Interviews Perfume Down Under: An Interview with Samantha Taylor, Fragrance Specialist

Perfume Down Under: An Interview with Samantha Taylor, Fragrance Specialist

09/14/16 22:40:48 (2 comments)

by: Yi Shang

When my interest in perfume bloomed a few years ago, I had heard from a friend over a few cocktails about this amazing lady whose job was to educate people about perfume and help clients creating scent for their businesses. It sounded like a dream job for a perfume lover!  My memory faded after a few more drinks, but fortunately, Marlen’s This Week in Fragrance article got fragrance specialist Samantha Taylor, from The Powder Room, and I together, chatting about how she carved out her own path into what she is so passionate about, her collaboration with Bombay Sapphire, and the link between perfume, food and drinks.

I met up with Sam at The Powder Room office, in one of the heritage shopping areas in Melbourne - Cathedral Arcade. 

Heritage Building Cathedral Arcade in Melbourne

Yi Shang: Hi Sam, please tell us a bit about your journey in the perfume world, and The Powder Room.

Samantha Taylor: I’ve been around for about eight years. I started in 2008 as a distributor. It was when I came home to Australia. I had lived in London before that, I worked for Miller Harris, Penhaligon’s, and Floris. I wanted to start a distribution business, which I did for probably four, maybe five years and I just found that people don’t know brands.  So later on I was actually holding perfume master classes, teaching people about the brands I was working for. Then I thought, I only have a couple of brands and it’s really not enough to sustain my business the way I want to go. So I stopped distributing all together, and I started focusing on education. So now I hold perfume master classes, help brands create fragrance, teach people how to sell perfume…anything fragrant really.

About a year and a half ago, I started working with a French company called Cinquieme Sens, they are the global leader in perfume education, and I’m their Australian and New Zealand representative. So for the perfume class, all my raw materials come from France. People don’t know you can come in and do a beautiful little perfumer’s palette master class with me. This is something I really want people in Australia to know about. So it’s been a really interesting journey!

Samantha Taylor fragrance specialist of The Powder Room
Fragrance specialist Samantha Taylor

YS: Despite the fact that you’ve helped create perfume for brands, you address yourself as a fragrance specialist, instead of a perfumer. Why?

ST: I guess because I’m not a perfumer. I’ve worked with too many perfumers and I have too much respect for their craft, their skill and the training they go through. My role is not to create a fragrance myself; my role is to help a brand to bring to life their fragrance. So I’m kind of their connector. So if you said to me, "Hey Sam, I want to create a fragrance," then I’ll let you tell me about what kind of fragrance you want, tell me about who you see wearing it, how it fits into your brand… I’ll then create a brief around that, and brief the perfumers, I’m the mediator.

YS: How is working as a mediator?

ST: Sometimes it can be quite difficult to translate what the client wants into the language the perfumer uses. So basically I work with a perfumer, to create a fragrance, which is a commercially viable product. I worked with a brand to find packaging, I oversee the fill process with my perfume filler here in Melbourne, I worked with marketing to create the packaging, if they want to sell overseas, I work on the registration of the products... I kind of do more than what a perfumer does in the sense of bringing a brand to life. Therefore even though I know a bit about it, and I can create a fragrance, that’s not my skill set. My skill is more on the commercial marketing end, of bringing brands to life.

People don’t know you can come in and do a beautiful little perfumer’s palette master class with me. This is something I really want people in Australia to know about. 

YS: Wow, I see. I guess a brand would need a very good manager juggling things, dealing with the nitty-gritty.

ST: Yeah, that’s right, and my passion has always been teaching people about the art and love of fragrance. I guess, at least you are in the perfume world, but most people don’t think about their perfume much; they wear that perfume because their husbands gave it to them and they wear it for twenty years. My mission is always to get people to think differently about their fragrance, to really understand that their fragrance can tell their own personal story.

YS: I see. Just out of curiosity, do you ever create any perfume?

ST: No. I always take it to a professional, always, always. I make my own sometimes since I have lots of raw materials. Even if I was to ever create a product of my own, I would always leave it to a trained master perfumer.

YS: Many Fragrantica readers read about your collaboration with Bombay Sapphire. Can you share a bit more with us about the project?

ST: Would you like to smell it?

YS: Yes!

ST: Well, how it all came about is, I’ve been obsessed with the synergy between perfume and alcohol for years. It all started when I was working for Miller Harris in London. It was about 2006, I went to a wine tasting, and I was chatting to a staff member of Matthew Jukes’, who is a wine specialist. We thought it would be very great to do something about wine and perfumes, and we ended up doing that. There’s so much synergy between alcohol and perfume in the sense of the skill it takes to blend the raw materials…

Bar full of alcohol bottles

So I’ve done perfume and whisky master classes, perfume and champagne master classes, and last year I went to Project Botanicals, and they had these amazing images of all their ten materials. And I thought this is perfume! They contacted me earlier this year, and it all started off literally just creating fragrance for Bombay Sapphire, and then it stretched out to so much more. Then I worked with a perfumer to create this fragrance. It utilizes all ten botanicals from the gin, so obviously you can pick up the citrus, probably juniper, it’s quite green, almost piney, and there’s a touch of orris there, a touch of floral note there as well but it’s very subtle. There’s a touch of licorice to give it that warmth. What is very dominant in the base is cubeb and grains of paradise. Yeah, they are not two ingredients used in perfumery often, so we had to recreate the scent of these botanicals. Grains of paradise is like black pepper with a touch of lavender. Cubeb is quite like all spice with that rich cinnamon-y sort of scent. And there is cassia…Overall it’s very clean, very fresh…

YS: Yeah I can totally see this appear to many guys.

