Meet the Perfumers: Photo Essay

Last Wednesday evening London niche perfumerie Les Senteurs held another wonderful ‘Meet The Perfumers’ event . This was a chance to hear from Jeroen Oude Sogtoen and Fredrik Dalman from Mona di Orio, Margaret Mangan and Meabh McCurtin from Cloon Keen Atelier and Sylvaine Delacourte of Sylvaine Delacourte Paris.

Sylvaine, Fredrik, Jeroen and Margaret

I was looking forward to hearing more about Mona di Orio because it’s a house I admire and have followed for a long time. I still remember the stir the release of their oud caused in 2011. Jeroen mentioned that it is still his personal favourite from the line. He started the house in 2004 with Mona and has ensured its output has retained its luxury quality and unique approach to familiar materials.

My favourite from Mona di Orio is the last release Santal Nabataea (you can read my review here) so it was great to hear Swedish perfumer Fredrik Dalman tell us the story behind it. He said that although there have been many sandalwood fragrances over the years, they have often taken a similar path and many feature a kind of figgy top note. He decided to base his in the ancient city of Petra which is a magical place to him. He took inspiration from the effect the sun creates when it hits the sandstone. He used a crackle of black pepper in the top to add to the mineral facet and coffee for the base to give it a dusty texture.

It’s an outstanding piece of work.

Perfumer Fredrik Dalman

Personally, what I love most about Santal Nabataea is the presence of olibanum that pervades the whole composition. It’s a must-try for incense fans and is in my top three.

There was a discussion about the state of the perfume industry and what lay ahead. Jeroen told us that when he goes to perfume fairs these days he’s amazed when there’s another huge crop of new niche brands. People tell him niche is over but he feels that it’s really just begun. It has made him want to show what niche really is; something to “blow your hair off”. He was questioned about what this meant – perhaps something more extreme? He replied that it was more about originality than going to extremes. Sylvaine made the point that perfumes still have to be something you’d want to wear. As one of the attendees commented “No-one wants to smell like a concept”.

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There was a general feeling that the story of the perfume was getting lost in large retail outlets like department stores or niche chain stores. Jeroen did say he was looking at scaling down the number of places their perfumes would be sold in the future so that connection can be restored. His has a new ‘linear’ collection but isn’t ready to share it with the world just yet.

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Cloon Keen is an Irish house co-founded by Margaret Mangan nearly 20 years ago. Their fragrances are very much a reflection of Ireland’s rich history, traditions and landscape. Based in Galway, the fragrances feel as if they’ve been infused with the clean, fresh air of the Atlantic coast.

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Margaret Mangan and perfumer Meabh McCurtin

We tried their latest release La Bealtaine which is named after the Irish May Day festival. Margaret told us that it mean a lot to her to be able to work with an Irish perfumer, Meabh McCurtin of IFF in Paris. La Bealtaine is a bright and innocent blossom-laden composition with a sheer feel. It features notes of bergamot, mandarin, neroli, pink pepper, angelica, jasmine, rose, tuberose, cedarwood, patchouli, amber, musk and cashmeran.

Margaret said she’d like to create a fragrance inspired by an Aran sweater one day. While we found this amusing, James Craven said they’ve had requests for something similar at Les Senteurs.

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Castana with its unusual burnt chestnut accord was given 5 stars by Luca Turin

Sylvaine Delacourte was Perfume Creative Director at Guerlain for 15 years. She created over 70 fragrances including Insolance, L’Instant, Oriental Brulant and Gourmand Coquin. She recalled how La Petite Robe Noire caused a little controversy at the time of its release because Chanel had always been known for the ‘Little Black Dress’.

Her time at Guerlain taught her the importance of quality materials and that a scent doesn’t need to be perfect; in fact it should have flaws. She also learnt that a perfume needs to possess a strong identity, noting that while people may like or dislike Insolence, it is recognisable in moments.

However the marketing regime at Guerlain got her down in the end, with the relentless churning out of flanker after flanker after flanker.

Her favourites from other lines include Lipstick Rose and Musc Ravageur from Frederic Malle (the latter partly because it was done by her friend, Maurice Roucel, the perfumer for Insolence). She’s also a fan of Prada’s Infusion d’Iris and has long loved Guerlain’s classic L’Heure Bleue.

The incredibly chic Sylvaine and a beatific Nick Gilbert

Sylvaine launched her own brand in 2017 which currently includes two collections based around a particular raw material.

The Vanilla Collection features natural Madagascan vanilla interpreted in five different ways: spicy – Vangelis, sunny – Vanori, fresh – Valkyrie, aromatic – Virgile and floral – Vahina.

Vahina: a fantastically lush floral on a bed of vanilla.

I love the use of coloured yarn to convey the mood and drydown of the fragrances.

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Dovana from the Musk Collection (tender musk)

If you’d like to win a sample set of the Vanilla Collection by Sylvaine Delacourte Paris please let me know in the comments and I’ll do a draw on Friday and announce the winner next Monday.

Have you tried any of the fragrances from these brands? Any stand-outs for you?

What do you think of the current state and future prospects of niche?

21 Comments

Filed under Perfume Events

21 responses to “Meet the Perfumers: Photo Essay

  1. Jillie

    What a very pleasant evening that must have been – so civilised and such nice people. Good to read that lovely James Craven was there – I have enjoyed chats with him over the years and benefited from his wisdom. Your photos are great and I can’t help being shallow and say how much I like the decor of Les Senteurs and I particularly love the roses suspended from the ceiling and the beautiful garland draped outside the window! But the perfumes are appealing too and it’s great to hear some of the comments, particularly on the “evolution” of the term niche, something that is at the moment causing much discussion.

