The Story of Damask Perfumery

jrm_sniffs_mouillette1_400Damask Perfumery was established by Jonathon Midgley in October 1978. As a student of Theology in the early 1970’s in New Zealand Jonathon had encountered Biblical references to ancient perfumes. Intrigued to discover what these actually smelled like he met master perfumer Bruce Spencer of Flairoma Ltd in Auckland. Spencer introduced Jonathon to an astounding palate of aromatic substances. Midgley began to purchase aromatics from Flairoma and first reproduced the Holy Anointing Oil and Holy Incense (Exodus 30:22-38), then continued to explore the perfumes of ancient Egypt. He set up Lotus Perfumes in Auckland in 1973 specialising in the reconstruction of these perfumes, preparing solid unguents like Frankincense, Myrrh, and Spikenard. From 1972 for seven years Bruce Spencer became a mentor to Midgley teaching him the secrets of perfumery. Moving his laboratory contents to Brisbane Australia in 1978 he continued preparing solid perfumes in the ancient tradition. He commissioned potters to recreate the unguent jars used by the Egyptians & the Romans. These he sold at markets and through craft stores around the country.

Having had experience as an industrial perfume compounder with Bush Boake Allen back in New Zealand in the mid 70’s Midgley decided to manufacture high-end industrial fragrances for the cosmetics and hair care industries. Over the years Damask built up a client base for industrial application of perfumes manufacturing fragrances for soaps, candles, incense, printing ink, room fresheners, as well as fine fragrances for personal adornment. One area Damask is called upon to regularly cater to is the use of aromas in certain environments. This is a challenging task as usually the aromas are not the predictable. Damask was commissioned to create the aromas of the Seven Deadly Sins for a Melbourne theatre company. Another rather strange commission was the creation of the aromas of human blood, and treacle, for an art installation in Hobart by Tasmanian artist Dianna Graf.

In 1982 Damask created the fragrance Lyre and released the Parfum (extrait) in a limited edition of 100 blown-glass flacons created by glass artist Peter Goss. Bottle No.1 was presented to H.M. Queen Elizabeth II when she was in Brisbane for the Commonwealth Games. Lyre is a bouquet of flowers that line the streets of Brisbane; wattle, frangipani, bauhinia, blended together with other Australian essential oils: Tasmanian lavender, West Australian sandalwood, and the heavenly boronia. It is named after the beautiful Australian Lyrebird.

In 1988 Damask released the perfume Q (for Queensland) and it was made the official VIP gift from the Queensland Pavilion at Brisbane’s Expo 88. It was also sold from that pavilion. In 1991 HQ magazine said:
     Renowned Australian fragrance analyst Michael Edwards, of Sydney, says Midgley is one of the most creative contemporary perfumers. He describes Q, a scent designed to capture the essence of Queensland, as "beautifully balanced . . . with the character of fruits melded with the fragrance of flowers". "He's a connoisseur's perfumer," says Edwards. "His fragrances challenge your nose, like a fine wine. They have a depth of character that lingers in one's mind." Edwards says Midgley has developed a unique quality that puts his fragrances above those of the standard commercial perfumers. Like an artist, he has "a conviction that leads to an individual signature"-- the Lloyd Rees or Fred Williams of perfumery, perhaps.(HQ Magazine June 1991)

Damask has created several Fine Perfumes for couturiers over the years including one for a bridal wear designer and another for an avant garde fashion designer.
In May 1993 Damask Perfumery created a Surrealist concept perfume Nokturnal Revolution for the Surrealism exhibition at the Queensland Art Gallery show entitled Revolution by Night. It was sold in atomisers with a large ceramic eye made by Queensland artist David Usher. In 1999 Damask created a Pope Alice perfume for Australian performance artist Luke Roberts.

Damask Perfumery set up the current laboratory in Woolloongabba in November 2002 and continues to serve the needs of industry.


R.I.P. Jonathon Midgley, 6th July 2017

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