Ever wondered what 1960’s Rome smelled like? No, I can’t say I have either, but at the preview event for a new Create Your Own Scent class a couple of weeks ago I got to find out. At least, this was the interpretation of fashion stylist Silvia Bergomi, who worked all day with perfumer Sarah McCartney to design and formulate their scent. Inspired by the 1965 Fellini film Juliet of the Spirits, the pair had created a fragrance that was fresh, woody, smokey and on the more masculine side of the scent spectrum – though Sarah doesn’t really believe in the him/her divide when it comes to perfumery.
The House of Peroni is a pop-up space created and curated for the month of November by the Italian beer makers and designed to play host to food, drink, film and fashion themed events. It will be on Portland Place, central London, but for the preview event we met in the swanky basement bar of the Soho Hotel.
After sniffing the finished product, Sarah handed round parchment strips with the three main notes or ‘accords’ of the fragrance and us assembled press and bloggers had to guess what they were. I don’t want to give them all away (in case you go to the class) but I will say we were surprised at how lovely pure tobacco smells. It’s way more fragrant than in nasty cigarette form.
There was plenty of perfume trivia to study too. Did you know that every year more and more natural materials are declared unsafe for mass manufacture so perfumes that have been unchanged for years have to be reformulated? Or synthetic versions have to be created. Ever since I read Denise Beaulieu’s book The Perfume Lover (about the creation of Caligna perfume) I’ve been fascinated by all things scent related, so I was in heaven.
Finally, we were asked what did we think 1960’s Italy smelled like, as the ‘base’ scent Sarah formulated was also to be the starting point of our own fragrances. Sarah had a little consultation with each of us and took notes on our ideas so she could go away and formulate our perfumes for us. If you do the class at the House of Peroni you’ll be making your own scent right there on the day and taking it away with you.
Total geek that I am, I had already looked up the accords of my two favourite fragrances, YSL Elle and Thierry Mugler’s Angel. It turned out they were both made by the same ‘nose’, a man called Olivier Cresp, and the two perfumes actually shared some of the same notes, including patchouli, red and pink berries, jasmine and rose. So I asked Sarah to include those, and some more sweet notes like raspberry and vanilla. Trying to stick to the brief, I said I imagined this is what a glamorous 1960’s Italian vixen would smell like, so we decided to call it Katarina.
Yesterday my scent arrived and it didn’t disappoint. With the first spritz you get a sharp, sticky-sweet blast followed by tones that are plummy and fruity in a wine gum sort of way, plus a smokey essence. Then, with what’s called the ‘dry down’, the patchouli comes forth. When I smell it I can totally imagine a fur-clad glamour-puss with dark red lips sipping Merlot and smoking a cigar in a Roma cocktail bar. This is definitely a fragrance for after dark.
Of her bespoke scent, Helen says: “I am ridiculously happy that my (my! – not Gucci’s or Calvin Klein’s) perfume is gorgeous and fits my style perfectly. I prefer very strong and heady fragrances and I was delighted with my new signature scent. It may even overtake my current fave Gucci Flora.”
Learning all about perfume-making and designing our own scents, this was the most fascinating and fun event I’ve been to in ages. And to be able to play with all the materials, as you will be able to at the proper class when the House of Peroni opens would be even cooler. I don’t know anyone who has made their own bespoke perfume (except us) and for £35 I think that’s a bargain (you get a 30ml bottle). The classes are limited to eight people so I’d book soon before that typically London thing happens and it’s all sold out.
Create Your Own Scent will take place twice every Monday night (6.30-8pm and 8.30-10pm) from 11 – 25 November. Tickets are £35. For details and to book visit the House of Peroni website. Visit Sarah McCartney’s website at www.4160Tuesdays.com.