{April 3, 2013}   Fragrant Field Trip

Aromagnificent! Scentsational! Fragrantastic! OK, maybe I’m getting carried away with my description of a recent “new thing” I tried, but it was a pretty cool experience.

My friend Brenda, who has been a part of my 47 and fearless project since the beginning, suggested the outing and joined me on a trip to Chicago’s Lincoln Park where we each created a custom fragrance.

Brenda attended nearby DePaul University, so the trip was also an opportunity to revisit her college stomping grounds and introduce me to Chicago-style deep-dish pizza.

After driving around campus and seeing where Brenda lived, learned and let her hair down, we stopped for lunch. Some pizza lovers say Pizzeria Uno, the creator of Chicago-style pizza, can’t be beat while others prefer Gino’s East, Lou Manalti’s or Giordano’s.

Brenda recommended Bacino’s and not just because it was near our final destination. She raved about the pizza and said her mouth watered just thinking about it.

When we arrived at the restaurant, she ordered a large with sausage and black olives, so she’d have lots of leftovers to take home. I ordered an individual-sized spinach supreme, the first heart-healthy pizza recognized by the Chicago Heart Association. (Weird, huh?) It had a crunchy crust, spicy sauce, just enough spinach and plenty of gooey cheese. Yum. Next time, I’ll follow her lead and make sure to super-size.

We could’ve lingered over lunch, but we had reservations for the 1 p.m. fragrance workshop, so we headed out.

The two perfumers at Aroma Workshop greeted us and immediately put us to work at the “scent bar.” We were urged to smell the dozens of vials of fragrances color-coded into four groups: floral, fruity, citrusy, and woodsy/spicy.

Some were pure essences, such as gardenia, cucumber and sandalwood. Others were blends of essences that the staff had created and named, such as Lake Shore Drive, Sky and Swizzle.

We picked up each vial, held the wand up to our nose and sniffed. Some made us cringe; some made us hungry for dessert; some we really liked and set aside as our favorites.

Brenda thought the one labeled “pink sugar” smelled just like cotton candy and “honeysuckle” smelled like Hawaii. I wasn’t a fan of the florals, but loved several of the fruity and woodsy ones.

After a while, sensory overload set in and it became difficult to distinguish scents, so we sniffed a jar of coffee beans to clear our noses. If that didn’t work, the perfumer suggested we sniff our forearms.

As we continued to smell the essences, our perfumer looked at the favorites we had set aside and mixed combinations she thought we might like. She dipped a paper strip into these blends and labeled them for us to consider.

After discarding the blends we didn’t like, we took the remaining paper strips outside to smell them in the fresh air. A few minutes later, we returned with our final selections.

Brenda’s custom fragrance was a combination of white tea, honeysuckle and Touch (a blend of orange, tuberose, jasmine and Madonna lily).

My custom perfume was a mix two blends: Athena (violet, jasmine, peach and apricot) and Big Sur (sandalwood, amber, oakmoss and cedar.)

The last step was to name our custom fragrances. Brenda named hers “Makena Beach” after a place in Maui she and her husband vacationed. She bought a beautiful dragonfly bottle to hold her one-of-a-kind fragrance.

I chose the name “Jewels,” a play on my nickname that reflects the pretty, faceted perfume bottle with antique-style bulb atomizer I chose to hold my fragrance.

An hour later, I spritzed my wrists with the concoction, I thought it seemed different from what I’d chose—spicier. I chalk it up to the way it reacts with my body chemistry. I like it. It’s just not what I’d thought I’d selected. That’s not a bad thing, because I think I’d like to go back and create another fragrance. Or two.


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