Photo-Illustration: Kitty Guo
This review of Capsule Parfumerie’s DIY perfume kit first appeared in The Strategist Beauty Brief, a weekly newsletter in which our beauty writers share their must-tries, can-skips, and can’t-live-withouts. But we liked it so much we wanted to share it with all of our readers. If you want more first impressions of buzzy launches, quick takes on what’s trending on TikTok and Instagram, and deep dives into the week’s best beauty launches, sign up here. The Strategist Beauty Brief is delivered every Wednesday.
I’m so obsessed with fragrances that I once signed up for an introduction-to-perfume-making course at the Institute for Art and Olfaction in Los Angeles. It ended after a couple of classes owing to COVID, so my fledgling career as a nose was cut short — but it was enough instruction for me to grasp the basics of making fragrances. (All it is is mixing together a bunch of liquids, trying to strike just the right balance and ratio to produce a juice that smells as close as possible to the vision you have in your head.) So when Capsule Parfumerie, an L.A.-based fragrance studio located next to the institute, offered to send me its Bespoke perfume-making kit, I wanted to give it another shot.
The kit — which, at $165, costs less than a bottle of Byredo or D.S. & Durga — contains seven different “accords.” That’s a fancy term for a combination of single scent notes, like gourmand or leather. Each accord can be worn on its own, but you’re meant to combine them into a more complex scent that’s unique to you. I was impressed by the range, which spans the four fragrance families — woody, floral, amber, and fresh — that make up the foundation of all scents in the perfume world.
I don’t really think I have a “dream fragrance,” but I do know what I like, and upon first sniff, I was drawn toward the citrus, fern, gourmand, and floral-musk accords. (I don’t often wear dark, heavier scents, like the notes present in Capsule’s amber, incense, and leather accords, opting instead for notes that are light, clean, and crisp, like bergamot, lemon, fir, and juniper.) I decided I wanted to make a citrus-forward scent that wouldn’t be too overpowering for everyday wear.
Now it was time to get mixing. I squeezed 50 drops of citrus, 20 drops of gourmand, 20 drops of fern, and ten drops of floral musk into the beaker. When I wet a test strip with the concoction, I thought I could stand to add a bit more verdancy. (Imagine the scent of cut flower stems.) That, I figured, would mellow out the sharpness of the citrus while still maintaining an overall crisp, garden-fresh scent. So I added a few more drops of fern to finish out my blend.
Upon initial application, I was a bit overwhelmed. The accords are highly concentrated, and a little bit went a long way. The scent settled after about 15 minutes, but I could definitely still smell it on my wrist after a full ten hours — these are not scents that disappear in a puff of alcohol after an hour or two. When I wore it out, my concoction was pleasant. I’d created the fresh, citrusy-green fragrance I’d set out to make — but I still didn’t love it. It was too simple. I just know I could have improved it if I’d had more scents to play with — maybe a touch of lotus. Or even Iso E Super, a scent-boosting chemical used in perfume-making. (Think of it like MSG but for fragrances.)
In the end, tinkering with the kit was fun, and my custom scent was in the zone of what I usually like. But I think even just that short amount of time I spent at the fragrance institute kind of ruined this for me. I’ve experienced a much fuller range of possibilities — hundreds of scents in their purest form at my fingertips. But when I think back to myself as a budding fragrancehead — when a spritz of Dolce & Gabbana L’Imperatrice at my local Sephora flipped on the switch — this kit would’ve been perfect.
This article originally appeared in The Strategist Beauty Brief, a weekly newsletter from our beauty writers on their must-tries, can-skips, and can’t-live-withouts. Sign up here.
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