After a long hiatus from blogging,
rather than give you a load of old flannel about being too lazy to write I thought it would be great to resume with a review and share of an inspirational experience, that being; an afternoon making perfume with friends.
Perfume has such a rich and almost mythical heritage. Mysteriously potent and transformational; it has the power to propel us back in time by stimulating memories, long forgotten, in an instant. It’s also something I never leave the house without; it’s a part of me.
No doubt most of us girls will have dabbled in this Byzantine art as kids. My first attempt was a concoction of crushed rose petals and water presented in an old jam jar that I tried to sell outside my house for 2p. I think it just about piqued the interest of the neighbour’s Basset hound who sniffed around it curiously, but other than that there were no takers. I progressed to bigger and better things; mixing talcum powder, eau de toilette (actually real toilet water, from the toilet) and Vosene with Palmolive shampoo before retiring, or rather, blocking the sink and getting a right telling off.
Fast forward a good few years and I’ve worked my way through a fair few bottles of Chanel No 5 (timeless), Poison (so 80s), Envy (so 90s), Marc Jacobs (so millennial) but I’ve never really tried to make my own perfume again beyond mixing a few essential oils with some almond oil. When the opportunity arose to go to a perfume making workshop with a group of friends, I could not resist.
Our motley crew assembled in a small warehouse-cum-workshop space in Acton one sunny Sunday afternoon. to make our own. Our host Sarah McCartney, the very talented perfumier behind 4160Tuesdays, is also a great raconteur which made for an entertaining few hours.
Sarah has created her own line of perfumes and has a huge knowledge and passion for the subject which she generously shares. As we settled down to herbal teas and house rules, our rowdy group quietened down. We were all ears (and noses) as we learned about the history of perfume and some of the world’s most famous scents; it was a gossipy, glamorous romp around it’s mythology, history and origins. Tales included everyone from Coco Chanel to Marilyn Monroe which we eagerly absorbed while sampling scents from Sarah’s vast collection. We were tantalised by the trivia; an old Coty fragrance is easily mistaken for Chanel No. 5 for example, and there’s a vast market out there for counterfeit perfume too – who knew?
The next element was deconstructing perfume into building blocks and notes. These bottles in the photo below are used as the base for perfumes, obviously no Velvet Unicorns were harmed in this workshop.
Before embarking on our perfume journey, we were presented with numerous bottles and stacks of blotting paper to dropper on various scents. We tested their smells by inhaling them as we waved them under our noses – quite a way down by our chins rather than below the nostrils, so we didn’t overload our olfactory senses.
What was really fun about this part was guessing what each fragrance was and also how everyone else guessed. There was cut grass, hazelnut, neroli, patchouli and tuberose to name but a few. We all perceive smells and scents very differently and this was highly apparent with the chorus of “Mmms” and “Urghs” as we reacted to the various aromas, although vanilla does appear to have almost but not quite universal appeal. There were some that I found vile; one in particular, a musk that smelt like old cars and actually made me feel quite nauseous. While many of us believe perfumes are quite pure and use essential oils, what was most surprising is how much of the fragrances are manmade and sometimes smell better than the real thing – synthetic rose being one of them.
Learning how to make perfume is a lot of fun, especially with friends. While many people say that perfumes smell differently on each person; there’s no escaping the fact that having your own unique perfume is quite a luxury in itself.
Having decided on which elements we liked best, we were given test bottles to blend them with our chosen base. I made one from Ethyl (base) with drops of Vanilla, Jasmine, and Ylang Ylang and then another from Amber, Bergamot, Jasmine, Green Tea, Vanilla, and Ylang Ylang – while three aromas are considered the right number, it’s hard not to push the boat out and experiment. There’s quite a lot of testing that goes in to making up your own perfume and the number of drops of each note can make all the difference. I did four testers in all and settled on a final one which included geranium, rose, vanilla, and amber, I think a bit of Earl Grey and Vetiver was thrown in for good measure.
THE END RESULT
Once we’d all got the right mix, the next step was to decant the liquid into a perfume bottle and add the lid on with the spray – this is the tricky part. If the lid isn’t correctly applied, air can get in to the bottle and the perfume will go stale. Luckily we all did it right first time and here’s the end product. Possibly a bit more heavy handed than it should be, but I’ve really enjoyed wearing it and had a lot more compliments than my first attempt at rose water all those years ago garnered, so I call it a win!
The great thing about the day is not only do you take your own bottle of perfume home but you keep your tester bottles and blotters too.
If you want to find out more, catch 4160Tuesdays on digital and social media:
Courses and events are all on the web site.
Tel: 020 8749 8015
8 Issigonis House
London W3 7UN