The Art of Good Scents
  • Aien Mokhtar


Scents have the ability to make memories come alive. Perfume is therefore, the art that makes memory speak.

The ingredients that we use to create our perfume compositions are often decided based on what feelings and emotions that we would like to evoke and what state of mind that we would like to be in when we smell it. Often times, we concoct and bottle our sweetest memories so we can revisit happy moments in our past.

Imagine watching your grandmother getting ready on her dressing table, and memories of playing dress-up with clothes from your mother’s closet, Lan Hua wraps you in a blanket of comfort and nostalgia with a fresh opening of galbanum and violet leaf, with heart notes of powdery purple flowers and orchid anchored by tonka bean, amber, sandalwood and musk.

I got the inspiration for Lán Huā after a night out at Suzy Wong with my friends visiting from Jakarta. Everyone were dressed to the nine and looked impeccable. The hostesses were tall and slender, decked in long cheongsams, with fans in their hands, smiles on their faces. Immediately, I was transported to another time, another place. I could have been in a jazz bar somewhere in Shanghai in the 1940s. I imagined my great grandmother in her prime years, would have loved this place.

I wanted to create a scent that evoke memories of my ancestors, a scent that signified their desire for a better life, the love they had for their family and the sacrifice they were willing to make to cross the ocean to a start a new life, and make a new beginning.

I chose Hyacinth to represent this, as it is a spring-blooming perennial, it flowers in the early spring and bloom throughout summer. Its sight signifies the beginning of spring season, when the earth celebrated with flashes of vivid colours.

Hyacinthus orientalis has a long history of cultivation as an ornamental plant, grown across the Mediterranean region, and later France, where it is used in perfumery. Its major centre of cultivation is the Netherlands.

What is fascinating about the hyacinth is that each of the many colors in which it appears in nature has its own fragrance. When hyacinth just starts blooming, it produces a light floral aroma, but when the flower stem opens up the scent becomes very strong and powerful.

Hyacinths have a powerful scent which can be described as floral green with vegetal aquatic accents and sweet and spicy notes.

The essential oil is extremely precious. It requires 6000kg of flowers to yield one single litre of the essential oil. It is mostly used in high class perfumery.

About the plant: Hyacinth is a small plant that grows to a height of 6–8 inches tall with thin slender green leaves with fragrant pink, purple, or white bell-shaped flowers that, when open fully, look like starfish.