The roar of engines, the rush of adrenaline and the excitement of victory are the crux of Formula One racing. But another integral part of the intense experience – and one that cannot be captured on screen – is the smell. The scent that hangs in the air during a Grand Prix race is singularly smoky and metallic – and now being bottled by F1 in its first ever fragrance collection.
Created in collaboration with the UK group Designer Parfums, the five compositions launched at last weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix include classical themes as well as edgy options. But how does one distill the energy of F1 into perfume? Both Fragrance I and Fragrance V open on a crisp, peppery accord and have a dark, intense finish. In Fragrance I, musk and leather play a key role, with a green resinous note for a flash of excitement. Fragrance V, on the other hand, is built around dry amber and woods.
The version that best evokes the smell of the race, however, is Fragrance II. I wasn’t expecting the heady mixture of burnt rubber, wet asphalt, brake dust and oil to be wearable, but against all odds it works. Wrapped in accords of amber and mandarin, the resulting scent is as addictive as it is avant-garde. And while an F1 race doesn’t last longer than two hours, this fragrance will roar on for 10 times as long. Its lasting power is tremendous.
At first sniff, the fragrances appear to be designed with F1’s male audience in mind. Yet as Ellie Norman, the F1 director of marketing and communications, points out, the championship’s audience is 44 per cent female and this range could well appeal to women who are looking for something other than flowers and vanilla. Fragrance III, for instance, is the most unisex option, offering a surprising take on an iconic ingredient: iris. The composition is based around caramelised woods and tonka bean, but iris gives it a dramatic (glittering and metallic, salty and sweet) twist.
This blend of classical perfumery and innovative flourishes was a deliberate choice, highlighting the role that technology plays in both industries. Fragrance labs channel considerable resources into designing new aroma molecules and innovative ways to distill natural essences, and here Fragrance IV relies on Tonkalactone, a novel material that renders the sweetness of tonka beans even creamier and richer. At the same time, it remains radiant, creating a softly lit backdrop for the other elements of the composition – an alloy of black pepper, cardamom and narcissus, a flower that smells of leather.
The perfumes have been launched initially as a luxury collection, housed in 3D-printed sculpture-like bottles by Ross Lovegrove. The word “luxury” is no overstatement: each bottle is made in a limited edition of 20 and costs $10,000, from Designer Parfums. The fragrances, however, will be reissued in April in a bottle newly designed by Lovegrove – and at a more accessible £195 (75ml EDP). The only question remains, which would Lewis Hamilton wear?
Victoria Frolova has been writing her perfume blog, boisdejasmin.com, since 2005. Her explorations of fragrance touch upon all elements that make this subject rich and complex: science, art, literature, history and culture. Frolova is a recipient of three prestigious Fragrance Foundation FiFi Awards for Editorial Excellence and, since receiving her professional perfumery training, has also been working as a fragrance consultant and researcher.