I was recently in the Givaudan Johannesburg office when I was introduced to the fragrance giant’s Road Stories project. What started out as a tourist trip to Cape Town for perfumer Linda Song turned into the launch of the company’s “scent souvenirs” initiative. After smelling the evocative fragrance accords that Linda Song created after her journey to the South African city, I knew I had to interview her.
Linda Song is an up-and-coming perfumer. She has already started making her mark in the industry with her recent co-creation for Tom Ford (Fougère Platine EDP). She also created RPL Maison XVIII Tubéreuse EDP, which was launched in 2017.
What is Givaudan’s Road Stories project all about?
Road Stories came about from our NY team of perfumers sharing “scent souvenirs” from our travels in an informal setting and turning it into a creative collection platform. My visit to Cape Town is the debut of the series, which originated when I was planning a trip to Cape Town purely with the intentions of being a tourist to discover the city with friends. On learning more about the region, I found that the Cape Floral Kingdom is a wealth of diversity and endemic species. I couldn’t pass up on the chance to explore and smell the thousands of plants that are only found in this small region of South Africa.
“I couldn’t pass up on the chance to explore and smell the thousands of plants that are only found in this small region of South Africa.”
How did you get involved?
I pitched the idea to Emily Bond, the Head of Fine Fragrances North America. She was immediately on board and it gave her the idea to start the collection of Road Stories. I did my background research on the location before leaving on what plants I could expect to find in late summer/ early autumn. I also reached out to Dr Roman Kaiser on what olfactively interesting plants I should look out for. A distinguished, retired colleague, he’s also the originator of our Scent Trek technology, a noted botanist and an intrepid world explorer.
When did you arrive in Cape Town?
How long did you spend in the city?
What were you expecting to discover before you arrived?
Through my research I was already expecting a dynamic city. It would have a lot to offer in terms of history, culture, art and design, with a backdrop of nature between the mountains and sea.
What did you actually discover?
That all of the above was massively amplified in real life! Stunning vistas, extremes of dry and wet, and an extremely diverse, laid-back and cool cosmopolitan city.
Who helped you make these discoveries?
I was lucky enough to have some friends living in Cape Town. They are themselves well-travelled nomads and showed us their favourite parts of the region. I used the information Roman provided, in addition to the amazing amount of information that’s available at the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens. It’s an impressive garden whose ethos is in preserving the region’s unique flora.
Do many South Africans know about these plants?
This is my question to you as a South African! [I don’t at all.]
“They were chosen specifically with the idea of adding to the perfumer’s palette. It’s similar to adding new colours to a painter’s palette.”
The fragrances that resulted from this visit really impressed me with their unique quality. They are so enticing! tell us more about this collection.
It was a perfumer’s dream – like being a kid in a candy store. There truly are so many beautiful plants – both visually and olfactively – to the point of sensory overload! It took a lot of time to edit to the 12 accords that are in the collection. They were chosen specifically with the idea of adding to the perfumer’s palette. It’s similar to adding new colours to a painter’s palette. I’m constantly astounded by nature’s version of perfumery and that was the true inspiration. With interesting combinations of aromatic with balsamic notes, surprising notes of gourmand, floral bouquets…these scents were chosen for being uniquely beautiful.
Will the fragrances be available commercially?
These are accords recreating what I found in nature, so they won’t be commercially available alone. But we are sharing the accords with the hope to transport both the stories and scents as staring points for a finished fragrance.
What else did you discover while you were in Cape Town?
This is one of my favourite cities in the world! I have an equal love for nature and urban environments and this city manages to beautifully marry both. You can go from surfing or hiking in the morning to being at a gallery or museum within minutes. There’s a beautiful aesthetic to the city that falls within a large range of being local, modern, quirky, hipster and classic. There truly is something for everyone and the discovery seems endless.
What perfume project are you working on now?
I’m working on developing finished fragrances with many of these accords, so stay tuned!
*All images, except of Cape Town, provided by Givaudan.