It’s usually a celebrity who creates their own fragrance and brand of perfume, Not a former head of global communications manager and PR director.
Imogen Russon-Taylor is the founder of Scotland’s first perfume house, “Kingdom Scotland,” and makes contemporary gender-neutral fragrances that, she hopes, encapsulate the country’s history and landscapes. And it’s malt whisky too.
“The creative inspiration from Scotland was immense,” says the Manchester-born graduate of Edinburgh University, where she studied geography and geology.
“I wanted to bottle Scotland culture and cultural quirks. Its layers of history and mythology. Its raw natural beauty and elemental weather. I wanted to capture Scotland’s magic.”
Imogen worked in the film and for beauty industries, working for the “Porter Novelli,” “Ketchum,” and “Phipps” PR agencies before moving back to Scotland with her family in 2006.
“My grandfather worked as a maltman. My ancestors include the Meills of Dundee and Dieppe, merchants, and merchant bankers. They are exporting salmon and importing leather, luxury cloth, luxury goods, including perfume, art, claret, books, and timber. They were business partners and probably relatives of John Clerk, a seventeenth-century Scottish merchant notable for importing and dealing in continental art, including some of the first imports to Scotland of works by Rembrandt, Holbein, Dürer, and Titian.”
Luxury runs in the blood. “Kingdom Scotland” was born from a love for Scotland and the aromatic world of whisky. “I have a strong love of the wild and majestic Scottish landscapes. I worked in the whisky industry for many years. Notably for Glenmorangie. Whisky has been a huge inspiration.
“There are many parallels between whisky and perfume. Both whisky and perfume are produced by traditional distillation methods, both evoke a complex sensory experience, and both rely on the quality and innovative use of ingredients to stand out in a busy market. The language of ‘nosing’ whisky and of ‘notes’ in perfume have so many similarities.
“I wanted Kingdom Scotland perfumes to capture the stories, experiences, and dramatic contrasts of Scotland. From the smell of pinewoods after rain to gorse and heather. And more.”
Each of her unisex, gender-inclusive Eau de perfumes is created by hand in Edinburgh. “I grew up among classic fragrances like Opium and Youth Dew. I stole my Mum’s perfumes and made my own from rose petals!
“I worked in marketing communications for Ardbeg, Highland Park, The Macallan, and the Chivas Brothers portfolio. When I worked at LVMH, I had the chance to experience the perfume side of the business and learn how perfumes are created.”
Imogen works with a classically trained Scottish perfumer – Stephanie Anderson, from Falkirk. “I love working with her – she is a new British talent – mentored by one of the most revered perfumers in the world – Dominique Ropion.
“It’s a long creative process, creating a fragrance. I wanted my brand to be luxury, niche, and high-end. Our scents contain around 50 ingredients.
“Metamorphic is the one that probably means the most to me. Scotland has this complex and rich rock spectacularly woven into the landscape. The intense notes within Metamorphic are smoldering earth, peat, minerals, spices, wood resins, leather, and tobacco. It is based on my love of Scotland and, yes, that includes whisky too. There’s a hint of smoky peat in the scent. And maybe a splash of Islay malt!”
Imogen worked closely with Dr. Dawn Hollis from St Andrews University and the archivists at The Royal Botanical Gardens Edinburgh, the National Library, and National Records.
Comments Dr. Hollis: “ I can smell the fruits of my own research. Not many historians can say that!”
“There are so many stories we discovered – all to reveal in time,” continues Imogen. “We discovered stories of ingredients, Scotland’s history in physic gardens and healing, and also in the rich history of the apothecary in Scotland. There is such a wealth of stories to reveal.
“Delving into Scotland’s perfumed past, I discovered the pioneering world of Scottish botanists and explorers – a world full of inspiration and stories for telling.”
Arctic explorer and Scottish botanist Isobel Wylie Hutchison – inspired “ Albaura.” “She was born at Carlowrie Castle in West Lothian,” explains Imogen. “And challenged the norms of her time first by a 260-mile solo trek across Iceland, later traveling north of the Arctic circle into Greenland and Alaska where she collected botanical floral and grass samples for the Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh and Kew.
