All About The Base

From dreamy perfume oils by Hermès to Aesop’s heavyweight brass oil burner that scents your home, oil-based scents should be your next fragrance obsession…


There’s something properly luxurious about scent that is carried not by alcohol but by oil. The silkiness of the texture and how it melts into the skin are so much more tangible than a traditional spritz application – and all the more captivating for it. It’s the bohemian mood that it puts us in. From a beauty perspective, we have been living in the age of oil for some time, but now perfume oils are also catching on as a home fragrance. Here is our pick of scented oils to bring stylish seduction to your skin or space.

Hermès ‘Hermessence’
We start with Swiss-Italian perfumer Christine Nagel, the resident nose at French luxury label Hermès since 2016, who has introduced perfume oils to the house for the very first time as part of the latest additions to the ‘Hermessence’ range. Of her five-strong Orient-inspired and layerable collection, there are two totally dreamy oil-based scents: ‘Cardamusc’ and ‘Musc Pallida’. The first is laced with fresh but spicy cardamom, the other with sensual iris. ‘I wanted to return to the origins of perfumery and immerse myself in its history,’ says Nagel of the liquid gold creations that slowly pour from similarly molten, amber glass bottles. 

Hermès ‘Musc Pallida’ and ‘Cardamusc’ essence de parfum, £275 each for 20ml

Recognised for its beautiful stores, Australian skincare brand Aesop has now introduced some interiors magic to the collection. Its first Aesop Home piece, the sculptural ‘Brass Oil Burner’ was designed by Sydney-based Studio Henry Wilson, who was behind the decor of a couple of Aesop’s stores (Balmain and Crows Nest in Sydney), as well as a 2017 exhibition at Milan’s Brera showroom. Formed with an ancient wax-mould technique used to cast its solid brass shape, this weighty, one-kilogram vessel teams Aesop’s streamlined design aesthetic with functionality to disperse tailor-made essential oils. A cradle for the oil, this glowing chunk of metal was chosen not only for its looks but also for its superior heat transfer properties, tactility and warm affiliation with candle light. Just add five to 10 drops of your preferred oil blend to the oil well – choose between floral citrus ‘Anouk’, spicy citrus ‘Catherine’, minty ‘Isabelle’ or woody citrus ‘Béatrice’ – alongside a standard tea light. It doesn’t get any simpler or more appealing.

‘Brass Oil Burner’, £120; ‘Béatrice’ oil burner blend, £25 for 25ml

Blending wanderlust-inspired concoctions, Australian fragrance and candle brand Lumira specialises in olfactory escapism with each scent a tribute to a global adventure. Founded by Sydneysider Almira Armstrong in 2013, the label follows a lifelong love of fragrance. Her tempting range of five perfume oils includes a Persian rose-scented roll-on, which combines top notes of bergamot with a dark amber base. We like.

Lumira ‘Persian Rose’ perfume oil, shown alongside ‘Cuban Tobacco’ and ‘Arabian Oud’ perfume oils, £39 each for 10ml

Expanding into perfume oils from candles, Frederick Bouchardy of New York label Joya loves the intimate, bespoke quality of an oil-based fragrance that changes significantly according to the wearer’s body chemistry. Handmade and poured in the Brooklyn studio, Joya’s essential oil blends come in travel roll-ons – but from a design point of view, we’re most excited about the slip cast porcelain bottles made by US ceramic artist Sarah Cihat. Did anyone mention the 22-carat gold-dipped wands? A very nice finishing touch.

Black ‘Composition No. 6’, white ‘Composition No. 1’ and dark green ‘Foxglove’ perfumes, £100 each for 75ml

Turning Japanese


Captivating Japan is the inspiration behind three recent fragrance and beauty line launches, with elegant zen-chic design and oriental packaging to match. We spy a trend!


Poetry, perfume and design come together in 2017-launched fragrance line Floraïku, created by French-Irish couple Clara and John Molloy (also the founders of cult scent brand Memo Paris). The collection of 12 fragrances, created with noses Alienor Massenet, Sophie Labbé and Sarah Burri, is inspired by Japanese culture: each bottle features a patterned stopper that recalls traditional lacquerware, and is presented in a bento-style box decorated with trails of cherry blossom and an evocative haiku.

