Design Age: Dulux Colour Forecast 2016 With Room Fragrances by Fleurage


Dulux Design Age Colour Forecast 2016 launch. Infinite Worlds colour palette display room.

What do certain colours smell like, taste like, feel like? Do colours trigger emotional associations, and do they suggest certain forms and shapes, the use of certain materials and the creation of certain kinds of objects? What of other times and worlds? Can these be denoted or expressed with certain colours? All of these questions were opened up, explored and experienced at the Dulux Australia Colour Forecast 2016 launch last Tuesday evening, September 1, at Meizai in Richmond, Melbourne.

The new Dulux colour trend collection is titled “Design Age”, and features four colour palettes, all with evocative names: Bio Fragility, Infinite Worlds, Future Past and Retro Remix. I’ve not been to a product launch of this kind before, and was thrilled when perfumer Emma Leah, of Fleurage in Melbourne, invited me to this cross-sensory event, which featured artisanal objects by local makers and designers, all influenced by Dulux’s new interior paint palettes and the creative concepts behind them. Emma designed a room scent for each colour palette, and textiles by Elise Cakebread, ceramics by Porcelain Bear and furniture by Grazia+Co were also featured.

As Perfume Polytechnic is interested in exploring the art of olfaction in all forms, including synaesthesia and multi- or cross-sensory events and art that features scent, I’m very excited to share my experience of this immersive, hyper-sensory event with you.

The launch began with champagne and canapés on the ground floor of the Meizai furniture showroom, which gave me time to talk with Emma Leah about her involvement in the project, the colour palettes, the concepts behind them, and how she incorporated these ideas into room fragrances. After an official welcome, we were each handed a Dulux paint colour swatch from one of the palettes, and divided into groups according to colour. Each group was then guided separately through the four Design Age room displays on the top level of the showroom.

Each of the palettes was displayed in a unique room, specially created for the launch, with wall paint in a number of colours from the designated palette. Each of the designers had their work featured in one room, although Emma had created room scents for each palette, all of which we experienced at the launch. Emma’s main focus however was on the room scent for the Future Past theme and her scent was the feature design object for this room and colour palette.

What transpired during our tour was a cross-sensory delight, an intense experience of interrelated tastes, colours, scents, furnishings, decorations, and specially designed artisanal objects. As we were led into each room, we were offered specially designed gourmet canapés and mini-cocktails by Peter Rowland catering that also drew on the theme of the room’s palette for inspiration. Emma’s scents had been sprayed into the air of each room, adding an olfactory element not often considered or experienced in designed spaces, and the scent component was a welcome counterpoint and addition to the otherwise very visual displays.

Room One: Bio Fragility


Dulux Design Age display room: Bio Fragility

“Fragile life is the embodiment of beauty…

We marvel in the intricacy of creation and its duality of fragility and strength…

Bio Fragility takes its colour cues from natural and living matter – flesh tones, lichen, moss and stone influence the subtle hues of the palette which are derived from chalky brittle elements rather than soft textures.”

(Source: Design Age Dulux Colour Forecast 2016 launch brochure)

Canapé: Mushroom macaron
Cocktail: Elderflower martini
Featured Designer: Porcelain Bear – “Porcelena Bowl” and small vessels

Upon walking into the Bio Fragility room, we were surrounded by muted pastel paint shades, furniture, decorative objects, and softly chiming, Eno-esque electronic music punctuated by tinkly and percussive sounds, which was replicated in each of the rooms. The mushroom macaron was a surprisingly stunning canapé. It matched two of the paint colours (the pale pink “frock” and the mushroom-coloured “mangaweka”), and provided a fascinating taste combination of a sweet exterior with a pungent and savoury mushroom filling. The crunchy yet brittle macaron gave way to a gooey filling, perfectly demonstrating the duality of strength and fragility in this design concept. The elderflower martini was delicate and sweet, but not too sweet, just like the colours in the room.

