These gourmand perfumes can’t be beet
Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
A few years ago, Officine Universelle Buly’s Ramdane Touhami went to a Paris auction and came back with a box of old seeds. Finding beautiful artefacts is second nature to the co-owner of the modern day apothecary, a practice that regularly inspires creations. But Touhami’s new proposition was a touch unusual: to turn the seeds into a set of vegetable-led scents.
Launched this summer, the collection harnesses the kind of ingredients you might find in an allotment: tomato, cucumber, sweet potato and basil. The goal, says Victoire de Taillac-Touhami, Touhami’s wife and co-founder of the brand, was to make a “carrot as special as a rose”. Highlights include watercress and parsley — which thankfully “doesn’t smell like soup”; rather, a lively blend of pepper and musk — and sweet beetroot and rhubarb. Each bottle smells delicious.
Last year L’Artisan Parfumeur launched a series of kitchen garden-inspired scents, spotlighting ingredients such as fennel, cauliflower and — most delightfully — pea. Diptyque has used artichoke to round out a flamboyant rose. A popular ingredient is rhubarb: Lyn Harris made it the eponymous note of a zesty new perfume inspired by a vegetable patch in her grandmother’s garden; Swedish newcomer Colekt pairs it with mint and basil. Season-led brand Ffern, meanwhile, has gone a step further, working with chef and farmer Julius Roberts to create a scent with notes of carrot, basil and timut pepper for autumn.
Just as we impose meaning on fruits and flowers — a rose being romantic; an apple being forbidden — vegetables also play out their own fantasies in fragrances. In Comme des Garçons’s Rouge, the earthiness of beetroot alongside patchouli and peppercorns helps convey seductiveness. Similarly, in Altra’s Dualist, part of the “Future Florals” range, cucumber harnesses a “cool aquatic note” to recreate the smell of rain on concrete. “It gives a freshness and a wateriness,” says creator Beckielou Brown.
Can’t quite get on board? Start soft with aromatics. Hermès proves that basil can be a star ingredient in Eau de Basilic, while Sisley’s L’Eau Rêvée D’Hubert, another garden-inspired new release, uses shiso and mint. A spritz to the wrist gives the impression of having spent the day picking herbs. For me, at least, that’s as special as can be.