My Journal



Episode 13: Ruth Mastenbroek: ‘The Nose’

It is all about smell this week as Aldo speaks to a real ‘Nose’. We dive into the world of perfumes and talk about all the highs and lows of this very particular job with Ruth Mastenbroek, a life-long perfumer with her very own brand.

The 1985 novel ‘Perfume’ (or Das Parfum) from the hand of author Patrick Suskind is one of the best-selling German novels of the 20th century. The title remained on all success lists for about nine years, and received almost unanimously positive national and international critical acclaim.  The book was translated into 49 languages and more than 20 million copies were sold worldwide to date.
For the movie-lovers among us the book was also made into a fantastic motion picture in 2006 –  but that as an aside.
Now it is true that Perfume has a sinister streak but I think that is not why it was such a success. The novel fascinated millions of people as it explored the sense of smell and its relationship with the emotional meanings that scents may have.
The ability to catch a scent, to define it, to tie it to an emotion and then having the skill to reproduce and sell it – is a true talent that not many people possess.
My next guest excels in it.
Ruth Mastenbroek has been a Perfumer – also dubbed a Nose – for over 35 years. She has been commissioned by countless leading scent makers, fashion brands and even Royal Houses to create fragrances for men, women and for the home.
Throughout her career Ruth worked with many names such as Kenneth Turner and Jigsaw. She was responsible for the Life With a View collection and for the famous Grapefruit candle from Jo Malone. (fun fact: the actress Jennifer Lopez loved that candle so much, she bought 300 of them for her hotel room)
Ruth graduated from Oxford University with a degree in Chemistry and started her perfume career as a sales assistant at the perfume department at Selfridge’s. Her creativity, curiosity and knowledge of the periodic table led her to take on the perfume maker profession in the UK, the Netherlands and Japan – she was trained first at a big company – now called Givaudan – and in 2003 decided to start her own fragrance business. Meanwhile Ruth was also President of the British Society of Perfumers.
In 2010, Ruth launched her own niche fragrance collection; her very own signature line to let her imagination run free. Giving life to her very  own perfumes named: Signature, Oxford, Amorosa, Firedance and Dagian.
Her fragrances are sold in many famous stores and outlets such as Fortum & Mason in London and Ruth Mastenbroek Perfumes has grown into a family business as her daughter Claire and son Nic have joined Ruth in making sure that the world can smell at its very best.
When reading the descriptions of her perfumes on her website, Ruth herself sounds like quite the storyteller. I don’t know much about fragrances but I guess she is right when she claims that perfumes tell a story over time.