Two weeks ago I had the idea of organizing something different for my girlfriends and decided it was high time to explore the art of perfumery.
I am lucky as I was able to find a truly special place in Florence, just a few steps away from the Basilica of Santa Croce; I would say this is a one of a kind venue and experience. Aquaflor, this is the name, is a perfume lab and boutique located in the marvellous 15th century Serristori Corsini Antinori palace with vaulted plaster ceilings. I immediately loved the tiny door, entrance to this unique temple dedicated to the craftsmanship of perfumes, consisting of magnificent rooms that have been carefully restored and furnished using antique furniture. For instance, one cabinet filled with fascinating and quite mysterious glass bottles is coming from a pharmacy that was in the city centre in Siena, right in Piazza del Campo.
All the spaces have magic and elegant atmosphere, very classy and very relaxed: it is like entering another world.
Here, bespoke perfumes are lovingly created by Master Sileno Cheloni from a vast range of about 1500 scents together with face and body creams, bath salts, candles and beautiful organic soaps coming in the most appealing colours and stylish packaging. It is easy in this mellow venue to understand Sileno’s philosophy, originating above all from the period he spent in Cyprus with a Sufi master, when he was introduced to aesthetics and spirituality in perfume making. Every detail is clearly carefully studied and consciously connected with the whole ambiance.
Upon previous appointment, it was possible for the 6 of us to have our own private workshop, an amazing afternoon which turned us into the happiest ever!
We were welcomed in the first room, under a marvellous orange suspended light fixture, then led through the other rooms till the magnificent inner courtyard to reach the stairs leading to the soothing underground spaces. The room where the workshop takes place is simple, spacious and warm, with nice lighting and a long wooden table accommodating about 10 persons. We were all so excited! We felt very privileged when we were handed the notepads exclusively made for the course and could not wait to start our sensorial journey into the art of perfume making.
The master started with an introduction to notes. Blending at least three perfume notes you have a fragrance and of course we were eager to create our personal and unique one. There are three kind of notes: top, heart and base.
Top notes are the ones that first appear when you smell the perfume and that create your first impression of a scent; they fade after 15 minutes after application. Essential oils for this groups are, for example, orange, lemon, grapefruit and bergamot.
Heart notes appear once the top ones fade away; they are more full-bodied and they last more, forming the core of the perfume. Some of these note are rosemary, black pepper, lavender.
In the end come the base notes and they remain once the heart ones disappear, creating the memory of the scent more than the others; the most popular are sandalwood, oud, amber, vanilla…
So… After ‘unveiling’ 12 essences that waited for us to combine them in endless possibilities, we looked down at our notes and carefully opened the small bottles of rare essences choosing from the ones that mostly seduced us, perhaps remembering remote images. Each one of us – among pleasant chatter, few pics and few jokes – religiously blended her preferred oils for half the required quantity so that the master could come and smell and thus give his advice for best results (and you were also free not to follow… just in case…). After this passage, we completed our masterpieces and what we had made passed in luxurious and heavy bottles and filled with alcohol, the obvious carrier for oils. Once sealed and labelled, our precious creations had to sit for at least 15 days before being used by us, new goddesses of this marvellous art. Needless to say, some of us opened her perfume bottle a couple of days after.
We felt as we had written our biography, part of our story was inside the gorgeous bottle that we were treasuring in our bags.
As a real icing on the cake, a sumptuous table was set up displaying the finest cakes and cookies, precious teas and lovely smelling coffee, all ready to be served in beautiful china cups. Of course the main topic during our lovely tea time was the interest that we had discovered in the subject and the pleasure we had found in making something with our hands and in using all our five senses in the most enjoyable experience, range of emotions and rituals.
Borgo Santa Croce 6 – 50122 Florence