How exactly does one capture - and release - the essence of a luxurious hotel in a fragrance?
When you fly off for a business trip, it’s not usually into a world that’s a grown-up version of Enid Blyton’s magical Faraway Tree. But last week, I was in just such a place – the parallel universe of a tropical island hotel where one’s every whim and desire are anticipated and taken care of.
No traffic, slaving over a stove or clock-watching. The hotel’s luxury plucks you from the world you usually inhabit and surrounds you in a wonderland of relaxation, beauty and food. Here the average guest spends three and a half hours a day just eating! On the island of Niyama there is little else to do other than snorkel, read, order another cocktail, catch some sun and frequent the spa.
So, how do I capture the essence of this hotel in a fragrance? And how do I release the fragrance? Like a ghost I prowl the property behind the lens of my camera, my nose ever present, and with a small notebook and pencil to hand I scribble down each scent experience, audit the plants and learn what this paradise has to offer.
The process is not about taking what is there; it’s about creatively moving beyond the environment to find the essence of the site. The scent should have its own story, developed to communicate the ethos of the hotel and the feeling a guest has when transported to this haven.
Is it sweet, like vanilla, or a literal interpretation of their cornucopia of beauty treatments, called Lime Spa? Is it nouveau riche, or a more timeless fragrance? Is it masculine or feminine, day or night?
My concept needs to meet the hotel’s aim of “immersion”. And the challenge is how to represent this with scent. The first hint appears in my mind: top notes that are aquatic and green. Perfumers call them ozonic: they are fresh, evoke water and, if smell were colour, equate to cool greens and blues. They are refreshing, playful and summery.
One creative idea jumps to the next. I want the scent to be modern. What is a “modern” scent? Well, it is an innovative pairing of notes not previously thought of, usually in a transparent, minimal way. To get my watery note, I might use an evergreen conifer wood oil from Siam that is evocative of bamboo. I might introduce lemon; a citrus effect has a pivotal role in creating zest. The journey begins …
One of the most important aspects of scenting a hotel is finding the right distribution method for the fragrance. It must be present at certain times, in certain places, but not always. It must not intermingle with your breakfast fruit platter or overpower a walk along the lapping water’s edge. It could be in the lounge where you watch the sun slip away each evening, or next to your outdoor bath to be added as a luxurious oil, and perhaps on your pillow before your slumber.
In the hotel, water buckets with ladles are found at every entrance, because guests walk barefoot and wash off the sand before entering. Perhaps this water could be subtly scented to leave a lasting trail on the skin of the guests?
Scent is about innovation: I have to think outside the norm so that this invisible but profoundly memorable medium stands apart and surprises the visitor.
Follow Tammy Violet Frazer on Twitter @frazerparfum.