Alice; "Mummy was right"

Alice; "Mummy was right"

Alice, while new in terms of general release, is actually a fragrance which has been in my life for a few years, and one which, for a number of reasons, will forever hold a place in my heart.


About Alice:

I’ve discussed the inspirations for the Alice collection in a previous post, but to briefly recap…

Whilst at university, I was fortunate enough to play the Mad Hatter in a circus adaptation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which was shown both in Cambridge, but ultimately at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It was this experience which really sparked my love for the characters of the story, and brought the magic to life for me.


Fish eye lens image of the mad hatter with black and white circular face make up, diffracting through a glass ball.

From the Fringe...
Photo by Johannes Hjorth.

We see the story alongside Alice; each other character another part of her journey through Wonderland. There are also very few literary hints in the book to help me pin down a fragrance which felt “Alice”. (Compared to the likes of Queen of Hearts, the Mad Hatter, the Dutchess etc).
Instead, I turned to her personality and some real-life references to try and build her story in scent.

Alice, to me, always read as a character who was striving to show her maturity. She is bold, self-assured, and curious, while at the same time aspects of her immaturity show through, accompanied by those occasional moments of self-doubt and reflection. I imagine Alice walking the line between truly confident and suffering from “imposter syndrome” (to coin a more modern term).


The fact that Alice is, in fact, dreaming, alongside Dinah the cat, meant that the fragrance needed a dreamy quality with some animalic, musky, undertones. More of a cosy furry cuddle, than a strong statement.

Finally, I wanted to tie-in some real-life symbolism, which is where the “Forget-me-not” came in. A symbol of devotion, it was a subtle nod to Charles Dodgson and his presumed adoration of the real-life Alice, Alice Liddell, without adding commentary to the nature (or appropriateness) of their relationship, as Liddell spoke fondly of Dodgson later in life.
After several trips to garden centres and furious googling, the scent of a “Forget-me-not” was inconclusive, or potentially non-existent, so the floral accord became a fantasy imagining, and the creative direction was set.


A bottle of alice laying atop some Alice in Wonderland Playing Cards

What Alice would eventually become 


So, what about the fact that Alice has existed for a few years, and why does it have such a special place in my heart?
The answer: my mum!

As previously mentioned in Behind The Bottle: Merge, launching the Alice collection was the original ambition for the launch of Redolescent, not the Autobiographical collection which later came to be.
This meant that I had been working on the Alice collection for a long time (in fact, I remember my first conversations, and introduction to Sarah McCartney of 4160Tuedays way back in 2016, sharing thoughts and discussing how each fragrance should be.) And so, Alice had her first draft versions a few years ago.

My mum is almost always one of the first people to smell fragrances which are works in progress. A harsh, but fair, critic, she adds balance from a “non-perfumey” perspective. I often take a box of working blends and interrogate her over a cup of tea, discussing the differences between iterations, weighing up the merits of each, and getting her feedback.

Enter stage left: Alice.

I passed the blotter (mouillette if you’re fancy) to my mum, she inhaled, and simply said “this is done”. “But … but…” I replied. In my head there were still a multitude of things that I wanted to change. It was a very early draft, and I thought I had a long way to go still. “Leave it alone!” she interrupted. And if you ever meet my mother, you will know that those threats mean business, and thus Alice was decreed as finished. (Ironically, the first Redolescent fragrance ever finished.) “See, mummy was right” she will say teasingly whenever I share the latest feedback about Alice from other people, and she was. There’s something about Alice!

The (previously unseen) enthusiasm my mum had about Alice resulted in her repeatedly asking for a bottle for herself. “But it isn’t packaged yet”… “But it isn’t released yet”… It didn’t matter. So, back in 2020 (yes, 2020!) I gifted my mum a bottle of Alice, complete with 3D printed cap, in hodge-podge packaging, with the old Redolescent logo. To make it even more special, I paid a friend who paints to custom-paint the cap for the bottle. So, the scent of Alice is now forever linked to my mum, her ‘signature scent’, and it has accompanied us on days out together, holidays, and special occasions since December 2020!


A custom painted Alice Bottle top which shows Alice with her blue dress and a missing show

One of a kind, the custom painted Alice bottle top for my mum!


Bringing Alice to life:

The three main aspects that I wanted to incorporate in Alice (her striving for maturity, the “forget-me-not”, and the dreamy Dinah the cat musk) each took the form of a main accord (which are almost fragrances in and of themselves), which were ultimately balanced. Because of this, Alice is the longest formula to date, and a bit of a pain to blend!

Maturity: A Chypre backbone.
I really wanted to play with the idea of modern meeting vintage, like the young and current pushing against vintage norms, and seeing the interesting space which develops in-between.
The Chypre (citrus, patchouli, labdanum, oakmoss) has quite ‘vintage’ connotations, and has more recently fallen out of fashion. It is also a very strong, self-assured, accord. It is bold. Twisting the Chypre in a modern direction with the floral and musk aspects might just fit the bill.
I think of the Chypre aspect as the back-bone of the fragrance. As an overall proportion of the fragrance, it actually makes up quite a small part, but it is there in the background adding structure and strength to the composition.

The aldehyde dusting: If Chypre didn’t say vintage enough, I also decided to lean into Aldehydes, too, to push the message home.

Adding youthful charm: “Forget-me-not”.
I originally envisioned the floral part being akin to honeysuckle (which admittedly isn’t where we ended up…), so the floral accord was labelled as “honeysuckle” in my formula book.

This is the part of the fragrance which adds balance to the Chypre. Sweetness, floral lightness, and breathes life into the overall fragrance to stop it feeling heavy. It makes a beautiful cloud and leaves a lovely trail in its wake. It actually contains a mixture of Jasmine and Neroli along with some accessory materials (linalool, Hydroxycitronellal, Beta Ionone, even a sprinkle of Ethyl Maltol among others) to build the overall floral cloud.

The cosy:
The “Dinah the cat musk” plays into both of the previous aspects, tying them together and providing a soft landing point for the fragrance over the course of the day.
A favourite of mine, cashmeran, adds the cuddle, while Animalis adds some funk (a material, which to me, smells like goat hair). A late, post-2020, decision was to swap Galaxolide out for a more readily biodegradable alternative (Romandolide).


An early photo from the formula book showing Alice 2020 with 3 components, Honeysuckle, Chypre, and Musk

A very early draft of Alice, formed of the 3 component parts

The Cap:

Similarly to the fragrant inspirations for Alice, the cap wasn’t as a clear choice from the start (certainly when compared to something like Hatter of QH).

I did an awful scribbling of Alice falling down the rabbit hole to share with the designer. How on Earth he bought this to life in a 3D model I don’t know! But, the resulting cap is by far the most intricate and ambitious of the Redolescent collection to date, it is (unfortunately) also one of the hardest to photograph and communicate ‘what it is’ immediately. To give you an indication of the complexity: the layer between Alice’s feet and the bottom of her dress is only 1 printing layer thick (0.01mm). This means it is incredibly delicate before it has cured, and also a real technical feat to print it without breaking!

The particular little detail I love on the cap (which the designer surprised me with, but I loved it!) is the fact that one of Alice’s shoes has fallen off in the course of falling down. That, plus the movement of the dress, adds a nice dynamism to the cap, and prevents it feeling too clunky.


A technical sketch which later became the Alice bottle top, including measurements.

The terrible sketch the designer had to work with...


So, that’s the story of Alice, a condensed few-year history. Something, which only strikes me now while I’m writing this, is a poetic reflection of where we started. Alice, the first character to be introduced, underpinning the Redolescent story and observing all of the characters who follow.

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