Monday 26 September 2016


When the Cotswold Perfumery opened in 1965 few could have thought that it would reach last years' milestone of forty years. Based in the English village of Bourton on the Water its perfumer is John Stephen. He creates fragrances for his own company but also for much larger organisations, although which ones is a closely guarded secret. So, I thought it was about time John came out of the shadows, and the laboratory, to answer "Stephan's Six".

What is the first smell that you can remember?
The first smell I can remember are the tomatoes that my father grew in his greenhouse. It is one of those smells that cannot be described without using the word “tomato”. Ever since, whenever I smell tomatoes, it always takes me back to my childhood and that greenhouse.

What was the first perfume you remember your mum or dad wearing?
My father never wore any fragrance, he thought it was far too feminine! The first perfume I can remember my mother wearing however was Chanel No5. She was very traditional, and Chanel always reminds me of her.

What was the perfume of your twenties?
In my early twenties I was still influenced by my father, so did not use any fragrance - or even a shampoo. Too sissy! Then “our Henry” made it acceptable for men to use fragrances with his Brut adverts. I was already running the Cotswold Perfumery by my mid-twenties, and was much more interested in the problems around making fragrances than worrying about what perfume I should wear.

What was your biggest perfume mistake?
My biggest mistake was a Carnation perfume that I wanted to add to the range. Natural carnation extracts were not available due to the cost of the individual blooms, so all carnation perfumes need to be made from synthetics. I had already made quite a few perfumes by that stage, so I decided to have a go. It was FAR too ambitious and the fragrance was dreadful!

You can only choose one perfume?
That's easy ... Mitsouko. It's beautifully constructed and brilliantly balanced. A masterful job by a brilliant perfumer, Jacques Guerlain.

What perfume should I try?
This is a difficult question to answer because perfume preferences are as diverse as DNA, literally. There's no doubt in my mind that the greatest variety in perfume today comes from the "niche" market rather than brand name fragrances. The choice now is huge and there are fragrances for everyone. My advice is to go to the shops with the greatest range of "niche" perfumes and keep trying. You will find lots of fragrances that suit you personally and that you will love.

For more information of the Cotswold Perfumery, both products and workshops, you can visit their website at

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