The power of aroma in a whisky scent

Time of article published Sep 12, 2011

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Sit in a quiet room. Close your eyes. And breathe in concentrating on the aromas you’re inhaling. What can you smell? Is that the fresh tang of spring jasmine? What about the deep spiciness of your wooden desk? Can you smell your Jamaican coffee blend, waiting for you to embrace it before you take that first sip of the day?

Our sense of smell is one to which we pay scant attention to in the midst of the hurly burly of daily life, yet is the one to which some of our most treasured memories are linked.

International perfume icon Roja Dove chose his career at an early age after noticing how his mother’s fragrance lingered in his bedroom long after her departure. Now the world’s leading Professor de Parfums, Dove has taken his passion for all things olfactory to exclusive heights, with his Roja Dove Haute Perfumerie at Harrods, and his partnership with whisky distillers, The Macallan.

In an interview with The Independent (UK), Dove explains his passion for bespoke perfumes thus: “I read a newspaper article recently that said a very famous French perfume is now sold every 15 seconds. Most peoples’ perceptions of that perfume would be that it is a luxury brand. I would say that anything selling every 15 seconds is a mass market product. So, for me, true luxury is about a product that is, maybe, hard to find, something that has an intrinsic quality, and that, by the very nature of what it is, can never exist in large volumes. It’s something you have to go out of your way to get.”

And Dove does indeed go out of his way to identify the unusual - it can take up to three years for him and his highly trained perfumiers at his Harrod’s boutique to craft a bespoke fragrance. He takes his passion for fragrance further than the commercial too - in his pursuit of the unusual, he carefully prepared a small flagon of the fragrance worn by Marie Antoinette when its formula was unearthed, allowing visitors to the Harrod’s outlet a small aromatic insight into the 18th century French court.

“The premise of my Haute Perfumerie in Harrods is to ensure that the great luxury perfumes of the world don’t disappear. It’s (also) vitally important to have culture checks and extremes. It is impossible to distinguish and appreciate one scent without comparing it to another,” Dove explained.

When he met The Macallan’s whisky maker, Bob Delgarno, Dove was intrigued by the floral, almost rose-like tones within the exclusive distiller’s products. “For me, one of the most fascinating things about nosing a whisky is the diffusion; the first impact you have straight out of the glass, and also the stability, or if you like, the finish and development that you find,” he told Whisky Magazine.

This intrigue – and his belief that scents are best appreciated when compared to one another - led to a partnership between the world’s leading perfumier and the luxury whisky brand, The Macallan.

Working with David Cox, director of brand education at The Macallan, Dove created The Macallan Aroma Box, a collection of 12 scents that help whisky drinkers identify the olfactory highlights in the distiller’s range of products. The first six scents showcase the more common characteristics of whisky, arranged in pairs of opposites to intrigue and educate on the power of aroma, while the next six represent Dove’s interpretation of the essential sensory character of The Macallan matured in Spanish oak, sherry seasoned casks and American oak casks, seasoned with both sherry and bourbon.

“One of the things I find most frustrating about the way whisky is described is the level of parochialism with the terminology used - things like ‘peaty’ or ‘Christmas cake’ don’t really mean anything to an audience where peat doesn’t exist, or where there’s no such thing as a Christmas cake,” he says.

If your “nose buds” are tantalised by the thought of experiencing The Macallan Aroma Box, you don’t need to schedule it into your next trip to the United Kingdom. Local brand ambassador for The Macallan, The Famous Grouse and Highland Park, Candice Baker, will present The Aroma Box, at The Macallan Maturation Zone during this year’s FNB Whisky Live Festival, which is taking place in Cape Town and Johannesburg in November 2011.

“The FNB Whisky Live Festival has always been about the passion for and unravelling the mystery around whisky, and we’re thrilled that we have been able to secure this exclusive opportunity for South African whisky lovers to experience,” Baker says. “Visitors to The Macallan Maturation Zone will learn to identify and describe the 12 key aromas created by Roja Dove. They will also understand how wood affects the colour, flavour and fragrances of The Macallan’s different expressions.”

While experiencing Roja Dove’s olfactory genius displayed in The Macallan Aroma Box is as simple as a trip to this year’s FNB Whisky Live Festival the privilege of having your own Roja Dove bespoke fragrance will take a little longer ... and you will have to pop into Harrod’s for that one!

* The FNB Whisky Live Festival takes place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre from 2 – 4 November (18h00 to 22h00 daily) and at the Sandton Convention Centre, from 9 – 11 November (18h00 – 22h00 daily).

Three workshops will be held each evening in The Macallan Maturation Zone – a dedicated area within the main Tasting Hall – and will operate on a first come, first serve basis.

A variety of ticket options will be available for purchase via the website - - from mid-September 2011. The organisers suggest you book early to avoid disappointment.

For more information please visit the website or e-mail [email protected]

* The FNB Whisky Live Festival promotes responsible drinking. No persons under the age of 18 years old will be allowed into the Tasting Hall. Designated driver tickets are available with discounted food vouchers and a bottle of Valpré mineral water included in the ticket price. Various chauffeur driven and drive responsibly initiatives will be on hand to ensure that everyone in your party is able to have a good time. Part of the ticket proceeds will continue to be donated to The Foundation of Alcohol Related Research.

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