Room Scent by Emma Leah

Emma spoke to me about this colour palette and the concepts behind it – that Bio Fragility was “pastel” and delicate, but that the concept didn’t allude to softness or cuddliness, as pastels often do. Rather, the theme was more about hard and fragile surfaces, such as chalk and porcelain that easily shatters, hence the bowl by Porcelain Bear as the feature object in this room, as well as shattered ceramics as a room decoration. She says of this colour trend and her scent: “powdered pearls are a high quality abrasive exfoliant that shines and sparkles like fairy dust, and struck me as the perfect representation of what this trend captures. The scent is smooth and elegant but cool. It is alluring but what we call a hard scent. Nonintrusive but present and affecting.”

Notes used in the Bio Fragility scent and related colours from the palette*:

white musk (great star), rose musk (chamber), baby powder (chain pearl), coconut (snow queen), smoke (silkwort), anise (purebred), lilacs (partita)

*note – to refer to the full colour palettes, see the link at the bottom of this post

How does it smell?

The baby powder dominates and is soothing and familiar, and there is musk and a hint of coconut. It’s a very pretty fragrance, and it certainly smells fragile in a powdery way, a little like broken chalk, or, as Emma says, powdered pearls. It aligns superbly with the colours from the palette that were chosen for the walls, which included a muted pink (frock), a pale mossy green (fibre moss), a pale lavender (atelier) and a soft mushroom (mangaweka).

Room Two: Infinite Worlds


Dulux Design Age display room: Infinite Worlds

“As the world becomes overcrowded we explore the innovative possibilities of unknown worlds…

Our fascination with the deep ocean and infinite space inspires visions of creatures glowing with phosphorescent light against dark coloured backdrops and celestial objects such as planets, moons, exploding stars and vast nebular clouds.

Dark colours… juxtaposed with flashes of brilliant reds, pinks, coral and space age metallics. Glowing hues are used as accents to help recreate the eerie effect of deep uncharted worlds.”

(Source: Design Age Dulux Colour Forecast 2016 launch brochure)

Cocktail: Homemade lemonade cocktail
Featured Designer: Elise Cakebread – hanging soft hemispheres and pile high club floor cushion

Infinite Worlds is an entirely different colour palette to the previous one. We walk into a room filled with deeply soothing dark and pale blues, with pops of brighter reds and oranges. The room and its contents nod back to David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust of the 1970s while at the same time hinting at the future, and unknown worlds on planets far away. Futuristic textile hanging orbs and a floor cushion by Elise Cakebread are the featured design items in this room and they add a whimsical, organic element to the otherwise mostly hard and smooth textures in the room. The cocktail for this design concept is a homemade lemonade cocktail in a sci-fi shade of aqua.

Room Scent by Emma Leah

Emma Leah in the Infinite Worlds room

Perfumer Emma Leah in the Infinite Worlds room

Emma says of this scent: “To me this is a burst of star dust – a soft metallic scent with a watery fruit note, gentle but present, cool and ethereal, gender neutral but a drifting prettiness to its feel. It flows and reveals itself smoothly.”

Notes used in the Infinite Worlds scent and related colours from the palette:

blackberry (purple verbena), melon (melon baby), pomegranate (lickety lick), metallic (thebe touch), white musk, ocean salt (lake tekapo), velvet rose (jupiter jazz)

How does it smell?

Emma’s Infinite Worlds scent is full of fruit; at first my nose struggles to identify what the fruit is and I think I’m smelling something sharp and citrussy, but then melon, blackberry and pomegranate emerge quite clearly. A sweet rose compliments and blends with the luscious fruit notes. Most of these fruity and sweeter notes represent the warmer, brighter and metallic tones in the palette, literally popping out with sweetness and brightness from the fragrance. They seem to float on a salty ocean surface, with an ocean salt note reflecting the oceanic blues of the colour palette and a metallic, slightly smoky note in the background providing further interest and a hint of sci-fi.

Room Three: Future Past


Dulux Design Age room display: Future Past

“As we move towards the future we look to reassurances from our past.

Our reality is one of a digital world where we seek comfort in nostalgic references that ground us in times of uncertainty… We are drawn to contemporary designs that evoke reassuring memories and fuse modern with heritage and classicism… This theme takes its cues from Steampunk references merging with modern design to create a new version of the old…

Deep and decadent traditional hues are made modern with the addition of mustard, pink and purple. The scents of tobacco and leather are reminiscent of an 18th century explorer’s lounge, evoking visions of luxurious browns and rich timbers.”

