Saturday, 18 November 2017

Personal Consultation Experience: John Bailey, Master Parfumier

“You must meet my friend and neighbour, John the perfume man,” said my sprightly 87 year old mother. So, on a recent trip back to England, we arranged for the two of us to go for coffee one
rainy morning in July. We sat in John’s immaculate conservatory looking out over a bower of flowers. Despite his experiences from London to Paris and Grasse to Geneva, it seems it's Hertfordshire that he prefers. Deep blue pots set against a background of luscious green, running water and, in the corner of the garden, John Bailey’s perfume studio. Perfect.

John is passionate about flowers (particularly roses), scents and perfume, and has been a fellow of
the Royal Society of Arts and Founder of the Perfumer's Guild (Bespoke English Perfumery) since
1981. He is co-author of “British Perfumery – A Fragrant History”, a book celebrating the 50th
anniversary of the British Society of Perfumers, of which he is an elected ambassador. He was
Chairman of the inaugural Middle East Fragrance Foundation FiFI Awards Jury Panel in 2010, is a
former Liveryman in the Worshipful Company of Gardeners, and was also awarded the title High
Sherriff of Hertfordshire in recognition of great and valuable services to the community. He is a real
font of knowledge and has a wealth of experience, recognised further by his appearances on The
Apprentice and at the Chelsea Flower Show. Listening to him, it was easy to be drawn into the
fascinating world of fragrance. Arriving in his wooden garden studio was like stepping onto the set
of a film, with cabinets full of famous perfume bottles, modern and ancient, of all shapes and sizes.
All my favourite fragrances over the years were there and the memories came flooding back. A
perfume version of Proust’s madeleine in “A la Recherche du Temps Perdu”, I suddenly saw myself :

 Aged 16 and falling in love with ‘Gary’ in Saint-Tropez. My first introduction to the male
scent “Eau Sauvage”. How was I to know then that this olfactory experience would remain
with me for the rest of my life….
 My happy student days, wearing “Opium” at Exeter University
 Remembering a dear university friend, now sadly passed away, who introduced me to YSL’s
“Rive Gauche” along with wearing stockings, a seductive combination
 “Chanel 19” and my ‘Headmistress years’
 Clarins’ “Eau Dynamisante” – the fragrance of a love affair
 A visit to the States and Calvin Klein’s CK One
 White musk, one of my father’s favourite scents
 “Dune”…the smell of my mother….

As I got lost in my memories, finding ‘old friends’ amongst John’s cabinets, he was carefully
memorising my perfume preferences and building up a picture in his head of my ‘perfume persona’.
He picked up that I liked fresh, lemony and citrus fragrances; my current favourite is Dior’s “Escale à
Portofino”. He also noted that I am prepared to wear ‘heavier’, more sophisticated scents in the

On the shelves there were small bottles of raw materials used to make fragrances. We talked about the difference between lavender and lavandin and exotic ingredients from all over the world. On the wall were posters detailing the four main perfume families – taken from “Fragrances of the World” by Michael Edwards. The key to everyone’s likes and dislikes in choosing fragrances is an understanding of how the four main families - FRESH, FLORAL, ORIENTAL and WOODY – have evolved.

Fresh fragrances heavily feature citrus zests, balanced by the other families. Musk and tea accents add modern dimensions to this category of scents. Floral scents are still the most popular, however, with new headspace technology  allowing perfumers to identify and clone bloom scents from which oil cannot be extracted traditionally, and bringing to light new notes and molecules every year to revitalise floral perfumes. Oriental scents are sensual, full-bodied and heavy, including vanilla and musks. The final family is that of the woody fragrances, which include cedar, patchouli, pine, sandalwood and vetiver.

