing to do with the portraits? No importance? Tell that to Virginie Amélie Avegno Gautreau, who was lacerated by public opinion to the point where, as the Varsity article recounts:

‘Even Gautreau – a woman fiercely aware of her beauty, and inclined to weaponise it for advancement by becoming the archetypal ‘Parisienne’ – felt that it was best to anonymise her painted figure: thus Madame X was born.’

 

 

 

 

These spectacularly cloistered critics failed to appreciate the importance Sargent himself placed on the clothing – let’s reiterate the fact he DESIGNED many of the outfits himself, or carefully positioned the clothing and angles we can view them from; choosing to deliberately drape and conceal, or otherwise starkly reveal his sitters. And little wonder they missed (or elected not to place value on) the many examples of how important these clothes were – they spent very little time actually looking at the portraits or the clothes, or the numerous signs next to them explaining the significance. Instead, they gathered in tiny, tutting cabals during the exhibition, loudly discussing which other exhibitions or parties they had, or had not, been invited to.

#notallmen, but sadly, the ones I saw doing this all were. Ironically, I overheard them discussing what outifits they were going to wear to various fashion event parties that evening. But these were their clothes – men’s clothes – so presumably were of significance to them.

I shan’t link to their excoriating yet ultimately vacuous reviews because it lends them more credence than they’re due. And I needn’t couch my words, because they’ll never bother reading something so frivolous as an article matching PERFUME to portraits. Fragrance, I feel pretty confident in assuming, is something they would similarly sneer at as being bereft of cultural and emotional value, so equally pointless in examining. Those of us who feel otherwise are lucky in having our lives enriched by art in more ways than they could ever comprehend.

Let’s allow them to tut away to their heart’s content, and instead go and see the exhibition, and then imagine if we knew what fragrances the people in these portraits had also chosen to wear! Or what scent they might select, were they around now. Such consideration adds further layers which might reveal depths even Sargent never got to know. Which perhaps they never even truly realised about themselves.

Fragrance can do that. The right scent, worn at the right time, can disclose intimate secrets or conceal us in a cloak of intrigue. A perfume can be a worn as a kind of emotional X-Ray, or played with like choosing a costume from a dressing-up box.

 

 

The women in these portraits, we learn (and FEEL by smiling along with them), were not passive, wilting muses – they were accomplished artists, poets, academics, and philosophers in their own right. And they were in partnership with Sargent, with the fashion designers, and with us as we look at them and feel something that goes beyond the gaze to a complicit understanding. Just as wearing a particular fragrance can announce to the world who we are inside, or dictate how we want others to feel about us – transcending words and going straight to the soul.

When we take time to select a scent based on our emotional response to it – or gather whole wardrobes and toolboxes of them – we go beyond passive consumers to being in a relationship with the perfumer, the packaging designers, the experts and consultants that recommended them, and the people who then smell that fragrance as we waft past.

In pairing perfumes with Sargent’s portraits, then, I hope it helps you feel an even closer companionship to the people portrayed in them, and a have deeper understanding of the mood each scent can similarly evoke. And I urge you to try this for yourselves next time you’re in a museum or art gallery – or meeting friends in your own social circle. Wonder how you’d scent them, and then reflect on what this tells you about them, about the fragrance, and even what this reveals about our own levels of perception and interpretation.

Having gained a greater closeness to Sargent the man (not just the painter), and to the people (not only the portraits) during this exquisitely soul-enriching, emotional conversation of an exhibition, I feel he’d have approved. Indeed, he’d likely have had fragrances specially commissioned, worked on exacting briefs for the perfumers, and suggested precise tweaks to the perfumes’ formulae – the better to reflect the people behind the layers of paint, and further shaping our understanding of them.

Without such bespoke examples, what follows are the perfumes I felt ‘matched’ the personality of five portraits that particularly spoke to me. Indeed, there were so many other fragrance pairings inspired in my mind (and still bubbling away) by seeing this exhibition, that I’ll need to do a Part Two to stop them invading my every thought. But for now, what I really want to know is – which portraits would you decide to match, having got to know them at the exhibition; how would you scent them, and why would you pick that to evoke their character, the clothing, and the mood of the portrait itself…?

Sargent and Fashion is at Tate Britain until 7 July 2024. [Free for Tate members, and worth every penny if you’re not]

 

 

 

John Singer Sargent Lady Agnew of Lochnaw 

Outwardly the very picture of femininity, in both the sitter and the scent there’s a strong backbone that runs through the centre. Gertrude is surrounded by a froth of delicate, transparent material, but she sits on a hard-backed chair and meets us with a direct and judging stare. In Apres L’Ondee a spring garden of rain-soaked blossoms feels encircled by a high fence. The violet in it is cool, almost frosted, but has survived the storm. You may admire the garden, but the casual passer-by will not be invited inside.

Guerlain Apres L’Ondee £108 for 75ml eau de parfum guerlain.com

 

 

 

John Singer Sargent Ena Wertheimer 

Sargent and Ena were great friends, their rapport and her amusement vibrating through this unconventional portrait, and the stance apparently all Ena’s doing. She came to his studio, grabbed a broom and began fencing with it. Her heavy opera coat becomes a Cavalier’s uniform (or a witch’s cloak, given the subtext of the broomstick). In Moonlight Patchouli, inky black velvet is suddenly spotlit, bathed in a phosphorescent glow, dusted with iris – a focus on warm skin dominating the darkness.

