Perfume: A Sensory Journey Through Contemporary Scent

In association with Coty and Peroni Ambra, with additional support from Givaudan
21 June – 23 September 2017
£11; £9 concessions
East Wing Galleries, Somerset House

  • Full line-up announced: meet the cutting edge perfumers shaking up scent culture
  • New exhibition design details
  • Exhibition investigates the hidden talents, tales and techniques of modern perfumers
  • Includes fully functioning perfume laboratory showcasing the skill & science behind scent-design

This summer, Somerset House’s East Wing Galleries will transform into a series of scent-based installations showcasing the inspirations and skill of modern perfumery.

The exhibition Perfume: A Sensory Journey Through Contemporary Scent explores today’s scent scene through the work of ten perfume pioneers from the past two decades. These pivotal perfumers have been carefully selected by Somerset House Senior Curator Claire Catterall and Lizzie Ostrom, the fragrance writer also known as Odette Toilette, for the creativity and ingenuity they bring to their work. Whether self-taught or classically trained, each perfumer within the exhibition challenges a long-held convention in scent-design – from creation and communication, to gender and good taste – pushing their craft in daring olfactory directions.

The exhibition puts scent in the spotlight, inviting visitors to provide a personal response and contribute their individual interpretations to each of the exhibited fragrances. A ‘notes-book’ will be presented to audiences on arrival to record their impressions.

Instead of the traditional text panels to guide the visitor on their olfactory journey, each room will include visual, auditory and tactile references to the identity and influences of the perfumer. Installations will reflect the inspirations of the scents in their design, from a sandy desert to the Scottish Highlands, a Catholic confessional to a lover’s boudoir. Only after experiencing each installation will the full story of the scent be revealed, so audiences can bring together their personal interpretation with the intention of the perfumer.

The ten perfume provocateurs are:

A sumptuous re-working of traditional iris perfumes

An ultra-modern, ink-inspired fragrance

An olfactory portrait of French Catholic mass

A fresh, floral fragrance with a twist

A familiar, yet unexpected, natural fragrance

The scent of sexual pleasure

A sensory exploration of the Texan Desert

The skill of science meets the art of perfume

A fragrance inspired by the scents of the Saharan Desert

A thrilling scent simulation of a water theme-park

The show will also feature a fully functioning perfume laboratory stocked with over 200 ingredients. Visitors will be able to interact with and get instruction from professionals, seeing up close the skill and science of the perfumer and take part in hands-on workshops.


The exhibition will begin with an overview of 20th-century perfumery. Mirroring the ten 21st-century perfumes highlighted at the heart of the exhibition, the introductory installation will also include ten trailblazing scents of the time – one for each decade of the 20th century.  It will start with L’Origan de Coty (1905) – a hallmark perfume, now out of circulation, that will be specially recreated by Coty for the exhibition – and end with ck one (1994), the original gender-neutral fragrance of western perfume culture that led the ‘clean’ scent trend.

Perfume Installations
The exhibition will continue with contemporary innovation in the industry. Each of the ten 21st-century scent’s immersive displays will be as distinct as the perfume it presents and will offer insights into the identity of the perfume and its perfumer, before being fully introduced to the visitor.

Three examples include:
Self-taught, Brooklyn-based perfumer David Seth Moltz is known for drawing upon American history and geography in his liquid language. His perfume El Cosmico (2015) for D.S. & Durga is an olfactory representation of the cult campground of the same name, situated near the Texan town of Marfa. As it is inspired by the rough landscape and indigenous shrubs and trees of the Chihuahuan Desert, visitors will need to explore a sand installation scattered with specially-created objects embedded with El Cosmico to experience the fragrance.

Bertrand Duchaufour’s Avignon (2002) for Comme des Garçons evokes French Catholic mass and is inspired by the grand cathedral of Avignon. The fragrance has notes of myrrh, cistus oil, incense and patchouli, together painting an olfactory portrait of the high church of France. The space devoted to Avignon will call to mind a catholic confessional, transporting visitors back in time and space to the one-time Papal seat of the Catholic Church.