TOP: Ginger, white tea and cardamom 'I Am Coming Home' eau de parfum by Floraïku
RIGHT: Floraïku's eau de parfums 'My Love Has the Colour of the Night', patchouli, gaiac wood and vetiver; 'Sleeping on the Roof', lily of the valley, orange blossom and amber musk
BELOW: 'First Dream of the Year', grapefruit, orange blossom and iris; 'In the Rain', bergamot, cedar and woody musk (a twelfth scent launched this March) 
£250 each for 50ml, 10ml refill and purse spray

Floraïku's range is divided into three themes or ‘ceremonies’: Enigmatic FlowersSecret Teas and Spices and Forbidden Incense, housed in navy blue, white and black bottles respectively. Highlights include ‘My Love Has the Colour of the Night’, a dusky blend of gaiac wood, patchouli and vetiver, and the ethereal ‘First Dream of the Year’, which combines grapefruit, orange blossom and iris. Offering clever layering, two 'Shadowing' scents, in red bottles, are intended to be sprayed near any scent in the collection to either lighten and freshen it ('Sleeping on the Roof') or darken and intensify the fragrance ('Between Two Trees').

ABOVE: Sample the scent range over a cup of seasonal tea at the perfume bar at Floraïku's Japanese-influenced London boutique at Harrods' Salon de Parfums. All fragrances contain more than 50 per cent natural ingredients and are refillable

We love the individual illustrations designed for each scent by French artist Victoire Cathalan, drawing on watercolours and Indian inks and printed on the bottle's fabric-covered cap, which doubles as a travel or purse spray. The brand opened its first boutique at Harrods’ Salon de Parfums, based on a traditional Japanese ryokan, or inn, and decorated with straw, silk and marble. New York's Saks Fifth Avenue also welcomed Floraïku to its new beauty floor this May, bringing zen serenity to the city that never sleeps.


We’ve long admired Japanese design for its ruthless simplicity and attention to detail – but it’s not just its furniture and buildings that display these qualities. Japanese skincare is growing in popularity in the west, and in response stylish brand Shiro has opened a boutique on London’s Kings Road – its first anywhere outside Japan. Recently two more stores launched on Covent Garden's Monmouth Street and St Christopher's Place off Oxford Street. The pale white and wood spaces display products beautifully packaged in frosted and white glass: the body and fragrance range is our highlight, in particular the jasmine-scented fabric conditioner (£25). Skin-softening ‘sake kasu’, a by-product of the sake production process rich in rice protein, is a key ingredient for the brand, alongside other traditional oriental extracts like adzuki bean, known for its cleansing properties, and moisterising 'gagome kombu', derived from kelp.;

ABOVE: Japanese skincare brand Shiro's minimal products including 'Adzuki Soap', £16; 'Kombu Skin Serum', £68; and 'Sake Kasu Facial Cream', £78

Aesop-Fragrance-Hwyl-Eau-de-Parfum-50mL-large copy.jpg

Given the array of wonderful aromas in Aesop skincare products, it’s surprising to think that it only has three perfumes in its collection. But the Australian-born brand works at its own pace, only launching new scents when it is ready. Accordingly, the third fragrance, 'Hwyl' (pronounced ‘hoo-will’), has only recently emerged. Created with hip young French perfumer Barnabé Fillion, it’s a real cultural mishmash, with the name coming from old Welsh – a somewhat intangible word that variously means emotional fervour, nature, and temper or mood – and the composition influenced by Japan. ‘My inspiration was walking among 300-year-old Hiba trees in an ancient Japanese forest and experiencing the country’s lush temple moss gardens,’ says Fillion, who has conjured an intensely green scent with notes of thyme, cypress, woods, vetiver and frankincense. ‘It captures the feeling of solitude and refuge in nature,’ he adds. Unassumingly packaged in amber glass with seductive plant imagery by Australian generative artist Jonathan McCabe inside the sleek grey-green box, this cool, verdant scent is sure to be a hit.

ABOVE: Minimal, unisex 'Hwyl' eau de parfum by Aesop features smoky notes, subtle spice and dark green earthy accords. £83 for 50ml eau de parfum
BELOW: A film shares the fragrance's Japanese forest inspirations

Christian Louboutin x Thomas Heatherwick

The houses of Louboutin and Heatherwick have joined forces to create a new range of fragrances that simply refuses to be ignored...


London buses, gin distilleries and now scent bottles – British wünderkind Thomas Heatherwick seems determined to prove he really can turn his hand to anything with the launch of his latest design. He’s the slightly leftfield choice to create the debut scent bottle for ultra-glam French shoe designer Christian Louboutin; it turns out the unlikely pair make a dream team (although Louboutin is a trained landscape architect, so perhaps the partnership isn’t as outlandish as it first appears). They spent lengthy sessions discussing, sketching and making prototypes, trying to realise Louboutin’s notion that 'liquid is alive' and could be made to flow dynamically through a bottle. Heatherwick’s final design – a glass rectangle that splits and twists, forming a central aperture before fusing together once more – was pronounced unmakeable by glass experts. But here it is: perseverance paid off.

