Does the world need another candle, or eau de parfum for that matter?
That’s the question Craig asked before deciding to dive head-on into the world of natural perfumery and candle making. “Generally, the answer is no”, he says. “Unless you’re making something truly unique that doesn’t already exist.”
Craig learned the craft of making scented candles many years ago from Elise Pioch Balzac (founder of Maison Balzac). He attended one of the world’s leading perfume schools - the Grasse Institute of Perfumery. Over several years he learned about the key natural and synthetic ingredients used to make fine fragrance, and the technique of how to structure and formulate fragrances.
The beauty, complexity and richness of working exclusively with naturals proved, however, to be too alluring and Craig decided to refine his practice by focussing in this niche area. “Working with synthetics just felt so thin and one dimensional. Whereas working with naturals like the ancient resinous frankincense and labdanum, which have been used for thousands of years for their deep spiritual and healing properties, carried a much stronger emotional connection”, he says. “The broad narrative arc of working with nature through a prism of history is very inspiring, and it guides my practice”.
He subsequently turned to the world’s leading natural perfumer, Mandy Aftel, to specialise in the art of making natural fragrances. “Mandy is a great teacher and mentor of mine and it has been an extraordinary privilege to be taught by her”, he says. “I feel very honoured to also be qualified to teach Mandy’s introductory natural perfumery course.”
Having retired from a career of 25 years as a private equity and capital markets lawyer working in NY, London, South Africa and Australia, Act II of his life is focussed on telling the story of Australia’s native botanicals and taking their unique fragrant extracts to the rest of the world.
The beauty of the Australian landscape is extraordinary. Although we have over 18,000 unique native botanicals, they are not well known by the fragrance world. Apart from obvious ingredients like sandalwood, buddawood, boronia, our gums, tee-trees and myrtles, very little else is known. While of course not all of our native botanicals have fragrant oils or absolutes that can be viably obtained, there are many whose yield capacity has not been determined.
From the “world first” fragrances Craig developed for Paspaley (using the rare Kimberley Heath) and Cult Design (using the recently discovered native Byron Bay Rose) Craig intends to continue to raise the profile of Australia’s native botanicals and hopefully bring new ingredients to market.
He is currently working with a local university to conduct trials to establish the commercial viability of extracting an essential oil from two Australian native plants that have never been used before in perfumery.
Apart from the sheer beauty of connecting with nature in an artistic way, Craig’s practice involves researching history and botany, understanding the science of formulating fragrant molecules and exploring novel juxtapositions, considering the impact of climate and geography on extraction yield and quality, and finally, taking into account the physiological impact of specific fragrant molecules on the human body through the way in which our olfactory and limbic systems connect.
The olfactory system is the only sensory system directly connected to the limbic system of the brain, which controls our mood, emotions, memories, stress levels, and hormone balance. When scent molecules we breathe in are decoded by our olfactory system messages are transmitted directly to our limbic system and in this way scent can act as a powerful trigger for a positive mood, emotions and memories.
“My perfumery practice straddles beauty, art, history, science, botany, geography, and physiology. It comprises rich layers of storytelling and meaning. My focus is on making natural fragrances that combine these elements and provide both pleasure and purpose.”
~ Craig Andrade