An Interview with Perfumer Ruth Mastenbroek

21st November, 2012

Ruth Mastebroek is a British perfumer who grew up in England and America. She has spent more than 25 years in the perfume industry including work for Quest International (now part of Givaudan), Jo Malone, Kenneth Turner and Jigsaw. In 2010 she launched her own eponymous line. The first fragrance released was Ruth Mastebroek. The second in the line, Amorosa, was released in the summer. Lila Das Gupta asked her about her past, and her new fragrance. [strike] Basenotes readers have the chance to win a sample of Amorosa [/strike] (offer now closed).

How did you come to train as a perfumer?

When I finished my chemistry degree at Oxford, I became assistant sales manager of the perfumery department at Selfridges in London. I was fascinated by what went into perfumes like Chanel No 5 and my favourite, Guerlain's Mitsouko. I attended an evening course on perfumery at the South London Polytechnic (sadly defunct now), and from then on nothing would stop me until I could train as a perfumer! I was hired as a trainee perfumer at the UK branch of an international perfumery company whose HQ was in Holland (it is now Givaudan). Later I trained in Holland and worked in Grasse.

Are there any perfumes that you've particularly admired over the years?

I love Mitsouko for the way Jacques Guerlain enhances beautiful naturals with synthetics; it's a classic chypre, which is my favourite fragrance family because of the depth and mystery the woody and oakmoss notes bring. I was lucky enough to work with Jacques Cavallier (creator of Issey Miyake L'Eau d'Issey) and Olivier Cresp (creator of Thierry Mugler Angel) in Grasse, over the years I have admired them both, and their fragrance creations!

You spent some time in Japan - has that influenced how you view things aesthetically?

The 4 years I spent in Japan introduced me to ikebana, the art of flower arranging, and the Noh theatre. Both are quite minimalist, expressing beauty and harmony through form, with careful choices of shape and position. This appealed to me in my perfumery, conjuring something exquisite that has a deceptive simplicity, based on a complex and rigorously conceived foundation.

How did your work develop when you worked for Jo Malone?

Working with Jo Malone was fantastic because she was extremely clear about the fragrance directions she wanted. She made me realise the importance of not compromising on your ideals, which chimed well with the fact that I always wanted to strive to create better fragrances. The fragrance I am best known for at Jo Malone is the Grapefruit candle - Jennifer Lopez ordered 300 of them for her hotel room once when she was performing in London!

Why did you decide to start your own line?

It became a burning ambition to express my own personality in a fragrance, not just to translate someone else's ideas. It was an urge that was impossible to ignore. The chypre accord has always been close to my heart, so I knew that my first 'own' fragrance was going to be a chypre. Bergamot, rose, patchouli, and oakmoss would make the chypre accord...but how to make it different from every other chypre out there? That was the million dollar question that I just had to answer, while staying true to myself, with my own taste and passions for certain ingredients shining through. Using pink peppercorns, pineapple and blackcurrant in the top of my signature fragrance, and allowing the patchouli and amber base notes to be strong and important throughout, gave my fragrance the uniqueness I was aiming for.

Do you have a particular type of person in mind when you create fragrances?

The person I am creating for is an individual who is strong-minded, who is drawn to trying something new, while recognising the intrinsic integrity and quality of classic ingredients. He or she loves to experience the story unfolding as a perfume changes over time, with compelling top notes revealing a vibrant heart and a powerful base. She is challenged by it, and revels in it, the wonderful things/smells there are in the world.

You're a British perfumer, where do you draw inspiration from?

I have always been proud to be British, but most of the ingredients we use in perfumery come from far-away lands, where lush climates produce glorious opulent-scented flowers and barks and roots. My travels in the Americas (I spent most of my childhood in the US), the Far East and in Europe have, if anything, heightened my appreciation of all things British, and shown that Britishness in relief, from different angles. My inspiration comes from those travels and from my childhood, probably almost subconsciously - the ideas bubble up to the surface and sometimes it is only afterwards I can put them into context.

What was the inspiration behind Amorosa?

The inspiration for Amorosa was discovering a new part of Italy - it was for me like falling in love! I wanted to capture the excitement of falling in love, with top notes that would take your breath away, with a floral heart that is abundant and joyful, and base notes that are powerful, all-enveloping. So Amorosa came into being, gradually over many months, building on the rocks of the amber and wood notes a heart of tuberose and tiare flower, that culminated in the wonderfully fresh, green top notes with an unusual watermelon accord.


Would you like the chance to win a sample vial of Amorosa?

We have twenty samples of Ruth Mastenbroek's latest fragrance to give away. If you would like to enter the draw, please email, using the subject "Amorosa draw" to: with your name and postal address. We will randomly pick 20 names from all entries received at the close of Sunday 25th November. Sorry, this offer is now closed.[/strike]

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About the author: Lila Das Gupta

Lila Das Gupta is a London based journalist with an interest in all things olfactory. Lila also organises the Perfume Lover's London meet-up group.


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    • Kiliwia | 24th November 2012 16:53

      Hope our UK friends will let us know what they think of Amorosa, it sounds interesting.