Launched in 2018, Rook Perfumes is an independent fragrance brand whose scents take inspiration from the melding of nature and memory. It’s founder, Nadeem Crowe, was born in Jordan and grew up in Lincolnshire and London. He then went on to study medicine at UCL and acting at LAMDA before turning his sights onto the world of perfumery.

We caught up with Crowe to talk about the new iterations of a trio of his unisex perfumes, Rook, Forest and Undergrowth, which were released last month.

You are a NHS A&E doctor, an actor and a perfumer. How do you manage to do all three (or do you have a secret time machine we should know about)? 

I qualified as a doctor in 2010 having trained for 6 years at UCL. In the middle of my medical training, I took some time out to train as an actor at LAMDA. There was no doubt in my mind that I was going to combine careers somehow. I remember an acting teacher at LAMDA telling me there was no way I could do both which I think made me even more determined. I was initially training in acute medicine and geriatrics but then switched to work part time in emergency medicine which meant I could work shifts before evening performances or after rehearsals.

Perfume is something which went from a passion to a small business and then to a bigger business without me really meaning for it to happen. I went months coming home from A&E or the theatre, mixing, bottling and packing scents and gradually the momentum made things escalate. I strongly believe our education system programmes people in to thinking you can only do one thing. I strongly disagree with this notion. Pursue your passions at the highest level you can. 

Rook by Rook Perfumes

You launched Rook in 2018. What was the impetus behind going into perfumery?

I have always loved perfume as an art. I have spent years seeking out weird and wonderful scents but eventually I got bored of what was on offer. Pursuit of a holiday romance took me to Lausanne around 4 years ago. The romance dried up rapidly and I found myself on a rainy walk around the city. I stumbled upon an incredible perfumery and spent a few hours there with the owner discussing and discovering raw ingredients which I then invested in on my return. I played and read and failed and failed and then started to understand my ingredients more and more. I eventually created 6 scents I believed in and launched in 2018 after a successful Kickstarter campaign. This eventually lead to my scent, Undergrowth being shortlisted by Pure Beauty as best niche fragrance. 

Triangles are synonymous with Rook. What was the idea behind this?

My triangle is medicine, performing and perfumery. These are the three things that define a large part of my life and bring me artistic and intellectual harmony. After deciding on the triangle I started to see them everywhere. From the nature that inspires my scents to the tattooed arms of friends. Everyone has a triangle. I also love the strength of the triangle graphically. It is unapologetic.

Forest by Rook Perfumes

Each of the three new perfumes have been created with your "memories in mind."  Could you say a little about this?

These scents are about taking a moment and bottling it. Undergrowth is perhaps the most visceral example. I wanted to bottle the scent of pulling fresh mint from wet soil. I like the idea of being able to recreate a moment every time you push the atomizer. That is much more exciting to me than the purely cosmetic side of scent. A lot of us have strong relationships with scents that instantly conjure a memory when we sniff them. We will relate to the scene of a painting or cry to the melody of a song; scent is also incredibly emotive and I want people to reconsider why they choose their perfume. I remember someone trying Undergrowth for the first time and becoming instantly emotional. He had grown up near a plantation in Africa and said the scent transported him there. That is why I make perfume. 

You have released a new edition of your 2018 perfume Rook by Rook. How do the two scents differ?

IFRA (the International Fragrance Association) is a regulatory board that provides guidance on acceptable allergen levels within a perfume. Unfortunately these guidelines recently changed and Rook by Rook was no longer compliant. Many perfumers get upset about the IFRA guidance but I like the challenge of working to the standards they set and using different ingredients to the same affect. I in fact think I made a richer reformulation as a result. 

Undergrowth by Rook Perfumes

Undergrowth has notes of soil. Tell me more.

The journey through Undergrowth can be challenging for some but they always come back for more. The opening is a huge burst of bright garden mint as the leaves crunch between your fingers. The rain has just stopped falling and the earth is damp. As you start to pull the mint from the ground, the roots start to agitate the soil. Now the bright mint note is grounded by the scent of earth which is just starting to dry as the clouds part. You need to smell it to believe it. It is the smell of the outdoors, indoors. 

Do you have a favourite scent or something that keeps you coming back again and again?

My go to scent (other than my own) is Wanted by Diane Pernet. On my weekly Sunday visits to niche perfumeries, it was one of the only scents to stop me in my tracks. It is a dark and mysterious scent with a marvellous manipulation of clove. I can't complete the sentence "It smells like....." which for me defines it as niche. 

Shop the collection here.

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