> Skip to content

Article  •  18 September 2019

 

Laurence Fearnley's signature perfume

In Scented, our protagonist Siân, fascinated by the art of perfumery from childhood and recently made redundant from her job, decides to build her signature scent note by note in an effort to better understand her identity. 

We asked Laurence Fearnley, the author of Scented, to tell us about four scents from her life that she might put in to her own signature perfume. 

Scent provides an important gateway to our memories and links to childhood: the smell of sun-dried cotton sheets, chlorine on hot concrete beside the school pool, eucalyptus on a dry hillside, or kelp at the high-tide mark. But scent also helps us to engage with our surroundings and tap into the present, the here and now. Scent invites us to attend to our natural environment. Like Siân, I am interested in smell, scent and perfume, and for years I have kept a scent diary, jotting down lists of smells I encounter each day and mapping plant locations. I would find it impossible to make a signature scent as my preferences change daily, according to my mood, the seasons, the temperature, and my surroundings.

So, my selection of four scents relates to my morning walk home, via the Dunedin Botanic gardens, after dropping my car off for a WOF in town.

1. Kāretu (Hierochloe redolens). This looks like a large clump of green grass, the type of long bladed grass that could be mistaken for a weed, or part of an unkempt lawn. But it has an incredible scent when picked and dried — Māori used it woven into neckpieces and belts (it is similar to sweet grass, buffalo grass and holy grass used in Europe and North America). The smell is a combination of a plump vanilla pod and gorse-like coconut, mixed with fresh hay. Coumarin is the chemical responsible for the scent.

2. Mairehau (Phebalium nudum). I crushed a few leaves from this bush in my fingers — turning them green —and sniffed as I walked up the hill towards home. The opening scent is strong, almost like turpentine. After a few minutes it mellows and become vaguely herbal and soapy. But after five or ten minutes magic happens and the scent transforms to something warm and spicy, like cinnamon and nutmeg. Again, a very important ingredient in Māori medicine and perfume.

3. Broom (Cytisus scoparius) and gorse both grow on the unkempt grass banks along my street, and at the moment they are in flower. Both bushes have an almost-creamy, pollen-honey aspect, but broom also surprises with a slight hint of spearmint (particularly noticeable on hot mornings after a strong dew) whereas gorse is more vanilla-coconut, like Krispie biscuits.

4. You can’t really talk about scent and spring in Dunedin without mentioning rhododendrons and magnolias. After a cool winter, the blooms on these trees seem somehow ‘lively’: sweet like jasmine but fresher and more vigorous, filling the air with their floral scent. One of the magical things about scent is that it carries on the air, and tracking down the source of the smell can be an entertainment in itself.

5. Finally, let’s celebrate the scent of books and second-hand bookshops. The dusty, woody scent of old paper. Add cedar shavings from sharp pencils and you have a perfect scent experience — for free!


Scented Laurence Fearnley

A fascinating novel about following one's nose . . .

Buy now
Buy now

More features

See all
Book clubs
Scented - book club guide

Laurence Fearnley shares her process for writing Scented along with discussion points, ideas and questions for your next book club meeting. 

Article
The easy breathing technique that will help reduce your anxiety

These five easy steps will teach you how to do square breathing for anxiety. Using this simple mindfulness tool can help lower your heart rate and curb anxious thoughts the moment they arise.

Article
Find your perfect winter read!

Temperatures are dropping, the nights are getting darker and it’s the perfect time to find a cozy spot to curl up with a good book . . .

Article
Lynette Noni shares sage advice for developing lifelike characters

Lynette Noni, bestselling author of YA fantasy The Prison Healer trilogy shares how she creates unforgettable characters that feel like real people.

Article
Real readers review: Faraway Girl

What do NZ YA fans really think of Fleur Beale's latest book?

Article
QUIZ: Which Emily Henry book should you read?

If you're a fan of contemporary romance with humour and wit, you've probably heard of Emily Henry - find out which of her novels you should pick up with this handy quiz!

Article
The book that gets teenagers reading

International bestselling author Karen M. McManus is known for her high school thrillers

Article
3 tips to help flatten your glucose curves

For most of us, energy peaks and troughs throughout the day are something we accept as part of life – but what if it didn’t have to be that way?

Article
Meet the family at the centre of our must-have whodunnit

The Cunninghams don't really get along, and every one of them has killed someone. Meet the family to help you find the culprit.

Article
The Origin of Elizabeth Zott

Bonnie Garmus shares the Inspiration behind her uncompromising and unconventional character, Elizabeth Zott!

Article
How to start your own book club

Book clubs are a great way to get to talk about the books you’re reading with friends, they can also help you read across new genres. Here are a few tips from the Penguin New Zealand team about how to get started.

Article
Build better habits in 4 simple steps

Does changing a habit seem like a daunting task? Atomic Habits author James Clear has four simple steps for making it stick.

Looking for more articles?

See all articles