Travel Story Make your own perfume in Paris

“The perfume world is fascinating, with its history, its legendary brands, and the mysteries of our sense of smell.”

When you fly off to Paris, leaving your wife at home, you know you’re going to need to return with a seriously good present. 

A luxury handbag or designer heels are the obvious options, but they lack a personal touch. As I traverse the French capital, venturing from work appointment to work appointment, I’m investing generous mental energy into my search for an appropriately thoughtful gift.

I’m in the back of a taxi by the elegant church Sacre Coeur when a solution appears on the screen of my phone. Days later I pull this solution out of my backpack and hand it to my beloved, who coos and wraps me in an affectionate embrace. “This is amazing, so thoughtful,” she says. I’m officially out of jail.

I have Marie Pourtier (pictured above) and her boss Emmanuel Frossard to thank for this. Mr Frossard is the co-founder of Candora Perfume House, while Ms Pourtier led me through Candora’s perfume-making workshop, helping me create a custom fragrance for my wife.

These sorts of hands-on workshops aimed at tourists have exploded in popularity across the world in recent years. From fruit-carving classes in Thailand, to mosaic workshops in Spain, anime art lessons in Japan and screen-printing classes in Italy, these activities allow tourists to learn a new skill while absorbing aspects of a nation’s culture. Noting this trend, Mr Frossard started offering perfume workshops at their central Paris store last year.

“The perfume world is fascinating, with its history, its legendary brands, and the mysteries of our sense of smell,” he said. “Paris has been and still is a key place for perfumes and our workshops allow people to learn, practice, get to know themselves and live an experience, alone or as a family, while leaving with a unique souvenir. It corresponds to this major trend in what 21st century tourists are looking for. An American participant in our workshop said, ‘We have made our perfume in Paris, now we can go to Rome and make pasta’.”

I’ve done both those things and, while I’m a life-long pasta fan, the process of creating a signature perfume was more fascinating. Marie offers me a seat by Maison Candora’s main display case, atop which we will do the workshop. She tells me she is nervous — it is her first week in the job. “I’m nervous, too,” I tell her with a grin. “If I stuff this up I’ll be in the dog house when I get home.”

Marie has no idea what I’m talking about. As much can be gleaned from her furrowed brow so I move the conversation away from canine accommodation back to perfumes. I tell her that my wife loves light, summer perfumes — scents with ocean notes likes Davidoff’s Cool Water and Armani’s Acqua di Gio or fruity touches such as DKNY’s Be Delicious or Ralph Lauren’s Ralph Wild.

Marie appears mildly impressed by my ability to reel off these fragrances. The truth is I looked them up online while in a taxi coming here, although I can confidently say that, from their descriptions, they are exactly the type of perfumes my wife adores. So I decide upon creating a custom fragrance which evokes the ocean while also being fruity.

To do this I have to pick from 20 different base scents which, as Marie explains, can be mixed and matched in blends of two or three scents to create a whopping 1330 different perfumes. The possibilities are enormous. I decide to anchor the scent with a heavy amount of mixed berries which Marie says is a “sweet note par excellence, popular in today’s perfumes, and often paired with floral essences”.

I want to steer clear of a flowery character so instead I choose to complement the mixed berries with grapefruit, something which I know to be a favourite smell of my better half. Only a small portion of grapefruit is added as I want to leave room for a strong presence in the third and final scent, which is marine. I shake the bottle gently and, voila,  a new perfume is born.

My wife is now asked where she got the perfume she wears. When answering she assures me she blushes with pride. Forget about the doghouse, I’m firmly in the good books.

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