The House of Peroni masterclass: Odette Toilette
Brewing ales, mixing paints, perfumery; different skills they may be, but for the upper echelons of ancient Rome, it was all alchemy. With plenty such artistry going on at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Jessica Basi tries her hand at the art of perfume making…
The table’s laid with salt crystals, gels, vials full of clear, mystery liquids; all props you’d expect from a lesson in fragrances. It’s the heavy duty earphones that have me confused. But as I’m about to learn, the sounds of a specific place or point in time evoke as much thought and feeling as smells or tastes, and Odette Toilette founder Lizzie Ostrom has come armed with enough sensory ammunition to take us on a fully immersive trip straight back to ancient Rome.
Bells clanging, pull carts creaking over grit and stone, choirs echoing Latin verse both soft and eerie; soundbites from a modern day Vatican City conjure pictures of emperor banquets and Roman soldiers, big bold cathedrals and crooked backstreet apothecaries. We sample heady scents that make those images all the more vivid. Rose, eucalyptus and incense are among the more recognisable. Myrrh overwhelms with heat and musk, while the unmistakable stench of goat farm turns out to be cinnamon leaf.
Loaded with facts about the various medicinal attributes of each scent, we’re set to task mixing our individual potions. I opt for a combination of laurel, calamus and benzoin, which given the details above, will presumably turn me into a hungry, hyperactive layabout. But it smelled very lovely. ‘Cosmetics slaves actually chewed all the ingredients to increase their potency back in the day,’ Lizzie chimes. That doesn’t sound like the worst job in the world, until I remember the cinnamon leaf.
Molten hot wax is poured into each of our creations to turn them into solid perfumes. It’s deliciously gloopy – you can tell it’s taking everyone a lot of willpower not to stick their finger in and ruin it.
Eventually, like proud kids at show-and-tell, we troupe out of the session, perfumes all trussed up in beautiful packaging, with the rest of the house to explore. For the price of a bottle of wine and a bog-standard pizza, this is surely a far more intriguing way to experience the Italian capital.
For more information, please visit thehouseofperoni.com