Ruth Mastenbroek was born in England and graduated with a degree in chemistry from Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford University, Ruth trained and worked as a perfumer with Naarden International (now Givaudan) in the UK and the Netherlands, She worked in Japan and perfume capital Grasse before returning to England, where Ruth created fragrances for brands like Jo Malone, She founded her own perfumery company, Fragosmic Ltd, in 2003, the year she became president of the British Society of Perfumers.
Ruth has her own niche brand of three beautiful fragrances, Under her Fragosmic banner she loves creating bespoke personal care and home fragrances for some iconic British brands.
Q. What comes first when you’re creating a fragrance for a brand: creativity or science?
A. Perfumery is a blend of art and science: flair in using ingredients so that they shine, confident that they will be stable and long-lasting, A fragrance makes a brand live and breathe – so creativity is absolutely paramount! Everything about a brand has to line up perfectly, with the fragrance expressing the personality of the brand, There is no way a perfumer can do that without being creative, Science, in the form of understanding how ingredients interact and perform on the skin and in the product, is also important, but it all starts with a creative mindset.
Q. Is it difficult to put your personal preferences aside when you’re devising fragrances for brands?
A. When I create a fragrance for a brand, I am putting myself in the shoes (nose??) of the customer, I want to be able to appreciate the scent from his/her perspective, At the same time, I never let a fragrance leave my studio unless I completely believe in it, I have been very lucky to work with some fabulous brands that have challenged me creatively to explore new accords, Sometimes I prefer one version of a theme to another, but the intrinsic accord will be one that both the brand and I can stand behind.
Q. What specific inspirations work best for you – images, music, places, people, objects?
A. I often listen to music while I am ‘composing’ my formulations, and find works of art and sculpture very stimulating, especially colour and texture, I think that’s one of the reasons the Prismologie range so appealed to me, I am inspired by places, especially the outdoors: the sea, green countryside, mountains – the majestic and infinite features of our world, Probably most of all, I am inspired by the raw materials I work with, It is such a joy to experiment with new combinations of ingredients and discover an unexpected result!
Q. Explain how fragrance can affect mood helping to relax or uplift.
A. Our sense of smell is closely linked to our emotions, Aromas act upon the emotional centre in the brain (the limbic system) which governs the way we feel, Down the centuries, essential oils have been found to either stimulate the nervous system – these may be uplifting, such as lemon, or calming and soothing, such as rose and cedarwood, Certain oils – bergamot and cedarwood, have more than one effect, as they tend to balance the emotions.
Q. What trends are happening in fragrance – unisex, specific ingredients?
A. Unisex is definitely the biggest trend we are seeing at the moment, with men and women appreciating a beautiful fragrance and identifying with the part of it that particularly appeals to them, Wood notes like patchouli, vetivert, and even oudh are being explored in new ways, while the rose is the dominant flower – especially in women’s fragrance, Gourmand notes and light florals like freesia are also gaining ground, while fresh tea notes like bergamot continue to have a universal appeal.
Q. Is there a specific way of working or place of work that helps you to be creative, or is much of your work lab-based, or is it a combination of both?
A. I have a studio next door to my lab where I tend to create most of my fragrances, Of course, I am always ready 24-7 to write down an idea that grabs me, This could be while out walking, just before I fall asleep, or during a classical concert! My studio is on the ground floor of my house, looking out onto the garden, where I have lots of rose bushes planted, as well as honeysuckle and night-flowering jasmine, In moments of reflection, I can wander out into the rose garden, or just sit and contemplate it while I smell different trials and think about how I want to modify a fragrance idea, I tend to write out a formula, make it up in my lab and try it out in product, Then I will make any modifications until I have achieved the effect I am looking for, The great thing about working for myself is that I can change the formula even as I work, making tiny tweaks as I go along.
Q. What was your thought and creative process for the Prismologie range?
A. I was very much drawn to the clear, dramatic colours that were the foundation of the concept, Translating each colourway into a fragrance theme that evoked something extremely natural while also being sophisticated and modern, I was inspired by my conversations with the founders, I wanted to focus on a single fragrance note, such as rose, but I wanted it to be fuller, radiant, scintillating, so I used some amber, honey, and wood notes to expand on the theme while staying true to the Rose concept.