Artisan perfumer – and friend – Liz Moores of Papillon Perfumes is still recovering from major shoulder surgery. However, lovely Vanessa of Bonkers About Perfume and I had been planning to visit her together for the longest time and as all our diaries were in alignment last Saturday, Liz was happy for us to come down to her home in the New Forest.
An added bonus was that it was Vanessa’s birthday so it was great to be able to see her on the actual day and celebrate it with her at Liz’s.
We arrived around midday and had a welcome mug of tea outside in the hazy sunshine, accompanied by Liz’s two very friendly dogs, Sally Muff Cake and Max. Liz is an animal lover and just some of the total roll call feature in the photos.
Liz is not only an exceptionally talented perfumer but also a excellent cook. She treated us to a delicious lunch of asparagus, pancetta and lemon risotto followed by a chocolate cake adorned with a candle and presented to Vanessa with a rendition of “Happy Birthday”.
It was a pleasure to finally meet Liz’s two youngest children, the adorable Daisy and the highly creative Rowan. Liz’s partner Simon, who as well as having his own business deals with Papillon’s packaging and crunches the all important numbers, also joined us for a time. Simon collects snakes which are stored in their drawers (see below) and has a couple of cockatiels.
It tells you how much we had to chat about that we didn’t get into the studio until after 6 o’clock. Once there we had a great time sniffing lots of different perfume materials which included naturals such as white frankincense, tiare, Persian rose and vanilla. Plus the hycraceum (Africa Stone) used in Salome, which Liz has to loosen up by warming it between her thighs. I joked that if she advertised this fact she could charge extra.
We also tried a number of aromachemicals including a chocolate one used in Angel which wasn’t commercially available for a long time. It was fun to try the fruit aromachemicals because they were so startling realistic. These included Granny Smith apple, cassis and Mirabelle plum.
Below is ambergris which has been macerating in perfumer’s alcohol for a year and still has another year to go. Liz adds two drops of the tincture to finish off every bottle of Tobacco Rose.
All Papillon’s perfumes are handmade here and take up to 3 and half months to macerate.
Liz decided to delay the release of White Moth for various reasons and we tried a recent mod. It was very different to the version I tried well over a year ago. That was more leathery while this was richer with a nectar-like sweetness. Notes include tiare, frangipani, heliotrope, beeswax and orange as well as champac and black tea. It’s a lovely composition and will be particularly wonderful in warm weather.
Even more excitingly, we got to sample an unnamed work in progress which is chypre with a zesty citrus top and a sexy costus drydown. Unfortunately costus is not IFRA compliant so Liz needs to reconstruct that affect herself (she prefers to create without restrictions in mind and then find solutions once she’s come up with something she’s happy with). She’s also waiting on a narcissus absolute to add to the mix and I have no doubt the finished product will be utterly fabulous. I impatiently await its release.
Before we left, Liz decanted a little of her precious orris butter for me and I extravagantly smeared some onto my skin. It was divine.
I have so much admiration as well as affection for Liz. She has no formal training in perfumery and has bumped up against numerous obstacles on her way to creating a top quality collection to be immensely proud of. She has spent so long ensuring each perfume is carefully structured with the perfect balance of materials and this shows in the extraordinary level of refinement she achieves.
Huge thanks to Liz for letting us descend on her while she’s still not yet back to full strength and for sharing her home and studio with us.