Few brands have done as much to centre the quality and diversity of the Australian landscape and the native flora found there as perfume house Goldfield & Banks and its founder, Dimitri Weber. It might be because, for most of us who grew up here, the smell of wattle in spring, the spray of salt water on rocks or even the dry petrichor after a summer storm are all so ingrained into us we take it for granted. But not so for the French-Belgian Weber, who fell in love with the country back when he first visited in 2013 while working for a global luxury cosmetics importer. This wonder, however, soon accompanied by a sense of shock that a country that had so much potential didn’t have a thriving fragrance scene.
So he decided to make his own. Fragrances that would pedestal the incredible botanicals while capturing the beauty of its landscape at the same time.
Starting with the country’s most iconic location, the beach with Pacific Rock Moss, Goldfield & Banks have gone on to highlight everything from the smooth sandalwood grown and harvested in Western Australia (Silky Woods and White Sandalwood), the fluffy yellow glow of wattle (Velvet Splendour), the tart fruitiness of outback superfood quandong (Sunset Hour), to the warm, roasted sweetness of Brown Boronia (Southern Bloom). This year, he introduced a new summer-perfect scent that showcases another native edible, the delicious Redback Ginger in the marvellously effervescent Ingenious Ginger created by Hamid Merati-Kashani. But it was one that dropped late last year that confirmed Goldfield & Banks – and Weber – were in the perfect position to show the world just how unique the aroma profiles of Australian botanicals are by using one of the most familiar and beloved notes in perfumery: lavender. Specifically Tasmanian lavender.
Created by Ilias Ermenidis, Purple Suede takes the familiar evergreen floral note of lavender and uncovers something darker and smokey in it. This, says Weber, isn’t any artifice of the accompanying leather and oud accord but something intrinsic to the particular terroir of Tasmanian lavender. “There is a sharpness, an earthiness, a purity,” he says.
The reason for this distinction, and why some are even suggesting that it surpasses the most famous of lavender grown in Grasse, is courtesy of where it was grown and the small family owned company that harvests it: Essential Oils of Tasmania.
Grasse Of The South
Take a 20-minute-or-so drive south out of Hobart and you’ll eventually come across one of the southernmost state’s best kept secrets. Or maybe most secretive enterprise would be the better description. Not a new distiller, although they use similar methods. Nor is it an adventure in degustation, although their products can be found flavouring some of the biggest names in the food and liquor industries. What you will find is a rather humble office, several sheds where the extraction of raw materials occur and a lab at the end of a dirt driveway. Here, Essential Oils of Tasmania is quietly making the world smell, and taste, more magical with their botanical extracts, aromas and flavourings.
For nearly 40 years this small, family owned company has been exploring and cultivating the properties of plants, both native introduced, for use in everything from culinary purposes to cosmetics, skincare and, naturally, perfumery.
If you’ve eaten peppermint flavoured chocolate, chances are you’ve tasted peppermint from Essential Oils of Tasmania. If you’ve brushed your teeth, it’s highly probable the peppermint that freshens your morning breath has been sourced here. If you’ve worn a perfume that contains the woody, sweet notes of boronia – a small shrub native to the southern regions fo Western Australia and now one of the most expensive raw materials in the fragrance market – then it’s likely you’re smelling boronia from Essential Oils of Tasmania along with another one of perfume’s most commonly sought ingredients, lavender. Or if you’ve enjoyed the herbaceous sweetness of certain French spirits, including pastis, you may just be enjoying the locally grown fennel harvested by Essential Oils of Tasmania.
“At the very beginning, the business was born out of government policy,” explains Simon Wells, who has been working with Essential Oils of Tasmania in various capacities for over a decade, including growing the awareness of the company internationally. “It was an attempt to diversify the Tasmanian agricultural sector and they did that through a partnership with the University of Tasmania.”
It soon became clear, says Wells, that the quality of oils and raw materials that the collective were harvesting were of a calibre that was on par, if not better in some instances when it came to intensity of scent and taste, with the more familiar European farms.
“Because we’ve been fundamentally focused on a quality outcome, we’ve remained very sincere and faithful to the production of a complex high quality lavender oil. That’s why Essential Oils of Tasmania are able to supply global customers at a premium price point with Tasmanian lavender because it is unique, it is complex, but it also retains some of those highly sought after characteristics of the pure French lavender.”
“The lavender grown in Australia, particularly in Tasmania, has distinct differences in chemistry and aroma compared to European lavender. It’s not necessarily better or worse; it just has a unique character,” explains Essential Oils of Tasmania’s technical and quality manager, Clare McEldowney. “This difference in character highlights the influence of climate, soil, and other environmental factors on essential oil profiles.”
The impact of our landscape isn’t solely relegated to lavender either. Turns out we have a terroir and signature aroma. “Australian natives have a predictable profile and share certain compounds that are commonly found in these botanicals,” adds McEldowney.
Purple Suede isn’t the first time that Weber has worked with the company. It was Essential Oils of Tasmania who provided him with the delicious boronia that he used in Southern Bloom. “It was my first perfumer Francois Merle-Baudoin, he introduced me to them. So he was the one who said this is the company that provides you with the boronia,” says Weber.
Notoriously demanding when it comes to the growing conditions and even more tricky to extract oil from means that boronia requires many hands to develop, driving up the cost of it as a raw material in perfumery.
“Boronia is a bit elusive to people because it is challenging to grow. Its finicky nature means that significant efforts have been invested in understanding its growth, propagation, and chemical composition to maximise its yield,” says McEldowney.
While Essential Oils of Tasmania offers a wide range of raw materials for fragrance or flavouring, McEldowney says it’s their, peppermint, fennel and boronia are among the most in demand. “Our most common extraction method is steam distillation, but it is plant-specific. For example, peppermint is always in high demand. We cannot produce enough peppermint to meet the market’s needs and we produce one of the best peppermints in the world.”
One particular ingredient that is gathering a lot of interest, and one that McEldowney herself is excited to see the potential of, is the native Kunzea plant. She describes Kunzea oil as having a unique aroma profile, “It’s a little like tea tree, very Australian native, but softer and sweeter with a medicinal undertone. It contains compounds like kunzeaol that are known for their anti-inflammatory properties.”
Rather than just seeing Goldfield & Banks as a fragrance company, it might be more true to see it as an invitation sent to the world to explore the rich tapestry of Australia’s landscapes and native flora. As Weber emphasises, “It’s a sensory adventure that transports the wearer to the heart of Australia’s natural wonders.” This journey is one that captures the essence of the land down under and delivers it in every intoxicating drop, truly making it an essential experience for perfume enthusiasts yearning to embark on an olfactory journey across this magnificent continent.