Along with Roja Dove and Azzi Glasser, perfumer James Heeley is keeping the British tradition of independent fragrance houses alive – albeit from Paris. Yorkshire-born Heeley graduated from King’s College London in philosophy and aesthetics, but found his passion in perfume after moving to the French capital 15 years ago. Self taught, he has thus far created 20 fragrances under his eponymous label, each with a distinctive, fresh scent.
Agarwoud Extrait de Parfum (€147 for 50ml), for instance, is dark and mysterious, a gentle oud based around the Agarwood resin from the forests of Vietnam and Laos (used in Buddhist temples for centuries) combining notes of Bulgarian rose, benzoin and amber. Eau Sacrée Extrait de Parfum (€147 for 50ml) takes incense and its evocative power in rituals as inspiration, creating a scent that, according to Heeley, “purifies the soul, frees the mind from earthly matters and lifts the spirit to a higher stage of being”. For me, however, it has an earthy punch, evocative of a woodland walk just after the rain. The romantic Cardinal Eau de Parfum (€130 for 100ml), meanwhile, is the Vatican in a vial, built around heady frankincense and labdanum.
At the other end of the scent scale is the surprisingly successful Bubblegum Chic Extrait de Parfum (€147 for 50ml), which balances the sweetness of jasmine absolute with tuberose and white musk. It’s slightly sweet yet remains firmly the right side of sickly, and is strangely intoxicating. Citrusy scents get a look in too, in the form of Note de Yuzu Eau de Parfum (€130 for 100ml) – a collaboration with the hip Paris-meets-Tokyo fashion brand-cum-boutique-cum-record label Maison Kitsuné. The yuzu base is joined by white musk and vetiver and layered alluringly with aquatic, marine notes of sea salt. They’re all well worth a squirt – and available in sample sizes (€3-€5 for 2ml) from Heeley’s website.