What It’s Like to Make a Custom Fragrance with Gwyneth Paltrow’s Perfumer
Beauty

What It’s Like to Make a Custom Fragrance with Gwyneth Paltrow’s Perfumer

I ended up in tears. (In a good way!)

Weston Wells

On Manhattan’s Upper West Side, perfumer Douglas Little works out of a dimly lit wood-detailed apartment carefully decorated in gothic touches like taxidermied birds, a glass-encased skeleton covered in jewels, and lots of candles. “I had asked my broker for the Rosemary’s Baby apartment,” says Little, whose brand, Heretic Parfums (sold at Barneys New York) offers complex all-natural fragrances. He is also the nose behind Gwyneth Paltrow’s all-natural Goop fragrances, a soon-to-be-launched perfume with Sakara, and has made customs for Nicole Kidman, Dolly Parton, and Janet Jackson.

I have a seat beside Little at his fragrance organ (a fragrance organ is like a little tiered mini-theater of shelves with tiny bottles of pure perfumes—reminiscent of the tiered keys of a church organ) to, as the aforementioned have done, design my own personal perfume with Little as my guide. He pours me a glass of an obscure German biodynamic white wine he discovered in Paris called Fledermaus. “I prefer people to drink,” he says, “heavily.” The wine is a little bit cloudy, but I learn this murkiness often occurs with natural liquids of any kind, Little explains, including a few of the 300 scents around his organ. Among the other things I learned: how to sniff fragrances like a pro, why some fragrances smell better with just a *hint* of feces, and how certain notes can bring you to tears.

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Little, who grew up in Los Angeles and now splits his time between New York and L.A., studied perfume and apprenticed in the fragrance capital of Grasse, France, but is an artist of all kinds. He has also been a longtime window designer for Bergdorf Goodman, which you can see on his Instagram, and has done set and scent design for shows like “Queen of the Night.”
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