Stepping into the fiction of a fragrance can be a deeply personal and therapeutic experience. With its ability to rouse latent memories in our subconscious, our sense of smell holds the power to unearth memories and shape new psychological landscapes.
Curating a scent to articulate the character of a place, has been likened by aromachologists to ‘fitting’ a perfume to the unique chemistry of our skin. For most fragrance specialists, balancing memory and emotion is a delicate art rooted in storytelling and craft. Profiling four iconic candles, we explore this interplay of scent and place as an act of escapism for the modern city dweller.
We speak with the creators behind scent ateliers Iiuvo, Hakudo, Calming Park and Haeckels to explore how each candle is inspired by the story of a location, thought, or memory. By immersing ourselves in the fiction of a scent, we are encouraged to take a pause from our daily routines, and be transported to another world.
Leo Gibbons, Iiuvo
Emmie was my crazy Irish Nan, a very dominant person in my childhood. She made you believe you could achieve anything and encouraged us as children to dream. And, like most Irish women her pride and joy was her immaculate, magical garden.
For IIUVO, the creation of fragrance is an act of storytelling. Whether drawn from the depths of childhood memories or the Southern drawl of hip-hop, each candle embodies a distinctive fiction. Breaking away from the dizzying world of fragrance, the London-based duo Leo Gibbons and Tomi Ahmed focus on stripping fragrance down to its essential notes.
Following the traditions of nineteenth century French houses, they work closely with their perfumer in Grasse to carefully construct scent profiles that invoke a distinct narrative. Part of their debut triptych, Emmie pays homage to Leo’s grandmother, and the long summer days spent playing in her garden.
With an earthy bitterness and hints of musk, it recreates the scent of pruned hedgerows and flowerbeds moments after rainfall. Grounded in a damp mossiness, the neatly trimmed borders of her lawn exhale a bouquet of cedar, vetiver and patchouli. By infusing these notes into the creation of Emmie, Leo retraces a path back home to the place that strongly shaped his personal memories.
The Japanese concept of Kōdō (香道, “Way of Fragrance”), is an artform that ritualises the appreciation of fragrance.
The olfactory design duo, Shizuko Yoshikuni and Manuel Kuschnig have based their work in the art of storytelling.Born out of the concept of purification, their Hakudo x Hasami collection intends to cleanse the space around you. This scent profile invites you to disconnect and in the words of Shizuko, ‘make your mind white’.
Inspired by the ancient stillness of the mountains of Japan, this scent weaves a path back to the foothills of Hasami village. In the green shadow of the forest, the Nagasaki prefecture tells the four-hundred-year tale of the art of Japanese ceramics. Echoing the earthy depths of the candle’s fragrance, it is presented in a beautifully irregular Yunomi (湯のみ) serving cup.
Touching upon the concept of the Japanese tea ceremony, Hakudo have adopted this symbol of tradition and imbued it with new life. Inspired by the layers of the mountain ground, its profile echoes the earthy moss of the forest floor and the smoky scent of Hiba wood. Considered by Shintō as the perfect tree, Hiba is a traditional Japanese cypress that has been used to build temples and shrines for centuries. Reminiscent of cedarwood, it plays a particularly prominent role in ritual due to its natural resistance and purity.
Combining eleven botanical essences, it encourages you to take a deep breath and be transported to the forests of Nagasaki. Peppery notes of ajowan and vetiver recount the scent of tilled earth underfoot whilst citrus oils uplift and are reminiscent of the fresh trees that soar above.
Olivier Rohrbach, Calming Park
Like music, perfume is invisible, it floats in the air, it is not something material in a way.
Olivier Rohrbach’s curiosity with fragrance evolved as a natural extension to his musical career. Developed in 2006, Calming Park‘s ‘Cactus’ candle represents a synaesthetic intersection between olfactory and auditory elements.In an interview with Rohrbach, the Swiss music designer explains scent as an almost transcendent experience.
Accompanying an eighteen track playlist of electronic, ambient beats, the ‘Cactus’ candle acts as a sensory guide through the wandering expanse of the Nevada desert. Named after the plants that dot the desert’s skyline, ‘Cactus’ has a gentle woody scent with hints of aloe vera and sage. This subtle scent rests on the clean simplicity of these two botanicals, wrapped in a delicate woodiness.
Balancing transparent vegetal scent and herbaceous undertones, it is evocative of the sprawling tracts and wide open plains of the Nevada desert. Created with clean simplicity, Rohrbach’s creations inspire a journey through the Nevadan plains, towards a deeper grounding in one’s self.
Dom Bridges, Haeckels
‘…as a downpour started, cycling fast to get out of the rain, that initial thrill of finding somewhere to shelter and as you got your breath back, breathing that incredible smell deep into your lungs’.
This scent is about our connection to moments in time. For Dom, it is reminiscent of childhood bike rides.
Playing on the British preoccupation with the weather, Haeckel’s founder Dom Bridges sets the familiar scent of rain against the backdrop of a seaside resort. This candle was conceived to capture the aromatics of the rain and sea. Inspired by the ambient scent of rain, Cliftonville was created using seawater, crushed seashell and geosmin. An interesting ingredient on the perfumer’s palette, geosmin is the organic compound that is released into the air when the rain falls. The scent that accompanies the rain after a long dry spell is called ‘petrichor’. Translating as ‘blood of the stone’ this rich, earthy aroma stirs our primitive appreciation for rainfall. Dom describes it as ‘the planet itself releasing its own odour, its aromatic core’.
Working out of a clifftop laboratory in Margate, Haeckels philosophy is shaped by their commitment to preserving the coastal landscape. Whilst they play an active role in the conservation of the shoreline, their distillations help cultivate an ecological respect and a reconnection to the sea.