Perfume podcasts are on the rise as scent, rather surprisingly, is traversing digital airwaves almost as easily as it does air in real life. It seems ironic that a creative medium that requires our least active sense – smell – to be alert, and our physical presence to appreciate, should find its niche on podcasts.
I almost started a podcast two years ago, and broadcasting on fragrance was on my list of new year’s intentions. I love voice and far prefer it over video. Having trained in journalism, I went on to do a stint with a regional radio station, back in the days when digital was nowhere to be seen and we edited and spliced tape with razors. I have invested in a gorgeous retro-looking microphone and I’ve promised myself to put it into the service of scent.
In the meantime, I am enjoying searching the web for the latest podcasts and broadcasts on perfume matters. And there are quite a few to dive into. Some are regular chats among perfume industry insiders and pundits – like Fume Chat – while others such as The Eco Well have some interesting episodes on perfume hidden within long-running podcasts devoted to the wider health, beauty, cosmetics and wellness sector. There are podcasts that review perfumes and others that delve deeply into the science behind debates on naturals vs synthetic materials.
While perfume podcasts are a niche of a niche in podcasting still, my edit below of some choice episodes and channels is more than enough to keep you busy listening and learning for a few months. So tune in to some easy scent on sound listening with my top picks in perfume podcasts.
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Billed as the only podcast dedicated solely to the world of fragrance, Fume Chat is a tete-a-tete between two industry insiders: fragrance expert and consultant Nick Gilbert and blogger (aka The Candy Perfume Boy and five-times Jasmine Award winner) Thomas Dunckley. Nick is one half of Olfiction along with Pia Long, the perfumer who has just created niche British perfume house Beaufort’s Terror & Magnificence.
Informal and yet informative, Fume Chat is a relaxed romp around the fragrance world with a mix of reviews of new and old releases, industry events and interviews with noses on their work, life and times. I find it a perfect Sunday half-hour catch-up on all things fragrance. The podcast comes out each Friday and so far, since its launch in early 2019, it’s a regular broadcast.
Run out of Canada by Jen Novakovich, a cosmetic chemist and green beauty pioneer, The Eco Well is a site, blog and podcast designed with the intention of correcting the misinformation out there about green beauty, wellness, raw materials, the beauty business and more. It is accessible science and covers also cosmetic industry business topics ranging from CDB skincare to MLM in beauty. It also features perfume and fragrance from time to time. Two specific episodes on perfume include these below but look out also for past podcast episodes on issues such as allergens in cosmetics which are also of relevance to perfume.
An Interview with Pia Long on Sustainability and Safety in Fragrance; and
Karen Gilbert on Perfumery (a wide-ranging view on the role of fragrance and the personal care industry).
Dave Kern’s American Perfumer podcast is just that; a series of interviews with key US personalities behind generally niche, artisan, pioneering perfumeries. Dave started his podcast in 2018 and does an episode about every two months. This is more about what drives the creatives in the industry and is a fascinating look at those who either by design or default end up as perfumers.
Created by two cosmetic scientists, The Beauty Brains also covers the wider industry but touches in some episodes more specifically on fragrance. Perry Romanowski, an almost household name in beauty circles, and Valerie George co-host Beauty Brains bringing some 40 years combined experience in the cosmetics’ industry to the podcast, which launched in 2018.
A key episode is their fragrance Q&A extravaganza which asks ‘If it’s OK to have fragrance in skincare’ which covers what lies behind terms like fragrance free and unscented, and talks about how fragrance is chosen for personal care products and asks if you should avoid fragranced skincare. All these are common, grey area queries about fragrance. Definitely worth a listen, and browse around other worthwhile episodes too. In fact, in the preamble to this episode, Perry and team do a round up of latest cosmetic issues hitting the news headlines (FDA and cosmetic regulation, is one that comes up).
The Beauty Brains has a good many episodes on fragrance in cosmetics on topics like fragrance allergens, the shelf life of fragrance, and the long-lasting power (or not) of fragrance. Definitely a podcast to subscribe to if you wish to put perfume in its wider industry context.
