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Olfactory artist Prachi Saini not only concocts perfumes, she also creates non-commercial scents like the stench of a prison cell. Photo: Prachi Saini

Makes Scents: She Helps You Create Your Own Perfume With A Personality Test


In a word, that describes the work of Prachi Saini - whether she's creating aromatic scents that will garner its wearer compliments unending, or recreating the stench of rotting corpses for a TV show.

The 47-year-old is an olfactory artist. That means she crafts all kinds of smells - whether to help people connect with their emotions or unlock decades-old memories.

And Prachi is putting all this to good use with Scentopia, a perfumery, workshop, museum, and retail shop that she founded and is located at 36 Siloso Beach Walk on Sentosa.

Mind you, this isn't just any perfumery - apart from the rows of fragrances, there are also panels upon panels of beautifully photographed flora (much of which is native to Singapore) that are chock-full of biological information, and embedded with QR codes which you can scan to activate AR filters (the perfect solution for restless little ones).

Not to mention an entire section where you can customise your own perfume using ingredients based on the results of an insightful (and scarily accurate) written personality test. Hordes of students also drop in for eye- and nostril-opening visits.

The best thing? Of course it smells so damn good inside lah!

There are QR codes galore that activate cool augmented-reality effects that are both entertaining and educational.Photo: Scentopia
If you love puns, you're in for a treat! There is endless wordplay at Scentopia especially in the names of the scents.Photo: Scentopia

So, how did you sniff out this career path? What was your first experience with perfume?

I graduated as an architect, have another degree in construction management, and also an MBA. None of them are related to perfume. But I used to love cosmetics growing up.

As an architect, you’re trained in multiple art forms. I wanted to learn ceramics and I did so in the US, and my instructor's husband was doing perfumery, and one thing led to another.

How did Scentopia find its way onto Sentosa?

We were previously at Goodman Arts Centre, doing perfume workshops. Sentosa found us when we did a corporate team-building programme for them. They said, "This is something interesting for tourists, why don’t you give it a try"? So they gave us a free space here and we ran the workshop for six months.

Sentosa and the tourists that came liked the concept so they gave us a long-term and more permanent space.

Photo: Unsplash/@juanencalada

People usually rely on their sense of sight the most. As an expert on smell, how important is it compared to the rest of the senses?

Smell plays a significant role. It keeps us safe from a distance. When food goes bad, smell warns us because you can't see the fungus but you can smell it. That’s why Covid and many other viruses attempt to block your sense of taste and smell so that you are exposed to many other bacteria.

Unfortunately, we don’t use our sense of smell as much and it is our weaker sense. Nowadays, we are trained by vision and sound. A little "ding!" and all of us go to the iPhone. Plus, there is always that negative connotation to the sense of smell like the saying: "You smell a rat."

What are some unusual scents you've created as an olfactory artist?

I can show you hawker centre smells right now, but they're just unable to be commercialised. In the past, I've been commissioned by the National Museum to recreate the stench of prison cells [during the Japanese Second World War in the 1940s].

Once, I was asked to help develop a Sago Lane scent, and to see if an elderly man who lived there as a child agreed with my final product. So I was challenged on screen (15:26-19:25), to recreate a smell using his stories and memories. He loved the smell and his eyes brightened up the moment he inhaled it. Everyone else was disgusted [because it contained the smell of rotting corpses and cigarettes] but it was his childhood memory.

How to create your own fragrance at Scentopia

This personality test will determine the ingredients you put into your perfume.Photo: Sim Ding En

1. Take a simplied version of the MBTI test

The actual MBTI test is wayyy longer, but this short and simple one works (surprisingly) well. With just 10 questions and options A-E to choose from, you will get a total score at the end of it. You might be shocked at just how accurate it is!

Mix and match each scent - just make sure you don't end up with nonscents lah!Photo: Scentopia

2. Mix and match

Based on the total number of A's, B's, C's, D's or E's, pick the corresponding number of scents. For example, if you have three A's on your test, you get to pick three scents from the "A" section. Two B's? Pick two from the "B section, and so forth. You're free to pick from the male or female section. Each scent has a code, which you need to write down.

The individual scent vials which you sniff to determine if you'd like the scent to be part of your final perfume.Photo: Scentopia

3. Pump it

After you're done choosing your 10 scents, just pump a drop or two of each into the small paper cup provided. Pro tip: inhale your mix after each addition to make sure it's something you'll end up satisfied with.

The final product. Spot any familiar tourist attractions?Photo: Sim Ding En

4. Your very own personalised scent

If you're happy with the end result, pass the formula to a Scentopia staff who will mix a full bottle of your concoction and voila! You've just created your personal personality-based fragrance. Now to see if everyone thinks it smells as good as your character!

FYI, the correct way to apply perfume in the tropics - according to Prachi - is to spray it on your clothes, not on your body or as a mist around you. If you're wearing white, hold it at a distance for more surface area so it doesn't visibly stain the fabric.

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