Earlier this year I stumbled across an intriguingly esoteric fragrance concept in the heart of Paris’ Golden Triangle, formed by the Champs-Elysées, Avenue George V and Avenue Montaigne. Opening the door to The Harmonist, I am greeted by a fascinating space: black lacquered columns and long, curved tables ornamented with black and white globe-shaped glass containers, the monochrome scheme punctuated by images of snow-capped mountains and volcanic lava.
The Harmonist, I learn, is based on the feng shui philosophy of the universe being composed of five essential elements: water, wood, fire, earth and metal. Perfumers Guillaume Flavigny and Aymeric Wuidart, a master of bespoke scents, have created a portfolio of alchemic fragrances to redress balance in targeted areas of our lives: Status, Wisdom, Socialising, Creativity, Prosperity and Seduction. I decide I could do with some help in at least a couple of these areas and sign up to find my scent (from €215 for 50ml).
One of the consultants guides me through the process. First we must discover my element, which is based on the date, place and time of my birth. Using an iPad, she fills in the questionnaire with me (assuring me that my personal details will be automatically effaced after our consultation). To my disappointment, my element turns out to be metal, so I opt to add a little warmth and seduction to my “chi”.
Ten elixirs are proposed to “help me achieve my best self”. The black and white globes, it turns out, are olfactoriums, that are used to test the perfumes, ranked in order of strength. From the three scents that most appeal to me, I eventually settle on one called Velvet Fire (although Golden Wood was in the running, too). Characterised as “charismatic, radiant and sensual”, this modern, multifaceted scent opens with a rich top note of lavender, sage and coriander, mellows down to a spicy Oriental heart with cypress, saffron and petitgrain lemon, before settling down to a smouldering, velvety accord of musk, oud and tonka bean.
I’m hooked, both on how this scent evolves when worn and the idea of playing at witchcraft by altering my alchemy. Also, it works: men stand a little closer to me than is usual when I’m wearing it.