Design the world's best natural perfume? Amsterdam-born scent house Abel was ready, willing and able
BY AMY BRADFORD
Is it possible to create a completely natural perfume that’s as sophisticated as conventional scents made using synthetic ingredients? That was the question New Zealand former winemaker Frances Shoemack (top right) asked herself when she decided to devise Abel’s ‘Vita Odor’ (Living Fragrance) collection.
After seeing a film of Isaac Sinclair (below right) – the only master perfumer ever to hail from Australasia – talking about the similarities between wine-making and perfumery, she enlisted the Auckland-born, Sao Paulo-based talent as her creative partner. Together, the pair have crafted five extraordinary scents that take the concept of natural fragrance beyond the realms of hippiedom and elevate it to the status of haute parfumerie (the understated bottle design amplifies the effect).
BELOW: Abel's collection of five 'Vita Odor' eau de parfums combine 21st-century technology with fine natural ingredients. From left, 'Grey Labdanum', 'Cobalt Amber', 'Golden Neroli', 'White Vetiver' and 'Red Santal', from £45 each for 15ml; £98 for 50ml
All have short formulas that showcase the fine quality of the ingredients used: 'Cobalt Amber' is a delicious gourmand fragrance with cardamom, cacao and tonka bean, while 'Red Santal' captures the spiciness of clove and ginger and the milky freshness of sandalwood. Our favourite, though, is 'Golden Neroli' (left), a luscious honeyed floral with a top note of matcha tea. The genius of the perfumer lies in using isolates – fragrance notes extracted from natural ingredients using fractional distillation – that stand in for synthetic aromas. For example, an isolate from the ambrette seed smells like deer musk, now banned in its natural form and toxic in synthetic imitations. This new, natural musk note enables the perfumes to last all day on the skin. Clever, non?
Minimal packaging design (above) for the unisex 'Vita Odor' collection is equally chic, created in collaboration with Amsterdam's Atelier Joachim Baan, with subtle glimpses of colour on white boxes tying in with each scent. The sleek, modern bottles pay homage to Abel's commitment to natural materials, and are an exercise in low-key luxury.