Scenting Star Wars – What Would Chewbacca Smell Like?

What would Chewbacca smell like?We can watch films in IMAX 3D, but smellovision has never been perfected and let’s face it, current attempts to improve it just make it into a torture device – something that Kylo Ren might enjoy using in his special chamber. Maybe one day we’ll go to see a Star Wars film and have the option of tapping into the extra dimension of smell. In the meantime, I got together with a fellow nose nerd Nick Gilbert to imagine what some of the characters in Star Wars: The Force Awakens would smell like. This was, of course, exactly what the world needed. You can thank us later. We also interpreted our highly scientific observations to fragrances you can actually buy and wear (because you probably don’t want to smell like engine lubricant or matted fur).

And what better way to illustrate this mashup than the mashup art of Brian Kesinger (used here with permission; check out his Etsy store and Instagram for more).

Brian Kesinger PoePoe Dameron

Portrayed in the film by Oscar Isaac

Pia: There’s got to be a bit of a sweaty note because, come on, being in an X-Wing cockpit for hours, squeezed into those uniforms… I imagine a kind of plastic-y smell, too – though maybe their dashboards are a little bit more sophisticated. He is also a bit of a hero type and has definite sex appeal.

Nick: I see Poe as smelling of a bizarre mixture of ‘handsome-man-smell’ and the grease and metal of an X-Wing hangar. And a bit of sweat.

Perfume from a galaxy not so far away
Rien Rien by Etat Libre d’Orange, an intensely sexual pleather or…
Synthetic Series Garage by Comme des Garçons – smell of the hangar where he spends time fixing his X-Wing before flying off and being heroic and gorgeous.






Brian Kesinger Rey and BB8BB-8

Pia: This droid rolls on screen during a very distressing battle scene with smoke and singed bodies and chaos, so I think at first BB-8 will be covered in the smell of battle; fire, laser guns and death. The turning point of meeting with Rey also means leaving behind those horrors and BB-8 would smell metallic but quite playful.

Nick: BB-8 is THE cutest, sassiest droid, ever. Sorry Artoo but this little spherical feat of genius gives me all my life. But he’s still a droid. So he must smell of metal. And he’s very fluid.

Perfume from a galaxy not so far away
Mercury Nu BeNu_Be Mercury. A fluid, metallic scent that rolls all over the place.


Portrayed in the film by Daisy Ridley

Pia: Salty, sweaty skin and sand – nothing floral at all about this self-reliant, determined heroine. She doesn’t need rescuing and she’s not a stereotypical Disney princess. I love everything about Rey and the scene where she completely kicks arse while Finn looks on is just perfect.

Nick: Rey is second best thing about the Episode VII (after BB-8, obviously) – and as we first meet her on Jakku, wrapped in some very dry looking rags, the expanse of desert air takes me in a very specific direction of amber, spice, and woods.

Perfume from a galaxy not so far away

MarocainL’Air du Desert Marocain. Hot air, hot sand, dry and austere, with an incomparable strength.


Brian Kesinger FinnPortrayed in the film by John Boyega

Pia: At first, Finn would definitely smell of blood and fear but we’re all rooting for him to switch sides and get away from the First Order as fast as he can. Even though he can’t shake that instinct to run away when things aren’t going well, he turns out to be a bit of a hero in the making. He’s not macho but he’s sexy and has character. He just needs something to fight for and for people to believe in him.

Nick: A sensitive warrior, Finn isn’t afraid to show his feelings and looks Really Quite Good holding a blue lightsabre.

Perfume from a galaxy not so far away

LeMaleLe Male because it’s sensitive, has character and comes in a blue bottle like the lightsabre we now associate with Finn.

Kylo Ren

Brian Kesinger Kylo RenPortrayed in the film by Adam Driver

Pia: An emo teenager with terrible power over others; what could go wrong? Kylo loves to feel strong but at the same time of course feels deeply insecure. I got it into my head that Kylo would smell of Aventus because of the sorts of comments that fragrance seems to generate.

Nick: A young man desperate for approval, with an explosive temper and an urge for power? He would absolutely smell like a banker. Aventus x1000 times. And, also, he’d smell of a very nice shampoo because how the hell does he not have helmet hair?

Perfume from a galaxy not so far away

AventusAventus by Creed. If Kylo were on the fragrance forums, he’d be paying very close attention to all those ‘panty dropper’ threads with the bros looking for the most POWERFUL scent. He’d be keen to have something that is thought to be the best scent in the world because it gets so many compliments.


