Mr & Mrs Smith love sniffing out the world’s best places to stay and play, and part of our good-time-hunting agenda is to find the parks, picnic spots and on-the-pulse shops that only your best friend would tell you about.
So, in the spirit of sharing, we tracked down expert perfumer Linda Pilkington to find out more about her scentsational perfume boutique, Ormonde Jayne on London’s Old Bond Street – it’s just our cup of tea (or should we say, vial of scent). Linda travels the world on her quest to find unusual and exotic ingredients for her scents, so we’ve picked her luxury-travel brains, too…
Hi Linda, great to meet you. Tell us a bit more about your luxury perfume house, Ormonde Jayne – how did it come into being?
It was more happenstance than a thought-through business plan. A chance meeting with an old friend when I was living in South Africa began the whole process: he worked for Chanel Fine Jewellery and had spent a huge amount of money on scented candles for the store and found that none of them burned properly. He remembered that one of my hobbies was candle-making and that I loved perfume, so he asked me to create something that would smell wonderful and burn well. I set to work and, four months later, I was able to satisfy his request.
I had to register a company so that I could raise an invoice and that was when Ormonde Jayne was born. My first invoice was Chanel Fine Jewellery Number 001. That was 10 years ago.
What a glamorous beginning! We’re now imagining you as a modern-day inhabitant of Patrick Süsskind’s exotic world of Perfume (only, without murderous intent, of course). What skills do you need to be a world-class perfumer?
The essentials of course are a very keen, sharp sense of smell and a fearless imagination! Decades ago, perfumers always used the molecule hedione, but in minute quantities; however one perfumer bucked the trend and used it in a huge quantity instead and it had an amazing effect, opening up the formula so you could smell all the other individual oils. Of course when everyone else realised what he had done, they did exactly the same. You have to dare to go beyond what is expected. I think a perfumer has to learn to be humble: you are forever learning, as there are new molecules constantly being developed in the industry and you need to keep practising.
Is there still a cut-throat element of competition in your industry?
Where investors are involved, as with any business, an element of competition is paramount to the success of their investment. As Ormonde Jayne has no investors with no outside financial obligations, I am able to indulge myself and use the most rarest and most expensive ingredients that take my fancy.
For instance, the perfume I am working on at the moment is using the oil from a rare flower that costs €30,000 a kilo – I have to keep that source a very very closely guarded secret until the finished bottle is on the shelf, otherwise competitors and bigger perfume houses would try to trump me. But their costs per kilo are normally well under £100, so it is unlikely.
What I have found is that a few of the big perfume houses are taking a leaf out of my book: when we launched Champaca seven years ago, hardly a perfume house had used it since Joy by Jean Patou. Suddenly there have been two major Champaca perfumes launched and everyone is talking about it. I (try to) take it as flattery!
How do you go about creating a new perfume – does it start with a fantasy ‘end result’, or with a new ingredient?
It’s not unusual for me to receive invitations to smell a new ingredient – especially if it’s not widely used in the perfume industry and very expensive! However the process usually starts with what I feel is missing from my library. Inspiration is also of course needed, but it sometimes takes the form of something completely unrelated and unexpected.
When I was on holiday in Vietnam this winter, I was on the beach and this woman had on the most beautiful scarf I’d ever seen, with bright orange, cream, beige and black stripes. I couldn’t stop looking at it, and when I saw this bright mandarin orange (the colour of our packaging), I went into a reverie about Ormonde Jayne and all the different directions I wanted to take the company in.
Argentina. During the time I was in South America, I managed to make a very good lifestyle for myself and I had a lot of local friends. I think this encouraged me to do a lot more and experiment more than I had in other counties. I learnt about farming soya, milking cows, I rode horses with the gauchos and set up an ice cream parlour – out of all the countries I have lived in, Argentina stimulated me the most.
