The Perfumer Who Bottles Counterculture
Like sound, scent has the power to transport the wearer throughout time, space and memory.
For Johan Bergelin, the Swedish visual artist and perfumer behind the fragrance brand 19-69, sound cultivates scent throughout his collection of boundary-pushing olfactory tributes to the most iconic moments of counterculture in history. The freedom, creativity and music of the 1960s offer a recurring source of inspiration for the perfumer’s gender-neutral and adventurous concoctions.
Living up to the brand’s tagline of “bottling counterculture,” his scents draw influence from the likes of Jimi Hendrix and the legendary Woodstock music festival with fragrances such as “Purple Haze,” a patchouli and cannabis-infused tribute to the era, and “Rainbow Bar,” a vermouth and cardamom-layered nod to the notorious Sunset Strip hotspot of the same name.
Here, we speak to Bergelin about the similarities between sound and scent, the significance of the Sixties, and how a particular album inspired one of his latest releases.
Q. How would you describe 19-69 in your own words?
Real, authentic, and based on the transformation of music, art and culture [into perfumes].
Q. What do the Sixties mean to you and when did you first become aware of the era’s impact?
The late Sixties was really the starting point of a cultural earthquake, [where people were] determined to trash the old values of the previous generation. My father was a journalist, and many of my parents’ friends were academics, so that created an awareness in me of what was really going on from an early age.
Q. How has music inspired your creative process?
I´d say it is often the thoughts of the artist behind the music that has inspired me, thinking about what he is trying to accomplish by writing or producing that piece of art. Music plays a huge role [in my creative process], but I also take inspiration from many things – art, literature, films, etc.
Q. How do you normally listen to music during the process of creating a perfume?
It is always on in the background. Sometimes when I work on a particular fragrance, I might do research and a song may come up that you have heard a million times, but it gets a new meaning because you put it in a new context when you listen through the lyrics word by word. This was especially the case when I worked on Invisible Post Eau de Parfum, which is heavy influenced by the Summer of Love. For that, I studied the lyrics of songs like “For What It´s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield, “The Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel, and “San Francisco” by Scott McKenzie.
Q. Are there any other scents that make a direct nod to any album or song?
Chronic Eau de Parfum, for sure. Chronic is a term for cannabis. In 1996, California became the first state in the United States to legalize medical cannabis, but the name Chronic also alludes to The Chronic, which was the debut album of Dr Dre that was released in 1992 and started the whole G Funk era.
Q. How do you feel music and perfume are similar?
They both awaken so many memories and take you right back to a certain moment in time. They’re both invisible, and for music and perfume you layer notes to create a harmonious result.
Q. If you were to build a playlist of songs inspired by your fragrances, what artists would you include?
Jimi Hendrix for Purple Haze and Georges Delerue for Capri. Each fragrance has a playlist on Spotify.
Cover Image: Courtesy of 19-69
Writer | Brent Taalur Ramsey
Brent is an American writer who reports on the finer things in life, from books to fashion.