Cre­at­ing nat­u­ral per­fume: AS Apothe­cary

Amanda Sau­rin, founder of A. S Apothe­cary, tells He­len Martin about the process of learn­ing the lan­guage of scent and the art of cre­at­ing nat­u­ral per­fume.

Project Calm - - Contents -

“I was hav­ing a fa­cial re­cently us­ing our prod­ucts and as each prod­uct was ap­plied as I lay silently on the bed, I was taken on a jour­ney through all my favourite places.” For Amanda Sau­rin of A. S Apothe­cary ev­ery­thing starts and flows from the nat­u­ral scent ex­ud­ing from ei­ther f lower, leaf or root. “Scent is ut­terly evoca­tive,” she en­thuses. “It is re­ceived by the body in its most pri­mal form, bypassing nor­mal cog­ni­tive func­tion as if to be felt as much as un­der­stood. This is the rea­son that, for ex­am­ple, a rose scent can trans­port us to a fa­mil­iar gar­den, a per­son, a mem­ory. As­so­ci­a­tion with good mem­o­ries is pow­er­fully heal­ing. Ad­di­tion­ally, es­sen­tial oils carry the essence of the plant, they hold many of the heal­ing prop­er­ties and so blended ju­di­ciously they have health benefits in and of them­selves.”

Amanda, who has her home, work­shop and flag­ship store in Sus­sex, has loved plants for as long as she can re­mem­ber. How­ever it was when she started hav­ing chil­dren that it be­came clear to her how pow­er­ful es­sen­tial oils and waters could be. Her im­pas­sioned ex­pla­na­tions of their prop­er­ties come full of gen­tle en­ergy: “Clary sage in labour is a mag­i­cal oil, con­cen­trat­ing the mind and help­ing to birth the baby. Laven­der oil for rest­less ba­bies, sleep­less nights and as they grow it is per­fect for calm­ing the mind when scary mon­sters wake them up or pre­vent them from sleep­ing. Chamomile to quell up­set tum­mies and cre­ate peace.” Through her work, she deeply con­sid­ers each scent com­bi­na­tion. Those to lift spir­its, ground the body and heal the skin. “I like to think of my prod­ucts as scen­to­ceu­ti­cals – us­ing the best oils for amaz­ing scent and spirit.”

In or­der to col­lect the com­po­nents, Amanda of­ten trav­els to their origin. Whether that’s Scot­land, Cyprus, out in the Sus­sex fields near her home, or her own gar­den. This, she says, in­forms her en­tire ap­proach. “We live in a world where con­nec­tion to the nat­u­ral world is in­creas­ingly frac­tured. In terms of my trav­els, I am a great be­liever in go­ing to the plants rather than ex­pect­ing them to come to me. To see a plant in its nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment is ut­terly thrilling. To clam­ber over rocks, wade through streams, drive along moun­tain ridge roads is to live life,

to feel that con­nec­tion, to marvel at the beauty and re­silience of it all is a rea­son to be. To know ev­ery plant along a road, to wait with ex­pec­ta­tion for it to reap­pear after a long win­ter is to un­der­stand our place in the world. It never fails to dis­ap­point.”

As a maker, Amanda stresses that each and ev­ery pot mat­ters. “Our work is to take the nat­u­ral and trans­form it into a ther­a­peu­tic, to take the time to un­der­stand how to ex­tract the very best from ev­ery plant that sits on my bench.” When cre­at­ing a per­fume, she em­pha­sises the im­por­tance of the story be­hind each scent and find­ing a bal­ance of notes that sit to­gether well. The process be­gins with get­ting to know each in­gre­di­ent to work out how to best ex­tract the scent and ther­a­peu­tics. Amanda will of­ten soak it in al­co­hol, oil, sugar or salt. She also dis­tils it, for both es­sen­tial oil and for the aro­matic wa­ter. “Th­ese dis­til­la­tions will be long to ex­tract the lighter mol­e­cules grad­u­at­ing to the heav­ier, richer, deeper notes. This gives me a pal­ette with which to start,” she says.

The per­fume then be­gins with one in­gre­di­ent, then find­ing a draw to oth­ers to in­tro­duce to the mix. “It is very much an in­stinc­tive process,” says Amanda. “Weav­ing a per­fume may in­clude known and less well known oils that cap­ture a par­tic­u­lar scent, place or sen­sa­tion. It is a process of build­ing layer upon layer – a vi­tal syn­ergy that reveals the whole.” When ap­plied, each in­di­vid­ual’s skin will re­spond dif­fer­ently. If it is dry, it will drink it in, whereas oily skin tends to hold the scent for longer. “That is the beauty of a nat­u­ral scent, your body makes its own. Nat­u­ral per­fumes are volatile, some­thing I love about them.”

Amanda’s per­sonal favourite scents in­clude rose. “Rose has a plethora of scent pro­files, colours, shapes, tex­tures and sym­bol­ism. For me as a menopausal woman, I use rose ev­ery day to keep me on an even keel emo­tion­ally, cool and re­fresh my skin and re­mind me of joy­ful places I’ve vis­ited over the years. It has been the scentscape of my life from my own gar­den to English stately homes, to Cypriot gar­dens, to road­sides out­side Bei­jing.” She says the scent of Daphne odora au­re­o­marginata has been a con­stant in her life. “It is in f lower in Fe­bru­ary and as I left for hospi­tal to de­liver my last child al­most 18 years ago, I picked a sprig. A sin­gle twig of it filled the whole room with the most mag­nif­i­cent scent. I smell it and think of Flora.”

Cre­at­ing mem­o­ries with scent, cap­tur­ing the scent of a land­scape in a beau­ti­ful bot­tle, Amanda be­lieves that only per­fumes made in small batches by hand can do this. Each in­gre­di­ent nur­tured, gath­ered and re­spected. To truly un­der­stand the lan­guage of scent, she pas­sion­ately en­cour­ages ev­ery­one to get out there, in na­ture. “Go out – in sun, just after it has rained, when it is warm, when it is cold. Ex­plore your lo­cal land­scape, crush leaves, sniff flow­ers. Awaken your sense of smell. Re­mind your­self of the scent of a ripe or­ange, newly mown grass, freshly ground cof­fee. Take the time to be still.”

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