After 25 years working as a commercial lawyer, Craig Andrade decided to sniff out a career change. He enrolled at the Grasse Institute of Perfumery, and travelled from Sydney to France, where he spent several years studying the art of perfume making.
“I’d always been drawn to scent, and after working with words I was craving a more tactile and creative experience,” Andrade tells Broadsheet. “When I sat in class for the first time, I knew I’d found my calling.”
The light-bulb moment came one day in class when Andrade’s teacher was talking about different ingredients from around the world.
“Every time she mentioned a country, she’d talk about all the ingredients that came from there, like frankincense from various parts of Africa,” he says. “But when she got to Australia she only covered about three ingredients. I rattled off a list of Australian natives and said, ‘Well, what about these?’ and she said, ‘You know, we’ve never heard of them.’
“That was a penny-drop moment for me: that the best teachers in the world weren’t across Australian indigenous ingredients, and that we had a unique story we could share with the world.”
In 2017 Andrade founded The Raconteur, a Sydney fragrance brand specialising in natural botanical perfumes using Australian native plant extracts.
“The goal was to celebrate the rich botanical diversity of our landscape and help to bring new fragrant oils to market,” says Andrade.
Beginning with a single fragrance, Andrade began to explore the more than 18,000 botanicals that are native to Australia.
“We work not only with well-known Australian natives such as sandalwood, buddha wood, blue cypress and lemon myrtle, but also shine a light on the lesser known, such as mint bush, nerolina, niaouli and kunzea,” he says.
With eight fragrances now in The Raconteur portfolio, Andrade’s latest step is opening a perfume boutique in Paddington – The Embassy – devoted to Australian native botanicals.
Inside you’ll find candles, reed diffusers, serums and Sodashi skin care alongside the fragrances, which are displayed on reclaimed river gum tree trunks that have been polished and capped in brass by Greg Hatton, who also made the eucalypt counter. Designed to evoke the rugged natural beauty of Australia, the store fit-out features a front-window installation of Victorian tumbleweed woven with ropes by floral artist Katie Marx, while beeswax bowls handmade by Andrade hang as lampshades amid ivy plants and prints by photographer Kara Rosenlund.
Designed to awaken all the senses, The Embassy also has a basin clad in Turkish pink marble for testing the skincare products, and carries a range of cookbooks that use indigenous ingredients, condiments and tea blends for purchase.
“It’s an immersive experience devoted to the best of Australian botanicals,” says Andrade.
When you’ve finished browsing, book in for one of workshops and perfumery courses held in The Embassy’s garden courtyard, aimed at introducing visitors to the stories behind Australia’s intoxicating indigenous scents and seeds.
“You can touch and smell the raw ingredients, learn about what something looks like in the field and then the process of extracting the oil and making a fragrance,” says Andrade.
“It’s a complete sensorial experience.”
20A William Street, Paddington
Tue to Sat 10am–5pm