Earlier this year I stumbled upon the website of a Sydney-based perfume maker called Aromantik. The packaging artwork was intriguing and the fragrance descriptions sounded great so I bought the sample pack, consisting of seven .75ml vials, and when they turned up in a box customised with my name, I was treated to some of the most delicious scents I’ve ever come across. All of Aromanik’s perfumes are entirely natural and although each is unique, there is a consistency to their warmth and depth. Coffee, chocolate, orange, vanilla and mint co-exist with flowers and spices. They are rich but not sweet – fragrances that you will never tire of. Sally Woodward-Hawes is the creative mastermind behind each small, hand-brewed batch.
Ode: When did you start making perfume and what led you to it?
Sally: I was actually drawn to perfume by an old box that I inherited when my mum passed away when I was 17 that had bottles of her favourite fragrances inside it. When I sprayed them I felt an instant connection to her again - it was as though she was standing beside me. So I guess it was the intensity of the memories that can be triggered by scent that triggered my obsession with fragrance. A bit like Proust's madeleine. I purchased a book many years ago on how to make your own natural beauty products, and absolutely loved creating them. It was around this time that I stumbled across natural perfumer Mandy Aftel's book 'Essence & Alchemy' and I immediately knew that I wanted to make natural perfumes. I still occasionally refer to this book today. I have now been making natural perfumes for over ten years.
How would you describe the scents you make?
I try to make fragrances that will create some kind of an emotional connection. For me, the need to create comes long before any consideration of commerce. I feel that I am artist whose medium just happens to be perfumery, as opposed to painting or drawing - for example, I'd say many of my perfumes have a gourmand edge to them. I like the crossover between the smells we associate with food and the way these can be manipulated into wearable fragrance. A good example of this is 'Dark Side of the Spoon'. The key notes in this fragrance are vanilla bean, roasted coffee beans, maple syrup, caramelised butter and spice. There is also a sensuality with food that I try to capture in some of my perfumes. Having said that not all of my perfumes are gourmand.
Your packaging and design is unusually striking and clever – how does it come to be?
I run my business single-handedly, and I am also a graphic designer by trade so I am fortunate that I can design all my own packaging. It's a double-edged sword in a way because I am very emotionally invested in my perfumes in every aspect. I spent a lot of time on the names - it has to be just right. Some names come to me immediately, but others are a bit harder to come up with. I find the names of many commercial fragrances to be so boring and staid.
Are you working on any new scents or projects at the moment?
I find I am always working on a new fragrance. I have some that have been on my drawing board for years. I'll tinker on them for a while and then put them away until I'm ready to revisit them. I don't want to grow the range too much right now as I have to hand blend everything myself and I can only do so much. I'm not really interested in outsourcing the manufacture of my perfumes so I need to keep the range manageable. Right now I am in the middle of transitioning the oil based perfumes into spray format - hopefully these will be ready for summer. I am also working on a custom fragrance for a brand. I am also a co-director & head alchemist of The Gentleman's Brand Co which is a men's skin care range based on natural, Australian ingredients.
Do you have an ultimate dream project that you’d like to work on?
I don't really have one dream project, but I'd love to one day have a beautiful purpose built lab to work in. I'd also love to be able to travel directly to growers and distillers around the world and buy my raw materials directly from them under a fair trade initiative.
What perfume did you wear in high school?
Oh dear! Opium, Poison, Men's Joop, Issey Miyake - L'Eau D'Issey, Night Queen perfume oil from the local hippie store.