Earlier this month I was invited to attend a workshop for bloggers and creatives at the Experimental Perfume Club, Dalston. The two hour taster experience, led by founder; Parisian goddess and fragrance extraordinaire, Emmanuelle Moeglin, focused on using scent based instincts, drawing memory associations and pushing boundaries to create our own bespoke fragrance.
We began the session with tea and Meringue Girls macarons; already the Experimental Perfume Club had my heart. During a brief explanation of some of the intricacies of perfumery – Emmanuelle trained at the world’s leading perfume school, Isipca, Paris – we learnt all about the differences between parfum, eau de parfum and eau de toilette, what base, top and heart notes are and what they do, and how our favourite fragrances may have been created. After this smooth and engaging introduction, it was time to get sniffing…
Faced with nine different anonymous scent blends, we were asked to smell them and record our immediate thoughts in the scent journals that Em had provided us with; immediately we all began throwing out adjectives, which quickly morphed into associations; “it smells like my grandma’s house!” Emmanuelle described the power of scent association; it turns out that smell–induced memory is not just the thing of poets, but a genuine scientific fact; our olfactory receptors are directly connected to the limbic system, the most ancient and primitive part of the brain, which is thought to be the seat of emotion. Smell sensations are relayed to the cortex, where ‘cognitive’ recognition occurs, only after the deepest parts of our brains have been stimulated. Thus, by the time we correctly name a particular scent as, for example, ‘vanilla’ , the scent has already activated the limbic system, triggering more deep–seated emotional responses.
Em uses these emotional responses and instinctive likes and dislikes to help you create your own unique scent from scratch. After we had given our noses a good workout and drawn conclusions about our favourite and least favourite olfactory blends, we chose a handful to begin our perfume wizardry with. Just like any good story, a perfume requires a beginning, a middle and an end; the top notes are the first you smell and leave an impulsive impression, quickly fading into the heart notes – quite literally the heart of your fragrance, imaginative and emotional – before the base notes take over; that’s the long, lingering scents that remain on your skin and in your mind.
During our sampling stage I was most drawn to the heady aromatic base notes of the woody blend, the warm and inviting spicy heart notes and the contrasting, uplifting and fresh green top notes. I wanted my fragrance to encompass these elements so that the end product was earthy, leafy and organic smelling. As a lover of men’s fragrance, I wasn’t totally surprised that I had been initially drawn to the earthier, more traditionally masculine scents, despite the fact that my own perfumes at home are generally quite feminine and fresh.
Em’s lab is not a class room, but a playground. We were deeply encouraged to be experimental; whether we chose to stick to the traditional rules of perfumery, or break them all together. She taught us how to design and calculate formulas for our fragrances, but she also pushed us to be creative and instinctive along route. I learnt how just half a gram (fragrance is not measured in mls as you might expect) could completely adapt a perfume, and quickly my scent profile grew wings and soared to new creative heights.Em’s lab is not a class room, but a playground. We were deeply encouraged to be experimental; whether we chose to stick to the traditional rules of perfumery, or break them all together. She taught us how to design and calculate formulas for our fragrances, but she also pushed us to be creative and instinctive along route. I learnt how just half a gram (fragrance is not measured in mls as you might expect) could completely adapt a perfume, and quickly my scent profile grew wings and soared to new creative heights.
My final blend contained notes of cedarwood, amberwood, vetiver, warm spices, fig and green tea and I honestly do adore it. Naming our scents felt akin to naming a baby; I so wanted to do it justice. In the end I settled on Flamme de Bois; meaning Woodland Flame. It embodied how the fragrance made me feel, and everything sounds sexier in French!
The experience is both heartwarmingly creative and emotionally uplifting as you have the opportunity to ignite and tease elements of your cognitive functioning. All six of us created completely different fragrances, despite beginning with a relatively small range of blends – Em’s longer apprentice workshops encompass around twenty five raw materials.
Emmanuelle runs workshops of both apprentice and expert levels; they are extremely good value and a totally unique experience which would make a fantastic gift for the person who has everything. Furthermore, it truly is a gift that keeps on giving as Em saves each and every fragrance formula, ready to provide you with 50ml bottles of your unique perfume.
I have been waxing lyrical to all who will listen about the Experimental Perfume Club since my taster workshop, and am desperate to return to complete a longer and more in-depth session.
Book your workshop here!