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Perfume that makes scents
Perfumers Rafael and Sharon Rodriguez. Picture: Rob Duncan/ The West Australian

There are small sea changes and there are really big sea changes - just ask Rafael Rodrigues and his wife Sharon, who gave up high-flying careers in stockbrocking and real estate to open Perth's first natural perfumery boutique.

The duo, who are clearly passionate about their new-found direction, happily admit they were living the supposed high life - fancy houses, big cars, luxurious holidays - but it had all started to feel a little unfulfilling.

Much to the shock of their corporate- world friends, the duo decided to pack it all in and hit the road, travelling through Spain, Morocco and Egypt. It was during this time that Mr Rodrigues, who is of Spanish and Moroccan descent, rediscovered a passion for perfumery that was an important part of his family's history.

The result is the poetically named Eternal Scents, destined to become a mecca for fragrance fanatics who are tired of the endless merry-go-round of celebrity scent launches, interchangeable mass-market perfumes, and fragrances whose commercial success is rooted solely in the clout of a designer's name.

"The world of scents is amazing, but if you only explore the world of commercial perfumery you only get to experience a limited variety of the amazing accords found in nature," Mr Rodrigues says. "It's hard for anyone to know what perfume suits them best when they have never experienced the scents of the original components."

This is borne out by my experience in the boutique, testing out various essential oils. We are so used to natural accords being blended with the unpronounceable chemicals found in most modern perfumes that we have forgotten what the real thing actually smells like.

Eternal Scents offers quite a mind- boggling array of aromas, from exotic, woody agars and sandalwoods to fresher, lighter frangipani and rose scents. Whatever your taste - smoky and masculine or feminine and romantic, there seems to be something here for everyone. And the best news? Essential oil perfumes last much longer on the skin than alcohol-based commercial perfumes.

"Alcohol dries on contact with your skin, so the scent you apply has a limited life," Mr Rodrigues says. "Its only chance of lasting is by holding on to your body oils. But if you have dry skin, it's not going to stick around. With our scents, all you need to do is dab a drop or two on your wrist and apply to your pulse points. The scent will last all day."

I pick out a blend called Indian Agarwood and Taif Rose, dab two drops on each wrist, and rub. (As any beauty editor will tell you, when you spray a commercial perfume full of alcohol and synthetic chemicals on your skin and blend, the scent will soon evaporate. Not so with essential oil-based perfumes). The scent lingers, beautifully but not obtrusively, all day.

"I guess what we want to do is educate people and demystify the perfume industry," Mr Rodrigues says. "There will always be a market for commercial perfumes but we are already finding that a lot of people with skin problems and allergies, or even just people who are sick of spending good money on low-grade potions, are coming to us to learn about true perfumery."

Most of Eternal Scents' ingredients are sourced from the Middle East, North Africa, Spain and France. Middle Eastern women have long known the power of the perfume oil and the art of scent layering. Many big-brand perfume manufacturers are now targeting this market, which has a preference for oud-based scents (think of Tom Ford's Arabian Wood or Dolce & Gabbana's newbie, Velvet Desert Oud).

"Perfume dates back over 5000 years and doesn't originate from France, as most people tend to assume," Mr Rodrigues notes. "You can actually trace the use of perfume back to Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia."

Mr Rodrigues says a perfume oil will vary immensely in quality depending on the region, climate, or the use of fertilisers or other chemicals in cultivation.

"We're fastidious about chemicals not being used by the manufacturers of Eternal Scent oils," he says. "It's all tied up with craftsmanship, pride, and the artisanry of the manufacturer."

Eternal Scents is at Shop 3, Carillon City, Perth.