Steyn Grobler may be based in London and his fragrance brand Aqualis London may be a British brand, but his South African-ness and the influence of his land of birth are as clear as an African sky. Grobler grew up around Pretoria before his family moved to the UK. There he did an MSc in Business Economics and worked in Harrods perfumery, which ignited his love for fragrance. After working with several contemporary niche fragrance brands in business management and fragrance development, he launched Aqualis in 2015.
Grobler has come full circle with the brand now stocked in Harrods (as well as various other outlets across the UAE, Middle East and Europe) and in South Africa at Skins Cosmetics.
“Aqualis exists as the equilibrium between perfume (aqua) and the self (qualis), where the wearer and their experiences merge with a scent to create something entirely unique. I bottle a concept, but the wearer brings it alive,” explains Grobler.
His latest creation Egoli (R5,170 for 50ml), the 10th in the collection, is named after Johannesburg, the city of gold. “I wanted to create a fragrance to celebrate and honour [a] city that came from nothing,” he says of Egoli. “It really is a city that’s based on gold.”
Grobler is responsible for the creative inspiration, while perfumer Chris Maurice at Carbonnell, who specialises in oud and amber-based fragrances, is behind the composition.
What does it smell like?
It’s plush, it’s opulent, but it’s also surprisingly invigorating for an oud-based fragrance, which can sometimes be overpowering.
While it has a soft, floral top note of lavender, orange, tuberose and Indian jasmine sambac, it is not floral altogether. The floral notes do however add a lighter, contemporary edge to the warm amber and oud. Then comes the glowing amber and honey-like gurjun resin, a complex combination that Grobler describes as having a “marzipan softness with a sweetness, like vanilla ice cream” for a very in-depth chord and great longevity. Finally, the base of a 20-year aged oud and musk.
“Egoli takes traditional materials and combines them in a contemporary way,” explains Grobler. “The character of the oud is there but it’s exceptionally well blended, so is surprisingly fresh and unisex and very wearable.”
The striking black bottle was quite conceptual, says Grobler, and designed to represent the dark rock typical of the gold-mining Witwatersrand region.
All the fragrances in the Parfum collection have a 30 per cent oil concentration to ensure longevity on the skin, and a beautiful sillage all day long.
There’s a lot more to come from this beautiful brand, from 100ml bottles, a world-exclusive fragrance for Harrods, and eventually a full-blown boutique in Harrods. This boy from Pretoria has certainly created a brand to watch.