Yesterday evening I attended my first Perfume Lovers London event, Perfume and Well Being hosted by Lila das Gupta and presented by Tanya Moulding of The Perfume Mistress. Aside from running fragrance workshops, talks, private parties and perfume events, Tanya also works as an aromatherapist and had an extensive amount of information to offer to us about a variety of our favorite perfume accords, their history and the various ways she uses them in her line of work.
a classic ingredient in Chypre formulations, providing sophisticated intrigue, used in wine-making to age muscatel barrels; reminiscent of fresh, sweat, damp, forest undergrowth, amber-y / earthy herbaceous sweet.
A prominent herb in folklore dating back to the Ancient Greeks, whom revered the oil, the name comes from the Latin salvere, which means ‘to save’ and the word clarus, meaning ‘clear’. Sage is used in space clearing, incense, meditation, and heightening the states of awareness. Clary Sage reached the height of its popularity in the middle ages where it was used to relieve anxiety.
After sampling Clary Sage essential oil, we had the opportunity to sample two perfumes from the collection Lila had curated to accompany Tanya’s presentation, L’Artisan’s sublime Caligna and Tom Daxon’s Salvia Sclarea. An interesting tidbit I picked up at the presentation: Tom Daxon is the son of Molton Brown’s former creative director, Dale Daxon Bowers, who held the role for 30 years. Impressive pedigree indeed!
Native of the Far East, originating from oriental Asia (China, India, and the Asiatic South-East). The orange is a symbol of innocence and fertility. The Arabs were the first to mention the orange through their early writings, and they were the first to introduce the orange to Europe. The word orange comes from the Arabic word ‘narandj’, which means ‘orange’. The orange is the ‘golden apple’ spoken of in Greek Mythology. The golden apple was the fruit that Juno gave to Jupiter on the day of their celestial wedding.
Orange is used in perfume to enhance florals, spices, and gourmands. In folklore, the exchange of an orange between a man and a woman was hoped to invite love to bloom, and it is said in the legend of Nell Gwynn, the orange seller who won the heart of the English King, the orange is a symbol of seduction.
After sampling the essential oil, we sampled Atelier Cologne’s very refreshing citrus Orange Sanguine.
Luxurious, Exotic, mysterious, connects to the divine, provides spiritual succour and inspires mythical states. Prized by pharaohs as an oil of Wisdom and long associated with the mythical Phoenix. In ancient Egypt the women used charred frankincense for ‘kohl’ to paint their eyelids.
Frankincense is harvested in Oman and Somalia and is used in skincare, respiratory health, kidney and bladder tonics, slows breathing, aids mental clarity, eases anxiety, calms and transports.
We sampled Boswellia Frankincense and nuggets of Cagari Resin were passed around for us to sample as well.
Then I fell in love.
Serge Lutens’ Fille en Aiguilles. I am wearing it now, and I can feel a new addiction developing. When I first heard of Fille en Aiguilles I didn’t think it would really be for me, but now that I have tried it, like so many other Serge Lutens creations, I am not sure I can go on without it.
The deep honeyed, spicy, eroticism of Carnation – rich in eugenol (present in Rose, Clove, etc) harks back to distant eras. Cultivated over 2000 years ago, is said to have been the favorite flower of the Roman King of Gods, Jove, representing love, good fortune, and graciousness.
After sampling the essential oil, we sampled Tom Ford’s Shanghai Lily.
Ancient Egyptians used sandalwood in cosmetics to preserve the youth and beauty of women. Queen Elizabeth I liked her bed linen to be perfumed with sandalwood. The indigenous people of Australia used sandalwood (Santalum spicatum) for centuries as a medicine. They boiled the bark for a cough syrup. Sandalwood is also used in Ayurvedic medicine for skincare. The oil has been used in aromatherapy for its anti-depressant properties, skincare, respiratory health, and stress management. Perceived as an aphrodisiac due to its sensual aroma and relaxing grounding effect.
A gentleman in the audience mentioned that many people can be anosmic to sandalwood and brought up a study that explored the olfactory response of epidermal cells known as keratinocytes, which express an olfactory receptor called OR2AT4, to synthetic sandalwoods. Researchers found that Sandalore and Brahmanol both bound to the receptor, triggering cells to divide and migrate, processes characteristic of skin healing. I find this really fascinating. The whole article can be read here.
