The Power of Fragrance to Sustain you.

Idle. Abstract yet Compelling

Work Stressful? Brexit getting you down? Here’s a little story about how the right fragrance can lift your spirits and give you some temporary relief.

A while back, I was visiting customers in Wiltshire. The last stop was to see the entrepreneur Susie Willis who was in the final stages of developing the packaging for her cult Skincare Brand, Romilly Wilde. That day she was working out of her ‘Wiltshire Office’ a beautiful old Rectory in one of the loveliest villages I have ever seen.

Susie Willis. Founder of Romilly Wilde

It happened that she was finalising the first fragrance of the range. This is called ‘Idle’ because it captures those wonderful moments of languor and a lot more besides to make it ‘abstract yet compelling’.

Before I left the meeting for the long journey back to Cheshire, Susie sprayed a generous amount on my wrists from the little tester pack she had. It was a little lifesaver: the motorways were pretty much clogged the whole way and it took me about 5 hours. Each time I met a fresh traffic queue, I’d inhale deeply. Idle’s complex notes temporarily spirited me away and made the whole journey a bit more bearable. What’s more, it lasted the whole 5 hours!

That journey stands out among all the long tedious car journeys I’ve had – for all the right reasons. Such is the power of fragrance. And yes, I did buy it when it was launched!

So if you’ve got some truly grim meetings or journeys coming up, go out and snaffle a few testers of your favourites to apply. It won’t make it better but it could provide some lovely distractions.

How to choose the right fragrance from 400 unknowns.

The two quotes above are the philosophies on which my next subject – Roullier White, London seems to have been founded. It is a shop of two halves. The front part showcases an almost unique, carefully curated collection of the most beautifully designed and yet functional homewares, ceramics, scarves, slippers and toiletries – and more. These have been sourced by Michael Donovan, the MD who has travelled the world to seek them out. Most are made by skilled craftspeople. He also sends out an interesting newsletter every Saturday morning which is like hearing from a friend.

Michael Donovan, MD of Roullier White and Creative Director of St Giles Fine Fragrance

So what’s this got to do with Perfume? Well, in the back ‘second half’ section is ‘The Perfumery’ – a splendid oasis of about 400 niche luxury fragrances from around the world, made by small artisanal brands. There is nothing here that you will find in Duty Free.

Michael told me why he has created this: ‘’I have worked in the industry for over twenty years and perfume is my passion. I look for talent and a unique voice and my job is make others as excited about scent as I am. Because our sense of smell is tied to memory, a fragrance can transport us through time and space in an instant – much like music.’’

The Perfumery at Roullier White

If this sounds like your cup of tea, you can find the shop on the iconic Lordship Lane in East Dulwich, a locale described by Time Out as having ‘a fine abundance of indie shops and an easy-going vibe.’

I’ve visited twice, there’s plenty of great coffee shops and places to eat and there’s also the fantastic Dulwich Picture Gallery nearby. It’s worth taking a morning or afternoon out to explore.

So how do you pick your special fine fragrance from over 400 unknowns? Well on my visit I was first asked what notes I wanted: spicy, citrussy, floral, a mixture and so forth. The staff really know their stuff and picked a few to spray on those tester sticks then whittled down the selection to the ones you spray on your skin to see how they respond.

You have to be disciplined and limit yourself as your ‘nose’ gets tired and, even with the fresh coffee beans they offer you to refresh your sense of smell, you will find yourself struggling if you try too many.

In my case, I’d intended to buy spicy but finally chose citrus. A fragrance called ‘Mediterraneo’ which instantly transported me to Tuscan lemon groves (despite never having been to either Tuscany or a lemon grove).

 This is from the Capri based brand Carthusia, whose origins hark back to a centuries old formula by Italian monks, so I suppose they’ve had plenty of time to get it right. Allegedly it’s also one of George Clooney’s favourites, so you could also give it to your partner to wear and then close your eyes and imagine…..

The Mechanic – transforming the smells of the mechanics pit – oil and rubber, fuel, hot skin into something magnetic and muscular

Since my visit, Michael has launched his own fragrance collection called St Giles, with great names like ‘The Actress’, ‘The Tycoon’ and ‘The Mechanic’ above. (This latter sounds pretty physical, so not for the faint hearted). They are available in Selfridges so I’m keen to give them a try this weekend.

Now this exploring is all very well but what if you want to get started right away and don’t have a great ‘Fragrance Destination’ near you? Don’t worry.

Firstly, you may be unaware of what’s actually on your doorstep. Go to  the website for buying online from cool independent shops and put ‘perfume’ into their search box (not ‘fragrance’ as you’ll get scented candles and reed diffusers). You’ll be astonished at the myriad fragrances that come up and the dozens of local boutiques that offer them, often buried among what might be their eclectic mix of accessories, clothes and other lovely things for the home.

