Scratch + Sniff: Tonight in Shoreditch, we'll be live blogging

24th May, 2011

Basenotes will be in Shoreditch's Book Club later to report from tonight's Scratch and Sniff. There are still a few tickets left for tonight's event (buy here), which promises to be a 'touchy' experience:Like stealthy butterfly hunters, we’re going to ‘capture’ perfume and discover if it can be pinned down and given form. Our head catcher (watch out for his net) will be Scratch+Sniff favourite James Craven, not only a fragrance expert but a wonderful speaker at that. We’ll be thinking about whether a scent can be furry, silky, gravelly or prickly. Which perfume is metal and which squidgy. And we’ll explore what sculpture and scent have in common. We might even go so far as to think about what perfume has to say about architecture and the built environment. Be prepared to open and experience a Pandora’s Box of objects, and an equally delightful plethora of scents, provided by the lovely Les Senteurs.

For those of you who haven't been to a Scratch + Sniff before, the easiest way to describe it is like wine tasting, but with perfume. And without the tasting. Sign up here

You can also read an interview with the founder of Scratch and Sniff here, on A Rose Beyond The Thames


19:31 We're just about to start, tonight's event is Scratch, Sniff, Touch & Prod. Refresh the page for updates.

19:34 James Craven of Les Senteurs is looking dashing as ever.

19:43 "Odette Toilette" is introducing the event: how the world of scent relates to the sense of touch: We use words like sharp, velvety and other textures to describe scent.... We have various tactile objects on our tables including silk and bubble wrap - as well as scents on strips labelled A - D.

19:47 James is introduced. James says its all about exploration and having fun, and that perfume should be a joyous experience.

"We all feel the affect a perfume has on us, we are touched by a perfume"

James is taking us back 5,000 years BC: "The first use of perfume (latin for through smoke) was to placate the Gods and to hope they could cause the sun to rise, the crops would come, and to keep the world in motion...

We don't come to liquid perfumes until many centuries later."

"Glass was invented in about 3000 BC, and later in Egypt and the first perfume bottles around 1500 BC, a perfume would be liquified in water, oil or wine. The glass was not clear, it was difficult to see what was inside"

19:55 - Whizzing forward to the late 1800's / early 1900's where the modern art of scent begins. James talks about the partnership between Lalique and Coty. Before this, perfume wasn't sold in attractive bottles. Lalique and Coty introduced the idea of a bottle being part of the perfume. We then see a slideshow of various perfume bottles. Shalimar (James: "One of the most perfect perfume bottles ever made"); Chanel No. 5; Mona di Orio; Clive Christian; Daisy by Marc Jacobs (James: "tactile: use of fabric and rubber as well as glass").

We are being asked to smell the strip of paper marked A (Fleurs de Bulgarie / Creed) and to feel the velvet - which is the box makes a nod to. Although reorchestrated in the eighties, it was originally made in 1845, and still has links with pre-modern perfumery.

Does the Creed smell velvety?

Audience: Smells smoother than "velvet"; "smells like deep pile velvet"; "almost like satin"

20:14 We're now smelling Scent B - Craft by Andrea Maack and looking at architecture and sculpture images. Maack describes it as a "wearable sculpture". James is now inviting us to pop, bite or lick the bubble wrap on our tables!

Does anyone think popping bubble wrap matches the scent?

Audience: "The bubble wrap is a parodox - there is something there and nothing there"

20:19 James is showing us a Henry Moore sculpture - Sculpture unlike architecture is something you can touch. "much more intimate than architecture"; now we're looking at a Mayan sculpture which Moore was inspired by

20:22 Back to fabric - "since the 50's and 60's we've lost in fashion the excitement and adventure of touch and feeling in fabrics" - shown images of jeweled garments, and "a constant sensual interaction between the fabrics and perfume you are wearing"

James: "It's very difficult to wear something like L'Heure Bleue with Sport Clothes, you need to be wearing the right clothes!"

20:26 A Dior dress is presented on the slideshow, and we are invited to feel some silk and smell Scent C. (which is Fracas)


"Not a modern scent", "like talcum powder", "layers of petticoats"

20:30 Now we're smelling Lipstick Rose (Malle) with the silk - reminiscent of makeup bag and hand bag. (james: Beautiful but not complicated)

Wrapping up the first half now -- we're having a break to eat food and what not. Back soon...

21:07 We have five things on our table: leaves, lychee, glass, feathers and chalk. We also have five different scents and we are being asked to match the fragrances with the objects.

21:33 We are going to look at each of the perfumes one by one, and see which perfumes the audience paired with the textures.

We're starting with the perfume with the blue dot : Royal Bain de Caron (née Royal Bain de Champagne)

Audience: Lots for glass, some chalk, feathers and lychee. James said he can see the reasoning behind the chalk - due to powdery aspect.

James and Odette had chosen feathers - though they say there are no incorrect answers

21:39 Red dotted perfume: Eau de Camélia Chinois / Maitre Parfumeur de Gantier.

Mized reactions on which texture, mainly people going for glass or lychee. James and Odette went for Glass

21:42 Next is Luten's Gris Clair in the vial with the green sticker.

Audience going for leaves, "walking on pine"; others going for chalk : "powdery, soft", "dries the throat"; one for glass - "brittle".

Odette/James went for Chalk

21:47 Yellow sticker - a Parfumerie Generale - missed the name due to being flabbergasted that Pierre Guillaume is younger than me!

Lots going for leaves, a few for chalk. Odette/James went for leaves.

21:51 Last fragrance is the orange sticker which housed Amethyst by Lalique - Lychee is the only object left.

21:54 - We're wrapping up now. The table that managed to guess all the pairings of scents won a tin of lychees. Hurrah!

Do people agree with the pairings of fragrances matched with the textures? Do you have any associations with texture and fragrance?

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About the author: Grant Osborne

Grant Osborne is the founder and editor of Basenotes. Grant has two children, and a dependence on tea, haribo and bacon.


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