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There is much wonderfulness to say about fragrance and drinks. Not too long ago I shared this great piece on whiskey from Samir Dave and just now I heard about a great event in Berlin.

"Whiskey is a journey, not a destination", quote and photo from Samir Dave.

“Whiskey is a journey, not a destination”, quote and photo from Samir Dave.

On Thursday, June 12th, Ritz-Carlton Berlin will open Fragrances, a mixology/olfactory experience where patrons use their sense of smell to select their drink of choice.

Designed by “Cocktail Whisperer” Arnd Henning Heissen, the menu’s alcoholic beverages are presented with a bottle of perfume. The drink will not only smell like the scent, but will also reflect that smell in its taste.

There will be a display of the drinks’ ingredients, placed in glass domes next to the perfumes. Each drink will be served in a unique way to augment its individuality.

PSFK write: “Smells evoke memories and create strong emotional bonds with the environment. They have an immense influence in product and experience association, and the Ritz-Carlton is evidence that brands are capitalizing on this idea.”

Ingredient display. Photo from PSFK. article.

Ingredient display. Photo from PSFK. article.

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Dresses, fabrics, cutlery, eye shadow(s), hair, playlists, scallops, weather, tents, napkins, wines, cakes, cookies, beloved relatives, impossible relatives, speeches, ribbons… The list of things that can be part of planning a wedding is endless.

If you ask me an important sense is often neglected. There are perfumes advertised in wedding magazines, and every now and then a story about a particular perfume and a related love story of someone famous, or a perfume created as a love declaration. But I can’t remember a more dedicated piece on the scent aspects of a wedding. (If you have, please share). Some perfume writers and bloggers have addressed this topic in an ambitious way though. I have also not seen proper consultations offered in retail (I don’t count “there is a new romantic lily of the valley out on the market, the perfect scent for a bride” as a wedding scent consultation).

Now you may think, well maybe it’s just not as important and prominent as the dress, music, place, flowers etc… My answer is: are you sure?

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Smells have a very powerful impact on our memories, moods and feelings. So when selecting the details that will create the atmosphere of a wedding, it should be natural to consider also how scents will contribute. It is easier than you think.

The scent of an occasion like this (the thoughts in this post can be applied to any event of significance) is just as significant and influential as the music or scenography. It’s just that there is no tradition of working with it. That however does not mean that we are not affected, and making more personal, emotionally valuable, romantic and wise choices would indeed make a difference.

So, what should you think about? Two things mainly: yourself and your partner (that is one thing) and the other smells at your wedding. The other ones are for example the food, the flowers in your bouquet, surrounding flowers and plants (both decorations and already existing ones), the setting.

Choosing a scent is not very different from the other choices you will be making in that the same criteria should apply. At some point you probably sat down and made a list of what you want your wedding to be like, for example romantic, elegant, unusual, playful, sweet, decadent, personal, sophisticated, relaxed. And you had some ideas on what that would lead to, for example if you and your partner love nature and you want your wedding to be personal you’ll want to incorporate some nature elements into your wedding in setting and menu and clothes. If you are a couple from different cultures you probably put some effort into coming up with ideas on how to add different elements and symbols based on that. If you want a Rat Pack wedding that has influenced your choice of DJ and dress and venue. Etc etc. All these kinds of thoughts and ideas can be translated into scents.

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Your fragrance
Let’s start with you. If you like to wear perfume (or other fragranced products), you will want to wear some for your big love celebration and you’ll want it to be special and right. A wedding is usually an event that lasts for a few hours and as a bride or groom you want to feel fresh and uplifted not tired, uplifted. Maybe you prepared the day before by doing sports and eating and drinking healthy, you have gone to a spa or beautician to add some glow. Scents too, affect our energy, they can help us feel fresh. A scent can also soothe or even make us tired. I would be very surprised if there have not been some people getting married wearing a perfume that either made them tired or maybe even allergic. A wise fragrance choice is one that keeps you in the right mood and supports energy – for example a nice clean cologne or other citrus fragrance for the day and the emotional moments that easily make your body send off extra heat, and then for the evening something more sensual, gourmand or spicy. These two fragrances should be selected so they go well with each other though.

If you feel tense and a little more nervous that you want to feel – it might be unwise to have a fragrance that is too complicated, a more clean fragrance with balanced calm notes will help you relax and feel centered. On the other hand if you are exhausted from preparations, support yourself with something that keeps your mind awake. And of course… coordinate your scent with your partner. You will be close all day, don’t expose yourselves to a scent collision that will not smell nice and give you both a headache. These are just some aspects to consider from a more practical point of view.

