Short article about Bud Parfums, Australia and interview with Howard Jarvis

What a discovery!! While virtually travelling I found Bud Parfums in Australia. What does Miss Everybody (like me) know about Australia? Sheep, kangaroos, former convict colony of the British Empire, imported rabbits making life hard for everyone, Ayers Rock, wide very hot country on the other side of the globe, takes forever to get there, Kylie Minogue…… and Crocodile Dundee!!

I was skeptical about the Aussies (note to Howard: this is fondly spoken, like you probably fondly call us Krauts!) trying the art of scent mixing. It could be everything from synthetical shock to eco-superbore. But after the samples I had ordered had arrived and I repeatedly tested the whole pallet (and still do, they’re so beautiful) I was taught better. Bud Parfums offers very unusual combinations. There are known ingredients that can be identified, but in the middle of the development of the scent arise surprising notes which can’t be classified at all by me. Of course that provokes curiosity about the ingredients which Howard Jarvis, the nose behind Bud Parfums, hesitates to lay open entirely.

How the scents I have tested act on the skin is another interesting matter. At first they seem to be just nice, partly fruity, partly green or sweetish fluids. But the longer they melt into the skin, take on body temperature, the more one recognizes the complexity of the creations. Wavelike changes occur, fawning phases, which suddenly take on a different direction like wind-blown waves. I am used to linear development of scents, the well known head-heart-base pattern. Or sometimes no development – straight from beginning to end the smell stays as you get it from the start. Then some perfumers are able to surprise after all, I’m thinking about Neil Morris with his unconventional creations or the Boadicea the Victorious bangers. Made not for your average nose they do find their fans anyhow.

This could very well happen to the creations of Bud Parfums. They do not answer to modern expectations but still are modern. The names in the gentlemen’s range seem a bit archaic, I’m referring to Ugly Bastard, Assassin, The Gamekeeper, the ladies department comes not very feministic old-fashioned with Goddess, Sweetheart and even Oh La La! But don’t we all wish for that somehow? Clear set boundaries again, not get infected by this metro-sexual pressure. More and more unisex scents are being thrown on the market. New package, similar contents, focus on quick consumption. Everyone is entitled to that, but where is indulgence left here? In the food industry the very welcomed movement of Slow Food is timidly but surely advancing. When I reflect the time I have been with Parfumo, what I have seen or read over again in the forum entries and reviews, how users are fed up with the quick kick regarding scents. Slow Smell so to speak as a new trend in the world of scents? Now that is very welcome and aren’t we all in search of the perfect scent? Well, I am, and you can’t find that perfect scent during a quick dash through the department store or perfume-store. This is where Niche comes into the game. More and more so called niche-scents conquer the market. But do they really fill the niches? I’m thinking about Montale filling the shelves with almost confusing amounts of creations, or Xerjoff. With very expensive, very playful flasks they’re trying to present the special thing. Boadicea the Victoriuos is also a relatively new line with pretty décor and unusual creations, not necessarily a pleasure for all noses. Let alone the bank accounts!

And that’s the beauty about scents: everyone has faves, dislikes, possibilities. The pallet is broad enough for everyone and all new found territories, like here Australia, will be tested with great pleasure. Since I wanted to know more about Bud Parfums than can be found on their homepage, I contacted Howard Jarvis very cautiously via e-mail whether he would be willing to answer a few questions. And his gracious consent resulted in the following e-mail interview you can read now:

dg: I am very delighted about my samples and am sniffing my way through them. It has become rare that scents can raise my enthusiasm. A lot of the scents sold in the usual places are the same old thing, altered just slightly, refilled and repromoted with big advertising in magazines, TV and the like.

Now this is not just a praising e-mail, I also have some questions you might be able to answer. I am member of and writing for a German perfume forum ( It is a platform for perfume lovers who exchange their experiences, impressions, likes and dislikes and tips, beside samples and the like. Now you may think, what a big thing, there are plenty of forums like that. No,no. Ours is special. We don't gossip, we don't advertise much and we tryto describe the scents we have and test and share with each other as good as we can. And let me assure you, there are some very good noses to swing a creative pen present. It is a very serious platform and we don't take scents lightly!