Luke Skywalker

Portrayed in the film by Mark Hamill

Pia: The Luke we meet in this film is a recluse on an island; he’s marked by tragedy and loss, and not the same Luke we knew. Yet there was always a mix of innocence and something a little bit darker lurking underneath about Luke. The island itself leaves a scent impression, too; the smell of the sea, ambergris… the vegetation…his sweaty robes…

Nick: Don’t forget the robot hand.

Perfume from a galaxy not so far away
JangalaJangala by Parfumerie Generale. Lush vegetation and aquatic; suggestive of a metallic edge or Amazingreen by Comme des Garçons: gunpowder-vegetation.

Princess Leia

Brian Kesinger Han and LeiaPortrayed in the film by Carrie Fisher

Pia: From a princess to a general, Leia is not a helpless wallflower, waiting to be plucked and never was. On the other hand, she has always been beautiful and feminine in her own way. Leia doesn’t follow, Leia leads.

Nick: Regal and authoritative, Leia’s leadership style seems to have grown more understated over the years.


Perfume from a galaxy not so far away
JourJour d’Hermes. A stunning abstract floral, feminine, luminous and mysterious.

Han Solo

Portrayed in the film by Harrison Ford

Pia: The cool action hero, a little cynical and battle-worn by the time we meet him in this film (but, then, having fathered Kylo Ren, who can blame him?) – Han Solo is the original space cowboy. I don’t think he would smell of anything overly ornamental or fussy.

Nick: Han spends all of his time with a wookie, so not only would he smell like a classic silver fox, but I think he’d be very conscious of smelling animalic and would be hyper-clean at the same time.

Perfume from a galaxy not so far away
Eau sauvageHan would smell of Eau Sauvage. A deceptively simple sexy silver fox scent with a hint of wookie.


Portrayed in the film by Anthony Daniels

Pia: Ambrettolide has exactly the sort of wet pennies-warm keys metallic aspect that I imagine would emanate from C-3PO’s shiny noggin, but it’s also a little bit fruity. My impression of C-3PO has been influenced by how the protocol droids are portrayed in the computer game Star Wars, The Old Republic, so a hint of cleaning product and starch lingers there, too…

Nick: C-3PO wouldn’t be just clean and shiny. He’s got a hint of the fabulous about him.

Perfume from a galaxy not so far away

888Comme des Garçons 8 88 – the scent of shiny gold, absolutely, but at the same time somewhat serious and rigid.

R2 D2

Portrayed in the film by Kenny Baker

Pia: Poor R2 D2, dusty and inactive, something still whirring in there, deep down, but a far cry from the lively droid we know and love. Of course he does get to wake up in the end, and I imagine that smell from warming electrical wiring and dust burning off might have a bit of a waxy, snuffed-out candle note. So I can’t stop thinking about Comme Des Garçons 2 Man (and the name of it might have something to do with this, too).

Nick: Hahaha! That’s perfect.

Perfume from a galaxy not so far away

Man2Comme Des Garçons 2 Man.


Brian Kesinger ChewbaccaPortrayed in the film by Peter Mayhew and Joonas Suotamo

Pia: I think Chewie would smell mostly of costus; that hairy, goaty, dirty hairbrush note – and also of hyraceum absolute, bit of civet and a hint of isobutyl quinoline (the leather note of his outfit).

Nick: Oh absolutely, Chewie is all matted fur and leather. He might rip your arms off.



Perfume from a galaxy not so far away

ComplexChewbacca smells like Complex by Boadicea the Victorious. An imposing leather and fur perfume, not for the faint of heart.


There’s a brilliant Undercover Boss x The Force Awakens mashup you YouTube and just in case you’ve been living under a rock, check out Emo Kylo Ren and Very Lonely Luke on Twitter.

Over to you – did we get this right? Let us know in the comments what you think these characters (and the ones we haven’t mentioned) should smell of?

Aino’s Swede Casserole


I was asked to rummage through my Christmas smell memories for the Scented Letter this month and in doing so, also rummaged through every old photo album I have here with me in the UK.


Although I did find a few Christmas photos that weren’t completely humiliating, what I actually ended up spending more time on, were pictures of my maternal grandmother Aino, and of us together.


Aino grew vegetables, berries and flowers at our summer cottage and she adored flowers in particular.

We had dog rose, jasmine, pansies, lilies, geraniums and many more in abundance in every available spot. It’s no wonder that my first word was “kukka” (Finnish for “flower”, reportedly uttered as I went for Aino’s pansy border).


