The best bergamot oil for fragrance (the oil we use) is produced in Calabria, Italy. Responsible for giving Earl Grey tea its distinctive taste, bergamot’s sophisticated, aromatic citrus note is one of the building blocks for all colognes.
In the perfumer’s vast selection of ingredients there exists various bases; classical pre-mixed interpretations of popular notes like leather or amber. In the sprit of ingenuity our perfumers created their own for the seductive smell of cognac. As with all bases it is an idealised interpretation. No alcoholic harshness, big, rich and warm with a touch of liqueur-like sweetness.
Bearing no relation to black pepper, pink peppercorns are actually the dried berries of a shrub. While some pepperiness is still there the oil has a markedly different smell to black pepper with a distinctly sharp, fruity note.
Smelling black pepper oil for the first time is like seeing someone you’ve known for ages in a different (rather more attractive) light. Gone is the sneeze inducing harshness, in its place a smell that is warm, sophisticated and masculine.
Ginger has the great ability to smell both cool and warm at the same time, an aspect put to good use in REVERIE and VSOP. Thankfully, unlike many of the more delicate natural ingredients distilled into oils, ginger emerges unscathed; smelling like it has just been grated.
A victim of its own success, sandalwood oil from Mysore, India was used so extensively (being of very good quality and rather low price) that it became a totally unsustainable resource; inadequate management meant the tree population was dangerously diminished. Since a ban was placed on its production the murky business of smuggling oils and/or cutting with other oils has arisen; something we want no part in. Fortunately Sri Lanka has provided the answer, producing oil that is both sustainable and of quality similar to Mysore (something Australian sandalwood could not offer).
So why all the fuss? Sandalwood oil is one of the few ingredients you could happily wear by itself. A unique milky note sits softly over a nutty-woody base.
Vetiver (a grass whose roots are dried and aged before being distilled) has a distinctive peppery woody note that is easily recognisable and very attractive, whether used judiciously or as a main component.
Synthetic molecule so named because it gives a super soft, tactile feel to fragrances. Excellent at expanding the reach of natural materials, on its own it has a very abstract, hard to define scent that is best described as wet concrete (that smell in a city after a summer shower) with a hint of apple.
Musks are colourless, synthetic and contrary to what some people will lead you to believe, will not mysteriously attract members of the opposite sex. Nevertheless they are pretty miraculous; giants of the molecule world (about the limit to how large a molecule we can detect) they are very handy for adding staying power and feel to a fragrance. ‘Warm musks’ refers to the animalic notes they can bring.