Loewe’s Nuria Cruelles on the Nostalgic Art of Fragrance-Making

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Nuria CruellesCourtesy Loewe

Drawing inspiration from smoking volcanoes and freshly picked portobello mushroom, the brand’s in-house perfumier has an unconventional approach to scent – here, she talks us through her latest creations

Tomato leaves, sugary roasted hazelnuts, “luscious” spring pea. In an oversaturated perfume industry bustling with derivative new scents, Loewe is still keeping things fresh. Created by in-house perfumier Nuria Cruelles – in partnership with Jonathan Anderson – the brand’s concoctions aim to reimagine the natural objects we tend to overlook. Their home scents collection, for example, draws inspiration from vegetable gardens, and feels more like an ode to pantry rummaging (the ‘oregano’ is ripe and complex, the ‘portobello mushroom’ wet with soil). Their eau de parfum line-up is bolder in its vision, but still pulls magic from unexpected places: the smouldering Solo Vulcan evokes the “fiery eruption” of a volcano, while the clean Agua Drop takes its essence from Spanish morning dew.

“When Loewe offered me this role, it felt like the kind of opportunity that comes around once in a lifetime,” says Cruelles. The Spanish perfumier began working with the brand in 2018, after studying chemistry at university, then being headhunted by Anderson while working in the International Flavours and Fragrances (IFF) laboratories. The pair have been close collaborators ever since. “Working with him to craft perfumes and translate these feelings, concepts, and the entire Loewe universe into scents,” she says, “it surprises and challenges me every day.”

Cruelles always knew what she was going to do for a living, and admits to being obsessed with fragrance since early childhood. This is partly down to her synaesthesia, a rare sensory gift which means she can visualise scent through colour and shape. To her, perfumery is as much a science as an art form; an olfactory poetry, wafting familiar stories through the air. “Nature is always our main source of inspiration,” Cruelles says. With Solo Vulcan, the goal was to create a fragrance filled with “strength and passion” that captures the power of a volcanic eruption, like “a majestic expression” of danger. To infuse the necessary warmth, she incorporated ingredients like clary sage and tonka bean. However, the true star – the central ‘Loewe Accord’, and the signature DNA in most of the brand’s new fragrances – is Labdanum and Spanish rockrose. “I find the rockrose to be fascinating,” Cruelles says. “It’s an ideal ingredient to experiment with due to its subtle and comfortable nature. Its essence effortlessly blends with various notes and is deeply rooted in the unique essence of Spain.”

Spain, of course, remains a central character in all of Loewe’s fragrances – a nod to the brand’s history, which is so intricately tied to Cruelles’ own. For her, scent is a powerful way to pay homage to this heritage, which is why she often takes inspiration from the everyday details of the country itself: the rockrose wildflower, the smoking volcanoes, the liberal splashes of old-school, zesty colonia (the ghost of the latter lurks beneath the surface of Agua Drop). Even the home scents collection, with its focus on freshly farmed botanicals, transports you to the hazy hills of the Spanish countryside. While she admits that it’s the “green citric notes” that make her happiest, is there a scent that she always finds herself returning to, one that takes her back? “The tomato leaf candle makes me feel nostalgic,” Cruelles says, fondly. “Closing my eyes and smelling its fragrance, it brings me back to my childhood. [I feel like I’m reliving] the moments spent in the kitchen with my grandmother.”