Pow­ers not to

Talks to per­fumer Sarah McCart­ney about the ef­fect scents have on us

Harefield Gazette - - NEWS -

STAND­ING in Hol­land Park’s Daunt Book shop, I was cat­a­pulted back to my school days as a lady walked past wear­ing the same per­fume as my favourite English teacher.

Sud­denly I am back be­hind my desk be­ing told by Mrs Hall that my hand writ­ing is com­pletely il­leg­i­ble and that all my work has to be writ­ten out again.

The per­fume, mixed with the smell of an­tique wood in the beau­ti­ful old book shop in west London, had evoked a mem­ory so vivid I was in­stantly trans­ported back in time.

Per­fumer Sarah McCart­ney, in her 1960s in­spired per­fumery in Ac­ton, tells me that as the ol­fac­tory bulb (your sense of smell) is part of the brain’s lim­bic sys­tem – an area so closely as­so­ci­ated with mem­ory and feel­ing it’s some­times called the ‘emo­tional brain’ – smell can re­call mem­o­ries and pow­er­ful re­sponses almost in­stan­ta­neously.

It is this phe­nom­e­non that the self-taught cre­ator of the ‘Bri­tish in­die’ brand of per­fume, 4160 Tues­days, has har­nessed in her won­der­fully unique and now glob­ally recog­nised per­fume.

As an ex­am­ple, the per­fume I take away (as I could not stop my­self stick­ing it up my nose), is called The Dark Heart of Old Ha­vana.

Sarah said: “It’s the smell of a walk through Old Ha­vana in the evening, from the Ho­tel Sevilla to the Caseon del Tango, for a dance les­son with Ketty and Felix.

“Wafts of cof­fee and to­bacco, sweet sug­ary desserts cooked with bas­kets of or­anges and man­goes. The scent of peaches be­gin­ning to turn over­ripe, and cit­rus peel go­ing squishy in the gut­ter.

“From a dark door­way a hand­some man in white whis­pers, ‘Do you want a Cuban boyfriend?’ You speed up a lit­tle, squeak­ing, ‘No. Thank you very much for ask­ing!’

“And then the old Cubanos at the tango club greet you with smiles, songs, rum and kisses.”

I’m left think­ing, Yes! I do want a Cuban boyfriend! Right be­fore I reg­is­ter the rainy Ac­ton street out­side. The per­fume will have to do for now.

With top notes of orange, peach, grape­fruit and sugar, some­thing Sarah calls ‘heart notes’ of to­bacco, berg­amot, tonka and jas­mine, un­der­pinned by the base notes of vanilla, musk and black pep­per, this per­fume is clearly not just a per­fume. It is a story. It has a life and a very real power to trans­port you to another time and another place.

Sarah is not so much a per­fumer but more of a white witch, mix­ing po­tions in­ter­wo­ven with spells and in­can­ta­tions that re­ally place her in a league of her own.

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