Van Cleef & Arpels Moonlight Patchouli £145 for 75ml eau de parfum harrods.com

 

 

 

John Singer Sargent Mrs Hugh Hammersley (Mary Frances Grant) 

A fashionable hostess of salons, Mary looks so happy to see you, but would like you to understand she has a lot to do. The extraordinary depth of colour and texture in her gown are discussed in this Metropolitan Museum of Art feature, but her vivacity and poised opulence are obvious. I tried not to use this scent in this piece, but it had to be hers. The striking depths of rose, raspberry and patchouli are hugely impactful, filled with beauty, power, and a presence that lasts long after you’ve left a room.

Frédéric Malle Portrait of a Lady from £60 for 10ml eau de parfum fredericmalle.co.uk

 

 

 

John Singer Sargent Dr. Pozzi at Home

A blaze of passionate red, this man might appear a dandy, but he’s incredibly intelligent. He may look casually attired, but the drape of his dressing gown and the meticulous pleats of the white linen shirt dramatically contrast the swathe of scarlet. Habit Rouge is devilishly handsome and knows it. Dynamically woody, a hint of animalic magnetism balanced by almost soapy neroli and jasmine; rendered irresistible by the creamy warmth of spiced vanilla and moody patchouli in the base.

[P.S. I also attempted not to use Guerlain twice in my matches, but the body craves what it needs, and Pozzi’s needed this.]

Guerlain Habit Rouge £81 for 50ml eau de parfum guerlain.com

 

 

 

John Singer Sargent Madame X (Madame Pierre Gautreau) 

The largest space in the exhibition is given over to Sargent’s most famous portrait, room for captivated crowds to gather and gaze, elongating their bodies and arching upwards, echoing her position, desperate for her to turn and look back. Virginie adored this painting, as did Sargent, but her life was scandalised by it. In Santal Majuscule, we’re invited to worship the sandalwood, acres of creaminess suggesting an expanse of bare skin. A pared back elegance which nonetheless skewers with longing.

Serges Lutens Santal Majuscule £135 for 50ml eau de parfum sergeslutens.co.uk

 

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Last Orders for Xmas 2019: this Thursday!

If you’re in a festive flap over those last-minute gifts, we will gently remind you that our last day for ordering before Christmas is this Thursday, 19th December 2019. But flap no further, as we have all your gifts sorted in a fuss-free (and fabulously fragrant!) way…

We’ve made ordering online a complete breeze, with a number of handy gift guides suitable for every age, fragrant taste and budget. Have a browse through some of them now, and get your gift list checked off at the click of a button!

How to buy fragrance at Christmas
Let’s start at the very beginning (as the song goes) – because trying to work out exactly what will suit whom best can be a bit of a headache, we know. That’s why we’ve done all the leg-work for you and curated selections of scents with particular types of people in mind, and perhaps with a little something to tempt you, too. One to point bewildered relatives at when they demand to know what you want!

When you just can’t decide which scent someone would love: Luxury Gift Boxes
If you know your loved one adores fine fragrances, and always likes trying something new, have a look at this list of ultra-luxe boxes you can buy at surprisingly affordable prices. There’s genuinely something to suit everyone here – masculine, feminine and gender-neutra – the ideal way to discover a new house, with lavish perfume gift sets from only £14! The Perfume Society’s beautiful selection of single-house perfume boxes really come into their own when you need exquisite curations, with scents to match every mood and personality. Here are some of our favourites…

Looking for that perfect fragrance gift..? Then look no further than the truly decadent and globally adored AMOUAGE. Delve into this collection of TWELVE women’s fragrances for £50 (P&P*). A perfumista’s dream…

And for every female fragrance Amouage creates, happily you will find there is a male counterpart. For £50 (+P&P*) it’s the perfect fragrance gift for Men with TWELVE AMOUAGE Men’s fragrances. There won’t be any disappointed faces (or knowingly unscented necks) this Christmas!

A fabulous gift from this ethical and unisex scent name, with EIGHT FRAGRANCES to fall in love with, you will simply swoon at the sunshine-filled scents of Sana Jardin. Just £30 (+P&P*)

A powerhouse of a brand and the original olfactory innovators, this is a great Escentric Molecules Discovery Set to explore for men and women. With EIGHT FRAGRANCES, it’s hard to pick just one favourite. Just £25 (+P&P*)

For that guy who’s always hard to buy for…
Be they a loved one related to you by blood, or a life-partner whose answer to ‘what would you like this Christmas?’ is usually ‘Oh you, know… anything will do’ (at which point you could happily draw blood!); we’ve already had the most fabulous feedback to our Mr. Scentastic Discovery Box. Whether you are planning cliff-top walks, a trip away, cosy nights in or some dress-to-impress evenings, there’s a fragrance for every occasion in this collection. From a 6ml MUGLER ALIEN MAN as well as a very generous  30ml DEAR BARBER WITH CONFIDENCE fragrance, we’ve also added incredible niche fragrances from perfume houses such as Maison Francis Kurkdjian, Prosody, Hugo Boss, BulgariLalique and more. All these, and two grooming extras, for £19 (or £15 for V.I.Ps) (+P&P*)

So what are you waiting for? There’s a whole world of fragrant adventures to switch people’s noses on to – we know many people who have ordered several as gifts and then come back to order another for themslves (including one chap who emailed us to say he’d got NINE of the Mr. Scentastic boxes for his friends, and then orederd two for himself to keep!)

