Tilly Wood takes us on a walk through her childhood as she explains the story behind how her first fragrance came to be
Found among the forest, Tilly Wood’s younger self is perched by the river, propped up by a big old oak tree, devouring a novel. Paperback, of course. Magical, enchanting, earthy. Yes, this may be how the founder of Aja Botanicals describes her rural Cotswolds upbringing, but they’re also words that signify “mystic”. Fitting then that her first fragrance, available as hand-poured candles, is named Into The Mystic. And for Tilly, the forest is where the magic all began.
‘My family are still in the same village where I grew up,’ explains Tilly. ‘Walking down there today, the scent of the river and the trees are the same as they were years ago.’ While it is no secret that scent and memory are intrinsically linked, Into The Mystic – a beguiling warm, woody scent – isn’t just a nostalgic nod to Tilly’s past. It is under a canopy of leaves that Tilly feels safest, whether retracing her childhood footsteps or taking her own children for a stroll beneath the ancient oaks of Richmond Park, where she now lives. ‘Walking among the trees connects me to nature,’ she says. ‘I immediately feel calmer.’ In fact, Into The Mystic was born from an urge to recreate the sense of stillness that trees and nature induce. ‘Apart from getting in the bath, being in the woods is the one place I feel truly relaxed,’ notes Tilly.
Creating a space to breathe is important to Tilly, who believes that if you can learn how to handle stress, you can do anything. ‘If you can understand your stress triggers and learn how to relax, then you make the right choices, you say the right things, you do the right things.’ And for Tilly, candles are a signal to relax. Either alone or with friends and family, by creating a peaceful place to socialise. ‘I think it’s really important to remember that you can affect your surroundings,’ she says. She means this in a positive light. ‘You can change your mood, and the mood of others, by creating the environment you want.’ Choose the scent, choose the candle, choose to relax. ‘It’s quite empowering, really.’
Renowned British perfumer John Stephens was given a strict brief: take us on a walk through the forest in the dappled morning sunlight. A handful of iterations later and Tilly was finally happy that the handcrafted blend of essential oils had a transformative effect. Into The Mystic is at once uplifting and relaxing. And, crucially, reconnects you to nature.
Sweet, warm cedarwood is combined with the musky earthiness of oakmoss to transport you straight to the forest floor, where, according to Tilly, you’ll find a ‘shaman at a rave’. Despite the name, this isn’t head-in-the-clouds stuff. The freshness of lavender cuts through the rich woodiness to bring you straight back down to earth – in a meditative state, of course – while the spicy, slightly bitter note of galbanum ties everything together. ‘It smells like home,’ says Tilly, which would sound biased had other people not also made the same comment. It’s grounded – which makes sense considering galbanum is used in spiritual circles to balance out moods – and comforting; there’s something familiar about it that makes you want to breathe it in over and over again.
Given the timber theme the gentle fragrance could have been named Into The Woods. But that would not be in keeping with another of Aja Botanicals motifs: music. Each of the four home fragrances (available as three different candle sizes with diffusers in the pipeline) is named after songs that Tilly loves, and that resonates with the olfactory story. Van Morisson’s Into The Mystic may have detailed a spiritual journey for the music man, but for Tilly it embodies ‘the good energy from a person or place that you can’t quite put your finger on’. It’s that other dimension that’s just out of sight. The unseen magic.
Verity Clark is a beauty, health and wellbeing editor, with a particular interest in the way nature can impact our wellbeing. She is beauty editor for The Sunday Times Style magazine and has contributed to a wide range of lifestyle publications including ELLE, Grazia, Get The Gloss and Vogue.com
Discover the Aja Botanicals Into The Mystic collection