There is no perfumery quite like Papillon Artisan Perfumes. Situated within a peaceful lodge tucked just inside the New Forest, this perfumery doesn’t march to the rapid beat of the perfume industry, choosing instead to move at its own pace. “It’s hard not to be inspired here”, says Papillon perfumer, Liz Moores, and I can see what she means. In a space surrounded by the natural beauty of expansive woodland, and a practical menagerie of animals (I counted two cats, two dogs, an owl, an assortment of snakes, a bearded dragon, a tortoise, and a horse, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t catch them all), and not to mention Liz’s very own family clan, one can see that Papillon is very much a unique outfit where fragrances are hand made as and when the inspiration comes.
Working from home, Moores is able to set her own schedule, balancing duties of motherhood with perfume-hood. But Papillon is a growing business. The brand now has four fragrances on the market (Angélique, Anubis, Salome and Tobacco Rose) which can be found at a number of points of sale across the globe, so expectant noses around the world are pointing towards the New Forest hoping for more. On a recent trip to Liz’s home studio, I asked her what he release schedule will be and she firmly says that she will only release another perfume when it’s right and won’t follow a set pattern of a scent or two per year, as is often driven by the industry. It’s admirable to see a perfumer work in such a way and it’s clear from the four fragrances within the Papillon line that this particular nose is a perfectionist who strives to create beautiful and unique fragrances without bowing to market pressure.
Upon my arrival I am offered a hot cup of Earl Grey and some chocolate covered pretzels before being introduced to the instagram-famous cats, Jicky and Mimi, the two dogs, Max and Sally Muff Cake (who I proceed to fall head over heels in love with) and Daisy, Liz’s youngest child, who is very much a pocket-sized version of her mother, and is as adorable as one expects. We chat for a bit about life, both personal and perfumed, before heading to the studio to get to work on mixing up a fresh batch of the resplendent Tobacco Rose.
Liz’s home studio is a relatively relaxed place given the magic that takes place inside. Ingredients are laid out by olfactory family in cabinets along the wall, in bottles big and small. The main table is neatly lined with the ingredients and equipment we will be using for our batch of Tobacco Rose. A few casual glances around the studio drop hints of Liz’s life as a mother – a drawing here, a play pen there and a scribble or two on the carpet here and there. This studio is warm and inviting – a place to work in peace or chaos, but mostly a sanctuary that seems custom made for the perfumer who makes fragrance with extreme care and attention.
I am tasked with mixing up a batch of ‘Papillon Musk’, the musk accord used in Tobacco Rose. Liz composed this accord after a musk she had been using stopped being commercially available and it’s a soft, velvety blend with a real funky animalic kick. So, a bit tentatively I set to work, precisely measuring out the ingredients to make a batch of Papillon Musk. At each stage I stop and sniff the materials in isolation. The castoreum blend is dirty but also comforting whilst the Auratouch is soft and supple, with an almost fruity edge, and the vanillin is gorgeously delectable.
In the time it takes Liz to whizz up a batch of Tobacco Rose I have just about put together my Papillon Musk (I don’t think I’ll be getting a job as a Perfumer’s Apprentice any time soon). Remarkably I don’t spill anything. The musk accord goes into the blend and is put in the master jar for Tobacco Rose, the vessel that held the original batch of the fragrance, in order to macerate for a decent amount of time. This is an example of just one of Liz’s care-filled ways of concocting perfume. There’s a romantic feel to the idea that in every batch, there may be just a tiny hint of the first ever drop of Tobacco Rose ever made.
We then bottle up 50 whole millilitres of Tobacco Rose that is ready to rock and roll (and believe me, this heady rose knows how to party), adding three careful drops of ambergris tincture just before the sprayer is fixed firmly in place. Liz explains that the ambergris goes in every bottle of Tobacco Rose at the very last minute and she has done this ever since bottle number one. I ask whether this is superstition or whether it has an affect on the fragrance. Liz says that the ambergris really comes into play as the fragrance ages, making it richer, and having owned a bottle of Tobacco Rose for well over a year, I can see what she means. The deep, beeswax-like notes certainly feel deeper and more bitter (in a good way) with time.
After making our bottle we retire to the pub for a bite to eat. It’s thirsty working making perfume, I tell you, and what’s needed is a good chat, some nice grub and an ice cold Diet Coke. We put the world to rights over fish pie, discussing our lives and the perfume industry. Liz is very easy to talk to, utterly fabulous and to put it frankly, quite a laugh. After lunch we head back to the studio to have a play with Liz’s extensive cabinet of materials. As we sit down, her son, Rowan greets me with a business card and tells me that he is Head of Security, and I will need the card to stay in the studio. I am glad to have received clearance as we are about to get to work on an experiment involving mimosa and orris, and I don’t want to miss out on the fun.
The idea is to create a dazzling mimosa fragrance. We start with 5ml of mimosa absolute and 1ml of orris concrete. The orris, with its grey, stone-like powder of roots and flowers, outweighs the mimosa making it feel intriguing and cold. We quickly decide that we need to warm things up with a bit of sweetness, adding ionone BHT, ethyl maltol and benzoin salicylate. So far, so good. For texture and expanse we add cashmeran velvet, that tremendously sharp blast of sweet fuzzy woods that makes Mugler’s Alien so extra-terrestrial, and the result is a little bit warmer and much more smooth. “It’s got legs” says Liz with a knowing smile on her face. I nod in agreement. We add a few more things; vetiver bourbon, jasmine absolute, methyl lactone, patchouli and benzoin, sketching as we go, before dropping in a touch of indole and frankincense rivae, both of which fry things a little bit. We decide to come back to this sketch at a later date, just in time for Daisy, Liz’s youngest to make a visit to the studio. Daisy distracts us with her sparky attitude.
I retire to Liz’s cabinet of curiosities, i.e. her stash of raw materials, picking up and sniffing things as we chat about them. We decide to go back to the drawing board and sketch something with tuberose, one of my favourite materials. The idea is to make something cuddly out of the vampish glamour of the often cold tuberose by warming, and fluffing it up with almond. Liz adds heliotrope, which adds a gourmand aspect, which is further extended by violet-y ionone and vanillin. We warm and fluff things up further with musk ambrette, sandalwood, sandalmysore core and cashmeran velvet. This mod definitely has legs, it’s a big sweet blast of tuberose and almond, with a menthol nuance and a thick, chewy base. Liz and I have decided to develop it further. We have a name and a concept and we’re going to discuss its ongoing creation on the blog as the formula develops.
I should mention that whilst we’re putting Tuberose & Almond together (the code name for our mod, not the real one), Rowan has been crafting his very own masterpiece using some specially selected ingredients from Liz’s expanse of materials. Rowan bestows his creation with the rather fitting name ‘The Rowan Special’, and he seems to have a bit of a knack for this perfume malarky as the result is a dead ringer for chocolate lime sweets and it smells pretty good. Rowan makes sure to gift me with a bottle before I leave and after he has unleashed many generous spritzes around the house. It’s a lovely way to end a fascinating and fun day.
This year I have visited three perfumers in residence; Mathilde Laurent at Cartier, Sarah McCartney at 4160 Tuesdays and Liz Moores at Papillon Artisan Perfumes. Each creator has crafted a very different environment in which they can make scents. Liz is surrounded by her family and her home, not to mention the expansive beauty of the New Forest. Her environment is one filled with love, whether that be from a gorgeous cat, a beautiful dog (I really am in love with Sally Muff Cake) or brilliant children, and its this passion and love that Liz pours into her perfumes, making Papillon Artisan Perfumes a unique perfumery with a simple ethos: perfumes made with love.
All images are my own.