*All orders are £3 for postage and packing.

British niche brands we love

There’s a plethora of British niche perfume houses to be excited about these days – how many have you heard of and got to try thus far…?

Niche-lovers have surely never been so well served as right now – there’s a continuing bubble of enthusiasm in the rise and rise of niche perfume brands; and thrillingly, British houses are surging in popularity, much of it spread by word-of-mouth.

The personal recommendations are from hushed whispers of industry-insiders right through to fans declaring their love through social media. These houses are ‘indies’ (independently owned) and don’t have access to huge marketing budgets; so we wanted to share and celebrate just some of those our noses are currently loving…

 

 

Holly Hutchinson founded Memoize London in 2016, but her heart started beating faster for fragrance far earlier – at the age of seven, to be precise. On her birthday, she was gifted her very first set of miniature perfumes… the way many of us are reeled in to the world of fragrance fever! Following a career at a prestigious perfume house, Holly branched out to create her own niche brand, believing that perfumes should evoke memories, so drawing on her own, such as ‘a French holiday in the sun, a ride across the waves by boat, venturing through trees in a garden of ferns and Laurels…’

 

There’s eight fragrances, currently, from the provocative, smoky passions of Era to the lazy Sunday morning of Tristitia, cocooning you in floral and vanilla scented sheets with an amber snuggle. One of our favourites has to be Superbia – created for self-confidence, encompassing rose bushes, the smell of a leather satchel and a mother’s proud hug.

 

 

From the creative expression of one woman’s strong belief in the power of fragrance and the positive effect it can have on your heart, mind and spirit, Anima Vinci was born. That insightful and passionate founder is Nathalie Vinciguerra, and her background as creative CEO of what many consider the first true ‘niche’ house, L’Artisan Parfumeur, along with British heritage house Penhaligon’s, gave her great grounding (and the best contacts) in the business. ‘Anima Vinci is the creative expression of my strong belief in the power of fragrance,’ she says, ‘and the positive effect it can have on your heart, mind and spirit. I believe that scents have the power to immerse us in the universe’s energy and nature’s beauty.’

With Rose Prana you’re fully immersed in the rose fields of Grasse, smelling the earth below the bushes abundant with fresh, almost raspberry-scented Rose de Mai blooms, and a sense of the sky above. Jasmine Ylang is symbolic of divine hope with sandalwood and frangipani, a holiday for the soul; while Wood of Life is our go-to de-stress scent – a meditative whisper of mint atop sublimely smooth palo santo, sandalwood and vetiver. It’s truly other-worldy and totally wonderful to wear.

 

 

With a green ethos that flows through every fragrance, Prosody London take equal delight in their scents being so beautifully composed, so harmoniously sophisticated, that many people don’t even realise they are – gloriously, unashamedly – all natural and organic. Perfumer and founder Keshen Teo has worked tirelessly to ensure his scents have this aesthetic quality as well as the ethical purity they strive for. As he explains: ‘The intrinsic complexity of naturals means you have to work hard to keep things well structured and balanced,’ because it’s vital the fragrances are stunning on first sniff. ‘I like the challenge of this,’ he smiles, going on to admit: ‘We know that sometimes people buy Prosody London without even realising they’re organic and 100% natural. I’m perfectly happy with that!’

Their voluptuously feminine Jacinth Jonquil entwines hyacinth with that mesmerising jonquil itself – think daffodils in sunshine, a crispness to the air like the first breath of spring, flecked with juniper berries and nestled on a softly woody base. Mocha Muscari uniquely blends the richness of coffee with a surprisingly seductive twist of mango, jasmine and lavender on a base of black agarwood and sandalwood, and Rose Rondeaux is decadently laden with fresh raspberry and juicy blackcurrant, dusted with iris and warmed with patchouli: all of them all-natural, and all-beautiful to wear.

 

 

Angela Flanders was a fragrant phenomenon: an woman with a life-long passion for perfume, who was still working – and creating beautiful scents – into her eighth decade. Now, through her daughter, Kate Evans, Angela’s legacy endures… From her career as a television costumer designer to opening a store in the heart of the bustling Columbia Road market in 1982, the perfect restoration of a Victorian shop featured bowls of scented pot pourri made by Angela, beautiful fabrics and all manner of desirable things. The pot-pourri fragrances were so popular, customers begged her to make room scents and perfumes, and Angela’s world soon became exclusively fragrant as her perfume selection grew notoriety – Precious One, an exquisite jasmine/tuberose that softens to a green chypre – winning a Fragrance Foundation Award for Best New Independent Fragrance in 2012.

From the golden tobacco and spice of Ambre Noire to the perfect white flower wedding fragrance of Bouquet D’Amour, Angela excelled at seamlessly blending precious ingredients. Now, inspired particularly by her mother’s history with and love of fabrics, Kate uses those years spent at her side (learning the craft of perfumery and often advising) to continue their line of so-unique scents. Lawn captures the smell of crisp cotton sheets drying in a dewy floral-scented summer breeze, while the more recent Taffeta evokes decadence with heady hyacinth, soft iris and a fruity rose. What’s more, it’s up for another Fragrance Foundation award this year, so the family talent fully blooms.

