Bespoke Perfume



For avid perfume wearers, finding a signature scent involves trial and error. Fragrance fans may test many sample vials until they discover their signature smell—whether it’s powdery, herbaceous, heady, or delicate—and go home with a bottle.

But some prefer their smell to be so distinctive that they’re willing to invest time, energy, and money in a one-of-a-kind fragrance. Enter the custom scent, a distinctive blend crafted by a perfumer—or nose—and mixed especially for the wearer.

“Personalized, customized fragrances are growing because everyone wants to reflect their individuality,” says Sue Phillips, a fragrance expert who worked with brands such as Burberry, Tiffany, and Trish McEvoy before founding her custom-fragrance company, Scenterprises, based in New York.

Perfume wearers splurge on custom scents to brand themselves and be identified by one specific aroma as a reflection of their personality and style, which Phillips says she helps determine.

The Harmonist’s feng shui-inspired elixirs can be layered to create personalized fragrances
The Harmonist’s feng shui-inspired elixirs can be layered to create personalized fragrances.

“Recognizing and understanding someone’s olfactive personality comes from looking at the ‘clues’—whatcolors they wear, how they dress, how expressive their gestures are, their vocabulary,” Phillips explains. She relies on these clues to figure out the type of fragrance a client would wear; “My mission is to create magical fragrances and experiences for people, drop by drop.”

While bespoke scents seem to have gained momentum, they’re far from an emerging trend. Custom fragrances have been around for hundreds of years. House of Creed began crafting perfumes for individuals in the 18th century, long before the company bottled scents sold at Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus.

Bettina O’Neill, vice president of sales at The Harmonist, a Paris-based maker of fragrances sold at several high-end stores, including Barneys New York, says true enthusiasts are looking for a signature scent to carry them through all experiences. “They want to be identified with that scent,” she says.

Scenterprises perfumes are made from custom ingredients that reflect their owner.
Scenterprises perfumes are made from custom ingredients that reflect their owner

The Harmonist’s feng shui–inspired elixirs (based on the elements of fire, water, earth, wood, and metal) can be layered to create a personalized fragrance. “I add ‘Matrix Metal’ to every scent to give my aroma a modern, metallic edge,” O’Neill says.

Like other custom products, the most exclusive fragrances take time, require patience, and come with an additional cost. Goest Perfumes out of Los Angeles creates bespoke fragrances starting at US$2,000 with a lead time of one to four months. “Floris, a London-based perfumery since 1730, will design a custom scent that requires three consultations with a perfumer and takes about six months,” O’Neill explains. Floris charges US$675 for an eau de parfum in an engraved 100 milliliter bottle, and that price includes five refills.

For fragrance lovers who want to play with mixing notes, some shops feature a semicustom option. A sales associate will blend the notes while you wait, then you’ll leave the shop with a beautiful bottle in hand. That fragrance probably won’t be as rare as the custom-blended scent that can take months or even a year to develop, but it won’t have such a hefty price tag, either. “It’s more of a simple blend, and it’s rarely the coveted signature scent,” O’Neill explains.

For ardent perfume wearers, designing personalized scent is rewarding. Thus, most are willing to wait for a fragrance that’s truly bespoke. “Why wear what everyone else wears,” says Phillips, “when you can create your own?”

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