Karen Gilbert: 2 Day Artisan Perfumery Retreat

Heya Posse, My mate Karen Gilbert is a superstar. She has worked in the industry as an evaluator, done fragrance work for multinational companies and smaller ones, written books and taught perfumery classes all over the world. Whenever we get to be in the same country for a moment we always try to have a catch up and a sniff. Last time she was in Australia she took a one day workshop and I loved it. Had a wonderful time smelling the ingredients of perfumes, got to make three accords and then mix them into a fragrance. I love the scent and still have the bottle here with some in so I can remember the day I was a perfumer.


Recently I noticed Karen has moved from the London metropolis to the wide green spaces of New Forest and that she is doing a 2 Day Artisan Perfumery Retreat there in July with some very special guest lecturers. Obviously I wanted to get all the gossip and find out all the details so I wrote asking a million questions. This has been distilled into an interview so you all can have the skinny too. ACK! I’m so damn jealous.

Karen Gilbert: 2 Day Artisan Perfumery Retreat

Rhinefield House, New Forest, England

Rhinefield House #2

Hey Karen Gilbert, tell me a little bit about the weekend. How does it run?

We will be spending 2 full days together in a small group (max 15 people) in a room at a gorgeous stately home in the heart of the New Forest. The morning will start with some perfume theory. Hopefully the students will have watched the videos in the Natural Perfumery Masterclass that they get as a bonus so we will recap on the basics so everyone is up to speed. Then we’ll get stuck into smelling both naturals and aromachemicals before learning to blend them into accords. On Saturday we have 2 special guests coming along to talk about different aspects of fragrance too. So it will be a full on first day.

We will be stopping for tea of course and lunch which is all provided by Rhinefield House.

The Sunday will be a full day of practical where the students will be working on their fragrances. If the weather is good and people have brought sensible shoes we may do a walk into the forest for some inspiration (and to clear our noses).


What is the new venue like and are participants staying there?

The venue is gorgeous! It is in the middle of The New Forest and is a luxury hotel and Spa. Some students will be staying but it isn’t a requirement – there are lots of B&B’s including Air BnB’s in the area to suit all budgets. It is a bit of an experiment as I’ve just moved to the area and of course I usually do classes in London. Choosing a countryside venue that is a bit more expensive than the usual is a bit of a risk but I really wanted this class to be in stunning and inspiring surroundings. There is a beautiful woodland arboretum nearby too so providing the July weather works out we will hopefully get out into the forest too.

Rhinefield House #1

Why the New Forest?

In March I made the big leap out of London where I’ve lived all my life to a house on the edge of the new forest. I’ve wanted to move to the country for a while now and because I hire venues for my classes rather than having a permanent studio, it means I can be wherever I want. I’m still doing my regular classes in London but I really wanted to bring my students to this beautiful part of the UK for a one off weekend. It’s in the forest but only 1hr40mins from London Waterloo making it really accessible for the Londoners too. It is an experiment, if it sells out then I may do another here later in the year; we’ll see.

What level of perfumer will benefit from the workshop?

It’s suitable for all levels – absolute beginner to those already making perfume. Although I tend to have a set agenda with all my classes, how it turns out on the day really depends on the attendees and their needs. I have such a wide variety of people attend my classes. Some who just want to come along for a lovely perfume making experience and some who are there because they already have or want to start a business involving fragrance. I want to make sure everyone learns what they need to, so they can get to the next level – wherever they are starting from. Because we have so much emphasis on practical work during this weekend the more advanced students can bring along their own projects to work on too.


I see you’re co-presenting with Liz Moores of Papillon Artisan Perfumes, that is an exciting new twist.

Well not co-presenting (she’ll have a heart attack if she reads that!) but she is coming along on the Saturday to do a Q&A with the students. Liz and I have been friends for years and I’m so proud of her achievements with Papillon. When I told her I was thinking of doing a workshop in The New Forest she asked if she could come along and make tea or hand out smelling strips – haha. I said absolutely not but you can come if you do a Q&A with the students and inspire them with your experience of running an artisan perfumery business. I suspect she will hang out with us for the afternoon and I may have to stop her from trying to clear away tea cups 😉

Rhinefield House #5

What will participants leave the weekend with?

The practical sessions in the course are quite freeform so it depends where the students are at. They will either take away one or two finished fragrances (or more if they are super fast creators) or some perfected accords that they can then continue to work on. The more advanced students may walk away with a finished project that they have brought along for help with.

But mainly they will leave feeling inspired with lots and lots of practical perfumery knowledge that they can take away and apply to their future creations. I have included one of my online masterclasses as a bonus so they can start learning as soon as they sign up.
Rhinefield House #3

What is the Karen Gilbert online masterclass?

I’ve had my full online perfumery course for 3 years now and been running my live 1 day classes for 6 years. I often get people who can’t come to the UK but are not quite ready to invest in the full online course. The Natural Perfumery Masterclass is a 3hr online beginners training to get you started making perfume. It is everything I cover in a 1 day live class but without the hands on practical bit you get if you are in the room with me. Although it is a free bonus for my Artisan Perfumery Weekend students, it is available as a stand alone Natural Perfumery Masterclass
Rhinefield House #4

I know one of your special guests is Liz Moores, who’s the other?

As a long time teacher and trainer, I’m a big believer in students learning from as many sources as possible and I love collaborating with others who can add a different angle to my classes. I’m excited that my friend and fellow fragrance expert Nick Gilbert will also be joining us. Nick has been in the industry for a very long time, his jobs include managing Les Senteurs and Fragrance Ambassador at Penhaligons. He is now freelance doing fragrance development, marketing and copywriting for brands and will be coming along to talk about storytelling in perfumery – something that is so important for those wanting to launch their own brand. Even those students just coming along for fun will learn lots from Nick – he is a great speaker and trainer.

karen gilbert #1

Thanks Karen!

Inspired? Want to go hang with the cool kids in New Forest 16 + 17 July 2016? You can book by following this link: 2 Day Artisan Perfumery Retreat. Though I do not aspire to be a perfumer Karen Gilbert’s course helped me meet a bunch of fragrant ingredients that I would never have met otherwise. It’s fun and I also made a bunch of new mates who I am still friends with 2 years on.

There’s an Early Bird Price till May 30.

Go on, do yourself a favour,
Maybe go with a mate?
Portia xx


  • Ann says:

    Oh, my, Portia! This event sounds off-the-charts amazing! Makes me wish I had mega-bucks and lived in the UK. And Rhineland House and grounds are to die for, no? Surely they’ve used it for Masterpiece Theatre or something, right? Anyhoo, hope you all are well, and thanks for sharing!

    • Portia says:

      Hi there Ann,
      Yes. I thought it might be nice if we could all dream of a fragrant escape. If we lived in Europe I’d be dashing across for it pronto.
      Yes all well and smiling here. Life is busy and pleasantly hectic.
      Portia xx

  • Tara says:

    Thanks for getting the skinny on the Artisan Perfumery Retreat, Portia. People will have the most fun hanging out with Karen, Liz and Nick, aside from all the learning.

    • Portia says:

      One day we can go do this course together. I think it would be amazing with the three of them there to talk to, totally focussed on frag creation. What bliss.
      Portia xx