Alec Lawless appears as The Victorian Perfumer on BBC TV and Launches New Fragrance: Empress Of India

by Walker Minton, 12th August, 2010

Alec Lawless, founder and perfumer at Essentially Me Artisan Perfumery, is to appear in the fourth episode of a BBC2 TV series "The Victorian Pharmacy" scheduled tonight (Thursday 12th August at 9pm). On the progamme he works with the three presenters to create a new fragrance using traditional ingredients. The perfume will also be available to buy exclusively from Essentially Me from the same date.


Here's what Alec had to say about the experience:"For the TV documentary I looked at late Victorian recipes for three perfumes and decided to use many of those ingredients with the addition of some oils from India. As I was going to call the fragrance Empress of India I decided it should contain the finest quality aromatics in fitting tribute to the traditions of perfumery in a bygone age.


I chose classic Orientals for the base: sandalwood, vetivert Bourbon, frankincense, vanilla, opoponax and patchouli. For the heart: tuberose, jasmines Sambac and grandiflorum, rose Maroc and orange blossom absolute. Citrus top notes of neroli, bergamot and mandarin were complimented by rose Otto, orris root and coriander.


As for the purposes of the television I had three apprentices, I got each to experiment with one of the accords before assessing them as a group and blending them in just proportion to produce the finished fragrance. It was quite engaging and even the guys on sound and camera came to check it when it was finished." More details about the show is available on the BBC website.


"Empress of India" Perfume


"Empress of India" will be available exclusively from Essentially Me in a 56ml bottle, either as an Eau de Parfum (£65) or Eau de Toilette (£45). There will also be a special edition sample size bottle of Eau de Parfum.


You can read a blog post by Alec about the Victorian Pharmacy here and read an interview with Alec Lawless from earlier in the year on Basenotes here.

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    • chengfun | 12th August 2010 11:01

      I like many of the notes, will have to see about getting a sample.

    • Aznavour | 13th August 2010 04:43

      I wish his segment had been longer, but it was a lot of fun to see him in action. The varying reactions to the scent were interesting. But it only whet my appepite for a full-length perfume documentary!

    • Alec lawless | 13th August 2010 08:40

      Last night was the first time I had seen edited footage - lots was cut.

      It was fun to shoot and I took a copper still and went into some detail regarding extraction methods and how they evolved over the Victorian period. I also took ambergris and crude gums of oppoponax, benzoin, frankincense and myrrh. On my blog somebody mentioned 'the ingredients of that time' but the fact is that many natural perfumers including myself still use the real thing. The only differences are that extraction technology has got better so our natural botanical materials are better quality than those of yester year and we have more to choose from. A three part documentary is currently being made. Alas I am not involved and the person advising is a journalist and not a perfumer.


      Alec Lawless

      Essentially Me


    • Katie Puckrik | 13th August 2010 22:42

      Alec! What a great showcase for your fragrance wizardry. I we could see the episode here in the States.

    • Aznavour | 14th August 2010 04:31

      Yes, the montage of you behind the counter looked so great! It's a shame it was so short, but it was fun to see the perfume community represented on tv. ;) (BTW, did they really sell Empress of India at Blists Hill as they said?)

      Is this documentary a BBC2 production as well?

    • Alec lawless | 14th August 2010 10:45

      Aznavour, the BBC quite often will comission a production company to produce a documentary. The Victorian Pharmacy was produced by Lion TV an interesting outfit that specialises in historical and educational work. They are also behind horrible histories. BBC 4 has commisioned the three part series but I forget which production company is doing it.

      The perfume was never sold at Blists Hill Ruth just wanted to try it on a few people to get their reactions.

      I'm intrigued how you managed to see it from LA. Katie is also LA based and seems to have trouble.

      Maybe she could pick up a tub of Cherry Garcia and pop round for a girlie evening. You can paint each others toes whilst watching the show.

    • Natural_Juice | 14th August 2010 15:50

      Ice cream and nail polish aside, Alec, as you know we in the US have been bemoaning the fact that we can't watch it on the BBC website due to some international hoo-ha about licensing or something. The members of the Yahoo NP group were making noises about maybe somebody "over there" taping it and putting it up on UTube. Know if that is possible?

    • Alec lawless | 14th August 2010 16:14

      Anya, the hoo ha is about license fees and distribution rights because the BBC is not a commercial TV channel. In the UK we pay an annual fee for a license and that pays for our TV and radio with the Beeb. They then sell on programs to other countries and networks so programs aren't shown for free overseas.

    • Aznavour | 15th August 2010 00:05

      There are multiple ways of seeing the series Stateside, but none of them will be simple or legal, alas!

    • ClaireMartinGarrigue | 15th August 2010 20:17

      Is Alec with the broom ??? I'm not in the good country, I think, to see BBC TV even on internet...

    • kitsch | 2nd September 2010 12:22

      Just got a 12 ml mini Empress of India - opulent, rich, just what you'd expect an Empress to wear. Gorgeous, and I'm typing slowly because I have to keep re-sniffing my wrists.