Online, organic cosmetic formulation school Formula Botanica launched Green Beauty Conversations in 2018 and it has been producing podcast episodes regularly ever since. Far more than a formulation resource for its students, the podcast covers a gamut of cosmetic industry issues from sustainability of raw materials, to zero waste beauty and vegan cosmetics. I am slightly biased about the quality of its content as I work on podcast shownotes and blog posts for Formula Botanica but head over to listen for yourself and discover a mine of information and great guest interviewees.
School director Lorraine Dallmeier is the key anchor these days and is pushing the green beauty debate, tackling the latest news and controversial issues in the cosmetics’ sector. Fragrance as a standalone topic features in a recent episode, but there is plenty on the podcast and blog about fragrance-related topics such as allergens, INCI lists and ingredient transparency, and in blog posts on beauty trends:
Episode 25: Karen Gilbert on Fragrance in Natural Skincare
Episode 27: Reviewing Indie Beauty Trends & Events
Heretic Perfume is a US-based, artisinal brand creating natural perfumes that are based on ‘the mysterious, sensual and feral aspects of nature’. As you can sense, from the brand’s name to its creative mission statement, its output, whether in perfume or on other airwaves, is going to take an alternative, less conformist approach to perfumery.
Heretic’s Founder, nose and creative director Douglas Little launched the I AM HERETIC podcast in 2019 and is using his broadcasts to explore the world of fragrance, how it’s made and the effects it has and the extraordinary people perfume draws into its circle. To give you a feel for the podcast, listen to the January 2020 episode with Betony Vernon, a Paris-based erotic jewelry designer, sexual anthropologist and author of ‘The Boudoir Bible’; or the one with eponymous natural perfumer Mandy Aftel. I AM HERETIC is a good-natured romp into some lesser explored aspects of perfumery. One to bookmark, download and plan a monthly couch session with!
Now, we move away from perfume, wellness, green beauty and cosmetic science podcasts to those that feature perfume as a cultural talking point. The BBC Radio 4 religious-cultural affairs broadcast Beyond Belief, which looks at the place and role of faith across the world, discusses incense and scent in religious rituals and rites. Most of us first come across scent in our early years through participating in religious events, even if just the annual Christmas nativity play. I for one wondered what myrrh and frankincense were from an early age.
In this episode on why smell became so important a part of many faiths and how it enhances religious observance, host Ernie Rea is joined by Tim Jacob (Emeritus Professor at the School of Biosciences at the University of Cardiff), Kim Lahiri (Director at the International Federation of Aroma Therapists) and Dr Nicky Nielson (Lecturer in Egyptology at the University of Manchester). A truly fascinating, historic look at scent and smell in religion rites and beliefs across the millennia.
Another arm of the BBC, this time the World Service in its Conversations broadcast featured two known noses Shyamala Maisondieu, a fine fragrance perfumer originally from Malaysia, who now works for Givaudan in Paris; and Caroline Gaillardot, a French perfumer who specialises in creating scents for beauty care products. The conversation delves into how an imagined scent is captured and bottled, along with answering questions on how a nose is trained and why perfume is so cultural and personal a taste. The conversation is a rare insight into the working lives of two professional, global-name perfumers from very different backgrounds and working in different markets.
Veteran BBC reporter Bridget Kendal hosts this episode of The Forum, a broadcast series from the BBC’s World Service. Kendal traces and explores the history of scent bringing with her on the journey well-known industry insiders and pundits such as scientist and critic Luca Turin, writer and curator Lizzie Ostrom, and the perfumer Thomas Fontaine. The 40-minute podcast is a travel through time and emotions and tries to reveal the power scent holds over our emotions and memories as well as asking what exactly goes into a department store big name fragrance. A general overview of all things perfume given edge with the addition of its guest interviewees.
In Conclusion on Perfume Podcasts
I hope you enjoy this edit of easy scented listening. One of my 2020 intentions is to keep abreast of the perfumed airwaves for learning and leisure. Certainly, there is plenty of food for thought in the sheer range of fragrance-industry topics covered in these podcasts. Interesting, I note that P&G is backing a new podcast network for women, so I have a feeling we’ll see more beauty, wellness, green issue-oriented podcasts hitting the airwaves soon.