Interview with Chandler Burr about Ambi Pur and Scent

Below is the transcript of the interview between Kelly Burstow (Be A Fun Mum) and Chandler Burr, Author, Former New York Times Perfume Critic, Curator of the Centre of Olfactory Art the the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City and consultant for Ambi Pur.

2 September, 2011, Koh Samui, Thailand.

chandler burr for ambi pur -- destination scents

Kelly in bold Chandler in regular

The comfortoble thatched chairs of The Scent Boutique Hotel are only metres from the beach. A pot of tea is placed before me with an empty cup. Chandler already has drink: something cold with a slice of lime sitting pretty on the rim of the glass. Chandler and I chat as I let the tea leaves soak for a few moments before pouring it into the empty cup.

What are the benefits of using scent in the home?

I think you can get an absolutely huge impact from using scent in the home. When [my partner and I] were in a hurricane, no one was in the street and it just poured rain. It was dark. I mean, it wasn’t black as night, but it was dark, dark, dark, dark, with huge cloud cover — and we lit a candle. The candle light was nice. It was a bitter orange candle but it had a sweet aspect to it. We sat in the living room on our computers, talking and hanging out, and we really loved it. We really loved it, you know?

So it added something special to that time, when it could have been a bit dreary?

We weren’t in any danger, but yeah it was nice. I love when it’s pouring rain outside and you don’t need to be out; there is nobody out there. You don’t run any errands; you are there. It was absolutely wonderful and [the candle] enhanced that time so much, which is wonderful. I think that it’s interesting because some people don’t think about that. Other people would use music. We did have on Gamelan music on — traditional Indonesian bells — we had that on too so that was aural, and we lit the candle, so that was olfactory. So it was just this wonderful sensory experience.

“It was just this wonderful sensory experience.”

In this busy world we live in, it’s hard to be in the moment sometimes. Can scent be used as a subconscious trigger to help you be in the moment?

Absolutely, it puts you in a good place; it’s not going to go on forever. There’s a beginning, a middle and an end. It’s a moment, and it’s a wonderful experience. It marks time.

It seems a very immediate thing, is that true?

Absolutely. It is very immediate and it will anchor your olfactory sense.

So you can you marry all the scenes – like you did in the hurricane with the Gamelan music and the orange scented candle — to create an environment of texture, of comfort, of…

…uniqueness, of personality. Yes. It’s in your environment that you create, and specific to you.

“It’s a moment, and it’s a wonderful experience. It marks time.”

Say someone is not sure what scent to use in their home, where do they start?

These three destinations scents are a marked departure for Ambi Pur. Ambi Pur’s basic purpose for air care was the purification and transformation of the air through scents that were pleasing, subtle, and gave you a specific feeling on lightness, openness and freshness.

This new range is different. They are doing something that’s aesthetically somewhat different. They are providing you with something more than just a feeling; they’re providing you with a destination, an experience. [Each scent] is linked to a place and they are linked with very good reason to the place. I don’t think you have to have been to Hawaii, or Thailand, or New Zealand to enjoy them.

I think the New Zealand Springs scent is most representative of New Zealand. Hawaiian flowers certainly is too, but it has the one experience aspect to it: the [hibiscus] flowers. Thai Dragon Fruit is not so much representative of Thailand, but from the fruit.

They are designed, not just to verify, and lift, remove odour and allure; it actually gives you places, which means culture; it means background, history and it’s very…

Exciting really.

…yes, it’s very, very interesting. The scents [Ambi Pur] already have — they have clean, they have fresh, they have linen, they have these other things — they are simpler concepts, and I love them. I love them; I really do – but these [destination] scents have more personality and more… sophistication.

Ambi Pur Air Effects Destinations Range

“…these scents have more personality and more… sophistication.”

So these destinations scents have more personality and sophistication. How would describe them in terms of fashion?

Hawaiian Flowers: Alexander McQueen, John Galliano and Vivienne Westwood – that opulent demand they make on your sense of sight; the “Look at me!” That is very much is a visual analogue of the Hawaiian flowers scent. The hibiscus has a huge presence and it says, “Here I am! This is what I am! Pay attention!”

