Interview with perfumer Euan McCall of Jorum Studio
We are happy to have the original brand Jorum Studio from Edinburgh, Scotland, in our collection. The creative duo behind this brand is perfumer Euan McCall and his partner Chloe Mullen. Together they run the artistic creations of Jorum Studio. At Perfume Lounge we are always interested in the makers behind our brands, so we asked Euan seven questions about the inspiration, struggles and artistic ways of Jorum Studio.
Where do you seek and find inspiration for your perfumes? And once inspired, what is your creative process?
Our process is pretty lengthy and from an outside perspective probably boring as it is inherently analytical and repetitive.
After we decide on the subject material or concept, we spend a relativity long time researching and putting together a moodboard. The moodboard usually consists of mixed media; images, film-stills, music references, furniture design, architecture, typography, fabric/ textile samples, web links, notes on new raw materials etc. Usually this happens in tandem with creation of initial perfume sketches, and each informs the other in the ‘melting pot’ stage. At the point where we feel comfortable with the ideation and conceptualisation, the moodboard is complete and we double down on formulation. Many of our archive formulas were created more analytically and without external creative influence, you can feel this when sampling.
What led you to perfumery and the founding of Jorum Laboratories?
My grandparents were very interested in the industry stemming from their own business in horticulture, they imparted this love of aroma, nature, and curiosity on me. If they weren’t creating beautiful gardens all over the U.K. and beyond, I think they would have established a perfume company or have ventured into aromatic extraction.
In 2010, there was no other fragrance formulation and manufacturing house operating in and from Scotland, as a Scottish perfumer, I felt Scotland should be part of the global narrative in Perfumery. I was fortune to meet the great Dr George Dodd early on in my training. Dr Dodd was an Irish Master Perfumer who retired to the Highlands of Scotland. I learned so much from studying his work, most of which was highly academic; investigation of pheromones, the aroma chemistry of whisky and a love of natural origin aromatics to name but a few of his research areas. When George sadly passed in 2020, we became custodians of his vast archive of raw materials, visitors to our shop can try some of the rarer and more interesting ones from both Dr Dodds collection and our own if they like.
When I think about it, there are few professional North European perfumers and fragrance houses and I feel that Northern perfumers have a slightly different sensibility – we have less quotidian aroma experiences that inform traditional perfumery, the cornerstones of training as a perfumer. Perfumers hailing from other parts of the world are surrounded by highly aromatic plants and nature, our smell landscape is different up here, muted, more intimate and slightly flatter but perhaps denser. We are forced to seek exotic aroma-scapes alongside our native ones and as such we tend to have this additional, more rugged sensibility that is forged from our need to search and assess aromatic subjects that are less giving.
Can you tell us a bit more what it’s like to produce everything in-house?
Our production can be swift for some formulae and slightly longer for others. Typically, we turn around full production in a few weeks, and everything is done in-house with batches ranging from 100-1000 units per reference for Jorum Studio. We usually batch a few times a year as a typical schedule with some ad-hoc production if a particular perfume requires such. Our production scheduling isn’t perfect as we can run out of certain perfumes, but it is impossible to know how anyone perfume will perform at any given time. So, production is admittedly not perfect but ultimately more sustainable both economically and ecologically.
The packaging elements are designed in-house by Chloe, and these are worked on throughout. Packaging may seem straightforward, but it is a very demanding element and the commodity prices for all raw material tend to be in constant and vicious flux. I do not envy this job! Part creative, part accountant and part mediator and negotiator. It’s gruelling!
Your collection has two sub-collections, Progressive Botany Vol. I & Selective Memory, can you tell us a bit more about those?
Progressive Botany Vol. I collection – containing Arborist, Medullary-Ray, Carduus, Trimerous, Phloem & Nectary – investigates botany. We felt that it was important to focus on botanicals native to home for the launch of Jorum Studio however we always stress that our Scottish heritage is not our only focus, we see ourselves as a global brand with a global vision.
Selective Memory – containing Atheneaum, Fantosmia – is at once inward looking, our hopes were that each of the perfume profiles within this collection are shared experiences – most people can relate to them in some way and at some level. The feedback from customers has been really positive and I am confident that we have achieved this goal of creating universally familiar profiles albeit totally new perfume forms that are nuanced.
What are the greatest challenges you and the company have faced? And how did you, or do you, deal with them?
As the only fine fragrance formulation and manufacturing company in Scotland operating internationally, we have overcome many challenges over the past 11 years – supply chain, setup costs and logistics to name but a few. Jorum is entirely self-funded and bootstrapped. We are totally independent with no investors and have never received any government support – totally unheard of for a business singlehandedly creating a new, potentially high value industry.
More recently, England’s decision to withdraw itself and the devolved nations has presented the most challenges as Brexit took effect last year. Our size, diversified supply chain and our adaptability has enabled us to respond effectively to the continued challenges presented to us.
You have participated in a range of artistic collaborations, such as the perfumes for Neandertal. How important are these to you? And do you have any more in the pipeline?
As a fragrance house, most of our time is involved with other brands projects. We don’t keep tabs but at any one time we could be working on upwards of 30 different briefs. We are currently working on over 50 individual perfumed products across multiple projects for companies large and small, globally. Notably, there are several new perfumes for French brand Senyokô due for launch this year and next. We have worked closely with Senyokô since before the brand launched and their briefs feel like home-away-from-home for me. Beyond that, most of the works are under NDA with around 10 projects launching within the coming 6 months. That excludes Jorum Studio, we are constantly working on new Jorum Studio releases. I have made more than 20 fully realised perfumes in the past 60 days that will be submitted to the team for consideration this year, they are sitting in front of us right now and we will whittle this down to 3 or 4 and perhaps launch all, one or none.
We don’t do much collaborative works with artists or institutions, mainly as these are always funded by Jorum in one way or another and time is incredibly scarce.