Once again, Australian skincare label Aesop has tapped into French perfumer-photographer Barnabé Fillion’s contemporary vision for the development of its third olfactory creation. Named Hwyl, a Welsh word which describes a stirring feeling of emotional motivation and energy, the fragrance was created by Fillion in collaboration with the the brand’s head of product development, Kate Forbes.

After his first commission to reinvent the brand’s inaugural Eau de Toilette, Marrekech, Fillion is now well-versed with Aesop’s unique position on science and art, as well as their ongoing conversation with nature and botanicals. “I could potentially know how Kate would react and which were the parts I had to explain more, because we really understood each other from the first collaboration. It’s fluid in a way and we trust each other, which helps us stay focused.”

While the genderless fragrance was inspired by Fillion’s traversal of an ancient forest in Japan, both parties came together for this project with fresh eyes. Without any specific brief except a few key ingredients, this project was led by many open conversations. “The way we would approach a fragrance is something very different, it isn’t about scripting something down to a launch date, its intended price point or packaging instructions. It is a creative journey and starts with that passion that we have to create something amazing, and it is through that that we refine and define what the fragrance is,” commented Forbes, when prompted to describe the creative process behind working with Fillion.

Earthy, woody, smoky and with an aromatic freshness of thyme, Hwyl, says Fillion, is an ode to his passion of building one-of-a-kind perfumes intended for the individual to embark on their personal journeys to discover, define and express themselves.

Expectedly, Hwyl is rooted in Aesop’s connection with elements of nature. The Eau de Parfum opens with a rich and smoky note of vetiver, mellowing down with traces of wood, moss and spice. While the scent invokes the initial impression of a chilly, moist forest with undulating drafts of cool air, its dry down exudes an inexplicable warmth and depth. “Frankincense was probably a critical point for us. There was a moment when we begin talking about these temples, and in my mind, I started developing this image of,  specifically, burning incense. And because of these words, Barnabé went on to really develop the depth and the smokiness that I was imagining,” explained Forbes.

In their conversations, Forbes and Fillion switched seamlessly between listener and speaker, completing each others’ sentences while respectfully taking in the opinions of the other. Noticeable from their interactions is a partnership built on intuition, a shared fascination over common ingredients and a mutual regard of the creative process. You can’t help but await their next collaboration.

Photography & Text by Clifford Loh