Welcome to our series, My Life in Perfume. We’re asking our favourite fragrance fans to reveal all – from their first perfume purchase to their signature aroma; here are their scent stories…
Sarah McCartney is the ultimate fragrance fan; her love of scent led her to become a self-taught perfumer and found her own fragrance brand, 4160 Tuesdays. But before Sarah started creating fragrances, she wrote about them; for 14 years, she was head writer at Lush Times and wrote the novel The Scent of Possibility. Fragrance has had a huge role in Sarah’s life and still does. In this edit, we’re looking back at her standout scents…
My First Perfume
I managed to get a bottle of Aqua Manda for Christmas when I was a teenager. Before that, I’d just borrowed my mother’s Avon Honeysuckle out of desperation; she liked her perfume to smell of demure flowers. I still think it’s marvellous, and yes, I own a 1970s bottle that smells wonderful – superpowered citrus fruit.
My First Perfume Purchase
Diorella was my first and continuing love. I chose it myself when I was 16 as my summer holiday treat. It was a long, hot summer, and we’d been at the beach in Scotland. I was at Barbour’s department store in Dumfries, and I had decided that I wanted to buy a perfume from Christian Dior with my holiday money. The lovely woman there guided me through the collection, and I fell for Diorella on first whiff. It made me inexplicably happy how a beautiful piece of music opens your heart to joy and delight. I have the modern version, but the photo is of a 1970s original, a tester I got in a Margate vintage shop. I only wear it on my clothes these days.
My All-Time Favourite
In 2011 I made the fragrance Tokyo Spring Blossom for a party in Tokyo to raise funds for children orphaned by the 2010 tsunami. It was called Urura’s Tokyo Cafe at the time because my friend Urura held the event at her place, but no one could remember the name, and they expected it to smell of coffee, which it doesn’t.
I made it with materials I was discovering and falling in love with at the time: raspberry leaf, opoponax, rose, grapefruit and tangerine, ionones – the violet aroma – musks and tolu balsam. I was being led by my intuition and my emotions because, at the time, I had hardly any experience creating fragrances. Perhaps it was a happy accident that turned out well, but it’s still the one I turn to when I can’t make up my mind that day. I find it reassuring and soothing.
My Everyday Scent
If I’m spending the day working in my lab, I won’t wear perfume, but when I have an admin or workshop day, I’ll pick up something I fancy from a collection of about ten bottles I keep at home. At the moment, it’s Wash Me In The Water. I created it to be a “Sunday morning after you’ve enjoyed yourself a bit too much on Saturday night” perfume, reviving herbs, incense, soap aroma, clean laundry, and fresh water. I meant it to be a summery scent, but I’m finding it useful for waking me up on a dull, cold morning.
My Most Sentimental Perfume
The first proper French perfume that ever arrived at our house was a 200ml bottle of Chanel No5 Eau de Toilette, a gift from my French penfriend’s family. Our twin town was in the Paris suburbs, and I was so excited to be there; it was like watching my life happening on a screen. The bottle sat on my mother’s dressing table, and I would occasionally sneak a dab of it. I was never attracted to it, but I was intrigued. The bottle I have now is from 1945, from a friend whose mother won it in a bet. It was brought over to the UK by her brother-in-law when Gabrielle Chanel was giving away bottles to British and American army officers to grow herself a new market. The Chanel fragrance I do love is Cristalle. You can’t see it in my collection, but it’s there.
My Favourite Brands
My perfume collection is very unusual for professional reasons. I own everything that I make for 4160 Tuesdays and other brands. Mostly I wear my own because I enjoy them. I also have a lot of Guerlain, Mugler and L’Artisan Parfumeur, plus some interesting vintage fragrances for research reasons and individual oddities to which I’m drawn to. It’s called The Wall of Scent, and when we reopen the studio for visitors, we shall have more events for people to come over and smell them.
My Perfume Collection
I love Rochas because they make fascinating fragrances. They observe a trend, then they launch a fragrance in their own sweet time that blows the competition out of the water. I admire Guerlain and Dior – who doesn’t? – Comme des Garcons, Mugler and L’Artisan Parfumeur because they make a difference; they change things. I don’t necessarily follow brands; I prefer to identify the perfumers and track down whatever they make. I love Maurice Roucel’s style, so I would probably like it if he’s creating for Amouage, Rochas, Avon, Guerlain or DKNY.