A Uniquely Irish Perfume Inspired by Paris

Capturing a PASSION FOR WRITING, together with a DISTINCTLY PARISIAN ROMANTICISM, CLOON KEEN’s newest perfume is a thing of beauty, says SARAH HALLIWELL 

What draws you to a new perfume? Whether you’re loyal to one signature scent, or flip from floral to chypre on a daily whim, there has to be that immediate jolt of attraction. While following the work of master perfumers such as Dominique Ropion, Calice Becker and Anne Flipo will always unearth new favourites, it’s exciting, too, to discover rising stars in perfumery – especially when they’re Irish …

“Perfume is a really emotional thing and you want to connect with it,” notes Irish perfumer Meabh McCurtin. “It’s not functional. It’s something that has an instant connection. The story behind a perfume is important; so much of perfume is about communication.” And the story of McCurtin’s Roisin Dubh (originally titled Ghost Writer but since changed to the Irish for “little black rose”), created with Margaret Mangan of Galway’s Cloon Keen Atelier, instantly captured our imagination. It’s a uniquely Irish perfume, inspired by the spirit of some of our most famous writers at a certain moment: Joyce, Yeats, Synge and Beckett all spent time in Paris and found the city a source of inspiration. McCurtin’s research included not just smokey cafés and blue-grey city streets, but also the Grand Hotel Corneille in the Latin Quarter, where all four writers stayed at some point during their lifetime. “It’s a scent with a time and place,” says the perfumer.

Grand Hotel Corneille in the Latin Quarter, Paris

Translating this into perfume, Mangan and McCurtin aimed to evoke a bohemian mood. So there are cool, “papery” notes of iris, and a type of patchouli that’s “less musty, more earthy, with a really nice quality”. There’s an ink accord, too: Mangan describes it as “ink-stained patchouli intertwined with incense”. With Joyce in mind, they also added a sensual, hedonistic aspect with rose essential, as it’s “not too heavy and spicy or overly floral”. Capturing a passion for writing, together with a distinctly Parisian romanticism, Roisin Dubh is a thing of beauty; for me, the cool earthiness of patchouli and lightly leather rose makes it so evocative and elegant. I am faithful to only a few scents, but I’ve worn this every day since first smelling it …

Meabh McCurtin

Originally from Clare, McCurtin is based in Paris at the American fragrance corporation IFF, where she is a trainee perfumer (though she has already created an award-winning perfume, Conoisseur, a warm cognac blend, among others). Her mentor there is the legendary Dominique Ropion, one of the finest perfumers working today, and creator of glorious perfumes such as Portrait of a Lady and Superstitious as well as numerous commercial blockbusters. So she’s learning with the best: “You spend your whole life learning,” she says. Fascinated by the cultural connection between Irish writers and France, and passionate about poetry, food, taste and smell, McCurtin notes that one quality a perfumer needs is “an endless curiosity”. As perfume expert Luca Turin tells us, while it helps to study, “composing a perfume is a natural talent, and you either have it or you don’t.” When this young perfumer is heading up a fragrance house sometime in the future, you can say you were first to “wear her”: Meabh McCurtin is one to watch.

@SarahHalliwellBeauty

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