Coming up Roses: Flowers, Fragrance and Flavours

As a child growing up on farm in northern Tasmania, restaurateur Hayley Self was notorious for stealing her mother’s Chanel perfume bottles and disappearing into the paddocks to pick herbs and wildflowers in endless attempts to create her own potions and fragrances.

Hayley has lived many lives since then, but she’s recently returned to her roots as she’s launched the first exclusively Tasmanian perfume, Marie no 27, under the label The Modern Siren. “I grew up in a very female-forward family,” she explains. “I have four sisters and one brother and my mother, Julie, worked long hours as a pâtissier, so we were raised to believe we could achieve anything if we set our minds to it and worked hard. Our father, Clive, was a horticulturalist and he’s of British descent, so he was always growing unusual things like gooseberries, elderflower and rhubarb, which Mum would make into jams, jellies and cordials.” These days, Hayley and her four children — Charlie, 15, William, 13, and two-year-old twins Freya and Archie — divide their time between homes on Clive and Julie’s property in the Kimberley district of Tasmania’s north and a house on the outskirts of Launceston, which is closer to her “day” job, heading up the kitchen of The Eleanor at the historic property Woolmers Estate.

Coming up Roses: Flowers, Fragrance and Flavours

Woolmers and the adjacent Brickendon farm were established in the early-19th century by the Archer family and form part of a collection of 11 UNESCO World Heritage-listed sites of significance for their convict-constructed buildings. Coincidentally, Woolmers also boasts a 1.53-hectare rose garden, which provides a spectacular spring display of hybrid tea, David Austin and Floribunda roses. “Fragrance — from the many plants including roses Dad cultivated to the incredible smells of Mum’s baking — has been a running theme in my life,” Hayley says. “It made perfect sense to launch Marie no 27 at The Eleanor, where Mum still bakes all the desserts.” Hayley and her siblings grew up with their mother initially working from home, with Clive hand-delivering the cakes and pastries.

When Australian Country visited, Julie recalled how she worked round the clock to deliver the goods when she received her first big contract. “I’d been baking from home and building the business by taking samples to local restaurants and cafes,” she says. “Then, out of the blue, the Spirit of Tasmania [ferry company] ordered 200 cakes. I owned 17 cake tins at the time and worked round the clock for four days to meet that order.” From there, Julie’s business grew exponentially but she always worked from home, adding a commercial kitchen and cold room to the homestead Hayley first dipped a toe into the hospitality industry with a school holiday job at the boutique whisky distillery Hellyers Road. She went on to gain TAFE qualifications in food handling and grew up to be a keen cook with a passion for Tasmania’s bounty of local produce.

Coming up Roses: Flowers, Fragrance and Flavours

In 2018, she was looking for a challenge when she opened The Green Door cafe, which served rustic-style food based on ingredients grown locally. The venue in a historic building quickly became a destination diner in the village Westbury. After three hugely successful years, the restaurant was sold when her marriage broke down, but the ramifications of that period live on in that it introduced Hayley not only to the Melbourne parfumier who makes Marie no 27, but also the man who is the twins’ father. “It turns out I’m better at business than I am at romance,” Hayley says.

“I remain good friends with the twins’ dad and he’s a good friend and active father.” Never one to say no to a challenge, Hayley admits the timing was “less than ideal” when she was approached in 2022 to take over the kitchen and catering at Woolmers Estate. “The babies were only seven months old,” she says. “But I knew it was too good an opportunity to miss, so with a lot of support from family, especially Mum, and friends, I reopened the restaurant in just over two months.”

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It was in at the deep end because, as well as running a 150-seat restaurant, Hayley took on bookings that included 22 weddings and 42 functions. Hayley says she has surrounded herself with good staff, many of whom are young women working in hospitality while they’re at university. “I believe training and mentoring are very important,” she says. “I’ve been fortunate to have had good people inspiring and teaching me, so now it’s my turn to return the favours.” The notion of developing a fragrance re-emerged during COVID, when Hayley had “spare” time on her hands. “I knew I wanted a culinary accent to the perfume,” she explains. “At the same time, it had to reflect the essence of Tasmania, which is why I added notes from our native pepperberry and manuka honey.”

Marie no. 27 begins with bergamot and green leaves and relies on Rosa Centifolia, a rose developed in the 17th century and still used today in the French perfume-making capital of Grasse. Notes of boronia, violet, tonka bean, amber and vanilla round out the fragrance. As Hayley walks through the garden between the houses on her parents’ property, she points to pots filled with densely packed pink cabbage roses, which were propagated by Clive to provide some of the flowers needed to make the perfume. “The best time to pick a rose for distilling is at 5am when the dew is still on the petals,” she says.

Coming up Roses: Flowers, Fragrance and Flavours

“It’s surprising how few roses you need as each flower has 70 to 120 petals.” Hayley, however, doesn’t allow herself much time to smell the roses. As well as working on marketing her fragrance, she’s looking to expand her food endeavours by opening a pâtisserie in Longford and, hopefully, a sibling to The Eleanor at another historic home in the region. “Our parents taught us to do our best and make the most of every opportunity,” Hayley says. “I’m not sure what’s around the corner, but I do know that it will always involve showcasing the best Tasmania has to offer.”

Photography by Ken Brass

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