An olfactory experience with British Master Perfumer Roja Dove

02 December 2013

An olfactory experience with British Master Perfumer Roja Dove

A couple of weeks ago we were thrilled to welcome British master perfumer Roja Dove for an evening of sensory delight. The audience was in for a treat, smelling some of the world's rarest and most prestigious perfumery materials.

Roja founded his sensory fragrance haven in London's most luxurious department store in 2004, and launched his eponymous brand ROJA PARFUMS in 2011. Roja’s philosophy, focused on creativity and craftsmanship combined with his extraordinary experience define him as one of the most complete and provocative authorities on fragrance. From an early age Roja worked for one of the top fragrance houses; he became the first non-family member to hold the position of Global Ambassador for the company. His recent appointment as a Creative Ambassador for the GREAT Britain Campaign is recognition that he is one of the world’s most respected perfumers.

With Roja's arrival imminent, the space was ready, the lights dimly lit, and the mood expectant. Arriving alongside Roja were his right hand man Albert, on whom Roja tests all his fragrances, and Eddie, who was carrying a very heavy large black leather box. They instantly began the unveiling of this black box to reveal a perfume organ - bursting to the brim with a selection of some of the most expensive and rarest ingredients, as well as some more common but equally tantalising substances.

Once all the guests were seated Roja began his theatrical and enchanting talk, taking us on an olfactory journey none of us could have imagined. Whilst smelling the first fragrance he began describing a walk through the woods; it had just rained, the ground was damp, it was autumn, and you had stumbled along some mushrooms. You then began to smell the mushrooms! The journey continued, this time sniffing scent stick two: on your walk through the woods you passed some trees and peeled back the bark, releasing a very distinctive dry wood scent. You could then smell this very scent! With scent stick three, you continued along the same route, and around the corner, finding some hyacinths pushing through the undergrowth. You could now smell a distinctive, earthy, green scent. The final scent stick carried you back home to a warm and cosy house where you were sitting drinking a bitter hot chocolate. The scent that was earthy mushroom had now become chocolate, demonstrating the interplay between imagination, storytelling and our sensual experience of odour.

After sniffing various smells our noses were very much getting a scent overload, but to awaken and liven then up Roja gave us a smell that you would not expect. Upon sniffing it began to fizz in your nose creating a rather unusual sensation, one that you often have if you drink a fizzy drink that goes up your nose! It was an aldehydic fragrance which is used in the base notes of the Channel No.5 - who would have thought it?

Grasse in France is world-renowned for the quality of its perfume ingredients; due to its microclimate it produces some of the most expensive ingredients in the world. After being handed two scent sticks we were told to sniff the first; a very powerful and right there in-your-face lavender. On sniffing the second stick we were greeted with a much more subtle, smooth, complex lavender that had been grown in Grasse. The difference in quality was very apparent when given both to compare.

The evening with Roja involved a heady mixture of dispelling myths, sniffing rare ingredients, theatrical storytelling and learning about the long and complex processes employed to produce tiny amounts of perfumers oils. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime event that left one of our members with 'a nose hangover'!