This month features writer Clare Kelly headed to the fragrant surrounds of The Cotswold Perfumery and had a go at creating her own signature scent.
Finding the perfect signature perfume can be a mission without end. Scent is expensive and while one fragrance might smell divine on your friend, it just might not suit you; so creating your own bespoke perfume could be the key.
The Cotswold Perfumery in pretty Bourton On The Water is a very special business indeed. Occupying a 300-year-old Grade II listed building; it is both a factory and a shop, with the addition of a special perfume lab where courses take place.
I was signed up to do Create Your Own Perfume – Level 1, and arrived early to look around the shop, which is very popular with both tourists and locals looking for gifts. To the back of the shop is the factory where owner and head perfumer John Stephen leads his team in creating fine fragrances for some of the top perfume houses in the UK including Czech & Speake.
John’s father started the business in 1965 but circumstances meant that it was John himself who lead the Perfumery to the success it is today. Courses are always popular and mine was well attended by all ages keen to learn the secrets of scent.
A science lesson is the first part of this course and John talks through the properties of the raw materials we will be using to give us a better understanding of how these combine to make perfumes. Making a scent is a little like making music – top, middle and base notes can be used to create a symphony. But it is you who must conduct it, and of course John is on hand to help with that later in the day.
Once we have learned the ‘science’ part, we are taken into the garden to learn more about natural ingredients and how they can be used to create scents not only to wear; but also for domestic purposes such as cleaning products.
After a delicious lunch at The Dial House which is located just across the river, we headed upstairs to the lab to create our own signature scent. This can be a little overwhelming as there are literally hundreds of oils to choose from and each one is to be used in moderation! Using a glass pipette, each drop must be weighed and noted down so that your ‘recipe’ can be recreated at a later stage when you have run out of your perfume.
It was really fun to experiment with different scents and quite incredible how each combine to create something entirely different. As in any lab, safety is key and goggles are worn to protect the eyes. John encourages each student to experience all the scents (bizarrely, some of the scents I liked least were used in top fragrances!) and rather like cooking, you can add to your perfume but you cannot take away, so it’s wise to exercise moderation.
Everyone in the group was concentrating hard on their bespoke fragrance and John was able to recommend ways to improve each one – something you can surely only do when as experienced in the art of perfumery as he is.
After an hour or two, I had created a light, citrusy fragrance using bergamot, sweet orange oil and orange flower absolute, which in my opinion smelled pretty gorgeous. And what did I name it? Why, From Britain with Love of course!
Find out about upcoming fragrance courses at www.cotswold-perfumery.co.uk.
Clare Kelly is a freelance craft journalist (www.clarecatherinekelly.co.uk) and photographer (www.cargocollective.com/clarecatherinekelly) and author of the blog Pass The Pattern. All images courtesy of Clare Kelly.
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