Back in the conservatory, I was astounded to discover that perfumes I loved, that I had always
considered to be quite different from each other, were all in fact from the same perfume family.
And, guess what? The “Eau Dynamisante” by Clarins that was the signature scent of a passionate
affair turned out to be specifically produced as a female version of “Eau Sauvage”. So, that Saint-
Tropez experience at the age of sixteen had clearly never left me and I am, it seems, more
predictable in my perfume tastes than I had realised.

My preferences were for the lemons, mandarins and oranges in the fresh family, combined with  elements from floral family. My evening perfumes often had elements from the oriental family, vanilla, musk, frankincense and patchouli. (Oh, the sixties and the seventies have something to answer for there!)

John dipped long pieces of white absorbent card into various scents he created to see my reactions
and hone down his choice for me still further. We then went on to chat more about the art of
creating perfume – a subject it is easy to become passionate about in John’s company. He took me
into his library where there were floor-to ceiling books dedicated to perfume-making, many of them
highly technical, covering an entire wall. On the opposite wall, a similar number of tomes about
flowers. I could easily have gone on talking with John for hours and felt all set to begin a perfumery
course, depart for Grasse in the South of France, not too far from where I live, and begin a whole
new life of study. Very tempting!

Two days later, through my Mum’s letterbox, came his brochure and a package containing the perfume, called “Sarah”, which he had created especially for me. Inside the minimalist, stylish packaging of purple corrugated card with white ribbon holding his business card (which John calls ‘Le Wrap’), were TWO small bottles. I was astonished and delighted to see that John had created not
one perfume for me, but two…a day blend and an evening blend. The day blend is fresh and light and stays on for hours. The evening blend is a more ‘heady’, sultry and sensual version. I wore it one evening and it was still on my wrists the following morning, even after taking a shower!

Once back home in France, I tried my perfumes out on my husband. It came as no surprise that he fell for the sensual evening version and swiftly ordered me a bottle for Christmas. Presented in a 30ml natural spray bottle for £50 (not including P&P), it more than rivals any perfume I can buy on the market. The bottle came in a lovely white bag with gold lettering and purple ribbon. There was also a scroll describing my perfume in detail.

So now I have my own signature scent. Whenever I wear it people comment on what a wonderful
scent it is and I am proud to tell them that it is my very own “Sarah” perfume, made especially and
exclusively for me, by John Bailey, parfumier extraordinaire! How ‘chic’ is that?

John Bailey pioneered niche perfumery in the 1980s to promote the art, creativity and individuality of
fragrance, marrying rare aromatic ingredients to clients' personalities. He welcomes calls and emails
for his ‘à la carte’ “Scents Direct” service, which enables private clients to purchase hand-blended,
limited edition and bespoke fragrances directly from an artisan perfumer and scent maker. They are based on the client's own interactive, sensory and enjoyable personal journey of discovery, helping to
create an exclusive fragrance that is perfect for them. Consultations can be carried out in person, over the phone or by filling out a questionnaire. Fragrances are untested on animals and are environmentally friendly. The Perfumers Guild has been featured and listed in all the leading Cruelty Free Guides in Europe.

John’s career started as an apprentice in the laboratories of a manufacturing chemist, druggist and
distiller, where he learned the art and science of formulating pills, potions and perfumes.

The Perfumers Guild “Scents of Luxury” are beautifully presented in elegant bottles tailored to your
needs, from a simple flagon to cut glass, fine crystal, or even antique bottles. The simple but stylish
“le Wrap” packaging is designed specifically for recipients to receive their fragrances in pristine
condition, but with minimum packaging. All compositions – vintage or contemporary – are carefully
hand blended with the finest quality essential oils and aromatic essences – all formulae incorporate a
skin moisturiser for a velvety feel and longevity.

Personal consultations and commissions are welcomed for anniversaries, weddings, birthdays, thank-
you gifts or just self-indulgence.

For a customised fragrance consultation and bespoke service – please see the Perfumers Guild Limited website on or contact:
JOHN BAILEY – Artisan perfumer and Founder of The Perfumers Guild Limited

Sarah Cross
South of France correspondent

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