Thursday 31 October 2019


When we think about niche fragrance companies, or artisan if you prefer, we often conjure up images of perfumers hunched over a cluttered wooden desk with a single incandescent bulb burning dimly in the corner. It’s the world that Patrick Süskind described in his book, and later the film, Perfume. Now, things have thankfully moved on a lot since then but the important point about artisan perfumers is that they can work anywhere in the world. It’s this opening up of the industry that has resulted in some terrific new companies emerging, and one such example is the Canadian based Ivy’s Poison.

Shauna Rudd’s route into the world of perfumery is not one that you would expect, and certainly not one that you’ll find in the press releases of any other company. She originally trained as an esthetician but, after many years of working in the environment, found that she had developed a sensitivity to the materials that she was using on a daily basis. This in itself was a great example that sensitivity to an allergen can develop over time, it’s not always immediately obvious, and is one of the reasons why perfume ingredients are now very carefully regulated in the industry.

It took Shauna a long time to come to terms with the sensitivity, and became very wary of anything fragranced, but she eventually found herself being drawn into the rabbit hole of perfumery. Many months pouring over every book by Mandy Aftel, and also studying with Ayala Moriel and Lyn Are, gave her the courage to finally start blending her own perfumes and Ivy’s Poison was born. She found herself fascinated by the natural side of the industry but, as she admits herself, if a natural ingredient were to become scarce then she would not be averse to replacing it with a synthetic substitute.

Ivy’s Poison is inspired by 1850s apothecaries and the writing of Charles Baudelaire. In Les Fleurs du Mai (The Flowers of Evil) he describes perfume as “beloved poison prepared by the angels,” and this definitely sums up Shauna’s collection. There is a very confident hand at work here and she isn’t afraid to attempt styles that many would be intimidated to approach. Her current range comprises four excellent fragrances, Amber Glow, Rose Fatale, Something Wicked, and The Green Faerie. Choosing a favourite from the collection was difficult but, in the end, it had to be the Shakespeare inspired Something Wicked.

“By the pricking of my thumbs, Something wicked this way comes,” and Shauna Rudd's perfume really is devilishly wicked. It opens with a rich citrus blend that has an almost over-ripe quality and, straight away, the dominant aged patchouli starts to push up from the base. Along with oak nuances, you’re then brought back to the present with a cool cardamom that provides a shaft of light that cuts straight through the middle of this scent. You’ve got some clever rosewater in here that adds a buoyancy, and perhaps even a touch of jasmin, but the final aromas of incense and resinous styrax are, in the style of Agatha Christie's "By the Pricking of My Thumbs", murderously addictive.

Something Wicked is available as a pure parfum from the Ivy’s Poison website at priced at $15 for 1ml and $72 for 5ml. All prices are in Canadian Dollars. [Sample provided by Shauna Rudd]

* Ivy's Poison fragrances are formulated to comply with Canada's allergen restrictions rather than EU allergen restrictions.

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