Cosmetics & Personal Care

Fragrance – a work of fiction

27th February 2019

The keenly anticipated new novel by Joanne Harris, The Strawberry Thief, has inspired a team of top perfumers to create a fine fragrance inspired by a vivid passage in the book*. The new novel, following the characters from Chocolat of 20 years' ago, is published on 4th April 2019 by the Orion Publishing Group.

Joanne Harris and her publishers sniffed out CPL Aromas, the world's top fragrance-only fragrance house operating across 18 sites around the world. CPL Aromas creates fragrances for global fine fragrance brands, personal care products, home fragrance and household applications. The UK perfumery team, based at the creative centre near London, said they were thrilled to work with Joanne and create fragrances inspired by The Strawberry Thief.

Ange Stavrevska, UK Director and Creative Perfumer, said "Joanne enthused the team when she talked about her fascination with smells, her synaesthesia and her passion for fragrance, which comes across so vividly and uniquely in her work".

As readers of Joanne Harris' previous works will know, the author has an uncanny ability to conjure fragrances in the mind. Perfumers often say that describing scents is notoriously difficult: the language of fragrance often relies on musical and other analogies. Nowhere has the ability to describe scents been better illustrated than in the chosen passage with its oud, sandalwood, cumin, ambergris, marine salt, nutmeg, cardamom and chilli.  Rich in its descriptions of fragrance materials, it goes further by use of similes and showing an understanding of the transformative nature of mingling and preparing these aromatic materials.

The fragrance chosen by Joanne to accompany The Strawberry Thief was created by CPL Aromas' Senior Technical Perfumer, Tim Gage. He said, "I wanted to encompass all the nuances of scent that Joanne had woven into the passage about grinding Criollo beans to make the Aztec drink, Xocoatl. The fragrance exhibits the bitterness of unsweetened chocolate. It has animalic nuances of ambergris, honey, oud and castoreum. These notes are warmed with spices such as nutmeg and vibrant amber notes of frankincense, to add complexity and a multifaceted nature. Tonka beans, sandalwood, vanilla, resinous myrrh and sweet tolu balsam add to the depth and creamy character, while traces of piquant pink and Sichuan peppers, fresh bergamot, grapefruit and black-cherry notes bring a vibrancy and sparkle to the whole seductive concoction".  

The fragrance is a limited edition but a consumer competition to win a book and phial of the scent has been launched with Waterstones. The Strawberry Thief inspired fragrance is a limited edition scent that is not on general release.


*Extract from The Strawberry Thief by Joanne Harris which inspired the fragrance - reproduced with kind permission of the author and The Orion Publishing Group Ltd:

I walk into the kitchen. The scent of chocolate is strong, strong enough to silence her voice. The scent of the other places rushes in to fill the void; the ozone of the Pacific; the salt tang of the Cote d'Emeraude. I put a handful of Criollo beans into the grinder. Their scent is very far from sweet. I can smell oud, and sandalwood, and the dark scents of cumin and ambergris. Seductive, yet fairly unsavoury, like a beautiful woman with unwashed hair. A moment in the grinder and the beans are ready to use. Their volatile essence fills the air, freed from one form into another. The Maya tattooed their bodies, you know, in order to placate the wind. No, not the wind, the gods. The gods.

I add hot water to the beans and allow them to percolate. Unlike coffee beans, they release an oily kind of residue. Then I add nutmeg, cardamom and chilli to make the drink that the Aztecs called xocoatl - a bitter water. That bitterness is what I need. I think of Anouk, heading home at last, and I feel the heat of the chilli scrawl a hectic path into my throat. The vapour rising from the cup makes complex patterns in the air; patterns that remind me of the wall-hanging in the tattoo shop: leaves and fronds and abstract designs sketched in sepia in the air. © Joanne Harris 2019