Something very wonderful happened in Knightsbridge last week. We’re not just talking about the unveiling of the much-talked about Harrods Beauty Hall (bumping menswear up to the Second Floor), but the arrival in London – cue drumroll – of Guerlain’s digital fragrance consultations, at their beautiful boutique-within-a-store.
The boutique is the latest step in Guerlain‘s ambitious plan of world domination (well, the opening of 100 Guerlain boutiques around the globe, anyway). And how lucky Londoners are that they’ve planted a flag in the capital, because as fragrance experiences go, this belongs on every perfumista’s bucket-list.
It would certainly be easy to be overwhelmed by scent choices, in the boutique – over 100 to choose from. And that’s where Guerlain Digital Consultation comes in. Guerlain have meticulously classified their entire portfolio into the main fragrance families, feeding them into a clever algorithm. So you start by smelling ceramic sticks infused with fragrances which perfectly express those families. Via a touch-screen (above), you swipe to rate them. Is it love? Do you like it a lot? Like it a bit? Dislike? (Tinder was surely never this much fun.) From that, the algorithm identifies the fragrant universe that corresponds to your choices. Which means more ceramic sticks. More sniffing. More deciding on like, love, not me at all, the process expertly orchestrated by a highly trained Guerlain consultant. (Scroll down for a glimpse of mine – he’s called Murillo…)
And then all is revealed, since each be-ribboned, numbered ceramic correlates to a perfume arrayed on the wall behind the touch-screen: a shortlist of three fragrances to try on the skin, walk around the rest of the store in, live with. Or in my case, fall head over heels for at first sniff, convinced: ‘This. Is. The. One.’ Which – after that big reveal – turned out to be Néroli Outrenoir, by Thierry Wasser, from Guerlain’s Exclusive Collection. It takes that luminous citrus note and adds depth and intrigue – a contrast in light (bergamot, petit grain, orange blossom) and shade (ambrette, moss, myrrh).
But now for the really fun bit. (As if that wasn’t fun enough.) Because you can decide to have your chosen fragrance (or at least, most of the fragrances on sale there) decanted into a beautiful signature bee bottle in one of a rainbow of colours, which can be engraved with a monogram or a name on the spot. (It actually happens in a teeny room just off the shop floor.) But the decisions, decisions don’t stop there. You get the chance to choose the ribbon or thread, the colour of the seal – and a name for your perfume, or at least the bottle to house it. (I opted for my childhood nickname, Jojo.) The words ‘kid’ and ‘candy store’ came to mind…
Finally, with gloved hands, ‘your’ fragrance is carefully decanted into the bottle. (Mine came with an atomiser to decant it into for on-the-go spritzing, since it’s not practical to sling a Guerlain bee bottle into a handbag.) Last but not least, there’s the ritual of placing it in a too-nice-to-throw-away box, a little Guerlain carrier bag – et voilà. It honestly gave me the flutteriness that I remember (dimly, distantly) from embarking on a new love affair – and a week or so in, Neroli Outrenoir and I are getting along just swell.
Do watch this space for an in-depth report on the other scented delights from this new beauty destination. Meanwhile, my advice is most definitely to add Guerlain Digital Consultation from The Perfumer Guerlain to your list of fragrance experiences to try before you die.
*Bee bottles are priced £60 and the fragrances which fill them are also priced from £60.
By Jo Fairley