Fragrance Friday: Parfum et Vous

Last week, I was able to visit Nice, France, thanks to my husband’s work. He had to go for a business trip, I was able to take a few days off from my own job and tag along! During the day, he had meetings and I explored.

I have been to Nice before: once on our honeymoon, and again a few years ago when we took a family trip to the Cote d’Azur. But those trips were both before my perfumania, so I planned much of my week around fragrance. One thing I knew I’d like to try was a perfume-making workshop for beginners. Nice offers options; two different ones with an established perfume house, Molinard, and one with an independent perfumery, Parfum et Vous. I was leaning toward the latter, so when I contacted Megan in Sainte-Maxime to see if we might be able to meet (more about that in another post — such fun!), I asked her thoughts.  She enthusiastically recommended that choice, and she knows the owner, so I signed up. The price included a two-hour workshop to learn about perfume and then make our own scents, using pre-made accords, and one bottle of our own creation. The workshop would take place in a pretty old building in the heart of Nice, a short walk from the famous “Promenade des Anglais”, in the retail showroom of Parfum et Vous.

There were four of us taking the workshop, plus the lovely and vivacious Sasha, owner of Parfum et Vous, and her assistant. Sasha gave a brief introduction and overview about perfume, then had us walk around her small showroom filled with niche perfumes, smelling them and thinking about what genres and notes we might like to try in our own concoctions. Sasha’s wares are true artisan perfumes from niche houses, like Beaufort London, Nishane, NabuccoBarutiPaul Emilien and many others, so there was a wide range of fragrances to smell.

Then we went to a table where there were pre-mixed scents in eau de parfum strength representing categories of fragrance foundations, like “woody marine.” We talked about what we would try to create for our own eau de parfum, and sniffed all of the foundations. I wanted to create a unisex fragrance that would remind my husband and me of our trips to the South Carolina Lowcountry, the marshy coastland that borders the Atlantic Ocean in that state.

Next, we moved to a table that had 22 different accords in large bottles with droppers, divided among top notes, heart notes and base notes, and labeled with identifiers like “iris”, ‘chypre”, “citrus, “spice.” Each one also listed individual notes, e.g. “spice” included cinnamon, clove, and pepper. Sasha started each of us off with a formula to create a foundation for the category we had chosen, specifying how many mls of each accord we should add to our individual 30 ml bottles. I was starting with “woody marine”, so my beginning foundation included marine, citrus, green tea, “oriental woody”, and woody accords. Others wanted to create a gourmand, or a floral oriental, and there were foundations for those and other options.

Then the real fun began! Throughout the process, Sasha had us smell each stage as we added more accords in small amounts, tweaking our fragrances in the directions we wanted. I added notes of jasmine, cyclamen, wild rose, vetiver, and oak moss. As the other students and I added accords, Sasha would have us spray a bit on our skin and she would smell our progress and make suggestions. I got to a point where I wanted to add more heart notes. I was satisfied with the top notes, which by now included a citrus accord of mandarin, orange, and tangerine, the marine accord, and a tiny amount of a fruit accord (grapefruit and apple).

The heart note accords available were: neroli, spices, white flowers, rose, powdery (rice notes and white musk), iris, green tea, and cassis. We thought about adding neroli, but ruled that out. I asked about the powdery accord, and Sasha recommended against it, given the other accords I already had. We settled on slowly adding small amounts of the white flowers accord, which was a combination of jasmine and cyclamen. Then I thought about iris. Sasha was a little doubtful, but when I explained that I wanted that earthier, rooty aspect, she concurred but urged a light hand. In went .5 ml of the iris accord. Sniff, sniff. Wait. Another .5 ml. Sniff. Perfect!

Time to tweak the base notes. I already had accords that included notes of patchouli, vanilla, vetiver, tonka, cedar, and sandalwood. I wanted to add more of the “chypre” accord, with notes of vetiver and oak moss, and Sasha agreed but advised going slowly and adding 1 ml at a time, checking each time to see what I thought. Because of the nature of base notes, which emerge more slowly than the top and heart notes, one relies more on the formulas for base notes; even in a leisurely, unhurried workshop like this, there’s not time to wait for the full progression. Because I love chypre, I ended up adding more of that and no more of the other available base note accords, and I’m very happy with the outcome.

Once we were satisfied with our creations, Sasha had us name and label them. Parfum et Vous keeps a record of our names, and the formula for the specific blend we had created, so one can reorder if one wants. I named mine “Lowcountry Spring”, and I find it charming!

As you can tell, I enjoyed this workshop thoroughly and heartily recommend it. Because of the pre-formulated foundations and accords, plus expert guidance from Sasha, one really can’t go too far astray. It would take deliberate effort to create something that wasn’t pleasing. The atmosphere was fun and informative. I enjoyed meeting my three fellow students; we all helped each other, sniffing each other’s formulas along the way (yes, there were little canisters of coffee beans to help reset our noses, although I find it sometimes works best, when I’m trying many scents, to reset by just putting my nose to my own shoulder). I also really enjoyed seeing and smelling the many interesting niche perfumes Sasha sells in her showroom, some of which I hadn’t encountered before, and others which I had read about but never had the chance to try. If you get a chance to visit Nice, go see Parfum et Vous! Whether or not you have the time or inclination to spend an afternoon in the workshop, it is well worth a visit for the showroom alone, and to meet Sasha.

Have you ever tried making your own fragrances? How did it go?


23 thoughts on “Fragrance Friday: Parfum et Vous

  1. What a wonderful experience! The south of France is on our bucket list- I hope to follow in your footsteps one of these days. I hope you and your husband both enjoy your bespoke perfume!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was really fun, the whole trip. I hope you get to go there soon! January is the low, low season, but we loved that — not crowded at all, but weather was still clear and sunny, and warm enough (in the 50s Fahrenheit most days).

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sounds marvellous! I like that there weren’t too many tourists around!

    So, did hubby enjoy the resulting scent?

    I tried my hand at making perfume 18 mths ago. The teacher was wonderful; I was not. It is not in me to make scents. I hated knowing where the various tinctures/materials etc came from. All of a sudden, the magic of perfume was pulled out from under me. I now no longer wish to know what chemical compounds my beloved Guerlains are. I wish to enjoy my perfumes with willfully ignorant bliss.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, he did like it! Your self-knowledge about scents is so interesting. I think part of the fun of this workshop was that there were no chemical names — just “chypre” or “white flowers”, with a couple of listed notes. It really was for rookies like me. I’m with you in that I don’t care to know what aromachemicals are in, say, Jicky EDT. I just want to embrace it!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow! What fun! and your self created fragrance sounds amazing! South of France and a trip to a lavender field in France has been on my bucket list for ages.

    I have been making my own essential oil blends for years now and I wear them as perfume. In fact I just made a blend with carrot seed, orris, cedarwood, labdanum, vanilla, bitter almond and bergamot so I get what you are saying about “rooty iris” for that is exactly what this smells like! The bitter almond (which really smells like cherry almond) gives it just a touch of sweetness.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. As much as I enjoyed reading about your experience, I know that perfume creation isn’t for me: I wouldn’t be able to decide what to add and how much. I prefer my perfumes already made and, preferably, industrially (vs. manually).
    Still, it’s an interesting story – thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I suspect any real perfumer would find my concoction a simplistic muddle, and even self-trained perfumers spend years learning, it seems. Another blogger wrote recently about his objections to scent layering — he wants to experience what the perfume creator intended, not what an amateur, including himself, concocts with it.


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