The ultimate luxury in the world: creating a signature perfume that matches your personality. Think this is only something for celebrities and royalty? Not any longer. You, too, can have your own perfume. All you need to do is take a perfume masterclass at The Powder Room.
At her workshops, perfume expert Samantha Taylor guides small groups through the world of perfume. A friend and I joined her at The Powder Room’s cute atelier in the historic Nicholas Building on Swanston Street. On the walls are shelves filled with books on perfume, along with hundreds of bottles of perfumes she’s collected over her 20-year career. Sam started working with heritage British brands (Floris, Penhaligon’s, Miller Harris), founding The Powder Room in Melbourne in 2008. Now she consults with brands, helps develop perfumes, and teaches workshops.
The Powder Room’s masterclasses are suited for perfume experts alongside novices. The attendees on the night of my workshop ranged from a woman who could namedrop the French capital of perfume, Grasse, to myself, a novice who only knew what ambergris is. By the end of the two hours, I now have a healthy knowledge of the perfume industry.
We began our masterclass by sitting at a small table filled with perfume accoutrements. Sam liberally topped up our glasses of bubbles, which we alternated with beakers full of delightful Cilk rose/hibiscus flavoured water. And did I mention there were miniature cupcakes? The little touches made the class all the more perfect.
To build up our knowledge, Sam took us through a presentation on her tablet on the science of how we physically smell. Then we delved into perfume’s origins. Beginning in Mesopotamia 4,000 years ago, perfume has been an integral part of humanity. From the ancient Egyptians to 14th-century Venice, Mary Magdalene to Napoleon, it seems humans just want to smell nice.The masterclass never felt like a lecture – just a chat between friends about an incredibly interesting subject.
Once we understood the difference between natural and synthetic ingredients (and learned both are good), and had a quick smell of civet and musk (I can’t believe those go into perfumes), it was time to open our Cinquième Sens Olfactorium®. Known as a ‘perfumer’s organ’, the small black box holds vials of the 19 smells that make up perfumes. We each created a formula for our signature perfumes using top/middle/base notes.
Sam’s knowledge is so great that she can tell by how someone is dressed and talks which scents they’re drawn towards. Turns out I’m less of an aromatic/marine person and more of a traditional chypre/green kind of gal. We made an initial test by adding drops into a vial, which we tweaked under Sam’s guidance before creating our own Powder Room perfume.
The Powder Room’s masterclasses showcase the world of perfume in all its intricacies. Sam’s love and knowledge of perfume shines through and turns it into an amazingly fun evening. That you get to create your own signature perfume is an incredible opportunity that everyone should have. And you get to, you lucky Melburnians!
I can’t stop smelling my new perfume and smiling, thinking of my time at The Powder Room’s masterclass.
Co-founder of The Plus Ones, Theresa might just have to go make another perfume once her first vial runs out.