Choose a fragrance synchronized with your wedding bouquet. A perfect perfume and a perfect bouquet might clash when in combination if they include smells that don’t go well together. Choose flowers in your bouquet also from a scent perspective; avoid sedating or too strong smell. Co-ordinate your perfume provider and your florist.

Generally, I would say that for your wedding day – don’t go complex. Choose something light, soft, intimate and personal but easy. There will be so much going on, so many people, so many emotions and hormones. Trust your preferences. While its never right to make a perfume purchase too fast (too fast in this case means for example without taking the time to experience more than top notes) this is really really not the time for a hasty risky purchase. Other things to consider can be looking for a perfume house or creator that you identify with, associations to geographical places (for example places that are part of your romantic history together), perfumes created in a romantic contexts (By nose couples, or perfumes created by a nose for a lover or commissioned for a beloved.) And if you can, maybe consider creating your own fragrance for this day with the help of a perfumer.

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Smell an(d) emotion
Now from an emotional and romantic point of view (and what occasion is there more relevant for that than a wedding) there is so much you can do with scents. It is a fact that regardless of whether we are interested or pay attention to it, scents are very powerful because of the brain’s design. Scents are connected to memories and feelings. If you think about it, you probably have some scent memories that you connect to a person, a place or a situation.

This is the same mechanism that teleports us to places and times when we smell something and suddenly get an image in our head. So imagine how beautiful to use this brain force at your weeding and connect this day to those particular moments. During a wedding scent consultation process I talk to a couple about their romantic history to identify one, or several, particular scents that we can work with. Maybe the scent of the first flowers your partner gave you, maybe there is a spice in your favorite meal to cook together, maybe a smell in the apartment or something from a trip together.
A scent that creates an instant connection to the feeling of “us”.

Not only will highlighting such a scent detail during the wedding add emotion from the past, which will intensify your experience, it will also be coded in the brain for the future. So in one or ten years when you want to relive some of that feeling from your wedding day using that scent will help you.

Scent scenography
Naturally, we are not talking just about perfume but also about the food, the setting, floral arrangements etc. What we are looking for is a consciously created scent scenography for your wedding which supports atmosphere, emotion and well-being. It should be functional and personal.

Here are some concrete things to consider:

– The place your wedding ceremony and party are in already has/have some scents – take them into consideration. If it’s a church maybe don’t wear incense-like perfume, it will be too much. If you are in a garden with trees and flowers – be careful when adding more flowers so not to create an overdose.
– Synchronize the smells in food, fragrance and flower decorations.
– Avoid smells that guests might react to. For example big lilies give many people a headache and they take over so if you have a lovely plate in your menu with delicate tastes it might not get the attention it deserves.
– If you are giving guests gifts, a scented candle can be really special. Create a red thread, for example if you had roses in your bouquet and fragrance a nice scented rose candle will make the day live on. (Scented candles deserve a post on their own…, they are often used to create an atmosphere, sometimes a shortcut. A good candle is great but no candles by the food! And choose carefully.)
– Create a sensory frame that is comfortable for the senses for guests – everything from food to scented candles in wash rooms should be treated like members of one ensemble. Think of scent as a scenography tool.

If reading this made you interested in making scent scenography part of your wedding and you would like some help with that or if you are a wedding coordinator and would like to incorporate this into your process please feel free to contact me for a consultation using the comments section below or by e-mail sylvia(at)interabang.nu

I haven’t written any post here for a while because of travelling and an over-whelmed mind. I spent most of March in Kenya with a malaria elimination project. (As some of you now my other professional path is communication, mainly PR and strategy but also some fundraising.) An extra-ordinary experience that allowed me to discover many different places and contexts, from embassies to small island communities on Lake Victoria. These weeks and the complex context can be summarized and shared from many perspectives of course and my main focus on the experience is indeed from a malaria elimination project point of view. (If someone is interested in more information on that please feel free to contact me, especially if you are interested in supporting.) But for now, I do want to share with you some reflections and impressions from an olfactive and sensory perspective given the context of this blog and part of my life.

