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Storytelling with perfume

You’re gripped by a really good book. The chapters are beguiling, the descriptions crisp and enticing; each word tripping off the tongue like the start of Lolita. But the plot! It is the plot that draws you deeper, past the initial first attraction, and onto a third or fourth date. You’re invested and in the first flushes of love; semantic chemistry coupled with something altogether more raw and lasting.

But stories don’t always start with ‘Once upon a time’ and end neatly, in a linear fashion. Sometimes they begin with a hypnotising top note and end in a curious smokiness, unearth the controversial and end in a question, not an answer. The artful perfumer can tell a story in shades of tart blackcurrant and Sicilian lemon, coupled with the alchemy of your own skin. With one spritz, you become a player in a complex narrative of your choosing.

If you seek it, you can find beauty in the most unexpected of places. Gorilla perfumers, Mark and Simon, take inspiration from their travels and illustrate the stories of the places they’ve visited and the people they’ve met. Sometimes these narratives are gritty and raw; a complex but compelling perfume material. Hues of burnt pallet wood and gasoline paint a portrait of homelessness in Dallas, while bitter orange and Damascus rose essential oils evoke the flight of refugees from Lebanon.

With darkness there is light. Citrus lifts earthier tones and sandalwood tempers flyaway, fruity notes. Patchouli grounds tonka; tangerine sharpens lavender. Patchouli and grapefruit speak of the talent of a homeless man who turned an abandoned water tank into a home, decorated with the discarded treasures of others. Spicy cardamom and rose recreate the warm hospitality Simon was shown at a refugee camp, by people who had lost most of their belongings. A rich cup of coffee, given freely by those who have little, warms the hands and heart.  

Perfumery can evoke the sweetest of memories; dance contests in Dallas, hot chocolate on a winter’s evening, turning the key in your own front door. Walk past a stranger and a familiar fragrance can pull you straight back into childhood, watching your mother apply her lipstick and anoint her throat with scent.  Perfume can be a gift to your youngest child, painted in shades of raspberry red, lavender and rose, or an elegy to friends you’ve lost on the road.

On the warmth of your skin, these stories come to life.

To ignite your curiosity, why not read some of them now?

The Smell of Freedom: a scented tale of three extraordinary survivors of hardship

Dear John: a fragrance for a father, coloured with feelings of both love and abandonment.

Death, decay and renewal (granted, not the prettiest name for a perfume album)

A tale of rural Dorset, stone circles and Sikkim girls

Homes: those of refugees seeking safety, those created without paying rent, and those returned to after journeys far away

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