At some point, most perfume lovers will want to try their hand at creating perfume, and there are a variety of ways to indulge the impulse. At its most intensive, such an impulse might lead to formal studies at ISIPCA or one of the online/mail order certification programs. (I’m not that hard core.) Some might buy a book like Mandy Aftel’s Essence and Alchemy or one of the many others available on Amazon, pick up a few oils from a local health food store or craft supply shop and begin their mad scientist experiments. (Been there, done that!) Since the 1990s, fragrance lovers who don’t actually want to pursue a second career (or very expensive hobby, sigh) as a perfumer but can make it to France have the option to visit one of the ‘Ards (Fragonard, Molinard or Galimard) for a perfume creation workshop, where they craft their own personal scent under the guidance of a pro, alongside other curious noses. (Well, a girl can dream…)
As much as I’d love to travel to France, I’ll have no opportunity to do it this year. My passport expired two years ago and I just recently started the renewal process, which has a wait time of 8-11 weeks right now. But thanks to the magic of the internet, options for creating a custom fragrance are closer and more affordable than ever before. Further, the process is safe during the pandemic and no passport is required. Here it is:
Browse the internet for an artisan or indie perfumer who offers custom fragrance creation!
The process can be highly involved and interactive, with some perfumers offering Zoom sessions, multiple samples for testing and a round or two of feedback as the final product is honed. Others offer a simpler (and usually more affordable) option: select your notes from a list of available aromas or ingredients and let the perfumer work their magic.
After searching in vain these last few months for a solid perfume with dominant almond notes (but not ONLY almond notes), I exercised just such a custom fragrance option recently, with a perfumer whose work I’ve previously enjoyed: Dark Beauty Boutique on Etsy. (This seller also offers a similar option for oil-based perfumes if solids aren’t your thing.) I paid my $9.50 (as of the date of this publication), scrolled the list of available choices, and in the Notes to Seller at checkout, I wrote, “Hi, Jenny! I’m looking for an almond-forward scent, so please use Almond Oil, Almond, Black Licorice, Black Cherry, Toasted Marshmallow and White Musk. Thx!–Jodi.”
Sixteen days later, my little tin of “almond joy” arrived. I eagerly slid open the tin, sniffed the contents and applied a test swipe.
The fragrance was mostly cherries, and rather short-lived.
It was not quite what I was hoping for, but I did not despair. I recalled from my previous dabbles with perfume creation that the fragrance components needed a little time to “marry” each other, and the blend as a whole (fragrance components + base) needed some time to age. The sixteen short days between placement of my order and receipt of the product in my mailbox were simply not enough time for the magic to happen. (This is something to keep in mind if you order a custom perfume in any format, from any seller.)
I set the fragrance aside for a few more weeks and brought it back out a few days ago to test again.
Ah! Now we’re cooking with gas! There’s the black licorice, at last. The juicy black cherry has receded into the background and the perfume now has a pronounced almond note. The crispy toasted marshmallow makes an appearance about 30 minutes after application. The dry-down is a soft cloud of gently sweet, powdery musk. The scent’s longevity now approaches four hours–a typical and decent performance for solid fragrances. (The powdery musk notes last a little longer as a skin scent.) Overall, it’s much closer to what I was seeking and while I can enjoy it now, I have a feeling a few more weeks in a dark cupboard will only improve it.
One of the nice things about the custom fragrance option from Dark Beauty Boutique is that the scent is packaged just like the “stock” fragrances from this brand, with a colorful pretty label bearing the brand’s name, but otherwise left blank for you to add your own fragrance name.
While I was seeking joy in the form of an almond fragrance, I knew I wouldn’t actually call this fragrance “Almond Joy,” of course–it’s nothing like the candy bar. As it happens, the fragrance is also not particularly joyful. There’s a touch of something dark and gothic about it. It’s a capricious little blend that shifts between dark and light, sweet and spicy, juicy and powdery. A “moody” almond, if you will.
Knowing all things perfume-y sound better in French, I plugged my “moody almond” phrase into the Deepl translator for ideas. With my rusty Kindergarten-level French, I’m not sure if this phrase is grammatically correct or just a babble of very literal AI translation, but the translator’s result was the perfect name for this fragrance, so I went with it:
All images by me.