    Like

    • Not shallow at all, Jillie. Les Senteurs really is a beautiful shop and it does add to the experience. In the summer you will see people taking pics outside 🙂
      James Craven is fantastic. He has a wealth of knowledge but is a lovely person too.
      The discussion about niche was very interesting and as you say, it is quite a talking point at the moment.

      Like

  2. Tara C

    What a lovely shop! I have and love Santal Nabataea, along with quite a few other MdOs. Cloon Keen Castana is the only one from the line I’ve tried, would like to try more but the distribution in north america is not great. I have tried both the musk and vanilla collections by Sylvaine Delacourte, but nothing was compelling enough to buy. My favourite was Virgile.

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    • Hi Tara C,
      Santal Nabataea is pretty exceptional. It’s rare for me to love an oriental this much. The dusty texture, incense and feeling of golden light really make it special. I’m kicking myself for not trying Violette Fumee.

      Like

  3. I was soooo excited to see the balls of wool and would love to know exactly what they were! They look not unlike my flannel yarns, haha. A very good way to evoke the vibe of the perfumes.

    Beyond the not inconsiderable wool excitement there was so much else to enjoy about your account, and I can understand how you must have loved hearing more about the creation of Santal Nabataea, with it being a personal favourite of yours.

    I like the new Cloon Keen bottles a lot, even though I am usually against opaque receptacles. They remind me a bit of Roja Dove’s semi-bespoke thermos flask-type bottles, but these are shinier and more eye-catching. I used to own Castana, then lost touch with the line somehow. Love the sound of Bealtaine, and the entire vanilla-centric line of Sylvaine Delacourte. I sheepishly would like to be included in the draw, if that is okay.

    Yes, just from reading your post I know that my perfume mojo is still very much alive!

    Like

    • Hi V,
      The balls of yarn were sprayed with each fragrance and I presume the colour was chosen to reflect that particular scent. A very nice idea.
      You may well like La Bealaine if you’re in the mood for something gentle and blossomy. Had no idea you owned Castana!

      You’re in the draw and as it stands, the odds are good 🙂

      Like

  4. Brigitte

    Love Santal N so much that I thunked a decant. Also tried both discovery sets of SD with my favorite fragrance being Florentina. DNEM.

    Like

    • Hi Brigitte

      Nice to hear so much love Santal Nabataea. I love how MdO take such a new approach to traditional materials. You can’t say you don’t like something until you’ve tried their version 🙂
      I’m curious about that iris musk. So much to try, I didn’t get to it!

      Like

  5. Hayley

    Hi Tara please could I be entered into the drawer? I’d love to try these and have been tempted for a while now to splurge on the sample sets. I haven’t tried any of these brands but they all sound good especially love the sound of Santal. Nabataea. I don’t know how to comment on the perfume industry other than I read and see so many interesting perfumes that I’m just as excited as I ever was! it’s even worse since I joined instagram 😂, I’m the penniless perfumista!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Hayley
      You’re in the draw.
      It’s grest that you’re not experiencing ‘niche fatigue’ and still feel excited about new launches. I mentioned on Vanessa’s blog that it will be a sad day when stop feeling like that completely, no matter how much we own already.
      I’m following you on Insta!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Ah! Now I have a name for the Penniless Perfumista. I wondered. ☺️

      Like

  6. Sandra

    Hi Tara, This sounds like it was a wonderful evening. I have not tried any of the perfumes you mentioned. The MdO sounds beautiful. I love SD’s idea of the yarn- so clever!
    Sandra xo

    Like

    • Hi Sandra
      These events really are a good idea. I learn so much about what people in the industry are thinking.
      I like you’d like the Sylvaine Delacourte line a lot.

      Like

  7. Sounds like a lovely evening with great people. Especially Jeroen. He‘s so nice and his passion is infectious. I have not met Frederic, yet. Great pics. One of you next time please. I caught about 5 mins of the event, Susie had it on InstaLive. Love technology! ❤️

    Like

    • When someone has a lot of passion, it really does come across. He is also very open. MdO continues to do things differently.
      Ah, didn’t know Suzy was Live, very cool.

      Like

  8. How exciting! As always, it’s great that you share your experience with us.
    I did smell the delacourt vanilla perfumes last year in Milan, and I only really liked the Roucel one; Valkyrie. However, I like that she sticks to her own concept of “wearable”, even if it’s not for me, so far.
    I can’t really get to sniff MdO around here, so haven’t followed their new releases in ages. But the santal sounds lovely.
    I like the discussion of niche now! It feels so different from how it used to be, mostly there’s very little niche about it.

    Like

    • Exactly. Niche used to be about offering something different to the mainstream. Not blinged up bottles at eye-watering prices with mediocre juice. That’s why I totally get Jeroen talking about originality.
      Shame you can’t get hold of MdO in Denmark, especially considering their base isn’t far away.

      Like

  9. Sounds like a wonderful time. Thanks for sharing, Tara. The future of niche? More growth, more choices between the extremes of brilliance and mediocrity.

    Like

  10. Loved reading your report and seeing all the pictures. I was also attracted by those colorful balls of yarn. Smart idea!

    After reviewing the vanilla collection, I ended up buying two travel sprays – Valkyrie and Virgile.

    Like

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