Perhaps the most provocative scent within the exhibition is Antoine Lie’s 2007 creation Sécretions Magnifiques for État Libre D’Orange. Recalling the height of sexual pleasure with the smells of semen, sweat and milk, the perfume has been highly divisive since its launch a decade ago, labelled as both attractive and repulsive. The display for this fragrance will knowingly nod to the inspiration behind it. A bed-like structure complete with tousled sheets and abandoned clothing will be strewn with objects impregnated with this sexual scent.

The Laboratory
The exhibition features a fully functioning perfume laboratory to profile the science, skills, tools and ingredients used by contemporary perfumers in creating a fragrance. The Laboratory will be home to pairings of Givaudan perfumers and trainee perfumers from Givaudan’s prestigious perfumery school. Each week from Thursday to Saturday, these Laboratory hosts will undertake 3-day residencies at Somerset House where they will create a new scent from scratch. Visitors will be able to survey and speak with the scent-designers directly about their process. Fortnightly in July and August, up-and-coming British perfumers will also perform 1-day take-overs, with special spotlight talks on their trade and techniques. Throughout the exhibition’s run, the Laboratory will be open, offering the opportunity to smell individual ingredients that perfumers build into a fragrance or see a particular process at work.

Exhibition Events Programme
Visitors to Perfume: A Sensory Journey Through Contemporary Scent can expect a full programme of talks, workshops and demonstrations. One of the highlights of the programme will include the apprentice and expert masterclasses:

  • 25 July & 29 August: hands-on workshops in the Laboratory
    Split into introductory and advanced sessions, these workshops – in collaboration with the Experimental Perfume Club – will explore custom craft in scent-making, before inviting participants to open up the ‘nose’ and create, name and make their own signature scent.

The Somerset House Terrace presented by Peroni Ambra will be open throughout the duration of Perfume: A Sensory Journey Through Contemporary Scent for visitors to enjoy the delicious Italian aperitivo menu and exclusively taste the new Peroni aperitivo, Peroni Ambra before or after the exhibition.  The riverside bar has been transformed into a Chinotto Grove to invite guests to discover the fragrant notes of the Chinotto fruit, which is the rare Italian fruit found in Peroni Ambra.



For press enquiries, please contact: Stephanie Lilley, Acting Head of PR or Francesca Hughes, Senior Press Officer on / 0207 845 4624


21 June – 23 September 2017
Times: Monday, Tuesday, Saturday & Sundays 10.00-18.00 (last admission 17.00), Wednesdays, Thursdays & Fridays 11.00-20.00 (last admission 19.00)
Due to early closure of the courtyard for programmed events, the galleries will be open 10.00-18.00 on the 6th, 7th, 12th, 13th & 14th July and the 10th, 11th, 16th, 17th, 18th and 23rd August
Tickets: £11/£9 (concessions), available at
Address:  East Wing Galleries, Somerset House, Strand, London, WC2R 1LA
Transport:  Underground: Temple, Embankment / Rail:  Charing Cross, Waterloo, Blackfriars
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Hashtag: #PerfumePioneers

About Somerset House
A unique part of the London cultural scene, Somerset House is an historic building where surprising and original work comes to life. From its 18th-century origins, Somerset House has been a centre for debate and discussion – an intellectual powerhouse for the nation. Somerset House is today a key cultural destination in London in which to experience a broad range of artistic activity, engage with artists, designers and makers and be a part of a major creative forum – an environment that is relaxed, welcoming, and inspirational to visit while providing a stimulating workplace for the cultural and creative industries. 

Since its opening in 2000, Somerset House has built up a distinctive outdoor public programme including Skate, concerts, an open-air film season and a diverse range of temporary exhibitions throughout the site focusing on contemporary culture, with an extensive learning programme attached. In October 2016, Somerset House launched Somerset House Studios, a new experimental workspace connecting artists, makers and thinkers with audiences. The Studios provide a platform for new creative projects and collaboration, promoting work that pushes bold ideas, engages with urgent issues and pioneers new technologies. Somerset House is also one of the biggest community of creative organisations in London including The Courtauld Gallery and Institute of Art, King’s College London Cultural Institute and over 100 other creative businesses. It currently attracts approximately 3.4 million visitors every year.

