Rebecca Johnson is a perfume artist in Provence

Developing knowledge and appreciation for beautiful perfume is my passion and it is a privilege to share what I know. Perfume is wearable art

There is something intoxicating about the way of life in Provence…the light, the landscape, the culture. Perfume has a rich tradition in this region as well. Iris fields, jasmine fields, lavender fields, rose fields, wisteria fields, citrus blossom fields…the list is endless. Here, raw materials and flowers are cultivated to make perfume.

As an Englishwoman who has lived in Provence for more than 20 years, Rebecca Johnson has made perfume her personal passion. She gives an overview of her customized perfume tour in Aix-en-Provence and explains how she fell in love with perfume.

Perfume caught your attention for what reason?

As a child, I was always aware of how things smelled. We all know the smells of roses, lily of the valley, cut grass, dirt in the garden, bonfires, but there are others as well, like hot tar, leather car seats, my ballet shoes, grandad’s pipe tobacco, among others.

My mother’s ability to wear perfume so well was a major inspiration for me. Her scent always leaves a beautiful “sillage”; one of my sisters was enamored with her fragrance and would rub her neck and sniff her constantly! We have a family history of perfume obsession. It is possible to rekindle strong emotions with perfume. There is no intellectual component at all, it is entirely emotional.

In discussing the noses of perfume houses, a great perfume master articulated the gift of smell. The sour and ambrosial scents of natural scents surround them all, he said. In the same way a child can become native in a language, an adult who learns a language will always have an accent, it is possible to become native in certain smells only if the neural pathways are created in the earliest years.

It fascinated me so much that I began exploring perfumes and discovered a whole new world.

What was your path to pursuing your passion?

At the luxurious Osmotheque in Versailles, I studied with Sophie Irles and tested rare and precious perfumes with her, along with raw ingredients like real ambergris and Tonkin musk.

How do you stay motivated in the pursuit?

It has always been a passion of mine to hear people’s scent histories and how that relates to their personalities and lifestyles. Perfume’s artistry, romance, and vivid emotional responses are what I appreciate. The number of choices is endless, and new perfumes are released continuously; one always has new things to learn and try.

In what ways do you share this passion with others?

My services include bespoke perfume consultations for individuals, small groups, couples, perfume houses, and luxury events.

I offer a two-hour private perfume tour in Aix-en-Provence. To prepare for later testing, each person is asked to provide a brief “history” over coffee. An individual revisits the scents they experienced in their youth throughout their life. In a sense, our noses guide us ‘home’ but we aren’t aware of it.

In an exclusive boutique, we explore a “house” and see the evolution and coherence of the Hermes collection. There is a lot of testing!hen we move on to Trupheme to test other houses. The best brands and niches are explored by us.

We aim to share knowledge, teach a little perfume history, and guide each individual towards their “holy grail” or to expand their perfume collection. Among the less than good scents, there are some masterpieces in perfume, which is unique and personal. I encourage everyone to take their time trying and gathering samples, as appreciating good perfume takes time, just like wine tasting. Everyone leaves the tour with carefully curated, top-quality samples and hopefully a desire to smell divine.

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