One of the most exclusive fragrances in the world has no signature scent because it is never the same. Ffern appears four times a year, always in a different form with different bases, head notes, and, new ingredients and accords. It is made in Somerset and east London.
Brother and sister, Owen Mears and Emily Cameron are counting down to the winter solstice and fragrant autumn equinox. Somerset’s self-described “quietly disruptive perfumers” blend, barrel-aged, bottle and release their organic, small batch, limited-run fragrance four times a year.
“We’re really proud of finding the sense of each season’s fragrance,” says Owen. “We don’t try and reinvent the wheel every season – we try to evolve and build on what has come before.”
For each fragrance, Ffern sources the best in organic, sustainably harvested, natural ingredients and distills at source wherever possible. Sustainability has been woven into every area of Ffern which is one of the first perfume makers to create entirely recyclable bottles.
Ffern is an exclusive fragrance. You must first join a ledger. Primarily a fragrance subscription service, to receive the 32cl Ffern perfumes you must enroll on its ledger. Continues Owen: “The Ffern ledger acts as our guide each season; we make one bottle of the fragrance for every name on our ledger, no more.”
The latest scent is released on September 23. Ffern’s Autumn 22 fragrance is inspired by a biodynamic herb farm down the lane from the Ffern studio and the founders’ family home. To capture this unique blend, the fragrance includes citrus tones and a light blend of herbs and spices – grapefruit, elemi, ginger, basil, coriander, lavender, clove, cardamom, and bay.
For the first time, Ffern has added a final smoky aroma of black tea. The result is an ode to the Somerset herb farm that is enriched and strengthened by the leafy mystique of Ceylon tea. Each bottle will be sent with an original blend of organic herbal tea, crafted by the Somerset herb farm.
Working in this way it does, allows Ffern to remain true to traditional, small-batch production processes and – by being so tightly controlled – to minimize waste. It also builds a strong community.
“Our ledger members are part of the creative process,” says Emily. “During the development phase of each fragrance, we actively encourage feedback and suggestions and will work these into our brief. It becomes an exciting, highly collaborative journey.”
Owen studied Philosophy at Oxford University and Emily English Literature, followed by an M.A. in History of Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art, before working as a researcher at Sotheby’s. He now works as a strategist. Emily works for the British fashion brand, TOAST.
Each Ffern bottle arrives with a sample vial, so you can decide whether or not you wish to keep it. The ledger is open for Ffern Winter 22 which is composed of 18 natural ingredients, four top notes, seven mod notes, and 7 base notes. It has been created to capture “winter sunshine and the air which sings on a winter’s day.”
Adds Emily: “Because the fragrance is made from natural ingredients, and therefore much more complex than a synthetic scent, it will evolve differently with each wearer, developing over the course of the day, as some ingredients fade, and others come to the fore. It makes for a more exciting experience -one that celebrates the beauty and vitality of nature.”
Their summer 21 perfume was “an ode to the English greenhouse” Says Owen: “It captured the first time that day that the door has been opened – the moment of transition between the outdoors and the in. That granularity really helps us with the development process.”
“The aging takes time, so we usually need to be certain of the final formulation a least six months before the release. Each perfume launch is an evolution of the last, so we’ll be exploring potential evolutions as far as 24 months in advance. Our Autumn 20 was all about capturing “petrichor” – the way the air smells after rain.” Continues Emily: “Distilling the essence of petrichor was an entirely different challenge. After countless iterations, we discovered that rose absolute, cognac oil and oak and rosewater did the rest.” Summer 22 is an attempt to capture the cool dim of nightfall when a wild rose blooms.
The noses behind Ffern’s artisanal and very English scents are François Robert, a fourth-generation perfumer, and Elodie Durande. Robert is the great-grandson of Joseph Robert, a French chemist who in 1884 discovered a method to extract 100% pure fragrance oils from plants.
Ledger members are also part of the creative. Because the fragrance is made from natural ingredients, and therefore much more complex than a synthetic scent, it will evolve differently with each wearer, developing over the course of the day, as some ingredients fade, and others come to the fore. It makes for a more exciting experience -one that celebrates the beauty and vitality of nature.
“Scent has always been part of my life,” says Owen. “Our mother made bundles of sage and rosemary and hung them from the taps in the bathroom – something I’ve continued to do. And each year I was at university, I’d put a different fragrance in my room. The scent evokes time and place.”
Returning home to Somerset is always an inspiration for him. “Once I noticed the familiar scent from the herb farm – the backdrop to our childhood – and realized it was exactly that layering and depth which I had been seeking in a fragrance. And if I couldn’t find it, perhaps I could make it.”
Ffern’s founders grew up in Somerset in a village near the lower levels of Exmor. At the end of their lane was a medieval manor, home to an organic herb farm. It was this herb farm that became their first introduction to the potential of scent. Their first workshop was in their mother’s potter’s shed.
“I can still remember late summer evenings from our childhood,” recalls Emily “when the scent of cinnamon, cumin, and cardamom would drift into the garden, mixing with the warm, honey-ish notes of the roses. From the middle of the English countryside, we were transported – just for a moment – to the other side of the world.”