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Scents and sensibility: putting the art into artisanal fragrance


Scents and sensibility: putting the art into artisanal fragrance

Local perfumers Fettle & Frisson have a deeply rooted connection to the natural world

Mila Crewe-Brown

Fettle & Frisson perfume makers Megan Bisschoff and Coen Meintjes live at a rural Buddhist retreat centre in the Groot Marico district. Their hand-blended range includes three gender-neutral fragrances: Unshiu, Damask and Gaharu.
What is Fettle & Frisson? We’re an artisanal perfumery using plant-based essences and extracts inspired by biophilia. We’re a diverse duo with a background in architectural design and a love for sustainable herbal gardening. We run a small permaculture project growing medicinal tea herbs. Our exploration of botanical perfumery is a manifestation of the abundant inspiration that we found while delving into all the sensorial complexities that herbs have to offer.
What makes your perfumery unique? We embrace all that nature has to offer, from bark to bloom. We hope to provoke a deeply rooted connection to the natural world. This is our only design criterion.
An illustration of this process is the manner in which we gather the pieces of raw wood used to dress Gaharu. A bold and robust woody perfume required a botanical dressing of equal character. In order to find the perfect piece we examined the diversity of trees in our neighbouring forest and reflected on the unique design of each species. We considered the colour, girth, grain and even the branching of each tree until we found the perfect one, the majestic olienhout, which grows wild and free. This tree embodied the qualities of Gaharu and is now beautifully exhibited within the perfume.
Your ingredients are all plant based. Why? With the ever-increasing aromatic assault of synthetic perfume ingredients on our collective noses we sought to create perfumes that are as kind to your skin as they are to your nose. Plant-based ingredients, with their subtle yet complex nuances, presented an opportunity to ensure this. We formulate our perfumes with natural, organic and wild harvested essences, oils and extracts distilled from real flowers, woods, fruits and roots.
What are your thoughts on the mass perfume industry? Mass perfumery, like any mass production, is flawed in so many ways, the least of which is the production of a soulless monotony. Today, true luxury can only lie in artisanal craftsmanship and the touch of a human hand, something which mass production can never offer.
What scents are you drawn to as a brand? Bold materials juxtaposed with rare, atypical companions are a signature of our design. From the smoky scent of raging bush fires to the cloying sweetness of summer acacia blossoms, our perfumes draw on this ever-changing environment rather than any one scent in particular.
What’s your top summer scent this season?
Summer evokes blissful feelings of nonchalance and olfactory memories of fresh, juicy fruit. We used this fond nostalgia to create our own summer scent called Unshiu, Japanese for “mandarin”. This perfume is an eccentric fruit fusion which balances sweet yet dry mandarin with a tart pomegranate and makes for an exquisite summer scent which we will personally be wearing all season long.
What’s next?
On a recent hike through the bushveld we came across a patch of indigenous Helichrysum, locally named impepho. The smell of their fresh green foliage was humbly stirring, instantly adding the species to our growing suite of botanicals. We are excited to announce that 2019 will see the development of a Proudly South African fragrance as an ode to indigenous botanicals. Fettle & Frisson is sold online and in store at Guillotine, 44 Stanley, Milpark, Johannesburg, and Alexandra Höjer Atelier, 156 Bree Street, Cape Town.

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