Scent often elicits strong and immediate reactions. For example, essence of mint takes me back to a summer living in Jordan, sipping on ليمون ونعناع (mint lemonade), whereas the smell of specific hairsprays transports me to high school cheerleading competitions in sweaty gymnasiums. This is all to say that most folks can spray a perfume just once and know whether it is a scent they would like to wear regularly – not just because of the fragrance, but because of what it evokes.
Last week, Qatar America Institute for Culture and DIYScent Studio hosted an Introductory Perfumery Workshop. Over the course of the hour-long workshop, 30 of us came together and learned that the process of making perfume is not simply a process of saying “yes” or “no” when smelling an ingredient. The process is far more complicated and nuanced. It was much to my surprise to learn just how difficult it is to craft a new fragrance.
The workshop began with welcoming remarks by QAIC’s Director of Programs, Laila Abdul Hadi Jadallah, who discussed QAIC’s long and deep relationship to olfactory art, and shared updates on our soon-to-be-expanded Perfumery Museum. Founder of DIYScent Studio, Sherry Meredith, then took to the stage. Sherry taught guests about the historical significance of fragrance, the many manifestations of perfume (such as perfumed gloves worn in 18th century France), and the unexpected ways in which fragrances come to exist.
Then it was time for guests to try their hands at creating two unique fragrances; one with a fresh amber base*, the other with a warm amber base (*base refers to the longest lasting and foundational ingredient of a perfume). In front of each of us was a shelf which neatly displayed more than 30 scents. It was time to test out which ingredients we might want to add to create our perfumes as our middle and top notes. Just as fun as making your own fragrance was watching those around you. There were certainly some visceral reactions to scents like Civet Cat and Africa Stone (IYKYK!).
The process of winnowing down potential ingredients was a difficult but fun exercise in trusting your gut reactions. By the end of the evening, guests walked away with knowledge of the art of olfaction, as well as two signature scents both to remember their experience by and to wear as truly their own.