Whenever I go to London I inevitably end up paying a visit to Liberty. The place is like a fairytale, I tell you. Housed within a mock-Tudor building built using the timber from two ships (HMS Impregnable and HMS Hindustan), Liberty stocks a wonderful array of treats, ranging from silk scarves in beautiful Liberty Art Fabric to exotic nicknacks, not to mention their impressive perfumery which houses classic and contemporary brands aplenty. It’s London’s most unique retail destination and it epitomises everything that is great about Britain: quirkiness and higgledy-piggledy-ness.
Swedish fragrance house, BYREDO, who have a space within the store, have just launched a fragrance exclusive to and inspired by Liberty. It’s called ‘Heliotropia‘ and it’s described as a “heady infusion, in turns virginal and narcotic” that “carries the mind to a dream like place, a higher state of illusion.” Much like Liberty the store, Heliotropia the fragrance is a fantastical experience that beguiles, fascinates and amuses. One may not enter it expecting to make a purchase, but they will leave with something that money can’t buy: a sense of bewilderment. How’s that for a headline?
Top: Wild Gardenia and Somalia Incense
Heart: Jasmine Sambac and Heliotrope
Base: Agarwood and White Birch
How Does it Smell?
Heliotropia opens with an intoxicating whirlwind of white flowers. They are fleshy, hot, sweet and coloured in neon. As the petals of this pungent technicolor bouquet unfurl, white strands of candyfloss rise up in gigantic plumes, sticking and twirling in a euphoric pattern of sugar-fuelled ecstasy. This is the ethereal ecstasy of heliotrope in play and yes, everything I say may sound like like a ton of hyperbole, but the initial moments of Heliotropia are enough to knock one’s socks off and the scent certainly packs a punch, both with its impressive sillage, but also with its perplexing smell, which is fascinatingly weird in the best possible way.
Where Heliotropria excels is in juxtaposition. All of that headiness up top – the pungent tropical flowers and the towering pillars of sugar – needs something weighty to bring it back down to Earth and the answer is incense. Remarkably, the incense cuts straight through all of that sweetness, adding a scratchy and ice cold texture to Heliotropia’s cotton candy dream. The incense is weighty but it doesn’t stop the fragrance from having a remarkably diffusive quality and it’s fair to say that when wearing it, one does feel like they are stepping through an expansive cloud of scent, exploring its many unique facets with each and every step. It’s a place of wonderment, not unlike the Liberty department store, in fact
Heliotropia is perfect because it feels representative of the quirky, vintage spirt of Liberty and the modern, innovative aesthetic of BYREDO. It’s a fragrance that feels classic, boasting hedonistic floral tones, but at the same time, it comes across as entirely abstract, presenting an unusual haze of olfactory nuances that are difficult to pin down to a particular theme or style. Like Liberty, Heliotropia is a charming fragrance. It feels whimsical and unusual, but also grand and showy, just like the mock-Tudor facade that runs the length of the department store itself. It is easily one of the most fascinating fragrances I have smelled of late, and upon first sniff, I found myself stopped in my tracks thinking ‘what is this?’. That my friends, is the sign of a good olfactory experience, if there ever was one.
Heliotropia is available as a Liberty Exclusive in 100ml Eau de Parfum for £135.
Sample, notes and quotes via BYREDO. Images are my own.