4160 Tuesdays is an exciting niche brand, there’s no denying it. Perfumer Sarah McCartney successfully blends British eccentricity, good-quality ingredients and unique accords to create perfumes that are unusual, fun and unsurprisingly, rather beautiful. It’s hard not to fall for the charm of a perfume brand that is founded on the principle of not-wasting away one’s days and doing something different with those 4160 Tuesdays one has before reaching the ripe old age of 80 – I certainly have.
I therefore, could not resist an invitation to Sarah McCartney’s London studio this past weekend for ‘The Wall of Scent’, a regular event scheduled at 4160 Tuesdays HQ as an introduction to the world of perfume; it’s families, ingredients and masterpieces. It’s an informative day that allows one, no matter whether they’re an expert or a novice, to really get to grips with the way perfumes are made and some of the raw materials, whether natural or ‘synthetic’, that are used in making the perfumes one wears on a day-to-day basis.
After a cosy introduction and a cup of Guerlain’s L’Heure Bleue tea (which is a gorgeous green tea that truthfully isn’t much like the perfume, but is lovely nonetheless) on the vintage sofa section downstairs, we trekked upstairs to Sarah’s mezzanine studio that really is a working perfume lab. We sat on stools in front of wooden benches that are straight out of a science classroom and got ready to sniff – and when I say ‘sniff’, I really do mean that we went full-on and smelled a range of wonderful perfumes and ingredients for the next four hours.
We started in the citrus family of fragrances and worked our way through the florals, fougéres, orientals and chypres. We smelled perfumes (modern, discontinued and vintage – a vast array) that are representative of their respective genres and the ingredients used to make them. So for example, when looking at the citrus family we sniffed Hermès’ glorious Eau d’Orange Verte (as per my notes; “Menthol orange. Green. Minty? Very long-lasting and ‘present’ citrus”), before moving onto a natural grapefruit oil (“Not as bitter as expected. More orange-esque”) and then ‘Pamplefleur’ – a synthetic material used to make citrus notes more long lasting that smells like rhubarb and the bitter part of grapefruit.
The most fascinating part for me, was sniffing the raw materials, particular the individual molecules, isolates and synthetics. Aldehyde C12 (diluted to 1%) was an absolute revelation and smelled less like bubbling champagne (as I had expected it to) and exactly like dust on a hot lightbulb. It was, as Sarah described it, a material to “blow your head off”, and one could see why it is such a widely-used ingredient in classic florals – it adds lift, effervescence and presence to the heady sweetness of flowers. It’s remarkable stuff.
We also sniffed Vanillin (“Sweet powder, spice and creme brûlée”), which is so delicious it could just be bottled on its own, and the infamous Iso E Super (“Subtly woody. Not particular perceptible”), a very light fixer that doesn’t smell much on its own but adds a remarkable presence to other materials and compositions. Sarah called it “the magic smoothness” and described it as adding a “duvet of scent”, which are two descriptions that I can very happily go along with, and it’s no surprise that it has become so prevalent in modern perfumes – it adds oomph.
As we took our tour of the olfactory families we also had the opportunity to smell some of Sarah’s very own creations for 4160 Tuesdays that fit into each of these fragrant categories. These included; the super-limited and extremely fabulous ‘Tarts Boudoir’ (“Powder. Sweet flowers. Talc. Mature pink. Green edge”), ‘Shazam!’ (“White smoke. Amber. Cardamom”), ‘What I Did on My Holidays’ (“Seaside rock. Mint. Melon. Salt. Calone”), ‘The Sexiest Scent on the Planet. Ever. (IMHO)’ (“Fuzzy. Layers well. Woody masculine”) and ‘Time to Draw the Raffle Numbers’ (“Nutty woods. Cake-y sandalwood”). We also sniffed some of Sarah’s ‘Vintage Tuesdays’ perfumes, namely; ‘New York ’55’ and ‘Goodbye Picadilly’, which are scents that use materials available in 1955 and 1914 respectively.
The stories behind the 4160 Tuesdays perfumes are as interesting as the scents (and their quirky names) themselves. ‘Time to Draw the Raffle Numbers’, for example, is inspired by the moment that Sir Bradley Wiggins “led the peloton into the Champs Élysées” and captures the smell of millions of assembled bodies, and ‘The Sexiest Scent on the Planet. Ever. (IMHO)’ started its life out as a base for Sarah’s ‘Gin Garden’ scent, but was so popular (and ‘sexy’ according to one journalist) it ended up being bottled as it is, with no bells or whistles.
I can attest to the rather enjoyable nature of this sexy scent – its a super-soft cedar wood with bergamot up top, some of that Iso E Super to plump it up, and a delicious, velvety base of vanilla. I walked away with a bottle alongside some Sunshine and Pancakes, which I fell in love with when I reviewed it last year. Both now join the wonderful Urara’s Tokyo Cafe as part of my growing 4160 Tuesdays collection. I wonder what will be the next addition?
The 4160 Tuesday’s Wall of Scent afternoon is a truly enjoyable experience and I found it both educational and eye-opening, despite the fact that I am far from being unfamiliar with many elements of the perfume world. Sarah invites you into her workshop and perfume collection, allowing you to smell wonderful rarities (I nearly screamed when I saw her bottle of Boudoir Parfum – I’d never seen one in the flesh before) and accords-in-progress (her ‘Insalata Tricolore’ accord really is quite something) in a relaxed, quirky and friendly atmosphere. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
The Wall of Scent is £60 per person and includes refreshments, cake and a bottle of 4160 Tuesdays perfume. For booking details click here.
I was invited to attend The Wall of Scent by Sarah McCartney. I am not affiliated with 4160 Tuesdays but share this information and link because I like the perfumes and enjoyed the event. Images are my own.