To put the record straight - my experience with wine is far removed from the classy and sophisticated one that wine-drinking is normally associated with. In fact, the last time wine touched my lips, I vowed never to drink again - a statement I'll leave you to decipher for yourselves.
Yet, while browsing in Oxford Street last night, I stumbled across an event that happened to have a couple of places left. Jumping at the chance to not only 'live in the now' but also to experience Lush in yet another context, I signed myself up - a decision that resulted in an incredibly insightful and very life-affirming evening.
Held in the same room as Lush's current perfume gallery, this intimate gathering consisted of seven participants, two very knowledgeable employees and a rather humungous hat. Featuring four of Lush's most complex and interesting fragrances; The President's Hat, B Scent, Breath Of God and Stayin' Alive, the evening began with the former - one of two perfumes featured in the very instalment we were nestled in at the time.
While the wine was being poured and the atmosphere was setting, we were retold the story of the The President's Hat - a novel written by Helene Gestern and one of Mark Constantine's favourite novels. The inspiration behind this perfume stems from not only the story itself, but because of the founder's love for the book, which makes listening to the beautiful words even more captivating.
Dining alone in an elegant Parisian brasserie, accountant Daniel Mercier can hardly believe his eyes when President François Mitterrand sits down to eat at the table next to him, and then later departs, leaving behind his hat - one that Daniel decides to keep as a souvenir.
Passed from person to person, the story follows the journey of said hat, and how it leaves an impression in the life of each and every single person it intercepts. We are to believe that the last person it meets is a perfumer who takes inspiration from the smells radiating from the hat - one of warm suede, blustery weather and the remnants of past wearers, and in turn creates a perfume that embodies these notes - welcome to the birth of The President's Hat.
As the story is retold, we are encouraged to smell and savour the wine paired with the fragrance, and breathe life into the story through the use of our senses. There are moments where we share our own journeys with the scents and tastes, and other moments where we are left to enjoy the changes that occur as our senses heighten throughout the evening.
In turn, we looked at all four of the featured perfumes - the wines that had been chosen to accompany the fragrances and why they had been paired with said scent. This in turn allowed me to explore each of the perfumes in far greater depth than I have ever allowed myself to do so, and I developed a much better, well-rounded appreciation for all four of the fragrances.
What enraptured me was the fact that for the first time in my life, I was able to actually detect the various layers that made up the wines, and I was able to appreciate how and why they had been paired with the perfumes on offer. These wine choices actually intensified some of the perfumes for me as I enjoyed the tipple, and I left having fallen in love with all four of the fragrances all over again.
I went fully expecting my lack of expertise in wine to betray my knowledge and appreciation of smells, and left feeling as if I'd been given a valuable lesson in fragrance along with a generous dose of respect for the complexity of wine. The hosts of the evening (Teddy and Roya) were so knowledgeable and warming in their approach - so much so that I am now inspired to attend future pairing events that Lush decide to organise. What a wonderful way to break into the weekend.