Kilmacanogue, Carron, Glenstock, and Glandore are the most fragrant places in Ireland. They are the hubs of Ireland’s perfume industry. David Cox’s father and uncle set up Fragrances of Ireland, now based in an old farmhouse and barn in Kilmacanogue, Co. Wicklow.
“It began with a conversation across a kitchen table in the 1980s. My father managed a printing company and my uncle Donald Pratt managed Avoca Handweavers. They were both interested in smells! And always wondered why Ireland hadn’t its own fragrance and no one had managed to bottle Ireland. The first Irish perfume company was born.”
“The idea was to produce perfumes that perfectly captured the beauty of Ireland. Innisfree- the Essence of Ireland came first in 1983, named after the 1888 Yeats poem about the isle in the middle of Lough Gill, Co Sligo. Then Patrick, who needs no introduction. The Energy of the Sealine came later because we wanted to capture a walk on a summer day by the sea. And the happiness that entails.
“We flew our English perfumier, Arthur Burnham, over to the West coast and walked him up and down Dog’s Bay beach for two hours and he found his inspiration! Adrian Crilly is our designer. Ireland is full of energy. Clouds are always scudding across the sky; the breeze is up and the sea crashing. We want to create unisex scents to make people happy. Give them a summer zest in winter and feel by the sea up a mountain.
“After all, that’s what perfumes are meant to do. To transport and uplift. We are enormously proud of what we’ve achieved.”
The Van den Berghs run “Max Benjamin” in Glenstock near Enniskerry. Mark studied fragrance design in Grasse after selling Irish beer in Germany. David worked in software in Australia both joining Orla who has started making her own pillow mists and scented candles as well as Ireland’s most luxurious car fragrances. They may use Italian lavender, but the formula is thoroughly Irish.
The Chowen’s run “The Burren Perfumery” in Carron. Co. Clare. It was probably the first Irish perfume house, opened by poet Brian Mooney. having stumbled upon it while visiting a friend. British-born and brought up in Dordogne in southwest France, Sadie Chowan worked there and eventually bought the business in 2001.
She trained in Paris under Sylvie Jordain and Katell Plisson of Créassence. The perfumery launched a wild rose Eau du Perfum with nose Marianne Nawrocki. “It took three years to develop,” says Sadie Chowen who works with the Irish botanical artist, Cliona Doyle.
“The tiny Irish burnet or rosa spinosissima inspired me. It is the distillation of ephemeral. Its petals are heart-shaped. Our Wild Rose scent has thirty different natural ingredients. We also have Spring, Summer, and Autumn Harvest Eau du toilettes and our Ilaun and Frond perfumes inspired by the Burren’s mosses, lichens, and heathers. We also make a facial serum, day and night cream. All certified organic.”
From four products and two staff, the Burran Perfumery now produces 100 products and has a staff of thirty.
The Burren is a glacio-karst plateau landscape centered in County Clare and part of the Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geo Park. Seventy percent of Ireland’s flora grows there.
Former fashion entrepreneur and artist Joan Wood’s Waters & Wild is based in Glandore, Co. Cork. Her scents are “inspired by the beauty of the wild Atlantic coast” and use only the finest ethically sourced, rare absolutes, concretes, resins, and oils, including some locally sourced ingredients like Irish seaweed, lavender, and rosemary.
Concludes David Cox about Inis. “Our perfumes haven’t been made to make you feel chic and sexy. That’s not very Irish.”