 

 

Modernist Fragrance founder, John Evans, entered higher education, as he says, ‘late and non-traditionally’. Embarking on what he calls ‘an accidental corporate career’, trying his hand as a successful novelist before finally settling on his sense of smell to guide him. ‘My dad installed and restored wooden floors,’ John recalls, ‘early memories of fresh cut pine and newly sanded mahogany. Somewhere along the way these merge with the smells of church, incense especially, when I was an altar boy – capped off by a six week spell in hospital when I was five years old and all sorts of odours pervaded my life.’ Travelling to Grasse, he immersed himself in the techniques of fine perfumery, painstakingly experimenting with building his own irreverantly mischevious compositions.

Designed to be genderless, they’re inescapably memorable but never allow the integrity of the wearer’s character to be compromised. So for The Modernist, expect succulent citrus, then greenness dripping with juice, freesia , a hazy flicker of dry frankincense and labdanum before a smoothly woody base. In Nihilism, get ready for a majestically bombastic rose that’s up close and personal with icy aldehydes and a definite sense of a furry embrace in the bezoin base; and for Geist, lemon freshness is suffused by a seamless blend of honeysuckle, musk and gentle amber. Transformative and complex, utterly intriguing, these will all keep your nose hooked all day.

 

 

For the founder of Stories by Eliza Grace, Tonya Kidd-Beggs, being born into the heart of Northern Ireland’s ‘troubles’, and struggling to come to terms with thinking about the future for her children, curated each blend’s inspiration as a personal testament to the power of fragrance in her own life. And Tonya’s own appreciation of fragrance began early. As she recalls: ‘My grandmother’s pearl necklace hung on my tiny neck and I rubbed one of her furs across my cheek. It was laced with Chanel No.5. I breathed in the scent of a woman I would never know. A courageous businessperson who paved the way for Northern Irish women to succeed in a male-dominated market place.’ Named for her twin children (Eliza and Grace), inspired by precious memories, the fragrances feel remarkably like part of your own life as soon as you wear them.

Stories No.1 is all luminescence: bergamot, grapefruit and orange blossom leading to the deep, warm embrace of cedarwood, with delicate touches of jasmine, heliotrope and a fig-tea accord along the way. Ultimately, snugglesome amber swaddles sandalwood and the earthy cool of the so-grounding vetiver. For Stories No.2 Tonya drew on childhood memories of her grandparents’ garden, and it evokes the exuberance of running barefoot on dew-flecked grass, exploring flowers face-first, curls of tobacco smoke exuding from a steamy greenhouse. So special, and so personally evocative to experience.

 

 

The worlds of whisky and fragrance have much in common, believes founder of Kingdom Scotland, Imogen Russon-Taylor. After a distinguished career in the aromatic world of Scotch whisky, Imogen has now gone on to create her own fragrance house – incredibly, the very first to be based in Scotland. Both whisky and perfume are produced by traditional distillation methods,’ she explains. Both evoke a complex sensory experience and both rely upon the innovative use of ingredients or flavours to distinguish themselves from competitors.’ And thus was born her vision to ‘bottle Scotland’ – using perfume to share old narratives in brave new ways, tapping into the rich stories associated with perfume and natural ingredients in Scotland.

Composed in a thoughtfully contemporary way, they unfurl as fragrant tales alive with possibility. Gusting with outdoorsy botanicals and fresh bergamot, in Portal verdant florals rest on a forest floor of shady vetiver and soul-soothing aromatic pine; while for Albaura the landscape’s conjured through the freshness of snow and ice, blended with berries and botanicals in a scent that is bold, fresh and independent in spirit. Metamorphic‘s geology is composed by black pepper, tobacco, incense, minerals and rose absolute infused with a splash of whisky and amber-rich leather. Before long, Kingdom Scotland will be a fragrance name on the lips of perfumistas-in-the-know, far beyond that country’s borders…

We like to offer as many opportunities to try new niche brands as possible, and are aware that (unless you live within walking distance of a niche perfumery) it can be really difficult to try samples for yourself. That’s why we offer the chance to explore these houses through their own Discovery Sets in our online shop,  – a selection of niche brands we think deserve to be celebrated and available for everyone to try.

We also love to bring you our own, carefully curated niche selections, and you can try samples from all these British brands mentioned in our Niche Collection II Discovery Box, so we invite you to test their fragrant wares at your own leisure.

If you love niche, here’s a teaser to keep your eyes peeled and your nostrils primed, as we have a VERY exciting and ultra-exclusive Limited Edition Niche Discovery Box worth OVER £75 (but costing you FAR less!) coming your way TOMORROW (Friday 26 April)… It’s expected to sell-out quickly, so do be sure to grab yours ASAP.

5 fragrant New Year’s resolutions: new things to smell / see / do for 2019

It’s easy to get stuck in a bit of a scented rut sometimes – something we’re all guilty of! But we’ve decided now is the perfect time to blow away the cobwebs and start thinking about things we’re looking forward to trying, seeing and (of course) smelling this year. Which of these have you tried already, and what are you most looking forward to in 2019…?

