A VIP party in a fragrant forest… and you’ll never guess where it was!

Last Friday, we were transported to an exotic fairy-tale world of a misty, twilit forest filled with VIP revellers feasting on Azerbaijani delicacies, breathing in a glorious perfume that filled the air – made by a renowned perfumer to royalty – as musicians played and our senses were completely overwhelmed with the wonder of it all… and yet we were still in central London! It is no overstatement to say the Lankaran Forest event for the Buta Festival at the Royal Academy of Arts was one of the most incredible launches we have been to in years – and it was even more delightful to be able to share the experience with some of our VIP Subscribers

If you can imagine a rich tapestry of colours, tables laden with trays of traditional, intricately shaped sweet pastries while waiters circled carrying long boards of yet more tasty treats and an ever-flowing fountain of Champagne and cocktails being supped… you’re still only half-way to guessing how fabulous it all was. A literally jaw-dropping spectacle of the senses, we were amused to note most mouths were open in astonishment as they entered the Royal Academy building, just as ours had been when we first arrived.

The celebration was to close the festival of Azerbaijani culture at The Royal Academy of Arts, in London’s Piccadilly, where a new limited edition fragrance – Lankaran Forest – was unveiled. Presented through a multi-sensory experience, evoking the sights, sounds and smells of this ancient forest and its thousands of plant varieties. Up the grandly curving staircase we flocked, with shadowy projections of entangled branches projected against the ceiling, and suddenly we were in the heart of the forest itself – an entire room having been given over to full-sized trees (flown in for the instillation), a specially created undulating floor decadently strewn with leaves and the perfume pumped into the air to fully encapsulate the place it was inspired by.

The Perfume Society‘s Co-founder Jo Fairley had been asked to interview Maria Candida Gentile for the event, and also to explain the way fragrance can transport us immediately to far-flung destinations – even those we may have never travelled to, personally. The rennowned Italian perfumer had especially created the Lankaran Forest fragrance, directly inspired by her trip to Azerbaijan – Maria has created many incredible fragrances over the course of her career: for royalty, for Aveda, for I profumi del Forte and more; and her fragrance Lady Day was nominated for an Indie Fifi Award 2013.

Although slightly hampered by Jo having to ask questions through an interpreter, it was absolutely fascinating to hear the behind-the-scenes story of how and why the perfume was made – and of course to sniff it within the magical setting of a re-created forest glade! We love hearing perfumers speak so passionately about their creations and the inspiration behind them…
‘With its famous Iron Trees, intertwined by linking branches to produce unusual shapes and shadows, the forest’s seasonal beauty is celebrated in this fragrance, both in the scent and its distinctive Lalique bottle. The Silk Route and trade of exotic spices and ingredients has been a part of Azeri heritage for generations and is further inspiration captured in the scent.’

Perfumer, Maria Candida Gentile: ‘During the trip I was overcome by the magic of the landscape and the fascinating culture of Azerbaijan. In Lankaran I walked through the forest, amongst hundreds of golden iron trees, and I felt, all around me, a great energy. I was overwhelmed by the unique atmosphere of the forest: it had a  surreal and spiritual lightness. By creating Lankaran Forest I have translated the emotions I felt during my visit into this unique scent.’

Creative Director of the Buta Festival, Nasib Piriyev, commented: ‘I believe scent is as evocative as art,music or poetry, it has the power to inspire and transport you. I wanted to introduce Maria Candida to the Lankaran Forest and enlist her help to capture the spirit  of  Azerbaijan. As a gateway to the silk route Azerbaijan has always valued fragrance as an important expression of our culture. We are extremely excited to preview Lankaran Forest during the final event of the festival. We know the immersive forest-experience will bring some Azeri spirit to the capital, as we recreate Maria Candida’s autumnal trip for our guests.’

The warmth, generosity of spirit and enthusiasm with which our hosts greeted us and our VIP Subscribers was really something special – and the perfume itself was very warmly received by everyone who attended. We shall never forget standing within the heart of a slowly darkening forest and breathing in the earthily fresh and invigorating scent as it was sprayed into the air, perfuming not just the room itself but the whole venue as it whispered and wafted gently down the stair case with us as we left…

Not only a showcase for the fragrance itself and a celebration of Azeri culture – it made us absolutely desperate to visit Azerbaijan, becuase by golly it’s a gorgeous looking place, and they sure know how to party. It certainly wasn’t your average Friday night out, and if you’re turning forest-green with envy, we strongly suggest you get your name down now as a VIP Subscriber to The Perfume Society for future exclusive once-in-a-lifetime invitations. Who knows what magical journey we might ask you to accompany us on, next time…?!

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