July 19, 2012
I like a perfumer who brings raw materials to the table…. literally.
Ineke Ruhland is this kind of perfumer. Names of synthetic and natural raw materials roll off her tongue in the most self-assured, yet generous way. Not at all surprising considering she studied perfumery at the elite and very selective fragrance academy IPSICA in Versailles. She is an artist who enjoys and knows her palette intimately and wants to engage and share her passion. When I arrived, Ineke was seated next to her fragrances along with two small brown opaque bottles with handwritten labels that read gardenia and sweet william, these two notes that have inspired her latest perfumes. As she sat next to her creations, I was reminded how musicians often view their instrument as an extension of their body and perhaps raw materials/perfumes can be viewed the same way for a perfumer. Ineke spoke of her love of flowers, and how they are at the heart of all her fragrances.
She promptly told me that gardenia is not easily distilled, and what can be made via enfleurage is not very good so it is up to the perfumer to recreate this note; there were at least 40 materials inside the little brown bottle. Ineke’s take on the gardenia note was gentle and breathtaking, green and aromatic, not the heady note I had imagined. She has an interesting scent perspective. Flowers have a purpose for this perfumer and she does not experience them as purely visual, she silently chuckled when she shared the trend of placing large gardenia flowers in floating bowls of water, they tend to be with little or no scent. She wears all hats when it comes to her business, but I could easily access the perfumer who is naturally curious and observant when talking about the natural world from the flowers in her garden to a detailed description of the air quality in Napa Valley. She feels time is organic and described a good day as being able to solely focus on creating a fragrance. Reflecting on her process –she described that working on trials can be complicated, and a perfumer can easily lose perspective, the nose gets tired. At a certain point, she steps away from what she is creating to gain perspective. Time away from her creations is just as important as time spent constructing them.
I asked Ineke what it was like to be a perfumer, and if there is a certain emotional place she needs to be in order to create. She simply spoke about being intuitive, and the gift of being your own artist is that you can work on something because you simply feel like working on it, not because there is a brief and the client is waiting, however sometimes she does miss the interaction with a perfume evaluator who can give insight, perspective, and provide ideas when creating a fragrance. She told me she works on cultivating these kinds of reciprocal relationships with other perfumers living in San Francisco.
The Limited Edition Botanist’s Travel Sprays are part of her Floral Curiosities Collection. The collection includes 4 travel sprays that are both visual and olfactive gems: Angel’s Trumpet; Poet’s Jasmine; Scarlet Larkspur; and Sweet William. The EdP sprays are nestled in faux book boxes that look like vintage hardcover classics. The edges of each box is designed to look like discolored pages, and inside each box, along with the notes of the fragrance, are lovely illustrations of the inspirational flower, a description of what it smells like, and even what kind of soil it grows best in. “I love visuals; most people have a hard time associating scent with words.” Ineke explained how visuals can help guide one to understand fragrance more, thus her thoughtful packaging and beautiful website that reflects and furthers the idea of sharing what goes into a making her fragrances.
Before we spoke about Sweet William the fragrance, she described sweet william the flower. They are multi colored from white/pink/to red and come in clustered bunches, each flower has a ruffled edge. She continued, “It’s spicy, with cinnamon and clove aspects.” Sweet William is a well-balanced fragrance. What you get after the top juicy peach note is a harmonious mix of earth and wood, and a tad boozy I might add. Ineke likes to call it “woody-sweet”, big stress on the wood. The basenote is alive with notes of patchouli, sandalwood, cedarwood and vanilla; it is all so very creamy, and lasting.
H is for…..Hothouse Flower. Hothouse Flower is a continuation of Ineke’s signature abecedary line. Hothouse Flower is a gardenia soliflore, and Ineke has done an enormous amount of research on the gardenia flower, so much so that the fragrance is incredibly nuanced without being stiff or stuffy. She studied its headspace technology, knows its preferred zone for growth; seems the gardenia needs everything to be just so in order to grow (they are growing in her San Francisco garden.) She lovingly calls it, “the princess flower.” Hothouse Flower is an utterly surprising fragrance because this gardenia is incredibly green, fresh and buoyant. Ineke has created an abstract fragrance that is not weighed down by the gardenia, but rather transformed. I detected a bit of minty quality to the fragrance, and Ineke excitedly interrupted telling me that there was a bit of Wintergreen.
Ineke at Artisan Fragrance Salon in San Francisco
It was only after my conversation with Ineke that I had realized there was so much that she had shared. Her gentle reminder that sometimes the best thing one can do is to walk away in order to see more clearly has stayed with me. Equally, the more I wear Ineke’s fragrances the more they reveal themselves.
The Botanist’s Travel Spray collection is available exclusively at Anthropologie stores starting in October 2012. Hothouse Flower is available starting October 2012, Henri Bendel, Fred Segal, as well as Ineke’s website: www.ineke.com.
–Valerie Vitale of Soliflore Notes, Monthly Contributor