Creating a Fragrance: Behind the Scenes at the Making of a Small-Batch Scent


Finding the perfect fragrance is a bit like finding the perfect mate: It may take a while but once you meet your match you're set for life. Making a fragrance, on the other hand, is a bit different. Now that we at TheMotley have just launched a scent of our own we know firsthand what the process is like. Here's an inside look at how our fragrance went from being a cool idea we had to an actual product people can buy and wear (for the rest of their lives, we hope).

The Inspiration: Scent is more than smell; it's one of the strongest ways to evoke memories. The first step was to collect images that inspire us, like JFK's classic style, derby horses, sailboats, a leather jacket, etc.


Trial and error: The next step was to work with Los Angeles perfumer Jacqueline Steele of Goest Perfumes to find the olfactory representation of our inspiration board. She started with 15 different scent combinations based on our vision. We poured a few drops of each one onto a note card and then jotted down the first things that came to mind. The perfumer didn't give us any hints about the ingredients in what we were smelling, so we were completely unbiased.

Some of the initial fragrance blends were definitely heading in the right direction. I wrote notes like "leather boots," "fast car," or "crisp suit and tie." Some of the rejected scents reminded me of "mustard," "air freshener," and even "bacon."

We then went through four more rounds of refining the scent before arriving at Atlas—a clean musk with spicy, woody notes of cedar, oak moss, ginger, cloves, and leather. It makes me think of a well-traveled man, hence the name.


The final fragrance: The bottles were then hand-filled by our perfumer in small batches of 100 here in Los Angeles. We decided on a splash, rather than a spray, for a more intimate application. A spray fills the air, lands on your clothing, and is easy to over apply. A small dab from a splash bottle to the skin allows for the perfect amount of fragrance. Plus it's classic; it's the way your grandfather would have applied his scent.

The nose knows: Fragrance evolves on the skin. Atlas is designed to enhance the way a man smells, not to cover anything up. The cool thing is that it will smell slightly different person to person, which means you'll never smell just like the guy next to you even if you're both wearing the same scent.

Atlas Cologne, $45 available at

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