Coffee beans in the garden of Karen Blixen's house

Coffee beans in the garden of Karen Blixen’s house

This was my first trip ever to Kenya and when I left Sweden spring had just begun to discretely announce its ambition to arrive… at some point. Many layers of clothes, gentle silent shy spring smells. Preparing for intense days by the equator I expected a mild shock, that it would be hot, that the Nairobi air would be compact, stubborn, urban, dusty and the Lake Victoria air sticky, lush and sweet. I was not prepared to instantly fall in love with Kenyan air but that’s exactly what happened and I spent many days talking about it to whoever would listen. The Kenyan air is amazing. It’s a fragrance in itself. Fresh, breezy, sweet, soft and always with a hint of something floral. It’s so likeable, so tender. Such a contrast sometimes to the visual impressions, for example in Nairobi where there is a lot of traffic, construction and… people. (I live in Sweden… it’s not so densely populated, downtown Nairobi is a physical and visual sensation for me.) Every day I felt aware of this particular air and felt like inhaling endlessly. The Kenyan air was really a remarkable part of my impressions and it feels like the perfect reflection of other impressions such as for example the soft slow voice that many Kenyans speak with.

Streets of Nairobi

Streets of Nairobi

Nairobi bloom

Nairobi bloom

Something else that I thought about a lot was the directness and purity of flavors. It was really quite relaxing and restoring for the senses, and I noticed how I quickly started to avoid cosmetics that smelled to much (the one particular product that felt the most right was a serum from Swedish brand Emma S, that actually smells a little bit like the Kenyan air). Even having returned home I notice when cooking that I am much more attracted to simple gentle pure things, I keep trying to recreate ugali and sukuma. When you are raised and based in a climate that allows for things to grow in your garden only a few months per year, it is a true luxury to eat fresh food and only fresh food every single day. Fresh fish and fresh lime is really really fresh in Kenya.

Porcupine lime

I don’t know how many times I ate kachumbari, a delicious salad made with tomatoes and onions and cilantro, and never grew tired of it because the flavours were so rich and intense. A little bit more onion or cilantro or not made it feel like a different dish. And the mango… I think for the rest of my life when I think of mango my brain will start creating the sweetness of fresh ripe mango in my mind. Surprisingly enough the closest I get to the intensity of fresh Kenyan mango is the dried mango from Swedish-Colombian Nathalie. I quickly found a favorite routine for the early evenings when we returned from field trips in the islands on Lake Victoria. There was a place, a lawn right in front of the lake with soft chairs and a beautiful view and they made Masala tea with milk, served in a nice pot. The soft grass, the soft chair, the over-whelmed mind… watching the lake make its daily transition turning into a an unruly water more resembling a sea than a lake… warm dusty skin and the taste of the spices embraced by soothing milk. I will remember this forever.

Masala place.

Masala & contemplation place.

There was an abundance of sensory impressions in this environment but somehow they came isolated and so there was a balance between variety and purity that felt energizing. It reminded me of the first week at perfumery school in Grasse where we smelled so many raw materials every day but somehow I never felt tired or sedated (the first week with naturals that is, the second week with synthetics was an entirely different story…). There were so many new sounds and smells and flavours… all senses were on an endless daily safari. And such odd combinations that form new associations of the mind… For example every night I applied mosquito repellent before going to sleep and every night in Mbita there was music somewhere in the distance. Very often the same song reappeared with a certain background drum loop repeating. Two slow, three fast. That kind of beat smells like mosquito repellent to me now. A more pleasant association is dusty clay road and fresh sugar cane. That one I love. And this is where I tell you that going on a road trip in Nyanza with a good jeep and an excellent driver and some fresh sugar cane should be on everyone’s bucket list. It is epic.

Sugar cane, dusty road

Sugar cane, dusty road

Someone asked me the other day, if I would create a fragrance that symbolizes Kenya, what would it smell like. An enchanting challenge of course but I am not ready at all to even attempt. My first encounters with Kenya revolve around being struck by the many faces and characteristics of Kenya, from one extreme to the other. So dynamic and unruly in one second, so peaceful and intimate the next. Dusty roads and lush opulent rural hills. Fast lanes with matatu madness and zebras that just don’t care. Flowers and fish. Masala and sugar cane. Mandazi and mango. Nyama choma in the making in the night air. Drumbeat and breeze. Endless contrasts. I admire the pride that every Kenyan I met seems to have in the spine, and the soft silent voices. The big smiles that light up not a room but an entire street. The reserved poise. I have no idea how to convey all that. But I know I would want to capture it in a way that also includes those incredible magic infinities…

Kenyan infinity

Kenyan infinity

I could write a book about everything that Kenya did to my mind, heart and senses. Maybe someday when I have had the privilege to spend more time there I will. For now I leave you with these impressions, some Kenyan seduction from Dela for your ears and some amazing photos by Kenyan photographer Kevin Ouma.

Asante sana Kenya. Infinite place.

Maasai Photo by Kevin Ouma

Maasai Women. Photo by Kevin Ouma

Boats in Mfangano. Photo by Kevin Ouma.

