Meet Maria McElroy, Founder, Perfumer, and Owner of Aroma M, a New York based fragrance house that has been with Olfactif from the beginning! Discover how Japan and the Geisha culture has a heavy influence on Maria’s fragrances and how she is a life-longer learner in Kodo, the Japanese Incense Ceremony.
Q: What’s your favorite scented memory from your childhood?
My earliest recollection of fragrance is that of the tantalizing aroma of Greek pastries that would cover the linen tables cloths in my childhood home. These are delicacies doused in honey syrup and nuts delicately spiced with cinnamon nutmeg, clove and crushed almonds. These were the treats my mother, Opium clinging to her leopard silk blouses, would give my adoring, five-year-old self on sunny afternoons.
Q: Your packaging is so unique. Can you tell us more about it?
Creating the packaging is one of my favorite jobs. The current Aroma M perfume bottles are utilitarian glass containers, but we bedeck them in phantasmagorically patterned Yuzen papers, handcrafted in Kyoto. I usually take a yearly trip home with my Kyoto born chef hubby and stock up on these papers. The tiny shop, off a narrow street is full from ceiling to floor with these patterned papers, originally used for Kimono textile designs. I love selecting papers that translate the personalities of my perfumes.
Q: I see that you are a painter. What inspired you to become a perfumer?
I have an Aromatherapy background, I studied in Australia and I am a licensed Aromatherapist. I would say my olfactory love came from this as well as from Kodo, the Japanese Incense Ceremony.
Kodo is a very elegant game from the esteemed Heian era, over a thousand years ago. One smells the burning incense in a small brassier and must describe the perfumed elements in poetic language, creating art from olfactory art. Kodo has the Zen mind, where you are perfectly present and in the moment. They say it takes 10 years to just begin to understand how to be proficient. I plan to be a life long student!
Q: Can you tell us more about your love of Japanese art and incense?
There are so many aspects of Japanese art and culture that work their way into my life and therefore into my perfumes. I love the Zen purity and the wabi sabi esthetic, which finds the simplest objects interesting, fascinating and beautiful. Fading autumn leaves would be an example as well as the clouds lightly covering the moon- a natural simplicity. This is an aesthetic seen in Japanese cuisine, traditional dance and painting as well as Kodo the Incense ceremony.
Q: Of all of your fragrances, is there one that stands out as your favorite? If so, why? If not, why?
All of my perfumes are like my children; I really don’t have a favorite. I do though tend to wear some of them seasonally. For example, it is spring in New York and peony season. I find myself drawn to my latest perfume, Geisha Botan inspired by the honeyed aroma of these enchanting flowers. With its intoxicating vanilla and velvety woods, Geisha Botan is my current favorite.
Q: I see that you go to Japan quite often. Can you tell us more about your last trip there?
I was in Japan the month of January this year. It is important for me is to have time to travel with my chef hubby. I love strolling together through the ancient Capital of Kyoto, his hometown. I never tire of exploring the cobblestoned streets of Gion, the legendary Geisha district of Kyoto.
Peeking into a tearoom imbued with the sound of shamisen, with the scent of delicate incense wafting through the doorway. I have a bit of wanderlust and love experiencing new cultures. My brother lives in Morocco so I have added it to my list of yearly destinations. Marrakech is an extraordinary city brimming with colors of the desert, Arabian perfume oils to swoon over, food for the senses and the famous azure blue sky, covered in sparkling stars in the velvety night. Its pure magic to me!
Q: What are you most proud of with your brand or your fragrance compositions?
The inspiration for Aroma M is Japan and the Geisha. I am very influenced by Japanese culture and the wonderful years I lived there. I’m proud to share this extraordinary culture and the traditions of the Geisha, their beauty, elegance, glamour, and mystery. This is what perfume is all about. We want to wear a perfume, and feel beautiful, powerful, and sensual. I want you to try on a scent, as you would slip on a silk kimono. Aroma M is a window into this world. My perfumes are both modern and ancient, delicate and bold…a true dichotomy of olfactory exploration.
Q: If you could describe Aroma M in 3 words, what would they be?
Transcendent. Dreamy. Asia.
Q. What’s next for you and Aroma M?
I have some very exciting news that I have been waiting to share…we have been in the process of re-branding Aroma M this year, and are very close to revealing the gorgeous new packaging. We will be launching a new website with our new logo, perfume bottles and boxes this summer ( how exciting!!).
I am also thrilled that we will be introducing Japanese Geisha Natsume who will be part of our journey; she is the bridge to the other side. Natsume and myself will be kicking off the re-brand in a perfume film; we will be showing a trailer for it on Instagram the first part of June. It truly is such an exciting time! Aroma M has over two decades in the Niche perfume industry, I am thrilled to step into this next chapter. Stay tuned! (we can’t wait!)
Geisha Botan was featured in the May 2019 Collection for Women, Flower Shoppe, and women are loving it! Check out other beauties from Aroma M, including Geisha Noire, Geisha Hana-Cha, Geisha Vanilla Hinoki.
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