Juliette Has a Gun Masterclass

16 Mar 2018

Whenever I talk to people about the Perfume Masterclasses at Sweet Fern, they have often never thought about what is actually entailed in one. So after I have one yet another Perfume Masterclass visit, I wanted to share the proceedings with you, so can learn more about the mystery of them.

Sweet Fern is a petite shop, with beautiful light, minimalist shop fittings and classic colouring. To step inside is to be intimate because the space requests it. That’s fitting because perfume is such an intimate thing. To smell is feel, it is to be, it is to live. No other person can know exactly what notes you catch in a fragrance and because scent connects so strongly to memory, no other person can experience what you experience with a smell.

At the centre of the room is a long table, decorated with fresh flowers, cheeseboards, sparkling glasses of wine. The table is covered with simple brown butchers paper. This time, I was seated across from artist Carol Clough, which was a delight. She caught words and phrases from Lucy, the perfume expert, and wove them into delicate illustrations on the paper. The feel of the paper on the hands is nice because it’s a natural fibre and it’s probably a little nostalgic.

The opening of the Masterclass is always my favourite. There is something inherently romantic about fragrance. Listening to each person tell their story of their favourite fragrance is gorgeous. ‘This is what my mother wore’, ‘I wore this at our wedding,’ ‘They bought it for me for Christmas.’ I’m actually yet to hear someone describe their favourite fragrance clinically. Never have I heard someone say, ‘it was on sale and I just put it on or whatever’. Everyone has parts of their life that fragrance is connected to. When I took my dad to a Masterclass for his birthday, it wasn’t until I pointed it out to him that he realised he has a tattoo of a perfume bottle on his arm in memory of my sister who had the same name. We have lives filled with so much love and tenderness and perfume is a way we cherish it, no matter how little of that love we had. When people talk about it it’s like they are tracing their finger over the canvas masterpiece of their life, occasionally dropping their finger on to the dry paint at the surface saying, ‘this is where I fell in love,’ ‘this is where I moved home,’ ‘this is where I got lost in London.’ Each specific and individual story that makes someone unique and a human. Perfume is invisible. It’s never about how you look wearing it. It is always about how it makes you, the wearer, feel.

The next part of the Masterclass follows the thirteen or fourteen fragrance sections of the wheel. Each region is vastly different. Once you begin smelling the fragrances, it about you. Not just you now, all of you. All the people you have been. All the people you might have loved. That entire thread of life, love and loss, woven together on a continuous strand until it reaches you, a small slip of paper drawn up to your nose. Each fragrance says something different to the person smelling it. Some fragrances are proud, some soft, so haughty, some dangerous. The maker of Juliette Has a Gun is known for saying ‘Juliette has a gun and it is her perfume.’ He sees fragrance as a weapon. Some days I see it as armour. Some days I see it as strength.

As I go, I note down which of the fragrances really stand out to me. I was lucky at this Masterclass because I already own two of the Juliette Has a Gun fragrances and I’m quite familiar with their scents. My top four fragrances weren’t from JHAG in the end, but it was a delight to see where each of them fell on the wheel, particularly the ones I already own.

If you find something you love, then at the end there is an opportunity to try it on your skin to see how it works with the oils and acids of your body. For me, I have a shortlist (this time it was four) and I try every one and THEN rank them on how they interact with the chemistry of my body. If you find one you like on the day, you can even get the cost of your class ticket off the price of the fragrance!

The next Masterclass for April is almost sold out (if it hasn’t sold out already) and I’m looking forward to it as some of my other favourite fragrances will be featured. The upcoming event will showcase fragrances from Lubin and other perfume houses. 

The next time you’re in Ballarat or you are on Armstrong St Sth, drop in and visit Sweet Fern.

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