It’s impossible to consider Meleg Perfumes without taking into account Matthew Meleg himself. “There is no separation between myself and the perfumes. Each one has a story behind it, and they’re kind of like diary entries,” the Vancouver-based self-taught perfumer says.
Unlike what he calls the “watercolour” fragrances that make up much of what’s on the market today, Meleg’s scents are resinous, potent, and bold, reminiscent of vintage French perfumes. Some of the ingredients he uses may be considered controversial, such as real animal musks and levels of natural materials (including high levels of oakmoss) that aren’t compliant with the International Fragrance Association. For the record: while animal musks, and particularly civet and deer, are highly contentious when it comes to animal welfare, Meleg insists that his are ethically sourced.
His scents, such as Birch Tar Russian Leather or Honey Deer Musk, are unapologetic, nuanced and complex, much like Meleg himself.
If, as he suggests, his perfumes are diary entries, they would detail a fascination with culture, history, and sexuality. They would also tell the story of a wayward journey—from growing up on a farm to a difficult family life to dropping out of Emily Carr University in frustration after the first year to a decade spent living in Japan. Mostly, though, they would reveal the painful realities of struggling to cope with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“PTSD is the reason I’ve lived my life in such a specific manner from the time I was 17 until I got medicine at about 39 or something,” says Meleg, who is now 42. “So every day is PTSD; every day is obsession, anxiety, worry, self-hatred.”