Scents of the Burgundian Spring : The Perfume Course

Wrapping up yet another perfume course, I want to linger over each moment that we shared together and examine how far we’ve come over three days of intensive studies. Originally, my course took shape as a rigorous training program for perfumery professionals, aimed at educating people who work in the perfume industry (but who haven’t had perfumery training) and to give them an appreciation for perfume history. When I adapted it for fragrance lovers, I discovered that my method worked to help anyone, regardless of their knowledge of fragrance or background, to sharpen their sense of smell, learn how to smell and how to analyze mixtures from the simplest to the most complex.

Even as I teach the subject I’ve spent more than a decade exploring, I discover new facets to familiar scents, new ways of talking about aromas and new ways of connecting different sensory impressions. It’s because of the subject matter itself, which is vast, but also because of the people who come to my classroom–and to Bois de Jasmin–and their willingness to share their experiences. Thank you to all of you!

The Spring 2018 course was held in the gorgeous Renaissance-era Château Le Sallay in Magny-Cours, Nevers. Burgundy at this time of year is full of cherry blossoms, slowly awakening vines and meadows of flowering mustard. You can just walk outside and find a handful of aromatic herbs to use as study aids.

I will share more details about the course and this beautiful region of France as I rest after a long drive back to Brussels, but in the meantime, I hope that you will enjoy these images by Anna Kozlova. We worked with Sergey Kuznetsov and Ekaterina Kadieva of  Senses & Vacation to make it possible.

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39 Comments

  • Marie: This looks like my dream course. I would love to learn what I’m smelling and how I can smell better. April 23, 2018 at 8:18am Reply

  • Cyndi: I agree, this looks like my dream course also. The photos are wonderful. And Victoria, I love your necklace. It looks stunning on you. April 23, 2018 at 10:17am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much. It’s made by a very talented Ukrainian designer, and I love the way she uses shapes and colors. April 23, 2018 at 3:53pm Reply

    • Amalia: …and shorts! excellent! 👌🏻 April 24, 2018 at 11:20am Reply

      • Victoria: We were very casual. 🙂 April 24, 2018 at 11:51am Reply

        • Amalia: Totally Approved! 👍🏻 April 25, 2018 at 8:34am Reply

  • Geraldine Ethen: The setting for your perfume course could not be better, including the architecture and the emerging spring blossoms! What struck me the most, Victoria, was the radiant color of your face! I am going to have to re-read your directions about cleansing procedures. Thank you for allowing those of us unable to travel to your courses a little insight into the beauties you share so readily. April 23, 2018 at 11:08am Reply

    • Victoria: This is such a great season, anywhere, especially after a long cold spell when it seemed that spring will never come. Of course, we seem to have jumped straight into summer, but for the time being no one is complaining.

      Thank you for your kind words! April 23, 2018 at 3:54pm Reply

  • Filomena: Fantastic photos! I wish I could have been there. April 23, 2018 at 11:22am Reply

    • Victoria: Wish I could have met all of you. April 23, 2018 at 3:54pm Reply

  • Rachel: I agree with the others. The location seems perfect for a perfume class, and I see that you’ve used flowers and herbs in your lessons. How did you incorporate them? April 23, 2018 at 11:45am Reply

    • Victoria: I used them to show the difference between different kinds of green smells–leafy, grassy, fruity. And rosemary was a great example of the aromatic herbal family. April 23, 2018 at 3:55pm Reply

    • Nick: I notice lilacs and rosemary, but do you happen to know the others? One is bluish flowers and the others in magenta. April 23, 2018 at 4:04pm Reply

      • Victoria: The blue flower is a bluebell type that had a strange spicy-musty aroma, not entirely pleasant, but very complex. The magenta flowers are from a black currant bush. Isn’t it pretty? April 23, 2018 at 4:12pm Reply

        • Nick: Were you demonstrating the fruity green of cassis buds/leaves?

          These wild blooms are so interesting, but I am a little wary to just pick everything and smell because I have never known them growing up in the tropics. I learnt it the hard way with stinging nettles! April 23, 2018 at 4:26pm Reply

          • Victoria: In the tropics I also wouldn’t risk it, since I don’t know the flora. I remember picking up and smelling lovely flowers only to learn that they grow on one of the most poisonous plants in the world. Which happens to be a common urban tree in Indonesia.

