Modern British perfumery is on the rise, with a cohort of wonderfully creative perfumers leading the charge. Carving out a niche all of their own, Sarah Ireland perfumes fuse classical, high quality ingredients with a modern sensibility and playfulness, which always stays on the right side of elegant.
Think characterful yet wearable when you think of Sarah Ireland scents, elegant without being up tight, classical with a cheeky little twist here and there, and thoroughly modern without forgetting what good perfume design is. The compositions don’t feel a million miles away from other fantastic British perfumer, Ruth Mastenbroek, so if you are a fan of her work you should definitely check these out too.
Although Sarah Ireland scents have only been around since 2018, they’ve already been a finalist for a Fragrance Foundation award, and it very much feels like a case of “watch this space” because I am certain Sarah is going to go on to make waves in the future.
Sarah Ireland fragrances are based upon the concept of what Sarah herself calls “simple elegance”. Much of the inspiration behind the fragrances comes from a move away from the city and out into the countryside; a re-birth which led to the creation of this fine fragrance line. Recently, Sarah has added scented body oils and hand sanitiser to the list of products she stocks, alongside candles and, of course, the fragrances themselves.
At present, four fragrances make up the line. One is a floral heavyweight, a boxer with gloves made of flowers; one is the contemplative, pensive professor all dressed in tweed but with a dark past; one is the Victorian lady who keeps secrets in her drawing room; and one is the foppish playboy, with his sweater tied around his shoulders, itching for a game of tennis and the chance to spy on Miss Pettigrew’s saucy ankles.
Pink Pepper and Ginger Lily
Listed notes: Pink pepper, ginger lily, Bulgarian rose, cardamom, frankincense, jasmine
Pink Pepper and Ginger Lily is the boxer with gloves made of flowers because this lily-and-spice-bomb really packs a punch. It opens with the bright effervescence of pink pepper which is uplifting and joyful. The scent is flecked with hints of greenish stems for a few moments before the uppercut of the lily socks you in the jaw. The lily itself is full, redolent and heavy, but combined with the pepper it stays more energetic than you might imagine and doesn’t become heavy and doleful as lily can at times. Personally, I often find lily too much: too heavy, too obviously floral, too melodramatic, but not here. Sarah has managed to enliven and modernise the lily so it feels bright, punchy and eye-catching.
The spices in the fragrance are present, but in a similar way they are also not overbearing. As the scent wears it becomes creamier and smoother until it rolls off skin like a cat languishing in a beam of sunlight (this imagery may or may not have been inspired by my own cat doing exactly that as I tried to write).
A soapier tone creeps in, but the joyous blast of sheer floral potency of this fragrance never goes away. It lasts for absolutely ages on my skin and is the sort of fragrance I would wear when I wanted to go and do serious grown-up business-lady stuff because it is elegant, classical and still retains a relevance. There’s nothing meek or apologetic about any of these scents but particularly Pink Pepper and Ginger Lily which has some serious backbone.
Listed notes: Vetiver, osmanthus, cedarwood, oud, patchouli, iris, sandalwood
Keahia is the strangest of Sarah Ireland’s line up, but also perhaps my favourite. It is the pensive college professor with the tweed jacket and a dark past. Woody, murky and musky it leans closer on a dark and stormy night.
Keahia has a nuttiness to the way it begins, and a dry-but-oiliness that made me think of crushed up hazelnuts. The vetiver hangs large in this one and the oud adds a depth whilst the cedar and sandalwoods add a contemplative complexity. The iris brings a wrinkle of papery texture over the face of the scent, perhaps exam papers piled high on an old wooden desk. If this were a college professor he would be a lapsed smoker, faint wisps of his old habit clinging to his jacket, but no longer active on his breath or fingers. Instead of smoking, he now takes long walks in the Highlands, and peaty, loamy soil still clings to his shoes. That earthiness is reflected here in the scent too.
There’s something magnetic about Keahia, it draws you in, makes you want to inhale it’s tempting vapours but at the same time it is almost untouchable. The tension in the scent between the dry/oily, the wood/iris and the light/shade are fascinating and this is a scent I know I will come back to again and again.
Listed notes: Ylang ylang, patchouli, tuberose, geranium, Bulgarian and Moroccan roses, vanilla, sandalwood
Crushed Velvet is the scent which made me think of a Victorian lady with a drawing room, and a diary, full of secrets. It’s an absolute delight when perfumers nail texture in their compositions and Crushed Velvet really does have the texture of, well, crushed velvet. This is particularly evident in the opening of the scent which feels like fabric as you inhale it. Not literally inhale it, you understand, but as you breathe in it feels like you are running a finger over some crushed velvet surface. The geranium is in evidence, along with something that smells a bit like blackcurrant leaf, and which has the same dry astringency. The roses give the composition some backbone without being particularly obvious. It is this sumptuousness combined with the fuzzy geranium which calls to mind overstuffed Victorian sofas, filled with horse-hair and secrets.
As the fragrance wears, it becomes a little more fruity, which was quite fun given the lack of fruity notes mentioned, but these nuances seem to be coming from the lush, fruity tuberose and ylang ylang. Crushed Velvet has a certain sensuousness about it, especially in the latter phases of the wear which will definitely pique the interest of more hedonistic perfume fans. That said, it never becomes vulgar or obvious, just drops hints and wry glances.
Listed notes: Neroli, bitter orange, pink grapefruit, jasmine, mandarin, geranium, bergamot
Before I read the fragrance notes for Summer Serenade, I imagined that this would be a light and airy floral. Not so. It is predominantly a big and bold citrus.
Summer Serenade opens with the rubbery bitterness of a blast of neroli, orange and grapefruit. The neroli almost smells like gasoline for a moment but then the orange and grapefruit swell around it, bursting with tangy juices and driving the composition firmly in the direction of refreshing citrus. There’s a sort of leatheriness that appears as the scent unfurls, but it feels like leather made of citrus rinds.
The jasmine and geranium are lovely additions, which begin to peep in as the scent warms up and they really add a lovely dimension to the composition and stop it just being a citrus bomb. The jasmine, in particular, adds a beautiful hum to the fragrance, and makes it just a little intoxicating. Summer Serenade might appear sweetness and light, but it’s actually the bad boy of the pack.
Bold but always on the right side of obnoxious, wearable but still interesting, characterful without being hard work; that’s how we would sum up the fragrances in Sarah Ireland’s line up. There is a lot to like about these scents, all of which are quite punchy to wear, and last very well indeed on skin. Particular highlights though include the strange earthiness of Keahia which is peculiarly addictive, and the sheer knock-out-ness of Pink Pepper and Ginger Lily.
Sarah Ireland fragrances are available through the brand’s website. At present they are only available for shipping in the UK, but hopefully that will change very soon.
Prices start from a very reasonable £30 for 15ml of EdP.
I was very kindly gifted a sample set of Sarah Ireland fragrances by a friend and follower of The Sniff who has no known association to the brand.