In late September,with the Capital! Steampunk group, I spent an hour and a half at Fragifert: a small, exquisite boutique perfumery in Wellington. It was a wonderful way to beguile a rainy, early spring afternoon.
Francesco van Eerd, the master perfumer at Fragifert, shows us German camomile extract – which is naturally blue!
For visitors, Fragifert is conveniently located at the top of the Kelburn cable car next to the Botanic Gardens. To Wellington perfumistas, I say: don’t be dismayed by its tourist-target location. Visitors make Fragifert sustainable as a business, but behind the fantastical Victorian displays is a deep love and knowledge of perfume as an art. Francesco van Eerd, the perfumer and proprietor, has studied in Europe and got started in Wellington’s markets before establishing his salon and expanding his range.
Van Eerd enjoys visitors, and gave us a tour and shared a video of the Fragifert concept with us. Serious perfumistas were delighted by the distilling technology, and felt our fingers itch when we looked at his “perfumer’s organ” desk.
Fragifert’s recreation of a “perfume organ” – the classic center for composing and creating scents from base notes.
You can have a sample…but you need to work for it by getting 4 out of 7 results right in an interactive fragrance quiz! We worked our way through the scents hiding in the bell jars on the wall. I was shocked to only get the minimum number right, as was my botanically knowledgeable partner.
A friend who won a sample after running the fragrance gauntlet.
Scented paper slips awaited us, but many of the fragrances underwent a profound transformation on our skins. Our favorites were the seasonal Autumn and Winter scents, velvety Satrape, and the newer men’s scents. The on-note single botanicals also had their fans. Violet and carnation spurred us to discuss popular Victorian perfumes. “This lilac! It smells exactly like the lilac growing outside my window when I was a little girl.”
For our group, Fragifert’s most controversial scent of all was the gorse botanical fragrance. “Oh, I love this. It smells like summer.” “I HATE this – it reminds me of cutting gorse, that’s a pig of a job!” We detected the warm note of gorse in the Autumn scent.
Prepared fragrance slips: a great way to share many scents with a group of 15 people.
Capital!Steampunk dressed for the occasion – between the rain and the fact that I had just come from a photo shoot for a web client, I didn’t. We were all welcome, though those who were in their steampunk finery looked perfect in the jewel-box of a shop. Afterwards, everyone was invited by Capital!Steampunk to a hotel high tea.
I was sadly short of photos of steampunk attendees on the day, but here’s a handsome couple, with the lady in red the mistress-mind of Steaming Stiches and Elisabeth vM.
Fragifert is launching a unique, custom-distilled NZ botanical range later this Antipodean spring, and provides perfumer’s workshops if you want to make your own unique scent. I’m going to sound like a commercial here but with the holidays coming, Fragifert’s scents are great unique gifts to send overseas in small packages. Important now that NZ Post has raised their rates, and now that I have bombarded my relatives and friends with fifteen years’ worth of merino, tinned butter, wildlife and plant magnets, and other Kiwiana.
More fanciful Fragifert furbelows