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There’s a scent wafting over Plett

Deonette Van der Westhuizen in her happy place creating concoctions from hundreds of tiny bottles of pure fragrant oils
TOP NOTE: Deonette Van der Westhuizen in her happy place creating concoctions from hundreds of tiny bottles of pure fragrant oils
Image: ELAINE KING

I love perfume. Absolutely can’t resist it.

I blew my very first tiny salary on an expensive bottle of perfume and my mother bought me groceries for the month because I was bankrupt. Nowadays imported fragrances are so exorbitant there may well come a day when I have to choose between food or smelling divine.

Imagine then finding a local perfumer who is creating a range of fragrances that are 100 percent organic with no synthetic ingredients added — and not only that, but you can go to a workshop and create your very own scent. This is my kind of heaven!

De La Fontaine, a plant-based organic and natural perfumery opened their shop and workshop in Plettenberg Bay this year. Owner and perfumer Deonette van der Westhuizen proudly claims their hand-poured perfumes (every single bottle) are made from organic plant-based extracts, sourced from indigenous and sustainable farming. “Our perfumes contain no synthetic fragrances, preservatives, colourants, phthalates, parabens, or formaldehydes. The perfumes are never tested on animals and are vegan.”

Deonette always dreamt of making perfume. During Covid and the subsequent lockdown that became a reality for her — a time when she researched all there is to know about it, the ingredients, where to source them — and how to make magic in the apothecary she has created.

From the outset, Deonette was determined to find a new way of using only organic ingredients in her creations. “I use 100% pure botanical fragranced perfumes designed and blended in-house with clean, hydro-distilled flower absolutes, plant essences, natural plant resins, aromatic wood, spices, grasses and sugar cane/corn alcohol. We never ever use synthetic ingredients.  And then I add love to every bottle,” is how she describes her range.

Her reasons for creating natural perfume are to improve the earth’s carbon footprint and also promote health and wellbeing. “The skin is an organ that should be treated with love and care, after all, it absorbs everything that is sprayed onto it,” she says.

It’s no mean feat making organic perfume. While there are thousands of synthetic ingredients available to make commercial perfume, Deonette says there are only about 400 natural organic ingredients and these are often much more expensive than the synthetic versions and also difficult to source. “It takes a ton of rose petals to make 100ml of rose oil and it costs R3000 for 5ml of the oil. Some of these pure natural ingredients are 75 times more costly than the man-made versions,” she explains. So, her range is not inexpensive, but then who wants to wear cheap perfume!

According to her in the 1940s and 50s synthetic ingredients overtook organic equivalents because they were cheaper and easier to source. Sourcing pure extracts is much harder. While jasmine, oils from fynbos flowers and other extracts come from farms in SA, a lot of her ingredients have to be sourced overseas like the Pink Carnation oil that comes from the US and Lily of the Valley from England.

Simone (named after Deonette’s daughter) is described as “gentle, but strong, you are feminine, but independent.” This perfume contains Pink Carnation, ylang-ylang and jasmine with ginger and cedar wood. This particular scent is said to ‘help reduce skin rashes and eczema.’

Another best-seller is Blu. “It’s filled with lavender and calming chamomile, carries a rose fragrance and the notes of lemon trees.” This one is recommended to help reduce mental stress and it supports the immune system, say De La Fontaine.

There is a nose-boggling choice here for any olfactory palate, that’s for sure, each with its purported health benefits.

But most fun of all was that I got to do the workshop with Deonette and make my very own perfume like a celebrity.

She explains there are three elements to perfume; the base, heart and top notes. “Top note is the initial impact the fragrance has on your skin and lasts about 10 minutes. The heart notes last about eight hours and the base note is the underlying scent created from oils like vanilla or myrrh,” she explains.

Deonette lets me sniff dozens of little blue bottles and together we create recipe. It includes top notes of lemon grass and coriander, heart notes including Lily of the Valley, Bergamot, rose and jasmine and the base notes are my secret!

From this basic recipe Deonette is able to turn my concoction into an eau de toilette (15% oils) or perfume (30% oils).

What’s interesting is that she recommends that while you make perfume, you should have a glass of wine. Apparently, there is evidence that a little alcohol enhances smell.

While De La Fontaine sells perfume at their shop and does workshops for women wanting their own perfume, they will go international as soon as they have their organic certification. “Natural perfumes are becoming a big thing in Europe and the USA and we are following this trend.”

It’s an experience of a lifetime. Drop into the shop and smell with Jacques Oelofse or book a workshop on 083 252 1932.

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