I recently had the opportunity to try the Ex Nihilo demi-bespoke experience. It’s rare to be able to encounter such a unique perfume consultation, not because the 6th floor of Harrods is a restricted shopping zone but because the experience itself is unlike any other. Your senses are overwhelmed in a measured way. To begin with, you walk into a small gallery with walls painted Jardin Majorelle blue (just like Yves Saint Laurent’s gardens in Morocco), this is Ex Nihilo’s signature colour.
You would be forgiven for thinking for a minute that you have stumbled upon a pop-up homewares section of Harrods and that the gold-tone metal and Carrara marble units would look perfect in your home, and then you notice what resembles a chemistry lab at the far end of the room. This is the work of Christophe Pillet, his deft skill had me dying to take the whole boutique home with me.
After taking in the vivid blue, marble and metal, you notice some strange blocks on your right, part see through, part opaque, they look like flasks of some sort. This is where the magic truly begins. These objects are not flasks but Vase de Senteurs, a device that delivers dry capsules of each of Ex Nihilio’s unusual core fragrances. Why dry you ask? Well without the alcohol and water your senses are not overwhelmed by each scent which allows you to smell as many as you like.
Once you’ve chosen a scent from the Vase de Senteurs it’s onto trying the fragrance on your skin. All fragrances react with your skin making them unique when you wear them. I chose Vetiver Moloko, described as ‘a racy woody fragrance wrapped in a creamy and enveloping veil’. I tend to wear fragrances that are not overtly feminine and this combination of bergamot, Bulgarian rose, cypress, milky accord, vetiver, amyris and Madagscar vanilla forms the most beautiful and exquisite scent that could be worn by both a man or a woman; all the fragrances have been created like this although some are definitely more suited to one or the other.
If you want something a little more unique there’s a third step, the Ex Nihilo demi-bespoke experience. Sitting down at the marble bench towards the back of the boutique you’re presented with lots of little atomisers and to the side six small glass bottles which contain six of the world’s finest raw ingredients; Orange Flower Absolute from Morocco, Rose Centifolia from France, Bourbon Vanilla from Madagascar, Sandlewood from Australia, Pallida Iris Absolute from France and Grandiflorum Jasmine Absolute from India. These are the six raw ingredients that can be combined with each of Ex Nihilo’s fragrances to create a demi-bespoke fragrance. In each of the atomisers is the original fragrance and the three best combinations, each with one of the raw ingredients added (not all combine perfectly). I rather unexpectedly liked the Bourbon Vanilla and Vetiver Moloko combination most, my past experiences with vanilla have not been positive ones due to their poor quality but this is the best vanilla in the world. In order to create the perfect balance of ingredients Ex Nihilo have created a high-precision dosing machine called the Osmologue. Whilst you watch your demi-bespoke perfume(s) are created before your eyes. There’s also the option to personalise your bottle cap with mother of pearl, onyx, horn or leather. If you select all three variations of your original perfume you can have them presented in a beautiful case, subtly decorated with a geometric pattern that references the Ex Nihilo logo.
The whole experience left my senses overwhelmed and excited. If you’re still looking for a unique gift for a special someone this would be an extraordinary present.