Exploring the World Of Fragrance with Master Perfumer Roja Dove

If you’re familiar with Guerlain fragrances aka the “Vatican of Perfumery”, then you have experienced a fragrance so blissful you want to wrap yourself in it and slip away to far off places of lust, intrigue, desire, serenity, and strength. You have also already unknowingly experienced the magic of Master Perfumer Roja Dove who worked for the Guerlain family for 20 years. Like our beloved fairy godmother in Cinderella, Dove is the godfather of perfume who is here to make your fragrance dreams come true.  There’s more to a perfume then meets the eye and what you are experiencing, what you have allowed to enter your heart, your life and your memories is the love of a man who wants you to love yourself and who you are. A fragrance says a lot about you, how you feel inside, it’s the simplest form of self-expression. Dove wants you to express yourself freely while smelling your best.

I am so happy to share with you my conversation with Dove. As you know, I collect fragrances, it’s one of my passions and I thought I needed to learn more and of course, I want to share this great lesson with you.


TTIWIK: When looking for the right scent, let’s say a signature scent. What’s the first thing someone should look for?

RD: I may be biased but I would say the first thing someone should do is turn to an interesting brand. Mass market brands are so swept up in creating the next ‘big thing’ that scant regard is paid to the integrity of the composition. When you invest in a piece from a brand that is slightly “off the beaten track”, you are much more likely to find yourself a scent of quality, creativity and individuality. Move around in the world of nice / luxury fragrance and you shall find it so much easier and more rewarding to find the right scent for you.


TTIWIK: I like to collect fragrances, should we change our scent with each seasonal change? Sometimes I feel like I am looking for my forever scent, we all need one, I need one. Do you think it’s possible to find? Is there a scent palate one should refer to when looking?

RD: I think it can be nice to change your scent as the seasons change – perhaps better to stick with a similar style that allows different ingredients to come to the fore in different seasons – but I do feel that if one person has found their signature scent then why change it? Those that are still looking probably just haven’t found the one yet. And till then, there is nothing wrong with experimenting.


TTIWIK: Do you think fragrance can transform one’s experience? How they see themselves and how others see them…experience them?

RD: Without a doubt fragrance is transformative. Many use perfume to feel sexier, or to feel more confident, or more feminine. What is important to remember is that fragrance isn’t a disguise or an escape, it is an extension of one’s soul. When a person wears a scent they wear it because it fits with their personality and perhaps is heightening a certain element of what is already there.




TTIWIK: Do you feel that people have forgotten how scent is connected to who they are, where they’ve been, how they feel, that essence they want to leave behind? How one conveys themselves to the world? Is fragrance more than what’s in the bottle? Is it more about how it makes you feel? 

RD: To me, fragrance is about a persons feelings and memories. A perfume is there to make one feel comfortable, secure, confident, and to be a manifestation of their personality. This of course is rooted in past experiences – everyone has their own olfactive fingerprint established – it can only be refined (not changed) by new experiences with ingredients.


TTIWIK: What’s the worst thing that people do when it comes to wearing fragrance? Are we applying it wrong? If so, what’s the best way? 

RD: One should never spray on their wrists and rub, for they are crushing the particles and compromising the scent. One should also never put scent behind one’s ears, or too often and heavily on the décolletage as the alcohol can cause creping of the skin over time. Always apply perfume to pulse points – areas where the blood is nearer the surface of the skin, as the heat will help the perfume diffuse better. I also highly recommend allowing the perfume to fall naturally: never spray it too close to your skin. Allow it to fall onto the neck and wrists from a fair few inches away so that it settles on the skin nicely, then create a light mist around yourself and walk into it, so your entire being is gently scented in an olfactive aura; The different effects of the same scent will complement each other.


