Memoria Olfativa: Scenes from a Perfume Workshop

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Memoria olfativa. Olfactory memory. Memory of scents, or scents of memory?

Or perhaps, scents of memento?

On the day that I visited Xing at his perfume studio slash store, all I could smell was the effervescent watermelon and lychee, surrounded by the earthy smell of soil, after rain.

I discovered his perfume workshop in Tiktok a few weeks back. A perfume catered to your personality, the reviewer lauded. Intrigued, I booked a session for me and my partner. I already have a vision in my mind, me in an artist atelier, mixing drops of scents, a custom blend of scents dedicated solely to me.

Sign announcing the Bespoke Perfume Workshop, courtesy of @scentsofmemento Instagram

It was a short walk from MRT Sentul Barat to his store. Tucked away behind a nondescript building, there was a hair parlour and sake bar on our way. We were greeted by a cheery Xing, the owner and perfumer of Scents of Memento.

The perfume pyramid, courtesy of Eisenberg.com

Given a worksheet with questions about self-perception and how I would describe myself, I quickly got to work. Xing gave us a short informative briefing about the perfume pyramid, namely top, heart and base notes. We were told to envision our perfume, and what lingering scent trail we would like to leave behind. 

In front of us, sat a perfume-making kit. Xing took a moment to ponder our answers before he picked out scents that he felt best suited us. Dropping a dot of perfume oil into the scent strips, took me back to science classes in school. We smelt the scent strips individually, then as a whole, a bouquet of scents. I jotted down thoughts about the scent, the heady mix of my concoction permeating the air.

An initial blend of the perfume oils was mixed, and Xing’s trained nose sniffed out the dissonance in the scents. More fig, he said to me. The final blend was mixed with the perfumer’s alcohol, and thus my custom scent was born.

I named it Graveyard Whistling, after the memory of my partner – him cleaning his family mausoleum at midnight. It smelled dark and earthy, damp. His was a beautifully sweet fruity concoction, summery and bright. Aptly named Das Jahre der Früchte, after the memory of Malaysian summers filled with tropical scents.

My partner’s creation, on display next to the scents that make up the perfume

 I took my time sniffing Xing’s creation. Blue Jeans White Shirt and Lost in 1930s stood out. Blue Jeans is an immaculate, soapy, girl next door scene while Lost in the 1930s couldn’t be more different. It evoked a different time, a glamorous, Old Shanghai vibe, of tight qipaos and cigarettes. I took home Blue Jeans, I daresay I reach for it often enough to consider it my signature scent now.

We said our goodbyes to Xing and left his store. The scent lingers, a reminder of the wonderful experience we had. I whispered to my partner that I’d like to repeat it, and he smiled and nodded.

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