‘I stopped wearing perfume, until these single-note fragrances changed my mind’

Young woman with bottle of perfume - Visoot Uthairam
Young woman with bottle of perfume - Visoot Uthairam

Pyramids. Seen so many of them. Never been to Egypt though. I’m talking fragrance pyramids. Triangular graphics that show the composition of a perfume as defined by its top, middle and base notes – the splashy opener, the beating heart, the dry down.

Years back, when I used to attend blockbuster perfume launches – think giant replica bottles the size of Henry Moores gliding through dry ice – the pyramids were often crammed with ingredients.

Complexity, of course, can be clever. Or commercial. Or both. But sometimes, it edges out the sublimity of single notes until their precious nature is tricky to pinpoint. For me, the result of being exposed to a prolonged cacophony of notes was that many fragrances started to smell samey.

Sure, I remained fascinated by the fragrance industry, but in the same way fashion stylists happily rifle through racks of ruffles while dressed in black jeans and Converse, day-to-day, I stopped wearing scent. But that’s changed. Why? Because I’ve been seeking perfumes with singular purpose. I’m not talking one-note wonders, which rarely exist, but creations that are slender in their architecture, like a ‘solifleur’ that showcases a specific floral.

A shining testament to this approach comes from Matière Première (which translates as ‘Raw Material’). Founded in 2019 but rooted in the perfumed heritage of Grasse in the south of France, it’s headed by Aurélien Guichard, a seventh-generation perfumer who earned his scent stripes with global fashion brands. He founded an organic farm in 2016 with a vision to create perfumes that pivot around one central natural ingredient used at a high dosage.

On a visit to brand HQ, which is basically a rustic studio, there was no dry ice, although there was theatre of sorts. In the evening, I was driven along a bumpy track blindfolded (OK, sounds like a kidnap but bear with me) before being guided to a chair in the open air, heady with an intoxicating scent. Removing the blindfold, voilà, I found myself in front of a field of tuberose, shimmering like white fireflies hovering in the moonlight.

This tuberose is central to French Flower (£195 for 100ml or £30 for a 6ml discovery size that gives up to 100 sprays, selfridges.com). The floral note is supported by bright ginger oil and the vegetal stalkiness of green tea leaf and a green agave accord. C’est ça! Likewise, Radical Rose has a very high concentration of Rose Centifolia.

The day after the tuberose reveal, instead of hotfooting it out of there, I put on an apron and helped pick the harvest. Chatting to Guichard, he said, ‘Our aim is to not be overwhelming, old-fashioned or too powerful, but to preserve 
the beauty of the central ingredient and give it sillage [its lasting trail].’

The experience encouraged me to sniff out other – very different – scents of singular intention. I revisited Molecule 01 (£50 for 30ml, escentric.com) containing simply the Iso E Super molecule, which perfumer Geza Schoen presented in 2006. Some people love it, some say that while they can’t smell it on themselves, others notice it. Some can’t smell it at all. Schoen has since paired it with single notes of patchouli, iris and mandarin in his M+ range. Intrigued parties can try the trio in a Discovery Set (£40).

For a hit of warmth, I adore Aesop’s new Eidesis (£140 for 50ml, aesop.com). While it contains a number of notes, it stays true to its central woody swirl of black pepper, frankincense and sandalwood. Perfect for my current single-mindedness.

Fragrances
Fragrances

Left to right: Aesop Eidesis (£140 for 50ml, aesop.com); French Flower by Matière Première (£195 for 100ml, selfridges.com)

Fragrances
Fragrances

 Above: Molecule 01 + Patchouli (£95 for 100ml, escentric.com)

This week I am mostly...

  • Loving Philip B Peppermint Avocado Shampoo (£34, spacenk.com). Designed to invigorate the scalp and volumise hair, I save it for a clarifying treat. Great to use before a treatment, too.

  • Lusting after a Nordic mini (or maxi) break, all crisp air and Scandi-chic. Until then, I’ll be dipping into Lumene, the sustainable skincare brand from Finland. Its Lähde Nordic Hydra Intense Hydration Moisturizer (£19.90, johnlewis.com) makes my skin more snowy-glowy.

  • Reliving summer with The Greenhouse Luxury Hand Wash, new from Noble Isle (£20, nobleisle.com). I covet a conservatory and this, bursting with green aromas, reminds me of my father’s greenhouse (he’d have had the geraniums in there by now, bless him).

Skincare
Skincare

Clockwise from left: Philip B Peppermint Avocado Shampoo (£34, spacenk.com); Greenhouse Luxury Hand Wash, new from Noble Isle (£20, nobleisle.com); Lähde Nordic Hydra Intense Hydration Moisturizer (£19.90, johnlewis.com