The Architecture of Fragrance. Part 1: Inspiration

The Architecture of Fragrance. Part 1: Inspiration

A first impression of a fragrance is an instantaneous, almost primal response. Creating one, on the other hand, involves a rigorous and impassioned process of research, collaboration and perfectionism.

From an evocative, postcard-like memory captured in a fleeting moment abroad, to the wax being poured into a mouth-blown glass vase, our scents undergo an impressive trajectory from inspiration, to innovation, to in-the-home.

In ‘The Architecture of Fragrance’ series, we’re taking you behind-the-scenes. In this blog trilogy, you’ll take an exclusive tour through the tantalising development of Apsley and Company fragrances, debuting with all things people and places that spark our ‘Inspiration’. Today, we’re dissecting the intricacies of planning for an intoxicating and thought-provoking fragrance.


From the initial idea, through to release, it can take anywhere between three to eighteen months to conjure a new scent from a hoard of rich inspiration sources. Like an architect would envisage aesthetics, mull over measurements and consult with builders, we conceptualize our fragrances through exchanging ideas, retelling stories and establishing a scent narrative.

We’re avid trend-watchers, ardently tracking changes in everything spanning beauty, fashion, food, drinks, postcodes, technology and lifestyle. When scouring for new inspiration catalysts, we often take to the airport, or extrapolate from still-potent memories of faraway places.

One of our signature fragrances, Oud, encapsulates the wanderlust integral to our creative process. We noticed an increase in high-end perfumes carrying notes of Oud, so we decided to build upon the luxe trend and incorporate this into the world of home fragrance. Earthy, woody and redolent with raw material derived from agarwood, this premium scent is extremely popular in the Middle East.

Our Founder and Director, Helen Armstrong, sought out the compelling fragrance in vibrant Dubai. After searching through bustling street markets, she eventually found inspiration for Oud burning in an upmarket souk. Heady, aromatic and exotic, Helen knew this was a fragrance that had to be further explored.


After our souk stints, we undertook research to see how the essence of Oud could be encapsulated in a uniquely Apsley and Company scent. Our vision with this particular fragrance was to transport consumers to Dubai’s magical perfumeries without having left their living room.

A brief was then compiled for our European-based perfumers, outlining the essence we intended to capture. For example, we wanted to create an intoxicating, vivid scent that mingled Dubai’s ‘Oud’ with Bulgarian roses and earthy woods to replicate the old-world charm of a vintage reading room.

After briefing our highly-talented perfumers, they work their magic to send us across a trial sample of a proposed fragrance. Their ability to distill memories, imagery, blurbs and other inspiration into a palpable, unique scent is a testament to the talent involved here.


If we’re happy with the prototype, we then get a larger sample and trial it in its application - for example, we make a candle with the fragrance and then burn it to test the fragrance throw. However, determining the prototype isn’t always that simple. Fragrance formulations require modification for different applications, so the composition of an Oud candle differs from that of its diffuser counterpart. Likewise, the type of wax or diffuser formulation that we use as a ‘base’ for
our fragrances can also impact the nuances of scent

To gauge what fragrances will triumph, we run something called a straw poll test at Apsley and Company HQ. To harness an office brimming with different opinions, tastes and personalities, we can try to forecast how successful a fragrance idea will be out in the ‘wild’. Typically, if 70% of the team loves it, we have a good indication that it will be popular in the market.

There’s no simple formula for calculating if a fragrance will be loved. But, when we develop a range, we usually try to incorporate a large variety of fragrances from several scent families so that we can offer a maelstrom of nuances and choice.

The ability to unearth, pull apart and manifest a flicker of inspiration is a process extremely close to our hearts. We hope to have allowed for an exclusive glimpse into the ideation behind the Apsley and Co range with this first instalment of our ‘Architecture of Fragrance’ series.

Make sure to stay tuned for Part 2: ‘Innovation’, where we head into the labs to uncover the method behind the art of perfumery.

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