As soon as could manage it, Aino took me along for her walks to gather wild flowers and that became a kind of tradition over the years.


The teenage me would kill me for posting this.

Aino was a Karelian refugee who came over to Finland at the age of 2 and lived at a time when one had to know how to do everything from scratch. Sometimes we don’t realise how spoiled we are.

She taught me how to make Karelian pasties, sourdough rye bread and many basic Finnish dishes. Many of these lessons took place at the summer cottage where we did not have electricity and the cooking was done on a wood-fired range and the bread was baked in the wood-heated oven at the sauna dressing room. I learned how to light the fires and brush out the coals and how dry birch bark makes the best kindling.

Aino’s cooking and baking wasn’t highly decorative but it was incredibly tasty. The post-war mentality of adding sugar, butter and cream to most things helped quite a bit there.

I still sometimes make the traditional Finnish Christmas dish lanttulaatikko (swede casserole), which used to be one of Aino’s masterpieces. My mother attempted to extract the recipe from her but Aino was not one for writing down instructions so the only way to save the recipe was to follow her and pay attention. Alas, my mother was not a detail person and the recipe she produced as a result of this exercise ended up somewhat chaotic and scribbled (main image). The various annotations in different colour pens are clarifications and dire warnings (“NOT TOO MUCH WATER!”) after years of attempts to get it right.

If you would like to have a go at making Aino’s lanttulaatikko, you’ll need a deep casserole dish and a large saucepan.

Aino’s lanttulaatikko

  • 2 medium swedes
  • A generous tablespoonful of wheat flour (or dried breadcrumbs)
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 100ml of syrup (the one we used is Dan Sukker golden syrup which is available here from Ocado)
  • 1/2 tsp of allspice
  • 1 egg
  • 100ml of cream
  • 1 tbsp of butter

Chop the swedes and boil until cooked in little water. Add the salt to the cooking water. Mash the swedes in their water (careful not to have too much water). Add the flour and mix well. Then add the syrup and mix well – leave to sweeten for at least two hours (you can get the dish this far the night before and add the remaining ingredients and bake the following day).

Heat the oven to 150°C.

Add the remaining ingredients just before baking. Bake for approximately two hours.

Goes extremely well with baked ham, roast chicken, sprouts and lingonberry jam.


Read this month’s Scented Letter for more: IMG_3094.PNG

Salt and cherry air

ODOU4We’re in love with stories. Our brains prefer a narrative structure to information. Communicating about smell is hard. Perfumers, evaluators, marketers, sales people and perfume bloggers have to do it all the time and our ability to do so is limited by language.

In the last couple of weeks, we’ve been doing a lot of smelling in the lab.

“Why am I getting a marzipan note?”

“Oh yes – but it’s not marzipan – it’s the air above a jar of maraschino cherries.”


“It’s very white.”


“I need a salty smell.”


“It’s got a coriander note, or more specifically, the dry heat sensation of coriander.”

Die Grenzen meiner Sprache bedeuten die Grenzen meiner Welt.
The limits of my language mean the limits of my world
Ludwig Wittgenstein

My article in ODOU Issue 4 talks about the reductionism of perfume to its ingredients. On one hand ingredients are, of course, of great interest to perfumers at the point of creation (odour, cost, impact, regulatory issues, stability). A perfumer may get deep into discussion with another about a new aroma chemical and its use levels in different applications or about a natural material which they have found exciting in recent work. Whole conferences are dedicated to showing off new raw materials to perfumers.

Sometimes the spark of inspiration for a new perfume is a single raw material. In some cases a particular note may strongly influence how the finished scent smells. Some brave brands have even started mentioning aroma chemicals in their marketing. Still, these are technical discussions. They are useful to perfumers and to product creators, but won’t convey how the complete perfume smells. One can’t even say “I know blue suits me, ergo, this new blue dress will suit me” because perfumes aren’t made up of blocks of smells, nestling side-by-side. When you add smell 1 + smell 2 you don’t get 3. You get a completely new smell. Perfumers are illusionists. Listing fragrance notes in a pyramid or on press releases is never going to be as good as smelling the thing itself.

And since we do love a good story, romantic stories of ingredients (where they came from, what they smell like, who discovered them, where they’ve been used before…) can help sell a fragrance. Sure. It’s all part of the theatre and it works.

However. Should we insist that the value of perfume is entirely about the value of its ingredients? Do we want consumers to start calculating how much the juice in the bottle costs and thinking “hold on a minute, I’m being ripped off here.” Of course not. Should books or paintings be reduced to their raw materials? Is that what they’re worth? Did the author or the artist not have something to do with the value of the end product?

