Aesop has a huge following the world over. Visit chichi restaurants in downtown Manhattan, Dubai, or Shoreditch, London and you’ll find its products in pride of place in powders rooms, or deftly splashed across the Instagram feeds of It-girls, like an achingly cool handbag confession. The industrial-style metallic tubes and amber tincture bottles are reminiscent of a Victorian alchemist’s medicine cabinet. Not only do they look good, the skincare delivers and the scents are unforgettable.
When Aesop announced the launch of its third fragrance for Fall 2017, produced in collaboration with French nose Barnabé Fillion (who consulted on the Marrakech Intense scent) the beauty desk sat upright. Vogue.me speaks to Fillion and Dr Kate Forbes, the general manager products and research development at Aesop, about the thyme extract-infused scent that evokes ancient Japanese forests.
Why do you think it’s important to evoke a natural narrative with Hwyl? Is it because we live faster lives and the inspiration behind this fragrance is evocative and intense?
“Almost like a pause, a time to breathe, we were focusing on a very specific sensation or feeling that you get by being alone in nature and feeling it as a shelter, a refuge, or even a mirror. Also, we’re fascinated by the phenomena known as ‘crown shyness’ [when the crowns of trees do not touch but extend to form a canopy above the forest floor with gaps, or channels, running through it] and its importance in the survival of the forest. These sensations and experiences in nature inspired the ingredients of Hwyl Eau de Parfum. We can indeed say that the natural narrative is the tone that can gives our fragrance depth in a world that goes so fast and far away from the green landscape.”
When would you wear Hwyl?
“No particular time or place, I would recommend wearing it when it makes you feel happy. It’s a perfume for yourself and you can wear it on the skin or on your clothes for an aroma that stays with you.”
What was the first ingredient you chose when coming up with the composition of this fragrance?
“Vetiver bourbon is amazing. It’s grown in vanilla fields in Madagascar and the vanilla leaves a trace of its smell in the roots of the vetiver. We also selected cypress essence and frankincense to represent the enigmatic facet of Japan’s natural environment.”
What excites you most about what you do?
“Awakening the senses, travel to find ingredients and spending days and nights in the lab trying to find the right tune of a formula.”
How would you describe Hwyl in one sentence?
“The silence and verdancy of an ancient Japanese forest, and the wind in the canopy.”
The Middle East is rich in luxury fragrances – which particular notes do you think are most evocative of Arabia and why?
“Chypré and oud because it’s part of the Middle East’s traditional perfumery and is being used in amazing rituals of beauty.”
Finally, what would you most like to change about the fragrance industry?
“Ceasing to create all these sweet perfumes – which are a legacy of late 1980s – and trying to celebrate and awaken the senses instead with evocative fragrances. No more regressive creation please!”
DR KATE FORBES, general manager products and research development at Aesop
Can you describe the Aesop fragrance philosophy in three words?
“Art meets science.”
What is the journey and evolution of Aesop’s fragrances?
“Our Aesop fragrance range is deliberately small and considered. Our first fragrance, Marrakech Intense Eau de Toilette, a woody, oriental scent, was launched in 2014 and was followed by Tacit Eau de Parfum, a fresh, green scent launching in 2015. Hwyl Eau de Parfum is our third fragrance and is a woody, smoky fragrance with aromas of moss and robust spices.”
Which notes from Hwyl do you find the most striking?
“I love working with the related but different aromas of both frankincense and incense. The resinous side of frankincense is reminiscent of sap inside a tree and for me the smoky notes of burning incense has a ceremonious appeal. There are four different extracts of frankincense used in Hwyl including a hyperessence, which is a double distilled extract giving a smokiness to the fragrances. Using four different extracts increases the longevity and space between each note.”
Scents can differ depending on a person’s skin chemistry. What are the factors that make scents change from person to person?
“Fragrances do behave differently, and therefore smell very differently, based on your skin type and body chemistry. Whether your skin is dry or oily will impact how much the fragrance binds to your skin. How rapidly it is released and how the fragrance changes over time is influenced by a complex mixture of factors including your diet, body temperature, and hormone levels.”
Hwyl, Eau de Parfum, 50 ml, retails at AED/SAR 405 and is available across the Middle East from Aesop stockists.