ISSUE 25  |  Bath & Spa Style

World’s Least Likely Perfumer?

June 18, 2012 10:30 AM

BY Alexa Hotz

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Ben Gorham studied business, interior design, and fine arts (with a detour into basketball) before finding his true calling: perfume, in all its complexities. His mission? Translating abstract memories into scents.

Gorham apprenticed with a French perfumer in New York before he founded Byredo, a unisex fragrance house with a name derived from redolence. "I have always been fascinated by the world of fragrance and its effect on my memories and impressions," Gorham says. The memories are complex but the construction is clean, drawing upon a Swedish ethos of simplicity, with each fragrance created with five to ten raw ingredients. Encens Chembur is inspired by a picnic spot just outside of Mumbai, where his mother was born and raised; Green is the essence of green beans, an aroma he associates with memories of Paris in the 1970s.

A few weeks ago, I spent a Sunday afternoon at the Barneys perfume counter talking top notes with fragrance manager/enthusiast Josh Karzai and sampling the full range of the Byredo scent. I settled on Accord Oud, a scent built around leather and blond woods, blackberry and saffron, and oud—a dark resin from the Aquilaria tree. As Karzai noted, in Sanskrit Vedas and Arabic culture, oud is known as the scent of heaven.

N.B.: For more on Gorham, go to Into the Gloss.

Above: The heavily inked perfumer Ben Gorham; his fragrance M/Mink (a collaboration with M/M in Paris), is inspired by Japanese calligraphy.

Above: Seven Veils recalls the story of Salome's dance and is a layering of carrot, pimento berries, and vanilla bean; $145 to $220. Bal D'Afrique features bergamot, African marigolds, and Moroccan cedar wood; $145 to $220.

Above: Gorham also offers a paraben-free Body Care line in each Byredo scent: (from right to left) La Tulipe Body Cream ($100), Wash ($50), Lotion ($65), and Soap Bar ($28), from Byredo.

Above: Think Les Fleurs du Mal: Baudelaire has ingredients of juniper, hyacinth, and black amber; $145 to $220. Pulp evokes a mix of fruit (fig, red apple, and peach flower); $145 to $220.

Above: Home Fragrances feature everything from bitter orange to rice powder to bois de rose. Photograph by David Mallet.