Thai Dragon Fruit: The Thailand dragon fruit scent is much sleeker. The beauty lies in the materials and the beauty lies in the subtlety. I think designers like Armani and Tom Ford rely on subtlety, not on wild cuts; they rely on the beautiful fabrics that are used. They don’t need to draw attention to themselves.

New Zealand Springs: With the New Zealand scent, I would say it’s like T-Shirt, Jeans and good pair of hiking boots.

It’s a statement of creativity. Don’t just stick to one. Buy one and try it. And then buy another and try that to see the difference. And buy a third and see how it goes. See which room you want them in and which one reflects your personality, because you may be surprised.

“It’s a statement of creativity.”

I love the Thai Dragon Fruit.

Yes, that’s my favourite too.

Can scent slow life down without the need to be less busy?

Metaphorically, yes. I think if it’s subtle, like the Thai Dragon Fruit, it situates you. If you want more excitement and more glamour, use the Hawaiian flowers. The New Zealand scent gives you openness.

I grew up in Papua New Guinea and sometimes, I will have this feeling like I’m back there. And I know it’s to do with my sense of smell. I can’t quite grasp it; I wish I could capture what I smell because my childhood was amazing. I did only 3 hours of school a day ran outside for the rest of the day. In the same way, do you think the environment we create for our children in the home can have a long lasting memory impact on the rest of their lives?

I think so, absolutely.

I think this is really important because we often don’t place a high value on our sense of smell. For me, unless it’s in regards to changing nappies! Often for mums, when it comes to odour and scent, it’s easy to think about the negative aspects of the smells we deal with on a daily basis.

With my boys, I play classical music, and it’s very important [to me]. So we wake up to a classical musical station and it has a very specific impact on the way that they wake up; the way that they see the world; the way they see being at home. So, there’s a cultural depth and it’s going to have an impact on them. And they will associate [the music] with home, and with us. I think scent is very, very viscerally felt, and so I do think it’s hugely important [for creating memories].

Communicate this to your readers: it’s not about overwhelming them with scent (it’s not what it’s about) but it’s a matter of creating a scent environment that’s pleasing, that’s interesting; that’s maybe exciting. And maybe changing things; and talking about it, and being conscious of scent. I think that’s very, very important.

“I think scent is very, very viscerally felt, and so I do think it’s hugely important [for creating memories]. “

That brings me to the next question. Mums are usually 10 steps ahead of themselves every single moment of the day so it’s easy to feel like you’re living in survival mode. How do you start taking more notice, and being more aware of scent?

You have to make it a priority, and you have to make a decision, and you have to say, “I am going to be conscious of this; I’m going to look at this; this is going to be more part of my life.” That is really important; you just have to do it. Just the way you have to decide to put more effort into the visual environment around you. So you say, “In this room we are going to do, not flat white, but matt ivory colour here on the walls, and we going to do gloss on the ceiling, and we are going to recover this sofa with a huge texture to it.” You pay attention to it if you make a decision. And you have to just try things.

“You pay attention to it if you make a decision. And you have to just try things.”

Okay, right now, I smell tea from my empty cup there. So right now I’m taking more notice of what is around me.

Yeah! I guess so! I hadn’t thought about it that way! I guess I was thinking in terms of scent that you can buy. But yeah! What you say is true though.

We are talking about Ambi Pur here and air freshener scent but when I write about anything, I like to explore and see how the topic can add value to life. So, it’s not just, “There is a scent in the room and I can smell it,” it’s, “Hey, you can experience this in every part of your life.”

I think it’s a very interesting: the idea of smelling, I mean, if you smell right now — {we pause for a moment as we take deep breaths} — I mean, we smell the ocean. I smell that brine because I’m focusing on it right now.

Koh Samui, Thailand. Ambi Pur scented journey

There’s joy in that!


I have a section on my blog called Love the Moment Challenges. Every month, the challenges are all about small things that can make you more aware of what is around you, and I’d love to one with scent.

It would be very, very exciting. I think it would be very interesting for your readers.

— ends —

Other Posts

I want to go to New Zealand, Hawaii and Thailand

Slow Life Down Without The Need to Be Less Busy

6 Things I Learned in Thailand

I See Colour

Out of the Office: In Thailand

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