Boats in Mfangano. Photo by Kevin Ouma.

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Strange how sometimes in life different events and experiences seem to collaborate and wave signs and arrows all pointing in the same direction. Where did this one start? Perhaps already fifteen years ago when I discovered my love for art and history while living in Florence. So much aligned and created a map then. Is it possible to love art without also questioning the concept of time? “Now“ is an intellectual structure that our senses do not always adhere to.

Our sense of smell is the best example. My friend Inma, who is now a student at the Grasse Institute of Perfumery (where we met last summer), said this the first day when we arrived to school, “When I smell I can be anywhere”.

I would add to this, when I smell I can be anytime. Any time.

This post is about Arquiste and the personal context in which I am discovering this brand and about the interesting person behind Arquiste, Carlos Huber.

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I love to be around, and exchange ideas with, people who belong to – and in – different worlds. Eclectic minds and environments make me feel at home, free, relaxed and inspired. What is created in such contexts is always dynamic and unique because the mix of components belongs to no canonized instruction. Rather it combines selected elements from different worlds and pays homage to the best in each of them. I was curious about Carlos Huber when reading about his background long before I tried any Arquiste fragrance. It doesn’t surprise me at all that there is an abundance of really great interviews with him. Nor does it surprise me that these seem to turn into great conversations rather than interviews. With his particular eclectic background, both in terms of family and upbringing and professionally and his obviously curious mind, Carlos immediately strikes you as someone you could talk to about many different things for a long time and still feel new. So yes, when I read about Carlos the first time I instantly felt that I would like to talk to him about many different things for a long time and still feel new. (Yes, when finishing this post I already have about twenty follow-up questions on numerous topics for him!). I also knew that before doing that I would have to find these Arquiste perfumes and see what they were all about.

And then there was the Mexico aspect. I’ve been having a platonic romance with Mexico for about two years. I have actually not been there yet. I want to go very much so I have my eyes wide open and when the right occasion comes I will know. It started when I connected online with a couple of wonderful Mexican people through the community around my friends’ band Diablo Swing Orchestra. Three persons in particular – Arturo, Briana and Ale this is for you! – amazed me with their openness, warmth brightness, eloquence and artistic talents. These traits are now what entirely dominates my image of Mexican people. Arturo and Ale are talented musicians and Briana an enchanting photographer. These three have shared with me both their creative work and their culture through their eyes, sounds and observations and as a consequence Mexico glows on my world map. If you read this, thank you.

Briana's photo from Torreón

Briana’s photo from Torreón

So, when I discovered a new perfume brand that sounded very interesting, because the idea behind it was to recreate history with smells, I was so happy to hear that the man behind it also comes from Mexico. And even more so when I read interviews where Carlos shared how that background influenced and inspired the fragrances and even which raw materials were used. (Yes, I certainly do have Carlos’ guide to Mexico City bookmarked. And printed.)

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So, now to my interview with Carlos Huber about his background, architecture, scents that surround him and different aspects of the journey with Arquiste. I really enjoyed this conversation and hope you will enjoy reading it.

Carlos, what aspects of your approach to fragrances are inspired by you being an architect?

Most of them – from the research to the development of a particular fragrance recreating a specific time and place, to the project managing of the design and production. Architecture is very much about art and at the same time practicality, not only fragrance development.

You are specialized in Historic Preservation. Do you feel that you are still involved in that, also with the perfumes, by preserving not only places but also moments by translating them into scents? When visiting historical places or just any new place do you automatically start to think, “How could this place be translated into scent?”. (And then I think – why should “Historic Preservation” be focused only on one sense! It’s a synaesthetes dream challenge!)

Yes, I do think of that: As I’m visiting and researching what went on in there the question is one of the first to pop up: “what did it smell like when this happened? When they were cooking? When so and so showed up? Etc etc. All of the Arquiste fragrances are examples of that. And yes, Historic Preservation is all about the appreciation and significance of the past in our daily life, and it involves much more than bricks and stones.

What is the main value according to you with the preservation of history?

Preserving what has been created before us legitimizes and pushes us to create even further.

Please share the story behind how you choose the name Arquiste?

Arquiste came through a bit of word play – combining Architecture and History and then, it sounded a bit like ‘Artiste’, so it was a nice association. It sounded good in French, English and Spanish and people responded to it when we tried it out. As far as the names of the fragrances, each one needed to focus on the particular story behind it, and also communicate a bit of what the scent was going to smell like. So they are each in the language of the place they evoke, and they have some reference to the mood or their ingredients. So the florals involve the word ‘flower’ in different languages, Aleksandr is indeed a dandy, more masculine scent, and Anima Dulcis, well, it has a sweet soul.

