On quiet afternoons in Palma, one of my favourite things to do is wander the tranquil, shaded back streets of the city with no real destination in mind. Last week, in an ancient street off the Born, I followed the scent of Mallorca to Arquinesia, perhaps the most intriguing store I’ve ever come across anywhere in the world.
Stepping into Arquinesia, it was as if I was going back through the centuries but also sideways to a time that had never existed.
I walked through a succession of rooms – for a moment I wondered if I was actually in a store at all. Each contained a single display of what I later understood to be Arquinesia fragrances surrounded by exquisitely chosen artefacts presented in traditional dark, Mallorcan furniture.
After a moment or two, I realised that each chamber literally had its own fragrance.
Just when I thought I was going to arrive at a room that contained nothing, I stepped into one with an old-fashioned counter and a welcoming but rather mysterious young woman dressed in black standing behind. To my right, warm daylight crept in from a tiny, centuries old courtyard in which grew an nispero tree that could have been trained to take the form it did.
The young woman was joined by a man, also dressed in black, with an accent I couldn’t place. Together, they hinted at the Arquinesia story.
Inspired by the scents of the Balearic Islands
Arquinesia is a brand from Mallorca. Its ethos, aesthetic and Scent Collection were born out of love for the Balearics and a desire to capture the magical atmosphere and special moments that arise on a journey in the islands.
The name is formed from Arquipélago and Gymnesia, an ancient name for the Balearics. Four points on the crown that forms part of the mark represent the main islands.
There is an extraordinary visual dimension to the Arquinesia experience. This arises out of an eye for beauty manifested in an understanding of interiors and a love of photography. Somehow, it’s possible to see an Arquinesia fragrance through a form of synaesthesia.
Creating a secret place
The desire to create a secret, hidden place, away from humdrum daily noise, is at the heart of Arquinesia. But the secret soon spread. Simply because, as I discovered, it’s impossible to simply walk past the store. Its atmosphere and charisma compel you to enter.
Not surprisingly, the Arquinesia store and story have also intrigued the world’s media with stories appearing as far away as Mexico and the USA.
The fragrances and their story
I discovered that Arquinesia’s fragrances are Sea Breeze, Secret Garden, Orange, Fig and Scent of History.
Sea Breeze has top notes of eucalyptus, bergamot and ozone, heart notes of thyme and sage and base notes of patchouli, musk and amber.
Secret Garden has top notes of cassis and grapefruit, heart notes of rose and jasmin and base notes of cedar and amber.
Orange has top notes of lime and rhubarb, heart notes of blood oranges and orange blossom and base notes of gardenia and white musk.
Fig has top notes of apple and grapefruit, heart notes of fig and iris and base notes of sandalwood and fig wood.
As befits the Balearics’ past, Scent of History is heavy, oriental and smoky. Top notes are incense and cardamom, heart notes are patchouli and oud, base notes are cedar and amber.
Each of the gender-neutral scents is available as eau de parfum, liquid soap, shower gel, hand and body lotion, a soap bar and scented candle. All are made from organic essential oils and created using raw materials.
The liquid soap, shower gel and body lotion are vegan.
I loved all the fragrances but my favourite was Secret Garden. It stayed with me when I stepped outside the sanctuary of Arquinesia, a true secret wonderland of fragrances, and back into what I assumed was reality.
The Arquinesia store is at 6a Calle Sant Gaietà, which runs off to the right from the bottom of Jaime III just before it meets the Born. Find out more here.