Laurence Fearnley, multi-award winning New Zealand author; winner, Landfall Essay Competition November 2017, for her essay ‘Perfume Counter’; Laurence is researching and writing a book on the theme of landscape and scent; her new novel Scented is coming out in September.

The Range

Every scent has an identity, a note that grabbed my attention and made me think about what it could be.  The horopito is a brilliant touch and so is the koromiko and the manuka.

Your fragrances develop on the skin.  They don’t fade to a bland musk ― but transform with the heat of my skin and the passing of time.  Nothing jars, nothing is ‘over stated’.  All are nicely blended and balanced, and I loved how they did really make me think of landscapes.

I also like the quietness of the scents ― that appeals to me.  In their sheerness they most brought to mind the Jardin de Hermès series by Jean Claude Ellena (especially Le Jardin de Monsieur Li by Hermès).

The lack of musk gives your work its clarity ― that mountain stream/ozone note.  The raspberry (snowberry) came through on the Tussock, the pepper on the Mountain Herbs, the berry creaminess on the Wilderness berries and the earthiness grounding the flora in the Lakeland scent.  I love that they have no brash note.

They are very peaceful, thoughtful and beautiful scents that work in parallel to the natural world.  I think the perfumes are a testament to your observation AND imagination.  I would happily wear all of them!

Mountain Herbs

A wonderful thing happened this morning as I was walking the dogs in the drizzle through the bush on Signal Hill.  At one point I bent down to tie my shoe lace and as my nose came close to my hand I got the most stunning scent of black pepper on skin (Mountain Herbs) which for a moment formed a perfect harmony with the leafy green, fern and earth scent of the track I was on.  It was remarkable.

There is a real clarity in your Mountain Herbs scent that appeals to me.  It captures the scent of horopito perfectly: the pepper and then something a bit bitter, like wormwood and sparkly like juniper.  It reminds me so much of when you’re walking down a mountain and you suddenly drop from the snowline to the bush.

Your eau de cologne stays on my skin for several hours allowing the pepper to soften but retain its spiciness, lovely.  I think the zap you get when you bite a horopito leaf is well matched by an eau de cologne.  That’s a very clever association.

Wilderness Berries

Wilderness Berry opens with a real burst on my skin.  It feels like a happy scent ― not invigorating but has an element of joy; is less introspective than Tussock ― a late summer walk.

I love the berry you have used: a sweet but soft blackberry/boysenberry, and I love that it’s not partnered with pine (as many berry scents seem to be).

There is a nice wood balancing the berry ― and that could be the heat from horopito.  I think it also has a soft citrus element (orange) on my skin.

Lakeland Flora

Lakeland Flora struck me as the most floral (I guess the name is a hint!) and it made me think of spring.

I like the sweet/floral aspect which made me think of freesias or daffodils but it seemed centred by something earthier like iris and then something a little like juniper or camphor ― which could be manuka.

High Country Tussock

High Country Tussock immediately made me think of golden light on a hillside ― also ‘yellow’.  It has a wonderful creamy, pollen aspect that reminds me of mimosa, or gorse ― slightly nutty/gardenia.  I also got a hint of raspberry from it ― but not that horribly sweet raspberry note you find in many mainstream perfumes.  A much more subtle raspberry ― reflecting the koromiko.

I see that this is an eau de parfum and for me it has more body than the other scents in your collection.  But it also has more warmth which gives the impression of body.  It’s still sheer ― and sits close to my skin; is intimate, but has less of the ‘mountain stream’ aspect of the other scents in the range.  I love it.

I have just washed off the dog walk mud and am enjoying a generous spray of High Country Tussock.  The perfume smells a little different today ― probably because I applied more of it ― and a leafiness is coming through.  I keep ‘huffing’ my skin ― gosh it’s good.

I have been wearing High Country Tussock a lot.  It seems a very tranquil scent to me.

Post by Sandra Simpson, 27 January 2018, at Sandra’s Garden –

Scent of a landscape

Yesterday I was lucky enough to hear some of the story of Queenstown Natural Perfumiers, a business founded by Serena and Harold Jones (she a botanist, he a poet) which has set out to capture some very specific scents from the Queenstown area landscapes and create them as naturally as possible – of the four scents, three are Ecocert-certified as 100% natural, while the fourth uses ‘synthetics’ as an environmentally conscious choice.

Both Harold and Serena, whom I’ve known for years, are passionate about the wild places of this country and our beautiful landscapes. I was able to sample each of the scents, picking out Lakeland Flora and Wilderness Berries as the two with most ‘nose appeal’ for me.

For a sense of what the perfumes invoke – and for much better writing than you’ll get from me – try these reviews by novelist Laurence Fearnley.

Queenstown Natural Perfumiers’ products are not available in stores or by mail order, just at two outlets, so far, in Queenstown.

Ngāi Tahu has a project under way to re-create a perfume known by the South Island iwi and which used the bayonet-like leaves of the plant known as taramea (Aciphylla spp, Spaniard or speargrass). Leaves were gathered, plaited and heated to extract resin with a fragrant oil made by mixing the resin and animal fat. The perfumed oil was highly valued and used in trade for food, pounamu (greenstone/jade) and as gifts between chiefs. Read more here.

Another ingredient in this ‘grand Māori perfume’, is pātōtara (Leucopogon fraseri, dwarf mingimingi), a prickly, low shrub that grows at altitude throughout New Zealand. According to Te Karaka website, it has been reported that, when the plant was more plentiful, the fragrance of its profuse flowering filled whole alpine valleys – and with an offshore wind, apparently the perfume was perceptible to mariners, even before land was within sight.

In Traditional Lifeways of the Southern Māori, Ngāi Tahu ethnographer Herries Beattie records that the bark of the mountain toatoa tree (Phyllocladus alpinus) was carried by southern Māori as a scent, with one informant saying the bark was used to make a scent similar to the highly-prized taramea perfume.

The leaves of the lemonwood tree (Pittosporum eugenioides) were bruised and mixed with fat to use as a perfume, as were the scented flowers, and Eldon Best also mentions the resin being used for perfume making.

Read much more on this topic of native perfumes at Forest Lore of the Maori: Various Scents and Gums by Elsdon Best (1856-1931).

QT magazine, Queenstown lakes, Spring 2017: