The most exclusive fragrances in the world have no signature scent. Rather, the season's yield decides the aroma of each bottle at Ffern - an organic perfumery based dually in Somerset & East London.
Ffern, an organic perfumery, appears four times a year, always in a different form with different base and head notes and new ingredients and accords. Created in both Somerset and east London by brother and sister Owen Mears and Emily Cameron, they are counting down the days till the release of their fragrant autumn equinox and winter solstice scents.
Somerset’s self-described “quietly disruptive perfumers”, blend, barrel-age, bottle & release their organic, small batch, limited-run fragrance four times a year.
“We’re really proud of finding the sense of each season’s fragrance,” says Owen. “We don’t try and reinvent the wheel every season - we try to evolve and build on what has come before.”
For each fragrance, Ffern sources the best in organic, sustainably harvested natural ingredients and distils at source wherever possible. Sustainability has been woven into every area of Ffern which is one of the first perfume makers to create entirely recyclable bottles.
Ffern is an exclusive fragrance. Primarily a fragrance subscription service, to receive your 32cl Ffern perfumes you must enrol on its ledger. “The Ffern ledger acts as our guide each season; we make one bottle of the fragrance for every name on our ledger, no more.” says Owen.
The latest scent was released on September 23. Inspired by a biodynamic herb farm down the lane from the Ffern studio and founders' family home, Ffern's Autumn 22 fragrance includes citrus tones and a light blend of herbs and spices - grapefruit, elemi, ginger, basil, coriander, lavender, clove, cardamom and bay.
For the first time Ffern has added a final smoky aroma of black tea. The result is an ode to the Somerset herb farm that is enriched and strengthened by the leafy mystique of Ceylon tea. Each bottle is sent with an original blend of organic herbal tea, crafted by the Somerset herb farm.
Working in this way allows Ffern to remain true to traditional, small batch production processes and - by being so tightly controlled - minimise waste. It also builds a strong community.
“Our ledger members are part of the creative process,” says Emily. “During the development phase of each fragrance we actively encourage feedback and suggestions and will work these into our brief. It becomes an exciting, highly collaborative journey.”
Owen studied Philosophy at Oxford University and Emily, English Literature, followed by a M.A. in History of Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art, before working as a researcher at Sotheby’s. He now works as a strategist and Emily works for the British fashion brand, TOAST.
Each Ffern bottle arrives with a sample vial, so you can decide whether or not you wish to keep it. The ledger is currently open for Ffern Winter 22 which is composed of 18 natural ingredients, four top notes, seven mid notes and 7 base notes. It has been created to capture “winter sunshine and the air which sings on a winter’s day.”
Adds Emily : “Because the fragrance is made from natural ingredients, and therefore much more complex than a synthetic scent, it will evolve differently with each wearer, developing over the course of the day, as some ingredients fade and others come to the fore. It makes for a more exciting experience -one that celebrates the beauty and vitality of nature.”
“The ageing takes time, so we usually need to be certain of the final formulation a least six months before the release. Each perfume launch is an evolution of the last, so we’ll be exploring potential evolutions as far as 24 months in advance. Our Autumn 20 was all about capturing “petrichor” – the way the air smells after rain. Distilling the essence of petrichor was an entirely different challenge. After countless iterations, we discovered that rose absolute, cognac oil and oak and rosewater did the rest.”
The noses behind Ffern's artisanal and very English scents are François Robert, a fourth-generation perfumer and Elodie Durande. Robert is the great-grandson of Joseph Robert, a French chemist who in 1884 discovered a method to extract 100% pure fragrance oils from plants.
Ledger members are also part of the creative. Because the fragrance is made from natural ingredients, and therefore much more complex than a synthetic scent, it will evolve differently with each wearer, developing over the course of the day, as some ingredients fade and others come to the fore. It makes for a more exciting experience -one that celebrates the beauty and vitality of nature.
“Scent has always been part of my life,” says Owen. “Our mother made bundles of sage and rosemary and hung them from the taps in the bathroom - something I’ve continued to do. And each year I was at university, I’d put a different fragrance in my room. Scent evokes time and place.”
Returning home to Somerset is always an inspiration for him. “Once I noticed the familiar scent from the herb farm - the backdrop to our childhood - and realised it was exactly that layering and depth which I had been seeking in a fragrance. And if I couldn’t find it, perhaps I could make it.”
Ffern’s founders grew up in Somerset in a village near the lower levels of Exmoor. At the end of their lane was a medieval manor, home to an organic herb farm. It was this herb farm that became their first introduction to the potential of scent. Their first workshop was in their mother’s potter’s shed.
“I can still remember late summer evenings from our childhood,” recalls Emily “when the scent of cinnamon, cumin and cardamom would drift into the garden, mixing with the warm, honey-ish notes of the roses. From the middle of the English countryside, we were transported – just for a moment - to the other side of the world.”