The aroma is overpowering but deeply sensuous – like being hit in the face with a velvet pillow stuffed with rose petals. Surely the scent of every flower imaginable is here, infused with the heady essence of darker, musky fragrances my untrained nose refuses to identify. That’s my first impression upon entering Damask Perfumery – one of only a few perfume development laboratories in Australia.
My second notion is that I’ve fallen into the pages of a Victorian gothic novel. Adjoining the lab is a candle-lit parlour with strange statues, gilt mirrors and glass bottles of gem-coloured potions, glinting in the shifting light. The only thing missing is a mad scientist. Enter master scent-maker Jonathon Midgley looking uncannily like a character from the pen of Shelley or Stoker, with his long grey hair and penchant for wearing black.
Jonathon is the owner of Damask Perfumery, a man obsessed with perfume-making and gothic glamour, in that order. At his monthly Scented Soirees, like-minded guests are invited to drink champagne and nibble fine cheese in a darkly elegant setting while Jonathon offers his latest fragrances for their olfactory consideration. Sample cards sprayed with ‘Hathor’ (named for an ancient Egyptian goddess) are wafted under our noses while Jonathon reveals the scent’s exotic constituents, including Oriental lily, jasmine, ambergris and bergamot.
The full range of Damask perfumes are also on hand for wrist-testing, and if a scent really captures your heart, then your own bottle can be prepared in the lab while you wait. A tour of said laboratory is part of this other-worldly experience – including the compounding room where Jonathon’s perfume creations are brought to life by his assistant, a lovely woman named Giselle. No, not an Igor in sight.