Thursday, 10 October 2013

Olfactive Studio Sample Discovery Kit: A Review Of A Box!

I’ve recently been researching the trend for perfumers to respond to works of art in their fragrant creations. It seems a natural concept. We already perceive many perfumers as artists in their own right, as they create things of olfactory beauty that offer us a sensual and emotive experience. Two leaders in the trend are Scent on Canvas (who will be featured in a future review) and Olfactive Studio, the subject of this post.

My beloved camera

With a History of Art and Design Degree, I could spaff on for several thousand words on this subject (and might do if you’re ever lucky enough to get me drunk in a pub). As I waited for my sample kit to arrive I readied myself for analysis of the photographic artworks that inspired the collection. I eagerly pondered how a scent and an image could collaborate to create a multi-sensory experience and how utterly this concept appealed to me. Then the box arrived. Before I smelt it’s contents, I fell in love with it.

So here you go, a review OF A BOX!

Here’s the press blurb:

“Olfactive Studio is an encounter between contemporary artistic photography and perfumery; between the eye and the nose. Olfactive Studio is at the crossroads of a photographic studio and a perfume design studio. This is the first time ever that perfumers have teamed up with photographers to draw inspiration from their oeuvres.”

Basically what that means is that perfumers contemplate a photographic image and then create a perfume that captures the feeling of it.

Although my primary essence of geek lies within the perfume industry, I’m also rather geeky about cameras. A few years ago, Ilford went bust. Photography geeks will remember buying superb quality black and white film from Ilford and perhaps even using their developing service. Their black and white prints of your pics came with the tiny white border of the type that seduces Instagram users today. This was of course in the days before digital photography became a mammoth phenomenon. I miss Ilford enormously.

 A snuggling of the two boxes

When my Olfactive Studio ‘Discovery Kit’ arrived I held the box in my hand and breathed out the word Ilford in quiet whisper of sentimentality. For it was almost a replica of the box that Ilford used to contain your developed prints. It felt the same in my hands, it utilised the same paper hinged opening, it even echoed the bold Art Deco inspired typography. I rushed to my cupboard to search for an old Ilford box and found one that I had defaced years ago with the word ‘Samos’ in what appears to be red nail varnish (no, I don’t know why I marked this particular box of holiday snaps with the rejection of a traditional ‘pen’). As I held the boxes side by side I was struck by how clever the design of the discovery kit was. It works almost as a secretive pun, to those old enough to clock the significance.

Deco-a-go-go twins

When I opened the box I was design-whacked a second time by the interior. Each 4 ml bottle was nestled snugly in the type of thick black foam cradle that lines and protects SLR camera kit. By this point I was so joyful that I didn’t bother sniffing the fumes. I just looked on with glee for far too long to be considered normal, occasionally prodding at the foam and feeling the familiar ‘bounce back’ of the protective material.

Foam fetishism

So what about the perfumes? Well, they all smell pleasing. There’s a vibrant fruity/grassy concoction, a sharp natural wood with a silky warm dry down, a spicy chai milk, a luminous sparkly bergamot thing and my favourite (Chambre Noir, destined for a future review) which is especially peculiar and charming, featuring leather, powdery violet and a gourmand plummy nuance.
Enormous 4 ml samples

You should really take a look at, to learn of the fascinating project and gain a much clearer idea of the notes of each perfume, being as I’ve had my olfactive descriptions unusually stolen away from me by a seductive box.

At 35 Euro for 5 x 4ml samples, this ranks high up on the list of bargainous and beautiful sample kits. I’ll be treasuring mine in a display cabinet next to my beloved Leica camera..


  1. I have a friend who used to be in marketing for Fuji in Swindon - you pair would have been able to 'spaff' for hours down the pub about photographic packaging! And I speak as someone whose job has a fair bit to do with the materials side of it all, such that I am equally fascinated by boxes, envelopes, bubble wrap and foam bits and bobs. I sense you may cherish this box with its cut out foam inner the way I have squirrelled away the velvet-backed foam strips that came with my Opardu sample. :-)

    And as for the perfumes, I think I have a bottle of the 'sharp natural wood one' - would that be Lumiere Blanche by any chance? The luminous sparkly bergamot thing one sounds nice too - can you incorporate any of that into your own creation-in-progress? Speaking of sparkly top notes, did you ever try Jasper Conran Woman, which used to retail for £9.99 in Asda, yet which Luca Turin gave four stars? I think it may have mostly vanished, but it gave great sparkle - I think from petitgrain in that instance.

  2. Hi Vanessa, I think it was Lumiere Blanche, I'll post more on the frags in the future, though it will be probably be Chambre Noire as I am wearing it to death, must remember to save a bit for the review! I never got my hands on the Conran creation, it sounds delightful though. It's odd what we crave, I've ended a couple of years of glooping around in beautiful balsamic woody resinous things and now seem to be hankering for luminous florals and chypres. Do you find that you shift through genres?

    I'm glad I'm not alone in hoarding cool packaging..

    1. I am still glooping around in balsamic woody resinous things - okay, maybe not as resinous as your favourites - but piling on other genres as I go along, including the ones you mention, together with surprisingly bombastic things with civet or a fair bit of sugar. Aquatics and cheapo fruity florals are likely to remaind the final frontier, mind.

    2. Yup, I completely agree, aquatics are the enemy of the loving nose.!

  3. This just gets spookier! Leica camera (on my wish list for many years) and Ilford paper, now that takes me back to the smell of the dark rooms at college and a couple of my first jobs in my youth working in labs. Now there's some powerful smells that spark the memory banks. Lovely pictures, very classic. :-)