An Introduction To Maya Njie
For most of us scents have the majestic power to evoke or resurrect memories from the past. The ability to place you under a dream-like spell, transporting you back to relive vividly a special moment or feeling, reconnecting to you the excitement and energy of the summers of your youth or immersing you in the emotions felt for a lost love.
When Swedish born perfumer Maya Njie came across old family photos that had captured the nostalgia of her childhood so perfectly, ‘The small Swedish summer house surrounded by mercurial forests, the visits to her grandparents’ on Sunday afternoons’ or the holidays to the vibrant country of The Gambia, she set out to recreate fragrances that would embody those precious memories.
Maya has succeeded in bottling the soul essence of those treasured points in time with deliciously intricate blends and notes of bergamot and neroli which can be found in the ‘green floral scent of Les Fleurs Eau De Parfum or tobacco leaf and cinnamon which hang in the dark comforting notes of Tobak Eau De Parfum. A true alchemist each of her artisan scents is an inspiring combination of art, science and a little bit of magic.
The final collection of fragrances, now available at Liberty London is produced with the same personal attention, care and love as the stories that inspired them. Mixed in small fresh batches, each blend is filtered and bottled individually by hand.
We spoke to Maya to find out the intimate story behind each fragrance.
What is your first scent memory?
My first scent memory is from receiving a doll as a small child. It was one of those realistic looking baby dolls that had scented plastic that smelt of what I can best describe as vanilla toffee. After that, scented items became a theme and I collected scented stationery and would make scented candles in my pre-teen years.
What are your favourite smells in the world and why?
A smell that I love is when people are burning leaves in their gardens, it has a particular aroma to it that reminds me of being back in The Gambia. I also love the smell of damp soil, I always have. I remember sniffing plant pots growing up. I’m not sure where this stems from. I also like the bubble gum smell which is at the other side of the spectrum. Melissa shoes have their iconic bubble gum scented plastic shoes that date back to the 70’s and I love them.
What is your least favourite smell?
Messmör – a Swedish spreadable whey cheese. It’s like nothing else. I used to challenge myself to smell it as a child as I couldn’t believe that there were people out there that would actually eat it. It is also loved by many, seek it out.
What is the first fragrance you bought and why?
I wasn’t a huge fan of CK One when it came out but CK Be on the other hand. I remember smelling it in a friend’s room and seeing a huge 200ml matte black bottle on his table – revolutionary. It was my first fragrance that I saved up for and purchased as a 19-year-old, ready to move out of my mums, one of the essentials in my suitcase when I left Sweden and moved to London in 1999.
If you could create a fragrance to represent Sweden, London and The Gambia which key ingredients would you use and why?
Nordic Cedar is the ultimate representation of Sweden for me with its Cardamom (Sweden’s favourite spice), Patchouli, Cinnamon and Cedarwood. It’s a day in the Swedish forest; a damp aromatic morning transitioning into a beautiful and warm afternoon. London would have floral notes such as ylang ylang and jasmine which have attractive narcotic elements to them that lure you in.
Both these flowers work well with leather notes so that would be in there for added excitement. I would also add a Petrichor note (the smell of when rain hits soil or asphalt). Gambia – that place always has such a mix of smells coming at you. If I could only make one scent it would be woody with elements of smoky leathers with a hint of coconut sweet floral notes too. It’s always a real mix of smells coming at you from the residential compounds, the streets, craft markets and restaurants.
We love your unique and visual approach to creating your range. Could you tell us briefly the story behind each of the 5 images and scents?
My older sister chatting to the neighbours outside the summer allotment house with the forest in the background. It’s my first scent I made and has all my favourite things; Cardamom, Cinnamon, Cedarwood and Patchouli, a combination reminiscent of the damp forest floor that over time dries up and develops into a beautiful day.
My uncle Lars with his wife Irene on their wedding day. Vanilj is Nordic Cedars sibling in that it is very similar in structure but the added vanilla really softens it and turns it into a gourmand. It’s very homely and familiar – less wild and more domesticated if you like.
The photo is taken in my grandad’s apartment in Sweden – here he is with my older sister. Tobak has all the elements of his flat; Tobacco Leaf, the smell of wooden furniture and leather polish mixed in with Tonka bean which represents his secret toffee stash.
The photo is of my older sister in the garden of the summer house. Les Fleurs is named after the Minnie Ripperton song and is the most green out of my scents with notes of citrus fruits, neroli, fig and white florals. It’s not too heavy and I encourage both men and women to wear it – it’s perfect for this season.
The scent has been designed to transport you back to that postcard place wherever it may be, with its fruity, floral and woody tropical notes. We all have our own retreat that we travel to when we need that bit of escapism, this is hopefully a little help on the way there.
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