Q&A With Dana El Masri



Do you teach or do any experiential projects? If so, what and where?

I haven’t taught the experimental use of scent as I am currently exploring it myself!

I started working with scent outside of the traditional confines of perfumery or functional fragrance in 2017. I first created an olfactory installation of jasmines in multiple forms called ‘Shim El Yasmeen - Smell the Jasmines’ for Take Care of Yourself, an exhibit by Sundus Abdul Hadi featuring multiple artists of colour or who identify as ‘other’ exploring healing and self-care through art and culture. I have also collaborated with musicians and artists in other mediums to complement their work with scent. Most recently, I created Σmotion, a multi-sensory movement piece involving scent, dance, sound & light work alongside Pax, an interdisciplinary artist and dancer, artist & musician Lunice for sound and six incredible dancers.

What was the most intriguing aspect of the collaboration with Scent Trunk and the Original Edition fragrance you created for us?

The creative freedom and challenge to create new and true work with a material that has been used so often and for so long in both perfume and culture.


Have you worked with the focus ingredient you were assigned to in one of your commercially released fragrances ?

I love Frankincense so much! I have it in Otis & Me and Neon Graffiti. I’ve never used Black Frankincense, however :)

What does our annual meta theme “Supernatural Future” mean to you?

Opening your heart and mind to the unknown.

Your repertoire of fragrances spans across music and culture, did you know that is what you wanted your brand to encompass? Or would you say the brand evolved because of your own personal experiences?

I knew I wanted to explore scent and sound in a new way, perhaps choosing songs and stories others wouldn’t at the time. I was also very caught up in what I think is my synesthesia, I saw so many connections, I had to try. The culture aspect is embedded but it did evolve further into my career. It started with my blog, The Scentinel, which explores exactly those things. As I progressed and experienced the industry on various levels, in different cities, not only did my curiosity into non-European olfactory cultures become quite paramount, my need to share and celebrate them grew as well.


As a perfumer, I find people’s Aromascape very fascinating. I define it as a person’s inner landscape of aromas - both cultural, genetic, and learned environments. I understand you have lived in many countries, on many different continents. Do you have scent memories that are distinctive to that place or have they blended together? What can you share with us about your personal Aromascape?*

I have clear scent memories of most of the places I have been and definitely where I grew up. The only scent I don’t recognize in my soul is that of Budapest because I left so early. Each place, Cairo, Beirut, Dubai, New York, Grasse, Los Angeles, have left small scented imprints. There are things that connect, sometimes I’ll be in one place and smell something that brings memories of another, I love that. My personal Aromascape is detailed yet vast, colourful and vibrant, nostalgic, emotional and ever-evolving. I carry with me the scent of jasmines, gasoline, the sea, my grandparents, my mother’s arms, my father’s shirts, lemon, neroli, pine, pistachios, mangoes and so much more.

Is it possible to separate these scent experiences? In my mind, it’s like language, some people are truly bilingual and others speak kind of an amalgamation of phrases that sometimes don’t translate natively or naturally. So I wonder for you, does scent get blurred in some way?

I am *almost* tri-lingual and I speak two different dialects in Arabic. I can separate sometimes but there are some accidental cross-overs along the way! With scent, I’m very cross-modal, so I love seeing the connections and bringing them to life.

Do you have synesthesia? Or how do you ‘hear scent?’ I read somewhere that you made the scent of old records. What was that inspiration?

I *think* I have synesthesia. Many tests and conversations with professionals have led me to believe I do but I also think I have other forms of intermodal perception and just scent-colour synesthesia. I did! The scent of old records was the first accord I created at GIP. It was my fun project and a concept I really wanted to play around with. So much methyl eugenol though!



Your work goes beyond perfumery. You’re also an educator and activist. Is this something that you were doing before perfumery?

When it comes to education, yes; I started with The Scentinel with the sole intention of demystifying the fragrance industry by sharing my perspective as a perfumery student (which now has also continued in my podcast On the Nose). I wanted to share what I knew and make our world more accessible from the beginning. For my own cultures, I have always wanted to represent them as authentically as possible, outside of the current violent interpretations and past orientalized imagery. I don’t really see myself as an activist, I feel like I haven’t done enough on a larger scale to earn that term yet. I hesitated to make my views public for the longest time, I still don’t share as much as I would like...but there have been too many experiences and enough of others’ stories have been shared with me, that have pushed me to express certain opinions.

Can you share what you’re teaching at the Institute for Art and Olfaction’s - Scent and Society?

I collaborated with the IAO back in 2018 for their Scent & Society program with a month-long discussion on Scent and Ritual in MENA/SWANA. It encompassed my in-process work on this topic specifically, which started as a piece I wrote called Flower Power for Reorient in 2015 (republished on CaFleureBon where I won the Perfumed Plume for it). I shared my research and what I have learned over the years, we included a visual exhibit with Arab artists Susu Attar and invited Omar Offendum and to explore scent and poetry, scent & art. John Steele also presented on scent in Ancient Egypt. As well as accord classes on Oud and the ‘O’ category. This was also where I started exploring the idea of alternate nomenclature for the fragrance family moving forward.


Is it related to Future Olfactives? What is that exactly?

My work embracing cultural accuracy and highlighting unique olfactory traditions & practices will be part of my life’s work, this has definitely correlated with what we do at Future Olfactives. Most notably, in our focus on new nomenclature and sharing new stories outside of the traditional European aesthetic.

Name: Dana El Masri
Brand: Jazmin Sarai
Year founded: 2014
URL: www.jazminsarai.com | www.danaelmasri.com | www.thescentinel.com
Instagram: @jsparfums | @onthenosepodcast | @thescentinel

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