Alessandra Avanzi

The Aromalab Team meets Hekserij

An interview with Jan Meutgeert

Friday 2nd of July 2021, Niklaus, Frank, Nour and I got in the car to visit our biggest supplier of raw materials: Hekserij in Kampen.

Jan Meutgeert, the owner of Hekserij, welcomed us warmly and gave us a tour of the beautiful city. He showed us the scented-related space in his town and told us their history. Kampen is a town with a centuries-long tradition of commerce and shipping, the reason why Kampen has always been an entrepreneurial settlement. One survivor of this ancient tradition of commerce is De Olifant, one of the many tobacco factories that used to be in Kampen. After the scented tour, Jan invited us to his home where we discussed scents and his work as a supplier and we had a very interesting smelling session.

We had the pleasure to interview Jan about his job.


Aroma Lab team - (Alessandra, Frank, Niklaus, Nour) + Jan Group picture of the Aroma Lab team with our Fragrance Raw materials supplier "De Hekserij" co-owner Jan.


When did your passion for scent start?

Jan: "My passion for scents started when I dived into the making process of perfumes. Until then I was not very interested in fragrance. We have sold aroma chemicals almost since we started in 2001, but it was mainly on customer request. One of my favourite sources for formulations (L.P. Edel - Mengen en Roeren), a book about an age ago, stated that making your own fragrance compounds was hard and not very worthwhile.

It was best to purchase ready-made compositions from specialists. I took that for the whole truth, until I found out that elsewhere amateur perfumers did make their own perfumes. After smelling a few samples I was converted and started myself. In general, I was just interested in the clockwork of products. After, I understood the basics of say gouache paint and made a sample or two I went to the next project.

For fragrances It was different. I made version after version and every morning I evaluated a perfume. And it stretched from the perfumes to about everything that has scent, or smell. I am still not finished smelling or experimenting with fragrance."

How did Hekserij start?

Jan: "The story begins in 1969 when I was born. I was a very curious child. I loved to read a lot and my parents had a newspaper, an opinion magazine, and thousands of books.
Around 1980 I discovered the book “Mixing and stirring”, by LP Edel. Packed with all kinds of recipes for making anything and everything: adhesives, document inks, soaps, and cleaners and I started to experiment on my own. At that time, the drugstore in the village had some of the raw materials I was looking for, but not everything. It was the period when the drug store changed: from a supplier of fabrics to a shop for cosmetics and some cleaning supplies.
A difficult point was the purchase of raw materials. Where can you buy a suitable product to give your soap a scent or color that stays in it? Or where can I buy this ingredient that I need?
I thought about a purchasing club but was apprehensive: so much hassle that distracts from the actual goal. I just did it myself. If someone was looking for annatto, I found it, bought it and sold it on. I soon gave this from my own stock a name: The Three Witches. Why? I thought of three witches around a cooking pot, seething soap. Or made shoe polish, whatever they wanted.
After the business started growing and in 2009 De Hekserij became a VOF.

What is the most important thing for you to choose a raw material?

Jan: "Please note that this is my personal approach. I would recommend everyone to develop their own way.

The most important thing to choose a certain material is that it meets the minimum requirements:

  1. It is available in about the amounts needed
  2. It is documented, that means at a minimum:
    - The identity is clear and can be checked (chemical or botanical name, CAS#, EU#, density, refraction index).
    - An SDS is available if required
    - A CoA is available for every batch
  3. The quality is at least reasonable. What is reasonable is different from material to material. For a citrus oil it should be reasonably fresh (low peroxide value), but for vetiver oil that is not important. After that, it is mainly personal taste. For example, we sell Dalmatian lavender because I prefer this herbal lavender over the floral French varieties.
  4. The cost is an important element. For example, if you buy a premium quality that is more expensive than the other ones  you might have the risk that it is too expensive for most applications. So you end up not purchasing it.

    On the other hand, we don’t sell anymore the cheap generic terpineol alpha anymore, only the much more expensive Lindenol (IFF). This choice was made because the cheap generic terpineol alpha had a quality that was too pine-like for fine fragrance.
  5. The sustainability of materials. In the past I did not look a lot at that aspect, being afraid to be too expensive for our customers. Now I follow my heart in this. That means organic and fair trade where possible. Vegetable-based chemicals if possible. Natural only in case it is really more sustainable, cheaper or has a better fragrance.
    The most important aspect in choosing any material is to know exactly what it is. Cutting or adulterating is fine, as long as it is documented. Cheap qualities and low grades: the same, as long as that is clear."