Sarah Ireland Perfumes INTERVIEW
Behind the scenes of a British niche perfume brand crafted in Dorset
This week we sat down with the Sarah Ireland the founder and head perfumer at a brand that takes its name from herself. Which of course means that it is a very personal journey through scent.
SGB: Hello Sarah, first of all, how did Sarah Ireland perfumes come about?
Sarah: After moving from London to Dorset the time felt right. I have always loved fragrance. We are surrounded by so much natural beauty here and so the inspiration and creativity seemed to just flow! I took the leap to leave my then job and put all my thoughts and dreams into practice.
SGB: Did you always have a fascination with scent?
Sarah: Absolutely! Even when I was quite young it would be the thing I would 'treat myself to', when others might buy clothes or shoes I would opt for a new fragrance. It has always been inextricably linked with mood for me. I would have certain scents that would give me a morale boost ready for an exam, or a feeling of confidence when meeting new people or simply make me smile. At that point I could never have dreamed I would one day be creating my own scents.
SGB:This maybe a long question but how did you become a perfumier?
Sarah: It was a long process but I loved it. It makes me think about what they say when you aim to climb a mountain - the closer you get the further away the summit seems to get as you realise the enormity of what you have to climb. I started with a lot of my own research, then went on a variety of different courses with other independent perfume brands. I studied hard, experimented a lot and worked with mentors. It had been a long time in the making before finally launching the brand with the signature 4 fragrances in June 2018. It is one of the reasons why I was so thrilled to be recognised by The Fragrance Foundation, as a finalist in two categories - Best New Independent Fragrance and Newcomer of the Year.
SGB: Does Sarah Ireland Perfumes have a 'house' style?
Sarah: I think so, I do use the term 'simple elegance'. For me it means that Sarah Ireland Perfumes is serious about the product - the perfume itself is made with integrity and love. However we don't take ourselves too seriously - beautiful fragrance should be inclusive - for everyone. There doesn't have to be a glamorous event you are going to - enjoy the escapism of fragrance and allow it to give you that morale boost, and make you feel elegant or stylish whatever it is you are doing.
SGB: Can you describe Sarah Ireland Perfumes in 3 words?
Sarah: Elegant, interesting, characterful
SGB: How do you come up with the initial ideas for new fragrances?
Sarah: Hopefully without sounding too ridiculous - it is quite an immersive experience. Each fragrance comes from a real memory or experience and I love to include all elements as inspiration. I might start with a place I've been; looking at fragrances found in nature in that scenario or setting is really powerful and including some element of that in the ingredients can be very effective. I also listen to music - (sometimes the piece I settle on is mentioned alongside the perfume notes), read books, write down all that comes to mind including colours, textures and emotions and then go from there.
SGB: Can you succinctly describe the process of creating a niche perfume?
Sarah: I'm not sure but I'll try! Each perfumer will have their own individual process but for me, in general... start with a story or experience, explore how to make that visceral as well as perceptible, experiment with a range of ingredients, mix and blend your materials (taking care to record EVERYTHING using precision scales - otherwise you risk not being able to replicate. There is a lot of waiting as the materials work and macerate with each other. Compare, contrast and evaluate regularly and at different intervals. Modify based on evaluations. Repeat the last two steps a few times. Know when to stop! The main fragrance will need to be diluted - decide oil or alcohol base, - and strength. (Of course for putting on the market you must make sure your fragrance has been stability tested and safety assessed). Final fragrance decided upon - congratulations! Fragrance will need to sit and fuse/macerate for however long you decide on! Filter and then bottle. Ta dah 🙂
SGB: Is there a part of the process you enjoy the most?
Sarah: I love the process of trial and error creating a new fragrance that fits the brief or story. There are surprises along the way but I just find working with such gorgeous materials a real privilege and I always get excited about creating something completely new. I particularly like working one on one with people to create a bespoke fragrance. It can be challenging but also so much fun to explore and create something together but driven and directed by someone else's inspiration. I have made a few wedding day perfumes and it has been a lovely experience.
SGB: Quality is important to SGB in everything we purvey, what makes Sarah Ireland Perfumes special?
Sarah: I completely agree with SGB on this. I make sure I know about the origin of all the ingredients as well as all other elements included in the journey from concept to final product. I only make and sell something I personally would want to own, and wear, myself.
SGB: Niche perfumes seem to be growing in popularity, is there a reason for this?
Sarah: I think people do want to have a more true connection across all different elements of day to day life and choices. Those choices might be clothes, wine, gifts for others, make up and of course perfume. It is special to know that instead of a big corporation just hitting a button and a machine doing the rest that there is a personal connection with something that is a little bit more unusual and unique.
SGB: Can you tell SGB about the workshop/perfumery you craft your fragrances in?
Sarah: I have my own small studio in Dorset which is my haven. I absolutely love it. I have one wall with a stunning wallpaper which fits the brand colours - teal and rose gold. One wall has a big window where my eyes travel to the birds, trees and sky which help my thought processes. One wall is full of perfume books and pictures and the final and probably the most important wall is covered by a unit full of hundreds of different perfume materials - essential oils, absolutes, synthetics, and lots of bottles of 'experiments' I'm working on. No one else comes in and it is exactly what I need - once the door is closed I am completely immersed in all things perfume! One day I would like to have a bigger space so I can have groups and workshops in but for now it is my beautifully curated space which is quiet, bright, and of course wonderfully fragrant.
SGB: Scent is such a personal thing, do you have any advice on how to buy perfume that suits an individual?
Sarah: It really is. However, I would say try different things. There have been many times when talking with people and showing them my range of fragrances that they have tried something they might not normally go for and they fall in love with it. As perfume is intangible it also means descriptions are so open to different interpretations. Many perfumes change when on your skin anyway so I would say be open to experimenting with new fragrances.
SGB: Apart from your own fragrances do you have a favourite niche perfume you wish you had created?
Sarah: Oooh wow that is a very hard question. Plenty - there is so much skill involved in creating a perfume and some niche brands in particular show a wonderful context to each fragrance. I do have a soft spot for B683 by Marc-Antoine Barrois, and Clouds by 4160 Tuesdays.
SGB: What do you see for the future of niche fragrances?
Sarah: More and more people seem to be exploring smaller independent brands. Hopefully this will continue as we have a lot to offer. One of the lovely benefits of each bottle being produced by hand is that there is room for the perfume wearer to be more involved in the whole experience - there are bespoke options as well as small tweaks that can be made to an existing scent.
SGB: Is there anything exciting on the horizon for Sarah Ireland Perfumes that you can let SGB in on?
Sarah: Oh lots of things... I am always working on new creations. I have a couple of things up my sleeve I'm particularly excited about so watch this space. 😉
Until then you can explore the current, exciting range of Eau de Parfum and scented candles.