(Source: Design Age Dulux Colour Forecast 2016 launch brochure)

Canapé: Roast duck tasting spoon
Cocktail: Mulled wine
Featured designer: Emma Leah – Future Past room fragrance

The Future Past room revisits old worlds and is reminiscent of times past, merging colours, materials and styles from the Victorian era and pre-WWII decades with clean and modern design elements. Shades of brown, grey and lime green dominate. Gorgeous brass lamps, wooden and leather furniture, and a shelf display featuring old-fashioned perfume bottles fill the room. A modern take on a Persian rug, in mottled shades featuring lime and musky pink, dominates the visual space. The surfaces in the room are mostly hard and sturdy, yet the ambience is warm and inviting. The rich red colour and spicy flavour of a small glass of hot mulled wine and an exquisite roast duck tasting spoon, complete with pate and dried kale garnish, expresses the opulence and vintage feel of this colour palette perfectly.

Room Scent by Emma Leah

Emma says her featured room scent for the Future Past theme is “complex and rich but smooth and elegant. Bold and dark with definite presence, I have woven a delicate floral through a complex mossy wood with era-specific hints of unusual notes like hay, tobacco and leather that deserve exploration like the colour palette of this trend.”

Notes used in the Future Past scent and related colours from the palette:

moss (highlander), green wood (emerald forest), violets (passionate blue), honeysuckle (army canvas), lilac (purple people eater), leather (loose leather), bergamot (pickled), coriander (vintage green) and a hint of cherry (ripening grape)

How does it smell?

Emma’s feature scent for the Future Past theme is rich and opulent. It’s a beautiful and complex chypre, with an opening of fresh green notes, well-blended old-fashioned, sweet and powdery florals (including a wonderful violet), and a touch of leather and cherry to make things really interesting. It’s refined yet plush, and is a sexy, feminine fragrance. It reflects the bygone eras that the Dulux palette alludes to and yet is perfectly suited to the modern era at the same time. As Emma is a vintage perfume expert and specialises in vintage perfume making techniques, I can’t think of a better choice of perfumer to design a fragrance for this theme, mixing old and new.

Room Four: Retro Remix


Dulux Design Age room display: Retro Remix

“A new retro is formed — mixing together iconic elements from across the mid to late century…

Less of a nostalgic trend this theme explores a more youthful expression, with new generations discovering these influences for the first time and creating their own remixed style…

Experimentation in colour combinations leads to acid brights clashing with faded, muddied colours such as browns and olive greens. The colours are happy and nonconformist, optimistic and energetic.”

(Source: Design Age Dulux Colour Forecast 2016 launch brochure)

Canapé: Banana split
Cocktail: Brandy Alexander
Featured designer: Grazia+Co – David ottomans and Bowie side table

Retro Remix blends colours and styles from the 1960s, 70s and 80s. It’s an unusual juxtaposition, and one that I personally find a little jarring. Bright, clear, pop colours of the 60s and 80s co-exist alongside more muted, nature-inspired colours from the 70s. The furniture and room decorations are clean and sparse, with a nod to the modernist and slightly futuristic pieces of the 60s and 70s. The Brandy Alexander cocktail is a delicious nod to the 1970s and the miniature Banana Split is a classic, fun retro dessert, suiting the vibe of this playful palette.

Room Scent by Emma Leah

Emma says of this theme: “Fizzy pop is what jumped out as I looked this over and my symbol of the seventies is pineapple! A lively, playful, interesting fruit that went with everything I have taken it as the cornerstone but not dominating. Instead what results is a fresh fun combination that pops with green grass, subtle woods and herbaceous greens.” Emma also said to me at the launch that when she created this scent she imagined summers from the 1970s and drinking fizzy pineapple drinks while sitting on grass. We also spoke about the use of pine in her scent, which was a ubiquitous fragrance ingredient of the 1970s.

