Here’s a treat for perfume aficionados. Master perfumer, Roja Dove shares his insights on their upcoming collections and the interesting stories behind each of his perfumes
Memories of love and strong motivations to discover the sensuality of the world in new and surprising ways — that’s where Roja Dove’s passion for scent stems from, making him one of the most respected perfumers in the world.
With the firm belief that every fragrance has the potential to unlock dreams and rekindle memories, Roja Dove weaves his artistic magic to create perfumes that never cease to amaze. Each fragrance under the Roja Dove banner is an encapsulation of the perfumer’s journey and carries his secret discovery. In this edition, ParfumPlus talks to Roja Dove to get an insight into his creations, philosophy and mesmerizing perfume stories.
PafumPlus (PP): Philosophically “only the best will do” is what you have quoted many times. What inspires you to reach up to these highs in each of your creations?
Roja Dove (RD): This passion to prioritize quality is rooted in my childhood; thanks to my mother. Ever since I was a little boy, she ensured that I never got the good things in life easily. For instance, if I liked a bag, my mother would always ask me to earn it instead of simply buying it for me. So, if I really wanted something, I would go to mom or dad, help them with the household chores and earn my way to whatever I liked. This way, I learned to value the importance of quality in all things that I own and the same philosophy has been imbibed in my Roja Parfums too. I ensure I use only the top quality ingredients in all my perfume creations.
PP: Are there any special memories from the starting days that you would say moulded you to be what you are today?
RD: There are, of course. One particular incident that I recall now, laid the foundation for one of the key qualities that you see in every Roja perfume.
When I was around 18 years old, studying in Cambridge, I remember walking into a very popular store and saw a beautiful shirt. I had no idea what the material was which the shirt was made of but it caught my attention, and I just had to have it. It cost me three weeks worth of my earnings to buy this shirt. I felt like a king when I wore it for the first time. It was made of the finest Silk Crepe de Chine.
That’s when I decided, even my perfumes should be such that when anyone uses them they should feel special.
You would see, even for my perfume bottles, we give a lot of importance to design. The boxes are handmade, with Swarovski crystals embedded on the cap and so much more details that beautifully convey the element of luxury. After all, you see, luxury is all about little things that you may not need to do but you would still desire to do.
PP: What about your perfumes? Do they too all have stories behind them?
RD: My perfumes have been inspired by my life’s journeys. For example in 2011, I went to Russia, I had the privilege to have a private tour inside the Kremlin. At that time Russia was a closed country and it was indeed an honour to have been able to visit the place. I was fascinated by the two-headed imperial eagle, a symbol of the Russian Czars. When I decided to re-launch my perfume Diaghilev, the design of the box in which I placed the bottle had the imperial eagle on the side, a creative nuance inspired by my visit to Russia.
Another of my favourite, A Good Night Kiss is inspired by a childhood memory of my mother. I was just six years old but I remember my mother dressed for a cocktail party. She was wearing a golden dress and the light from the landing fell on her back casting a fairy-like halo. When she kissed me goodnight, I remember the smell of her powder and perfume, it was beautiful especially when I link it to the fairy-like appearance of my mother. For years, I had in mind that I wanted to create a fragrance inspired by this memory.
My mother died in 2009 and that is perhaps one of the biggest motivations that led to the founding of Roja Parfums in 2011. I launched Roja Parfums on July 2, 2011, a day before my parents’ wedding anniversary. Gradually in 2015, I had the chance to encapsulate my childhood memory into a fragrance. I launched A Good Night Kiss in the perfumery I have in Harolds on the sixth floor. Everything linked to this launch was associated with the number six in one way or the other because that is my mother’s birthday. Initially, we made 6 bottles of this perfume when it was launched on January 6, 2015. On the first day itself, we sold all bottles. By the end of the month, this was one of our bestselling perfumes.
PP: And which perfume does the master perfumer, himself wear?
