IF, LIKE me, the last time you joyfully spritzed yourself with a heady fragrance, convinced you were walking out the door a goddess, was 15 years ago, and the perfume in question was of the sickly sweet ilk (think Lou Lou or Samsara) turning you against perfume for life, then you’d be forgiven for thinking that a trip to a luxury parfumerie was not going to send me into squeals of joy.
It’s not that I hate perfume but more the way that many women (and a younger me) wear it – too much, too often, initiating a headache-inducing assault on the olfactory receptors. And perfume is such a statement, of glamour and sophistication, if you’re lucky, but so often just an indication that you’re lacking in both. Or is that just me?
Since my over-perfumed teenage years I’ve preferred to remain understated by going unscented. Yes, I occasionally yearn for a sensual, delicious scent which is mine alone, but I’ve never stuck out the search – the closest I ever came was blocks of perfume from Istanbul’s grand bazaar which didn’t smell so sweet once home. But let’s move on.
Let’s talk about Roja Dove’s Haute Parfumerie, located on the fifth floor of Harrods. As you can see this is more opulent boudoir than perfume counter. Just being amidst the glinting bottles and soft fragrances was an experience. Roja Dove the man is a fragrance specialist par excellence, so I’m told and so I read every time I Google him. After two decades at Guerlain, Dove now runs an eponymous, London-based PR company and creates fragrances. And, of course, he is responsible for the heady Parfumerie, where he has gathered together an exquisite collection of scents, old and new, ranging from £50 to an eye-watering £115,000, including Houbigant (one of Marie-Antoinette’s perfumers no less), vintage scents from Baccarat and names like Amouage, Lanvin and Nina Ricci. I’m here to be introduced to some new additions.
First up is a collaboration between perfumers Jacques Chabert and Jean-Francois Cabos (formerly of Balenciaga) called Atelier Flou – six fragrances in all. I am surprised by how restrained and enjoyable the smells were. The ones that stand out are the summery Paradis Paradis (£95) with bergamot and jasmine, and a cologne called Eau d’Aviateur (£75) with orange and sandalwood. I should also mention Roja Dove’s own new fragrance Diaghilev (£75) – a chypre (citrus top-note, floral middle and mossy base) homage to the founder of the Ballets Russes, Serge Diagilev, and created for the V&A’s autumn exhibition Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russe 1909-1929.
But the scent I really fell in love with, the one that I could imagine being ‘mine, all mine’ was, predictably perhaps, one of Roja Jove’s 14 Semi-Bespokes tucked away in a wooden drawer. No.2 is soft, almost musky with a string of ingredients including my favourites (sandalwood and vertiver) and limited to 50 customers. It also has a price tag of £1000.
It’s taken a grand of bespoke scent to re-awaken my ardour for parfum. But re-awakened my interest is and so I shall resume my hunt for the perfect scent. All thanks to the inspirational Roja Dove Haute Parfumerie.
Be sure not to miss The Perfume Diaries exhibition, curated by Roja Dove at Harrods through October 2. Roja Dove Haute Parfumerie, Harrods, Fifth Floor, 87-135 Brompton Road, SW1X 7XL (020 7730 1234)