Perfume is a story in odour, sometimes poetry in memory,” said celebrated French perfumer and author Jean-Claude Ellena. Truer words have never been spoken, and as we grapple with the curveballs the pandemic has thrown at us all, personal fragrances have stepped up beautifully to boost mood, soothe anxiety and even empower with their olfactory tale.
It should come as no surprise. Scents have long been intertwined with emotion and memory, and in times when meet-ups, dining out and international travel are restricted in the interest of public health, they provide a mental gateway to freer, happier days. For some, perfumes can even be a way to “dress up” (or psych up, if we’re being honest) for those Zoom meetings, never mind that no one else will get a whiff of what you’re wearing.
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Perhaps the ultimate in fragrances are Parfums Henry Jacques’ tailor-made creations. The months-long bespoke journey at the French haute parfumerie—which only opened its doors to the public in 2015 after nearly 50 years of crafting custom scents exclusively for royalty and the elite few—isn’t just a means to an end but rather, an experience in itself.
In Singapore, the two-month fragrance-creation process kicks off with a consultation at the brand’s store in Marina Bay Sands hotel that can run anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours, depending on how complex you want your scent to be. And it can get knotty indeed, given that you have the full Les Classiques de HJ collection of 50 essences to choose from for your base, to which your picks of the brand’s arsenal of about 1,200 raw ingredients will then be added. Once you’ve locked down your favoured smells, that information will be sent to the brand’s lab in France, where three sample formulas will be concocted. How long you need to wait for these to be ready depends, as some compositions need to macerate for longer to realise their full scent potential.
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You’ll sample the custom fragrances at your second appointment; if none quite hits the spot, tweaks will be made and the process repeats. If, however, you hit jackpot with one or even all three, you can begin the countdown to holding your very own bottled scent—a minimum wait of two-and-a-half months (the brand keeps to the traditional maceration process, which calls for the completed formula to sit for at least two months to ensure a mature scent profile).
For those who want to get their hands on a scent immediately, Parfums Henry Jacques also offers ready-made fragrances that don’t skimp on craftsmanship. Granted, they’re still a bit of a splurge (prices start at $840 for 15ml), but are worth it if you view them as investments in your well-being. Concocted with the same care and skill that go into the bespoke creations, Les Classiques de HJ is a collection of 50 scents in the form of pure essences housed in minimalist crystal bottles. Designed to be applied directly on the skin, they lend an intimacy to perfume wearing that spray-on fragrances lack. Lighter, brighter takes of the essences make up the Les Brumes collection, which presents the choice of dabbing or spritzing with its bottle design.
To shield the fragrances from direct sunlight, which degrades them, the brand recently unveiled the Les Boites
à Parfums collection: A selection of elegant perfume boxes aptly reminiscent of treasure chests. The exclusive hand-crafted scent wardrobes are designed to house three, six or 10 of the crystal flacons from the two collections. They are, however, not for sale; instead, they come complimentary with every purchase of three, six or 10 bottles of Les Classiques de HJ or Les Brumes fragrances. Time to start saving.