1: Get social with scent
The internet is, obviously, a wonderful thing (hello, we’re on it right now!) but it’s also good to remember to get our from behind our desks and away from a screen to actually interact with human beings occasionally. There’s absolutely nothing like discovering a group of people who share your passion, meeting up with them and realising you’re not alone. This is genuinely one of the greatest bits of our job – meeting all of you lovely people, and watching you form your own groups and friendships around our common love of fragrance! If you join our VIP Club, we promise you an entire year filled with fragrant opportunities…

– Exclusive perfume events – meeting top perfumers and founders of niche houses, exploring the history of a house with the very people who created it. Learning about ingredients, getting previews of new fragrances or simply finding out about new names our noses need to know…

– How to Improve Your Sense of Smell Workshops – sharing the top tips we’ve learned from the world’s best noses, changing the way we think about scent and discovering deep emotional connections. These workshops are some of the highlights of our year: fun, informative, down-to-earth and genuinely life-changing for everyone who attends!

Exclusive competitions with fab fragrant prizes – including bottles signed by perfumers.

An exclusive monthly ‘insider offer’ – just for our VIPs.

If you keep an eye on our Events page, we also list many other perfume events and pop-ups taking place around the country, so whey not make a pact to attend at least one this year and see how exciting they can be? You can make new friends, discover new scents to love and most of all, have fun with fragrance!

2: Be braver!
There are very few people we know (apart from professional ‘noses’ really) who don’t have preconceived ideas about what suits them, and certain ingredients they tend to avoid. Even we can be guilty of it! It’s a slippery slope when you avoid things becuase you ‘know’ they don’t work for you. Taste change – ALL the time – as we get older (or wiser), and the more things you try, the more you become accustomed to liking and the more your fragrance palate expands.

Think you hate rose? It completely depends which type of rose is being used – fruity, fresh and honeyed, or deep, dusty and velvety – how it’s been harvested, where it’s used in the composition and what other ingredients surround it. The same goes for any ingredient you care to name – the new fractionated patchouli, for example, removes the ‘dirty’ earthiness that many naysayers associate with ‘hippies’ and kept them at arm’s length all these years.

We double dare you to seek out notes, fragrances and houses you assume you don’t like, and to just try them (again or for the first time) with a new nose and fresh attitude…

It’s not only about trying things you thought you disliked, but expanding your fragrant horizon at your own pace. How about branching out just a little bit – but still within your comfort zone – by seeing what six fragrances are ‘matched’ to one you already own and love? There’s suggestions for every budget, from niche and high-end luxury, through all-time classics and highstreet-friendly names you may have overlooked. Try our Fragrance Finder, get out there and give them a try. You might find a brand new fragrant love…

 

3: Change it up
We know there are some of you who still feel a bit odd about fragrance layering, but honestly, what have you got to lose? If there’s a Cologne you love that sits gathering dust during the colder months, bring it out and combine with a deeper fragrance to ring the changes and bring some freshness to your scented habits. We’ve several features dedicated to the art of fragrance layering (simply type into our search box to see more), but here’s the basics for nervous noses…

Always remember: perfume isn’t a tattoo – if you don’t like it, you can wash it off!

Add power: ramp it up by adding more base notes like patchouli, labdanum, vetiver, woods or musk.

Add freshness: look for citrus notes like bergamot, neroli, lemon, lime or ‘green’ notes such as galbanum, tomato or violet leaf, green tea, marine/aquatic accords (synthetic recreations of sea-like, watery smells) and aldehydes (often desribed as being like Champagne bubbles).

Add beauty: find a scent too ‘harsh’ or clinical? Look to layer it with decadently velvety or lusciously fruity rose oils, the sunshine-bottled scent of orange flower, a heady glamour of tuberose or a luminescent jasmine; try an apricot-like osmanthus flower, the fluffiness of mimosa or the powdery elegance of iris/orris.

Add sweetness: vanilla and tonka bean can ’round’ a perfume, making it swoon on your skin (and addictive to smell), as can touches of synthetic notes described as ‘caramel’ or ‘dulce de leche’, ripe fruits, chocolate or even candy floss. Try to add less than you think you need, as adding more is always easier than taking away, and a little of these can go a long way!

4: Keep a fragrance journal
Writing down your thoughts about a new smell every day is surprisingly revolutionary – especially when noting your feelings at several points through the year about the same fragrance. It’s amazing how weather, mood and even what we’ve been eating can change the way we consider how something smells! This is homework we give attendees of our so-fun How to Improve Your Sense of Smell Workshops (see above), and even if you just jot down a few words about a new thing you smell (perfume, cooking ingredient, handcream, flower, bath gel… anything!) it gets your mind and your nose symbiotically linked, and truly helps ‘fix’ smells in your mind. Try it and see!

We love the scented notelets and journals available at Floral Street – a favourite being their Wonderland Peony Notepad / £12 (above) which makes every page a fragrant delight to fill in…

5: Make your own
Nothing gives you a greater appreciation for a perfumer’s skill than having a go at making your own. Sound simple, right? Just take all your favourite ingredients, mix them up and hey-presto! Well, uh, no. Much like mixing all your favourite colours results in a brown sludge rather than the rainbow you’d imagined as a child, it’s fascinating to attempt to try and balance notes, or to enhance them… a true art form and a kind of modern alchemy we’re in awe of. But it is possible to have a go at making your own under the watchful eye of a professional who can help guide you – and oh so satisfying to come away with a little bottle of a scent you made yourself.

