Shopping: Check It Out - Les Senteurs perfumery course

IT IS generally well-known that Audrey Hepburn enjoyed a splash of L' Interdit by Givenchy, and that Gloria Swanson would spritz herself with Narcisse Noire by Caron, but less well-known is that Rebecca Thompson of Battersea wears Habanita by Molinard or that Susan Murch of Glasgow has a penchant for Poison.

Glamorous, extravagant and sexy, a signature scent is something that many people would like to sniff out for themselves but, for most of us, the reality of such a search involves a relatively cheap bottle of designer smelly stuff, worn religiously for six months and then shoved to the back of a dark bathroom cabinet as you grow tired - and slightly queasy - of it.

For some, however, the search for a signature scent is the start of a deeper passion for perfume and a desire to know more than whether you merely like or dislike a particular scent. And the first of a new series of three-day perfumery courses, run by specialist perfumers Les Senteurs, is starting in December for just this type of person - someone who wants to begin the process of finding out more about perfume, but who doesn't want to commit to a full-time degree course.

An Introduction to and Appreciation of the Art of Perfumery - for which you need to book now - has been designed for both the interested novice and the dedicated enthusiast but, as Karen Hawksley of Les Senteurs explains: "The focus will be on fine rather than fashion fragrances," giving participants plenty of opportunity to experiment.

Directed by David Williams, Associate Member of the British Society of Perfumers, the course will offer two introductory days explaining the basics and teaching an understanding of the established perfume classifications (fresh, floral, Oriental etc), perfume formulae, and methods of balance and harmony involved in perfume production.

Participants will learn how to make fragrance sketches and understand perfume creation through highlighting the differences between feminine and masculine fragrances - with reference to examples from the various perfumes at Les Senteurs. The idea is that the participant comes away with the necessary olfactory basics to start experimenting for themselves with perfume creation on the third day.

This is when the fun really starts. The final day involves producing your own fragrance, using the skills learnt over the previous two days, and culminating in a group assessment and the selection of an overall winning scent. Although the emphasis is on fun, all participants will be presented with a Les Senteurs Specialist Perfumery Certificate of Completion. But, would-be perfumers be warned. As Hawksley cautions: "The course will not turn a person into a perfumer in three days, but it will give them an understanding of the factors involved and allow them to begin the process of finding out more."

Each course (the first runs between 17 and 19 December; the second between 22 and 24 February; and the third between 29 and 31 March, with others being lined up to follow) will take place at the Royal Society of Medicine, 1 Wimpole Street, London, W1 from 9.30am (10am on the second two days) to 5pm. The pounds 450 course fee includes all the necessary materials and stationery as well as morning coffee, afternoon tea and a two-course lunch on all three days. To book a place, contact Les Senteurs at 227 Ebury Street, London (0171-730 2322)

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