Ten minutes into his portrait shoot for How To Spend It, Roja Dove is distracted by the arrival of a customer. Walking into his petite store in Mayfair, she is starstruck: “It is such an honour to meet you, Mr Dove.” Within 60 seconds she has spent £5,000 on perfume: “I want two of those, two of those…” To many, Dove is a deity in the fragrance world. His London store is as much a place of pilgrimage as it is a library, stocking the 50 perfumes he has created for the brand since he launched in 2011.
“I had always wanted a shop and for it to be here in the Burlington Arcade,” he says. “Perfume is an intimate thing and this is the antithesis of a perfume hall in a department store. Here we can spend time getting to know the clients and there’s a room upstairs where we can serve tea or champagne.”
The store, which opened in 2015, encapsulates Dove’s taste. It is plush and opulent, with Lalique crystal detailing – similar to the Orient Express – contrasting with black lacquer panels and black mirrors. “Understated minimalism isn’t my style,” he says wryly.
Dove is known for using the most rarefied and refined materials for his fragrances and his candles and reed diffusers (Ambre D’Orient Reed Diffuser Decanter, £850 for 75cl) contain the same premium-grade oils as his perfumes. The Rose de Mai candle (£85 for 220g) is a good example. “Rose de Mai is so rare that it would take the best picker 24 hours to harvest enough flowers to make just 30ml of essential oil,” Dove tells me. “The costs are enormous.”
Dove’s international profile trades on his inherent Britishness. In 2013 he was made an ambassador for the GREAT Britain Campaign and in 2015 he released his Great Britain fragrance (£1,250 for 100ml Parfum) for men and women. In 2016 he created the citrussy A Midsummer Dream (£295 for 100ml EDP), inspired by the anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, and also launched Britannia (£795 for 100ml Parfum). “This one was inspired by the idea of us as an island nation, travelling overseas, bringing things back,” he explains. “One of the ingredients, ambergris, was something you could buy at London markets in the 15th century. I was also thinking of exotic fruit and the fashion for orangeries.”
One of Dove’s recent launches is Elysium Pour Homme (£225 for 100ml Parfum Cologne). It’s light but powerful – the kind of scent that compels you to lift your wrist to your nose repeatedly to experience it again and again. “I wanted to make something with incredible freshness,” he says. “At the top, it has a musk note: the first thing you smell is lime and pink pepper. Then there is a lot of wood, but it is weightless and it stays and stays… if you spray it on a shirt today, the shirt will still smell of it next week.” Dove’s knowledge of fragrance is encyclopaedic, and his growing range of specialist scents and this jewel-box of a store are a paradigm of modern luxury.