Perfume Lovers London | An Evening of Perfume & Music with Sebastian Wybrew


IMG_6477_titleTechnically speaking, perfume and music make for easy bed fellows. Both are a construction of notes and accords; however, let’s set that to one side. The beauty of considering perfume through the medium of music as demonstrated by Sebastian Wybrew at last month’s Perfume Lovers London meeting is in the immediate emotional response. Seeing perfume in this way is liberating. A perfume can once again be viewed as a whole and complete work rather than just a sum of its parts or fetishization of ingredients. It brings the act of experiencing a fragrance back to its raw, visceral level. 

Legendary perfumer Jean Carles is often compared to Beethoven, who began to lose his hearing in 1796. Although Beethoven gave up performing in public during his last decade, he was still composing music. Some of which would be ranked amongst his greatest works. The comparison with Carles lies in the fact that Carles created Carven’s Ma Griffe and Miss Dior after becoming completely anosmic.

Jean Carles is credited with introducing the idea of “notes” to perfumery. He developed a system of olfactory study that organised materials into two charts – one for naturals and another for synthetics. The Jean Carles Method has gone on to become an industry standard and is the basis for study undertaken by students at Givaudan.

A selection of music was played for us on the evening of the meeting, and each piece was paired with a fragrance based on what they were both evocative of.  Have a listen and see if you agree…







While I was researching these pieces, another similarity I came to appreciate is music’s uncanny ability to seep into your consciousness. I find that I get similar cravings with perfumes I have worn. I’ll wake up with its scent on my mind and just have to smell it. After starting to write this, I woke up on more than one morning with a real hankering for Brahms.

Of all of the wonderful selections by Sebastian, the Brahms’ Intermezzo for Parfumerie Générale’s Cuir d’Iris became my favorite. I fell a bit in love with the story of Brahms and Clara Schumann, and when I listen to Brahms’ Intermezzo from Opus 118, there are parts of it I now see as their two distinct voices. I also see their characters in Cuir d’Iris. Brahms, who was often described as having a brusque character, represented in the leather. Clara in the tender iris.

Damn… I’m such a sucker.


Perfume Lovers London resumes on Thursday 24th with An Evening with Perfumer Ruth Mastenbroek.


4 thoughts on “Perfume Lovers London | An Evening of Perfume & Music with Sebastian Wybrew

  1. Thank you for taking the time to put the collection together…. as I write this I’m listening to the Debussy and I can imagine how perfume and music such as this can become entwined in all sorts of special ways….It would be interesting to see I’d associate Mozart in the way….. Spirited?, yes…capricious?, maybe! ~ What would you choose to wear to the opera?


    • Totally – it’s great to freestyle in this way. A piece of music or spray of perfume can both offer so many twists and turns. I found this especially true when it came to the instrumental pieces since there are no lyrics to really guide the narrative, you are free to add your own story to the soundtrack. Sometimes you just never know what either might leave you feeling, but that is all part of the fun!

      If I were to choose a perfume for the opera, Amouage’s Opus IX would be an obvious choice to see La Traviata in. Opus IX was inspired by it. However, I think something very classically structured like Papillon’s Angelique, Amouage Jubilation XXV, or Bogue MAAI. MAAI especially, one of my favorites, and a sensational shape-shifting fragrance.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Though I’m not familiar with the perfume I am with Traviata, and from what I’ve read of the synopses of both the perfume abd the opera, I think a hint of camellia is a perfect accompaniment to Verdi’s work…. The opera is playing at the ROH Covent Garden in the new year so maybe we should put the theory to the test!?….. Your passion for fragrance and how it can enhance our lives is admirable….


    • Wow – thanks for letting me know! I definitely want to go and see it! Even before I knew of the fictional work which inspired La Traviata, I had read the story of Marie Duplessis in a book about the reigning courtesans of 19th century France. I suppose her story was the most tragic (if you will) due to her beauty and her young age at the time she died; however, the “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” treatment is one that never ceases to amuse me.

      Liked by 1 person

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