            Stinging nettles, though, have the most interesting scent of bitter grapefruit and green anise. You only need to pick the young shoots. April 23, 2018 at 4:32pm Reply

  • Maggie M: So elegant and beautiful. I would love to be there some day! April 23, 2018 at 2:36pm Reply

    • Victoria: I would love to learn from you as well, Maggie! April 23, 2018 at 3:57pm Reply

      • Maggie M: Ah merci. Looking forward to the day we meet over some rosewater scented Persian tea! April 23, 2018 at 4:05pm Reply

        • Victoria: It would be wonderful.

          By the way, I meant to ask you what other spices are used to flavor Persian tea? In Iran, I had tea with cinnamon and one other spice. Could it be black lime? April 23, 2018 at 4:13pm Reply

  • Nick: Vintage Patous and château? Count me in! Still saving the dimes. April 23, 2018 at 3:57pm Reply

    • Victoria: There were also vintage Shocking, Balmain and Balenciaga (besides the usual Guerlain and Chanel suspects.) April 23, 2018 at 4:03pm Reply

  • Charlie: Please keep teaching. I’m just starting a smell club– and I would love to set up field trip. You are on my bucket list! April 23, 2018 at 9:53pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you! The idea of a smell club sounds fantastic. April 24, 2018 at 4:47am Reply

      • Charlie: Thanks for the comment. We just drafted our first class — and have been using your New to Scent’s articles – for guidance. And we’ve been working on our smelling. It’s certainly fun to meet with people and talk about it. Really helps the vocabulary. April 25, 2018 at 11:01am Reply

        • Victoria: I’m very glad to hear it. Good luck! April 26, 2018 at 8:44am Reply

  • Margot: That looks wonderful, and Burgundy is beautiful too. It makes for surprisingly hard cycling though 😉 April 24, 2018 at 6:00am Reply

    • Victoria: Oh, really? I didn’t try cycling there. Why was it hard? April 24, 2018 at 6:45am Reply

      • Margot: This hills can be deceptively steep. It’s beautiful and quiet though, and if you don’t like hills there’s a great route by a canal and on old railways. April 24, 2018 at 6:55am Reply

        • Victoria: I see! Yes, it makes perfect sense, because even driving we noticed this. April 24, 2018 at 6:57am Reply

  • Figuier: Congratulations Victoria on what sounds like a tremenduously successful course. Judging by the photos it was certainly a visually and olfactorily gorgeous experience.

    I would love to visit Burgundy & its chateaux some day. On a related topic: I’ve heard there are some great restaurants in the region, and great local food heritage; what kinds of food did you eat after all that smelling? April 24, 2018 at 12:07pm Reply

    • Victoria: I started my trip in Tours and its vicinity, and while the food was very good, I struggle to define exactly what made it different from the classical French cuisine. I didn’t come across any distinctive dishes, although local cheeses and charcuterie were excellent and very unusual. The food on the whole was probably among the best I’ve tried in France–fresh, well-cooked, simply presented.
      At the chateau where we stayed for the course, the food was more inventive and modern, using local ingredients. The bread baked fresh every morning was worth the whole trip, and the butter was so good and fragrant, I could eat it with a spoon. April 24, 2018 at 3:21pm Reply

      • Figuier: There is nothing better than really good bread and butter – I’m so jealous! April 25, 2018 at 6:33am Reply

        • Victoria: On the other hand, after a week of traveling and eating classical French food, I’m ready for nothing more than a simple green salad. 🙂 April 26, 2018 at 8:56am Reply

  • Aisha: What an absolutely lovely location at which to hold a fragrance course. I wouldn’t want to leave. 🙂 April 24, 2018 at 8:12pm Reply

    • Victoria: The weather was also great, especially since a spell of warmth made everything burst into bloom–magnolias, cherry blossoms, roses, bluebells. April 26, 2018 at 8:59am Reply

  • Aurora: So enjoyable to peek at the photos, I greatly admire your use of colorful jewellery, Victoria, I remember you had a bright necklace too when we met. My maternal step great-grandmother was from Burgundy and she was a wonderful cook, she especially used creme fraiche instead of butter for sauces and I don’t know if it is traditional burgundy cuisine or just her choice. Like your great-grandmother she had a book of recipe I inherited but the problem is I don’t know where it is anymore I have moved too often, one day I hope to find it. April 26, 2018 at 12:26pm Reply

    • Victoria: If you find it, I’d love to know what recipes this book includes. What a treasure it must be. April 27, 2018 at 3:04pm Reply

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