TTIWIK: A few years back, a friend of my was wearing Costume National – Scent Intense, a fragrance for men, it was the first time I ever consider wearing what one would call a masculine fragrance. Well, I think it’s considered a unisex fragrance but it was sold mainly to men at the time. Few women wore it. A Dj I know from France, he swears by it! Do you think that both men and women are driven to buy fragrance based on what they see advertised? Do you think this is limiting? 

RD: What many people see is marketing, rather than the scent. It is a great shame that perfume got to be this way by mass-market brands ameliorating the quality of the fragrance for high budget ad campaigns. When it comes down to it gender isn’t a very prominent part of perfumery. Of course, a composition with lots of flowers and vanilla will become more feminine whilst leathers, woods and mosses more masculine but as a whole, the materials have no gender. It is the way they are dressed up that defines what person, and sometimes what gender, is attracted to them. A rose on a man will smell masculine – on a woman it will smell feminine; for the rose itself has no genitals.


TTIWIK: Our site is called The Things I Wish I Knew…What is something you wish you knew let’s say 5 to 10 years ago that you know now?

RD: Ten years ago I wish I knew to start my own brand. I launched it when I was given a huge metaphoric slap round the face by a friend. She said to me “you have spent your life helping and promoting other peoples fragrances and yet, you do not have your own. You are everywhere in the perfume industry yet nowhere, you have no way for people to get close to you”. These words resonated with me and Roja Parfums is now 5 years old. Something I wish I knew 5 years ago would have to be that going into this new business venture, that everything would be okay as there was, is, and hopefully still will be, a place for luxury fragrance.


Roja Dove A Goodnight Kiss


TTIWIK: What advice would you give yourself back then…if you could go back in time?

RD: Luckily nothing has gone wrong thus far (touch wood) so I am in a very fortunate position where I don’t quite need the advice. I would say from experience now that to succeed, work with the right people. And of course I would advise myself my usual mantra: if anything is worth doing then it is worth doing properly.


TTIWIK: It has been said you have the world’s best nose due to your ability to identify any scent, even blindfolded. Where did you acquire this skill?

RD: Through a great many hours of practice. I began my perfume training with the Guerlain family and when I first started I was given the task of committing 5 odours to memory each day. This built up over time and I am now left with a well-rehearsed memory and ability to identify one of many hundreds of aromas.


TTIWIK: Is it a skill you had to nourish or is it one of those things, you either have it…or you don’t?

RD: I am definitely lucky in that I was born with a finely attuned nose, and I was given an intense love for perfume as a young boy. However, much of it is down to hard work and a passion for what I do. Think of an athlete – most any person (able or “disable”) can run, or can swim, but it is constant training that’s what turns them into an athlete. In a similar manner, most anyone can smell. I just happen to have dedicated my life to training my nose.


Roja Dove


TTIWIK: How many scents can you identify?

RD: Hundreds. I have in fact lost count. It is not just say, Lavender that I need to be able to identify but each of its different qualities. For example, I can identify whether the oil has come from above sea level in Grasse, or from high up in the mountains just a mere 20-minute drive away.


TTIWIK: What brought you to the world of fragrance?

I remember vividly my mother coming to kiss me goodnight when I was about 6 years old. She was on her way out to a cocktail party and dressed in a gold lamé dress. The light from the hallway illuminated her from behind, transforming her into an ethereal figure. It is an image that will always stay with me. The resonating smell of her face powder and perfume that lingered in the room once she had kissed me goodnight marked the beginning of my love for perfume.


TTIWIK: What’s the difference between perfume, eau de perfum, eau de toilette?

RD: Perfume is not the strongest but the most concentrated. It is the softest of them all as it has comparatively less volatile materials than the others, meaning it stays on the skin for longer – this makes them softer, more refined and longer-lasting. Over a 24 hour period, 50% of a perfume will last all day whereas an Eau De Parfum will leave 30% and an EDT 20%.

Author Description

Hanifa Sekandi

Founder & Editor-in-Chief Follow Me on Instagram @thethingsiwishiknew

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