Thursday 18 January 2018

Fragonard’s Perfume Apprentice Workshop

The idea of creating your very own fragrance is something that we constantly read about in magazines and online but, realistically, with prices ranging from hundreds to thousands of pounds it is a costly exercise if you get it wrong. In an attempt to strip back the layers and present an experience that is very accessible, Fragonard has recently relaunched their Atelier Apprenti Parfumeur. Over the course of ninety minutes you learn about the classic cologne structure and its history before creating your own. So, is Fragonard’s Perfume Apprentice Workshop really the “fantastic olfactive experience” that it claims to be?

Many perfume workshops are geared around creating what we would typically call a fragrance or a perfume, in other words something more “complex” than a traditional Eau de Cologne. Numerous ingredients are offered, some assistance is given, but it can still seem a little daunting. Fragonard has chosen to reverse this and concentrate on the construction of a classic cologne, which is not as easy as you may think. You have nine ingredients to work with and, with no “whistles and bells” to help you, the cologne that you make has a real honesty about it.

The Fragonard workshop begins with a history of arguably the first cologne, the eighteenth century Aqua Mirabilis by Giovanni Paolo Feminis. Legend has it that this recipe was the basis of Johann Maria Farina’s famous Eau de Cologne, which is still available today. Claire Delaigue, a natural perfumer and aromatologist, is the teacher for our session and we begin by smelling and describing each of the pre-diluted nine ingredients. Once we’ve gone through them all we then go back to the first to see how they have developed. During this part you’re also guided by a great ingredient booklet that is yours to take home with you at the end.

The nine ingredients that Fragonard uses are all classics that are present in Farina’s original Eau de Cologne and have been chosen so that a reliable structure can be customised for each individual. You are encouraged to create a base with 20ml each of orange, lemon and bergamot and, using the pipettes provided, we mixed directly into our glass beakers. From this point you have the remaining six to be creative with. Your final 40ml will be made up of any combination of mandarin, neroli, petitgrain, verbena, rosemary and lavender, although you obviously don’t need to use them all.

Claire Delaigue is on hand to guide you through your final choices and advised that mandarin can easily overpower, whilst rosemary and lavender will push you into more masculine territory. So what did I end up with? Well, I went for a more aromatic cologne that used rosemary and lavender to give a camphorous edginess. The traditional citrus was there already but the addition of neroli and petitgrain gave an almost heady tobacco touch. After pouring it into a Fragonard bottle and taking your “Diplôme D’Apprenti Perfumer” you’re then given a tour of the factory, if you’re in Grasse, or the Musée du Parfum if you’re in Paris.

The session costs €65 and can be booked through the Fragonard website at Just remember to specify whether you want to do it in Grasse or Paris and also whether you prefer English or French. [Workshop courtesy of Fragonard]

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