The online perfume community and bloggers have really embraced you from the start, which has resulted in some really interesting and personal interviews. I get the impression that you have made an effort to be accessible and take the time to have these conversations whereas other perfume creators might choose a more limited media relations strategy. Why have you chosen this path? And – do you have a still unasked question in your mind that you wish someone asked you?

I think the brilliancy behind a good question is that it actually surprises you – the most interesting ones are the ones that pick on things that are not obvious but that are important ‘under the surface’ if you know what I mean. I like engaging with people, I come from the ‘other side’ myself – above all, I’m a lover and consumer of fragrance: all kinds, from high-end niche creations of esoteric value to very universal and easy to grasp colognes, soaps or candles. I love engaging with people and I think its only fair that when you create something, that you are ‘there’ to present it. Arquiste is a new brand and it’s important to communicate what its about so that people become familiar with it…Things take time and work to establish, and I think having a direct connection with people is important.

Amazing photo by Senteurs d'Ailleurs from their brunch with Carlos

Amazing photo by Senteurs d’Ailleurs from their brunch with Carlos

You work with Rodrigo Flores-Roux and Yann Vasnier on all your fragrances. How and why did you choose them? What is it that makes you like to collaborate with them, what makes your creative relationship work so well?

I choose to work with them because they are the ones that taught me about fragrance. Yann and our common friend Sophie Bensamou (a fragrance evaluator now at Symrise) introduced me to Rodrigo, and he has mentored me since 2009. They are above all my friends and we work very closely – there is a real dialogue, and a real commitment behind every development. When we get together, the brainstorming happens naturally and it’s so motivating and exciting.

Rodrigo Flores – Roux has been a mentor in the world of fragrances for you. What is the most important thing that you learned from him?

To have an enormous amount of passion for your work. I don’t know anyone that loves what they do more than him. This is why I chose to dedicate myself to this industry – I believe in that example.

What does your home smell like?

Like a guava tree heavy with ripe fruit and a background of rich, tropical woods. It smells like “Merida” our candle collaboration with Cire Trudon. It’s warm but very uplifting, and I like that its good for every season.

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If you would try to predict some trend in fragrance in the next years, what do you think will happen?

I think the personalization of scents is more and more in vogue. This is why niche brands are more visible now than before – people want individuality, and I think this path will continue to evolve.

There is an ongoing discussion about the concept of niche perfumes, the definition of it. What are your thoughts on the term? And do you consider Arquiste a niche brand?

Yes I do – because our distribution is more exclusive and limited to stores that are devoted to olfactory quality, not numbers. And also, because they are not necessarily what the ‘mass market’ wants – they have a style that is more timeless and sophisticated.

You seem to be very dedicated to your relationship with your retailers around the world. What makes a retailer special and interesting to collaborate with from your point of view? Do you have any advice (for the other ones) on how they could develop their way of working?

For me, its all about commitment and passion. We are experiencing a difficult time in terms of economy worldwide, and I think a lot of stores are struggling and hence don’t have the patience or time to build a brand… Chanel, Hermes, Guerlain…these houses didn’t pop up overnight. The relationship with a retailer needs to be a partnership – if they want to carry a brand, they should be completely in love with it. If not, don’t take it…it’s a disservice to the brand. Estee Lauder said: “If you don’t sell, it’s not the product that’s wrong, it’s you.” I think this applies to both the brand and the retailer. We all know that there are things that are best-sellers that are appalling, and things of utter beauty that are just not brought out enough.

You’re a dedicated traveller and it’s so nice to follow you on your travels in social media. So tell me, what are your next five top destinations to go to among places you haven’t been to yet?

First on my list is Japan, and I will get the chance to visit in March, when we present Arquiste for the first time over there. I will be in Luxembourg in February and I’m very much looking forward to that. Other three would be: Peru, Turkey and Sweden.

What is your most favorite place on earth?

Can I choose two? My hometown of Mexico City, and my personal paradise of Ibiza – I lived in Ibiza for six months when I was 22: it was a difficult, but very special time of my life and so it has remained a meaningful place for me. Not because of the party scene at all, but for its secluded coves and picturesque beaches, the scent of the pine, red earth, lavender and rosemary, and because of my friends there.

In a dinner conversation described on What Men Should Smell Like (do click to read this, the dialogue is so interesting and Carlos’ description of orange blossom pure poetry) you mentioned orange blossom as your favorite ingredient and explained why. Has that changed since then, is there a new favorite? Do you have an example of a new discovery in terms of raw materials or notes that you have made in the process of developing your fragrances, something that you were not acquainted with before but that has made a strong impression?

