We visited Escentuelle on a stormy Wednesday night and were welcomed by owner, Carolyn Hassett, with French music playing in the background, a nice touch, and a beautiful array of fragrances. We were joking about grabbing a bottle of wine before we got there and mentioned that to Carolyn, she laughed and then offered a tasty red blend I enjoyed during this engrossing process. Carolyn is 1 of 3 perfumers licensed to use the full suite of Galimard ingredients in America. Galimard is the 3rd oldest perfumery in the world, founded in 1747. Clearly their product stands the test of time while also passing E.U. Safety standards, which are stricter than U.S. standards. Carolyn has been making perfume since 1998 and is self taught, though she's traveled to France on several occasions to learn the finer points from master perfumers known as "Noses". Her passion for the process, teaching people, and knowledge are second to none. I felt right at home as soon as I walked in the door and couldn't wait to get started!
We started with Carolyn previewing what this process would entail and how we were actually going to be building a completely unique scent from the ground up. The section of bottles over my right shoulder is called a perfumer's organ, I loved that name as it has tiers similar to the instrument, it just made sense to me. The bottom level is the base, the middle is the heart, and the top is called the top note. I'll get more into this a bit later. As you can see, I was captivated by the description of the shop and how it all works. Apparently, thats what my head looks like from behind...
My priorities were clearly in order as I was all about sampling the wine before we started in earnest. Carolyn is wonderful teacher and really seemed to enjoy showing me everything, even though she's done this thousands of times. We started by identifying some families of scents that I liked, to put us on the right path. I mentioned the three layers of the fragrance earlier, I was given a tree analogy that helped me understand how all three layers work together to make the end result. Obviously, I loved the tree analogy, have you seen my logo and name? The top note is like the leaves, it doesn't last, but hooks you. The heart is like the trunk, it provides the character and is the most visible. The base is like the roots, not the focal point, but vitally important to the overall function of the tree.
Listening intently to make sure I don't miss anything, Carolyn had me captivated. Below, I'm following my nose to the right family of scents for my perfect fragrance. Thanks for the childhood advice, Toucan Sam.
Once we figured out what category I preferred, I grabbed bottles based on my preference and Carolyn's suggestions. We put them on test strips, labeled them, and I took turns wafting each one. Then, pairing them together in varying combinations to see how they co-existed. The whole thing felt like the coolest science experiment I've ever been a part of, sorry to the frog and fish from biology. I was able to mix everything in the graduated cylinder and very carefully measure out each amount, with Carolyn's expert guidance of course. If you enjoyed lab work in science and creating something unique, you will love this!
As you can see some interesting fragrances exist in Carolyn's massive collection. These were mainly based on my attraction to earthier scents. I took the time to waft each one, picking my favorites, and having a blast the entire time.
The best part is Carolyn. She really makes sure you aren't making any terrible mistakes and keeps what could be an overwhelming process with so many options a fun and manageable experience. Her sense of smell is incredible and you could see her mind working overtime to figure out what combinations made the most sense based on my preferences.
After picking a couple from the main group, I was told to pick a few more that sound like something that I would enjoy. You think you know what you like, until you start sniffing test strips and surprise yourself. As the process progressed, you find that what you actually like is vastly different from what you may have guessed, at least for me it was.
Now its time to create the actual base to my fragrance, this took a lot of concentration to make sure not to overfill. The measurements had to be precise. Shhhh! Not while I'm pouring! Here we're adding white musk, who knew I loved the smell of musk.
Carolyn was checking my work the whole time and making sure we were going to end up with a product I'd be proud to wear. She even has tricks to lessen the effect of certain stronger scents, notice I have one strip turned the opposite way? That ensures the other scents aren't overshadowed.
Carolyn continued to do an awesome job guiding me and make sure I wasn't making any grievous mistakes, you only get one shot for your money and she makes it totally worth it! We continued to repeat the process from base to top note and soon my fragrance was complete. I really felt accomplished and like I learned something from a true master of her craft.
At Escentuelle, they keep your fragrance formula on file, so when you run out, Carolyn will expertly mix you a new batch... you can smell like you forever! Look how cool this is, I have my own fragrance! Naturally, I named it Rooted and it is a true gentleman's fragrance. I've received several compliments on it so far and wear it everyday. I am excited to get ready for the day knowing nobody else will smell like me, which is the goal of making such a unique product.
This was such a wonderful experience and its legitimately cool that "Rooted" is my own signature fragrance. I thoroughly enjoyed the private one on one experience and felt confident about the scent I created, because of the time we spent together on it. Carolyn is a legitimate genius in her field. If you thought having a name brand label made you fancy, try having your own label. The coolest part to me is that it's all local. While supporting a local business, you can make something so special and unique that is truly a fantastic product.
Escentuelle is doing a special offer for any Rooted Followers. Book a private session with Carolyn, mention Rooted A Gentlemen's Blog and you'll receive a complimentary pocket-sized bottle of your custom scent! This makes a great gift or date night. Instead of buying your significant other a fragrance, why not let them build their own? Book and let us know all about your experience and your signature scent.
Carolyn is hosting a work shop at the North Carolina Museum of Art's Art in Bloom event on April 1, 2017. She filled up so quickly for one work shop time slot that they had to give her another! I highly recommend this work shop, it is probably going to be a blast.
And if you aren't really into making your own scent but you want to support local, Carolyn will also be doing a trunk show that Sunday April 2nd. She'll be giving presentations on perfuming and selling scent and matching lotion for 2 of Escentuelle's ready-to-wear products, Riviera Breeze and Carolina Bluegrass. She will also be featuring the festival-commissioned scent, Art en Fleurs.
Justin is the Founder and Editor at Large for Rooted, A Gentlemen's Blog. He grew up in Illinois as a military brat but has made Raleigh his home for the last decade. These experiences influence his views expressed on The Gentlemen's Blog. He enjoys sports, politics, music, entertainment, and humor. For Justin, nothing is off limits. He loves to spend his free time with his wife and his pup, Bruce.