I would like to write a Blog article about Bud Parfums that goes a little beyond the official statement on your homepage. I would really appreciate if you would be so kind to answer a few questions, since up here we now nothing about the Australian perfume world.

HJ: Thank you for your kind words. I have since seen your website and am impressed (and now registered). I am happy to answer any of your questions about our perfumes and about us being a custom design perfume house.

dg: You have over 4000 ingredients to choose from. Are they all imported or do you use local fauna as well?

HJ: We have collected a huge number of ingredients over 40 years and have some rare classics no longer available. We aim to make exclusive perfumes for special people. We do have many rare Australian oils like:Budha wood (eremophila), Lemon myrtle (backhousia citriodora). Now we have a growing industry of organic farmers growing and distilling essential oils, so we get excellent quality at reasonable prices.

dg: Since when does the Australian perfume industry exist? And how many Australian perfumers work on scents?

HJ: We have a long history of perfumers going back to about 1850, but now there is less than 50 left as most of the industry tends to buy fragrances from the large fragrance houses eg Dragaco etc. We want to reverse the trend of everything being made in China in the near future.

dg: Did the natives (before the european invasion) use scents - besides for religious rites?

HJ: The aboriginals here used eucalyptus for treating coughs and colds (for 40,000 years) and lemon myrtle for flavouring and cooking meats. (It has the highest/ strongest lemon citral note in the world ).

dg: Are you bound to any restrictive laws telling you what can be used in a perfum? (Here in Europe a lot of ingredients are banned nowadays because a few allergics have complained about reactions to certain things. Oakmoss for instance has practically vanished from mainstream European scents. That's why a lot of classics for example from Guerlain have changed for the worse. Of course we do have the true oriental scents from Arab countries slowly being discovered. Truly heavy stuff for european noses, but nonetheless very interesting and sometimes even wearable in Europe.)

HJ: We tend to be "maverick" perfumers and design a perfume for its beauty. Although we follow INFRA guidelines, we place more importance on the value of the ingredient and the final scent. We have considered including a health warning with products, but feel most customers will use their common sense. Also as we use as many natural ingredients (including oakmoss) as possible.

dg: What is the preference of Australians when it comes to perfume? More sweet, more spicy, more green, more flowery?

HJ: We have such a diverse range of customers and ages that have unusual preferences. As we are mostly a hot country (in summer 45 C.) the florals, classics and fruity scents are popular with women. The men tend to wear earthy, woody colognes that are very masculine. (See our "Gamekeeper" and "If" ).

dg: I hope this does not sound to inquisitive but we are very interested in all things connected with scent and especially artists who do not follow the mainstream and create true PARFUM! (I am wearing Goddess at the moment and can't take my nose of the spot on my wrist where I dabbed it!!!!)

After researching a bit and thanks to your answers so far I know that your career as a parfumer has started with a few detours going from bricklaying to fashion photography and homeopathy among others. Your wish to help others directed you to study the natural ways of healing. Why didn’t you choose traditional medicine or another social field to work in?

HJ: I did study herbal medicine, naturopathy and homeopathy. For 15 years I was a director of a large herb company. It was here that we trained organic farmers to grow medicinal herbs and essential oils.

dg: Have you had a “nose for scents” when you were younger or has that developed with your studies of herbs?

HJ: I have always had a good nose and learning how to grow and prescribe herbs gives me a better understanding of the nature of the plants. I have finally got around to be a perfumer.

dg: In Germany documented tradition of healing or helping people with natural methods goes back to the middle ages (of course) – one name here is the nun Hildegard von Bingen. She had to justify her methods with “visions” to not be burned as a witch! As a very smart woman she had connections and also knew how to present her “visions” in a was making it hard for the church highers to contradict her. Her book of herbs and their uses is still being sold today. Also there are “Bachblueten” – Bach flowers treatments. The amazing thing here is that you can’t even smell the flowers in the tinctures anymore but they work anyway. But you probably know that….

