A Poetic Perfumer: Byredo’s Ben Gorham

After a scent-awakening trip to his mother’s hometown of Chembur outside of Mumbai, India, Ben Gorham’s creative vision for his fragrance house, Byredo, grew. A kismet encounter in 2004 between the native Swede and renowned perfumer Pierre Wulff, convinced the fine arts degree-bearing virtuoso and former professional basketball player to take up perfumery. With no formal training as a perfumer, the tattooed creative force sought out the respected talents of master noses Jérôme Épinette and Olivia Giacobetti to help execute his dream.

Arriving at the intersection of scent and nostalgia, Gorham created his first fragrance in 2006, Green, a bittersweet adaptation of the way he remembers his absent father smelling. “I was fascinated not only by the process [of perfume making], but the connection between smell and memory, and the creative possibilities of smell evoking emotion,” he notes. When asked if there’s a fragrance he wishes he could lay claim to, he cites Eau Sauvage by Christian Dior. “It changed the direction of fragrance at the time, and I still find the soapy quality quite beautiful,” he says.

Described as “unique, personal and relevant,” Gorham’s Stockholm-based Byredo—stemming from the Old English word redolence, meaning sweet-smelling perfume—is a brand he believes everyone can wear. And his path of inspiration, “really comes from everywhere,” he shares.

“I carry a notebook where I jot down ideas about smells, and when an idea is recurring or becomes strong enough, I create a project that ultimately translates into a brief. The brief is what I present to the perfumer, and can consist of many things such as words, pictures, poetry, or even things to smell. Inspiration.” Of his creative process, he adds, “I can have an idea about something that smells interesting, it kind of lingers and grows and changes shape. I take that to Jérôme and I try to convey as much of it as possible, in terms of the emotion that I feel. Then, Jérôme creates the first version, and if he captures the idea in any way, we engage in the process. This is the tedious part of creating a fragrance—especially as it is an emotional process.”

Gorham has propelled Byredo into one of the most fashionable, cult fragrance houses over the years, expanding his gender-neutral brand into home fragrance, body care, and leather accessories. This year, Gorham entered an amenity alliance with newly minted Canadian hotel, Bisha Hotel Toronto, the multifaceted brainchild of dining and entertainment mogul, Charles Khabouth. This entrée into hospitality sets the standard for quality and craftsmanship, and marks the world’s first-ever offering of Byredo’s Bal D’Afrique scent in a hotel setting.

With top notes of African marigold and neroli, a heart of jasmine petals and violet, and a base composed of cedarwood and vetiver, the Bal D’Afrique range adorns the Studio Munge-designed vanities in each suite.

Having lived in Toronto growing up and feeling a strong connection to his father’s Canadian roots, the metropolis makes for an ideal destination for a hotel collaboration for the perfume magnate.

Translating personal memories into luxurious scents is Gorham’s unique obsession, but there are certain precious aromas that are off limits to the olfactory visionary, like his most favourite smell, “the smell of [a] baby,” he shares. “I have two children, and that’s something I could never recreate.”