Giving experiences rather than things
My favourite presents aren’t things at all.
The presents I really remember were experiences, not stuff. The cup cake decorating class, the trampoline course and the workshop learning sewing machine embroidery, for example.
No clutter, loads of inspiration, and – rarest of all as a parent – time to myself, doing something I wanted to do! Much as I love my family, it’s also fun pursuing my own interests, every so often.
That’s why I was delighted when Buyagift gave me the chance to take part in a ‘Design Your Own Perfume’ session led by The Perfume Studio, followed by afternoon tea. Even better, I got to go along to the Kensington Hilton with a friend, Lynn James aka Mrs Mummypenny.
I rocked up knowing next to nothing about scent, but really excited to make my own. Perfume is so personal, isn’t it? I’ve got pretty strong views on what I do and don’t like, and rarely find scents I want to wear. The ‘Design Your Own Perfume’ experience was the chance to come up with something I really loved. Not too floral, not too heavy – unlike the clouds of Calvin Klein Obsession I used to trail as a teenager. (I can only apologise to everyone forced to share the same sixth form centre). I also liked the idea of wearing my own unique scent, rather than a recognisable high street brand.
Introduction to a Design Your Own Perfume experience
Our session got off to a great start when the hostess, Helen, handed out prosecco. The group was a good size – around 14 people split across two tables, which allowed everyone the chance to chat and ask questions.
Helen talked us through the creation of scent, the difference between eau de toilette and more concentrated, long lasting eau de parfum, and how widely prices vary between hard-won natural ingredients and artificial alternatives.
She explained how we would smell 21 different blends exclusive to The Perfume Studio, made by master perfumer, Francois Robert. Francois comes from a family with a long history of creating amazing scents. His grandfather created Chanel No 19, and Francois himself worked with make up artist Charlotte Tilbury on her ‘Scent of a Dream’. Each blend consists of multiple different ingredients, and could itself be used as a standalone perfume.
The blends are dividend into three types: base notes, which linger for longer, middle notes, and top notes which evaporate more quickly. Scents are usually made from a combination of all three.
Creating our own perfumes
It was fascinating to discover how the different blends varied. We smelt each in turn, handed out on paper spills called ‘blotters’, to waft in front of our noses. Helen described the ingredients, similar branded scents and personality types for each, while her colleague Nicole handed round the blotters.
We were encouraged to pile them up in ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘maybe’ heaps, then hold different blotters together to check the combination. Helen also demonstrated how to bend the blotters, so particular blends were closer or further away. This showed how using half or double measures would smell in the finished scent. There were even gauze bags of coffee beans on the tables, to smell in between samples in an attempt to clear our noses!
As expected, some I loved, some I couldn’t stand – but people across the table might adore. Some blends I liked individually but really didn’t mix together, while others I was unsure about actually combined really well. The blends smelled of everything from candy floss to sea breezes, bergamot to spices. One smelled just like green bananas!
Coming up with my own combination
What I hadn’t expected was the nostalgia rollercoaster. Different scents tap into different memories, sending you straight back into the past. The sandalwood box my Dad brought back from India. Lavender like my Newcastle grandma. The uni friend that always wore Body Shop White Musk. Aldehydes reminiscent of the powdery smell of Chanel number 5, from the duty free trolley on a work flight.
In the end, I chose a combination of half a base note, one middle note and one top note. We were told to come up with a name, and I went for ‘Simplify’ (ever hopeful). I surprised myself by including a gentle floral option rather than one of the citrus alternatives. I went for three blends – but lots of people chose loads more, and it was fun smelling their creations too. Helen was on hand with great advice on final combinations, for anyone wavering about their choice.
The session I went to included a 20ml perfume atomiser in a choice of colours. I chose the sleek navy version.
Tucking into afternoon tea
In total, we spent a couple of hours designing our scents, then headed off for an hour of afternoon tea. Great opportunity for a chat and a catch up.
I took the pic above of the triple decker glory I shared with Sanna, over at Wave to Mummy. I do love afternoon tea – especially when someone else has prepared all the sandwiches, cakes and scones! The delicious multilayered chocolate and coffee extravaganza could have come straight from a fiendish Great British Bake Off technical.
Helen and Nicole made up the perfumes while we were eating, so we could leave with atomisers containing our own individual fragrances at the end of the afternoon.
The Perfume Studio then keeps a record of your formula online, so if you love it, you can even re-order new supplies.
How much does the Design Your Own Perfume Experience cost?
Prices start from a ‘Gold’ experience at £39, where you leave with a little 5ml atomiser, then increase as you take away larger quantities of scent. They max out with the ‘Platinum’ experience for two at £129, which includes a 20ml spray bottle each and afternoon tea. But during sessions you can also pay to ‘upgrade’ to a bigger bottle. If you buy the experience as a gift voucher, it lasts for several months. If you buy via Buyagift, do check out the huge range of other experiences too.
***PLUS: if you’re reading this on Black Friday, you can save 25% on Buyagift by using the code BLACK 25***
Sure, I loved the Design Your Own Perfume Experience and afternoon tea when I was given it for free.
Would I pay for it myself? Actually, yes.
It was really unusual and I learnt a lot. Considering many fancy designer perfumes cost much more than £40, I’d far rather get the chance to make my own unique scent, than be presented with a bottle grabbed from a shelf.
I genuinely think this would make a fun present for a mother, daughter or really good friend, perhaps together, or even blowing the cash on yourself. You don’t have to trek to London, as there are Perfume Studio sessions in 20 locations up and down the country. Check the website to find out where.
Alternatively, you can also buy “Design Your Own Fragrance” sets, with everything you need to create your own scent at home.
You can choose between sets of six blends grouped along similar lines, whether fresh, exotic, floral, natural or a collection for men. There’s even an all encompassing ‘Ultimate Collection’, with vials of 18 blends to combine. The Perfume Studio also sells a range of different atomisers, scent bottles and even a hip flask. My favourite was the James Bond esque secret atomiser pen – a ball point pen with a tiny vial of scent hidden in the top.
Giveaway to win a Design Your Own Perfume Experience for free!
If you’d like the chance to create your own scent for free, without resorting to mud and rose petals, do enter my giveaway from Buyagift and The Perfume Studio.
It’s your chance to win your own Design a Perfume Gold Experience for One.
Just click on the Gleam link to find all the ways to enter, and make sure you leave a comment on this post about which experience (could be anything!) you’d like best as a gift.
The closing date for the competition is on December 8, so if you win, you could even give it to someone else for Christmas – if you’re feeling sufficiently generous!
Now – over to you. Ever been given an experience as a present? What experience would you like best as a gift? Do share in the comments, I’d love to hear!
This is a collaborative post