Monday 7 September 2020


The world of perfumery is no longer the sole domain of those lucky enough to train at one of the prestigious French schools. Self-taught perfumers are becoming more common and have actually helped to push the boundaries of trend and fashion within fragrance, often actually leading the way for the more commercial houses. One of the latest to enter the industry is Vancouver based Matt Meleg, and I wanted to find out some of his scented secrets during "Stephan's Six".

What is the first smell that you can remember?
I grew up on a fruit orchard and was really captivated by this one lilac bush. We actually had three varieties of lilac; one white, one red, and the other blue. I can distinctly remember the blue lilac smelled more intense, more pleasant than the others, but I don’t know why. I have a lot of great scent memories from my childhood, and can still remember the smell of oncoming thunderstorms, brackish ponds covered in ice, the tart dustiness of a swallow’s nest, the smell of peach and apricot blossoms, and the smell of fermenting pears and blue plums… just watch out for hornets! By the way, I haven’t smelled an accurate lilac recreation yet!

What perfumes did your parents wear?
I didn’t grow up with my mother but I remember my father wearing Jovan Musk. It reminds me of vodka, stale cigarettes, sweat, pesticide, urine-covered playboy magazines, unwashed dishes, and stale hair.

What was the perfume of your twenties?
I used to wear a lot of patchouli oil - not because I was a hippie, I definitely wasn’t a hippie - I just always loved the smell. I also loved the aroma of coffee, but back then I didn’t know there was such a thing as a co2 extract of the oil, so I just drank coffee. I wore a lot of patchouli and I drank a lot of coffee, and Patchouli is still my favourite material.

What was your biggest perfume mistake?
Early on in my training I made the mistake of not taking notes. Sometimes I would make a nice accord and find myself asking the question, “How did I do this?” I’d completely forget how I got there and, as a self-taught perfumer, there’s no one really to guide you. There are a dozen or so books, an internet forum or two, and if you're really lucky and live in a large city you might even know someone that also makes perfumes... but that’s rare! As a perfumer you have to take risks - but don’t forget to take detailed notes! I would argue that it would be a mistake to not allow oneself to make mistakes! Does that make sense?

You can only choose one perfume?
It would have to be Oud Assam by Rania J. She combines western with eastern perfumery and blends musks, woods, and florals together incredibly well. I love chypre fragrances and I love attars as well, so I love this particular perfume. Oud Assam has a sweet orange and neroli opening, various types of woods, and has an amazing rose and frankincense dance going on. Rich and sensual, I absolutely love it.

What perfume should I try?
I’d love you to try my Civet Cat Chypre because it will give you a good sense of what classic western perfumery was like before the current restrictions. IFRA's intentions are good, but vintage perfumes were much, much richer! They were more voluptuous, containing larger volumes of base notes along with natural floral and musk materials, and I believe the classic chypre is the very pinnacle of western perfumery. My Civet Cat Chypre celebrates this and gives you the chance to do a little time travelling.

For more information about Matt Meleg you can visit his website at or his instagram at @melegperfumes.

[Photograph of Matt Meleg © Brett Ray]

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