Interview with 

Marina Barcenilla



  • Can you tell us of your background?

I used to be that weird child who smelled everything. I would get obsessed with different smells (good and bad) and I remember feeling this compulsion to smell things and dissect their odour. I was particularly obsessed with the smell of lilac flowers, carnations and basil, chlorinated water, new plastic dolls, my dogs’ fur, coal, and the perfume Anais Anais, which my mother used to wear.

I started collecting perfume as a teenager and to play with cheap fragrance oils when I was about sixteen. I first heard of aromatherapy in 1994, and when I moved to the UK in 1996, I decided to learn more about natural aromatics in an aromatherapy context. But it was really fragrance that called to me and that I was still obsessed with, so aromatherapy blends slowly became simple perfumes, which later became more complex fragrances, and my natural perfumery journey started in earnest.

  • Did you have an interest in fragrance growing up?

It was more an obsession with smells, and with collecting them all! I had a huge collection of perfumes, but also drawers full of scented things, including stationary, ink, erasers, bits of wood, dry flowers… you name it, I probably had it.

  • Well, how did your current journey into perfume begin?

After learning as much as I could through aromatherapy, I started reading and studying every book and manuscript about perfume I could get my hands on, from perfumes and incense in ancient Egypt and religious anointing traditions, to classic French perfumery, including working with some synthetic materials, which I quickly dismissed as I didn’t feel the same connection and sense of wonder I felt for naturals. I spent years reading, studying, experimenting, talking to other perfumes, making mistakes (lots!), and learning directly from some experienced perfumers for a period of time. As many others, I also had an interest in making my own skin care products and in knowing what I was putting on my skin, so there has been a lot of research, which continues to this day. About sixteen years ago I started creating perfume blends for friends, who then introduced me to their own friends, and the word slowly spread. I found myself creating bespoke perfumes for weddings, anniversaries, special occasions, individual commissions…I did this for years while having a more conventional job, but in 2010 I decided it was time to take the plunge and start my own company, which is how The Perfume Garden was born.

  • What would you say is your creative process if you can share?

It very much depends on what I am doing. Some of my own perfumes are inspired by people I know, events in my life, nature, and places or countries I have visited; others are based on more abstract concepts, such as feelings, dreams, or ideas in my head. When I do bespoke work, the person I am creating the perfume for is involved in the process. I also create fragrance for other brands and organisations, and on these occasions I usually have a brief to follow.

On a more practical level, there are times when I literally create a perfume on paper before I start blending, and others when I simply start blending with or without a direction in my mind, and see where the process and the aromatic essences themselves take me.

  • Do you have any advice for those that may want to become a perfumer or designer of scent or anything that is creative in general?

When it comes to doing something creative it is always important to do something you enjoy, and that you will be happy to pour your heart and soul into. For anybody wanting to study perfumery, natural or otherwise, there are plenty of courses available (I wish this had been the case twenty years ago!), but the main thing to do is practice, experiment, make mistakes, learn from them, and seek others who share your passion and will be happy to answer questions and offer advice.

Also, a word of warning…it is not the easiest way to earn a living even if you love what you do, so be prepared for many challenges.

  • What is your brand about the themes that you use?

Marina Barcenilla Parfums are created for people who are looking for an alternative to the mass produced perfumes commercially available. They are completely natural, not because I am dead against synthetics, but because I adore working with natural essences and I much prefer natural perfume myself. They are created for individuals who are looking for something different, special, beautiful, and kind to this world. They are luxury inspired by nature.

  • If you were not a perfumer what do you think you would be doing?

Possibly the same thing I have done all my life and that I still do; I would run a charity, just like I do at the moment…the only difference is that I would have more spare time and worry less!

UK residents and people visiting the country can also visit my perfume studio in Glastonbury, and find me at various events throughout the year.

  • Finally do you have any other words that you would like to share?

I would like to thank you for taking the time to showcase the work of artisan perfumers, there are so many talented people creating wonderful scents all around the world…it is wonderful to see attempts at building and showcasing our work.