Who Nose Best? An Education in Fragrance

Last weekend I decided to educate my senses and stretch my olfactory muscles with a lesson in “Improving your sense of smell” from The Perfume Society. And what better location than Les Senteurs in Marylebone, a treasure trove of scented wonders and brands from the infamous to the boutique.

Even when you are surrounded by fragrance every day as we are fortunate enough to be here at pebble&co (she writes as she inhales the beautiful woody scent of a men’s candle next to her, case in point) you can never stop learning or looking at the world from a different angle.

The world of fragrance can feel overwhelming, like listening to a sommelier in a restaurant, basically at times you can feel like you don’t really understand what’s going on (my father maintains that the worlds of fragrance and wine are those which have the most “fluff” around them, thanks Dad). However, as with taste, fragrance is incredibly subjective, no fragrance will smell the same to two people, just like a fragrance won’t smell the same on two people. It’s a fascinating creative world of diversity, opinions and passion.

Jo Fairley, an industry expert, trusted journalist and editor and most importantly beauty and perfume aficionado took the helm for the afternoon. The Perfume Society was founded by Jo and her business partner Lorna McKay, another familiar face to the industry with a more than impressive buying history. The duo have even penned a holy book of fragrance together: “the perfume bible”. The ethos behind the society is simple- to educate on the world of fragrance and create a space for perfume lovers to learn more about scent itself and the stories behind the scents.

Jo blind tested us on four fragrances, if test can be the word as there is no right or wrong, teaching us to think about fragrance in a different way. Not just thinking about fragrance notes but what it smells like if it was a place, a fabric, a person. Anything, anything at all. For me this is perfect, it adds a visual and further sensory element- even if I was throwing around fragrances like corduroy, musty eaves, gauze scarves, gin and tonic (with a cucumber not lime) and parma violets.

At the end of the day a fragrance is about how it makes you feel, it is an emotional experience that can render you weak at the knees (smells masculine woodsy candle again), melancholic, exhilarated or even disgusted! Jo encouraged us to smell two fragrances a day in this manner to improve your sense of smell. It must work- she can smell a perfume from the other side of a field! But you will have to attend one of their events to ask her that story. TS

Annual membership is £25

perf soc Les-Senteurs


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