Read ODOU and let me know your thoughts.

A Moomin interlude

Finland moomins volatile fictionI’ve just had a wonderful two week holiday in my native Finland and returning to the UK after what was, apparently, the best weather for the whole summer has been quite the culture shock. It’s like being inside Tupperware here. Grey and moist. I had a bath yesterday morning, opened the window to ‘let the moisture out’, and the air got wetter.

The first week was gloriously sunny and spent at Villa Eino at Hawkhill Nature (which I can’t recommend enough – though take my recommendation with the disclaimer that these cottages at Nuuksio National Park are owned by my husband’s cousin). The water was warm enough for daily morning swims. We grilled sausage. Picked litres of bilberries (the smaller, purple-fleshed ‘wild blueberry’). Enjoyed many sauna sessions. Then my husband flew back home and I spent another week in Helsinki and Tikkurila meeting family and friends.

The markets and shops are bursting with fresh berries and mushrooms right now. Due to the late arrival of warm weather, we hit the bilberry season head on and the lingonberries should be arriving soon – lots of partially ripe berries everywhere. Lingonberry is not too dissimilar in flavour to the cranberry, but sharper. I really miss them over here (they go wonderfully well with meat and liver dishes, as well as baked into delicious pies). Finnish strawberries are wonderful and still available in abundance. They get the nightless nights of summer and have a muskier flavour (similar to the wild strawberry) than the British and Spanish varieties we eat over here. Chanterelles are another delicacy; my friend made a delicious sauce with chanterelle mushrooms in butter, served with new potatoes. Simple things like that – and the bread, the glorious variety of different kinds of bread – is what I miss most from Finland, food-wise. I also miss some of the junk foods and flavours from my childhood (meat ‘donuts’ filled with rice, onion and minced beef; pear flavour ice cream, Fazer chocolate).

The things to look out for when over there are all things textile design – Marimekko, Vallila and so on – and even normal supermarkets can have a lovely selection of home textiles. There are outlet stores with good discounts so if you get a bit of local guidance, you can make some great discoveries. Then there’s Iittala glass design and wooden jewellery, and Moomins everywhere, of course.

I brought back lots of books and sourdough rye bread and chocolate and they’ll keep me connected to Finland a little while longer. I’m already planning my next trip (which will probably be a family gathering in 2017 – and I might need to do two trips that year, seeing as the Helsinki WorldCon bid was successful!).

Ruth Mastenbroek launches Oxford – giveaway!

RMF_Oxford_100mlJust a quick heads up and a giveaway for you – Ruth Mastenbroek launched the third perfume under her own brand last week and its warm, ambery scent is wafting from my skin as we speak. Oxford is described as a unisex scent and is exclusively available from Fenwick of Bond Street, London.

I have a sample vial to give away to a lucky reader – leave a comment to let me know why you’d like to try this scent and I will draw a winner at random next weekend (19th of July) and edit this post on that day to announce the winner, so please check back if you participate.

From the press release:

Inspired by her time as a Chemistry undergraduate at Oxford in the 1970’s, Ruth’s latest fragrance captures the essence of discovery, being exposed to things you have never come across before… a feeling of self awareness and learning, the negatives and the positives; coming out the other side richer, wiser, more mature. This fragrance is the story of an awakening, a personal discovery of becoming a complete person.

Oxford will be EXCLUSIVELY available from Fenwick from 8th July 2015.

“Oxford is inspired by the French cigarette brand Gitanes – chic, rough, and exotic. Oxford captures that moment in life when you discover you can make your own choices, you can make mistakes. It is your life and no one else’s.

“Oxford…the scent of an awakening…the discovery of life’s extraordinary adventure.”

Ruth has been creating fine fragrances for over 30 years. The invisible ‘nose’ behind some of the world’s most well known brands and designers, Ruth has also created scents for some of Britain’s finest premium fragrance brands including Jo Malone and Kenneth Turner. In recent years Ruth has also launched her own range of exquisitely blended luxury fragranced products, the culmination of her decades of experience in perfume alchemy.

An Oxford University graduate in chemistry, Ruth went on to learn her craft in Grasse.
Ruth has also spent time as President of the British Society of Perfumers.