We sampled Caledonian Sandalwood and Lorenzo Villoresi’s Sandalo. I also sampled Serge Lutens Santal de Mysore later in the evening when we were enjoying Lila’s expertly curated collection for the evening.
Scientists have performed brain tests to find the scent is as ‘calming as valium’. Synonymous with seduction, passion, the aroma is seductive, complex, erotic, euphoric, it enslaves and stirs the senses. The flower is revered in many cultures and has often been used in paintings as a symbol of hope, happiness, and love. In India it is known as ‘moonlight of the grove’ due to its night blooming habit, releasing its strongest scent at dawn (there are 43 species grown in India).
In ancient times Lavender had magical and healing associations, known by ancient Greeks as ‘witches herb’, associated with the goddess Hecate, queen of enchantment. Meditating on lavender is said to heal depression and ensure long life. Ruled by Mercury, Greek God of communication, this plant is said to balance / stimulate the mind.
We sampled Lavandula Angustifolia and Penhaligon’s beautiful Lavandula.
Other accords included in the literature Tanya provided for us were…
Historically, used in herbal posies and stewing bundles to sweeten the air, taken for digestive troubles, inhaled for mental clarity and refreshing to the spirits. It has a penetrating, energising and revitalizing effect. Stimulating to the nervous system and possesses aphrodisiac properties due to its ability to increase blood flow.
The Queen of flowers ruled by Aphrodite / Venus, symbolic of romantic love, beauty, balance. Its profound aroma is used to nurture the heart, instill feelings of peace, balance, inner confidence and beauty and femininity, lifts anxiety, psychologically eases sadness. Heart tonic, liver detoxifer. hormone balancer, cell rejuvinator – used in skin care.
Fiery, spicy, and worth its weight in gold (at one time) and used as currency as the spice routes fell into the hands of Attila the Hun, the Persians and then Arabs. It is said Alaric the Visigoth and Attila demanded 3000 pounds of pepper in ransom for the city of Rome in the 5th century. Symbolically it became a symbol of wealth and affluence.
A fragrance ingredient that is synonymous with comfort, safety and relaxation. Compounds found in vanilla are similar to those found in breast milk. The creamy, rich, deep, multi-faceted aroma has a psychogenic effect and helps create a sense of safety and comfort, it heightens sensuality and the relaxation response and can therefore be linked to aphrodisiac properties.
I sampled the enjoyably rich Vanille from Mona di Orio’s Les Nombres d’Or collection.
I really enjoyed myself last night. It was a great experience learning so much information about the perfume accords discussed during Tanya’s presentation. Lila is a very welcoming and gracious hostess, and the collection of perfumes she prepared to accompany the presentation really left me spoilt for choice. There were just so many to choose from, and more than one guest told me they had run out of arm space to do so! I am very much looking forward to spending a full day with Fille en Aiguilles, and will definitely share my experience with this ravishing fragrance once I do.
My past experiences with perfume had always been a bit monogamous (shocking I know!). I would typically buy a different bottle each season, and I would wear that particular fragrance until it ran out or I was ready to move on to something new. And yes, while my collection did begin to grow a bit, I had never really explored all of the various fragrances which make stars out of notes I wasn’t familiar with. For instance, I never imagined I would be drawn to a perfume whose most prominent note was clary sage, but here I am still draining the last wafts of fragrance from my L’Artisan Caligna testing strip.
I’ve always been fascinated with perfume, and it has always been in my life. It’s been part of my ritual as I prepare myself for the day ahead and brought me countless happy moments as I have savored its fragrance wafting around me while I go about my business. As Andy Tauer described it: perfume is a symphony playing out on the skin. And aside from all of the magic and romance one can associate with such a statement, on a tangible level it is also incredibly true. Notes in a beautifully constructed perfume come together to produce something extraordinary. As moving as a Rachmaninoff concerto. I look forward to expanding my perfume repertoire with every enlightening and thoroughly enjoyable event I have attended thus far.