Mixing sweet scents

In a small store in downtown Jerusalem that resembles a sleek science lab, former hi-tech engineer Shahar Schwartz mixes ingredients to suit his customers’ personalities.

Sweet scents (photo credit: YAEL BRYGEL)
Sweet scents
(photo credit: YAEL BRYGEL)
In a small store in downtown Jerusalem that resembles a sleek science lab, former hi-tech engineer Shahar Schwartz mixes ingredients to suit his customers’ personalities. Food and music, vacation preferences (hotels vs roughing it in the great outdoors) and one’s propensity for risk-taking (i.e., engaging in thrill-seeking activities such as bungee jumping) are just some of the conversation topics that the 47-year-old perfumer covers with customers in this Ben-Sira Street locale.
In stark contrast to the modern-day shopping experience as typified by the Mamilla Mall across the road, Perfuniq and the handful of boutique stores and eateries on Ben-Sira offer a more personalized and intimate atmosphere.
“Perfuniq gives each individual a perfume based on personality, character and desire,” explains Schwartz, who underwent nine months of training in a factory in Grasse, the French Riviera town regarded as la capitale mondiale des parfums. Perfuniq’s products, no two of which are the same, are priced by bottle size: NIS 250 for 50 ml., NIS 350 for 100 ml.
Under Schwartz’s tutelage and with the assistance of his wife Gaya, customers – men and women alike – embark on a perfume voyage with introspective layovers along the way. In his white lab coat, surrounded by beakers, flasks and utensils arranged decoratively on glass shelving, Schwartz welcomes customers aboard.
State your favorite color, and you will be assigned a perfume base to suit you: a sweet pink (vanilla, musk, cloves, cocoa); a fresh green (herbal, fig, chopped grass); an aromatic blue (rich fragrances with amber, resin, pepper, oakmoss); a fiery orange (amber, cedar wood, peppers); or a full red (vegetables, fruits, flowers, roots, trees).
The remaining ingredients are then determined based on personality: relaxed people (blossoms, calming white and pink flowers); assertive types (hot and spicy ingredients, pepper); nostalgic wineand- jazz aficionados (fruity flavors); conservative, risk-averse individuals (earthy ingredients, with few surprises); or go-getters with jam-packed schedules (water scents, ingredients that grow or contain water – for example, lotus and cucumber). Schwartz observes that Israelis tend toward the spicy (assertive) ingredients, while tourists are better suited to more down-to-earth fragrances – a distinction on which he playfully declines to comment.
With sniffs of coffee in between to “reset” olfactory sensory receptors, customers are given a range of perfumes to smell.
“Once a customer finds their best-matched perfume, it is written under their name and is taken off the shelf; only that customer can repurchase it again,” explains the Haifa-born father of four. And for the 5 percent of customers who can’t find a direct match, he blends perfume from scratch.
Gimmick-wary consumers may be pleased to learn that his intricate model is based on market research conducted in the lead-up to the store’s opening in May: 10,000 individuals were interviewed to determine the public’s knowledge of the industry and their reactions to different fragrances. Customers are directed to fragrances that were popular among individuals with similar personalities in the study.
The Har Gilo resident’s entrepreneurial spirit seems to defy his personal perfume style – ground flavors, associated with conservative and cautious individuals. A few years back, he left his stable career in the engineering world, taking on managerial and quality- assurance positions in various cosmetic and fragrance companies.
A mechanical engineer by training, he took a leap of faith in 2013 when he headed to France to learn the perfumery trade.
Eager for an additional challenge, he decided to open his store in Jerusalem, which he describes as the most difficult place to sell perfume.
He has no plans to shake things up in the immediate future, but is considering opening a store elsewhere in the country.
“Anywhere but Tel Aviv,” he laughs. “I am far too conventional.”