While Dove’s exquisite fragrances are available in South Africa, the bespoke scents he creates for private clients’ homes are made to order. The process, however, isn’t necessarily the same as when a scent is matched to skin. ‘A client might not want the smell they carry around on their skin all day to be the smell that they come home and relax to,’ says Dove. ‘We like to employ scent to fit with our moods, uses and needs. Therefore, a skin scent has a different function to a home scent.’
He explains that you might want something more refreshing in the bathroom, more relaxing in the lounge and, of course, a more sensual fragrance for the bedroom. ‘In finding a home scent, I would not only have to take into consideration my client’s personality, style and taste but also their interior design choices, way of living, and how the spaces in their home function.’
Immersed in scent
It’s a painstaking process, and one that isn’t farmed out to a subordinate scent creator that, at the last minute, gets Dove’s whiff of approval. ‘Initially, I like to meet a new client for a cup of tea before we start work, so that we can get to know each other a little and make sure they are more relaxed when we begin the first consultation. This meeting will last for a number of hours and I will essentially blind-test the clients’ reaction to a large number of raw materials. The point is to discover their true olfactory fingerprint completely devoid of any preconceptions they might have around particular scents.’
Dove then gets to work on the formula that will be captured in candle form eventually – no spraying home fragrances with spritz bottles for his clients. He doesn’t necessarily work on it constantly but keeps coming back to tailor it until he’s satisfied. ‘It’s like having a fitting for a couture dress,’ he explains. ‘The whole process will take anywhere from three to 12 months to complete.’
The finest nose in the world
What makes him and his ultra-luxury home scents worth the wait? A perfume academic, historian and author, Dove is known as one of the world’s most famous noses and is the sole ‘Professeur de Parfum’. (He was also the first non-family member of the house of Guerlain to be given the title of global ambassador after a career of nearly 20 years with the company.) Josephine Fairly of the Mail on Sunday’s You magazine says of him, ‘In years to come, when future generations are chronicling fragrance history, alongside the Guerlains, the Chanels, and the Jean Patous, chances are that Roja Dove’s name will appear too.’
A master needs to concoct his magic with master ingredients, of course. ‘It’s my opinion that only the best will do – I don’t see the point in doing anything by halves,’ Dove says. He refuses to compromise, using nothing but the finest-quality raw materials in each and every one of his creations – and in abundance.
‘For instance, when I use rose, it’s Rose de Mai from Grasse,’ he explains. ‘It takes about 300 000 roses, picked in the morning before the sun gains strength, to produce one kilo of oil, costing £32 000 per kilo, that smells dramatically different to rose that costs £150 per kilo.’ But that’s child’s play compared to other components. ‘The most expensive material I use costs me about £100 000 per kilo and is called ambergris, a pathological secretion of the sperm whale.’
The sweet smell of success seems to have a hefty price – that’s more than gold per ounce – but Dove insists that his clientele is not limited to the rich and famous. ‘There are those who scrape and cobble everything they have because fragrance plays such a central role in their lives.
‘I use these types of materials because once you have smelt the best that nature has to offer, how can you ever go back?’
This article by Helen Clemson originally appeared in Issue 40 of Private Edition.