Blogger Stephan Matthews visits a Parisian perfumery showcasing a technology for choosing a fragrance that’s straight out of a sci-fi novel
The idea of creating a fragrance that’s unique to you at the touch of a button sounds like something out of science fiction – but it’s just become a reality thanks to The Alchemist Atelier, from Noustique Perfumes.
This latest foray into bespoke perfume combines the scented skills of Madrid-based global fragrance house Puig with the technical expertise of BSH Hausgeräte (who happen to be the largest manufacturer of home appliances in Europe), and the results are truly magical. When I was invited to the new flagship boutique in Paris I literally jumped at the chance and dashed as quickly as I could to 36 Rue Étienne Marcel to try The Scent Creator. After all, who doesn’t dream of being a 21st Century perfumer…?
When a professional perfumer creates a fragrance they blend ingredients together to form a finished scent. Many amateur perfumers also do this using a combination of essential oils and fragrance oils, but a degree of technical skill is still needed to achieve a wearable fragrance. The beauty of The Alchemist Atelier is that they have cleverly split the creation process into two parts. An easy way to think of these is ‘character’ and ‘accents’. The character is the overall style of the perfume, while the accents are the finishing touches that make it shine. But how does it work? And how does a customer combine these two to create a finished fragrance?
To create these two sets of building blocks – which have been christened ‘Bases’ and ‘Accords’ – the company enlisted the help of revered perfumers Fanny Bal, Juliette Karaguezouglou, Nicolas Beaulieu, Elizabeth Vidal, Camille Latron, and Berenice Watteau. There are currently 16 bases and 18 accords available, and each comes in a 20ml cartridge. Here’s how it works: you choose any combination of these, place them into The Scent Creator, and produce your own perfume. However, this is where assistance from the resident trained perfumers – on hand to help the customer – comes into its own. Unsure as to whether a combo will work well…? They can advise.
Perhaps even more excitingly, there is a visual element to this experience that enables you actually to ‘see’ your fragrance. The creation process is run off an app on your mobile phone – and, by pairing with the machine, it displays your choices as pictures.
Stick with me, here. Each of the cartridges contains a blend, not single ingredients – and those have been imagined as images. As you build your fragrance, they will be split visually into individual parts, before being reassembled as a full image on the screen in front of you. (See the top of this page for an example.) The dominant ingredients will appear larger, while the background aromas are smaller. The job of the resident experts is to talk you through how the ingredients interact, give you background on the fragrance families and, ultimately, help you create your first perfume.
So, how did I get on…? I chose one base, Moss Chypre, and three accords, Bergamot Citrus, Aromatic Lavender, and Cedar Wood. Within these blends I also ‘inherited’ notes of jasmine, geranium, rosemary, sage, labdanum, and vetiver which featured in those blends. At a glance, I knew that I was in ‘non-floral’ territory. With access to the machine, I started to adjust the quantities that I would use from each of the cartridges. As I did so, the picture on the screen in front of me changed to represent the dominant ingredients. Once I was happy with the trials I pressed ‘Create’ – and the finished aromatic Chypre was blended in front of me.
The machine, cartridges, and bottles are all available to purchase and use at home, although you can also ‘buy time’ on the in-store machines to blend your own. There are future plans to bring the boutique to London and New York but, for now, there has never been a better reason to visit Paris. The Alchemist Atelier believes that ‘collaboration feeds creativity’ – so you’re encouraged to share your formulas in the online library, rather as web developers share open-source software.
Imagine collaborating on a scent, in real time, with someone on the other side of the globe? Almost at the touch of a button, that just became possible.
You can visit the boutique for free; workshop prices start from 79€ (which includes a 20ml eau de parfum)
The Alchemist Atelier, 36 Rue Étienne Marcel, Paris 75002