By Alannah Sparks
According to Jean Paul Guerlain, ‘perfume is the most intense form of memory’. And it’s so true. I feel an intense physical revulsion every time I catch the smell of Armani’s Acqua di Gio, for it was the fragrance my dad wore when he was sick in hospital with cancer. But Viktor and Rolf’s ‘Flowerbomb’ makes me smile as it is theperfume that always resonated through the halls of Trinity College and defined my happy university days.
Imagine if you could bottle a memory that you want to preserve forever? This was my mission when I went to find a new, special fragrance that I could wear on my wedding day, and which would hopefully recall that day for many years to come.
My first stop was Avery, a tiny little elaborate birdcage of a store in Mayfair which specialises in niche fragrances houses such as Boadicea the Victorious and the intriguing scientific concept brand SP4 (Science for Peace).
Gianluca is the expert here, and by the time I arrived he had already colluded with niche perfume expert Michael Donovan to come up with a range of options for me based on my colouring, the date of my wedding, and my style. They do this as standard procedure with all their customers, so expect to be interrogated.
So olfactarily refined is Gianluca that by the second try he’d got me to down to a tee. The divine ‘Narcotic Venus’ by Nasomatto - enchanting by name, and utterly seductive in smell, was the fragrance I’ve been dreaming of, without even realising. Designed as ‘a quest for the overwhelming addictive intensity of female sexual power (the perfumer is Italian) – it is a seductive blend of Gardenia, Jasmine and spices. I crave it, but at £110 for 100ml of Extrait, it would need very careful consideration.
However, there is plenty on offer here at varying price points, and if you are looking for something distinctive that nobody else will have, Avery is where you should start.
Next I went to Illuminum, the place made famous by none other than the Duchess of Cambridge, as here was where she found the fragrance for The Wedding. The Rolls Royce of the fragrance shopping experience, Illuminum offers a choice of 33 of its own fragrances, its very own champagne lounge, and a theatrical testing ceremony that includes dipping your nose into a brandy glass with an ice cube dropped in (it takes away the top notes so you can smell the dry-down aroma).
And the perfumes are beautiful. I could see why the Duchess went for White Gardenia Petals, a sweetly feminine bouquet perfect for a princess. It wasn’t quite sexy enough for me; I like my fragrances to be a little more voluptuous, so Bart proffered up Black Gardenia and (s)Trumpet Flower, which were warm and engulfing. You can book out the whole of the Illuminum lounge for you and your wedding party, which would be a fabulous way to while away an afternoon in the run-up to your wedding.
Next on my fragrance quest was Ormonde Jayne, a perfumery borne out of the passion of a woman named Linda Pilkington, whom I was honoured to have taking me through her range of fragrances. Linda offers a wonderful service that she calls a ‘Perfume Portrait’, in which she quizzes her client on their style, their habits, their likes and dislikes. She then proffers up a series of single note fragrances for you to smell, to determine what your preferences are.
She transported me to another world, recounting tales of her travels to find the elusive Taif Rose (the fragrance I eventually chose), and reliving her most intoxicating fragrance memories for my benefit. Pilkington also offers a special bridal service where you and your maids can take over the Sloane Square store and drink champagne while each having your perfect fragrance found for you. Magical.
And of course, I couldn’t bear to leave out Chanel. Ever since I worked part time at the Chanel boutique in Brown Thomas in Dublin, I have been obsessed with the Gardenia fragrance from their Exclusifs range. This was one of the original fragrances designed by Coco Chanel with the famous nose Ernest Beaux - it's a sensuous tuberose that was designed to reflect the imaginary scent of the camellia, Mademoiselle Chanel's flower, which is odorless.
Gardenia is just one of the Exclusifs range which comprises thirteen fragrances based around themes from Mademoiselle Chanel’s life. I would advise anyone seeking a fragrance to go to Chanel’s lovely cosmetic store in Covent Garden, which was meant to be a pop-up but which has proven so successful that it has been given a permanent home. The beauty experts on hand there are passionate about the brand, and love to take the time to uncover the personal tastes of each client, and to describe the story behind each scent.
Chanel Covent Garden, www.chanel.com