The following perfumers run sessions we’ve personally attended and rate highly, and each of them offer differing workshops based on your experience – from complete beginner to something more skilled. Go on, you know you’ve always wanted to… Make 2019 the year you made your own!

 

Trained at the perfumery school of ISPICA, Emmanuelle Moeglin worked as a Scent Design Manager for global fragrance brands, alongside some of the biggest perfumers in the world, and now works as an independent perfumer in London. In 2015, wanting to open fragrance up to the consumer and demistify the world of perfumery, she started the Experimental Perfume Club. Choosing some of the most enjoyable elements of her training, she developed workshops to help people understand scent better – exploring the smells of individual ingredients, harmonious combinations, understanding the magic and science of fusing scents. There’s workshops available from Apprentice, through Expert Masterclass to Corporate levels, in a really down-to-earth and friendly atmosphere that encourages you to learn more.

Sarah McCartney – 4160 Tuesdays perfumer offer fun and more professional days, along with afternoon tea and a chance to get your hands on Sarah’s extensive personal collection of perfumes to smell, in her truly astounding Wall of Scent. 4160 Tuesdays are in the process of moving their HQ at the moment, but do get in touch with Sarah to ask when the next dates are, and they can also come to you if you’ve some friends or colleagues who are interested in joining in…

Those wanting to launch their own fragrance should seek out Karen Gilbert, who now runs a series of specialised courses – including making skincare products – for those wanting to learn more about this intriguing yet technically challenging world. She explains that ‘…it came out of years of students coming to my live classes where we make an alcohol based EDT, who really wanted to create for their own product line.’ With courses varying from online Masterclasses – perfect for those who find it difficult to travel – days of natural perfumery and intensive 5-day professional courses, there’s something for all levels of interest.

Don’t you think there are things you could change about your fragrant habits – even if it’s just getting out there and sharing your excitement with a friend, showing them around your favourite perfumery or letting them sniff your own collection of fragrances? Whatever you choose to do, there’s a whole year of perfume excitement to look forward to, and we certainly can’t wait to share it with all of you…

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Fabulous Floral Street! The affordable niche house shaking the petals of the perfume world

When we first encountered Floral Street, suffice to say we were blown away by their concept – and oh boy did they deliver in the execution of the fabulous new spins on floral fragrances, and within their standalone Covent Garden store.

Our co-founder, Jo Fairley, has known Michelle Feeney for longer than either of them care to admit – back to Michelle’s time at the Estée Lauder Companies, and then at the helm of revolutionary tanning name St Tropez. So when she announced she was unveiling a fragrance line ‘built on the streets of London’, we were rather thrilled by the whole idea and the stunning reality…

Floral Street’s fragrances are as far from your granny’s florals as it’s possible to get – each created by the star perfumer Jérôme Épinette, who is known for his mastery of natural ingredients. As Floral Street put it: ‘These are bunches – not bouquets. Ingredients, not notes. And it’s about ease, modernity and joy.’ Michelle adds: ‘My mission is to bring fine fragrance to the modern female – so that she might build an entire fragrance wardrobe, which can express the many facets of who she is.’

At the heart of each fragrance is a specific flower (sourced by the legendary fragrance house Robertet) – but each creation brings an unexpected twist,   treated in a way that brilliantly ignites the senses. Take Wonderland Peony, which not only features armfuls of that flower, but pink berries and violets, Anything but cutesy, it’s given a woody-balsamic warmth by cedarwood, alongside vetiver.

London Poppy is ‘a love letter’ to the capital city, ‘a city that sees the sun through the crowds’. Bright as a sun-filled London morning, it bursts into life with Florida orange and Sicilian lemon, a marine note adding a splash of seaspray to the neroli, jasmine sambac and apricot blossom at London Poppy’s heart, before the base of hinoki woods, black amber and cedarwood ventures forth.

The fragrance which has scent critics and beauty editors most excited, perhaps, is Chypre Sublime: an utterly modern take on this sophisticated fragrance family, blending incense with Damask rose absolute, midnight violet, pink pepper and geranium, on a stunning base of benzoin, labdanum and olibanum which – as Floral Street nails it – ‘offers a resin-soaked wood table for the flowers to perch on. A fragrance for musicians, painters and poets.’

Perfumistas have recently been gravitating toward the daringly delicious Ylang Ylang Espresso: A strikingly modern and supremely wearable blend of red rose, ylang ylang and jasmine resting atop a soothing cloud of just-brewed coffee, fresh cream and Sichuan pepper – sustainably harvested from the foothills of the Himalayas. ‘A fragrance to get lost in’ they say, and oh how we love to do just that.

What’s more, all the packaging is recylable and sustainable, and the boxes have been cleverly designed to be used as seed trays, instead of being thrown away! You can read more about the ethos behind the brand on our page dedicated to Floral Street.

We could wax-lyrical about the entire collection, but the very best way is for you to try these exciting new ways to wear floral on your own skin (or to give as the perfect gifting experience). With that in mind, we’re so happy to be stocking the Floral Street Discovery Set, where you can try all 8 fragrance for just £14!