“I hope Albaura conjures up the freshness of snow and ice, blended with berries and botanicals in a scent that is bold, fresh, and independent in spirit.
“Isobel collected samples of Arctic poppies and peonies, of grasses and herbs – her personal plant collections and sketches are carefully stored in the archives at the Botanical Gardens. This scent opens with the glacial freshness of snow and ice, blended with iced berries, juniper, and botanicals; the heart reveals notes of arctic florals, and the base is a sophisticated blend of ambergris, oakmoss, and Atlas cedar absolute.”
“Ardnamurchan is a special place for me. . I spent time as a child there and take my three children as often as I can. It’s the most westerly region of the UK. Portal is a transporting scent. It’s a powerful and evocative scent memory for me.
“Portal” is “a gateway to the ancient Caledonian forests of Scotland. It’s fresh, outdoorsy, gusting with herbaceous botanicals and bergamot, notes chosen to evoke verdant florals, resting on a forest floor of vetiver and Scots pine. It’s an escape into the Scottish sylvan wonderland! “
“Kingdom Scotland” fragrance is available at Gleneagles, The Balmoral, Harvey Nichols, and Les Senteurs, London. As well as on-line.
Continues Imogen: “Edinburgh New Town has been a great place to base Kingdom Scotland. I started my business journey on the RBS Entrepreneurial Accelerator, meeting like-minded entrepreneurs and building a network of mentors. I have had great support from Scottish Enterprise, Business Gateway, Entrepreneurial Scotland, Business Women Scotland, and ScotEdge.
The team at Harvey Nichols Edinburgh has also been fantastic. Edinburgh is the ideal place to showcase Scotland’s first fragrance house in a modern luxury arena. Kingdom Scotland is a new Scottish luxury brand.”
Imogen believes Scotland, the birthplace of her grandparents and her childhood holiday destination, deserves a fragrance house of serious quality and creative expression. She continues to work with Edinburgh Royal Botanic Garden to produce “Botanica,” which will be available in August. The collaborative fragrance is a tribute to Scotland’s botanists, scientists, and plant hunters. And celebrates the garden’s 350th anniversary. It comprises 35 natural and sustainable including the “Sequoiadendron” conifer, making it one of the world’s most bio-diverse fragrances. A scent in tribute to the work and passion, enlightened spirit, and dedication of all the botanists, scientists, and adventurous Scottish plant hunters of the past, present, and future. All Imogen’s products are vegan, cruelty-free, and free from phthalates, artificial color, parabens, and formaldehyde. Their ingredients are sourced from around the world.
Imogen worked with Leonie Paterson, learning about Scottish botanists such as Forrest, Sibbald, Martin, Douglas, Balfour, Sutherland, and Fortune. She then investigated preserved and living collections with botanist Dr. Gregory Kenicer, a researcher in Tropical Diversity at the Royal Botanic Garden.
To see her team take all of this diverse information and translate it into a perfume was a revelation – it’s like a kind of alchemy,” he comments. “It’s been a real blend of science and art to produce a fragrance that celebrates the rich and vibrant botanical world. There are notes that tell the stories of our Centre for Middle Eastern Plants, International Conifer Conservation Project, and from Nepal and China. Also, a nod to our rhododendron conservation, the research on gingers, and even our students’ Demonstration Garden plots and community engagement. a great geographical and botanical range of plants.”
“As an organization, our deep roots and our core work for the shared future of plants and people on this fragile planet are enhanced by Kingdom Botanica. We are very grateful for Imogen’s direct support of this vital research and conservation work.” Profits from sales of Kingdom Botanica will go towards the work of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.
For Imogen, the fragrance is all about emotion and memory. “You hear stories of Scottish distillers going to America and around the world with briefcases full of whisky – selling Scotland- and I think this sums up the Scottish spirit. I always wanted to showcase Scotland on a global stage. We hope to become an international perfume house.
“I wanted to create that “sense of place” in my fragrances and transport people to Scotland by scent alone. Ours is a labor of love. It’s borne of a love for Scotland and scent.”