What I’m getting at is: considering your background as herbalist do you wave a little magic in your creations to make them not only smell good but be somehow a healing potion? Or would you - upon request?

HJ: We do use homeopathic techniques to make perfumes and do add essences for confidence, calming, etc. You will feel a mood change wearing our perfumes. We have this a secret until now.

dg: The ones I have tested so far have a good effect on my mood – Goddess for instance calms me down. That brings to mind the books “Parfum – The story of a murderer” or even “Jitterbug Perfume” by Tom Robbins. The protagonists are on the big search for one magic ingredient to make the ultimate perfume to be either loved by everyone or in the other case to reach immortality.

Are you working on the ultimate perfume? Have you found your perfect ingredient or maybe even perfume?

HJ: The "ultimate" perfume...hmmm, well I guess any composer will one day write a "symphony". Each perfume is such a labour of love and all become another "child" of the "family". I did work on Sweetheart for a long time before I was completely happy with its softness and tenderness.I love reading any book on perfume for a new twist.

dg: I’m thinking of “Sweetheart” now, that is quite an exquisite scent and melts into the skin, becoming part of oneself to enhance the aura. At least on my skin it does.

While researching for this interview I found quite a few natural perfumers in Australia – more than we have here in Germany. Some of them are organized, if you could say that, in the Natural Perfumers Guild. Since you at one point mentioned your “maverick” status, …do you sympathize with guilds like that or is that to binding, restricting for your work?

HJ: I feel that unfortunately even natural perfumers and their guild can become restrictive. Why be limited to only naturals ? The perfumer needs to be free and create true beauty. All ingredients can be used in harmony and balance. Imagine some of the classics without aldehydes ?

dg: In Germany the natural perfumes have the reputation of being “patchouli” – meaning to much hippie, to much “green”. Even though there are some big names now like Farfalla, Florascent, Primavera (made in Germany) besides all the other European brands like for example Korres, only few perfumers are known by name: Kim Weisswange in Hamburg and to a few insiders at Parfumo Harry Lehmann in Berlin. The others are not mentioned not even on the homepages of the companies. Coming back to the guild and another fact you stated earlier, that only about 50 perfumers are left in Australia, the question arises whether industrially produced perfume will be the winner in the long run. Even though your goal is to reverse that trend, can independent perfumers make a living if they have to buy the rare ingredients which are becoming scarcer by the year?

HJ: As industry is fast heading towards cheaper ingredients and overseas manufacturing, we know that if we introduce customers to a scent that is hand made with fine ingredients they can immediately see the difference eg. say a plastic violin to a "stradivarious" classic hand made violin. Todays customers are very clever and as the whole world is now available at the click of a mouse we must give good value for money.

Independent perfumers can make a living if they produce quality scents at reasonable prices. We aim to educate our customers and refine their "noses". We are now relying more and more on websites like Parfumo for help in this education.

dg: Since it is easier and not as costly to buy the “Chinese” ingredients how can the customer differentiate between the real natural perfume and the ones that are produced to ride the “eco-conscious-train”?

HJ: Customers can begin to notice the purity of natural perfumes. There are less allergies and a longer wearing scent with some. All of us are left to trust the manufacturer and their claims. I feel making organic certified scents would place us in an even smaller niche and be too restrictive with ingredients.

dg: One more thing before you roll your eyes at all these questions.

The big perfume house Guerlain has this famous Guerlinade going through all their scents (not so much anymore as in the old days thanks to reformulations). From the 5 scents I have here from your range I think I can recognize something like a “Budiade”. I should probably smell some more or even better all of your perfumes to confirm that. The easy way is of course, if you tell me: am I right or just not experienced enough to find that out (laywomans nose!)?

HJ: We are impressed you can detect something like a "Budiade" but cannot tell you all of our closely guarded secrets. Perhaps you may want to try some more perfumes. For now I will keep you guessing and keep just a little bit of mystery.

dg: Thank you very much Mr. Jarvis for taking the time to answer all these questions. I’m sure there will be quite some “nosy noses” from Germany wanting to test your scents now.

Note: This interview was held via e-mail in August 2011. (dg)

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