Alternatively, Roullier White (and probably others) offer a sampling service online where you can input the names, notes or nose of the sort of fragrance you want to try. A selection pops up and, for a small fee, you will be sent a few 2ml samples. That way, you’ll have saved the cost of the train/air fare to London.

Spend it on a second bottle!

And now, enough. The next and final fragrance tale will follow in a few days.

Stuck In a Fragrance Rut? Here’s how to find your New Niche.

Nick Steward, Founder of Gallivant and award winning fragrance ‘London’


Hands up if, instead of conventional perfume and because you were strapped for cash, you used Vanilla Essence (as suggested by Woman’s Own) or Patchouli Oil (if you wanted to smell like you’d been hanging out in Marrakesh?) Did it work?

Did you then graduate to being a devotee of Body Shop Dewberry or White Musk, before settling on a couple of Major Brand fragrances that became your ‘signature scents’? And have you stayed with those ever since? If the answer is yes, and you think you’re in a ‘Fragrance Rut’, how about venturing off the beaten track for something different to redefine you?

Over the last few years, in line with many things ‘artisanal’ there has been a rise in niche fragrances. These are the ones created and launched by courageous, pioneering entrepreneurs aiming to distil something unique, that will capture the elusive – a feeling, association or memory that other scents don’t deliver. There has never been a better time to explore and discover a new ‘signature scent’.

Now, I’m not going to give you a list of ones to try- that’s no fun. Instead, over the next couple of Blogs, I’m going to tell you three stories about how I found the new brands that I currently love. This is not because I think you should buy them; signature scents and fragrances are just too individual for that. What I want to do is offer some food for thought and suggest pointers to some of the more rewarding hunting grounds. The less obvious places beyond Department Store franchises and the Duty Free at the airport, so you can enjoy making your own special finds.

Part of the pleasure I take in the fragrances has become the unexpected gems of shops I’ve discovered and the people I’ve met in them. And a little disclaimer here – these are my personal passions, I’m not affiliated with any of the names that follow.The first of my favourites is the new London Indie Brand, Gallivant by Nick Steward. I initially read about this collection via the Times Beauty columnist, India Knight (no relation to me, alas) who confesses she is ‘obsessed’ and has now written two articles about how she loves the brand.

Ambery, woody and spicy. Where East meets West. The mysterious Istanbul

Gallivant perfumes are like nothing I have ever come across before. Each of the Brand’s fragrances reflects the essences of the major city it is named after. In the words of their website ‘is about the pleasures of Urban exploration. Sights, sounds, smells…. The collection of unisex Eau de Parfum is inspired by the breezy vibe of the coolest, most creative urban destinations.’

 And India Knight admits she would like to ‘bathe in Istanbul’, ‘and that they all ‘smell really, really good.’ 

She’s right! I’ve now bought three of them as I couldn’t decide – namely, London, Berlin and Brooklyn – something I’ve never, ever done before!

Nomad 2ml sampler Set. Try them all!

The little expedition to give them a try took me to Pulse of Perfumery in Knutsford – one of the few places in the UK outside London that currently stock Gallivant. This is a truly great shop: specialist, independent and selling niche, exclusive and unexpected fragrances.

Pulse Of Perfumery, Knustford

From the moment you enter, your spirits are lifted by the wonderful smells and  the sights of rows of sparkling bottles. The proprietor Peter’s expertise and enthusiasm are a joy and he allows you the time and space to deliberate. It all contributes to the pleasure of discovering something new and different.  So now whenever I wear Gallivant, I have the memory of how and where I bought it as well as the city it evokes.

Gallivant stockists are scattered around the world – perhaps in an off-the – beaten-track ‘fragrance destination’ near you. Why not seek one out, experiment, get distracted and see if you can emerge feeling ever so slightly reinvented.

If you want to learn more about Gallivant, go to

Coming Next -Two more tales to follow in the next few days including:

Finally, as a post script, please don’t get carried away by my prose about niche fragrances and chuck all your mainstream ones out! The collections of the established Fragrance Houses are made with as much passion and attention to detail as the smaller newer brands. In my years of working in the beauty industry I’ve been fortunate to visit one of the factories where the Chanel collections are filled and get an insider view of what goes in to delivering that perfect little package. I’ve noted the time and great care taken to macerate the precious oils. On the filling line everyone wears white gloves so they can handle and inspect every single packaging component – bottles, stoppers, and labels for the slightest flaw. The boxes are then wrapped in Chanel’s own bespoke cellophane because standard film does not have the right level of clarity they demand. And, of course, the smell is wonderful.

And as for the packaging, I regularly marvel at the custom design of perfumes like Marc Jacob Daisy, Dior’s J’Adore or YSL’s Black Opium. They are little miracles of packaging engineering. When you’re next in a Fragrance Hall or Airport Duty Free, try unleashing your inner packaging nerd and take time to admire them.