THAT pounds 6,500 SMELL

Chanel No 5 too old hat? Opium too pungent? CKBe too, well, everywhere? For those with money to burn, the alternative is an 'haute couture' perfume - one made specifically for them by the most exclusive perfume houses in Europe. Ian Phillips reports

The laboratory adjoining Olivier Creed's house near Fontainebleau is an olfactory Ali Baba's cave. Over 1,000 natural essences and perfume ingredients line its shelves. There is a rose essence from Bulgaria, sandalwood and tuberose from India, vetiver from Java and citrus essences from Sicily. Every year, roughly 25 clients from all over the world visit this nerve- centre of scents. Each comes on a quite specific quest - to create their own unique fragrance.

For Creed, whose family has made perfume since 1760, is one of the few people in the world who custom-blends personalised scents for his customers. But he won't mix his precious essences for just anyone. "I turn down lots of requests," he says. "My clients have to be passionate about perfume and I refuse people who buy scents like they would a sack of potatoes."

Those who pass the test are following in famous footsteps. During the 1800s, the House of Creed made perfumes for Queen Victoria, Empress Eugenie of France, and Queen Christina of Spain. Earlier this century, it concocted one-off scents for Freud, Hemingway and Matisse. Audrey Hepburn came to buy a fragrance redolent with the smell of green narcissus and magnolia, while, more recently, Robert Redford, Paul Newman, Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts and Sharon Stone have all made their way to Creed's laboratory.

Creed is not the only one in the singular smells business. In Italy, Florence-based Lorenzo Villoresi has created more than 500 individual fragrances in his studio overlooking the Ponte Vecchio. A former philosophy student, he fell in love with the world of scents while researching in the Middle East - he would bring back exotic oils and spices from his travels and create fragrances for his friends. His business as a perfumier really began, however, in 1990, when the Italian fashion house Fendi asked him to produce a potpourri for its stores. In no time at all, Jackie Onassis was also on his client list.

Today his customers travel to Florence from as far afield as Japan, Australia and the Philippines, especially to buy their own fragrances. On rare occasions, Villoresi has created perfumes over the telephone for those who are unable to leave home, although he admits that this method is "risky".

Like Creed's laboratory, Villoresi's studio at the top of his 15th-century palazzetto is filled with hundreds of bottles. There is civet from Ethiopia, geranium, peppermint and camphora from China, and the most expensive aromatic material of all - iris root, which costs three times as much as the price of gold.

He begins by introducing his clients to various essences and to what are known as the "archetypal" smells. There are 13 of these for women and 12 for men, grouped according to whether their distinguishing characteristics are floral, citric, oriental, spicy and so on. Then Villoresi will ask the client to describe the scent they are looking for. Quite often, they ask for something with aphrodisiac qualities to revive the waning attentions of a partner, but the strangest request he has had so far is for a perfume which smelled of horse sweat.

While Villoresi mixes his one-off fragrances in the space of an afternoon, Creed prefers to create his unique scents during two or three meetings which stretch over the course of a month. "If you make somebody smell too many essences at the same time, after a while they don't know where they are," he says. He compares the first meeting to "a trip to the doctor or psychiatrist". "I make my clients talk," he asserts. He also makes them smell the house's range of regular scents to get an idea of the type of perfume they are looking for, and mixes up a sample for the second meeting. He then shows them a list of its ingredients and arrives at the end product by means of addition and reduction.

Needless to say, this perfume equivalent of haute couture does not come cheap. A 100ml bottle of scent blended by Villoresi will set you back between pounds 150 and pounds 450, depending on the ingredients used. Creed, meanwhile, will only mix a minimum of 10 litres, for which you can expect to pay anything between pounds 900 and pounds 6,500.

You may have to be rich to engage the services of either of these firms, but for the Paris-based Parfums Nicolai to think it's worth making you a completely new fragrance, you also have to be famous. A recent creation was the floral, vanilla-based scent which wafted in the wake of Isabelle Adjani during this year's Cannes film festival. But less well-known Brits take note: husband-and-wife team Jean-Louis Michou and Patricia de Nicolai are moving to London, where they will accept requests to blend one-off fragrances based on their existing line of perfumes. "If somebody wants one of our scents with, say, a bit more vetiver or iris in it, then we will mix it especially for them," promises Michou.

In the meantime, you can opt for a more hands-on approach with the perfume house of Galimard, which gives two-hour perfume-making classes in Grasse, Provence. Groups of up to 24 learn about the structure of fragrances; each person then blends his own scent from a selection of 164 ingredients. But can anyone really make a perfume? "Of course," replies the house's nose, Jacques Maurel. "One of our visitors even managed to sell their scent to a French couturier!"

! Creed: (00 33) 1 47 20 58 02; Lorenzo Villoresi: (00 39) 55 2341187; Galimard: (00 33) 4 93 09 20 00; Parfums Nicolai: (00 33) 1 47 55 90 92.

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own