Linda Pilkington Of Ormonde Jayne On Her Love For Basmati Rice And What Really Sells A Fragrance
It all started when her mother gifted her a bottle of Madame Rochas. The iconic glass flacon with the gold stopper that housed a warm cognac coloured scent held pride of place in her bedroom. The allure of glamour that it added to the space led her to ask her mum and all her friends for empty scent bottles, and thus, her fascination for perfumes was born. And that she would grow up to head a fragrance house came as no surprise to anyone given that the first thing she was asked when anyone entered her room was if she wanted to be a perfumer. She started out by flexing her green thumbs – growing and selling flowers outside her Cheshire family home, and followed this up by making scented candles, cushions and bathing oils. Stints running her own boutique hotel, soya bean farm and ice cream parlours in exotic locations in South America, Africa and the Far East, helped her delve into the world of exotic oils and essences in more depth. She added some business acumen to her skills and was promptly asked to create ‘the perfect scented candle’ for Chanel. Firmly propelled into the limelight, Linda launched her brand of luxurious perfumes, Ormonde Jayne. As the creative force behind this line, she tells us more about her brand and her plans for the Indian market now that her scents are available at the luxury experiential retail perfume store, Scentido in Mumbai.
Can you run us through your creative process right from how you go about creating your scents to the design of the bottle?
“Creating a scent starts with putting together a basic accord of several ingredients. This is how the perfume will smell ultimately. Once you are happy with this, you create five samples of the same accord and add a different base note in each sample. From these five you pick your favourite and create another five samples of this new accord. You follow the same process, adding different notes to each sample, picking out the one that most appeals and creating five samples of the latest edition. You continue with this pattern until you have added in all the top notes. If there is ever a stage you don’t like any of the five samples, you just go back one stage and try again with new notes in each sample. As far as the design of the bottle goes, the Ormonde Jayne bottle is eight sided to represent luck and prosperity and so is the over cap.”
What are the biggest challenges? And the biggest highs?
“I don’t find the business a challenge, more of an adventure but there are a few times when perhaps we are overwhelmed simply because there are not enough hours in the day. My biggest high was introducing oudh into an international fragrance, which is now a confirmed category and nearly every perfume house has an oudh fragrance.”
An olfactory memory you cherish that you encountered?
“The smell of basmati rice, cooked in a bit of butter and then steamed. Reminds me of home, security and a delicious shared family dinner. I have recreated that smell in one of our perfumes, Champaca, which I’ve always considered our homage to India. Champak flower comes from India and it is blended with the neroli, tea and basmati rice. Truly elegant, unique, creative — a perfumer’s perfume.”
Do you think technology will play an important role in shaping fragrances in the future?
“My fantasy, which I hope will become a reality, is that you walk into a perfumery and touch a picture of the perfume on the wall and the fragrance surrounds your head and the notes of the perfume appear before your eyes – I just need a clever young soul to get cracking on my idea.”
Is there any unique ingredient you’ve used or would like to use in your perfumes?
“Our house style works with a lot of my favourite ingredients that all perform very well together, such as Iso-E-Super, a molecule that smells of cedarwood; Hedione, a molecule that smells of jasmine but really helps to open up the perfume, and magnolia bud oil, which has an effervescent effect on a floral bouquet.”
How do you test drive a scent?
“We show it to a panel, unlabelled and without description.”
As well as creating something for people to enjoy, what else should a fragrance do?
“It finishes you off. You’ve bathed, creamed your body, styled your hair and dressed. You can’t leave home without sporting a perfume.”
What is it that sells a fragrance?
“In the big industry, it’s all marketing, glamorous models and actresses filmed or photographed. For the niche fragrances houses, it’s all about word of mouth amongst the perfume lovers, together with articles like this one.”