Cult Shop: the perfumer who plays with the elements
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To step into the understated green shopfront of Perfumer H on London’s Chiltern Street is to enter a rich olfactory landscape. Sprigs of dandelion and jars of honey are displayed on simple walnut shelves; clumps of moss, picked in the Balkans, are neatly packaged in brown paper bags, ready to receive drops of amber-coloured pot pourri oil; a glass vitrine reveals gnarled iris root, woody tonka bean, vetiver grass, dried patchouli leaves and rocks of frankincense. Dark-glass apothecary bottles and jars are lit with burning oils.
Founder Lyn Harris was raised between Scotland and West Yorkshire, and trained by the acclaimed Monique Schlienger in Paris and Robertet in Grasse; she has since become known for her ability to evoke singular encounters with the natural world through scent. She co-founded the luxury fragrance line Miller Harris in 2000, launching with Citron Citron, which recreated the precise aroma of an orange tree; for Claus Porto, she created Agua Fougère, which captures the heady pine forests of Portugal’s Atlantic coast. She sold her stake in Miller Harris in 2012, launching Perfumer H in 2015 where she has further distilled her fragrances (from £100) to their very essence: Salt, with its earthy hit of rosemary, coriander and cardamom; Rain Cloud, with heady white musk and jasmine; and Dandelion, a fresh, bitter-scented candle (from £55) infused with tangy green leaf and basil.
Harris credits her grandparents, and summers spent on their farm in Scotland, as her primary creative influence. “They were self-sufficient,” she says, dressed in jeans, a plain cotton shirt and French workman’s jacket. “My grandmother was into making teas and jams, had an amazing flower garden, and my grandfather grew vegetables. There was a stream that ran down the end of their garden. The memory of how everything smelt wonderful has always stayed with me.”
Her store on Chiltern Street, together with her flagship store on Crawford Street, and another new space in the Marais, in Paris, encapsulates her brand of low-fi, earthy chic. Walls are painted in soft hues of mossy green and grey. Scented candles stand in chunky jewel-toned, hand-blown glass holders (a refill service is available on all hand-blown products). The shop’s middle section works as a utility room: you’ll find hand washes, soothing frankincense oil and handmade soaps (£20). Irish-linen tea towels (£28) by Ulster Weavers hang from wooden pegs alongside traditional navy workman’s jackets, the result of a collaboration with Japanese brand Arts&Science.
At the far end of the store is what Harris calls “the pantry”, which stocks a small range of loose tea leaves created in collaboration with Postcard Teas: Lemon, Rose, Smoke, Violet leaf, Morocco and – Harris’s personal favourite – Yorkshire Grey. Jars of raspberry jam, cucumber pickle, salts, lemon olive oil, honey and marmalade – made in Yorkshire and Wales and packaged in glass jars – honour the influence of her grandmother.
“Whenever I smell wildflowers, sweet peas or even freshly chopped wood I am immediately transported to that time,” Harris says of those formative summer days spent in Scotland. “That is the power of smell – it triggers memory”.
Perfumer H, 19 Chiltern Street, London W1. perfumerh.com
FTWeekend Festival, London
Join Lyn Harris for How To Spritz it, an immersive fragrance session at the FT Weekend Festival at Kenwood House Gardens in London on Saturday 3 September. The HTSI programme for the day also includes a whisky tasting with drinks columnist Alice Lascelles and an immersive sound bath with Jasmin Harsono. Book your pass at ft.com/ftwf