To fill this stupendous vessel, Louboutin created three fragrances, each coded with symbolic colours. ‘Bikini Questa Sera’ evokes the idea of sun on hot skin at dusk and the intense colours of the Egyptian desert; it contains jasmine, tuberose and sandalwood and its bottle is coloured with a wash of gold and amber. ‘Tornade Blonde’ is a bright red-rose scent with a fruity aspect from rhubarb and cassis; its bottle is flushed with garnet red. Last but absolutely not least is ‘Trouble in Heaven’, a real femme-fatale number clad in deep purple with notes of iris, patchouli, amber and tonka bean. 

ABOVE FROM LEFT: 'Bikini Questa Sera', 'Tornade Blonde', and 'Trouble In Heaven' eau de parfums
ABOVE RIGHT: Thomas Heatherwick (left) and Christian Louboutin discuss the bottle design
BELOW: Christian Louboutin tests his inaugural perfume collection

ABOVE: The supercharged metallic versions of Heatherwick's sculptural bottle for Louboutin's perfume oils

These fragrances are unabashedly raunchy and should probably only be worn by women who appreciate the more extreme of Louboutin’s stiletto fantasies; they’re basically supermodels in liquid form – the curvaceous, caramel-of-skin variety who slink down Victoria’s Secret runways wearing nothing but a few strategically placed feathers, and always look hot on their Ipanema beach hols. They’re full-on divas, and they’re fabulous: fashionistas won’t regret a penny of the £215 they’ll pay for the juice and Heatherwick’s art-glass objet. 

Finally, all three scents are also available as sensuous perfume oils that mix with the wearer's skin chemistry to create an entirely personal fragrance. Once again the bottles were designed by Heatherwick but given a beautiful iridescent metallic lustre. If you want to stand out from the crowd this Christmas, look no further...

'Bikini Questa Sera', 'Tornade Blonde' and 'Trouble In Heaven' eau de parfum, £215 for 80ml. Perfume oil, £245 for 30ml.

Pictures: Ali Mahdavi, Ash Reynolds


IIUVO's understated barely-there packaging houses three unique fragrances for the modern home


Leo Gibbon and Tomi Ahmed are two young London boys who radiate urban cool. Both have backgrounds in luxury fashion (think Dover Street Market and Comme des Garçons) and they bonded over shared passions for cinema and hip hop. So they’re perhaps not an obvious duo to start a candle brand. But new label IIUVO, under which they’ve launched three perfumed candles, is as unusual as they are.

The brand name comes from the Latin word ‘iuvo’, meaning ‘to delight or gratify’, while the scents’ inspirations are quirky and personal. ‘Ajon’ is a floral bouquet inspired by Leo’s mother’s floristry business, but named after a Parisian florist with one letter missing from its shop front; ‘Emmie’ is an intensely green galbanum-and-moss blend inspired by Leo’s Irish grandmother’s garden; and ‘Woodgrain’ is so called not because of its woody notes, but because it recalls the wood-clad interior of a vintage Cadillac (it actually contains a mix of cardamom, nutmeg, patchouli and amber). The pair’s minimal packaging design is billed as an ‘uncomplicated’ choice ‘to let the product speak for itself’. We approve!

'Ajon', 'Emmie' and 'Woodgrain' scented candles, £50 each for 190gm

MUJI skincare

Simple, functional but oh so smart, Japanese high-street brand MUJI's new skincare range ticks all our design boxes


You’ve raved over their functional furniture and kitchenware, been saved on innumerable trips abroad by their mini travel bottles for bath products, and snapped up Naoto Fukasawa’s cult waterproof CD player for your shower. Now, meet your new MUJI obsession: its first skincare range. Like everything else in the Japanese utility store, it’s unfussy and functional, with simple amber and white packaging and natural formulas. The latter are water based, but it’s not just any old water – the brand has striven to find ‘the best pure water in the world’, and discovered it deep in the caves of Kamaishi in north-eastern Japan. It’s extremely gentle on the skin, thanks to its alkaline pH of 8.8 – similar to human tears. Turning Japanese? We really think so...

ABOVE FROM LEFT: 'High Moisture All In One Essence', £11.95 for 100gm; 'Sensitive Skin All In One Essence', £7.95 for 100gm; 'Moisturising Milk - Moisture', £7.95 for 200ml
ABOVE RIGHT FROM LEFT: 'Moist Essence Lotion', £14.95 for 200ml; 'Light Toning Water', £4.95 for 200ml

ABOVE FROM TOP: 'High Moisturising Cream', £11.95 for 45gm; 'Moisturising Cream', £9.95 for 50gm

Muji skincare, from £7.95 for a cream cleanser. Available now in store exclusively at Selfridges and in selected Muji stores from September