Notes used in the Retro Remix scent and related colours from the palette:

grass (grass court), sandalwood (tuk tuk), green fern (green olive) , traditional musk (titi islands), pineapple (brassed off)

How does it smell?

Realistic, fresh, crisp and green grass and pine notes open this fragrance. As it develops the pineapple emerges, and the fragrance takes on a more tropical feel. I feel transported back in time to my early childhood in the 1970s when I smell this fragrance and reminisce about pineapple flavoured ice blocks and my Dad’s Pino Silvestre. Pineapple was king during this era, and while it is strong in this fragrance, it’s not sickly sweet or fake smelling. The sandalwood is gorgeously sweet and creamy and the musk blends in well, adding an airy, light and sophisticated aura to the composition. This room fragrance certainly matches the fun vibe of the Retro Remix palette, but displays an extra air of elegance thanks to the green notes and musk.

Gift bags

Gift bag contents

Gift bag contents

At the end of the evening we were each presented with a gift bag containing a range of goodies including a bottle of one of Emma’s room scents and a full colour brochure of the Dulux Design Age Colour Forecast for 2016. Lucky me – I managed to score three bottles of scent (from various bags) and one of Emma’s samples, so I can enjoy all of her specially commissioned fragrances at home now too.


The Dulux Colour Forecast 2016 launch event was a fun, engaging and creative night. I was pleasantly surprised at the degree of cross-sensory thought that had gone into the production of the room displays, the works by the various makers and designers, and the food and drink. As an artist and synaesthete myself I have worked in cross-sensory ways for a long time. In fact, I think it’s a core aspect of how many creative people think, in ways that recognise the connections between life and art, between the various senses and art forms, and by finding creative equivalences between one art form and another. It’s a method of working and thinking about the world that appeals to me, and this is why I thoroughly enjoyed the event.

The colour trends themselves were really fascinating, distinct from one another, and broad-ranging. A nod to the past and an almost nostalgic longing for the pre-digital age was a theme that traversed several of the palettes, as well as the influence of natural elements, from worlds both real and imagined, contemporary, and into the future.

I’m really thrilled that a global company like Dulux has taken this cross-sensory and very intimate approach to launch and promote its new colour range. The event was smoothly organised and felt personal, special and unique. All of my senses were fully engaged and stimulated throughout the evening.

Scent helps to create specific and complex moods in architectural and designed spaces and can be tailored to match certain colours, design concepts and themes. It was wonderful to experience Emma’s room scents in each of the spaces, and exciting to witness scent being used as a design element, featured equally alongside the visual design objects. I do hope this is a trend that we see much more of in the future.

Dulux has produced a short video about each of the designers involved in the launch:

To explore each of the colour trends further and to view the full colour palette for each of them, visit the Dulux Australia website.

To find out more about perfumer Emma Leah, visit the Fleurage website, and read my interview with Emma, right here on Perfume Polytechnic.

Thirteen Thoughts: Perfumer Interview Series – Emma Leah of Fleurage Perfume Atelier


Thirteen thoughts from perfumers around the globe. Each perfumer profiled at Perfume Polytechnic has been presented with the same set of thirteen questions that probe into scent memories, imagination, education, history, the creative process and philosophy. How each perfumer answers these questions, and what form the answers take, is up to them. Tune in each week for a new instalment to learn more about the olfactory arts and how perfumers think about smell.

Today marks the launch of Thirteen Thoughts, a Perfumer Interview Series that will run weekly for an initial series of five weeks on Perfume Polytechnic. Today’s interview is with Emma Leah, master perfumer at Fleurage Perfume Atelier in South Melbourne, Australia. Future instalments will feature O’Driù’s Angelo Orazio Pregoni, Mark Evans of Evocative Perfumes, 4160Tuesdays’ Sarah McCartney and Paul Kiler of PK Perfumes.

