This unique Irish perfume is natural, organic and really gets under your skin …
Last week I spent a wonderfully fragrant morning talking to Sadie Chowen, co-founder of The Burren Perfumery. Her Wild Rose eau de parfum is now available online (www.burrenperfumery.com) and it’s the fruit of many years’ work. As she talked me through the little vials of key ingredients – from powdery, delicate ambrette seed to soft and delicious resinous benzoin – it became clear that Wild Rose is special for many reasons. It’s created from only the most excellent, entirely natural ingredients (100 per cent natural, 77 per cent organic), and highlights the precious, exquisite rose centifolia, a rare and costly ingredient sourced from the perfume capital, Grasse. “With a large-scale product, you wouldn’t be able to use this level of centifolia,” remarks Chowen.
If you’re planning to treat yourself to a new perfume for autumn – and perfume can be such a comforting pleasure – I urge you to first smell this one, which Chowen has created in collaboration with master perfumer Marianne Nawrocki, whom she met while studying at the Grasse Institute de Parfumerie, a perfumer with “a very delicate touch” who has trained with the legendary Jean-Claude Ellena. You won’t find anything else quite like it. And even if you always thought you weren’t that keen on rose-based perfumes, this will make you think again. It’s a one-off – a natural perfume that is deeply sophisticated and subtle, airy and complex. “I’m so proud of it,” Chowen tells me. “We put everything into it – Wild Rose is the culmination of 20 years of working with naturals.”
Wild Rose is inspired by the idea of the burnet rose at dawn – “from the sparkly green freshness of the citrus and green of angelica, like the sun warming up the rose, to the petally middle notes of a rose in the warmth of the sun.” While The Burren Perfumery’s previous scents have been based around that area’s local flora and fauna, “this is really a celebration of natural ingredients that I love. You can smell each of the ingredients and appreciate how incredible each one is.” From sparkling bergamot in the top note to creamy sensuous sandalwood and warm honey tones from the beeswax absolute and guaiacwood, everything supports the rose: this is an unashamed rose – not sweet like many roses, but combining both the greenness and velvety freshness of the rose centifolia and the warm spicier rose damascena. The result is something very intimate – after the initial brightness, it lingers as a very private, intimate moment on the skin; you’ll be aware of its softness as you undress at the end of the day.
Creating an entirely natural perfume was a technical challenge, and the Cosmos certification hard-won; many perfumes claim to be natural, but this one truly is. There’s a growing interest in this side of perfumery, Chowen notes. “It was a difficult process – to get something so delicate in a natural. I had a very specific idea: what I really wanted was to create something beautiful and real without commercial restraints. It took years going to and fro – there were more than 40 working versions. We had to have a lot of patience and determination to keep going. But the more you work with naturals, the more you get used to it.”
There is a lot of confusion around the idea of “natural” and “synthetic” ingredients in perfumery: in fact, while synthetic might sound off-putting, it does not equal bad – as the great perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena noted in a perfume webinar with Frederic Malle recently, “The art of perfumery was created with synthetics.” Many perfumers believe that creativity can only take place with these chemicals and that it’s crucial to use them – truly great perfumes such as Jicky and Shalimar would not exist without them.
So why was natural so important? “Synthetics widen the range of the palette for perfumers,” agrees Chowen. “But for me, natural is a personal preference – personally I find it more subtle, mellow, rounded and gentle, since a lot of molecules are gentler when extracted from a natural source. Even when I was doing my perfume training in Grasse, instinctively I didn’t want to include synthetics in my compositions. And I feel happier with naturals on my skin. So it’s both for the smell and from an environmental point of view. Like with the food I’m eating, I like knowing every single ingredient. The aim was to create a natural that smells truly sophisticated – and I haven’t come across anything this airy and complex in a natural yet.”
Chowen explains how a rose centifolia has over 300 molecules in it and how one of the problems using naturals is that you get the whole package of molecules from a source, rather than being able to select. “But with technological advances and innovation, we now have a new palette of naturals – we can use an extract of a natural molecule so we’re now able to create finer, more airy and light perfumes.” The good news is they are already working on the next one, around the orange flower – neroli.
The key element of Wild Rose is rose centifolia. “In Grasse, only 1.5kg rosa centifolia is produced each year, and there are less than ten producers, so it’s very precious,” says Chowen. “We approached this perfume with no holds barred – we were not going to think of the cost. That is very freeing – it’s very rare to be able to work like that. It gave Marianne creative freedom.” Chowen emphasises that these are precious, beautiful ingredients that take time to harvest, process and extract. And every single element has been carefully considered, from the use of recycled paper and bottle design to the vegetable inks for printing: “Luxury now is the luxury to be able to be sustainable,” notes Chowen.
I predict Wild Rose will win awards, not just for its ethos and quality, but for its sheer, lasting beauty on the skin. It’s not just a quick hit – it has a real lasting elegance and authenticity that many of us are looking for in beauty now. “People smelling it in the shop are saying ‘I can’t walk away without it’,” notes Chowen, delighted that people are enjoying the scent. “There are a lot of very extrovert perfumes available for women – but it takes a confidence to wear something more introvert, more reflective.” A scent that really gets under your skin.
Wild Rose is available from www.burrenperfumery.com (€130), where you can request a sample.
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