Making Scents of Wine

Kelly Jones broke the cardinal rule of wine tasting.  She wore perfume on a visit to a Napa Valley winery.  “Who is wearing vanilla?” asked the winemaker pouring a glass of buttery, oaky Chardonnay for Kelly.  He explained to her why she shouldn’t have on perfume in the winery tasting room, that perfume interferes with the wine’s bouquet and aromas.  But Kelly thought that the vanilla in her perfume enhanced the vanilla notes in the Chardonnay.  She loved the sensory experience of how the wine and perfume co-mingled.

The winemaker did not kick her out, but Kelly was frustrated nonetheless.  “I want to wear perfume while I’m drinking wine, those are my two favorite things to do.”  Call it her “aha” moment, when she thought there might be more to pairing wine with perfume. She went home inspired to see if she could create fragrances that complemented wine.  “I’d been studying perfume for quite a while and I had my own scent studio.”  She went out and bought bottles of her favorite white and red wines.“One by one I sniffed and I sniffed and I went into my fragrance library and trying to find the notes that would actually celebrate what I was smelling in each glass.”

Kelly will be the first to tell you she’s not a wine expert, and her perfume knowledge is mostly all self-taught.  In fact, Kelly prefers to be called a Scent Sommelier, as she has “the greatest respect for the title of Perfumer and the years and years of intense training that it takes to achieve that prestigious title.”

She was actually working in marketing in the auto industry at the time of her aha moment in the winery tasting room.  Kelly was bitten by the wine and perfume bug, wanting to do more with her passion for both.  She worked on a business plan in her off hours, and collected as many essential oils and synthetic components as she could to create her own scent collection and learn how to blend. Then Kelly took the plunge, leaving her auto industry job and moved to Tucson, AZ , an area she felt was conducive to creating perfumes and where she could try out her concept.

At this point she launched a custom fragrance business, taking clients on a journey to create their own unique scents. She also started to create her wine inspired perfumes and was able to test the waters and got positive reactions to her scents.  Her next step was to relocate to New York City, where she relaunced her perfume business, this time focusing on the notes of wine.

Kelly’s goal is not to make a wine scented perfume.  “Nobody wants to wear a fragrance that makes them smell like wine.”  She doesn’t want it to be wine in a perfume bottle.  “You’re not going to smell like wine wearing my scents.  I’ve designed them to be beautiful elegant perfumes.”  Instead, the perfumes are layers of aromas found in a glass of say Cabernet Sauvignon, including pink peppercorn, black cherry, tobacco and leather.

In New York Kelly started networking in the fragrance world, and met Mark Behnke, managing editor at the perfume blog  CaFleureBon.  “He is a wine lover and when he heard about my idea, was anxious to try them,” she says.  I had him whiff my first renditions.  He was very excited about them but mentioned that some needed a bit more richness.  The best advice was that he told me not to rush it.”

Mark suggested Kelly make some tweaks here and there.  Then she was ready.  That led to the launch of the Kelly & Jones Wine Notes Collection.  The first scent was #1 Notes of Sauvignon Blanc, a racy and zippy blend reminiscent of a New Zealand Sauv Blanc.  She’s expanded the line to four other fragrances, #2 Notes of Riesling, #3 Notes of Cabernet, #4 Notes of Merlot and her personal favorite, #5 Notes of Chardonnay.  The abstract form on the label could be interpreted as a drop of wine or a flower petal.  All are eau de parfums in a spray bottle.

I met Kelly back in August 2011 at a wine bar in Manhattan.  She brought along her scents, and we sniffed and sipped through all five of her perfumes.  I had the same sensory experience as she did in that winery tasting room.  The perfumes really do enhance the wine.  Peach in the Riesling perfume brings out the luscious stone fruit note in the wine.  The violet note in a Merlot becomes easier to pick out once you’ve smelled the Merlot fragrance with candied violet notes.  Instead of being overpowered by the perfumes, the aromas in the wines really pop.

Why is this a big deal?  Being a perfume lover and working in the wine world, I always listened to the rule about no perfume at wine events.  But somehow my outfit doesn’t feel complete to me without that final spritz of scent.  There are certainly other wine perfumes on the market, but what I love about Kelly & Jones is her fresh and modern approach in designing a scent to compliment a wine.  After all, most of the taste sensation we get from a glass of wine is all in the aromatics.

More recently Kelly presented her perfumes to Sniffapalooza at the Spring Fling in May 2012.  She guided us through a tasting a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and her #1 Notes of Sauvignon Blanc scent, which has yuzu grapefruit, starfruit, green apple and camellia flowers.  “Swirl the wine in the glass, next you want to stick your nose completely in the glass and just get a big whiff of it, then take a sip.  You’re gonna smell a lot of very crisp bright fruit, almost like the rind on a citrus fruit.  Then if you smell the Sauvignon Blanc perfume you’ll see that the fragrance actually enhances all the nuances of the wine in the glass, so it’s a whole new sensory experience.”  We all nod in agreement.

When she’s not testing and blending her own scents, Kelly does like to wear English Promenade 19 from Krigler, a niche perfumer in New York City.  The scent was worn by Audrey Hepburn, and Kelly says, “When I have it on, I feel like I should make a morning trip to the windows at Tiffany’s.”

Kelly is certainly happy she followed her dream and that perfume is now the focus in her life.  “I am passionate about the way that fragrance captures our individual stories, all our memories and connects us in a very sensorial and everlasting way.”  She is “utterly inspired by what is happening in the world of niche perfumery right now.  There is such a sense of community and so many risk-takers in terms of the combinations they want to create.”

This summer Kelly & Jones will release the perfumes in a roller ball format.  She calls it “travel-friendly and just perfect for trips to wine country!”  One day Kelly hopes to open a scent and wine bar, where you can go to try perfume and wine together.  She’s started hosting wine and perfume pairing events at wine bars in New York City.  She may even use her blending skills to create her own wine label.  For now, Kelly’s spreading the word that wine and perfume do pair well, and that you can enjoy both at the same time and have a fabulous sensorial experience.

The Wine Notes Collection sells for $84 for a 1.7 fl oz / 50 ml spray bottle and can be found at Kelly & Jones.

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