The Twenty SS20 Issue

For The Love of Nancy

By Jo Phillips

What is a ‘nose’? No, not in a relation to rhinoplasty on your face but in perfumery terms. A ‘nose’ actually refers to the person trained to create and build a perfume.

A Nose is a perfume artist, someone who is capable of portraying moods, emotions and concepts through fragrance compositions. They are trained over many years to develop the knowledge of a large variety of ingredients and their smells, as well as an understanding of how the ingredients change over time and how ingredients may be altered when combined with other ingredients. It is certainly a skill and even considered a most delicate art.

Nancy Meiland is a perfumier and trained nose who shaped her career in bespoke perfumery, designing signature scent for those coveting something highly individual and special. She then moved into opening her own brand.

One of France’s most remarkable perfumers, Edmond Roudnitska, described as the Mozart of perfumery, said of creating fragrance…

“To create new arrangements, new olfactory forms, it is enough that you think in odours, like a painter thinks in colours, and a musician in sounds.” 

What he didn’t say that key to creating a magnificent scent is the idea of storytelling through fragrance. The idea is that a scent or collection of ingredients carefully balanced and crafted together will set off in the minds’ eye a scent version, a storybook deep in our hearts and minds. It’s immediate and compelling.

This is exactly how perfumer Nancy Meiland works, like a painter creating a picture. Well, making perfume is similar. You start with an idea. You add your core ingredient to fit the initial image. You work with the central colours you need to give a first impression. A good perfumer may stop there. A great perfumer, however, comes at it as the artist looks to see. Does it need a spot of blushing pink on the horizon line? Or maybe pine green in the forest edge? Maybe the sky needs a touch of lilac to suggest the ending day.

Only someone that really understands ingredients is capable of this level of subtly. Think of Monet and his exquisite use of tones. It’s not just the loud colours that fill his frames but the layers of delicate soft touches that offset the composition.

This is Nancy to a point. She understands this delicate nature. Take her newest fragrance, for example. Inspired by a family trip to Scotland it was whilst out in a fir tree-lined wood that her mind’s eye caught an image she knew she would have no choice but to turn into a fragrance.

Before launching her own brand, Nancy journeyed through fragrance, co-running the School of Perfumery, as well as consulting for independent perfume houses, and working on collaborations some high-end brands as well as having her own personal clients.

Welcome her newest and 5th fragrance SOUS BOIS, which she describes as:

A mystical and beguiling fougère, harnessing the flora & fauna of the Scottish Highlands, under the canopy of its highest-reaching pines and firs

Opening at the top with a warm minerally feel made up of cypress, pin sylvestre, rain accord and ‘camphoury’ sweet gale. It is soft and gentle like a winter breeze in a forest, yet green and clean with a sense of fresh rain that glistens in a winter days’ last sunshine.

The name Sous Bois literally translates as ‘Under Wood.’ First, think of the canopy of a forest floor. This scent spans the floor and goes upwards, reaching towards a soft breaking evening sky (or even early morning light) from literally the bottom up to the top.

As it unfolds into its heart find bell heather, red clover (often used in healing), delicate scots primrose, black hemlock for a deepening effect, moss campion, birch tar, myrrh, labdanum and vetiver. Everything here is softly spicy, with a ‘rooty’ edge

The base or dry down is magical, velvety moss, alongside deep, resinous woods. Yet this fragrance (like any truly good one) ‘moves’. It moves dependent on the skin, so each person will have their own take on how it smells once applied.

For some, there is a wonderful sense of warmth that opens yet lingers. Some think of trees that shield the sky for others, the green freshness coming alive. For others, the woody aspects sing. For most, it is where these elements come together, but that is what the joy of this is: that for each person there is a facet that will stand out. It’s like looking at a giant decorated canvas knowing each and every person will see it uniquely

This set your mind alive. Why not learn, then, a little more about Nancy’s other four fragrance paintings.

Illuminé  ‘is a scent that evokes a special light in England – it occurs after a downpour, setting the verdant branches of its trees alight with the vital green of pure, natural chlorophyll. Reminiscent of the earliest shoots of spring, it is worn as a cologne and is a tangle of aromatic herbs and refined citrus notes that both uplift and enliven. Notes of Calabrian bergamot, mandarin absolute, herb of absinthe, and Jamaican ginger are blended with white flowers, rose and jasmine for a lyrical fragrance that is sealed with a woodsy base of musk and vetiver’.

Rosier, ‘has notes of Italian bergamot, tangerine and blackcurrant top ROSIER, denoting the moment a water droplet forms on a petal. A contemporary twist on the traditional rose scent, this is a soliflore, in which the whole flower is represented. Pink pepper acts for the thorns, while green galbanum is the leaves. Rose geranium, white pear, jasmine, peony, and violet are delicately strung together for the bud, and the endnotes evoke the image of a broken beaded necklace as the scent spreads beautifully on the skin. It is a landing both soft and reassuring, of buttery mimosa, tobacco, hay, and angelica seeds’.

Aquilaria ‘Just as the aroma of wood smoke spikes winter’s air, Aquilaria injects warmth into that which is cold. The fragrance is a dedication to the East Asian tree of the same name – and most especially to divine oud, its darkly precious protective resin. From its opening of smouldering notes of bergamot singed with black pepper, to the Turkish rose absolute and black Ceylon tea that introduce depth, the scent is smoky and sweet. On through an accord of guaiac wood and a touch of oakmoss, to endnotes of balsam of tolu, labdanum and vanilla, this is a truly beguiling chypre‘.

And lastly, Egmatieris a marine-floral olfactory impression of a special place in Denmark. Here, two seas perpetually meet in a collision of waves – at times gently, at others with sweeping force – and this Nordic scent is an evocation of their overlapping at sunset, when the tide is out and the sand stretches away with a warm, coral glow. Neroli, crushed ambrette seed, fleur d’oranger, tuberose, jasmine glandiflorum and rosehip swirl together before softening out into cardamom, patchouli, encens, vertiver, sandalwood and vanilla. As does a wave, the notes land on the skin with strength, before unfurling into a lingering response that is uniquely particular to the wearer’.

Nancy Meiland is a wonderful lady of scent. Her stories, her paintings, are created for each and every person the build their own imagery with each fragrance.

Find out more here nancymeiland.com