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Here is the story of how I came to be.
Creative forces came together –
And their ingredients made of me,
A memory, a scent, a distant dream.
Of Ireland – green, wild and free.
Here is the story of how I came to be. Five years ago, I roamed free-spirited across the Irish plains and mountain ranges, waiting for somebody to catch me.
Along the Golden Vale and river Suir of county Tipperary I found Clara, who dreamed of a leather-based scent inspired by the Emerald Isle – the childhood home of her husband John. She turned to Alienor Massenet, nose and a creator of enchanting potions. Alienor thought back to her first visit to Ireland, a 100km journey from the south to Connemara in the West.
The country air, the greenness emanating from the verdant fields, and the salty breeze whipped up from the Atlantic Ocean, were smells that embalmed her memories inspired the notes at the heart of me.
“I wanted to capture that freshness and the wild effect of the landscape,” Alienor said. “The Juniper oil gives you that masculine and very crisp top note while the green mate absolute, is what adds depth and texture.”
Into her mix, Alienor also put a touch of musk and a dry amber note for that modern touch. But the piece de resistance is my leather soul – an accord, which Alienor concocted using several ingredients including Styrax oil and labdanum.
There is green note that dances from the surface of me. That is the greenness Ireland. I am Irish Leather, creative, intense and raw.
If leather is my soul, then it is also that of John’s and other Irishmen who grew up surrounded by horses. It is a smell associated with the reins laced between one’s fingers and the smoothness of the saddle, warmed by the heat rising from the horse’s back.
Ireland’s connection to those proud and gentle beasts permeates Irish culture and mythology. In the legend of Oisín, the Fiannan warrior returns to Ireland after 300 years living in land of the young, Tir na nOg, where only 30 years have passed.
His wife, a fairy woman called Niamh Chinn Óir, lends him her white horse to make the journey but warns Oisín not to let his feet touch the ground – or else the years will catch up with him. This fateful myth is retold by Clara in a book created for me, and illustrated with drawings by artist Philippe Baudelocque.
In Bill Phelps’ photos for Irish Leather, it is as if Niamh’s white horse has reappeared in front of Lismore Castle. “I spotted those horses from the hill with the castle in the background. They were just playing, and I managed to capture this moment on camera,” the US photographer said of his shoot.
His recollections of Ireland were of the air and of the rain. “I remember feeling light headed, as if it was due to the amount of oxygen and the cleanliness of the air. The drops of rain were like plump grapes. It’s rugged and wild there and at the same time incredibly green and lush.”
The nostalgic scent of peat fires followed him on his travels. These muddy earthen bricks – also known as turf – have been harvested in Ireland as an alternative to firewood for centuries.
Clara’s memories of the day we met were of the rain, and the “lightness” in the air. “The rain cleanses and purifies the landscape. It seems like a flaw when in fact there is a certain gaiety to it because it never lasts very long. For someone who loves green notes it is very inspiring. It is the jungle without the jungle.”
She said of me: “Irish Leather, you were created to contain that gaiety. You are a perfume that resonates. You spin and turn; appear and disappear. You are a nomadic perfume. You are green, plentiful and dense. Both classic and vintage. You are a perfume that lasts.”
In some versions of the Celtic legend, Oisín is visited before he dies by Saint Patrick, whose national day we celebrate this month. Oisín’s horse meanwhile is said to have returned to Tir na nÓg, that mystical country of the forever young. That is my hope, of course, that I – like that horse - will remain, perennially, a classic.