Roja Dove, Master perfumer
I was walking through a National Trust garden the other day when I stooped to smell a rose. The delicate, quintessentially English scent transported me back to my grandparents' garden when I was a little girl. There I was cavorting under a weeping willow in a frilly frock with brown ribbons in my hair. Magic!
|Roja: "Choose your scent wisely"|
As the master perfumer, Roja Dove, told a rapt audience last week at Henley's Phyllis Court club: "Unstopping a bottle of scent transports you to a different place. It's like releasing a genie from a bottle."
Roja, who trained for 15 years to become a perfumer, believes that there is a bit of "alchemy" involved with a scent: it changes depending on a person's skin, the clothes you wear and the climate.
|Perfumes of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and Napoleon|
(from left to right)
In those bygone days, everyone stored their perfume in standard glass bottles, almost like medicine. It wasn't until after the industrial revolution that the perfume trade transformed into the industry we know today, where packaging, design and branding all play their part.
"I remembered the smell of her face powder and her perfume. I can still smell it now."
Roja explained that it was a collaboration between perfumer François Coty and the glassmaker René Lalique (who happened to be a neighbour in Paris) in 1882 that spawned the concept of perfume, box and bottle.
François Coty found a market for his scents through some audacious marketing: when he was turned down by a buyer at the Paris department store, Grands Magasins du Louvres, he smashed his sample bottle on the floor of the shop. Within minutes, the buyer called him back as customers became captivated by the smell.
|The original samples for Coco Chanel|
Roja's passion for scent began when he was a boy - he can even pinpoint the moment of epiphany when his mother kissed him good night one evening in bed. He described how she appeared to glow, backlit by the hall light in a gold lamé dress. "I remembered the smell of her face powder and her perfume," he told us. "I can still smell it now. It set me on this path." Next year he plans to launch a new perfume for his collection, Roja Parfums: A Good Night Kiss.
"Choose your scent wisely," he urged as he left us in clouds of gardenia, lilac and orange blossom, "because you will be remembered for it... It's a gift of memory."
Roja Dove works with The Fragrance Foundation to inspire and educate people about the perfume industry. He was recently appointed a Creative Ambassador for the GREAT Britain campaign. In 2011, he launched his own range of perfumes, Roja Parfums, which are sold in Harrods, Fortnum & Mason and Selfridges.
|Roja's collection of historic perfumes|
FURTHER READINGPerfume by Patrick Suskind
A compelling tale of a serial killer determined to create the perfect scent.