How to travel to the distilleries of Scotland through scent alone
Once, if you smelled of whisky in the morning you could expect a trip to the HR department – now it might be the source of water-cooler compliments. Imogen Russon-Taylor is the founder of Scotland’s first perfume house, Kingdom Scotland, making contemporary, gender-neutral fragrances which, she hopes, encapsulate the country’s history, landscapes and distilling traditions.
“I wanted to bottle Scotland’s natural beauty and elemental weather,” says the Manchester-born graduate of Edinburgh University. Russon-Taylor worked in the film and beauty industries before moving back to Scotland with her family in 2006.
“My grandfather worked as a maltman. My ancestors exported salmon and imported leather, cloth, and luxury goods including art, claret, books, timber and perfume. I worked in the whisky industry for many years and when I worked at LVMH, I had the chance to experience the perfume side of the business, and learn how perfumes are created.”
It’s safe to say whisky has been a huge inspiration. There are many parallels between whisky and perfume: both are produced using traditional distillation methods, both evoke a complex sensory experience and both rely on innovative use of ingredients to stand out in a busy market. The language of ‘nosing’ whisky and of ‘notes’ in perfume have many similarities.
The eau de parfums are created by hand in Edinburgh alongside classically trained Scottish perfumer Stephanie Anderson, who was mentored by revered perfumer Dominique Ropion.
“I wanted my brand to be luxury, niche and high-end, says Russon-Taylor. “Our scents contain around 50 ingredients. Metamorphic is the one that probably means the most to me. Scotland has this complex and rich rock spectacularly woven into the landscape. The intense notes within Metamorphic are smouldering earth, peat, minerals, spices, wood resins, leather and tobacco. There’s a hint of smoky peat in the scent. And maybe a splash of Islay malt!”
Russon-Taylor worked closely with Dr Dawn Hollis from St Andrews University and the archivists at The Royal Botanical Gardens Edinburgh, the National Library and National Records.
“Delving into Scotland’s perfumed past, we discovered the pioneering Scottish botanists and explorers,” says Hollis. “ I can smell the fruits of my own research. Not many historians can say that.”
Kingdom Scotland’s Albaura fragrance was inspired by Arctic explorer and Scottish botanist Isobel Wylie Hutchison. “She was born at Carlowrie Castle in West Lothian,” explains Russon-Taylor. “She challenged the norms of her time first by making a 260-mile solo trek across Iceland, and later by travelling north of the Arctic circle into Greenland and Alaska, where she collected botanical floral and grass samples for the Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh and Kew.
Working with Edinburgh Royal Botanic Garden, new fragrance Botanica will be available in August. It celebrates the garden’s 350th anniversary, comprising of 35 natural and sustainable ingredients including the sequoiadendron conifer, making it one of the world’s most bio-diverse fragrances.
“I wanted to create a sense of place in my fragrances and transport people to Scotland by scent alone.”
For more information visit the website here.