I want to let each perfumer speak for themselves about who they are, what drives them, and what they do with fragrance, so without any further ado, I introduce you to…

Emma Leah of Fleurage Perfume Atelier

Perfumer Emma J Leah

Emma Leah of Fleurage Perfume Atelier

  1. Tell us about a significant olfactory memory from your childhood.

My olfactory memories are intricately linked to other sensory inputs. I grew up in a desert area in Victoria (in South-Eastern Australia) and one of the most surreal was the smell of the salt pans. The alien metallic tang that you could taste in your mouth, coupled with the blinding white light, tempered by the dusty red sand and bursts of dry green hay from the landscape were like nothing else I have ever experienced and something I draw on often when dealing with the abstract and unusual.

  1. What is your “origin story”? When, why and how did you decide to become a perfumer?

On the one hand I could say I have always been a perfumer but it was only a ‘conscious’ decision later in what I regard as my journey of study. It began with aromatherapy. I was creating different blends and frustrated by the limited palette and the exploration and learning progressed into high-end traditional perfumery. I officially called myself a perfumer when I founded my own company Fleurage.

  1. Do you have any formal training in perfumery, or are you self-taught? Have there been any mentors or other personal or cultural influences on your work as a perfumer?

I’m self-taught due to circumstances but had I been given the choice I still would have been self-taught because the schools don’t really teach traditional perfumery using botanicals anymore. I was inspired by three important industry names: Septimus Piesse, Edmond Roudnitska and the family Guerlain. The perfumery style I have embraced is 1700’s French.

  1. Who are your favourite perfumers or perfume houses, and what do you like about their work?

Guerlain by far stands out in my mind and to my nose: exceptional blends and attention to detail in presentation. It was also a highly professional company who in my mind understood the intimate connection of perfume to the individual and designed, created, and marketed their range in line with this thinking. This ended when they sold it.


Fleurage Perfume Atelier

  1. Describe your brand to us: tell us about the kind(s) of perfume that you make, as well as your brand’s philosophy or ethos.

Fleurage Pty. Ltd. is an Australian company owned and operated by Emma J. Leah and Robert G. Luxford.

It began in June 2007 as a vision of a Parisian Parfumerie at 88 Millswyn St., South Yarra.

We were one of the only perfumeries that specialised in purely natural scents across our whole range and still stand as one of the largest range of botanical parfums in the world. Since those sleepy days in the Domain area in Melbourne we have grown by leaps and bounds fulfilling the niche scent market requirements as they have come along. Our perfumery in South Melbourne is double the size of our beginning location and we look to expand again in the coming year as we grow and evolve.

Along with our large original range of natural perfumes, we now offer custom scent creation for individuals and brands, a large range of bath and body products and an extension to our perfume range using modern commercial ingredients. Demand for information has seen us recently develop perfume making courses and experiences for the public and it is this unique application that has brought us to new exciting projects. Offering patrons the chance to explore and create perfume is rare and coveted and we are proud of our achievements in this area making it accessible to everybody with a desirable outcome.

Everything we do at Fleurage has a central core of attention to detail, exceptional quality, and taking the unorthodox approach. We believe in elegance, working hard and enjoying a glamorous life.

Anywhere Fleurage is located strives to be an oasis of gentler experiences, enlightenment and joy.

As a perfumer of Fleurage I create whatever is inspiring and holds a kind of beauty in the expression of the scent. This allows me to work with a wide range of ingredients for many and varied applications. I have worked with artists, theatre, fashion, cosmeticians and famous people.

  1. How do you come up with the idea for a new perfume? For example, do ideas come to you spontaneously, do you work conceptually, or do you try to fill gaps in your range?

Ideas come all the time in a variety of situations. Music, movies, people, fabrics, food, stories, snapshots of life, colours, paintings, books, feelings, times and eras. For me anything can be expressed in a scent.

  1. What element of your perfume making process do you think readers of this blog would be interested or surprised to learn about?

I think many people know the mechanics of perfumery but the finer details of creation would probably surprise a lot. What I hear mostly is the shock at how many ingredients can make up a seemingly simple perfume and how few can sometimes create a complex scent. When the notes are listed on databases etc. they only pick out around ten highlight notes (or less) and I think many people assume that’s all that is in the scent.

Some people are also surprised that I work with a brief (and have the name first) for all of my fragrances and three-quarters of my process is writing and sniffing before I even contemplate mixing anything together.


