Around the WORLD: Making Scents of Flavours with Benny Castles

BY SOPHIE CHUNG

From the ‘Gift of Kings,’ founded by the late Sultan of Oman to a snuff box that was sold aboard the Titanic … we get a taste of fragrances rich in history.

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20 JUL - 2021

Got itchy feet? Eat, drink and smell your way around the world with Benny.

Following the successful Fragrance Vs Cocktail Vs Canape event with Visa Wellington On A Plate in 2020, Benny Castles has curated yet another experience that amalgamates the sensualities of flavour and fragrance.

Back in mid-April for the Visa WOAP media preview event, we were invited to experience a multi-course olfactive and culinary showdown in the Auckland WORLD store. Pairing each course with a matching beverage and perfume, we were given not only a sensorial tour in taste but also through the ages with historic stories around each selected fragrance.

Educating us lowly plebs in the much finer things of life, Benny shared his unlimited understanding and knowledge of the olfactory world and their roots. Rather than pushing fleeting trend-based fragrances marketed to the mass public, Benny took us on a mind-bending journey full of fragrances that would resonate with people via the story they told.

Today, we’re going to up our level of education in niche fragrances and learn about the iconic scents through the eras that Visa WOAP will take you through this year.

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Fragrance Vs Cocktail Vs Canape 2020

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What was the WORLD event like last year?

Our 2020 event was Called Fragrance Vs Cocktail Vs Canape. We were simply expanding on our existing Fragrance Masterclass concept which we practice across the country in small private classes as well as in lecture sittings. We approached brand friends J.M.R Cocktails and the Canapé Company who are both based in Wellington. Each brought such energy, intelligence and elegance to the planning and execution, it completely transformed our expectations. The night was such a success and we had so much fun playing the battle of the senses - we have expanded and are a part of Wellington on a Plate again this year!

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Who are you collaborating with this year and what can we expect?

We are collaborating with the same people - Lisa and her team at the Canape Company and Amy and the group from J.M.R Cocktails. They were both quick to jump back on board this year adding further ideas, expertise and inspiration. We have decided upon a theme this year...Around the WORLD…

We felt, as we are not travelling, we could travel in our minds, using smells, stories and flavours. This travel will not only be about place but also time, in which we will bring to life fragrances with historic relevance and personality; like a new scent which tells the tale of the Pearl of the Euphrates heralded during the period when the Silk Road was a major trade route from China to Arabia and on to Europe. We will live with a friend of the original perfumer outside of Cairo in 1935 and give a sacrifice of flowers and copal incense to the Aztec Gods in the year 1400 on the island city of Tenochtitlan...all the while, we will be sampling the cuisine and cocktails inspired by these places and fragrances.

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What is the creative process when working with bartenders and chefs to put the menu together?

We work collaboratively from the outset - the concept, theme and direction is workshopped in unison. We then take our partners through a perfume experience to let their creative juices flow. We then swap in and out scents and flavours as we bring together the final menu. Where we are so lucky, each partner brings their own character and interpretation so it forces the whole group to adjust, bounce ideas and look at the concept from different angles. Our fragrance stories are embellished and lifted up by the Canapé Company's interpretation and the J.M.R Cocktails provide the elegant exclamation!

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Amouage Epic

We have a scent by the house of Amouage founded by the late Sultan of Oman that traces the steps of his country's histories and local produce. Known as the 'Gift of Kings,' the Sultan developed the original scents as expressions of his nation so he could gift it to important visitors to Oman.

Each scent includes the nation's biggest export - Silver Frankincense - an ingredient commonly too expensive for most makers to use in their scent production. We will be profiling Epic, the scent of the Silk Road this year at WOAP.

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Amouage Epic, $499.

Clive Christian 1872 Masculine

We have a scent that takes us back to 1872, by Clive Christian, and speaks of the pastures of England. In the year 1900, they were selling up to a million snuff boxes of the scent and it was an item you could purchase aboard the Titanic.

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Clive Christian 1872 Masculine, $499.

Viadeimille Mandorlo

We have a Sicilian family story that harks back to a grandfather's passion that began in 1950 and has been re-enlivened by his grandson, spurred on by family stories shared around the dinner table of fabled scents made for wedding days and visiting nobles.

We will be highlighting a unique almond scent unlike anything in-store.

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Viadeimille Mandorlo $299.

Lubin Gajah Mada

The brand Lubin dates back to 1796 and was at one stage, was the world's largest fragrance exporter pre-WW1 and now creates the highest quality of scents using only the finest ingredients found from Java to Paris.

We are celebrating one of their most recent scents inspired by the Javanese General Gajah Mada, who would offer burning flowers and incense to the Gods before battle.

That's just a taste...

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Lubin Gajah Mada, $579.

As WORLD’s fragrances are not classified by gender, how would you recommend someone go about selecting their signature fragrance?

The idea of sex in fragrance is a concept built on advertising and is just another way to categorise us... you'd never walk into a garden and ask which are the women's and which are the men's flowers...so why do we do it with scent?

First and foremost, it is important to have thought a little about what kind of scents you like and how certain smells make you feel - confident, sexy, fun, serious, powerful, flirty? - and how will you be wearing this scent. You should have a wardrobe, I think. Is it for work, or evenings out, or is it for a special occasion?

Secondly, you should make sure to shop at a retailer who you have some trust in and has some expertise in scent...um, WORLD...but in any environment, the sales team are there to assist you so make sure you are getting quality service to help narrow down your options.

But, in the end it is your choice. There are no rules but a couple of guides. Be sure to try the scent on your skin and shop with instinct...as soon as you begin to overthink, you are lost!

Select, with the sales person, 3-5 scents that sound like you and you find some connection to - like, who made it and why, what are the notes or does the bottle speak to you - then smell them on a card, finalising down to two and trying one on each hand.

Allow a few moments for it to dry or until you feel the fragrance is taking part with your skin... and then, choose with your gut! If neither is right, start again! Fragrance is like a pair of sunglasses, they choose you as much as you choose them!

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How does one know when a fragrance suits them or not?

Is there even such a thing? Coco Chanel maintained that fragrance is our ultimate accessory - they should add to our mood, like a perfectly fitting suit or a fabulous pair of high heels - but fragrance is so much more personal, it lives on our skin, it can announce us before we enter a room or it can be the way people remember us!

The only satisfaction a fragrance shopper should be concerned with is how that scent makes you feel. You are not wearing it for anyone else, you are wearing it for yourself so only you know if it suits you.

When you try an outfit in a store, does the mirror image look like the part of you that you love best? That is when you are shopping best, so to equate that to scent does that smell make you feel like your favourite part of yourself? Suit yourself I say!

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