last weekend i was invited to attend a wonderful workshop at the experimental perfume club, led by fragrance expert emmanuelle moeglin. held at the cockpit arts studios in holborn, the four hour perfume-making workshop was designed to introduce the art and logic of creating a fragrance and deconstruct the world of perfume, encouraging us all to use our instincts and push the boundaries to create our own signature scent from scratch.
you may remember i attended a perfumery workshop in grasse last summer and had had a hugely enjoyable time, so i was really excited to attend this london-based workshop to see if i could learn anything new and perhaps create a better scent than i did during my last perfume making attempt…!
obsessed with scent her whole life, emmanuelle trained at the world’s leading perfume school, isipca, in paris and learnt about the secrets of fragrance formulation before going on to work with global fragrance brands in paris, barcelona and new york. she now lives in london, working as an international fragrance and cosmetics trend forecaster, and launched the experimental perfume club late last year, in order to bring the world of fragrance to the people, letting those who have loved it from afar get hands-on just as they would with other art forms.
“our sense of smell is our most primitive and intuitive sense, but in a world saturated by images and sounds, we sometimes forget how to use it,” says emmanuelle. “we don’t teach odours as we teach colours or letters to children and we are slowly losing our ability to recognise scents. we all use our nose in an instinctive way, but our capability to do so will increase when training and developing one’s interest around scents.”
to start our session it was important that we open our noses and ‘learn to smell’; mastering the basics of perfumery by sniffing out 25 raw materials in order to discover how versatile and layered each one really is. as emmanuelle explained, scent is a story. just like a story, it has a beginning, middle and end; the beginning must draw you in with impact, the middle must have true imagination and emotion, and the end must stay with you long after you’ve walked away. poetic, right?
and so we begun identifying the 25 raw scents emmanuelle had laid out for us, each grouped into clearly distinct types of smell, known as olfactory notes. these include citrus, green, fruity, floral, aromatic, aqueous, edible, woody and so on, which helped us to build up a good sense of which scents made our hearts race and which, uhh, did not! often our likes and dislikes with scent come from our previous experiences and subsequent associations with the smell. for example, i took an immediate dislike to violet as in its raw form it smelt just like an aniseed banana medicine i had to endure as a child. the edible sugared almond scent of raw vanilla was met with happy, contented nods all round though!
the scents i was most drawn to during sampling were the warmer, aromatic base notes of dry wood, sandalwood, coumarine and amber, so i wanted these earthy, woody fragrances to be at the heart of my own concoction when we got down to the creation part of the workshop.
we were all encouraged to create a scent truly bespoke to us, by either following the rules of perfumery or choosing to break them entirely and be truly experimental, whatever the consequence! in general, a scent combines around 10 different raw material, blending a well-balanced combination of top notes, heart notes and base notes, but you can experiment with different combinations and propositions to obtain your own personal blend.
i wanted the spicier, oriental scents of sandalwood and amber in my perfume to be tempered by the sweeter ‘edible’ nose of marzipan, almond and pistachio in the coumarine, and felt they would pair nicely with top notes of 5 spice and velvety peach. emmanuelle then helped me pick out floral orange blossom and the fresh aqueous scent of marine to round out the middle notes in my scent and stop it being too heavy or sickly.
once we’d finished our own recipes it was time to nose out those that had been created around us, and it was wonderful to see how diverse a range of scents we had all created during the session! i had named mine ‘x’ in homage to my favourite comeback show but also to the variable in the equation that had allowed us all to create something entirely unique. andrew’s an evening in the orient was spicy and heady, while sofia’s the green was incredibly clean and fresh.
if you’re looking for a unique way to celebrate valentine’s day, then perhaps an experimental perfume club workshop could be just the thing? emmanuelle is running a special valentine’s workshop on 13th february, designed to help you uncover the type of fragrance your special someone loves and create something especially for them. you can also find emmanuelle’s top five tips for choosing a fragrance for someone else over on the epc blog.