Midgley makes fragrances
& debunks aromatherapy

Amour Jonathon Midgley, 51, is a perfumerer, a maker of fragrances. Some of the more unusual scents his clients have requested are those of  breast milk, blood, freshly ground coffee, fragrances of the three stages of womanhood, invitations to "liasonous" occasions and melaleuca swamp.
Fragrances create intense memories and sensations, they stimulate the olfactory epithelium or lining of the nose which stimulates a primitive part of the "reptilian brain", the rhinencephalon which lies at the lower end of brain stem where it meets the spinal chord. The primitive brain controls involuntary reactions such breathing, heart beat, breathing and peristalsis. This part of the brain can be easily stimulated by fragrances odours which affect appetite, arousal, memory, heart rate and body temperature.
We can detect fragrances as low as a few parts per trillion and we can recognise 10,000 different odours with our olfactory sense [a dog's may be 10 to 100 greater than this]. Jonathon Midgley spent 25 years developing a 'nose' for fragrances from single oils and aromas to complex perfumes. He markets these under the Damask name brand.
His laboratory in Brisbane has all the odours from rows of essential oils, absolutes, fixatives, synthetic aromatics, crystalline powders, resins and solids.
Jonathon was born in Auckland in 19502 and from an early age was fascinated by herbs, magic and spices. His parents had been missionaries in South America and originally he had similar ambitions including that of  bible translator.
At theological college in New Zealand in the early 1970's, he began to experiment after reading recipes for incense and annointing oils in the Old Testament book of Exodus.There is a belief that anyone who is not a high priest would be cursed if they made them.
After gaining permission from church hierarchy to experiment he obtained the essences he required to prepare the ritual oils and incence, from a perfume manufacturer in Auckland.
From here he obtained frankincence and myrrh and was impressed with the number of essences kept there. Jonathon was expelled from theological college for, as he says "being a little too radical for them" His interest in perfumery increased and he began making Egyptian myrrh perfume and selling it to a Wellington shop.
Later he moved to Brisbane to look after his parents where he married and decided to contnue making the myrrh perfume but then relised he could not make a living this way and so moved into industrial perfumes.
Here he made fragrances for clients. He established his laboratory in Australia and gained a reputation for making any perfume for any occasion at any price.
In 1982 he created "Lyre" a fragrance for the Commonwealth Games. One hundred specially hand-blown bottles were created and the first one was presented to the Queen.
In 1993 he created "Nocturnal Revolution" a perfume for the Queensland Art Gallery Surrealism Exhibition.
"A good perfume is like a painting for the nose...... its creation like Lego"
                                                                                                             -Jonathon Midgley

A good fragrance has base notes or heavier oils and lighter notes for the more floral fragrances.
He gets his inspirations from the world around him, sniffing people, trees and far away places.
He has had great success in recreating fragrances for mangoes, strawberries and passionfruit.
The strawberry scent is composed of minute amounts of 40 ingredients, his magnolia has 34, a skin fragrance may have 300-400 parts to it. Each odour is made up of single or myriad of chemical compounds For example pentyl ethanoate [amyl acetate] is the odour of banana and ethyl-3-phenyl-glycidate that of strawberries.

He is not convinced of the efficacy of aromatherapy because of its emphasis on "natural" products. As far a the perfumer & chemist are concerned there is no difference between "natural" oils and synthetic products. Aromatherapy in the last 10-15 years has tried to polarise the industry between natural and synthetic perfumery, he believes this distinction to be utter rubbish.

Synthetics prevent cruelty to animals and replace toxic natural products. Musks, the perfumer's Jonathon Midgley in his laboratory fixatives, are extremely important and are now synthetically made.However prior to this they were obtained by taunting animals in cages in North Africa to produce the musk oil from their glands. All that is "natural" is not good for us, we do not eat oleander or deadly nightshade, nor cassava [tapioca] unless it were cooked.
Jonathon's fragrances conform to the IFRA standards [International Fragrance Association] which excludes the use of toxics and some aromatic hydrocarbons.
This was borne out once when in a heat wave Jonathon created a cologne for himself composed of bergamot oil and citrus aromas, he broke out in a rash which was put down to the natural bergamot oil which is listed by IFRA as phototoxic.

Damask Perfumery-Jonathon Midgley-23-A
Wagner Road; Clayfield-Brisbane-Queensland
AUSTRALIA-4011-61 7 3852 1306
Jonathon's grandfather, Wilfred Midgley emmigrated to New Zealand with his mother and father [John Midgley] from Todmorden, Yorkshire when he was eleven years old some time in the early 1900's. Wilfred was an only child as was Jonathon's father, Robert Charles Midgley.2

Thomas Midgley-Chemist
Midgley of West Yorkshire and Todmorden


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1. Wilkie, Meredith, Making Scents, The Sun-Herald Magazine 8th July 2001.
2. E-mail communication, Jonathon Midgley, June 2002.

Tim Midgley, July 2001, links revised July 2023.