Written by Suzy Nightingale

Thanks for the Memoize…

Scent and memory are thoroughly entwined – every time we smell something new, it’s filed away in our olfactory memory bank; and every time we smell something familiar, tiny pulses fire-up long-forgotten places, people, experiences we didn’t even know were stored so deeply within us. Niche fragrance house Memoize London took this scientifically proven ability and wove their own stories in scent: each fragrance a specific memory and emotional response, bottled…

We are thrilled to be able to introduce you to this remarkable house in the form of a Discovery Set – truly the best way to get to know any house you’re not already familiar with – or even find new favourites hidden within a collection you thought you already knew well.

Holly Hutchinson founded Memoize London in 2016, but her heart started beating faster for fragrance far earlier – at the age of seven, to be precise. On her birthday, she was gifted her very first set of miniature perfumes. As her mother was ‘an avid collector of unusual scents’, perfumes were almost indelibly linked to scented snapshots of Holly’s childhood memories. ‘A French holiday in the sun, a ride across the waves by boat, venturing through trees in a garden of ferns and Laurels…’ The album of scent memories was filling up fast.

It was in 2011 that Holly could truly begin to follow her dream, joining a prestigious niche fragrance brand and pursuing a career in the industry. But after seven successful years, it was time to start thinking about reaching further, using her love of fragrance and design with the expert knowledge she’d gained, and finally launching her own brand. Holly says she ‘knew immediately’ what the concept should be: sharing the very memories that launched her own fragrant career, while helping perfume-lovers explore their own scented memory bank.

And now, you can share that memory bank while adding to your own scented fantasies, with the Memoize London Discovery Set!

What you get in the box:

Tristitia – The essence of calm, relaxation and pure leisure. Reminiscent of of a lazy Sunday morning, cocooning you in floral and vanilla scented sheets, no need to rise, the amber is keeping you warm…

Avaritia – The essence of insatiability, opulence and unquenchable desire. The first time you dare to think you can have exactly what you want, the need for something that is all yours.

Era – The essence of passion, provocation and power. Lose control of your emotions with this powerful fragrance; reigniting the fire within you, evoking deep seated memories within.

Superbia – The essence of self-confidence, self-love and self-worth. An overwhelming feeling of pride, joy and delight. Recalling a first day of school, the pruned rose bushes, games in the woods, the leather strap of a satchel, a mother’s proudest moment…

Luxuria – The essence of lust, seduction and intoxication. Memories of the first moment of interaction, where desire and passion consumes you. Your skin will tingle with luscious blackcurrant, tuberose and the warmth of musk will captivate you.

Gula – The essence of pleasure-seeking and self-indulgence. A fragrance of sumptuous vanilla, absorbing orange, rich clove and delicate lavender. Gula is an immeasurable mix of thought provoking scents providing unrestrained gratification for your appetites, desires, or whims.

Invidia – The essence of insatiable desire to want, to have, to be who you want to be. Envious and aspirational, your mind takes you on a sub-coconscious journey through the memories from your childhood; always wanting what you can’t have – sweet vanilla ice cream, caramels, tobacco….

Black Avaritia (Limited Edition) – The essence of indulging all of your wants and needs in abundance. Travelling through the rich and woody tones, takes you back on a journey to a foreign land. The warmth on the skin is reminiscent of the sun kissing your skin.

Try the entire collection in the Memoize London Discovery Set £57 for 8 x 2ml eau de parfum

It’s our mission at The Perfume Society to bring you as many of these try-me sizes as possible, so you can do just that: try them (for several days) in the comfort of your own home. Not only is this the recommended way of wearing a new fragrance – giving yourself time to truly experience every nuance of its character before you make up your mind – but we are also very aware that not everyone happens to live within a stone’s throw of a niche boutique or London store stocking these scents. So why not have a browse for a gift (or treat for yourself) in our Luxury Perfume House Sets…?

Written by Suzy Nightingale

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

Gourmande Jayne: Ormonde Jayne get figgy with it

Linda Pilkington, founder and CEO of London-based niche perfumery Ormonde Jayne, is never one for sitting still. Whenever we meet her, she’s dashing back and forth at 100 miles an hour, always brimming with creativity and new ideas, the latest being Gourmande Jayne

‘Gourmande Jayne’ is a natural extension of Linda’s scented world –  a blog ‘defining scent and good eating’ that features lifestyle tips, fashion and beauty, advice for gardeners, travel diaries as Linda hunts for new fragrance ingredients, how-to videos and deliciously scented recipes she’s constantly inspired by – showing the world how to bring fragrance into every area of life, to enhance to joy of every day. Quite frankly, we’re not sure how she find the time, but we’re awfully glad she does!

We’re especially loving the recipe for Baked Figs with Goat’s Cheese (and the serving suggestion – ‘serve warm with a glass of wine!’) which we first got to taste at the wonderful Ormonde Jayne Christmas Showcase (watch out for our Christmas issue of The Scented Letter Magazine for more new on the fragrant goodies in store!)

