Thursday 26 March 2020


One of the issues that many perfume companies face when they try to upscale their business is that it’s often hard to adapt their core values. The idiosyncrasies that make you unique run the risk of being buried within a new corporate structure, and existing fans can be disillusioned by the changes. You can’t remain the same when production dramatically increases, especially when there are outside investors keeping a close eye, but it’s how you manage that transition that is key. The latest company to take on the challenge of upscaling is Rook Perfumes and, whilst the packaging may have changed, the heart has remained.

When Nadeem Crowe launched the company back in 2018 it came out of a fascination of how fragrances were created. His background as an NHS doctor had made him an expert with pipettes and measurements but it was going to take a new set of skills to formulate his own perfume. Nadeem knuckled down to an intensive period of home learning, with many mistakes along the way, and also attended some classes with Sarah McCartney of 4160 Tuesdays before finally creating his first fragrance. This blend was always intended to be his private perfume, but it would eventually escape the workbench.

Nadeem also had a background in performing, having trained in Musical Theatre at LAMDA, and so the idea of being artistically creative came naturally. The company went on to launch eight fragrances but, whilst successful, it seemed as though Rook Perfumes would remain a niche secret. It was the discovery of the scents by photographer John Rankin Waddell that would ultimately change the fortune of Nadeem’s brand. It wasn’t the first time that Rankin had delved into fragrance, in 2016 he collaborated with Azzi Glasser on S&X, but this time the stakes were a little higher.

The business temporarily closed in 2019 while it underwent a facelift, an upscale, and some reformulation. It reopened in February 2020 with three of the original fragrances, Rook by Rook, Undergrowth and Forest, but there had been a few changes. Because of the upscale the perfumes now came boxed and were no longer hand blended, but this shouldn’t ever be the deal breaker of someone liking a scent. Things change and often for the better. His first fragrance, that workbench buddy that he made for himself, was Rook by Rook. It’s seen as the star of the collection, but has reformulation tarnished its lustre?

The fragrance opens with a note of old fashioned creosote and, as this is one of favourite aromas, it’s already scored brownie points. Through this blackened tar you get a violet and orange combination but it’s given an edge with a clever dose of cardamom. This spiciness is continued with a touch of ginger, a little quieter than the original, and notes of ylang and rose add a welcome floral note. The original fragrance continued into a civet dominated vetiver although the new one seems to take the direction of a guaiacwood and tonka bean earthiness. It's definitely still Rook by Rook, although it's now a little more sensual than slutty.

Rook by Rook is available from the company’s website at priced at £100 for 50ml. [Sample provided by Nadeem Crowe]

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