Artistry Infused: Fragrance Specialist Samantha Taylor tells us the secrets of her artistry (Part 1)

Having been involved in the beauty industry for over twenty years, both in Australia and abroad, Samantha Taylor is arguably Australia’s preeminent Fragrance Specialist.

Since returning home to Australia in 2008, after time in Paris and London working with perfume houses such as Floris, Penhaligon’s and Miller Harris, Samantha created The Powder Room, a place for Australians to learn about the art of fragrance creation.

Recently, Samantha got together with Bombay Sapphire to create a scent that reflects the world’s favourite gin, telling us, “Gin is drinkable perfume”.

We had a chat with Samantha to find out what perfumery is, and about her signature scent for Bombay Sapphire.

Tell us about the scent you’re creating for Bombay Sapphire?

“The scent that I’m making for Bombay Sapphire is really aromatic, it’s really clean, it’s really fresh. It can be worn by men and women.

“I’m really excited by it. I think it’s a beautiful fragrance.”

Why do you gravitate towards gin? What about it appeals to you?

“Gin is drinkable perfume. It has the same botanicals that perfume does. It’s really aromatic, it’s such a sensory experience and I love how versatile it is. You can mix lots of cocktails.”

Tell us about your journey into perfumery

“My journey into becoming a Fragrance Specialist has been quite a lengthy one. I loved perfume and make-up as a kid. My mum and grandmother loved perfume. My father worked for an alcohol distributor. So wine, gin and scotch were something that I was educated about from quite a young age.

“We also spent a lot of time in the Barossa Valley when I was growing up. So good food, good wine, and beautiful smells have been part of my life for a very long time.

“When I left school, I worked for a major cosmetics house and I went to my first perfume launch when I was 17. From that moment, I was obsessed. I knew that perfume was exactly what I wanted to do.

“So I kind of worked my way up from being a perfume girl at DJ’s, through sales and marketing roles, up to R&D roles, to starting my own company.

“Pivotal for me was when I moved to London in 2003. I worked for three amazing perfume houses; from the oldest perfume house in the world, which had been around since 1730, up to a really contemporary, young, on-trend fragrance brand. And I was fortunate to work with some incredible people who were very generous with their knowledge.”

Can you explain the artistry behind what you do?

“As a Fragrance Specialist, I teach people about the art of perfume, how to appreciate it, how to choose it and how to sell it.

I work with companies to create their fragrance brand, whether it be for commercial sale or to be used in spaces such as show homes, retail spaces and offices.

I then work with the perfumer to create the fragrance, help the client source the bottles and packaging and oversee the maceration and fill process.

“In order to become a perfumer, you need to train for three years and then do an apprenticeship for six years. And during that time you learn your own approach to perfumery, because it is an art-form. It’s very personal.

“Think about when you’re making a piece of music or you’re painting an artwork. The same applies with perfume. You’re learning your style, you’re learning how all these beautiful, raw materials fuse together to create the poetry that is perfume.

“Perfume is really chemistry and art combined.”

Tell us about your process. You must get some incredibly varied briefs when working with your clients. How does that manifest?

“My process changes with each client. It really depends on who they are and what the fragrance is going to be used for in the end. So if I’m working with a fashion designer, we’ll use their designs as a starting point. What’s the style of their brand: is it very feminine? Is it very edgy? We’ll build a fragrance from that.

“So one fashion designer I worked with, he was obsessed with perfume and he bought me this whole heap of perfume. We smelled everything, and we picked out different notes that he liked. I have a little minnie perfumers’ travelling organ, which I take with me, and we can smell lots of different things. I then build a brief based on that.”

Can you tell us about your wall of perfume?

“All I can say is thank goodness that perfume is a tax deduction for me, because it is an obsession. I can’t help myself!

“Whenever I travel anywhere, my first port of call is always a perfumery. So the wall of perfume is kind of a culmination of lots of my own personal fragrances and fragrances that companies have given me over time.

“One of the lovely perks of my job is that I do get sent perfume to use in my master classes and to review.

“Some of them I really love, some of them not so much. But you know, all smells are amazing and all bottles of perfume are a beautiful piece of art. So it’s about appreciating that piece of art as well when you’re smelling the fragrance.”

What would you say your signature scent is?

“I really love the idea of a wardrobe of scent – or a library of sent, as one of my previous bosses used to call it. So I don’t have a signature scent, as such. But I do have a signature style.

“I love fragrances that are really unusual – the more obscure the better. If people can identify my fragrance, I haven’t done my job right. So I look for interesting brands, I look for perfumers who create interesting, left-of-centre fragrances.

“I’m not a floral, pretty-girl style of fragrance. I like fragrances that announce who you are.”

How would you describe perfumery to someone who didn’t know?

“Perfumery is an art-form; it’s a very ancient art-form. We’ve been perfuming ourselves for over 4000 years. I used to work for a beautiful brand in England and they describe perfume as a ‘liquid emotion’, and that really struck a chord with me. Because it is.

“Perfume is incredibly powerful; our sense of smell is incredibly powerful. When you put a perfume on, it has the ability to completely change the way you feel. It also gives people a framework on which to assess you. So think about when you meet someone, you smell them straight away. It’s a way of kind of imprinting yourself on someone.

“So for me, ‘liquid emotion’ is a perfect explanation for fragrance.”

Melbourne friends, you’re in for a treat! From September 8, you can dine in style at the Project Botanicals pop-up restaurant at Taxi Riverside in Federation Square, where Head Chef Tony Twitchett will be creating dishes PERFECTLY matched with the ten Bombay Sapphire botanicals. Tickets on sale now. Psst … If you’re lucky, you might just have the chance to win some of Sam’s botanically inspired fragrance, too! #artistryinfused

Samantha Taylor smells a lemon
Samantha Taylor
Samantha Taylor
Samantha Taylor putting scents on blotting paper

About the author

Joe likes to write about himself in the third person, even if he thinks it’s horribly pretentious when others do it.