Sunday, 14 August 2022

Discovering the scent of history at Fawley

AIDA HERSHAM has taken great care in her restoration of Fawley Court.

AIDA HERSHAM has taken great care in her restoration of Fawley Court.

Eight years after she bought the historic riverside property, she has completed the work on the ground floor.

Now the Iranian-born philanthropist wants her home to smell just right.

Aida’s search for the right scent was featured in the current Channel 4 documentary series, Millionaire’s Mansions: Designing Britain’s Most Exclusive Homes.

In last week’s episode she was seen instructing Roja Dove, a fragrance specialist, to come up with the ideal aroma.

Aida says: “I hope the scent will be as relevant as my restoration has been — a modern scent with some simple, classical notes to it. I think Roja has a hell of a challenge on his hands.”

Mr Dove visits Fawley Court to get to know more about Aida and the property. He is given a tour of the building before going outside and around the grounds, although he won’t walk on the grass because he has silk shoes on. Afterwards, he goes back inside and hands Aida an assortment of different scented cards and gauges her reaction to each one.

Sniffing the first one, Aida says: “It really reminds me of my childhood.” After putting another one to her nose, she exclaims: “That’s seriously pungent!”

Aida then asks what the smell is and Mr Dove replies: “It might sound a little bit odd — the odour exists in faeces. A whisper of it really hidden is very erogenous but too much of it is totally offensive.”

Aida sniffs more than 120 different odours, ranging from geranium to beard of goat.

Mr Dove concludes: “You seem to like the feeling of warmth in scent. You really seem not to like sweetness.

“The scent needs to be a very classical structure, I think, but it needs to have this quirkiness, this brightness, this unusual twist, without being gimmicky.”

The perfumier, whose bespoke scents cost from £25,000, describes his work thus: “We are painting pictures but we are not using paint. We are telling stories and poems but we don’t use words.”

He has about 3,000 different raw materials to choose from and some of the ingredients are so rare that it could take him up to two years to fulfil a minimum order of 500 candles.

Later in the programme he returns to Fawley Court with a single candle to show Aida the fruits of his labours.

“I think I have managed to capture something which is rich and opulent but not in the least showy,” he says.

“It has the smell of the woods that run down to the River Thames. It has all the warmth and the softness that I hoped.

“There are some very, very discreet, ultra-luxurious materials in the base which maybe I can say this is the only candle on earth that has them in.”

Before lighting the candle, he explains that he has “no idea” whether it will smoke, burn easily, or whether the scent will lift.

But Aida is clearly delighted.

She says: “It’s divine, it’s beautiful, stunning. Love it. It is quite a complex smell. I think it’s an everlasting scent for Fawley.”

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