California Dreaming: Capturing the Essence of Scent-sational Palm Springs

How to Custom-Blend a Perfume that’s like Sunshine in a Bottle

It was a particularly dreary winter’s afternoon in London, with cold winds and grey clouds that conspired to dampen the fledgling flames of holiday cheer. The sort of day when you dream of sunshine and warmer climes, of blue-sky over desert, of a “dry heat” that will bake the blues away. A day that makes you want to book the next flight out — one way, non-refundable — to a place like Palm Springs, California.

palm trees at sunset

Photo Courtesy of Greater Palm Springs CVB

Fortunately, in a sense — or rather, in scents — California had come to London’s Haymarket Hotel. With the help of local perfumier Nicola Barron, the folks from the Greater Palm Springs’ tourism bureau unleashed a localized version of global warming in the form of nine specially-blended fragrances designed to distill the spirit of the region’s nine different cities.

Maybe you know Palm Springs for the celebrity-studded Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.

A DJ mans the decks before a huge crowd at Coachella festival. Photo Courtesy of Greater Palm Springs CVB

Photo Courtesy of Greater Palm Springs CVB

Or perhaps you’re more familiar with its super-sophisticated Mid-Century Modern Architecture — the largest concentration of those sleek, contemporary structures in the world.

Sunnylands Center and Gardens. Photo Courtesy of Greater Palm Springs CVB

Photo Courtesy of Greater Palm Springs CVB

Then again, perhaps it’s the spare, haunting beauty of the Joshua Tree National Park which resonates with you.

Joshua Tree. Photo Courtesy of Greater Palm Springs CVB

Photo Courtesy of Greater Palm Springs CVB

Whatever your preference, Barron had blended a perfume to match the mood. But she went one step beyond, working with me to customize my own scent — and she can do the same for you through her workshops at

Perfumier Nicola Barron holds a bottle of perfume

Nicola Barron

Barron, who runs creative classes and events of all sorts, began by asking me about my favourite perfume. (It’s Chopard Casmir, by the way, in case you’re reading this, Santa).

Then Barron offered me a whiff of the essential oils which she uses to blend her fragrances, which can be mixed with a base of either coconut oil or jojoba.

“Scent is very evocative of emotion and memory,” she explained, as I sniffed and snuffled my way along a dainty row of vials. Little wonder, then, that I was immediately drawn to vetiver, which reminded me of a smoky Scotch whisky.

We combined a few drops of that with a soupçon of vanilla, cedar wood, incense wood, neroli, jasmine, bergamot, geranium blossom and, finally, pink pepper to proffer a bit of “punch.”

essential-oils-line-up_3844I gave the mixture a bit of a stir, et voila! With Barron’s expert advice, I had produced my own 15 ML bottle of bespoke Eau de Chez Rire a la Maison — which has (marginally) more of a ring to it than “Laughinghouse Toilet Water,” I reckon.

bottle of perfumeNow, the next time the clouds roll in, I’ll just uncork my liquid sunshine. The perfume, that is — although I might be inspired to pour myself a fine dram of whisky, as well.




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