An African fragrance story

When Steyn Grobler left SA as a teen to settle in London, he took a part of the country with him. Now he shares his memories and experiences in his exclusive Aqualis fragrances.

Attending the Johannesburg launch of Aqualis Kruger parfum, the latest scent in the Aqualis London range, I couldn’t help but feel a swell of pride. Aqualis London may be a British brand, but it was founded by South African Steyn Grobler, who grew up in Pretoria, before making London his home.

Grobler’s interest in fragrance started at a young age. “I used to spend hours in perfume shops, which I walked to when I was around 12 years old. It really got ignited when working in the Harrods perfumery while doing my MSc in Business Economics.”

He’s spent his entire career in the luxury fragrance world, working with a number of contemporary niche fragrance brands, both in business management and fragrance development. With this background and experience, it was a natural progression to embark on his own fragrance journey in 2015 when he founded Aqualis. The brand soon found its way into an exclusive clientele’s hands and is now stocked in leading luxury store Harrods in the UK, and in Skins Cosmetics in South Africa, which stocks niche international brands in skincare, perfume and beauty, and also has stores in the Netherlands and Belgium.

Aqualis Luxury Perfume by Steyn Grobler

Like an olfactory canvas, the Aqualis collection presents the beauty of exceptional raw materials in modern perfume compositions. Grobler is responsible for the creative inspiration, while Robertet, a world leader in the supply of perfumery materials with decades of experience, is behind the composition.

Aqualis comes from the words aqua and qualis (self) – the intention being that the fragrance exists as an equilibrium between the perfume and the wearer. All the scents are unisex. “The whole idea behind Aqualis is that I bottle a concept, but the wearer brings it alive with their own experience. I therefore never attribute a specific gender to any of the fragrances I create. It’s up to the individual,” explains Grobler.

The scents are undeniably different to what’s out there and the inspiration and personal stories behind them are what gives them an edge. “I create fragrances around concepts that mean something to me,” says Grobler. “You cannot escape your heritage when you create, therefore my South African childhood features heavily as I have such great memories of these places. It was inevitable that I’d use these concepts in the collection.”

All the fragrances in the Parfum collection have a 30% oil concentration to ensure longevity on the skin, and a beautiful sillage all day long.

The most recent addition to the collection is Aqualis Kruger, which Grobler describes as “something that smells like the texture of gold”, but has a rosy softness.

Kruger parfum takes its name from the Krugerrand, a rare gold coin minted in South Africa and named for the country’s first president. Opulent, intense and distinctive, it represents what nature’s most precious metal is all about. The notes of spice, rose and amber radiate warmth and luxury. Pink pepper and bergamot head up the top notes for a flash of freshness, while rich rose, warm saffron and patchouli give it a rare and precious heart of spice. A soft warm finish comes from the combination of creamy sandalwood, tonka bean, vanilla, white musks and amber. If you can imagine the depth and warmth of a brilliant gold bullion in your hands, this is it captured in a scent.

The bottle highlights the brilliance of gold. As the floating slivers of 24 carat pure gold leaf catch the light, it flickers and gleams like a decadent snow globe.

The rest of the collection is equally unique. Swipe right below to experience the other fragrances in the Aqualis range.

“Our focus is to create modern, intriguing perfumes of extraordinary quality, where the raw materials are the vessels for your experiences. We make perfumes that are the backdrop to your life − that enhance moments, both the important and the everyday.”

- Steyn Grobler, Founder Aqualis London

A woody Oriental, Orion pays homage to creation using age-old ingredients such as Turkish rose, Egyptian jasmine, oud, musk and vanilla in a contemporary composition.

The rule breaker, Utopia is a gourmand Oriental – vibrant and unconventional, lively and effervescent with citrus and fruity notes.

The marine aquatic Brenton is inspired by the free flight of exotic birds over the ocean and paints an olfactory picture of Brenton on Sea. Think bracing mint, herbs and salty droplets of ocean water.

Coda is about conclusions. The floral Oriental is a festival of fruits and spices, leaving a lasting impression.

A soft floral, Namaqualand is inspired by how the unforgiving landscape can burst into bloom.

The fiery core of rose absolute in Kalahari, pays homage to the blazing ruby sands of the Kalahari Desert.

A powdery floral, Canvas has a dazzling texture centred on the interplay between jasmine sambac and white musks.

Blom, meaning flower in Afrikaans, is inspired by Grobler’s childhood spent surrounded by blooms (his mother is still a florist in Pretoria). “To wear Blom is to be embraced by flowers,” he says.

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Creator of artisanal and locally produced fragrances that reflect nature's wonders, master parfumier Tammy Frazer is all about the alchemy of potent plants.