Intimate, interesting and revealing all at once, the fragrance consultation process of finding your perfect perfume can say more about you and your personality than you think...
Finding your signature scent is something that takes time, trial and error to define. To be perfectly honest, I feel as though I have found three, one each from Armani Privé, Chanel and Tom Ford, that I truly adore and would wear endlessly - see below - but then, recently, I realised I was bored of the rotation and wanted something that was even more rare, even more suited to me. I took some online fragrance consulations and found them fascinating, but they came up somewhat short.
ONLINE CONSULTATIONS... MEH?
The Penhaligons consultation asked me how I would like to feel when I wear a fragrance. I selected 'confident' and left 'inspired', 'elegant' and 'sensual' on the virtual shelf.
The Guerlain consultation asked me to select my fragrance 'world'; fresh, floral, oriental or woody. I went with fresh. Absolutely everything that was recommended for me across the board contained orange, mandarin, orange blossom - I'm sensing a theme here.
You see, no matter how fun the line of questioning, now matter how on point the recommendations, there's always a bit of an anticlimax when, at the end, those little bottled suggestions on screen don't result in you being able to actually smell something.
I decided a real life, on counter fragrance consultation (sometimes referred to as fragrance profiling - are we in the FBI's behavioural analysis unit here?) was necessary. A few months ago, I stopped a lady in the street because her perfume was so alluring. "Portait of a Lady by Frederic Malle" was her response when I asked what she was wearing.
THE IN-PERSON FRAGRANCE CONSULTATION
I arranged a consultation at the Brown Thomas Frederic Malle counter with Kourosh Saadat, their synaesthetic fragrance whizz, who told me he can discern the top, heart and base notes of any scent once he smells it. As a fellow synaesthete, albeit a different version (here's a link to what that's all about for me), I was already in thrall.
The consultation began with an explanation of the background of the brand. Then I was asked similar questions to when I took those online consultations. Things like what time of day I want to wear the scent, would I prefer a night in or night out, what colour I like to wear. It felt self-indulgent to be talking about myself, but Kourosh made it comfortable and even fun.
THEY GET PERSONAL
I was asked such pleasant but oddly intimate questions. It's not until you have a fragrance consultation that you realise just how emotive smell can be. All at once, I found myself fondly reminiscing about my aunt's Anaïs Anaïs obsession as wafts of Astral face cream came swilling around my brain courtesy of my godmother.
Kourosh asked about my fragrance journey. I had to think, but my first ever fragrance purchase burst back into my olfactory memory, putting my back in my 15-year-old's bedroom. It was Tommy Girl, for anyone trying to profile ME here. I am 30, and Tommy Girl will definitely have indicated that. I told him what scents I wear regularly (pictured below) and from that, I suppose he deduced which Frederic Malle ones I might prefer.
INTERROGATION (IN A GOOD WAY)
There were more questions about the colours I like, the notes I am drawn to in other fragrances - much to my chagrin I found I didn't quite have the fragrance 'language' down. I struggled to describe some of the feelings I like to evoke with my scents.
I found myself saying things like 'awake', 'fluffy', 'whatever the opposite of smoky is' and more - things that I'm sure made no sense to anyone, but Kourosh was able to translate and chose four scents from the range of about 30. Twelve separate perfumers were given unlimited time, budget and scope to create the selection for Frederic Malle, and they created little works of art.
I was sent home from the counter after, truly, a one-of-a-kind experience, with four sample sized scents to "live with" for a few days. After trialling them all, I settled on Cologne Indelebile. Neroli, orange blossom and bergamot all combine to form a fresh but very long-lasting scent that will refresh itself cyclically, according to the exceptionally knowledgeable Kourosh.