RD: My choice of perfume is very unique. In fact, it is a formula that I have created and have been using for the last thirty years. However, when people around me insisted on buying the fragrance I wear, I decided to introduce my signature scent in the market on my birthday which falls on 25th. It was a huge success. Initially, we made 25 bottles for Britain and 25 bottles for the rest of the world. It was all sold out very quickly and so this year, we decided to introduce 250 bottles of the same fragrance.
Let me tell you a little about the composition of this fragrance. One of the elements in my signature perfume is the use of pure gold flakes inside it. But, this gold is not what would convey the luxury associated with this fragrance. In fact, the gold in it enables me to have fun when I have to explain the beauty of this fragrance to people. For instance, the jasmine used in this perfume is double the price of gold, the orris used in it is three and half times and the ambergris that gives the fragrance its sillage is seven times the price of the gold. So you see gold is one of the cheapest ingredients used in my perfume.
PP: Of the entire Roja Dove collection of perfumes, which is the one you are most proud of?
RD: My favourite is, of course, the one I wear and just spoke about. However, I am most proud of Diaghilev. There is a story behind this one as well which I must share with your readers. You see the idea to create this perfume stems back to one of my visits to the Victorian Albert museum where I was giving a lecture on Couture: Golden decade 1947-1957. When I was there I was introduced to a man who was soon going to put up an exhibition on Golden Age of the Ballets Russes. Not many people know that Ballets Russes is associated with theatre and perfumery. Yes! He was known to perfume the curtains on the stage so that when they were drawn at the start of the show, it would let out a whiff of memorable fragrance.
As a tribute to him, I decided to create the perfume Diaghilev for this upcoming exhibition. Initially, I made 500 bottles and it was a philanthropic venture so the risk was bigger. But the fragrance was hugely appreciated by people. We sold out much sooner than expected. Later in 2013, I relaunched this perfume inspired by my visit to Russia.
Another of my favourites is my latest fragrance Elysium which is a stark contrast to my previous creations. This is a fragrance for men laced with citrusy notes.
To conclude I would say that each Roja Dove perfume is carefully developed to suit specific personality. We have a balanced collection which was missing in men’s perfume. Elysium has filled that gap beautifully. It is an ideal choice for the carefree man who is contemporary in his sense of style.
PP: You seem to have a special preference for the Middle East.
RD: Yes I do! After all, it was here that I discovered Oudh Bakhoor and other beautiful ingredients that further refined my skill in perfumery. Not just that, my brand which was launched in Harrods was sold out because of the Arab clientele. They were my first clients. They loved it and my brand got its recognition instantly. Therefore I owe this region a lot. Additionally, I am fascinated by the love for perfumes exhibited by the people in this region.
Oman is where we had the first free-standing shop. We have now expanded to London and Bahrain. I am confident that very soon we will have a store in UAE as well.
Roja Dove’s 6 Gulf Collection!
United Arab Emirates, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Sultanate of Oman, Qatar, Kuwait and Kingdom of Bahrain.
“As a tribute to the love and appreciation that this region has given me, I have dedicated a special perfume to United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and Kingdom of Bahrain.
My Oman fragrance uses Frankincense based Oudh, which is a specialty of the region.
United Arab Emirates, the next fragrance in this collection uses Rose Taif based Oudh as its main ingredient, reminiscent of the smell of roses associated to this region.
The fragrance for Kingdom of Saudi Arabia consists of a fragrance laced with fruity notes, as a tribute to the region’s trait of including exotic variants of fruits in their dietary habits.
For Kingdom of Bahrain, the perfume is an attempt to encapsulate the spirit associated to the name of the country. Bahrain literally means two seas, a blend of fresh water and salty water. The use of ingredients like jasmine, rose and vanilla in this perfume symbolize the fresh water while the presence of citrusy notes symbolizes the salty water. I have also used ambergris or pearl of the whale in this perfume considering Bahrain is known to produce the finest of pearls.
Another integral part of the Bahrain culture is their faith in the tree of life which is said to have survived in the desert for various centuries. As a tribute to this faith, Kingdom of Bahrain uses five different types of woods in its base notes.”