Having your senses opened up is a beautiful thing. It’s amazing the effect a certain song can have on the ears, or how dilated one’s pupils become at the sight of a magnificent painting. The same can also be said of perfume and its relationship with the nose. In recent years I’ve developed a bit of an obsession with fragrances. Not a running around in Debenhams, spraying myself like a lunatic obsession. But a deep curiosity with the art of smelling good.
Ever since I discovered the online encyclopedia, Fragrantica, I’ve taken to reading fragrance reviews on an almost daily basis. I love how passionate people get about note breakdowns and reformulations. You’d think the earth had stopped moving, just because an certain flanker had been dropped. If you want see creative writing, read a fragrance review. You’ll be blown away by the storytelling and colourful vocabulary.
While I don’t own a lot of fragrances myself, I greatly admire the collections people keep. YouTube reviewer, Robes08, for example, boasts one of the most glorious perfume cabinets I’ve ever seen, better than any treasure trove in a museum. As a keen follower of his channel, I take considerable pleasure in hearing him dissect the latest creations.
For a more amusing watch, I switch over to Lex Ellis: king of sweary smell chat. His approach to analysing scents is genius. Never had it dawned on me that a particular type of fragrance could be used for a bank robbery, nor had I ever given a second thought to the juice gangsters wear in movies.
My growing interest in scents is what lead me to discover the Perfume exhibition at Somerset House. This multi-sensory display of smells is basically Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory for frag heads. Once inside, you’re taken through a series of themed rooms and invited to sniff furniture, cushions, and children’s toys, noting down your impressions as you go. One minute you’re nose to nose with a Moroccan desert, and the next minute inhaling chlorine. It really this this interactive. I especially like the science talk you receive at the end. If you get a chance, hit this up!
Naturally, off the back of this event, I was keen to visit other others. My girlfriend knows this and, being the hip person that she is, stumbled on a similar exhibition that she thought I might like. Question: what’s every fragrance lover’s dream? To make your juice of course. And that I did, as part of an awesome workshop at the London Summer Garden Show carried out by French perfumer, Emmanuelle Moeglin, founder of the Experimental Perfume Club.
I, along with seven or so other willing participants received a crash-course in all things olfactory. Sniffing our way through seven perfumery accords, we were ask to seek out our favourites, and from that, create a new fragrance. Certain notes were fairly easy to identify, like bergamot and pepper, but others such as clove and liquorice really threw me, as they did others in the group.
The whole concoction and calculation bit was really fun. Using the accords, scales and syringes provided, we basically had to fill up a small brown vial with liquid, taking care to balance our fragrance as best we could. Being both a citrus and musk lover, I was quick to toss aside some of the more florally and gourmandish accords. As a result, my perfume came out rather heavy in the top and base, but strangely lacking in the middle.
When the moment came for us to name our creations, I knew right away what mine would be called: Warm Embrace. Why, you ask? Well, the first you get when you smell it is this rush of citrus, heated up by notes of leather and smoke. Then, after a short while, the cedarwood sets in, bringing with it this sweet, dry depth that seems to envelope you. I don’t know why, but this conjured up a feeling of being cuddled by the sun over a sizzling BBQ.
I came away from that workshop more inspired than I ever could have ever imagined. As we speak, Warm Embrace is sat on my mantelpiece, tucked away for safe keeping. Creating your own fragrance is something which everyone needs to try in their lifetime. Fellas – don’t be fooled into thinking it’s a girlie thing; and ladies – why settle for the latest release when you can customise.
To book on to one of Experimental Perfume Club’s amazing workshops, click here.