Covet, one of Fleurage’s botanical fragrances.

  1. What are the current challenges you face as a perfumer, both creatively and in regard to manufacturing, distributing and marketing your perfume?

Perfumery is changing so rapidly these days I find the biggest challenge is to stay true to my creative ideas and processes. I could complain for pages about the isolation, the cost and the frustration of shipping and competing with the giant companies that own 90% of the market but in the end I just get on with the job of doing what I love and trusting it will get to the right people.

  1. How has your work as a perfumer affected your perception of everyday smells?

I am captivated by smell and always have been. Being a perfumer has just meant I get to experience this joy on a new level every day. I don’t judge smells, I accept them and file them away for future use. Admittedly sometimes I find some odours and application of scent to be offensive but I am only human. I also find the “fashion” of fragrance to be very boring.

  1. Many ingredients that are edible are also used in fragrance (chocolate, vanilla, coffee and rose, to name a few). If you could reverse this process and turn any perfume ingredient into an edible ingredient, what would that be? Which fragrance ingredient do you think would taste nice as a flavour?

Without hesitation I would love to eat or drink Blue Lotus extract.

  1. If you had a time machine, which historical period in perfumery would you like to go back to and work in as a perfumer?

The 1700’s when new ingredients were being discovered and used and perfumery was an exploration of beauty and capturing desire. Or ancient Mesopotamia when perfumery was part of the rituals of the gods.


A gorgeous custom creation from Fleurage

  1. If you could invent a new olfactory gadget, tool or technology, what would it be and how would it benefit perfumers and/or society?

I actually don’t know how to answer this. I am not much of a futurist. I feel that we have forgotten so much and are losing so much that we need to revisit the past.

My personal favourite indulgence I am working on obtaining for the Fleurage Perfumery of the future is a perfume fountain. It has no use beyond being beautiful.

  1. What is the purpose of perfume?

Scent is our primal messaging system, warning us to either stay away or encouraging us get closer.


Perfume (truly beautiful perfume) connects our brains to our hearts through the experience of pure joy and for a moment we are ethereal beings.

For me the purpose of perfume is to give ready access to joy and beauty.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the very first of our Perfumer Interview Series with Emma Leah of Fleurage Perfume Atelier. Many thanks to Emma Leah for her wonderful and interesting answers. If you’d like to find out more about Fleurage, the beautiful perfumes Emma makes, and the courses and creative experiences she offers, visit the Fleurage website.

You can also read about my experience with Emma creating my own “Karatta” perfume a few months ago at Fleurage, here and here.

NEXT WEEK’S Thirteen Thoughts: Perfumer Interview Series will feature Mark Evans of Evocative Perfumes, an independent fragrance house from Adelaide, Australia. Make sure you visit Perfume Polytechnic again this time next week to find out how Mark answers the same thirteen questions!

Perfume Meetup at Fleurage Perfume Atelier


Perfumer Emma Leah in front of her work space

A small group of Melbourne perfume aficionados recently had a wonderful and immersive experience learning all about fragrance from botanical perfumer Emma Leah at her perfume atelier Fleurage. Back in September I created my own fragrance with Emma, and wrote about it in one of my early blog posts. We ended up with a magnificently rich and original fragrance called Karatta, a fragrance based on scent memories of my childhood holiday house at the beach. It was such a lovely experience and on the day, Emma and I discussed the various perfume groups I’ve been a part of, both online and in person. She very generously offered her space for a perfume meetup, and I arranged for a group of six of us to meet with Emma and her partner Robert, at Fleurage, for a supper meeting.


Emma talking with the group

Emma offered to talk about her practice and show us her perfume-making materials. The format of the evening took the form of a free-form conversation between Emma and all of us. She encouraged us to ask questions throughout, and it was these questions that guided the conversation. We got to hear about Emma’s own perfume education and training (traditional, botanical), her process of making fragrances, the materials she uses, her opinions of the new IFRA restrictions, the price of materials and their availability, and so on. So much was discussed that I can’t possibly record it blow-by-blow here, but it was a fascinating and very educational experience.


