Maria McElroy: A Perfume Pioneer

How often do people find success when their passion becoming their career? Well, Maria McElroy did just that with her company, Aroma M. McElroy found comfort with fragrance, with over 20 years of experience. But where did her love of perfume begin and where has it led her?

An International Interest

Maria McElroy is American-born but draws influence from Eastern traditions. Since 1986, Japan captivated McElroy. She even studied Kodo, the ancient art of Japanese fragrance. “The first time I walked into Gion in Kyoto, which is the geisha quarters, I felt like I
had been there before, but also like I was stepping back in time,” she said. McElroy felt at peace in Japan, all the more reason for its influence on her line.

When McElroy first saw the Geisha, she knew that was the bridge to unite cultures through her products. Their talent, attire, and allure captivated her. “When I first started to create perfumes I knew the Geisha would be my muse. I sought to embody all that mystery and glamour and put it into a bottle.” Her line of Aroma M Geisha Collection perfumes developed, symbolic of these women.

The line features seven fragrances, each designed to mirror the Geisha. But McElroy can’t decide on a favorite, stating, “All of my perfumes are like my children; I really don’t have a favorite.” But, she does find the cold winter influencing her go-to perfume. “I am longing for summer in New York so I find myself drawn to my latest perfume Geisha Botan, inspired by Peonies and the honeyed aroma of these enchanting flowers,” she said. “With its intoxicating vanilla and velvety woods, Geisha Botan is my current favorite as I wait for Peony season.”

Fragrance and Romance

Although Japan guides Aroma M, her relationship is a close second. “My husband is Japanese and a chef, so we are able to share many of the parts of the culture and philosophy that we both embrace.” Ironically, both professions involve the important sense of smell. “Scent and food are very closely related in Japan, so for me, it is a match made in heaven!”

McElroy also noted the connection between attraction and fragrance development. She said, “It’s fascinating to learn the shared love of various gourmand notes, flowers that are memories for both, and locations that remind them of special times spent together.” So, she offers bespoke perfumes for couples. “It is so fun [creating] a perfume that weaves all those attractions together to create a one-of-a-kind perfume.”

An Independent Woman

McElroy has a process when creating products for her indie brand. “First I imagine the fragrance, often in colors, and then begin to put the notes together.” Interestingly enough, she doesn’t work on a schedule—she lets her creativity soar instead. “Like painting a painting, there is a process that takes hold and you have to see it through.”

“Like painting a painting, there is a process that takes hold and you have to see it through”

-Maria McElroy, Aroma M founder

McElroy also gets to enjoy these freedoms since Aroma M is an independent brand. She doesn’t have a collection of perfumers or a marketing team. Instead, she has complete control over her visions. “Indie-perfumers are reclaiming the art of perfume making.” She said, “This [independence] allows for a certain refinement as well as a terrific outpouring of experimentation and creativity.” But Aroma M still remained celebrated. It not only won awards but was also sold in popular retailers like Bergdorf Goodman and Sephora.

Maria McElroy continues to navigate the world of fragrance. Over the years, she watched the industry change and grow. “I think that with every turn, the industry has become better and more interesting.” But she still hopes to see it evolve. “The only thing that I would like to see is a more clear understanding of the categories of perfume companies Niche, Independent, and Artisan.” McElroy found a balance between her two loves and only looks forward to where Aroma M takes her.

To learn more about McElroy and Aroma M, check out her website.

About author


Brianna Ormond is a senior at Rutgers University as a Journalism and Media Studies major, Political Science and Africana Studies double minor. She enjoys listening to music and binging Netflix in her spare time.
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