A few weeks ago, worlds collided as I had the opportunity to sit in on a custom fragrance workshop that was given by Sue Phillips. Sue is a respected member of the fragrance industry having developed and launched fragrances for Tiffanys, Burberry and Trish McEvoy, to name a few. About a year and a half ago when I started my graduate capstone paper on scent marketing, I reached out to Sue for her expert opinion on this topic and she graciously obliged my request. Thus, the chance to sit in on one of her classes had a bit more meaning for me.
Going into the class, I didn’t have any expectations. Perhaps that was life’s distractions or because I’ve done something similar in the past. The class, however, was great. Participants kicked things off by learning about various scent families and answering a questionnaire to determine their scent preference. Then, blotters that were dipped in Sue’s beautifully developed scent accords were passed around for all to smell. Those you liked, you took note of and those you didn’t like, you discarded. Before you knew it, right under your nose was the building blocks of your very own fragrance.
Scent is an extremely powerful part of who we are, whether we know it or not, and it was really interesting to see how various members of the group reacted to the notes they smelled. The same note could and often produced very different reactions, e.g., one particular note that I found to be medicinal, someone else found it powdery. These stark contrasts are what I find so beautiful about our sense of smell. Our childhood and various moments in life come gushing into our minds at the whiff of a note and those visceral reactions determine a lot about how that very moment plays itself out.
For this class, I challenged myself to go against what my impulses would have me do. The last time I did such a thing, the scent came out really heavy and it’s good for wearing in the winter. If memory serves me correctly, I was having a love affair with cumin at the time and that heavily influenced my choices. This time around, NYC was experiencing a weeklong heat wave and I think that had a lot to do with how this fragrance starts out. I’m not the biggest floral fan but I was determined to go against my gut feeling and my scent opens with a floral burst of rose. To me, it’s a sharp rose and reminds me of grade school. I don’t know if it was the lunch lady or a teacher who wore rose but that opening takes me there. But like any good scent, its change is dramatic.
The middle of this creation is where the magic lies for me. The scent takes on a traditional masculine feel where violet and cognac become the stars. This makes sense because I’ve been having a traditional moment. It started with Sartorial and continued with Aventus, Royal Vintage and a few others. The first time I wore my scent, I was pleasantly shocked at how it turned and that aha moment sealed the deal for me. The dry down gets better revealing sandalwood and patchouli. Overall, this scent is sly and I couldn’t be happier about that. As one of my female classmates put it, “it smells like a man and it only gets better with time.” Yep, I’ll take that.
As I excitedly awaited my blend to be created I simply couldn’t come up with a name. All I could think about is it reminded me of a fragrant walk with a constant breeze that lifted my own scent and blended it with the surroundings. A woman in the class that took on the challenged of naming our blends spoke with me for a few and I told her about this fragrant walk and that my dad is from the Caribbean. That sent her off into her own zone and she returned with the name, Mustique.
My journey to Mustique will be one I never forget. Sue was a wonderful. Her expertise complemented her genuine desire to help participants realize the magic of creating their own perfume. If you ever have an opportunity to do such I thing, I highly recommend it.