Emma talking with the group

Emma also passed around some of her own fragrances periodically for us to smell. These are wonderful, botanical, vintage-style creations, and I recommend anyone in Melbourne go and visit Fleurage and give them a try; they are truly beautiful and sophisticated fragrances and like nothing else on the market today. We also got to smell some of the perfume ingredients that Emma uses to make her fragrances. It was a real treat to be able to smell real iris – which had everyone in raptures. Iris is one of the most expensive and hard-to-come-by ingredients used in perfumery, so none of us had smelled it before as a discreet ingredient. Iris smells very much like violet (which surprised me), and much less “flat” and waxy than it does in the iris-heavy fragrances I’ve smelled. We also smelled several types of lotus (from memory, pink, blue and white), which were also beautiful, but the highlight ingredient of the night for many was cèpes mushroom. This unusual perfume ingredient smelled of an intensely savoury and rich combination of mushroom and vegemite. I would love to smell this ingredient in a perfume one day, I think it would be earthy and marvellous!


Gabriella sniffing the cèpes mushroom – a magical ingredient!

All of those who attended the meetup were very grateful for the opportunity to meet with Emma and have an open conversation about perfume. Being able to have an in-depth discussion with a perfumer and to have access to her fragrances and materials was wonderful. Thank you Emma and Robert for sharing your fabulous perfume atelier and your time with us!


Emma Leah’s fabulous perfumes

If you are interested in learning more about Fleurage Perfume Atelier and Emma Leah’s perfumes, you can visit the website here.

Rewind Repost: Easter Smells, Easter Memories

Below is a repost of the piece I wrote last year on Easter smells, in case you missed it. Easter, for me, always brings up a plethora of very specific smell memories. Year after year, I find myself transported back to my childhood through these memories. I love Easter: the weather is getting cooler, the four-day long weekend is so lazy and relaxing, and I especially adore the rituals of eating spiced fruit buns and chocolate eggs. Have a happy Easter everyone!

Easter has always been a favourite time of year for me. Although I’m not Christian, I like the four-day holiday in Australia and some of the related traditions, whether or not they stem from Christianity or pagan times. Part of my fondness for this holiday is because I have very fond memories of Easter weekends spent at Robe as a child, a tiny coastal town in South Australia. My family owned the historic Karatta House then, and this run down and dilapidated, sprawling property was a great place for a child to spend so much time.

Karatta House

Karatta House

I have many scent memories spending Easter at Karatta. I remember the rich, wake-up smell of bacon cooking in the stone-walled, lino-floored, musty kitchen in the mornings. When I cook bacon now, I always think of Robe, and the old kitchen Mum cooked in. The brass kitchen taps and bore water gave off a strange combined aroma: metallic notes mixed with dirt and that slight funk of undrinkable bore water. I also associate this kitchen with the pungently salty smell of freshly caught fish, and my Dad and brother gutting and scaling them on the sink. I’ve never like seafood much, and I think my experiences at Robe (my parents also cooked live Crayfish) have a lot to do with that. The smell of fish, no matter how fresh, still makes my stomach turn.

fire-551665_640Every Easter Dad would light the fire at night in one of the grand old fireplaces. Robe is host to a cool climate, but as autumn and Easter sets in, it gets quite nippy. The smell of the wood smoke was always comforting, and a treat for us as we didn’t have a fireplace at home. Dad found small pieces of copper wire to burn in the fire for us, creating magical, coloured flames of blue and green.

On Good Friday, the scent of toasting hot cross buns infused the kitchen, with warm cinnamon and the sticky-sweet smell of caramelised sultanas and dried citrus peel wafting around. The smell of lactonic, fatty butter slathered on top completes this smell memory. I loved the cross on top of the buns the most, and would pull it off and reserve it, eating it separately after I’d finished the rest of the bun.

