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For the love of scent: Julian Bedel on Doha, Fueguia 1833 and fragrance as art

Argentinian-born perfumer Julian Bedel’s connection with Qatar didn’t start off in the most idyllic way, but it sure ended up as a perfect match
For the love of scent: Julian Bedel on Doha, Fueguia 1833 and fragrance as art

It was the fall of 2015 when Julian Bedel touched down on Qatar and the Argentinian perfumer recalls it well because “it became a famous day, the entire city flooded, I couldn’t believe it right in the middle of the desert all this chaos of rain — a massive, massive rain, almost biblical."

Some could have taken that as a negative foreboding, but for Bedel, ever the botanist and fragrance chemist, it all somehow made sense. “In the process of distillation, water is key,” he explains, continuing, “the removal of the moisture to then rehydrate, the role of water as a solvent is fantastic. The polarity of a molecule.” Throughout our conversation with Bedel over Zoom from his office in Italy, he dabs his comments with chemistry terms, all spoken in his charmingly soft Argentine accent.

“Curiositas Perpetuus” or “constant curiosity” is Bedel’s motto. He’s an artist and a musician who, in 2010, founded Fueguia 1833, a fragrance company now coveted the world over. Part of the Milan-based brand’s commitment to sustainability is creating their signature fragrances in limited editions, 400 bottles per batch, using the best natural ingredients available at the time of production. Plus Fueguia 1833 perfumes purposely lack polycyclic musk compounds, elements widely used in perfumery that are debated to cause potential harm to the health of aquatic species.

It was a Nobel prize winning paper that Bedel’s father sent him which initially inspired the artist. “That’s what got my complete fascination with scent started,” he says, “I learned from reading it that we are very susceptible to change by being exposed to these molecules — In fact it’s not just about the olfactory bulb but about the vomeronasal organ which is a chemical sensor.” Bedel explains further, “all the pheromones, the molecules that don’t have an aromatic profile, though they are volatile, they also in part change our behaviour. When I read this, I thought, what am I doing painting or with music? I found in scent a more powerful tool as an artist.”

"I’m a completely free spirit for the good and the bad, I think. In constant curiosity mode..." says Julian Bedel

The CEO and founder of Fueguia 1833 revealed this past March the next stage of growth for his artisan luxury perfumery business, following a substantial equity investment by Ilwaddi WLL (“Ilwaddi”), an investor based in the Middle East. Fueguia will utilise the resources from the investor partnership to accelerate the development of the business’ distribution network globally, both online and offline, as well as to continue expanding the product portfolio and the company’s proprietary in-house manufacturing capabilities.

His involvement in the Region continues to grow, as Fueguia 1833 shoppes are planned in Doha, Dubai and eventually Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Bedel has also helped design the fragrance gardens inside the soon to be opened CP Club, Qatar’s first private members arts club, located in Msheireb Downtown Doha. “I became involved in the project through Whitney Robinson, [former editor of Elle Decor] who went to university with HE Sheikha Mayassa and is a trusted old friend of hers,” Bedel explains, “as part of the revitalization of the Msheireb district in Downtown Doha he was commissioned a project, which has become the CP Club complex.”

So how does one design a fragrance garden, we wanted to know. “I started with some ideas on the whole garden, with plants and then realized that it would be difficult to implement some things in Qatar, due to the timing, the local suppliers, etc.” confesses Bedel. “And in this end I said, OK, I want to create this mist, this floating mist like in any botanical garden when you enter into the tropical plants section — to act also as a tent, something that creates a microclimate for the people moving through the houses. And of course this mist is going to have a perfume that we have to create.” Within that Bedel also created “an installation representing a small "temple", where we are burning resins, four times a day, to coincide with the four prayer times during the day. We also created the incense that will be burned there,” which Bedel adds is made from the sawdust left over during the artisanal construction of the unique wooden boxes Fueguia 1833 fragrances come in.

“My approach to scent has always been driven by connecting with the divinity, the divine, in a way,” discloses Bedel, continuing “why men, anthropologically, we’ve been looking also in our metaphysical rituals to incorporate a scent — to kind of amplify whatever thing we were trying to do, whatever the ritual anywhere on the planet we tried, to have a scent in addition to that.”

‘Msheireb’ is also the name of a fragrance that Bedel created for Her Excellency Sheikha Mayassa. “This is a perfume that bears the name of a neighborhood, but the intention was to honor her mother [Her Highness] Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, so It wasn’t the scent for a real estate development that I had in mind!” Bedel explains. The fragrance is a blend of three notes — rose, sandalwood and amber — though the roses come from “this expression of different roses, because we used centifolia, damascena, gallica, the absolute, essential oil, the CO2 extraction,” as Bedel elaborates, adding that “the roses are more an Iranian tradition and Moroccan too. And Saudi also, but this was more about the passion of the Qataris because they are great travelers and great merchants and it was this cultural elements we wanted to use.”

The result is a sold-out scent which is not only popular in Qatar, where it is available in the Qatar Museum shoppes, but also did well in Japan and in other Fueguia outlets around the world, where Her Excellency isn’t even a household name.

MIME asks Bedel how he, as well as his business have changed in the pandemic and he replies “I think the people around me changed more than me changing. I live in a pandemic mode since I started — living in Argentina! Sustainability issues, all the things that people are being curious about, how we approach perfume, and our research and our plants we’ve been doing it since day one.”

And finally, we wanted to hear from Bedel how he would describe himself, for our readers. “The fact that I haven’t gone to university gives me the nerve to jump into different activities or fields, because I feel that I don’t have anything that is holding me to do something,” He answers. Then adds, “I’m a completely free spirit for the good and the bad, I think — in constant curiosity mode.”

For more information about Fueguia 1833 visit their e-commerce website.

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