What “Right Now” Smells Like

0714181257_resizedFragonard, one of the oldest perfumers in France, runs lovely gift shops around town as well as a perfume museum in its Opera location. (We wrote about this clever marketing operation seven years ago on this blog; visits are free, and the short tour ends up in the gift shop where guests typically load up on purchases.)

At this elegant location you can also take part in a perfume-making workshop. The hour-and-a-half course involves a bit of history, a bit of science, and a lot of test tubes. I took the class with my sister recently, and felt the 95-euro price (per person) was well worth it. We came away with a 100-ml bottle of our own homemade fragrance, along with a colorful pouch for it, a cute apron, a booklet and a keepsake “diploma.”the professor


A dozen or so tourists from Asia and various Anglophone countries took seats at stations that were laid out with 9 essential fragrances. Our professor—a classically slim Parisienne of a certain age in an animal-print dress and heels—gave us a quick PowerPoint presentation about how perfume is concocted from flowers, herbs, alcohol and water. She instructed us to use paper wands to take in the smells from each bottle and make notes in a provided booklet.

There were four citrus options, including mandarin and bergamot, that we were told to form the base of our fragrances. A full 80% of the juice needed to be composed of one or more of those four. After that, other options, including verbena, rosemary and lavender, could be added to further customize. The materials were limited; there was no rose, sandalwood or musk—but there was certainly enough variety that, for instance, my rosemary-tinged perfume smelled completely different from my sister’s more pleasant lavender concoction.


Using plastic droppers and tiny glass beakers, we mixed the juices and brainstormed on what to call our “babies.” (I’m thinking “Kel Konk” for mine, a play on quelqonque [“random”] or maybe Sékça, a shortened way of saying “What is this?” [Qu’est-ce que c’est que ca?]}

I can’t say that my perfume debut is a success. I can say that I enjoyed every minute of making it. Our creations were eau de toilette, so their smell disappears on you within an hour. It seemed a perfect metaphor for my sister’s visit to Paris, which was her first: luxurious, complex, bittersweet and fleeting. The perfume I made is not my favorite among the many that I cherish, but, to me, it is the essence of July 2018 in the City of Light, and, in the future, whenever I smell it, I know I will be transported back to this place and time.

Hmmm…maybe I should have called it Coupe du Monde.

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