Thursday, 4 February 2021

FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD by Sarah Baker Perfumes

The idea of being transported to another place and time is one that's often used when describing fragrance. The way it locks onto our innermost memories, almost making them come alive again, can be a wonderful experience. I get this same feeling of disappearing into a different world from reading, and there’s been no shortage of time for that recently. So, when a literary classic is the inspiration for a fragrance then you're guaranteed my undivided attention. Far From The Madding Crowd by Sarah Baker Perfumes is one such example, and there’s never been a better time to experience some nineteenth century swordsmanship.

Sarah Baker Perfumes launched in 2015 and was born out of a successful scented art exhibition that she was involved with. A renowned multimedia artist, six years later the varied collection is impressive - but it might never have happened at all. She’s said in the past that her love of fragrance started much later in life, her younger years having been plagued by a sister’s habit of over-spraying, but being a judge on the Art and Olfaction Awards opened her eyes to the possibilities of scent. An initial collection of eight perfumes followed, but a new series was waiting in the wings.

Titled the S. BAKER collection, one of these five fragrances was Far From The Madding Crowd and drew on Thomas Hardy’s famous book from 1874. Set in Southwest England, it deals with the life, loves, and losses of Ms Everdene, and one pivotal moment is when she first begins falling in love with Sergeant Troy. He skilfully demonstrates his swordsmanship for the heroine and, as it’s raised into the sunlight, Hardy observes that the sword “gleamed a sort of greeting, like a living thing,” and it’s this that I was reminded of when I smelled the fragrance.

The task of realising Far From The Madding Crowd fell to Miguel Matos, who had previously created Sarah Baker’s 2018 Jungle Jezebel, and he's once again taken a "scented experience" approach to the project. A self-taught perfumer, Miguel is an established part of the fragrance community thanks to a long association with the Fragrantica website, but his own perfume range didn’t arrive until 2019. Never one to shy away from strong flavours or controversy, he has gone on to form successful collaborations with houses such as Der Duft, and this latest partnership with Sarah Baker is decidedly challenging.

The fragrance opens with a contrasting bright bergamot and cold metallic eucalyptus, and it’s this combination that puts me in mind of the sunlight glinting on the sword. A blackcurrant note and the slightly aromatic myrtle places you in a secluded harvest time setting, and there’s even a touch of cherry-like heliotrope as a nod to the heroine’s own fragrance. However, a hot woollen fabric and oiled leather quality then comes through which hints at the Sergeant’s uniform, possibly due to the paring of the castoreum and jasmine, before a salted oakmoss conjures images of sweat dappled skin. More an evocative snapshot rather than a traditional personal fragrance, it's time for me to reread the book.

Far From The Madding Crowd is available from the Sarah Baker Perfumes website at sarahbakerperfumes.com priced at £80 for 50ml or as part of the sample set for £22. [Sample provided by Sarah Baker]

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