Oxford Eau de Parfum
50ml RRP £60.00 / 100ml RRP £80.00

Top notes: Bergamot, Galbanum, Basil
Heart notes:  Clary sage, Rosemary, Jasmine
Base notes: Amber, Vanilla, Vetivert, Oudh

Disclaimer: Ruth is a friend via the British Society of Perfumers and I have received two samples of her fragrance to blog about – I’m keeping the other one! ;)

WINNER: Congratulations to Zenimue – you won! I used a random picking tool and your name came out of the digital hat. A sample of Oxford will be on its way to you very soon.

Pia’s (almost) annual perfume meet, tube strike edition

Valerie, Thomas and Freddie at Penhaligon's

Once upon a time I co-arranged the first UK Basenotes meet with Grant Osborne and a whole bunch of people came – many of whom became good friends. It’s the friends from that day and a few new ones each year who amble around London perfumeries with me. We also tend to indulge in nice things to eat – cake, afternoon tea, or exotic snacks (or lunch, ice cream, gin and chips like yesterday).

This year we changed the date from a Saturday in May to a Thursday in July because Valerie Cookie Queen Sperrer was going to be in London and we all wanted to meet her. To add to the serendipity, Odysseusm from Basenotes was in the UK all the way from Canada and I was so happy to have him join us.

Then the tube strike was announced. Irrespective of solidarity, the general reaction was very sweary. Of ALL days, it had to be the one that had been in the calendar for months AND could not be changed because we had more than one person from overseas! However, everyone shrugged it off. Ok, so there’s a strike – so.what.

We made our way in groups and alone to our first stop in Covent Garden by various means (mostly on foot) and actually, tube strike London was gloriously empty and quiet.

Covent Garden on tube strike dayWe also lucked out on the weather – warm, sunny; not too hot.

Nick Gilbert from Penhaligon’s had kindly agreed to host us in their basement and we spent the morning trashing it, more or less. Perfume bottles… perfume bottles everywhere…

Penhaligon's basementWe headed to Bloom afterwards and had a great time sniffing our way through scents and chatting. Had I known in advance that Antonio Gardoni from Bogue Profumo was going to be there at 4pm, we’d have arranged our visits another way, but our group was very good about going with the flow, so we just went to Bloom twice in one day. As you do.

Bloom Covent Garden

After our (first) Bloom visit, we had lunch at Bill’s in Covent Garden and I can’t recommend them highly enough after our seamlessly organised and tasty experience. They accomodated our large group very well and the food and service were both excellent. Will definitely be going there again!

Bills Covent GardenWe walked over to Fortnum & Mason because I wanted to take everyone to check out the revamped perfumery.

Our perfume meet group

Nick, Valerie, Freddie, Hannah, Grant, Pia, Thomas, Penny, Suzie, Steven, Samantha, Tara, Danny, Lisa, Andrew

Ice cream was also purchased (to go) from the Parlour (I had a blood orange sorbet which was perfect) and we walked back to Bloom to meet Antonio.

Ice cream at Fortnum's

Antonio is such a charismatic man that I think we all swooned a little bit… he let us smell various blends and components he uses for his perfumes which was an interesting insight into his process.

Antonio Gardoni

Some of us felt thirsty, so we headed to Nook and spent a couple of hours taking advantage of their two-for-one cocktail offer (I only had mocktails, by the way – the same can’t be said for the others…).

Strawberry mocktail

It was an absolutely fantastic day and I can’t wait to do it again next year (we’re also hoping to make some other trips in the future; tad more ambitious, but when there’s a will, there’s a way…)

Thank you to everyone who came!

An illustration interlude

Feeniks illustration by Pia Long

Hymy illustration by Pia Long

I have a whimsical hobby. I draw, paint and create photo manipulations for fun. I’m no professional artist, but have always been doodling and did originally consider some kind of art career (with hindsight, I wish I’d known about textile design when I was a teen. On the other hand, I am very glad to be working with perfumes now, and with sites like Society6 even amateurs can have a go at popping designs onto various products).

The way the templates are set up is a little bit limiting (for example using the same template for both laptop and iPad skins). My favourite template on the site is the all-over print t-shirt – I had a lot of fun designing those.

Editing t-shirt

Feeniks all over print by Pia LongEka all over t-shirt by Pia LongLento all over t-shirt by Pia LongHymy all over t-shirt by Pia LongI use Copic Ciao markers on paper and tidy any smudges from the scan in Corel Painter. That’s it for these – so the illustration quality is definitely hand-drawn and not defined and solid. I think it works for these images.

Copic markersPop over and take a look at the available products – I’ll be adding new designs from time to time (I doodle in the evenings and weekends when I want to do something creative and useful. It’s a bit like my version of knitting).

I’d really appreciate any tweets and Facebook posts to spread the word!