Interviews Sarah McCartney Speaks About Creating Macaque for Zoologist

Sarah McCartney Speaks About Creating Macaque for Zoologist

10/29/16 09:22:43 (7 comments)

by: Miguel Matos

Sarah portrait

Sarah McCartney is the oh-so-witty and talented perfumer behind the brand 4160 Tuesdays, but she is also responsible for the creation of Macaque, one of the latest perfumes in the Zoologist collection from Victor Wong. We met in Florence while she was exhibiting her own brand in Pitti Fragranze. I had a great time talking to her as she is very talkative and a very fun person. We were wearing flowers and we had to take a selfie, but we ended up talking about the process of creating Macaque while in a coffee shop near the event. Here's how our conversation went:

Sarah and Miguel

Sarah McCartney with Miguel Matos

Miguel Matos: Sarah, how did you end up working with Victor for Zoologist?

Sarah McCartney: I knew about the brand. One day he posted that he was shipping all these perfumes to other countries and I thought he was really good at getting his products in the shops. I thought he was someone I could work with, maybe. So I sent him a little message “are you interested in making a new perfume?” I thought he would answer saying that there was a line of 10 perfumers before me. But he answered like “omg are you kidding me? Am I dreaming?”

Macaque Bottle

Miguel: How did you start? From the animal?

Sarah: Actually making the perfume was less difficult than deciding on the animal. Because I had to align my way of working to his way of working. I was going to do a host of 10 different fragrances and see if any of those matched an animal. But his way of working is he has the animal in mind first. He has a collection and he knows where he wants to go with it. So he wanted me to chose an animal from a list he already had. After that he wanted to create moodboards and I prefer words. I can visualize from the words. Victor likes to put the pictures up there to create that kind of a mood. I told him he didn't have to send me a moodboard, but I let him do it anyway.


Miguel: Is this the first time that you were working for another brand?

Sarah: No, it's not. But quite often people come to me because I am me. But it's very good for me to adapt also.


Miguel: Who chose the monkey?

Sarah: Victor gave me a selection of animals. Because he already has an idea of what he wants to do. I just love monkeys, especially macaques and there are a number of different species. So I had this particular macaque in a particular place in mind. Then, we just had to decide what hierarchy the monkey was in the troop. Because that would make a big difference in his behaviour and the way that it would it is within the surroundings of the Japanese temple. So a lot of thought went into this, long before we had any idea of the scent.


Miguel: And what place does this macaque have in the hierarchy?

Sarah: Well, he's not quite the alpha male but he's more senior. He's not a baby or a naughty teenager. He is older but he is still a little bit naughty because he is still a monkey. He is playful. He is in his robe and in the temple atmosphere. It's quite interesting. I studied anthropoly and primatology in university. I actually studied monkeys. I like them so much...


Miguel: So everything makes sense here.

Sarah: But sometimes I find it incorrect assigning human characters to monkeys. They are very close to us but they're not human.


Miguel: We tend to humanize all animals.

Sarah: Yes, anthropomorphize. So this is still a monkey. Once we decided on the monkey, then it became really helpful when I saw the first illustration. Victor's idea was absolute perfection. I loved that monkey. It was my monkey. I was already working on it so I was able to get it just right after that.


Miguel: How was the process from seeing the image to creating the scent?

Sarah: I used a lot of materials for this. It's only when you finish the formula, that you go back and make it. When I looked at it I thought “oh god, I put that many notes in it?” I wanted to have fresh notes. I went for galbanum and also green tea. The Japanese temple atmosphere. And then I knew that Victor wanted an animalic, but monkeys are clean animals. So I went for incense burning inside the temple. And there are fruits and vegetables that the monkey had been eating. One of the top notes was celery but he couldn't stand it. Once he knew it was there he couldn't not know that, so I had to change it and it became more complicated. Victor warned me that he normally asks perfumers for lots of mods and there he comes to the point where he is about to make a decision and he tells me that he'd definitely go for this one. We finished at 9, which I think is quite a low number for him. He said he'd never smelled anything like it. “That's why I'm doing it for you, Victor, that's the point!” I said But can it be a monkey? The answer was yes!


Miguel: You also had to have the other perfumes of the collection in mind, because he has some very bold ones. Yours is not obvious, but it's also not as challenging as say, Bat or Panda.

Sarah: I actually find Panda to be the most wearable. I do like to push the boundaries but it's like having things in your record collection. Sometimes there is an important thing that you have to have in the collection, but you rarely play it. I wanted this perfume to be something that people would be really fond of. Not just to have it. I didn't set out to be outrageous or not outrageous. I set out to make a monkey in a temple.

Miguel Matos is a Portuguese journalist obsessed with perfume. Miguel likes to see himself as a fragrance curator, investigating perfume as contemporary art. He directs his own cultural magazine, Umbigo, and he has a background as an art critic. He is a vintage perfume collector and organizes regular talks called Vintage Perfume Sniffing. Honorable member of the International Perfume Bottle Association. He writes on beauty and grooming for Miguel is a Fragrantica writer, translator and editor of

Published: Marlen 

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Angela Agiannidou
Angela Agiannidou

It's great to see two very talented perfumers working together to a wonderful result. Iam glad I read this article. What has prevented me from trying this scent was the strong green apple note which would be the only thing my nose would have picked up and nothing else, still, I love galbanum and Incense and green tea. But,more than the notes I like the concept behind any Zoologist creation, the passion, creativity and fun approach to perfumery. Looking forward to more original gems from this brand.

Jitterbug Perfume Lover
Jitterbug Perfume Lover

I don't know if I love this perfume more, or both of your floral outfits more!! Thanks for a great article. I wish we could see the idea board as well.


Having recently acquired a sample of this fragrance I have to say this was a fantastic read. I absolutely loved the fragrance as soon as it hit my nose. She mentions the fruits and vegetable the monkey might eat, and while i certainly didn't pick up any veggies, it was the amazing blast of apples that caught me. This is one of the most amazing things I've ever smelled and it is truly special to read something straight from the creator. Thank you, Miguel for this wonderful piece. Cheers, everyone. Enjoy.


Macaque is really cool, lots of Galbanum and crisp green notes. Lovely!


I think Zoologist is on a great path. I hope to sample Macaque soon. I ordered samples just days before its release. :-(


Macaque is awesome and Zoologist is on a roll with this latest trio of releases. All three are sensational!

Congrats to Victor and to Sarah on their smashing success and thanks for telling us about it, Miguel!


Thank you Miguel for the interview. Reading this brings back all the fond memories of the development of this perfume!


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