Named by Vogue as one of the top ten aromatherapists in the world, Michelle Roques-O’Neil is an unsurpassed pioneer in the world of natural beauty and fragrance. Specialising in the powerful healing potential of aromatherapy thanks to her profound knowledge of the physical and emotional disciplines, Michelle’s own collection is a sumptuous mix of multidimensional aromatherapy blends, treatments and natural perfumes – designed specifically to assist users in the creation of a supportive regime of aromatherapy to enhance and illuminate everyday modern living. Read on for an exclusive insight into the fragrant world of Michelle Roques-O’Neil.
What was the catalyst that ignited your passion for natural fragrance?
Having worked with essential oils for over 20 years, I was getting a little bored and bogged down – the biggest catalyst for me was reading Mandy Aftel‘s inspirational book Essence & Alchemy (a CONTENT favourite too!). I remember being at Cowley Manor, an anniversary treat from the owners – slumped in a comfortable sofa I drifted into an alchemical world of fragrance. I could definitely say a fire was rekindled, a new passion emerged culminating in me travelling to work with Mandy over a period of three years, which was utterly brilliant. The meditation of making perfume, the vast array of her collection and beguiling can-do attitude of San Francisco was an epiphany that set me on a new fragrant path enabling me to own my knowledge and create a unique application.
Where do you look for inspiration when creating a new fragrance?
Inspiration can come from anywhere. If I catch a fleeting waft of something aromatically divine, I want to recreate it. In France it was the sublime aroma Stephanotis that I brushed against each morning. In San Francisco it was the Meyer lemon blossom that scented my journey each day to Mandy’s. A scent that I personally have been working on for awhile is based on Linden blossom. I kept smelling wafts of a musky honeyed blossom as I did my morning walk; eventually I tracked it down. It’s very subtle yet complex, with lots of layers. Capturing it took quite a few attempts. This aroma encapsulates summer for me.
What scents do you find have the biggest impact on your mood or state of being?
I have many for different things. I love geranium because it soothes out jagged emotions, frankincense because it makes you feel safe and protected, sweet basil clarifies thinking. Rose is particularly uplifting and heart opening but with the recent International Fragrance Association and EU legislations we are limited to the percentage of rose that can be used; this is due to a constituent called methyl eugenol that is thought to contribute to hypersensitivity. This is a material that has been a key constituent of perfumes and aromatherapy for centuries. Cynically I wonder what the agenda is here and who’s wielding the power. It does amaze me that it’s easy to restrict the use of the oils rather than looking at the root causes of hypersensitivity such as diet, pollution, stress and over indulgence.
From your own experiences with aromatherapy, what are some particular ailments that you believe scent can assist in improving?
Aromatherapy is such a potent tool. Each oil has a variety of uses both physically and metaphysically. Specifically, they can lend powerful support to many emotional conditions, and depending on the oil or oils selected, they can balance, soothe or uplift. Each oil operates on a multidimensional level. For example, lemon is a wonderful diuretic and liver cleanser (think hot water and lemon), and for the mind it helps with fatigue and brings clarity to your thinking. Something like vetiver helps to support the hormonal and nervous system and on a spiritual level helps to give people roots when they are very wobbly and ungrounded. Funnily enough, the actual plant is used in the same context to prevent soil erosion.
What is your all time favourite natural scent?
I would have to say I am a huge fan of white flowers. I am a big jasmine freak! I love Jasminum sambac for its intoxicating and dreamy qualities. A while back I found some beautiful biodynamic Jasminum grandiflorum – unfortunately the company had limited stock so I guess I’ll just have to go to India to pick up my next supply!
Recently, my lovely friend Adam from Hermitage Oils sent me some rather intoxicating Jasmine CO2 which was utterly devastating. Even though its has a very sensual and heady aroma, I always feel there is something naive and other worldly about it – less carnal than tuberose. My newest best friend is Tiare Tahitian Gardenia; smelt this a few years ago when in San Francisco but only recently tracked down a stash of my own. It’s jaw-droppingly expensive but a little goes a long way.
Scent is often linked to memory – let us in on a memory of yours that you have found scent to trigger.
Ruh, or Indian rose petals, immediately takes me back to growing up in India. My Nanny was very religious and was always taking me on expeditions to temples strewn with carpets of rose. It’s a very poignant and comforting, resonant smell for me.
What is the scent you can remember most prominently from your childhood?
This is not a natural scent but it would have to be Shocking by Schiaparelli. My mum was a singer – she was very beautiful. Every evening I would sit and watch her whilst she got ready for her shows. She always had impeccable make-up, lustrous hair and then she would anoint each pulse point before putting on a sumptuous gown. It was quite mesmerising and magical!
Do you have a favourite unexpected way or recipe to use fragrance?
I used a spritz of ylang ylang in a cocktail I made up for my husband’s 50th. It added something quite unusual. A few drops of geranium in a flourless dark chocolate ganache is also quite sublime.