With hundreds of fragrances hitting the beauty counter each year, itâs telling that Aesop has only launched two fragrances over the last 30 years. But the Melbourne skincare and beauty native, which has garnered a cult-like following around the globe, has never been the type to launch something because itâs merely what is trending. When other beauty houses have been frantically launching lotions and potions with the latest buzz-worthy ingredient, Aesop has stuck to its guns. âWe only launch a product if we think we really need it in the range,â says Dr Kate Forbes, general manager of marketing and innovation, research and development.
A bespoke approach
When Forbes is asked whether the approach to fragrance mirrors Aesopâs skincare launch philosophy, sheâs concise. âAbsolutely,â she says. âThereâs the attention to detail, the way that we formulate a fragrance is very similar to the way we formulate a skincare product. For our fragrance and our skincare products the emphasis is always on the product inside,â Forbes explains. But Forbes and her team are well aware just how much competition there is out there in the fragrance world. âWe are very mindful that thatâs not the way we want to develop and release a fragrance. We want our fragrance to be memorable and unique.â
And as scent should be; any fragrance connoisseur knows how fragrance can become tied up with emotion and memory. Which is quite possibly why Aesop turned to French perfumer BarnabĂ© Fillion for Hwyl. Aesop and Fillion first worked together on Marrakech Intense in 2014. âIntense began as a reinterpretation of an existing product, so we already had a bit of an idea of where we wanted to end up, because we wanted to reimagine a fragrance that already existed,â Forbes says. Hwyl on the other hand was like starting from scratch. âThis was much more of a creative inspiration, we could evolve and change or refine the direction.â
Fillion â who has created scents for Le Labo and Paul Smith â says while the project started around conversations around ingredients that him and Aesop liked, it was a trip to Japan that served as the muse for Hwylâs narrative. âI got mesmerised by Japanâs relation to the ancient world,â Fillion recalls. In fact, itâs the feelings conjured by Fillionâs time spent in an ancient Japanese forest that Hwyl recaptures. âWe wanted to catch some of the ingredients in that story, and awake the senses. We focus on the experience of being transported in that story,â Fillion says.
While the scent is undeniably green, thereâs something comforting about Hwyl, perhaps itâs the fragranceâs transportive powers that take you to a tranquil moment in time. An aromatic top note of thyme extract, sit atop a warm and woody heart, while notes of vetiver, frankincense and moss sit at the base. âThe smell is linked to the emotion, so Hwyl is almost like a flashback to this very strong greenness of the forest,â Fillion says. The name, which is of Welsh origin, is tied up in the stirring of emotion too. âItâs hard to define in an English translation,â says Forbes. âBut stirring of emotion is a strong part of the inspiration of the fragrance, particularly the way a fragrance can actually link to your emotions and your memories, or the ways they can trigger that.â
The science behind the scent
Despite the emotions involved with creating a redolent scent such as Hwyl, thereâs still a lot of science that goes into the process; something thatâs often forgotten by the time a scent hits the shelves. âThereâs a lot of experimenting with concentration,â says Forbes. âWhere a fragrance is different to skincare formulation is that you canât appreciate a fragrance immediately after itâs prepared, you need to take time. You need to let it sit for weeks before you look at experiencing it again,â she explains. âIf youâre making decisions on fresh samples you often end up somewhere quite different.â
As for who will wear Hwyl, in Aesop style, gendered notions of âfor himâ and âfor herâ never entered Forbes or Fillionâs thoughts throughout the process. âWe imagine fragrance being something that will stimulate and celebrate the senses,â says Fillion. âThe botanical scents, they donât have gender, there are some floral scents that are quite feminine but inside some florals there are some very masculine notes too. The botanicals translate no gender,â believes Fillion. âHwyl has a very strong emotion of feeling a lot of emotion that you donât want to forget; itâs about this beautiful relationship with nature,â says Forbes.
Aesop Hwyl is available now (100ml EDP, $160)