I absolutely LOVE perfume and have an embarrassingly large number of beautiful bottles of the stuff in my bathroom cupboard, by my bedside, on my desk, artistically arranged on my dresser…in fact, wherever you are in my flat, you’re bound to be only a few feet away from a bottle of scent. I wear different fragrances for work, weekends, evenings and when I go to bed. I am seriously addicted!
You can imagine, then, how excited I was last Saturday to attend The Perfume Society‘s How To Improve Your Sense of Smell workshop, held at the fantastic perfume shop Les Senteurs (another gem of Portman Village). I know I’ve raved about my love for The Perfume Society before, but honestly, if you’re a fan of the smelly stuff, then I’d definitely recommend becoming a member. My membership (£25 for the year) has brought me so much joy already, largely through the fantastic events I’ve been able to attend. The Lankaran Forest party was the best event I’ve ever been to, and the How to Improve Your Sense of Smell workshop made for a truly fabulous Saturday afternoon. Better yet, both these events were free!
I’d never been to Les Senteurs before, and goodness, it is beautiful! Mum (who is also a Perfume Society member) and I had arrived a little early, so we spent some time wandering around the charming shop and sniffing rapturously at lots of delicious scents. I was especially excited to see an extensive collection of Frederic Malle perfumes. I’d heard about Frederic Malle many times before (his Carnal Flower seems to have rather a cult following amongst the lifestyle / beauty blogger crowd), but had never had the chance to try his perfumes before. Frederic Malle scents are special in that emphasis is placed, not on branding, but on the ‘nose’ behind the perfume: each of the fragrances are created by a well-known perfumer, and their name is placed upon the bottle. I instantly fell for Carnal Flower (an exquisite tuberose) and Portrait of a Lady (a floral oriental with surely the best name ever, especially for book lovers!). Interestingly, both these scents were made by the same perfumer – Dominique Ropion. Obviously, I’m an admirer of his work! Sadly, Frederic Malle perfumes are definitely not cheap, but luckily Les Senteurs sells 10ml phials, so I was able to pick up a couple to try out and decide which I liked best before spending a great deal more money.
I really must point out that the service at Les Senteurs is impeccable. It would be easy to feel intimidated in the shop, as there are no price lists on display, but fortunately, this only encourages interaction with the staff, who are absolutely lovely and not in the least pretentious. I always feel that quality of service can really make or break a shopping experience, and the lovely people at Les Senteurs played a big part in making the afternoon fantastic. If you’re an absolute perfume novice, but are dying to find a scent that suits you, then I’d suggest Les Senteurs would be a brilliant place to start, as, from my experience, the service is incredibly knowledgable, respectful and fun!
But back to the workshop! At the start we were all led downstairs, where tables and chairs were set up. As a guest of The Perfume Society, you really are made to feel pampered: plates of delicious chocolate biscuits and jugs of water were placed on all the tables, and everyone was offered their choice of tea or coffee. A pretty, brightly coloured Perfume Society Notebook, with a mini Green & Black’s Maya Gold chocolate bar strategically centred on the top, was placed in front of each chair. The point of the chocolate was soon made clear: in a fun experiment to see how much sense of smell really affects taste, we were told to hold our noses as we chewed a square of chocolate. As soon as we let our noses go, the sudden burst of flavour from the chocolate was quite astonishing.
I had actually been a little nervous of the event, as I don’t think I have a great sense of smell and always seem to find it difficult to pinpoint specific scents. I don’t much enjoy wine tastings, as I always seem to get the wine completely wrong. When most people talk about smelling notes of pear and apple, I’m often thinking the wine smells of tinned asparagus!
To my joy, though, the perfume workshop wasn’t about trying to pinpoint the different elements of each of the scents we tested blind. Instead, we were told to simply have a sniff and then jot down in our notebooks the thoughts, memories, pictures and emotions that each perfume conjured in our mind’s eye. As the leader of the workshop (a lovely lady whose name I sadly cannot remember) said, smell is so closely linked to our feelings and memories, that it is more important, when picking a perfume, to concentrate on what that perfume makes you think of, or how it makes you feel, then the exact ingredients within it. This experiment was so much fun, and I definitely recommend trying it yourself with any perfume samples you have at home! For me, one light, fresh perfume conjured a vision of newly washed white linen blouses flapping in the breeze on a washing line; whilst another made me think of the words: ‘bouquet of flowers, lilac ribbon, string of pearls and cameo brooch.’ The latter perfume turned out to be Ruth Mastenbroek’s Amorosa (pictured above), which was my favourite of the three perfumes we tested.
What was really fascinating, was how often people had similar reactions to the scents. One fragrance conjured up the image of an old dressing up box stored in the attic for a few people, and another made several think of a mechanic carrying oily rags (this was definitely my least favourite perfume…)! The atmosphere was friendly and intimate, with less than 20 people at the event, and at the end everyone got out their favourite perfume which we’d been asked to bring along and we all had fun exchanging our perfume stories and smelling each other’s favourites.
I honestly had the best afternoon at this event, and I can’t wait to attend more. Are you a fan of perfume? Do you have a favourite? In case you’re interested, the one I brought to the event was Chanel’s Chance Eau Tendre (not that I have only one favourite perfume, but I find this is the perfume I reach for on a daily basis the most at the moment).