ST: And to a woman as well. They aimed for a unisex fragrance that is broadly appealing. I presented three to them and this is the one they chose.

Bombay Sapphire

YS: So… does this mean we’ll see Bombay Sapphire selling this perfume?

ST: No, it’s just a limited edition to be used for the Project Botanicals. All the press that attended the launch would’ve received a bottle of this. The Project Botanicals do some events every year; I think this is their third year in Melbourne. It is there to educate people about Bombay Sapphire, to let people know they choose the very best of the ten botanicals that go into their gin. It’s a food and gin pairing event. We had all the ten cocktails and all the ten dishes went with it. 

A bottle of Bombay Sapphire with some raw material displayed behind

YS: Wow, sounds great! I’ll make a note for myself to check it out.

ST: It is between 8th -18th September this year. It’s an incredibly great value for only $50 AUD, and it gets you two cocktails and food. They do such great job as a team.

YS: Talking about food, you just did an event with the Lûmé restaurant. It was a multisensory dinner experience held on the 16th August, a collaboration between chef Shaun Quade and you. For those of us who missed out, can you share with us a bit about the dinner?

ST: Yes. It was a very cool event, going along my obsessions with wine, cocktails, whiskey, and perfume. How I came across the Lûmé? Actually it was their bartender who contacted me via LinkedIn. I love the restaurant, I heard all about it, and I’m dying to go there. He said, ‘we really like what you do’, and I said that I’d really like to do something with food and cocktails. So he said ‘come in and chat with us.’ So the event was called ‘A Road Trip Around Australia’. Their food is just mind-blowingly good. Basically, they focused on a food item that they really loved and built a dish around it. And I picked a scent that made you feel you are in that space. For example, Byron Bay is famous for its coffee. So they created this amazing dish that looked like a veggie patch with all these fresh vegetables and edible dirt, and we rubbed this smell of wet dirt on the plate it came out with. And we also had mini urns of the scent of Arabic coffee. So it kind of placed you in that space and made you think about it.

Chef Shaun QuadeChef Shaun Quade

YS: I can understand creating scents for dishes now. I’m aware that you also match perfume with wine, how does that work?

ST: Yeah. It is a bit tricky. When I first shopped this idea around a lot of places, they were all like, "It is just weird." Because when you go to a wine tasting event, you are not suppose to wear fragrance because it interacts with your sense of smell with the wine. So what I do is, basically, we pick out some of the aromas profiled in the wine and we match it with scents. A lot of people don’t really know what berries smell like, they don’t know what hay smells like… so we pick out those kinds of aromas to educate them what they smell in their wine. But also, sometimes you can pick out a really beautiful smell that matches the wine fragrance. A beautiful rich spicy pinot noir, for example, would go amazingly with Chergui by Serge Lutens. So you just have to suspend belief a little bit. You can pick up these notes in there, you can pick out the richness, the spice, the warmth and the berries. And as you drink your wine, it helps to you isolate different notes in the wine. So we did a event with a friend of mine, who owns a restaurant on Southbank, one of their biggest wine supplies is this stony wine. The wine maker was like, "I don’t get it Sam, this is just really weird." But in the end he said, "I get it now, I smell wine really differently now, and I want you to make me an aroma set for me to keep behind the cellar door so we can educate people." I’m still working on that. This wine maker saw this as a way to educate people, but also, just to elevate the experience, do something different.

YS: I’m so glad I asked. Anything else you’d love to share with us?

ST: I think I’ve spoken a great deal. [laugh] I just got so excited when people come to talk to me about perfume. I think the main thing I’d be most interested in sharing is the Master Classes. People in Australia don’t know we have master classes, direct from France. I do work with shopping centers, but I do want to reach in to the perfume community and let them know that this is here. And even to people who don’t know much about perfume, this is a great way to educate, and help you to find your next fragrance. I like Michael Edwards, who is amazing; he is the expert’s expert. But for me, I want to reach out more to people who don’t necessarily know a lot about perfume. Just give them the basics of perfume, how to shop for perfume. So they appreciate every bottle of perfume is an art form.

YS: Will the Melbournians see you in a shopping centre sometime soon?

ST: Fingers crossed. We are working with one of Melbourne’s major shopping centres, hopefully I’ll be there sometime around Xmas. There can be a few ways I work with a shopping centre. It can be the place people make their own fragrance, people really love that, and it’s such a fun experience. Or I create a fragrance for them. Or we basically incorporated a fragrance into the trends, so I matched fragrances with whatever fashion they were working with, so it was almost like perfume styling. In this case, generally, I work with the latest release fragrances available in the shopping centre, they pay me to be there, and drive the sales for them.


Thank you to Samantha for sharing her journey in the perfume industry with us!
You can visit The Powder Room website to learn more or book yourself into a workshop.

Image credit: Yi Shang, EatMyWords, and The Gourmet Traveller

Yi Shang (怡 商)

Editor, Writer & Translator,

Yi Shang, known as Sofia by friends, studied Biochemistry, Humanities & Social Sciences at the postgraduate level (University of Melbourne). Her interest in fragrance began at a young age when she became curious about her mum's perfume while growing up in China. Now residing in Melbourne, she enjoys the lively arts and cultural scene and beautiful beaches. The discovery of Fragrantica has led her on an olfactive journey of discovering what both the Oriental and the Western worlds can offer.


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Thank you Nellista. I had such a good time at Castle Towers.


I did a little "create your signature pefume" session with Samantha last year I think it was,at Castle Towers. A lovely lady who has found her way into a role that suits her entirely, and is one of a lucky few in Australia with a career in the perfume industry. Totally enjoyed my session with her, and can recommend the experience to anyone.


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