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Business Spotlight: Wales Perfumery

04 Jul, 2024

Based in Monmouth, Wales Perfumery is the only perfume house in Wales. Offering a range of Wales-inspired fragrances and bespoke fragrance workshops and experiences for people and businesses.

Wales Perfumery joined GlobalWelsh’s Business membership programme in 2024. We caught up with founder and perfumer, Louise Smith, to chat about her love for fragrance and how Wales has been a key inspiration for her business…

Tell us a little bit about you and why you started Wales Perfumery…

My love for perfume began when I was about eight years old. My grandmother had the most amazing mid-century dressing table and on there would be lots and lots of different perfume bottles and I would sit there for hours smelling all of the stoppers. Very different to my sister who was climbing trees breaking her arm. 

One of the smells that I absolutely loved as a girl, and one I can still conjure up, was the smell of her lipstick and her powder - they were the most amazing scents. Lipstick and powder just doesn’t really smell like that anymore. I think that was really what ignited my love of fragrance.

Growing up in Pembrokeshire, at school my favourite subject was chemistry. Of course, I hadn't made that link between chemistry and perfumery at that time and, like many young people, I left school and I didn't have a clue what I wanted to do. I took a part time job in a local dental practice and loved working there because I loved mixing materials up and working in the darkroom developing the x-rays.

A few years later I moved to Cardiff and I started working in Boots as a dental consultant. I was then approached by an American company called Sonicare and joined the sales team there. Whilst working there, I went back to Boots to work for Lancome on Sundays. I didn’t need the job but I just loved it. It was whilst I was working for Lancome that they launched a fragrance called ‘Miracle’. I thought it was the most gorgeous scent and it inspired me to look into perfumery as a career.

I had no idea how you’d go about becoming a perfumer and it became a bit of a pipedream for me. I continued climbing the ‘corporate ladder’ and I got a job working for GlaxoSmithKlein, starting out running clinical trials at dental and medical schools and then moving into the research and development side of the business where I could rekindle my love of chemistry.

Then, one day, about 10 years ago I found an article advertising a perfume school in Paris. I applied and off I went to train in Paris. Now, this all sounds very glamorous, but it was actually 45 degrees everyday and coming from Wales I really struggled with these sorts of temperatures - but I persevered and completed the course.

Returning home to set up Wales Perfumery, initially as my side gig and then formally launching five years ago. Initially we started with workshops, offering clients the opportunity to create their own bespoke fragrance unique to them and then we moved into our own fragrance collection. We are currently the only perfume house in Wales and I am really proud that Wales is a key part of our brand.

Talk us through your fragrance collection…

When I created our first fragrance collection, it was really important to me to think about the landscape of Wales. I think it's very, very unique. It's very, very green. We've got a beautiful coastline, amazing forests, and amazing dark skies. So they were the four factors I considered when creating the collection. It was also important to me that our fragrances were unisex and made using ethically-sourced and sustainable vegan-friendly ingredients. All of our fragrances are branded bilingually, it was very important to me to include the Welsh language across our product range. 

The first fragrance in the collection was ‘Coast/Arfordir’. Originally being from Pembrokeshire it felt like the best place to start. I wanted to create something that musters up memories of when you open the car door at the beach and you’re hit with that lovely scent of the sea. We're not talking the Maldives and Pina Coladas here, we're talking rugged West Wales. We're talking Freshwater West on a really breezy day. You've got the rock pools, you've got the salt in the air, you've got the sand, you've got that sea and it was combining all of those things. 

The next fragrance was ‘Country/Gwlad’ which is an ode to the green landscapes of Wales, that I surround myself with here in Monmouthshire. Harking back to my grandmother, her favourite perfume was called Gardenia. She worked in London in the war and would bring bottles back with her and I wanted to sort of pay a little bit of a tribute to her with this one as well. 

Then we launched ‘Forest/Coedwig’’. Forest is deep and very earthy. It's not so much your pine needles from the trees. Imagine the leaves dropping onto the ground and you've got all of the fungi and the apples falling from the trees!

Finally, last year we launched ‘Star’, or ‘Seren’ in Welsh, which is the last fragrance in the collection. This one is inspired by our amazing night skies, the scent is bright but conjures up a sense of serenity and mystery with notes of yuzu, jasmine and sandalwood. 

Tell us about your workshops…

We started workshops in 2019 and over the last five years we’ve developed these and now have quite a vast offering for everyone, from one-to-ones with fragrance lovers who want to create their own bespoke fragrance to corporate team building workshops for over 100 people. We also have a lot of couples who want to create unique fragrances for their big day and hen parties too - which are always a lot of fun!

I love delivering the workshops, clients always learn so much. They also learn a lot about themselves and what they like and they love the fact they can go home with a bottle of fragrance that’s individual to them.

The workshops usually take place at my workshop near Monmouth but over the pandemic we realised that we can deliver these remotely as well and have continued to do so.

What does it take to be a perfumer?

I think you have to have an understanding of basic chemistry, in fact, probably advanced chemistry because all the materials that I'm using are first and foremost chemicals and you need to know what you’re doing.

Secondly, it sounds obvious, but you have to have a really good sense of smell as well. My nose is like a bloodhound. It’s a real skill you have to keep training. For example, on the weekend somebody said to me, “Can you smell lavender in here?” and it wasn't lavender, it was actually rosemary. To the ‘untrained nose’ they're quite similar in profile but I actually find them quite distinct. 

Lastly, you have to have an artistic flair. You can't just think of a formula and write down a formula and think okay, this is what it's going to be like you have to think outside the box. Really being a perfumer is bringing together art and chemistry!

Highlights from the last 12 months and what’s next on the horizon for Wales Perfumery? 

We’ve seen a big uptick in demand for our fragrances from both consumers and boutique retailers which is really exciting. This year we also kicked off a great partnership with the National Trust which means you can find our fragrance collection in all their stores across Wales. Later this year we’re going to be launching four new fragrances. Currently top secret so sadly can’t share yet!

Next year we are going to cement the UK market and go after more overseas markets. We've recently launched into Germany and the Middle East as well but in 2025 we’ll be looking at America, Canada, Japan, Australia. People are on our website all the time asking if they can buy our fragrances so the demand is there, we just need to work out the best way to execute!

How can GlobalWelsh and the community support you?

Since joining the community a few months ago I’ve already made some great connections overseas. A retailer in the Middle East approached after seeing us in the GlobalWelsh newsletter he now stocks my products Dubai. Connections like this are invaluable when you’re looking at new markets. Welsh people just want to help other Welsh people which is what makes GlobalWelsh different to other networks.

I’d love to make more connections in other target markets who can help us find stockists and understand the market better. Exporting can be risky so having trusted people who are located overseas and who know their market well is so valuable to a small growing business like mine. 

Connect with Louise on GlobalWelsh Connect >> 

Ymunwch â GlobalWelsh

Dewch yn rhan o dyfiant rhwydwaith ar-lein o bobl Gymeig sy’n cydweithio ar gyfer y gorau i Gymru gan gefnogi eraill, archwilio cyfleoedd busnes a rhannu gwybodaeth.

Ymunwch â GlobalWelsh

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