Orange blossom is still the center of my heart – but I’m fascinated by Ambermax – a new synthetic that takes amber to a whole other level… it’s both invisible and incredible powerful in its subtlety…I like materials like that. Boutonniere no.7 is the first fragrance to come out of the US using ambermax.

The topic of raw materials in perfume that evoke rituals and sacred ambiances fascinates me. Why do you think we are attracted to them? Speaking of rituals, Anima Dulcis has Mexican Vanilla in it, what characterizes this particular vanilla? Was it self-evident to use vanilla from Mexico because of the idea behind the fragrance?

Yes of course – but also because of its more ‘raw’ quality. Less the sweet, pasty Bourbon vanilla and more the animalic vanilla bean.

I think we are attracted to them because they feel more meaningful than a story based on ‘vanity’… but of course, the topic could be analyzed sociologically much more in depth.

(I can relate to the topic of more raw vanilla…)

What contemporary moments or places do you think posterity will perceive as particularly special and evocative? If you would create a fragrance about a place and moment now for future generations, which would you choose?

That’s a very good question…and a wonderful idea for development!
I’ll get back to you on that one later on – maybe as a fragrance!

I saw in an interview that you, like me, went to Florence in the beginning of your adult life. This city affected me in many profound ways, I was studying art history at the time and it was over-whelming to suddenly feel like I was in the photos in the big books… Everything, history of mankind and society, became now and here. How did Florence influence who you became?

Very similarly to what you describe – it made me aware that actually you could live in a city and live a life that was much more beautiful than you could even have imagined. It gave me the thirst to look for beautiful things in life.

Being an architect and designer of spaces…aren’t you just dying to create an Arquiste flagship multi-sensory store?

Yes!!!!!!! (un-edited exclamation marks) So much – one day – its definitely one of the long-term goals. Imagine it, I could have the books, antiques, objets d’art and music that relate to each of the fragrance, everything to immerse you in a proper time travel adventure. Imagine all the different environment within the store!

(Yes. Imagining. I want to live there, Carlos.)

You get questions about many sources of inspiration your travels, art, architecture, fashion but I can’t remember anyone asked you about music. So, what would we find in your favorite playlist?

Another good question that is actually very personal! I LOVE music – all kinds! And always like to have a bit of a soundtrack to my daily activities…I love good, flamboyant Baroque classical music, and I love electronica and more indie bands. Its always a big source of inspiration that takes you to a specific ‘moment’.

I googled Jorge Otero-Pailos (that Carlos has worked with) and on his website I read this: “Architecture is often defined as the art if orienting people in space and time” and then everything fell into place. The story of Arquiste, why you move between architecture and scents and history. Even why the perfumes are described the way they are. And then I felt like asking you this question – non-architects often associate architecture with “buildings”, right? Or at least some sort of construction in a chosen material. But architecture is both the concrete and the abstract and how these two will relate to each other… Like the silence in music composition. So, what is space in perfume?

Wonderful reasoning Sylvia! (I should remove this it would more sophisticated but I was so into that thought bubble and so happy Carlos got it that I leave it to share the smile with you readers). For me space in perfume is the pulsating sillage of a fragrance… it can come and go, become full and expansive or escape like a ghost.

Some fragrances are monumental, loud and full of flourish, like, for example an Italian baroque church; some are carefully refined, proportioned, and have a hidden harmony, like a more restrained work of rationalist architecture. This ‘volume’ occupied by a scent is like the space contained within.

(HOW I LOVE THIS ANSWER.)

How do you choose the historical moments that become Arquiste fragrances?

From personal interests, curiosity sparked by site visits and travel and by selecting a story that touched the heart – if it doesn’t do that, it’s harder to translate it into something that more people will relate to.

If you would focus on architecture in the future – what inspirations and insights from your experiences with perfume would you bring with you into architectural challenges?

So many – but on a practical level, the experience of managing a business, selling an idea and being good at listening to clients.

Those of us who follow you in social media noticed that you were doing some research in a library during the Christmas holidays and not long before that we could see some vials with hand-written labels… are you working on something new and is there something that you can reveal about that?

Yes!!! 2014 will be a very exciting time for Arquiste, lots of new, good stuff…we’ve been hard at work for a while now and all will be unveiled in the fall.

I can’t wait.

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Arquiste has been somewhat difficult to find for many European customers but this is changing as we speak since Carlos is on a great European odyssey right now making sure that we can find some Arquiste magic in more places. For a list of retailers check arquiste.com or better yet check Carlos’ instagram for the same info but with an abundance of architectural delight, mega-aesthetic running track suggestions and the most mood-enhancing museum-going Christmas sweater ever. I want to add here that I find it truly inspiring to see a perfume house creator invest so much time into meeting with retailers personally and giving kudos to the talented and passionate people he meets. If you ask me, ambitious dedicated perfume retail deserves all the support and praise they can get. If you follow my adventures and musings you know that this is a favorite topic of mine.

Writing this post I have been wearing a lot of Arquiste (and cooking with a lot of lime, chili, avocado, not to mention having hot spicy chocolate cravings). I like to explore an entire range from a perfume brand because I am interested in the vision behind the brand, the red thread. It’s so easy to try one or two perfumes from a brand and make a general positive or negative judgment based on that, not only in terms of quality but also character. But its not unusual that next to a fragrance you don’t get along with stands something that you would truly love. For me my first impression of Arquiste was Anima Dulcis. It was instant love that rather quickly turned into such identification that I even re-applied it before going to bed, something that I basically never do. For the last months I have had a sample vial of this fragrance with me at all times. When wearing something else on my skin I still tend to reach for it just to smell the vial. Even for someone like me who spends so much time happily smelling beautiful things this is something unusual that I have experienced with only a handful of fragrances. So my expectations were very high.

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Haute Parfumerie at Harrods, photo by Carlos Huber.

It is a fact that all of the Arquiste fragrances have an unquestionable feeling of high quality. There is no randomness or laziness, not in the brief not in the raw materials, not in the compositions. They all feel like great works of art and dedication. I will not give you reviews; reviews are not my thing I prefer to share reflections. This is a range worth exploring for the high-quality, sensory experience and inspiring story telling. The fragrances are very different so depending on what your preferences are you will find a favorite. For me, the way Anima Dulcis affects me happens only with this one but like I said, it is a rare thing to experience at all and it is highly subjective. I also really love L’Etrog for the unusual character that it gets from this choice of citrus and the way it goes from being feisty and zesty to perky to sweet to elegant to balsamic intimate.

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I rarely feel comfortable wearing florals, especially jasmine and tuberose, myself but I smell and try out a lot of them because it is often a type of fragrance that is requested when I do consultations. I will be presenting Arquiste florals for sure in such cases for a specific reason – they have a very likeable and dynamic combination of an old-school classic quality feeling and a contemporary structural character. In my opinion all the fragrances also have some kind of twist, call it playfulness or mischievousness even. My guess is, that this is the result of the characters and friendship between Carlos Huber, Rodrigo Flores-Roux and Yann Vasnier. There is something in their relationship and chemistry that allows for a certain unruliness and creative wanderlust. Every fragrance includes some less predictable more personal choice. Using etrog is an example, Mexican vanilla another. The breathtakingly romantic link between Infanta en Flor and Fleur de Louis is another. I can sense something in the creative process behind these fragrances that I recognize from my own life, something that simply happens when creative compatibility strikes.

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If you are interested in reading more detailed descriptions of the notes and the fragrances I recommend not only Arquiste’s own website but also the excellent (always!) descriptions and reflections by Clayton of What Men Should Smell Like.

If you have not been up here, you don’t know how grey and dark a winter with no snow can be in Sweden. I have spent many hours looking at photos of Tulum in the last couple of months to lift the spirit. And in Tulum there is a place called Coqui Coqui… that also has its own perfumery. The owner, perfumer Nicolas Malleville, also a contemporary landscape architect, creates fragrances inspired by the Franciscan monks’ old formulas from the time of the colonization of the new world and by the legacy of ancient Mayan medicine. 

This is where I am in my dream, writing my “Beginners’ guide to perfume” book.

Another place that I go to in my mind to smell is the restaurant Contramar in Mexico City. I discovered it through the Instagram of Julian Bedel, founder of Fueguia (more about this brand will come) and when checking the geotag I could imagine all the smells in the pictures…lime (so much lime!), fresh tuna, chili, figs, strawberries, seafood. (Also: how amazing are Mexican people’s smiles? And how do they do to co-ordinate dinners and lunches with SO many people?). Great mood-enhancer that feed! Also the observant ones will see that in that feed who do we see if not… Carlos Huber. What did I say about coordinated signs? 🙂 All roads may lead to Rome but the best ones go there via Mexico if you ask me.