See the recipe, below, and watch Linda prepare hers by visiting the Gourmet section of the blog. We promise you it taste (and smells!) amazing, and it’s just the thing for warming your cockles when the wether’s a bit cooler, but you don’t feel quite ready for rib-sticking stews just yet. We’re holding off the donning of tights for a while, and holding on to thoughts of summer holidays by eating these, and quaffing wine while we’re at it. Only because it’s suggested, of course…

Gourmande Jayne Baked Figs with Goat’s Cheese

Ingredients:
Medium size figs
Soft goats cheese
Chopped walnuts
Chopped fresh sage
Clear honey
Salt and pepper

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 200 C – Cut off fig stems and cut an X at the top of fig half way down.
Using a teaspoon, stuff soft goats cheese into the fig. Sprinkle with the fresh fine chopped sage and chopped walnuts.
Drizzle with a little honey and small amount of add salt and pepper to taste.
Place in a baking dish.
Place in oven for about 5 minutes.
Serve warm with a glass of wine!

Written by Suzy Nightingale

[Recipe and photos by Linda Pilkington]

Dudley Zoo’s big cats go crazy for Salome!

Have you ever found your pets go crazy for a particular fragrance you’re wearing? Well it seems the big cats at Dudley Zoo can’t get enough of Salome by Papillon Perfumery!

The big cat toys were sprayed with Salome as part of their enrichment programme – strong scents encourage the cats to utilise natural tracking behaviours, but the Zoo’s stocks were running low. Step forward brilliant self-taught British perfumer, Liz Moores, founder of Papillon Perfumery, who explains that ‘After noticing that my Bengal cats go crazy for the smell of Salome I contacted Dudley zoo to see if we could test the reaction to this perfume with some big cats.’

Assistant curator Jay Hayward said ‘We squirted the perfume on monkey fist knots in the big cat enclosures and dabbed it on climbing frames too, and it really did get them excited!’

So what is it, exactly, about the fragrance that’s driving these wild cats, er, wild?

Well, the magic ingredient is – get ready for it – a natural material called hyraceum, which is the fossilised excrement and urine from the Cape hyrax. It’s collected from their latrines, completely without harm to the animal, and the perfume is completely cruelty free. Liz is the first to admit that ‘It sounds horrendous’ but before you run screaming, remember that many naturals used in perfumery smell hideous on their own but utterly sublime when worked into the scent. As Liz explains, ‘in isolation it smells heavily urinous, in a fragrance it lends a leathery, sensual affect with notes of warm skin.’

Lynx, lions, tigers and snow leopard have been savouring the scent, and having first sniffed a sample before it first launched in 2015, we can say these big cats clearly have good taste in fragrances. Salome is hugely seductive in every way – think hypnotic swags of orange blossom and Turkish rose laced with the sense of tangled sheets and warm bodies, all shot through with bitter orange to keep the senses dancing and great gusts of animalic furriness in the oakmoss-laden base, to keep those hips swivelling…

Papillon Perfumery Salome £128 for 50ml eau de parfum
papillonperfumery.co.uk

An avowed animal lover, Liz says she’s beyond delighted at the reaction of the big cats to her fragrance, and will be hand-delivering some more bottles of Salome to Dudley Zoo so she can witness it herself, adding: ‘My perfumes are worn by some exceptional people, but to see Salome being enjoyed by these beautiful big cats is something else.’

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Givaudan’s Eden Project scent sculpture

Have you ever wanted to smell history? Well, now you can, for deep within the Biomes of Cornwall’s Eden Project, the fragrance development house of Givaudan have collaborated with Studio Swine (‘Super Wide Interdisciplinary New Explorers’), aka: Japanese architect Azusa Murakami and British artist Alexander Groves, to create a monumental new scented artwork.

Standing at nearly nine metres and firing out rings of fragranced vapour, the structure is thought to be the world’s largest ceramic sculpture.

The sculpture has been named ∞ Blue (Infinity Blue) and it’s an immersive, 20-tonne installation created as the centrepiece of the newly opened Invisible Worlds, a major new (and permanent) exhibition homage to cyanobacteria, one of the world’s smallest living beings.

32 cannons fire out scented vapour rings into the exhibition space, which the Eden Project say ‘…reveals the untold and unseen stories of our planet beyond our senses: too big, too small, too fast, too slow and too far away in space and time.’

Watch a short video of the sculpture in action – it’s completely mesmerising!

And the scent of the vapour? Apparently it ‘tells a layered, 4.5 billion-year history of the atmosphere… using the aromas of primordial worlds as a starting point for new sensual experiences.’

So we’re imagining it might be… green, earthy, with heart notes of mineralic haze and a base of swamp?

Studio Swine explain: ‘Around three billion years ago, cyanobacteria first developed oxygenic photosynthesis. In doing so, they changed the nature of our planet. In the same way that artists of the past would depict the sacred, our sculpture ∞ Blue gives physicality to the invisible elements our existence depends on; our breathable atmosphere, microbial life and deep time.’

Accompanying the sculpture, a film directed by Studio Swine – who like to use this medium to enhance their artworks – in collaboration with Petr Krejčí, fascinatingly charts the sculpture’s very beginnings in the sea off the Cornish coast, using ‘otherworldly, sci-fi-inspired cinematography.’

We can’t wait to visit and sniff the ‘primordial scent’ for ourselves, and definitely something to consider for the summer holidays! Pretty much nothing is going to be more impressive for kids (and adults, alike) to write in their What I Did On Holiday journal than, ‘Dear Diary, today we smelled the scent of microbial life, and deep time itself…’

Visit the Eden Project’s website for more information.

Written by Suzy Nightingale