Perfume Making on Caldey Island

Perfume making on Caldey was inspired by the profusion of wild flowers growing on the island.  In the early 1950's bunches of Caldey lavender were sold to day visitors, which gave the monks the idea of creating scents using the lavender and other island plants.

These early scents proved popular with the visitors and it was decided to try to produce perfumes on a more commercial scale.  One of the island buildings was converted into a perfumery and, with the help of expert perfumers, the monks began to formulate more sophisticated fragrances,  soon establishing the Caldey Abbey Perfumes brand, with a reputation for high quality, original fragrances.  However the popularity of the scents meant that sales quickly outstripped the supply of island-produced oils, and before long all the natural essences had to be imported.

The highly complex compounding process continued to be carried out in the island perfumery, but during the 1970's the perfume world became fiercely competitive and it soon became impossible for small perfumeries to obtain the vast array of rare and expensive ingredients required, not to mention the expertise needed to produce the aromatic compounds in-house.  For this reason, from that time on, most of the compounding process was entrusted to outside labratories with access to all the neccessary facilities and rescources.

Caldey currently enjoys the services of one of the UK's top freelance perfumers, who painstakingly updates and re-creates the classic fragrances for which Caldey has become renowned.   His creations are made up into aromatic compounds at a dedicated perfume laboratory.   These specially compounded essences are then used by the monks and lay-workers in the island perfumery,  where the unique products in the Caldey Abbey Perfumes range are made and bottled.

Today perfume making plays a key role in the island’s economy. The perfumes are sold in Caldey’s own shops on the island and nearby Tenby, as well as by mail order and on the internet.  The range now includes perfumes, colognes, bath essences, hand lotions, aftershaves and soaps.

In some ways things have come full circle.  Lavender is once again being grown on a small scale in the monastery garden and, just as it was in the 1950's, is dried and sold in bunches and bags in the island's perfume shop.

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