Thank you Carlos for your time and great vibe, thank you DSO for the music, thank you Tulum for visual seasonal antidotes, thank you Arturo, Briana and Ale for your warmth – and Mexico, if I forget to tell you when we meet – gracias por las experiencias eclécticas y la saborosa inspiración!

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Dear friends, I have been quiet for some time. Partly due to traveling. Right now I am in Chicago spending some time with Olfactif, world's first niche perfume subscription service and exploring the abundance of diversity that this city has to offer. I have noticed there does not seem to be a very visible perfume community here and no famous niche perfume shop. So I imagine perfumistas must be rather grateful that Olfactif is there to surprise and inspire them every month. One place that has really surprised and impressed me though, from a perfume perspective, is Barney's. Amazing courageous selection of perfumes. I finally got my hands on some Arquiste there and got to try a lot of new stuff. But best of all... guess who's coming tomorrow? FRÉDÉRIC MALLE! Barney's 5 pm - 7 pm. 15 East Oak Street. Chicago. Tomorrow Thursday. If you are in Chicago see you there, right? And Dinara who is in charge of Malle at B is amazing. Talk to her.

I want to share with you the story of my last evening in Grasse. (How I miss this place and how I felt being in that experience…)

There is a narrow winding long cobbled street in Grasse, Rue de L’Oratoire. Somehow wherever I would go I would find myself in Rue de L’Oratoire. In this labyrinth of Grassesque marvels there is a place I knew I would visit sooner or later. 

Before going to Grasse Institute of Perfumery I had read about Clayton’s adventures there and about his visit to perfumer Didier Gaglewski (in Rue de L’Oratoire 12). It seems many visitors to Grasse feel the need to buy perfume as a souvenir and the local shops cater to that idea in different ways. For me the real treat of being in Grasse was the access to the backstage area of the perfume industry. The fields, the insider information, the lab, the raw materials – but above all – the conversations with people who work with perfume in various ways. If I had an experience like that – and could buy something that would preserve the moment for me – then great, but perfume per se was not the main thing. But then of course a place like Grasse provides gems like Beauty Success where you can find Coriandre and Caron’s Pour un Homme! But back to Gaglewski. This encounter was really a quintessential part of this adventure.

First time I met Didier Gaglewski was when going to dinner with my Spanish friend (and I am sure future perfumer) Inma, Daniela from Fragonard and the lady that they were staying with in Grasse. The lady knew Didier so we introduced ourselves briefly when passing by his shop and said we would come back. After a few days, you see, Inma and I had embarked on an inspiring inner journey analyzing various ways to pursue olfactory paths in our future careers. And monsieur Gaglewski seemed like a very good person to turn to for some advise since he himself started to work with perfumes after pursuing a different career for some time. So a few days later we returned. 

The shop. Photo from Gaglewski.com
Didier generously shared his story with us and we spent a long time discovering his creations, from the ultra-masculine conceptual Cambouis, a humoristic flirt with the idea of a man working on his car and the smells of this, to the soft romantic Aria, a seductive classic über-feminine dream of tuberose and vanilla. I had a different instant crush though… first for the name and then for the smell, the woody Journaliste. No surprise that it includes some of my favorite notes – petit grain, mandarin, ginger, cardamom and tonka bean. The Journaliste is now here in Stockholm with me. It reminds me of the alliance between brain and heart, plans and dreams and of this very special place in Grasse. 
So, on my last day I went back to Rue de L’Oratoire, 12 to say goodbye to Didier and to show him my three own creations from school for some professional feedback. A very rewarding visit since I also had the luck to talk to the customers that came to the shop. I was struck by the great conversations that happened. So far from some of the empty quick exchanges of clichés in department stores. People ask Didier a lot about his background and profession and creations and he answers every person’s questions very genuinely and generously. A young man entered out of curiosity, not really ready for a purchase, but full of questions. It was such a nice conversation to listen to and a moment that captured some of that special thing about Grasse so well – it is a place that loves perfumes and that loves to take the time to talk about perfume with anyone who has a desire to know more. There is so much knowledge in those hills… and so little of the excluding elitism that you find between perfume shelves around the world. 
Scent strips made of ribbons at Gaglewski.

Thank you Didier for sharing your story, time and thoughts. D
ziękuję.

“Vous êtes brune, de peau mate.Vous êtes gaie et un peu capricieuse. 
Vous croquez la vie.
Votre rire cristallin ne connaît pas de frontière. 
Vous êtes si près de l’enfance que l’on se demande parfois si vous n’en sortez 
que pour paraître sérieuse, mais l’on sait bien que cela ne durera 
que le temps d’un clin d’oeil.”

(From description of Aria on Gaglewski.com)