Studying the abstract
A scent education with no end
When we started Skandinavisk we knew that the natural stories and the design traditions of Scandinavia were rich and captivating, and we felt equipped and excited to reinterpret both.
But its scents?
We had no idea.
And not a lot of others seemed to either.
In fact, when seeking expertise, one French perfumer drily responded, “Isn’t it all just pine and snow?”.
Despite the knowledge void, we felt fragrance could transport people to different aspects of Scandinavia, so we chose to simply knuckle down and study it.
We went out into the nature, we observed the every day, we tracked the seasons, we looked for the things that were different, that were special in their own local way. We found a more curious and enlightened French perfumer to join us.
What we learned was that fragrance in Scandinavia is no less rich and captivating than those more famous perfume industry themes like citrus, cedar, patchouli, or vanilla that the world has been smelling for decades.
It’s just different up here.
There are no lemon groves in Scandinavia, no ancient olive or fig orchards on rocky, sun-baked slopes. We have fir, not cedar forests. Our fruits aren’t pineapple and grapefruit but the more mundane apple and pear. We thought Bergamot was a town in Italy. We don’t know how to pronounce ylang-ylang, let alone know where it grows.
So our fragrance accords need to reflect this reality. Our scent bases must be grounded in real experiences of Scandinavia, the dominant notes being true to the region. That’s why we dedicate time to traveling the region, hiking the fjords, trekking the highlands, sailing the coastlines, disappearing into the forests. If you don’t experience it, you can’t recreate it.
If we do want to add a citrus note, it must only complement, like a squeeze of lemon spritzes a finished dish. But that citrus note needs to be inspired by the gentler lemon nettle herb that is prevalent here, rather than the more familiar yellow fruit of the supermarket.
It’s as simple, and difficult, as that.
Ultimately, for us, the stories of Scandinavia and its design tradition can’t exist without the fragrances, and vice versa. Each relates to the other. It’s a multi-sensory combination that we’re constantly refining and increasingly fall in love with.
Just don’t ask us for sandalwood and tonka bean.
Images by Shaun Russell and Niki Brantmark.