About Coty Inc.
Coty is one of the world’s largest beauty companies with approximately $9 billion in revenue, with a purpose to celebrate and liberate the diversity of consumers’ beauty. Its strong entrepreneurial heritage has created an iconic portfolio of leading beauty brands.  Coty is the global leader in fragrance, a strong number two in professional salon hair color & styling, and number three in color cosmetics.  Coty operates three divisions – Coty Consumer Beauty, which is focused on color cosmetics, retail hair coloring and styling products, body care and mass fragrances sold primarily in the mass retail channels with brands such as COVERGIRL, Max Factor and Rimmel; Coty Luxury, which is focused on prestige fragrances and skincare with brands such as Calvin Klein, Marc Jacobs, Hugo Boss, Gucci and philosophy; and Coty Professional Beauty, which is focused on servicing salon owners and professionals in both hair and nail, with brands such as Wella Professionals, Sebastian Professional and OPI.  Coty has approximately 20,000 colleagues globally and its products are sold in over 130 countries. Coty and its brands are committed to a range of social causes as well as seeking to minimize its impact on the environment.
For additional information about Coty Inc., please visit

About Peroni Ambra
Launched in the UK in Spring 2017, Peroni Ambra is the innovative new drink offering, from Peroni Nastro Azzurro; and is brewed and bottled in Padova, Italy. Inspired by the Italian ritual of ‘aperitivo’, an authentic italian ritual; designed to open the palate and stimulate the appetite before a meal, typically a social occasion at the start of the night. The unique recipe behind Peroni Ambra combines the crisp and refreshing taste of Peroni Nastro Azzurro and the sharpness of Italian Chinotto – a rare citrus fruit, found in Liguria, North West Italy. Reaffirming Peroni’s passion for craftsmanship and authentic Italian heritage, Peroni have worked closely with the farmers of Besio, where the Chinotto is sourced. The essential oils found in the Chinotto peel are macerated into a natural extract; this essence is then blended with a higher ABV Peroni Nastro Azzurro, enhancing the flavour profile as it allows for the Chinotto to express its rare and authentic taste. 6% ABV, £6 RRP.

Peroni Ambra is distinctively served from its 250ml bottle into a bespoke Italian tumbler glass, over ice, and garnished with an orange peel twist.

Peroni Ambra is currently available to enjoy at ‘Somerset House Terrace Presented by Peroni Ambra,’ before becoming more widely available in a selection of top end bars across London.

About Givaudan Fragrances
Givaudan is passionate about perfumery and is dedicated to combining creativity and innovation to design beautiful fragrances. With the industry’s largest perfumery team, Givaudan contributes to making life delightful and memorable through unique scent experiences for customers around the world. Currently present in all major markets, Givaudan strives to deliver fragrances for personal, home and laundry care, as well as prestige perfumes. Our customers benefit from Givaudan’s expertise in three business areas: Fine Fragrances, Consumer Products, and Fragrance and Cosmetics Ingredients. We invite you to ‘engage your senses’ and learn more about Fragrances at

About Liberty
Liberty London, W1
Synonymous with the city its shop stands in, Liberty London is a brand driven by discovery. Born in 1875 from the adventurous and disruptive spirit of Arthur Lasenby Liberty, the brand has remained true to its heritage and has become famed for its print, fabrics, and design. Liberty London continues to be associated with the worlds of arts and culture and has built on its founder's legacy, searching the world to find the new and the beautiful.
Liberty is today famed for cultural collaborations, inspiring curation, and directional design. The iconic, Regent Street shop encompasses six floors of curated fashion, Little Liberty childrenswear, beauty, accessories, and homewares bringing together the world’s leading premium and luxury brands and housing them alongside their own label, Liberty London range.  @LibertyLondon  @LibertyBeautyTeam  #LibertyBeauty