I adore floral scents – your Frangipani parfum is to die for, and its aroma always takes me to the hill stations, backwaters and beaches of Kerala. The smell of jasmine and roses is another favourite; in the early evening before dusk the plants seem to release a particularly intense perfume that makes me think of carefree London summers and balmy nights. Is there a scent that always transports you somewhere special?
The most mesmerising, exhilarating scent I have ever smelled is the Belle du Nuit flower. I first encountered it 20 years ago, and then again more recently when we went to visit one of the plantations that supplies Ormonde Jayne with the Moroccan Rose used in Tolu.
We stayed in the High Atlas Mountains at Kasbah Tamadot, which is a short walk away from a big field full of this incredible shrub. The Belle de Nuit flower blooms only in the summer months for a very short period starting around 5pm.
Before the flowers bloom, you hardly notice this unexceptional dark green bush – the petals are the size of tea leaves – but then suddenly, tiny white flowers emerge and this burst of perfume is so dramatic and magnetic that even the local fauna agree: local cats and dogs come from all directions just to sit near this bush because it smells so wonderful. It makes you realise that animals can relish a perfume just as we do. And it takes a truly exceptional event on a hot summer’s afternoon to lure me away from siestas and fresh mint tea!
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
The sea excites me, so it would be somewhere with the most beautiful sea view – which I suppose doesn’t really narrow it down! I feel particularly comfortable and happy as soon as I see the first glimpse of the sea, even if it’s a dark grey sea on a stormy night. It could be Col de l’Eze on the Grand Corniche, far enough away from Monaco and Nice but near enough to Cap d’Ail and eastern Côte d’Azur. I’ve actually been searching for the ideal villa in this area for a few years now and I will definitely live here one day…
What’s your favourite holiday destination at the moment?
My insider scoop is La Pinède Plage in La Croix Valmer, about 20 minutes west of St Tropez after Marseilles. The hotel is right on the beachfront and it’s beautifully well thought out with an open plan. As soon as you go through the front door, you are staring at the sun and sea. You feel totally relaxed as soon as you arrive and, while it’s very stylish, it’s not pretentious.
When you get to the beach, if you walk five minutes westward, there’s an amazing family-run restaurant; you can sit there in your bikini and have the most incredible food with a bottle of rosé for about €15. It’s beautiful and is built right on the sand on Plage Gigaro with stilts; it’s one of those places that you just stumble upon, and I don’t think a lot of people don’t know about it, so it doesn’t attract all the show-offs from St Tropez.
You have a prestigious boutique on Bond Street and are stocked in the oh-so-chic Middle Eastern equivalent of Colette or X Corso Como in Dubai, Boutique 1: what are your favourite shops in London and Dubai?
My favourite in London is Albrissi, no 1 Sloane Square. It sells exotic furniture and artefacts from all over the world. There are African pieces, huge long feathered native American head-dresses, masks, Aboriginal pieces… You feel like you are suddenly not in London. I can spend hours in there.
Boutique 1 in Dubai really is exceptionally beautiful! I also love the wonderful spice souk run by the Iranians; the architecture that surrounds the souk is also all Iranian.
If you could travel in time, where would you go?
Ancient Egypt without a doubt. I would need to be a Queen living in a temple on the Nile, somewhere between Luxor and Aswan, bathing in asses’ milk and sailing down the Nile.
What do you never leave home without?
Lipstick: I have a nice coral shade at the moment – it’s the best instant glamour fix. And of course a quick squirt of perfume!
What’s the most romantic place you’ve ever been?
La Mamounia hotel in Marrakesh, August 31, 2000. It was nearly dusk, drums were beating loudly and there were whirling dervishes spinning around us with long flowing white robes. There were snake charmers and monkeys… and then my boyfriend asked me to marry him and produced a gorgeous ring in a Chanel Fine Jewellery box…
Wow… bit jealous now! Lovely to meet you, Linda, looking forward to reading your secret travel address book.
Check back on the Smith Luxury Travel Blog soon for the Ormonde Jayne secret address book.