BEAUTY BUCKET LIST: I Created My Own Custom Fragrance

How could it possibly live up to my expectations: the sexy scent, the inevitably phallic bottle, the ad campaign depicting me on the bow of a yacht, wearing a hula skirt made of hundred dollar bills, feeding peaches to Rihanna?
Publish date:
October 14, 2014

I have a lot of goals that I’d like to achieve in my life, one of the biggest being to team up with a major cosmetics manufacturer to create my own fragrance. Sure I’d like to do things like get married or have a family one day, but like, none of those things are going to make me smell any better.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to be a celebrity, I just want to get big enough to have my own celebrity fragrance (and maybe have someone be me for Halloween.)

There’s only one problem standing in my way of having my own scent: I’m irrelevant! But I’ve never let that stop me before. I knew that there had to be a way for me to craft my very own fragrance, and I was going to find it.

Lucky for me, Aroma Workshop in Chicago, Illinois, was just waiting for me to discover it, and in turn, discover myself, by creating a fragrance of my very own.

Last week, I was in Chicago to see Banks perform, and while I was there, I was dead set on swinging through Aroma Workshop. Admittedly, though, I was a bit worried. I was concerned that I had built up the experience in my head for far too long. How could it possibly live up to the expectations I had set on all the late nights I had stayed up, dreaming about what my own fragrance would be? The sexy scent that drew you in closer, the inevitably phallic bottle, the ad campaign depicting me on the bow of a yacht, wearing a hula skirt made of hundred dollar bills, feeding peaches to Rihanna. I had some serious expectations. Had I set myself up to fail?

I arrived at Aroma Workshop last Tuesday afternoon feeling naked and vulnerable, because I wasn’t wearing a fragrance. I had purposely not sprayed on a scent that morning, because I didn’t want anything to interfere with what I was about to smell. This is also the one and only time I have planned ahead for anything in the entirety of 2014.

Stepping into Aroma Workshop feels very much like stepping into a shop in Diagon Alley. It’s a small space that, suspiciously, smells like nothing at all. I had anticipated being choked out by numerous clouds of fragrance, but no such thing happened.

The right wall is lined with vials of amber-colored oils, the left with the numerous products they can be incorporated into, including lotions, body creams, and massage oils.

I was greeted by my fragrance spirit guide and BFF for the next hour, Iris. She invited me to sit down at the scent bar and start sniffing around their numerous little vials of fragrance oil in front of me, setting aside the ones I liked the most.

The oils were separated into four categories: florals, flavors (vanilla, sugar, cucumber, etc.) citruses, and spicier scents. Some of the oils were straightforward like rose and geranium, but some were custom fragrance blends, made right there at Aroma Workshop and named for places around Chicago like “Armitage” and “Lake Shore Drive.”

Salivating and over-stimulated, I dove in. As I grabbed oils that sounded interesting, Iris asked me what scents I usually wore, and what I was looking to make. I told her that my go-to fall scent that I’ve been wearing for ten years just wasn’t doing it for me this time around, and that I wanted to create a scent that would give me what it was lacking. I wanted something warm, spicy, leathery, smokey, boozy, and maybe a little gourmand. Nothing too woodsy or smoky, but not too sweet either. Is that so much to ask?

As I was knee-deep in fragrance oils, Iris watched closely, taking note of what scents I set aside and making recommendations on others that I might like, or would be good compliments. Though I didn’t pick it out myself, she explained that White Tea helps accentuate many other fragrances it’s paired with, and it ended up becoming part of my final scent.

After a while, I had about fifteen scents set aside, almost all of which were chosen from the spicy category, so I went back through and pared them down to ones that I really loved.

Iris started combining scents on little testers to give us a bit of direction. By the time I has ready to really commit to the scents that would make up my fragrance, I had pulled Oud, Myrrh, White Tea, and three blends, Armitage, Woodstock, and Burn.

While navigating my way through all this spice, Burn was a blend that I really fell in love with, and became my starting point. It’s equal parts smoky, leathery, and woody, without being smothering or too blatantly masculine. The addition of the Armitage and Woodstock blends gave the fragrance depth and really brought it to life, making it more herbaceous and spicy without screaming “CINNAMON” or “NUTMEG.” Now we were getting somewhere.

I had set out to make a beautiful fall scent completely devoid of vanilla. It’s not that I don’t like vanilla, it just seems like it’s in absolutely every new fragrance I come across in some way shape or form. Try as I might, though, it kept beckoning me. “You know you want me,” it called out, like a scorned former lover.

Also, this tweet from @crackdoubt kept echoing around my head every time I eyed the vanilla:

I caved. We added vanilla and that’s when it all started to come together. Bless Iris for putting up with me for as long as she did. Every scent she made me was great, but I always had something to say, one little thing to add or take away, and she mixed until we got it right. She was so intuitive that by the end, I didn’t even have to tell her what changes to make, she’d beat me to it. “More Burn, less Vanilla,” she’d say, leaving me aghast at how I was talking not only to a perfumer, but a psychic.

At last, we made it to the scent that I had been dreaming of. It’s spicy, warm, sweet, and kind of boozy. I absolutely love it.

Oh, and I even got to name it! After hours of painstaking deliberation, I settled on: “TYNAN.”

The scent wears well all day, stays close to my body and doesn’t fade away, so I can still smell it on my skin when I hop in bed at the end of the night. I don’t want my fragrance to overpower anybody, but I do like it to stay with me, and this does.


The next day, I left Chicago and stopped off to see my parents on the way back to Madison. I yanked the fragrance out of my bag and sprayed it on my neck and wrists. My mom walked past me and was like “Oh, that is GOOD. What is that?!” So I got her stamp of approval, and since I inherited my love of fragrances from her, I’m gonna count that as a win.

Have you ever created a custom scent? What would yours smell like? Tell me in the comments!

Tynan smells like TYNAN on Twitter @TynanBuck.