Continue reading

Smell and Sound 1: A Scented Opera. Perfumer Sarah McCartney scents Handel’s Acis and Galatea

Smell and Sound is a new series on Perfume Polytechnic, exploring the relationship between smell and sound, including multi-sensory projects created in this field. As a classically trained musician and composer who is also a perfume enthusiast and a synaesthete, I am interested to explore the junctions and interconnections between the senses of hearing and smell, and between the art forms of music and scent. Multi-sensory art that engages people in new, corporeal ways is being embraced by artists, perfumers, and even multi-national companies. People are interested more and more in the interconnectedness of things, including creative modalities. As a composer and olfactory blogger, a creative cook, felter, knitter and textile addict, I am often looking for new ways to combine my creative skills. This series is a result of my personal research and will inform my own creative practice in the months and years to come. As always on Perfume Polytechnic, I want to share what I learn with you. I hope you find this topic as fascinating as I do.

Sarah McCartney of 4160Tuesdays

Sarah McCartney

Sarah McCartney

Perfumer, author and classically-trained musician Sarah McCartney is no stranger to multi-sensory work that involves scent. The 4160Tuesdays perfumer has worked with BitterSweet, an organisation that hosts multi-sensory classical music concerts. For one concert that Sarah was involved in, the Phaedrus ensemble played Debussy’s String Quartet in G in a multi-sensory performance involving touch, movement, taste, smell (Sarah’s scents) and sound. This video featuring snippets of the performance and the audience’s reaction is fun, uplifting and moving. Please spend a few minutes watching it:

Sarah has also worked with poet Claire Trévien to scent her one-woman show The Shipwrecked House. Sarah created the scent of a house and the sea for the show and you can read here about some of the creative processes she used while making the scents for The Shipwrecked House.

Sarah has worked on other multi-sensory arts projects as well, and you can read about them all over at the 4160Tuesdays website.

A Scented Opera: Handel’s Acis and Galatea


A drawing of Covent Garden (the Royal Opera House) in London. Created in 1808, just before the building burnt down and got rebuilt. This is how an 18th Century opera house looked. Public domain.

Last Monday, November 2, perfumer Sarah McCartney scented a performance of Baroque composer George Frideric Handel’s opera Acis and Galatea at St John’s Smith Square. This might seem an odd concept to modern-day opera-goers, who are used to sanitised spaces often scented with little more than the pleasant perfumes of patrons. However, it’s important to remember that going to the opera in Handel’s day was a smelly business: accidentally, because of the repulsive smells that abounded in Handel’s pre-sanitised 18th Century London, and intentionally: pleasant smells and fragrances were used to mask and detract from the repulsive smells of everyday life and the unwashed.

Sarah McCartney of 4160Tuesdays says:

“A few years ago I read about the way early music was scented and wanted to give it a try, bearing in mind that people’s exposure to smell has changed completely over the last 150 years.

 In Handel’s time scents abounded – from animals, lack of public hygiene, both personal and civic, and from expensive perfumes used by wealthy individuals and establishments, including the church.

An opera would have been intensely scented, both accidentally and on purpose.

Posies drowned out the stench of the street; dried flowers and incense created a suitable atmosphere, the wealthy powdered their hair and clothes with costly iris root, and kept deterred fleas and moths with patchouli.

People generally assume that naturals are safer, but in fact it’s the other way round.

For this project I’m using pure synthetics to avoid even the slightest possibility of any kind of allergic reaction.

Rather than aiming for an authentic 18th century fragrance – which 21st Century audiences would find completely intolerable – I have created three light background scents to alter the mood, literally changing the atmosphere.”

Source: St John’s Smith Square website

If you want to read more about the opera and how Sarah’s scents were received by the audience, have a read of Sarah’s fascinating blog post Greek Gods & Monsters. It’s so comprehensive and interesting that I decided to link to her post rather than write anything else about the project myself.

Sarah was also interviewed on BBC Radio 3 about the project, and you can listen to the broadcast online (and download it if you’re in the UK) for a limited period. The broadcast expires on Saturday the 28th November, so get your skates on! You can hear extracts from Handel’s opera as well as listen to Sarah and musicians from the performance speak about the project. Click here to access the broadcast, and listen from the start of the program.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about Sarah McCartney’s multi-sensory work as a perfumer and finding out about her recent, scented version of Handel’s’ Opera Acis and Galatea. Stay tuned for more interesting posts in the new Smell and Sound series, which I will publish regularly over the next few months.