There is a rule as old as wine itself: You cannot wear fragrance in a tasting room. “It’s a faux pas to even utter the word ‘perfume’ around wine,” Sarah Moll, sommelier and founder of wine events company VinSocial, says.
Yet enter Kelly Jones, a perfumer who creates unisex fragrances and candles specifically designed for wine tasting. Her initial line, Kelly + Jones Blends, comprises such essential oils as citrus, fruit, floral, oak, and earth. All can be custom blended. (“Be a scent sommelier,” purrs Jones’ website.) Kelly + Jones Reserve Collection is spritzed eau de parfums named for and inspired by wine varieties, including Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Cabernet, and Rosé.
Rest assured, spritzing a wrist with Kelly + Jones fragrance is not akin to dousing oneself in Merlot. Jones works with industry experts to capture the terroir of each wine, but also finds ways to make them appealingly scented. She describes her Notes of Chardonnay perfume as “an aphrodisiac” of vanilla, Tonka bean, and crème brûlée. Notes of Cabernet “smells like a raspberry leaf, a little bit of dried fruit, and some fig,” she says.
By helping consumers isolate and identify scents in wine, Jones aims to create something wearable that demystifies the tasting experience. Years prior, she was admonished for wearing perfume in a Napa tasting room. She realized the vanilla scent she had on was actually amplifying the buttery bouquet wafting from her Chardonnay. She returned to her Salud Scent studio in Arizona determined to find ways to get “people more relaxed, comfortable with, and excited about wine aromas,” she says.
Currently based in New York City, Kelly + Jones counts Clarissa Nagy of Nagy Wines among her fans. “The things I love as a winemaker about harvest,” Nagy says, such as the scent of Pinot Noir or barreled free run, “[Jones] gets that experience in her different lines.” Kelly + Jones scents have also been featured at New York Wine Festival and VinSocial events, and at vineyards, fairs, and wine shops around the country.
At events, Jones sprays her blends onto feathers and pours them into wine glasses, and displays her Perfumer’s Guide to Wine Aromas Wheel, which identifies the aromas most common in wine. She helps guests identify the citrus notes of grapefruit versus lime, or the wood smell of oak versus smoke. They are then better able to pinpoint the same scents in their wine, and more confident to discuss wine with others.
“You want people to get out of their heads and into their sensory experience,” Moll says of Kelly + Jones’ contribution to VinSocial events. “It helps make wine more approachable,” says Nagy, who uses Jones’ blends and Aroma Wheel at her winery, and sells Kelly + Jones products.
But Jones has faced some resistance. Early on, a wine blogger wrote a scathing (untested) review about her work. “I think she had in her head, ‘This girl is coming into my tasting room wearing a department store fragrance,’” Jones remembers. She implored the blogger to accept some samples. A few days later, the post was updated: “I get it … There is something very interesting happening here, and it’s making me look at this in a new way.”
“It’s a totally unique experience,” Moll says of industry reluctance to embrace fragrance at tastings. “It’s not something most people ever experienced together before in an intentionally curious way.”
That curiosity inspires Jones. She recently spent time in Mexico’s agave fields before releasing her unisex Notes of Mezcal: a Blanca with green, citrusy notes and a Negra with smoke and spice. She foresees work isolating the aromas of whiskey, too.
It’s about “taking the time to truly open your senses,” Jones says. “We’re living in a world that’s so fast-paced, and there are so many things to distract. So just open that bottle of wine and let the aromas come out.”