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Hong Kong’s best-kept secrets: make your own perfume, just like in Grasse

Increasingly, people are swapping mainstream perfumes for niche fragrances in search of a more distinctive scent. But for a scent to be truly unique, you need to make your own.

Angel Cheung has always had a sharp sense of smell and first developed an interest in perfumery while working in marketing for several major perfume brands. She studied in the world’s perfumery capital, the French town of Grasse, perhaps best known as the birthplace of Chanel No. 5.

The town in Provence is home to dozens of fragrance companies. Some are closely guarded to keep their trade secrets, but there are some, such as Galimard, Fragonard and Molinard, that offer factory tours as well as a chance for visitors to create their own perfume.

Cheung, a certified aromatherapist, is offering a similar experience in Hong Kong to anyone interested in making their own signature scent. Her company, Intime Artisan de Parfum, holds regular workshops at various levels, costing between HK$550 and HK$1,380.

The process sounds simple at first glance – add drops of different ingredients to a tiny beaker, stir with a toothpick and pour in alcohol. But as with any chemical experiments, precision and accuracy is key, not to mention a deep knowledge of the characteristics of each fragrance (don’t worry, mistakes won’t lead to Samsung-like explosions, just an overpowering odour).

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At the corner of her studio stands a perfume organ, an impressive collection of 170 ingredients, which will probably be overwhelming for novices. But Cheung is there to offer helpful suggestions, picking out several fragrances for each layer (top, heart and base notes) and giving recommendations according to preferences.

“I truly believe that the perfume you wear is more than just a scent, it is also a way for you to communicate,” says Cheung. Perfumes reflect our personality, she says. For example, a spicy hint created by animal notes exudes confidence and can represent assertiveness.

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As for our creation, the middle notes consisted of rose de mai, jasmine and a hint of freesia, while the top notes were a mix of citrus and bergamot. To give it a warm and soft finish, we added white musk with ozone and a drop of sandalwood to the base notes. The final product is sweet and refreshing, but due to its complexity the scent also changes with time.

Intime Artisan de Parfum, 903 Koon Fook Centre, 9 Knutsford Terrace, Tsim Sha Tsui, intimeperfume.com, Inquiries: 9782 1237