A nose for good business: the CLA member in a prospering perfumery

CLA Cymru’s Robert Dangerfield finds out more about Wales’ first perfumery business and the process behind producing different fragrances
Perfumery - wales
Louise Smith specialised in pharmaceuticals before training as a perfumer, gaining experience in France, Italy and London

A Monmouthshire CLA member has established a thriving business as Wales’ first perfumery.

Louise Smith is fascinated by the individuality of scents and how they interact with different people, creating unique personalities and exciting possibilities. “I established Wales Perfumery about five years ago,” she says. “I am constantly inspired by the scent of nature and the history of the landscape in Wales.

The business is based within a 500-year-old secret walled garden in the Wye Valley; the business has three acres and a small herd of Welsh black mountain sheep. With a chemistry background, Louise specialised in pharmaceuticals before training as a perfumer and gaining experience in France, Italy and London.

The UK has an insatiable appetite for fragrance, with the market estimated to be worth £1.8bn per annum. The market for niche or ‘independent’ perfume producers is exploding – and big labels are seeking niche artisan brands. Demand for exclusive artisan products with a local identity has surged in popularity, particularly since the pandemic, and Louise is well-placed to capitalise on this interest.

Louise’s range of scents is inspired by nature. Forest – Coedwig conjures bursting buds, bark, sap, ripening fruit and leaf litter. Country – Gwlad is inspired by loam, drizzle-swept grassland and freshwater streams, while Coast – Arfordir suggests crashing waves, spindrift, kelp and sand, subtly sculpted by retreating tide. Rapidly expanding, Louise has introduced a new product, Star – Seren, inspired by guiding lights in midnight tones and mysterious nocturnal sounds.

Interior of perfumery - wales
Louise's lab

It took months of trials and formulas to develop the four fragrances from select, highly-specialised ingredients, which are prepared, blended and nurtured with medical care.

“The materials come from specialist suppliers in southern France, Switzerland and Germany,” Louise explains. “There’s more than 50 materials in Forest, for example. These include essential oils, such as bergamot, lemon and sweet orange, and absolutes, which are florals: tuberose and jasmine. Some of these are intense, like gardenia and narcissus. The blend is created and then matured in a cool, dark place, diluted in organic alcohol, refrigerated, filtered and bottled - all crafted by hand. It takes four to five months to make a bottle of perfume.”

Once a scent is made, it has to pass a compliance check by the UK and EU cosmetic chemist regulators, and the formula needs to be logged with the International Fragrance Regulatory Authority for traceability.

Louise ushers us into her laboratory, where bottles, phials, flasks and jars of every size and shape stand in serried ranks. The natural wood worktops and seated areas that make up individual workstations highlight that this is also a therapeutic learning environment. Louise’s clients are guided to create their own fragrance in workshops – individually, in pairs (such as for a wedding experience) or in groups.

“The business is growing exponentially,” Louise says.

I’ve a waiting list for workshops and I’m about to take on a small team to specialise in key parts of the business, so 2024 is going to be an exciting year for me

Louise Smith

Find out more at walesperfumery.com, while members and non-members can join Louise in Monmouth for a perfumery workshop in April below.